Biography (SGYY): Jiao Chu

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Jiao Chu
(AD ?–208)

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

Jiao Chu

Jiao Chu was a lieutenant commander of Yuan Xi, the second son of Yuan Shao. While in service to the Yuan’s, Chu actively participated in many of their campaigns, including those against Cao Cao between AD 200 to 202, and was a commander known to show eagerness and determination in battle.

In AD 202, Yuan Shao died after losing several battles to Cao Cao, and his three sons, Tan, Xi, and Shang, actively fought with one another for the right of successor. Cao Cao was able to take advantage of their conflict and continuously defeated Yuan Xi and his brothers in battle, which consequently resulted in Cao Cao’s taking of Ye province. After Ye’s fall, Cao next aimed to attack Yuan Xi’s own province of Youzhou, but Jiao Chu, discontented serving the Yuan’s, gathered his men upon hearing of Cao’s attack and set out to join his army, who were at that time poised to attack Yuan Tan at Pingyuan. Chu arrived at the city to find that the attack on Pingyuan had already ended in victory for Cao Cao, but as he neared their position, Jiao Chu saw Cao’s army manoeuvring to meet him. Understanding that Cao Cao thought him to still be a subject of the Yuan’s, Jiao Chu quickly put down his spear and had his men do the same with their arms. Cao Cao then admitted him into his presence and granted Chu a lordship, as well as assigning him as a commander in his army.

Some time later, Cao Cao began discussing an attack on Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang at Youzhou, during which Guo Jia advised, “Let the former Yuan generals, Jiao Chu and Zhang Nan (1), launch the attacks.”

Cao Cao agreed to Guo Jia’s recommendation, and Jiao Chu soon received orders to take command of three field armies along with Zhang Nan, Lü Kuang, Lü Xiang, Ma Yan and Zhang Yi. Chu set off and arrived at Youzhou some time later, but the two Yuan brothers abandoned the province upon learning of his approach, enabling Jiao Chu to enter the city and bring it under Cao Cao’s control without suffering any casualties. (2) Yuan Xi and Shang were later defeated and killed by Cao’s forces, bringing the north of China firmly under Cao Cao’s control.

1: Zhang Nan was another commander of the Yuan’s who surrendered to Cao Cao.
2: Historically, Jiao Chu revolted against Yuan Xi and Shang inside Youzhou, and attacked and defeated the two brothers directly. Chu then took over You and opened its gates to Cao Cao upon his arrival.

In AD 207, Cao Cao led an attack on Liu Bei at Xinye. Jiao Chu was selected to join the expedition, but Liu Bei, upon hearing of the northern army’s advance, began fleeing to Xia Kou. Cao Cao immediately ordered a pursuit of the fleeing forces, which consisted of Liu Bei’s entire army as well as a mass of civilian followers. Jiao Chu joined the pursuit in Cao’s main army, marching day and night to catch up with Liu Bei. Upon catching up with the train on the slopes of Chang Ban, wild combat between the two forces ensued, resulting in Liu Bei’s massive train being split up and isolated from each other. Jiao Chu continued pursuing Liu Bei himself, but whilst doing so, he came upon one of his commanders, Zhao Yun. In Yun’s left arm was a child, while in his right was a bloodied, battered spear. “Halt, Zhao Zilong!” (3) Chu shouted to the man, but in response, Yun charged forward. Jiao Chu gripped his own spear and met him in wild combat, but Zhao Yun soon drew a sword that he used to cut a path through Chun’s men, and the young commander thus managed to escape. Collecting what was left of his own forces, Jiao Chu marched back to Cao Cao’s position, but Liu Bei’s forces were able to escape and Chu, with the rest of Cao’s army, left and took refuge at Jiangling.

3: Zilong is Zhao Yun’s style name, and is often used in place of his given name in SGYY.

In AD 208, Cao Cao launched an expedition against the Southland, beginning with a naval attack across Chi Bi. Jiao Chu was selected to join the campaign, and once the northerners had set up their naval encampments at the mouth of the Great River, Cao Cao addressed Jiao Chu and the rest of the commanders. “The men from Qing, Xu, Yan, and Dai lack naval experience,” he said. “If not for this expedient, how could they negotiate the Great River?”

Upon hearing Cao’s words, Jiao Chu rose together with Zhang Nan, a friend from his days serving the Yuan’s, and said, “Though we are from the north, we have some skill at sailing. To prove it, we volunteer to take twenty patrol craft directly to Xiakou, seize their flags and drums, and return.”

“You men,” Cao replied to them, “born and raised in the north, may find shipboard hard to take. The southern soldiers, accustomed to moving by water, have honed their sailing skills. If I were you, I would not trifle with my life.”

“If we fail,” Jiao Chu replied, “we are content to accept what martial law decrees.”

“The larger boats have already been made fast,” Cao Cao said. “There are only small ones free. They hold twenty men each. Too few, perhaps, to engage the enemy.”

But determined to prove his worth, Jiao Chu said to Cao, “If we were to use the large ships, we would not impress the enemy. Let us have twenty small ones: ten for me and ten for Zhang Nan. Before the day is out, we will hit their camp and return with their standard and a general’s head.”

“Then I will give you twenty boats and five hundred crack troops, experts with long spears and crossbows,” Cao Cao replied. “Tomorrow morning the flotilla will make a show of force from the main camp, and Wen Ping will escort you back with thirty patrol boats.”

Gratified that his request had been answered, Jiao Chu set out with Zhang Nan to begin preparing his attack, eager for the battle to come.

At early morning the following day, Jiao Chu had his five hundred crack troops fed well, and by the fifth watch, they were all armed and ready for battle. Drums and gongs sounded from the camp as Jiao Chu led his men onto the Great River with General Wen Ping, from which he headed directly south to the enemy’s position. Jiao Chu soon came upon a craft commanded by southern General Han Dang, who was standing at the fore of his boat with a mass of men around him. Seeing them, Jiao Chu ordered his archers to fire on Dang’s position—the arrows found their mark, but Dang was able to deflect most with a shield. Seeing that such an attack would not succeed, Jiao Chu grasped his spear and launched himself onto the southern craft, where he made straight for Han Dang. Coming upon the southerner, Jiao Chu attacked him with energetic zeal, but his opponent was able to deflect his blow and struck back with his own weapon, fatally piercing Jiao Chu through the chest.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong