Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Morgan Evans
Dong Zhuo, styled Zhongyin, was born in Lintao in the West Valley Land but it was while he was Governor of Hedong on the Northwestern Frontier that he gained notoriety for his arrogant and ignorant ways. During the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Dong Zhuo fought against the rebels in Zhuo county and throughout the Northwest but Zhang Jiao’s forces proved too much, sending Dong Zhuo into retreat. Dong Zhuo’s retreat was aided by Liu Bei and his sworn brothers, but as they held no government offices Dong Zhuo treated them with disrespect, greatly angering Zhang Fei who wanted to kill Dong Zhuo for this treatment.
After the end of the uprising Dong Zhuo bribed his way out of his punishment for his failures against the Yellow Turbans and gained rapid promotions through deceit, he held the titles of General, General of the Front Army and Lord of Aoxiang all within a short time before becoming Imperial Protector in the western region of Xizhou. Dong Zhou now commanded an army of 200,000 troops. Dong Zhou was summoned to the capital by He Jin so he left his son in law Niu Fu in charge and took his army with generals Li Jue, Guo Si, Zhang Ji, and Fan Chou to the capital Luoyang. While He Jin was pleased that Dong Zhuo was coming to the capital, many ministers resigned in protest. The eunuchs, fearing that Dong Zhuo’s forces had come to destroy them, convinced Empress He that He Jin was plotting against the state and had him killed. He Jin’s death set Cao Cao and Yuan Shao’s forces against the eunuchs, leading to an internal revolution. During the confusion the Emperor and his brother were hurried away by the eunuchs but they soon managed to escape and were saved by Min Gong. Soon after recovering the emperor, Min Gong’s troop met Dong Zhuo’s and the two armies turned towards the capital. Once order had been restored, it was found that the Imperial Seal of the Emperor was missing. Dong Zhuo’s forces camped outside the city’s walls but he came and went as he pleased, walking the streets of the city accompanied by armed guards which angered some but the majority feared Dong Zhuo.
Dong Zhuo would call a meeting with the government’s officials and during the feast announced his wish to remove the emperor from power, empowering the emperor’s brother the Prince of Chenliu instead but ministers Ding Yuan and Lu Zhi voiced their displeasure, enraging Dong Zhuo. Li Ru succeeded in calming the situation and the assembled ministers took their leave. The next day Ding Yuan, accompanied by his officer Lü Bu, led out a force against Dong Zhuo but before the forces could finish exchanging taunts Lü Bu attacked Dong Zhuo causing him and his army to retreat. Dong Zhuo’s army would set up a new camp and a meeting of all of the officers was called where Dong Zhuo decided that Lü Bu needed to be convinced to join him. Li Su met with Lü Bu, bribing him with gold and the horse Red Hare. Lü Bu agreed that he would slay Ding Yuan and join Dong Zhuo which he did the very next day. Dong Zhuo welcomed his adopted son Lü Bu with more gifts and with Lü Bu at his side, Dong Zhuo’s influence and power grew. He soon named himself Minister of Works, Grand Commander, and Commander of the Front Army and gave Lü Bu the titles of Lord of Luoyang, Commander of the Capital District, and Cavalry Commander.
Dong Zhuo called for another banquet and once again voiced his plan to replace the emperor. This time only Yuan Shao spoke out as all the other attendees were too afraid to oppose the plan. Again, it was Li Ru who intervened to prevent bloodshed but once Yuan Shao had left the banquet, his uncle Yuan Wei agreed with Dong Zhuo’s plan and the gathered officials also agreed as they were afraid to disagree. The next day, by Li Ru’s suggestion, Dong Zhuo offered Yuan Shao the governorship of Bohai as a peace offering.
On the first day of the ninth month AD 190, an assembly of officials was held, and with the Emperor in attendance Dong Zhuo ordered the Emperor to be removed from the throne. The former Emperor and Empress were removed and imprisoned within a part of the palace. Liu Xian, Prince of Chenliu was now Emperor. Naming himself Prime Minister, Dong Zhuo became more arrogant and ignorant of rules than before and became very wealthy during this time, more wealthy than any other in the land. Li Ru advised Dong Zhuo to make gestures that would bring public support, so he proceeded to restore those to office who had been removed by the eunuchs and gave titles to the families of those who had been killed by the eunuchs. However, Dong Zhuo soon decided to rid himself of the former Emperor and Empress so he sent Li Ru with 10 men to kill them and ordered their bodies to be buried outside the city’s walls. With the former Emperor and Empress gone, Dong Zhuo became even more rebellious as he slept on the Emperor’s Dragon Couch and took the Imperial Concubines as his own. He even led his army to Yangcheng and attacked during the Spring festival, killing the men, capturing the women and stealing all possessions worth taking.
Word of Dong Zhuo’s abuse of power made it to Yuan Shao who wrote a letter to Minister of the Interior Wang Yun offering to lead his army against Dong Zhuo if Wang Yun would rebel. Under the pretense of a birthday party, Wang Yun invited his closet colleagues to his home to discuss the matter and addressed them with a moving speech. While most of the guests wept, one laughed: Cao Cao. He ridiculed the crying men calling for action over tears and swore to kill Dong Zhuo. The next day Cao Cao met alone with Dong Zhuo but when he went to cut him down, Dong Zhuo saw Cao Cao’s reflection in a mirror and turned to confront him. Lü Bu arrived at that moment so Cao Cao dropped to one knee to present the sword as a gift to Dong Zhuo. Cao Cao took his leave after Dong Zhuo accepted the gift but his intentions were known to both Lü Bu and Dong Zhuo. Li Ru discovered that Cao Cao had fled the city and offered a reward for his capture but Cao Cao escaped home to Qiao where he issued a call to arms against Dong Zhuo. Yuan Shao received the call to arms and marched his army of 30,000 to Qiao to join with Cao Cao and he was not the only one: Han Fu, Liu Dai, Kong Zhou, Wang Kuang, Zhang Miao, Tao Qian, Ma Teng, Zhang Chao, Kong Rong, Zhang Yang, Qiao Mao, Yuan Yi, Bao Xin, Gongsun Zan, Sun Jian and Yuan Shao’s brother Yuan Shu all began the march to the Capital Luoyang. On his way to the capital, Gongsun Zan’s force was joined by Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, Guan Yu and their small force.
Once the armies had assembled, Yuan Shao was nominated to lead the alliance and he placed Yuan Shu in charge of supplies and made Sun Jian leader of the Van. Word reached Dong Zhuo of this invading force when Sun Jian’s army reached River Si Pass, so he dispatched Hua Xiong with Li Su, Hu Zhen, Zao Cen and an army of 50,000 to repel the alliance. Soon after setting out Hua Xiong had slain Bao Xin’s brother and captured 3,000 enemy troops so he was made Commander-In-Chief by Dong Zhuo in recognition of his service. Although Hu Zen would be killed by Sun Jian’s officer Cheng Pu, Hua Xiong’s forces would repel Sun Jian’s army and kill his officer Zu Mao. Hua Xiong would also slay one of Yuan Shao’s officers, Yu She and Han Fu’s officer Pan Feng but would be killed himself during a duel with Guan Yu.
When news of Hua Xiong’s death reached Dong Zhou he was greatly concerned and at once dispatched Li Jue and Guo Si to kill Yuan Shao’s uncle Yuan Wei who held office within the palace. He then ordered an army of 50,000 to be raised and sent to River Si Pass under the command of Li Jue and Guo Si. Another army of 150,000 troops was raised and led to Hu Lao Pass by Dong Zhuo himself accompanied by Lü Bu, Li Ru, Zhang Ji and Fan Chou. Once they arrived, Lü Bu was sent outside the pass with an army of 30,000 men. Yuan Shao sent Cao Cao, Gongsun Zan, Wang Kuang, Qiao Mao, Bao Xin, Yuan Yi, Zhang Yang, Tao Qian and Kong Rong against Dong Zhuo at Hu Lao Pass of which Wang Kuang’s forces were first to arrive. Lü Bu slayed Wang Kuang’s officer Fang Yue quickly and charged at the army killing many soldiers and forcing Wang Kuang to flee. Qiao Mao and Yuan Yi rescued Wang Kuang but lost many men in the process so they too retreated and met up with the other arriving commanders, but Lü Bu would also kill Zhang Yang’s general Mu Shun and wound Wu Anguo under Kong Rong before retiring. Lü Bu would once again attack the next day and this time was about to kill Gongsun Zan when Zhang Fei came to his rescue. Zhang Fei and Lü Bu battled with neither gaining an advantage so Guan Yu joined the battle but again, no advantage could be gained by either side even when Liu Bei joined the attack. Eventually Lü Bu would start to tire so he withdrew from the battle to his own camp.
Dong Zhuo tried to form an alliance with Sun Jian by offering his daughter to be married to Sun Ce, but this only angered Sun Jian. Li Ru proposed to Dong Zhuo that the capital city should be moved from Luoyang to Changan in order to boost the moral of the troops, so Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu left the front lines and returned to Luoyang to make the announcement. A few of the ministers were concerned as Changan was a wasteland, but Dong Zhuo was adamant that the city could be rebuilt and would make a superior capital as it would be easier to defend due to it’s mountainous surroundings. 5 officials in all objected, 3 were reduced to peasants and 2 were executed by Dong Zhuo’s command. Dong Zhuo then sent 5,000 troops out to plunder and kill the rich of Luoyang under the pretense that the rich were supporting the alliance against, while Li Jue and Guo Si were tasked with driving the millions of inhabitants of Luoyang to the new capital. Many of the people died along the way and their bodies were looted. Dong Zhuo dispatched Lü Bu to rob the tombs of the Emperors and the rich of Luoyang and then the city was burned to the ground. As they made their way to Changan, Li Ru advised Dong Zhuo to assign Lü Bu to guard the rear as he feared that the alliance may pursue them and his fears were justified as soon Cao Cao’s army caught up with them, but they were easily defeated by Lü Bu, Li Ru and Guo Si and forced to retreat to Luoyang. The alliance against Dong Zhou crumbled as Sun Jian, Cao Cao and Gongsun Zan's armies all retired to their own provinces, Sun Jian taking with him the newly found Imperial Seal.
Dong Zhuo concentrated on building the new capital in Changan while his enemies fought amongst themselves: Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao waged war against each other, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu were almost enemies and Sun Jian was killed by Liu Biao leaving the 17 year old Sun Ce as his successor. With seemingly no one to oppose him Dong Zhuo did as he pleased, titling himself Imperial Rector, his brother Dong Min became Lord of Huazhou and Commander of the Left Army and every member of Dong Zhuo’s family was given a title. He soon built a city named Miewo and filled it with his wealth, his family and the most beautiful women he could find. He would visit the city once a month and his behavior became more and more vicious as he regularly had executions carried out during banquets.
After one such banquet Wang Yun, who had previously plotted against Dong Zhuo, formed a plan with his loyal handmaiden Diao Chan that would see Lü Bu kill Dong Zhuo. He would offer Diao Chan to be married to Lü Bu but then would also offer her to Dong Zhuo in order to drive a wedge between the Imperial Rector and his adopted son. Wang Yun invited Lü Bu to his home to meet Diao Chan and promised her to him, but the next day met with Dong Zhuo and gave Diao Chan to him. Wang Yun told Lü Bu that Dong Zhuo was fully aware that Diao Chan was promised to Lü Bu but had taken her anyway. Over the next few months Diao Chan would be the cause of many problems between the two as she played them against each other. The rivalry between them would come to a head when Dong Zhuo caught Lü Bu with Diao Chan and tried to kill Lü Bu with his own halberd. Following this incident, Dong Zhuo and Diao Chan set out to Miewo to be far away from Lü Bu.
Lü Bu would plot with Wang Yun to assassinate Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun with two of his colleagues decided that a messenger would be sent to Dong Zhou with a summons from the Emperor and when he returned to the capital he would be ambushed and killed by Lü Bu. The next day Li Su was sent as the messenger to Miewo where he informed Dong Zhuo that the Emperor wished to abdicate all power to him. Dong Zhuo gave the good news to his elderly mother and then left Zhang Ji, Guo Si, Fan Chou and Li Jue with 3,000 troops to guard the city while he returned to the capital. As he arrived at Changan, Dong Zhuo was welcomed by many ministers and when he reached his palace he was greeted and congratulated by Lü Bu. The next day as he arrived at the reception hall, Dong Zhuo was greatly alarmed to see that the gathered ministers were all armed but before he could retreat, soldiers who had lain in ambush attacked his carriage. Dong Zhuo called for Lü Bu to save him but Lü Bu thrust his halberd through Dong Zhuo’s throat. Dong Zhuo’s corpse was decapitated by Li Su and the troops brought Li Ru to execution. A force of 50,000 men led by Lü Bu then marched to Meiwo to destroy the city. The four generals protecting the city fled and the force led by Lü Bu invaded, killing all of Dong Zhuo’s family even his mother. The women were set free, the riches were confiscated and Lü Bu was reunited with Diao Chan. Dong Zhuo’s two year reign of terror had ended.
Almost 3 years after Dong Zhuo’s death, his followers who still lived in Changan conspired with Guo Si, Fan Chou, Zhang Ji and Li Jue to attack the capital to avenge Dong Zhuo. During this uprising Li Su and Wang Yun would both die and chaos would once again come to Changan.
Copyright © 2003 Morgan Evans
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong