Biography (SGYY): Yu Quan

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Yu Quan
Lived: AD ?–254

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

Yu Quan

Yu Quan was a Southland commander during the reign of Sun Liang.

In AD 254, the prime minister of Wu, Sun Chen, agreed to aid Zhuge Dan in his rebellion against Sima Zhao. Yu Quan was selected to join the expedition and was assigned by Chen to support the main army, numbering seventy thousand, in their attack. Yu Quan moved his forces to Anfeng along with Sun Chen, while the south’s vanguard General, Zhu Yi, attacked Wei’s army with Zhuge Dan. Yi and Dan were ultimately defeated by the northerners, resulting in Dan’s retreat to Shouchun and Zhu Yi’s retreat to Anfeng. Yu Quan received Yi in the city and, in a discussion with Yi and the rest of the south’s officers concerning their next move in the campaign, Quan said, “The south gate is open now. I volunteer to go in and help Zhuge Dan defend the walls. You, General, provoke the Wei troops to battle. I will come back out from a second front to defeat the Wei army.”

Zhu Yi agreed to Yu Quan’s plan and together with both Quan Duan and Wen Qin, Quan entered Shouchun without any opposition from the northern army.

Some time later, Zhu Yi was reported to be bringing his forces towards Shouchun. Yu Quan raced to the wall to observe his arrival, but Yi was attacked and defeated by Sima Zhao’s forces before he could reach the city. Quan Yi too led a detachment of soldiers to aid Shouchun, but rather than fight the opposing northern army, he simply surrendered. Quan Duan, Jiang Ban, Jiao Yi, Wen Yang and Weng Hu, as well as a large number of Shouchun’s defending soldiers, also surrendered to the northerners some time later. Yu Quan, though low on provisions and men, refused the thought and instead kept to defending the besieged city.

Some time later, Sima Zhao led a renewed assault on Shouchun. The commander of the city’s north gate, Zeng Xuan, opened the gate and let the northerners in. Yu Quan rushed to the defence of the west gate in response, but Zhuge Dan and a large number of Shouchun’s remaining defenders had already been killed. Despite this, Yu Quan continued to fight furiously at the gate and eventually encountered northern commander Wang Ji, who shouted to Quan, “Surrender at once!”

“I went forth entrusted with the task of saving people in distress,” Yu Quan retorted hotly. “No man of honour, having failed in his task, surrenders to his foe.”

Throwing his helmet to the ground, Yu Quan shouted, “A man born into this age is fortunate to give his life on the field.”

Raising his sword, Yu Quan charged the northern soldiers and fought some forty bouts until, broken with fatigue, a passing soldier caught him off guard and killed him. A poet of later times has left these lines in admiration of Yu Quan:

The year Sima kept Shouchun under siege,
Its defenders gave up in the wagons’ dust.
Which Southland hero justly stands beside
Yu Quan, who fought for honour to the last?

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms