Biography (SGYY): Huangfu Song (Yizhen)

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Huangfu Song (Yizhen)
皇甫嵩 (義真)
(AD ?–195)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by James Peirce

Huangfu Song (Yizhen)

Huangfu Song, styled Yizhen, served the Han Dynasty as an Imperial Commander. In AD 184 Regent Marshal and Guardian of the Throne, He Jin, memorialized everyone to rise in arms against the Yellow Turban Rebellion headed by the three brothers, Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao, and Zhang Liang. Among those that opposed the rebels were Lu Zhi, Liu Bei’s former mentor, Zhu Jun, a Han loyalist, and Huangfu Song.

Lu Zhi, with Huangfu Song, Zhu Jun, and 50’000 troops, found themselves fighting a detachment of Yellow Turbans at Yingchuan commanded by Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao, and numbering around 150’000. They were strongly entrenched, and the Han forces were having difficulty dislodging them. This soon changed, though, and the imperial forces back to Changshe, where they set up encampments in the thick grass. Liu Bei arrived with his own volunteer forces to support them, and was briefed on the circumstances by Lu Zhi.

Observing the situation, Huangfu Song suggested to Zhu Jun, “The rebels are camping in the grassy fields. We can destroy them with fire.”

The imperial commanders ordered all of their soldiers to cut a bundle of dried grass and quietly snuck into an ambush. During the following night, when the wind blew up into a gale at the second watch, they issued a command to start the fire. Their soldiers lit the dry grass and threw it toward the Yellow Turban’s encampments.

At the same time Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun led skilled troops in a charge through the encampment, attacking unprepared rebels and starting fires wherever they could. The flames rose into the heavens, and the rebels were thrown into great confusion. They had no time to mount their horses or equip their armor, and simply scattered in all directions, fleeing for their lives.

The bloody battle continued until dawn when Zhang Liang, Zhang Bao, along with a group of flying rebels, found what appeared to be a way to escape. Their hopes were soon dashed, however, as crimson banners appeared all around them, revealing the ambush they had stumbled into. The ambush was led by none other than Cao Cao, a Cavalry Commander who had been given command of 5’000 horse and foot soldiers to help defeat the rebels at Yingchuan. It was by chance that he stumbled across the rebels in their current situation, who his army slaughtered. Thousands were slain, and endless banners, horses, and drums were captured, along with a large sum of money. Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang escaped, however. After discussing the battle with Huangfu Song, Cao Cao left to pursue them with his forces.

A short time later Liu Bei arrived with his forces, but the battle had already died down. He shared his intentions and the command he had been given by Lu Zhi with Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun. “The rebels’ presence has been destroyed here,” they explained, “but they will surely make their way back to Guanzhong to join Zhang Jue. It would be advisable for you to return as well.” Liu Bei agreed with this assessment, and left with his brothers, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.

Some time later, Huangfu Song, now with the support of Cao Cao, caught up with Zhang Liang at Quyang, and a great battle raged as a result. Zhang Jue was already dead before they had arrived, and Zhang Liang was only able to hold out for a short while before Huangfu Song and Cao Cao’s forces overwhelmed him, claiming his life in the process. Zhang Jue’s coffin, which was captured, was exhumed, and the head removed. After exposure, Huangfu Song sent it to Luoyang. In reward him for his deeds and meritorious service he was promoted to General of Chariots and Cavalry and Imperial Protector of Jizhou (1) (2).

1: Moss Roberts: General of the Chariots and Cavalry is a military title second only to that of regent-marshal. It is comparable in status to general of the Flying Cavalry, a title first awarded to honor a daring foray into Xiongnu territory. See SJ “Wei jingjun piaoji liezhuan.” Protector was a provincial appointment at a compensation of 2’000 piculs of grain per month. Typically under the Han the customary chief provincial officer was the imperial inspector at 600 piculs. The protector had relatively independent authority; the imperial inspector was more strictly answerable to the court. Weakening central authority in the last Han reign is reflected in the increasing number of protector appointments over inspector appointments. [...]
2: Huangfu Song did not forget the deeds of those who served with him. He memorialized the throne and had Lu Zhi restored to his former rank, though it had been stripped in the past, and Cao Cao too was elevated in position.

Unfortunately, it would only be later in the year, after the Yellow Turban Rebellion had been settled, that the Ten Regular Attendants would gradually manipulate near complete authority in the capital. Anyone who opposed them, or wouldn’t work with their schemes, was eventually stripped of office or, more frequently, killed. Both Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun fell victim to these intrigues, and lost their positions as a result.

Time passed, He Jin was killed by the Ten Eunuchs, and power fell into the hands of the greedy and heartless Dong Zhuo. His rule would be short-lived, however, and upon his death power would pass to Wang Yun, the man who had engineered his execution at Lü Bu’s hands with the help of Diaochan. It was then AD 192, and Wang Yun needed a force to march on the remaining Dong Zhuo loyalists in Meiwo castle, commanded by Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji. He deployed a force of 50’000 soldiers, led by Lü Bu, Huangfu Song, and Li Su to destroy the city, and the rebels, though they would all flee before they arrived. The Dong clan was slaughtered, including women and children, and the great wealth Dong Zhuo had accumulated was recovered. (3)

3: There is no mention of what actually happened to Huangfu Song after his involvement in the Meiwu campaign under Wang Yun’s direction, nor is there any mention involving how he might have died in the novel. Some historical sources suggest that he died of illness in AD 195.

Copyright © 2006 James Peirce
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong
Sources: Romance of the Three Kingdoms Brewitt-Taylor and Moss Roberts