Liu Pi was a Yellow Scarves commander. After the Yellow Scarves Rebellion was quelled, he fled to the Runan area.
In AD 200, along with Gong Du, another former Yellow Scarf, Liu Pi raised an army and attacked Runan, defeating Cao Cao’s brother, Cao Hong, in several battles. In response, Cao Cao sent General Guan Yu (1) to fight the Yellow Scarves.
1: Guan Yu was Liu Bei’s sworn brother; he had surrendered to Cao Cao until he could find Liu Bei.
When the two armies met, Guan Yu was told by Gong Du that they would yield Runan if he met up with the imperial uncle (2). Guan Yu understood and pursued. Runan was retaken by Cao Cao.
2: Liu Bei was named an imperial uncle of Han after his meeting with Emperor Xian.
Liu Bei was with Yuan Shao at this time. Yuan Shao had sent Liu Bei to work out an alliance with Liu Biao (3). Yuan Shao had already allied with Liu Pi but said, “Liu Biao is worth a lot more than Liu Pi!” However, Liu Bei went to Liu Pi. The alliance suggestion had been a lie to get Liu Bei away (4).
3: Liu Biao ruled the nine districts of Jingzhou.
4: Liu Bei realised that Yuan Shao wouldn’t achieve anything, and so left him.
Some time later, after the battle of Guandu which resulted in Yuan Shao’s defeat, Guan Yu met up with Liu Bei at Gucheng. Liu Pi requested the aid of Liu Bei, as he had retaken Runan and wanted some strong warriors with him. Liu Bei accepted and when his army of four or five thousand reached Runan, Liu Pi handed the city over for Liu Bei’s use.
At this time, Yuan Shao had been continuously defeated by Cao Cao, whose army was advancing north. Liu Bei and Liu Pi decided to strike the undefended Xuchang. Liu Pi protected Runan, whilst Liu Bei, his brothers and Zhao Yun attacked with several thousand cavalry.
However, Cao Cao had heard of the attack and had personally led his army to repel Liu Bei.
Liu Pi was ambushed at Runan by Xiahou Dun, and was forced to abandon the city. He fled towards Liu Bei’s army with one thousand cavalry and Liu Bei’s family. Guan Yu, who had been sent to assist Liu Pi, was trapped. Zhang Fei had also been trapped trying to help Gong Du, who had been leading a grain shipment.
Liu Bei’s army began falling apart. He had abandoned camp, but became separated from Zhao Yun and his army. He was all alone when Liu Pi appeared with the remnants of the Runan army. Sun Qian, Jian Yong and Mi Fang also rode up.
“Xiahou Dun forced us from Runan,” they said, “Guan Yu held them off, but we don’t know where he is.”
Liu Bei wailed at hearing this, but Liu Pi comforted him saying, “My lord, we’ll find him later. For now, keep moving!”
After a few li, they were ambushed by Zhang He who called on them to submit. Liu Bei and Liu Pi tried to turn back, but Gao Lan was there.
“Let me die!” shouted Liu Bei, raising his sword to his throat. Liu Pi stopped him and said, “My lord, I shall help us break through.”
He charged Gao Lan. Gao Lan raised his spear and struck Liu Pi. Liu Pi was cut down and killed. Moments later, Zhao Yun appeared and killed Gao Lan in turn. Gong Du also died that day, but Liu Bei managed to escape to Jingzhou and sent Sun Qian as an envoy to ask for shelter.
Sun Qian said, “Lord Liu is a scion of the imperial house. In Runan, two worthy strangers, Liu Pi and Gong Du, died to save him.”
Copyright © 2004 Mike Holmes
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong