Biography (SGYY): Gao Shun

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Gao Shun
高順
Lived: AD ?–199

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Gao Shun

Gao Shun was a Commander known for his exceptional bravery and vigour in battle. During the later period of the Han dynasty, Shun set out to serve under Lü Bu and came to be known as one of Bu’s most able commanders.

In AD 196, Gao Shun joined Lü Bu in an attack on Yanzhou while its protector, Cao Cao, was away on a campaign against Tao Qian of Xuzhou, and successfully took it from Cao’s control. When Cao Cao returned from the campaign in an attempt to challenge Bu’s control over the province, he was met and defeated by Lü Bu’s army and retreated. After the battle, Gao Shun and the rest of the Commanders joined to celebrate their victory, during which Lü Bu’s advisor, Chen Gong, rose and said “The west camp is a key position; what if Cao attacks there?”

“We taught him a lesson today,” Lü Bu replied. “He won’t be back that soon.”

“Cao Cao knows something of the art of war,” Gong went on. “We must guard against surprises.”

Lü Bu consented, and Gao Shun was selected by the General to defend the western camp along with Wei Xu and Hou Cheng. After mustering his forces, Shun set out for the western camp with the two other leaders immediately.

As Gao Shun neared the western encampment, he found that its perimeter had already been attacked and penetrated by Cao Cao’s forces, and Lü Bu’s defenders already in full flight. Gathering his men about him, Gao Shun charged Cao’s line and fought his way into the camp, taking many enemy lives in the frenzied combat that ensued between the two armies. As dawn arrived, Gao Shun was still fiercely fighting Cao’s forces, but from the west he heard the steady roll of drums coming from a relief force led by Lü Bu himself. Gao Shun met up with Bu and made a renewed attack on Cao Cao, forcing him to flee the camp. Along with Wei Xu and Hou Cheng, Gao Shun gave chase to the fleeing enemy leader and dealt his battered force severe casualties. Only when enemy Commanders Dian Wei and Xiahou Dun arrived did the pursuit cease, and Gao Shun and the rest of Lü Bu’s army returned victorious to camp.

After the victory over Cao Cao, Gao Shun and the rest of the Commanders gathered to discuss their next step in the war, during which Chen Gong said, “Here in Puyang lives the healthy householder Tian. He heads the district’s most influential house and has hundreds of servants. Have him write something like this to Cao Cao: ‘Lü Bu’s cruelty has outraged our people. He will be moving the army to Liyang, leaving only Gao Shun behind. Waste no time getting here, and I shall work with you from within.’ If Cao Cao takes the bait and enters the city, burn the gates. With an ambush outside, even if Cao Cao were strategist enough to plot the course of Heaven and earth, he couldn’t escape us.”

Lü Bu agreed and had the letter penned and sent to Cao who, believing what was written, went straight to the walls of Puyang to offer battle. Gao Shun answered his call and left the city’s gates to repel the attack. However, Shun’s doing so was only a pretext for one of Lü Bu’s men to enter Cao’s camp and reinforce his faith in Tian’s rouse, and so when Gao Shun was met by Commander Dian Wei, he simply fought a few bouts with the General and then re-entered Puyang. Cao Cao suspected nothing in Shun’s retreat and quickly followed the General into the city, but as he did, he was attacked by Lü Bu’s other Commanders on all other sides. Gao Shun himself took his unit and blocked Cao Cao’s line of retreat through the main gate, and Cao’s forces were thus fully boxed in. Shun and his men then joined in the melee and took the lives of many of Cao’s men, but Cao’s Commander Dian Wei was able to force a path through the main gate, enabling Cao Cao to escape the ambush. Cao Cao later withdrew from Puyang, and Gao Shun went with Lü Bu to relocate their own forces at Shanyang, temporarily ending hostilities between the two.

In AD 197, Lü Bu was defeated by Cao Cao at Puyang, and Gao Shun joined Bu in retreating to Dingtao, where he began patrolling the seacoast in the event of another attack. Cao later arrived and camped forty li from the city, and the two forces began preparing for the upcoming battle. In a conference to discuss tactics, Lü Bu told of how he had discovered Cao’s banners planted in the woods, suggesting an ambush. “Cao Cao is full of tricks,” Chen Gong cautioned. “Don’t take chances.”

“I am going to burn out his ambushes,” Bu replied.

Lü Bu then put Gao Shun in joint command of defending Dingtao with Chen Gong, while he himself left the city to confront Cao’s forces. However, only one-third of Lü Bu’s army returned, reporting that Lü Bu had fled when they had been ambushed and badly defeated by Cao’s forces. “An empty city is difficult to defend,” Chen Gong said to Gao Shun. “We must leave at once.”

Gao Shun agreed and, after gathering up Lü Bu’s family, left the city with what remained of his force. Shun met up with Lü Bu on the road, where it was eventually decided that they would seek refuge at Xuzhou province with Liu Bei. (1) Bei agreed and gave Lü Bu the city of Xiaopei, and Gao Shun joined Bu in setting up their forces there.

1: After Cao Cao had been forced to abandon his campaign against Xuzhou in AD 195, its Governor, Tao Qian, had left the province under the proctorship of Liu Bei before he died later in the year.

After some time in Xiaopei, Lü Bu had consolidated his forces and begun regaining his strength. One night in the city, Lü Bu received a letter from his father-in-law, Cao Bao, who was a Commander serving under Liu Bei. Bao’s letter detailed how Liu Bei had left his brother, Zhang Fei, (2) in charge of Xuzhou while he was on campaign against Yuan Shu, and that Fei had drunk himself into intoxication and was acting violently. After consulting with his advisers, Lü Bu decided to attack Xuzhou that night with five thousand men, and Gao Shun was ordered to follow him with the main army. Shun arrived at Xuzhou later that night and completely overwhelmed Xuzhou’s defending forces, bringing the province firmly under Lü Bu’s control.

2: While not Liu Bei’s biological brother, Zhang Fei swore an oath of brotherhood with both Bei and Guan Yu just prior to the Yellow Scarf Rebellion of AD 184. Historically, however, the oath never took place and the three were simply comrades and close friends.

Following the taking of Xuzhou, Yuan Shu sent an emissary to Lü Bu promising him fifty bushels of grain, five hundred horses, ten thousand ounces of gold and silver, and one thousand rolls of varicoloured silk if he attacked Liu Bei’s army from another front. Bu agreed, and Gao Shun was placed in commander of fifty thousand men with orders to attack Liu Bei’s forces, who were currently locked in battle with Yuan Shu at Huainan. Shun set off and arrived some time later to find Liu Bei had already fled the field, and so Shun went to the camp of Yuan Shu to collect the promised gifts. He was met by General Ji Ling, who said, “You may withdraw now while I arrange it with my lord.”

With no other choice, Gao Shun returned to Xuzhou and reported his conversation with Ji Ling to Lü Bu. Bu cursed Yuan Shu for bad faith and intended to attack him, but after strenuous objections from Chen Gong, Bu desisted. Relations with Liu Bei were later restored, and Gao Shun settled into residence at Xuzhou city. Following these events, Liu Bei relocated to Xiaopei at the insistence of Lü Bu.

Later in the year, Lü Bu attacked Liu Bei at Xiaopei after Bei’s Commander, Zhang Fei, stole some horses from Bu. Bei was consequently forced from Xiaopei and left to seek refuge with Cao Cao, and Lü Bu gave over command of the city to Gao Shun. Also in the year, Yuan Shu fielded seven armies to attack Lü Bu at Xuzhou (3), and Gao Shun was placed in one of five field armies to counter the attack. Yuan Shu was soundly defeated and retreated to his home region below the River Huai. Shortly after the battle, Lü Bu joined forces with Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sun Ce of the Southland for an attack on Yuan Shu’s home region of Shouchun. The alliance was victorious and in this way, Lü Bu restored relations with Liu Bei once again, who, on the behest of Cao Cao, settled down in Xiaopei once more. Gao Shun gave over command of the city and relocated back to Xuzhou city.

3: Initially, Yuan Shu had sent Han Yin to Lü Bu to propose a marriage between Shu’s eldest son and Bu’s daughter. Lü Bu accepted the proposal, but after consulting with one of his advisers, Chen Gui, Bu had the marriage called off and sent Yuan Shu’s envoy sent to the capital of Xuchang for execution. After learning of this, Yuan Shu immediately fielded his seven armies.

In AD 199, Lü Bu’s adviser, Chen Gong, discovered a courier carrying a message from Liu Bei to Cao Cao, which related Bei’s intentions for a joint attack on Lü Bu with Cao. Upon reading the letter, Lü Bu had the courier executed and began preparations for war. Gao Shun was ordered to attack Liu Bei at Xiaopei with Commander Zhang Liao, and the two of them set off immediately. Upon arriving, Gao Shun was met by Liu Bei himself, who shouted to him, “Lü Bu and I have no quarrel. Why have you brought troops here?”

“You and Cao Cao conspired to kill my lord,” Shun replied, “The whole thing has come out. You can turn yourself in.”

Gao Shun then signalled his men forward to attack, but Liu Bei promptly sealed himself inside the city before any confrontation could be made.

While laying siege to Xiaopei, spies informed Gao Shun that Cao Cao had sent a vanguard force of fifty thousand against him, while more were on their way under the command of Cao himself. Shun sent a courier with the news to Lü Bu, who in turn sent Generals Hou Cheng, He Meng and Cao Xing with two hundred cavalry to reinforce Shun. Gao Shun then had his forces relocate thirty li from Xiaopei city in order to meet Cao’s army.

Soon after, Cao Cao’s vanguard emerged led by Commander Xiahou Dun, who quickly spotted Gao Shun and rode out to challenge him. Shun raised his own weapon and met the challenge, but after fifty bouts, neither could overcome the other. Gao Shun then broke off the combat and rode back to his line. Dun pursued, but as he was riding after Shun, an arrow shot by General Cao Xing pierced Dun directly in his left eye. Dun let out a howl of pain and plucked out the arrow – the socket of his eye came out with it. “The essence of my parents cannot be thrown away,” Gao Shun heard Dun shout, and the wounded Commander then swallowed the eye. Before anyone could compose themselves after the spectacle, Xiahou Dun rode straight for Cao Xing and speared him, not giving the officer time to defend himself. Dun, injured, then rode back to his line, and Gao Shun waved his men on in a furious pursuit. Shun decimated Cao’s forces, and the army was forced to retreat from the field.

After defeating Xiahou Dun’s vanguard force, Gao Shun joined forces with Lü Bu, who had just arrived with the main army, and Zhang Liao for an attack on Liu Bei. Shun led Zhang Liao for an attack on Bei’s Commander Guan Yu, while Lü Bu attacked Zhang Fei. Both Commanders were soundly defeated and fled for the hills with a score of men, while Liu Bei himself attempted fleeing back to Xiaopei. However, Lü Bu overtook Bei and occupied the city, forcing the General to flee alone by the west gate. After this victory, Lü Bu headed for Yanzhou and the districts east of the mountains, and Gao Shun was placed in charge of the defence of Xiaopei with Zhang Liao.

While stationed in Xiaopei, Gao Shun received Chen Deng, one of Lü Bu’s other Commanders. Deng explained to Shun that Lü Bu had been surrounded at Xuzhou city and was in desperate need of reinforcements. With Zhang Liao, Gao Shun quickly mounted and set off for Xu, but en route was met by Lü Bu and Chen Gong. Lü Bu asked what had happened, and Gao Shun related to Bu what Chen Deng had told him. “Another of the traitor’s tricks,” Chen Gong remarked. (4)

4: Chen Deng had in fact been collaborating with Cao Cao since Lü Bu first took control of Xuzhou. Throughout the course of the war between Cao and Bu, Chen Deng had been relating false information to all of Lü Bu’s Commanders, which had resulted in Chen Gong abandoning the pass he was guarding and Bu himself leaving Xu city.

“I will kill the villain,” Lü Bu cried.

Gao Shun then set off for Xiaopei with the other three Commanders, but found the city to be flying the colours of Cao Cao. Chen Deng appeared at the top of the watchtower, and Lü Bu reviled him for his treachery. Bu then gave the order to lay siege to Xiaopei, but before the attack could commence, an armed contingent of men led by Zhang Fei appeared. Gao Shun rode forth and attacked Fei’s force, but soon was forced to retire. Lü Bu himself then took the field, but reinforcements of Cao Cao’s arrived and forced him too to flee. Gao Shun and the rest of Lü Bu’s army then fled east to Xiapi, whose defending Commander, Hou Cheng, received them.

Xiapi was soon surrounded by Cao Cao’s forces, who immediately began laying siege to the city. In desperation, Lü Bu formulated a plan to give his daughter in marriage to Yuan Shu’s son, in order to have Shu send troops to Xiapi’s defence. An envoy was sent to Shouchun with the proposal, under guard by one thousand soldiers led by Zhang Liao and Commander He Meng. The guard managed to break through Cao’s blockade and the envoy, with He Meng and five hundred soldiers, set off for Shouchun. Zhang Liao headed back for Xiapi with the remaining five hundred soldiers, but was blocked by Guan Yu. Seeing this unfold from a vantage point on Xiapi’s walls, Gao Shun rushed out of the city’s gate with a score of men and secured Liao’s retreat back.

The envoy sent to Shouchun later returned and informed Lü Bu that Yuan Shu would agree to send troops as soon as Lü Bu delivered his daughter to him. Gao Shun was summoned by Lü Bu with Zhang Liao and instructed, “Take three thousand men and ready a small carriage. I will go the first two hundred li; you finish the journey without me.”

Gao Shun and Zhang Liao both agreed, and the next day the two, with Lü Bu and a contingent of men, left Xiapi city by the road to Shouchun. However, the escort was soon accosted by Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Liu Bei to the front, and Cao’s Commanders Xu Chu and Xu Huang to the rear. Unable to break through the encirclement, Gao Shun and the rest of Lü Bu’s men were forced to return to Xiapi and remain on the defensive.

As the siege on Xiapi wore on, Cao Cao had the water from the Rivers Yi and Si diverted into the city, drenching all areas save for the east gate. Lü Bu later put a ban on all alcohol within the city, (5) but the prohibition was broken by Hou Cheng, who celebrated retrieving several stolen horses with wine. Cheng was consequently given fifty lashes, and the morale of Lü Bu’s men was greatly lowered. As a result of his treatment, Hou Cheng stole Lü Bu’s renowned horse, Red Hare, and escaped to Cao Cao’s camp. Two of Lü Bu’s other commanders, Song Xian and Wei Xu, later stole Bu’s famed halberd, tied their leader up, and opened the city gates. With Zhang Liao, Gao Shun led a desperate defence of the city’s western gate but was trapped by the flood and captured.

5: After entering Xiapi, Lü Bu had confined himself to his quarters and drunk heavily for fear of his current situation. After seeing the effect the continuous drinking had had on his physical appearance, however, Bu issued the ban immediately.

Gao Shun, after being tied, was sent to White Gate tower with the other captives, who included Zhang Liao, Chen Gong and Lü Bu himself. Shun remained silent as Lü Bu pleaded for his ropes to be loosened, at which point Cao Cao said to him, “A tiger needs to be tightly bound.”

Song Xian, Wei Xu and Hou Cheng later joined Cao Cao, unbound, at the tower, and Lü Bu shouted to them, “Did I not treat you well? How could you betray me?”

“You listened only to your women,” Song Xian answered, “not to your Commanders. Is that what you mean by ‘treat well’?”

Lü Bu made no reply.

Gao Shun then saw Cao Cao shifting his attention to him, and guards surrounding Shun hustled him in front of Cao. “Anything to say?” Cao Cao asked him.

Not wishing to join Cao, Gao Shun remained silent and accepted his fate. Cao Cao had him executed. The year was AD 199.

Copyright © 2006 Sam Wrest. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms