Biography (SGYY): Pei Yuanshao

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Pei Yuanshao
Lived: ?–200

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

Pei Yuanshao

Pei Yuanshao was a commander serving General of Heaven Zhang Jue during the first uprising of the Yellow Turbans, but following the failure and dispersing of the rebellion, Yuanshao took to a life of banditry in the hills surrounding Xuchang.

In AD 200, Pei Yuanshao came upon a boy named Guo, who told Yuanshao that a man with a fine horse was staying at his home and would make an easy target to mug. After assembling his men, Yuanshao made out for the boy’s home and came upon a man of tall stature with red cheeks. Glaring at him, Yuanshao shouted, “I was a commander under General of Heaven Zhang Jue! You there, leave the red horse and I’ll let you pass.”

“Ignorant villain!” the man shouted back. “You followed the bandit Zhang Jue? Then you ought to know of the three brothers, Liu, Guan, and Zhang!

Recalling that a friend of his, Zhou Cang, had once told him of a man surnamed Guan, Pei Yuanshao shouted back, “I’ve only heard of a red-faced long-beard known as Guan, but I’ve never seen his face. Who are you?”

The man then removed a bag covering his lower face, revealing a massively long beard. Pei Yuanshao now knew him to be no other than Guan Yu and instantly turned to the boy named Guo, grabbed him by the fair and pulled him before Yu. Looking at Yu, Yuanshao said, “I am Pei Yuanshao. We’ve had no master since Zhang Jue. We rendezvous in the hills and were lying low here. This morning this good-for-nothing fool told us that a guest with a splendid horse was staying at his house; he wanted me to steal it. What a surprise to find you, General!”

On the ground, Guo lay begging for his life and Guan Yu eventually turned to him and said, “I spare you only for your father’s sake.” (1)

1: Guan Yu had been staying at Guo Chang’s estate, who was the father of the boy Pei Yuanshao knew. Yu had developed a friendship with the man and because of that, spared his son.

Guo then left and Guan Yu turned to Pei Yuanshao. “You didn’t know my face. How did you know my name?” he asked.

“Twenty li from here,” Pei Yuanshao said, “on Sleeping Ox Hill lives a Guanxi man, Zhou Cang, with the strength to lift a thousand pounds. He has a striking face with a wiry, curled beard – used to be a commander under the Yellow Scarves leader Zhang Bao. When Bao died, Zhou Cang became an outlaw. He’s often told me about you, but what hope had I of ever meeting you?”

“A life of banditry is not for a gallant man like you, “ Guan Yu said. “Better get back on the right track and not fall into the mire.”

Pei Yuanshao expressed his thanks for the advice, but as he was, a body of men flashed into view. Recognizing them, Yuanshao said, “It must be Zhou Cang!”

Indeed, Zhou Cang rode up at that moment, prostrated himself before Guan Yu and asked to be entered into his service, but Yu at first denied. “I am but a rough and vulgar fellow who has wasted his life.” Cang said. “This meeting, General, is like seeing the sun after living in darkness. I cannot bear to lose the opportunity. If it is inconvenient for my men to accompany you, let them follow Pei Yuanshao, and I will join you alone on foot. A journey of ten thousand li could not deter me!”

So saying, Zhou Cang attempted to put his men under Pei Yuanshao’s command, but Yuanshao also wanted to serve under Guan Yu and refused the offer. “If you and I both leave,” Zhou Cang argued, “our men will disband. Better for you to lead them for the time being. Let me go first with General Guan. I will come for you after we are settled.”

Though discontented, Pei Yuanshao saw the sense in Zhou Cang’s words and after gathering his men and bidding Guan Yu and his retinue goodbye, set off back to the hills.

After leaving Guan Yu and Zhou Cang, Pei Yuanshao had a fortress constructed which he used as a base for his troops. One day, Yuanshao spotted a lone warrior riding a striking horse past his position and decided to attempt stealing the animal. The warrior, a former commander of Gongsun Zan’s named Zhao Yun, refused to give up the horse and so Pei Yuanshao charged him. Coming to grips, the two fighters clashed, but Pei Yuanshao could not overcome the fierce commander and was speared through and killed by Zhao Yun.

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