Biography (SGYY): Xun You (Gongda)

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Xun You (Gongda)
荀攸 (公達)
Lived: AD 156–214

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Qu Hui

Xun You (Gongda)

Xun You was an attendant in the Inner Bureau during the time that Dong Zhuo controlled the Han court. Shortly after his uncle Xun Wenruo joined Cao Cao, he did as well and was appointed military instructional supervisor. Later, when Cao Cao moved the capital of the Han to Chang’an, Gongda was appointed military director. During Cao’s conflict with Lu Bu at Xuzhou, Xun and others advised Cao to attack Bu. When the scholar Mi Heng mocked Cao Cao and his officers, he declared that Xun You would be an excellent grave keeper.

During the battle of Guandu, Xun You was assigned to guard Cao Cao’s main camp along with Cao Hong and Jia Xu while Cao led the attack on Wuchao. Later, when Yuan Tan proposed an alliance with Cao Cao, Xun You advised Cao to accept and use the opportunity to destroy Yuan Shang (1). Ultimately, due to Xun You’s advice, Cao Cao would go on to not only defeat Yuan Shang, but he would also crush Yuan Tan and gain control of all of Yuan Shao’s former territory.

1: Following several failed attacks on Jizhou, Cao Cao decided to attack Jingzhou, providence of Liu Biao, instead. Yuan Tan sent an envoy to ally with Cao, in hopes of luring him into destroying Yuan Shang. Cheng Yu, Lu Qian and Man Chong all argued against the alliance. Xun You countered them, saying: “You three gentlemen are mistaken. Liu Biao stays put between the Great River in the Han because, in my view, he lacks ambition. The Yuans, however, hold the four proviences north of the Yellow River and have hundreds of thousands under arms. If the two Yuan brothers get together to defend their land, the question of who rules the empire will remained unsettled. It is a rare occasion when one of the Yuans is desperate enough to come to us. Dispose of Yuan Shang, watch for the chance to destroy Yuan Tan, and you can control the empire.”

One night, while he and Cao were gazing at the sky, a golden beam rose from the ground. At the source of the beam, a bronze bird was unearthed. Xun You interpreted it as an auspicious sign, and Cao was so pleased that he ordered the Bronze Bird Tower constructed (2).

2: The Bronze Bird Tower was composed of three towers. The first, the eponymous Bronze Bird Tower, was the tallest. On the left was the Tower of the Jade Dragon, on the right was the Tower of the Golden Phoenix. Two ‘flying bridges’ spanned the gaps between the towers. Cao had planned to retire to the tower in his older years.

Soon after the deaths of Yuan Shang and Yuan Xi, Cao Cao began planning an attack on Liu Biao’s Jingzhou. Xun You advised Cao to wait before mobilizing so soon after a major campaign and Cao relented. Following the death of Liu Biao, the surrender of Jing and Liu Bei’s flight to Jiangxia, Xun You advised Cao Cao to offer Sun Quan, lord of the Southland, half of Jingzhou in exchange for Quan destroying Liu Bei.

After Liu Bei and Sun Quan had allied to defeat Cao Cao, Xun You recommended that Cao use Cai He and Cai Zhong, whose clansmen Cai Mao he had executed due to a ploy of Zhuge Liang’s, to spy on the allied army; Zhou Yu would ultimately use the two to ensure that Cao Cao would fall into a trap at Chibi.

During Cao Cao’s war with Ma Chao, Xun You advised Cao to use soil to build fortifications. Later, a number of Cao Cao’s officers proposed that he take the title King of Wei. Xun You, who had been appointed Chief of the Imperial Secretariat, opposed the move. Cao mocked him for this, and You became so exasperated upon hearing of his lord’s criticism that he took ill and died at the age of fifty-eight (3). After his death, Cao Cao stopped pursuing the title of king.

3: Xun You had opposed the move, saying: “His Excellency has already been honored as the lord patriarch of Wei, and his glory enhanced by the Nine Dignities. This is the highest honor one can hope to obtain. Further promotion is unjustifiable.” Angered, Cao said: “He is simply following in Xun Wenruo’s footsteps.” Xun Yu, style Wenruo, was Xun You’s uncle. He had opposed Cao’s ascendance to the title of lord patriarch. When Cao mobilized his army to attack the Southland, he sent an envoy to summon Wenruo, Wenruo pleaded illness, and Cao sent him a container of food. Finding the container empty, Wenruo committed suicide by taking poison. Reminded of how Cao caused the death of his uncle had surely troubled Xun You.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Qu Hui. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms