Biography (SGYY): Lü Bu (Fengxian)

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Lü Bu (Fengxian)
呂布 (奉先)
(AD 159–199)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
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Lü Bu (Fengxian)

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Chen Deng now went to see General Han Xian, whom was easily swayed by his words and promised that he and Yang Feng would defect to Lü Bu. As soon as Chen Deng reported the success, Lü Bu divided his troops into five divisions, each with ten thousand troops, and sent them to the threatened towns to meet their enemies. Gao Shun led one army to Xiao Pei against Qiao Rui; Chen Gong to Yi Du against Chen Ji; Zhang Liao and Zang Ba to Lang Ye against Lei Bo; Song Xian and Wei Xu to Jie Shi against Chen Lan. Lü Bu himself led against the main body under Zhang Xun, leaving a small guard in Xu Zhou City. Lü Bu camped ten miles outside the gates, Zhang Xun was afraid of Lü Bu and retired seven miles to await reinforcements. That night, during the second watch, Han Xian and Yang Feng arrived as soon as the arranged flares were lit. Lü Bu’s troops were led into the camp and caused great confusion. Then, Lü Bu started the full-scale attack. Zhang Xun’s troops were routed and the Grand Commander fled the camp. Lü Bu pursued until daylight and met with another body of soldiers led by Yi Ling. Both sides got ready to engage, but with Yang Feng and Han Xian’s troops attacking from opposite sides, Yi Ling stood no chance and was forced to flee.

Lü Bu again pursued and this time he encountered Yuan Shu’s personal army. As the ranks opened, Lü Bu saw a leader’s guard with flags bearing Dragons and Phoenixes, and representations of the sun and moon, the stars in the four groups of the Great Bear Constellation, the five directions of the Earth, golden gourds, silver axes, yellow halberds, white yaks’ tails, all Imperial emblems. In addition, beneath a yellow silken parasol sat Yuan Shu on horseback, clad in silver mail with a sword handle showing at each wrist. Yuan Shu railed at his opponent and sent out Li Deng to oppose Lü Bu. After the second bout, Li Deng’s hand was injured and he dropped his spear. Lü Bu immediately pressed the attack and his army prevailed. The other side fled, leaving much spoil, clothing, mail, and horses. Yuan Shu’s army had not gone far before they met with Guan Yu’s troops. The casualties were plentiful and Yuan Shu managed to escape only with a handful of soldiers. With this victory, Lü Bu, accompanied by Guan Yu, Han Xian, and Yang Feng returned to Xu Zhou city. Banquets were held in celebration and Lü Bu appointed Yang Feng as Governor of Lang Ye, and Han Xian as Governor of Yi Du. They were immediately sent to their cities on Chen Gui’s advice.

The wounded Yuan Shu was now caught between Cao Cao, Lü Bu, and Sun Ce. Being short on food, he raided Chen Liu. In response, Cao Cao personally led his army to destroy Yuan Shu. Letters were sent to Liu Bei, Lü Bu, and Sun Ce, calling them to join in the attack. Liu Bei was the fist to answer the call and when he joined Cao Cao, he offered the heads of Han Xian and Yang Feng, explaining that while they were Governors in Xu Zhou, they allowed their troops to abuse the civilians. Cao Cao thanked Liu Bei for getting rid of them. When Lü Bu arrived, Cao Cao treated him courteously and gave him the title General of the Left Army, promising him the seal as soon as they returned to Xu Chang. Lü Bu was exceedingly pleased with this. Then the three armies merged, Cao Cao commanded the centre, Lü Bu the left, and Liu Bei the right. Xiahou Dun and Yu Jin were the Van leaders.

Qiao Rui led the Van of Yuan Shu’s army, engaging Xiahou Dun on the outskirts of Shou Chun. Xiahou Dun rode out to challenge him, and Qiao Rui fell in the third bout. His army withdrew into the city. News came that Sun Ce’s army was approaching from the west, and would arrive shortly. The three other land divisions each took a direction to attack. Cao Cao attacked the north, Lü Bu the east, and Liu Bei the south. Yuan Shu saw that the situation was desperate, so he appointed Li Deng, Yue Jiu, Liang Gan, and Chen Ji to defend Shou Chun with a hundred thousand troops. Yuan Shu took the rest of the troops and escaped the city by crossing the River Huai. He gathered the wealth of the city and took it with him.

Cao Cao’s army needed large quantities of food every day, and since the land around Shou Chun had been struck by famine for several years, there was no way to get new food supplies. Therefore, Cao Cao hastened the military operations while the defenders tried to prolong the battle as much as they could. A month passed and the siege seemed as unsuccessful as before. The food supplies were low, so Cao Cao sent a letter to Sun Ce, whom immediately sent a hundred thousand carts of grain. Cao Cao’s cruel tactics from then on ensured that the united army worked non-stop to end the siege as quickly as possible. Soon the walls were scaled, the gates rammed in, and the besieged were captured. The enemy generals, Li Deng, Yue Lie, Liang Gang, and Chen Li were all captured alive and executed in the market place. All the insignia and symbols of Yuan Shu’s “Empire” were burned, and the city was wrecked. Yuan Shu was not pursued and the three armies returned to their capitals.

Lü Bu enjoyed many banquets and the two Chens would take up every opportunity to praise him. Chen Gong warned Lü Bu that even though their words were full of praise, their heart was full of cunning schemes. However, Lü Bu would not hear about it and sent Chen Gong away. Chen Gong thought about leaving Lü Bu, but feared that his reputation would be destroyed. One day while he was out hunting, he encountered an Imperial messenger. When the messenger would not answer to Chen Gong, he was seized and taken to Lü Bu. He explained, “The Prime Minister sent me to bear a letter to Imperial Protector Liu Bei. I was now taking back the reply. I know nothing more, and I am ignorant of the contents of the letters.” Therefore, Lü Bu tore open the letter and learned that Liu Bei and Cao Cao were scheming to bring him down. Lü Bu was alarmed, and after killing the unfortunate messenger, he planned his counter moves.

Chen Gong and Zhang Ba were sent to enlist the aid of the Tai Shan Mountain bandits: Sun Guan, Wu Dun, Yin Li, and Chang Xi, so that they could take Yan Zhou, east of the Hua Sheng Mountains. Zhang Liao and Gao Shun went to attack Liu Bei in Xiao Pei. Song Xian and Wei Xu went to take Ru Nan and Ying Chuan. Lü Bu took charge of a large body of soldiers, ready to aid where assistance was needed.

The attack on Xiao Pei was slow; Liu Bei and his brothers who kept Zhang Liao and Gao Shun out of the city defended the gates. In the meanwhile, Liu Bei sent a messenger to Cao Cao for help.

Soon news reached Gao Shun about Cao Cao’s reinforcement units. He sent messengers to Lü Bu, who sent two hundred cavalrymen along with Hou Cheng, Cao Xing, and He Meng to assist in the attack.

Gao Shun retreated from attacking Xiao Pei as Cao Cao’s reinforcements approached. Xiahou Dun was the first one to arrive. He set out his spear and challenged Gao Shun. The two fought for thirty bouts, and Gao Shun became tired and turned back. Xiahou Dun immediately chased him, however from Lü Bu’s troops, Cao Xing shot an arrow full into Xiahou Dun’s left eye. He pulled out his eye and swallowed it. Wasting no time, Xiahou Dun charged towards Cao Xing and mortally wounded him. Both sides stared in amazement. Having slain the man who injured him, Xiahou Dun turned back. Gao Shun immediately pressed the attack, and Xiahou Yuan defended his brother while they fled. Having scored a victory, Gao Shun returned to attack Liu Bei with Lü Bu and Zhang Liao.

Zhang Fei and Guan Yu came out to defend their city, Liu Bei stayed behind as a backup force. Zhang Liao and Gao Shun engaged the two brothers, and Lü Bu attacked their rear, forcing them to flee. Liu Bei and score of cavalrymen went back to Xiao Pie, and Lü Bu rushed to catch up with him. The drawbridge was lowered but the archers on the gates were afraid to shoot their arrows because Liu Bei was so close to Lü Bu. The gate guards were unable to stop Lü Bu from coming in, and were scattered in all directions. Lü Bu led his forces into the city. Liu Bei saw no chance of reaching his family, so instead he fled through the west gate. Lü Bu arrived at Liu Bei’s residence where he met with Mi Zhu, their guardian, who said, “The hero does not destroy a person’s family. Your rival for the empire is Cao Cao, and my master, always mindful of the good turn you did him at the Archery Feast, would not be ungrateful. But he could not help going to Cao Cao, and I think you will pity him.” Lü Bu promised not to harm Liu Bei’s family and sent them to Xu Zhou with Mi Zhu. Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Sun Qian fled to Xu Chang.

Cao Cao’s army camped at Ji Bei where the sick Xiahou Dun recovered from his wound. Cao Ren was sent to recapture Xiao Pei with three thousand soldiers, while he himself would attack Lü Bu. When they reached Ma Dang hills near Xiao Pass, Cao Cao encountered the Tai Shan Mountain bandits that Lü Bu hired. Xu Zhu went out to battle and easily drove them off. When they scout told Lü Bu, he left Xu Zhou in the care of Chen Gui and took off with Chen Deng. On Chen Deng’s advice, Lü Bu sent his family to Xia Pi along with many carts of grain as a precaution. While Chen Gong was holding off Cao Cao at Xiao pass, Chen Deng advised Lü Bu to make a night raid on their forces before they would break through. So it was arranged that when the flares were lit, Lü Bu would make a charge at night. Chen Deng also went to Chen Gong and advised him to retreat and use a flare to alert Lü Bu and go back to Xia Pi. When Lü Bu saw the flare he moved in to attack, he met Chen Gong’s force who was retreating but with no lights, Lü Bu could not distinguish his ally from his enemy. While the battle went on, Cao Cao vanquished the Tai Shan bandits. When morning came, the plot was discovered and Lü Bu joined with Chen Gong to go back to Xu Zhou. However, as they reached Xu Zhou the gates would not open as Chen Gui and Mi Zhu had taken over the city from inside. When they could not detect Chen Deng, they made their way to Xiao Pei. Zhang Liao and Gao Shun met with them half way and told them Chen Deng had sent them away to help Lü Bu. Chen Deng plotted this and Lü Bu immediately headed for Xiao Pei.

Cao Ren already occupied the city, and after being taunted by Chen Deng, Lü Bu made his attack. Zhang Fei’s unit came out and Gao Shun engaged. He was no match for Zhang Fei so Lü Bu rode out to assist. This time, Cao Cao’s army appeared. Lü Bu saw no chance of victory and retreated east while Cao Cao pursued. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei attacked the fleeing army, and Lü Bu desperately held them off as they approached Xia Pi. Hou Cheng’s forces came to assist Lü Bu as the force reached Xia Pi. Lü Bu was satisfied with the stored grain and protection of the River Si, and made no effort to attack Cao Cao’s army.

Chen Gong advised Lü Bu to attack Cao Cao, but Lü Bu would not listen after so many defeats, and thus he waited for Cao Cao to reach the city. Lü Bu awaited Cao Cao at the top of the gate and proposed peace if Cao Cao would withdraw immediately. However, Chen Gong railed at Cao Cao and shot an arrow in his helmet. Therefore, the attack on Xia Pi began. “They have come from far and cannot maintain this for long,” Chen Gong said. “General, go out with your horse and foot and take up a position outside, leaving me to maintain the defence with the remainder of our troops. If he engages you, I will come out and strike at his rear ranks; if he attacks the city, you can come to our aid. In ten days, their stores will fail, and we can beat them off. This will place them between the ox-horns.” Lü Bu thought it was a good plan, however Lady Yan opposed because she feared that Chen Gong could not protect Lü Bu’s family. So for three days, Lü Bu did nothing. Next came news that supplies for Cao Cao were on the way from Xu Chang. Chen Gong proposed that Lü Bu intercept the supplies and leave the city to his generals. Lü Bu thought it was a good plan, but once again, Lady Yan’s tears kept him from making a move. Chen Gong thought all was lost. “We shall die, and no one shall know our burial place,” he said. Thereupon Lü Bu stayed in his private quarters, drinking away his sorrows with his women.

Wang Kai and Xu Si proposed a plan to renew the marriage with Yuan Shu. Lü Bu decided to take a chance and sent them to Shou Chun. Zhang Liao and He Meng accompanied the envoy through the pass with one thousand soldiers, and after successfully delivered them past Liu Bei and Cao Cao’s armies. During the same night, they returned to the city.

Yuan Shu was unsure of the sincerity of Lü Bu’s proposal, and told Xu Si that he would not send troops until the girl had arrived. This plan was agreed upon, and Xu Si and Wang Kai waited until nightfall to return to Xia Pi. They were able to sneak past Liu Bei’s camp, however the escort from He Meng was discovered, and Zhang Fei captured the general after only one bout. Liu Bei sent He Meng to the main camp where Cao Cao interrogated him. After hearing about the marriage plot, Cao Cao grew angry and had He Meng executed at the gate.

Xu Si and Wang Kai told Lü Bu of the successful mission and the capture of He Meng. Lü Bu decided to escort his daughter himself and let Zhang Liao and Gao Shun take her to Yuan Shu, after they passed the camp of Liu Bei. The next evening, Lü Bu wrapped a mailed coat around his daughter and took her on his back. Then with his mighty trident in his hand, he mounted the red hare and rode out of the city along with escorts. Zhang Liao and Gao Shun followed closely behind.

Zhang Fei and Guan Yu barred the road and Lü Bu was forced to take a side road. Even though he was strong, Lü Bu could not take any risk with the girl on his back. Both parties attacked him and he had no choice but to go back to Xia Pi. He was broken hearted as he reached his residence, and the besiegers celebrated their victory. Lü Bu found consolation in a cup of wine.

The siege had gone on for two months, and the city was still standing. News reached Lü Bu that Zhang Yan, Governor of He Nei, was inclined to come to the aid of Lü Bu. However, one of his subordinates, Yang Chou, assassinated Zhang Yan and was going to offer his head to Cao Cao. Then, Kui Gu, a colleague of the Governor, killed Yang Chou and led his force to Dai Cheng.

Hearing this, Cao Cao devised a new plan to take Xia Pi by drowning the city by use of the Rivers Yi and Si. When Lü Bu was told of this plan, he dismissed any danger and went back to drinking more wine with his wife and concubine. The result of drinking so much wine became visible as Lü Bu looked into his mirror one day, only to see a shadow of his former self. Saddened by this, Lü Bu gave out a new order, saying that anyone who would drink wine would be executed without consideration.

Now one of his generals, Hou Cheng, lost some horses. He found out that his servant Hou Cao stole them and wanted to sell them to Liu Bei. Hou Cheng recovered the horses and killed Hou Cao. To celebrate this occasion, Hou Cheng ordered fine wine to be made. This angered Lü Bu and ordered Hou Cheng to be executed. However, Song Xian and Wei Xu persuaded Lü Bu to spare his life. Instead, Hou Cheng received fifty lashes of the whip.

The next day there was much commotion in the city, and Lü Bu with his trident went to see what was wrong. Hou Cheng had stolen his red hare and gave it to Cao Cao. Lü Bu grew angry with Wei Xu for letting Hou Cheng go, but before anything could be done, a while flag was raised and another attack on Xia Pi began. Lü Bu concentrated on the attack and the siege last until noon.

Lü Bu was very fatigued and went to sleep in his tower. Wei Xu and Song Xian stole his weapon, and before Lü Bu could wake up, they threw him to the ground and bound him with ropes. Lü Bu called for his guards but other traitors slew them. A while flag was raised, the gates flung open, and the enemy entered the city. Zhang Liao, Gao Shun, and Chen Gong tried to escape the city, however they were cut off by the water and were captured by Cao Cao’s generals. The rivers were put in their normal course and the siege had ended.

Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei were present in the White Tower as the captives were brought it. Lü Bu looked pitiful even though he was a tall man. Seeing the three traitors, Hou Cheng, Song Xian, and Wei Xu standing near Cao Cao, Lü Bu asked them why he betrayed them after he treated them so well. Song Xian said, “You listened to the words of your women, but rejected the advice of your generals. Was not that mean?” Lü Bu was silent.

Gao Shun was brought in, but he had no words for Cao Cao and was taken outside to be executed. Next, Chen Gong was brought in and Cao Cao questioned him. Chen Gong had no remorse over his choices, and chose death over the dishonour of defection. Cao Cao promised to take care of Chen Gong’s family, and had him executed along with Gao Shun.

Lü Bu made an appeal to Liu Bei, “Noble Sir, you sit there an honoured guest while poor me lies bound at your feet. Will you not utter one word to alleviate my lot?” However, Liu Bei had no intention to let Lü Bu live and said, “You are willing to forget the episodes of Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo?” Hearing this, Cao Cao ordered Lü Bu to be strangled. Lü Bu was led away by the guards and yelled at Liu Bei one last time, “You long-eared lout, you forget now the service I rendered you that day at my camp gate, when my arrow hit the mark!” Just then, Zhang Liao appeared and said, “Lü Bu Oh fool! Death is but death so why do you fear it?” The guards hustled Zhang Liao forth to be judged, and Lü Bu was taken away to be executed. Two poems were written about the end of the mighty warrior, who was executed in the year AD 199, at the age of forty-three.

“The flood spreads wide, the city drowns,
Its lord is captive. Nought avails
His courser’s speed or halberd’s thrust.
The tiger erstwhile fierce, now whines
for mercy. Cao Cao had meted him
Full well, a falcon flown at will
and hungry kept. Poor fool! He let
Chen Gong’s advice be overborne
by harem tattle; vainly now
He rails against the Long-Ears’ faith”
“Round is the hungry tiger, eater of men,
for whom is no pity,
Since the blood of his victims is fresh and not yet dry.
Liu Bei spoke no word in favour of Lü Bu.
To whom even a father’s life was not sacred.”

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Copyright © 2002–2003
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong