Biography (SGZ): Dian Wei

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Dian Wei
(AD 160-197)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by jiuwan (Giao Chau)

Dian Wei was a man from Chen Liu. His appearance was monstrous, with strength above ordinary men. He was a man that had determination and could be relied upon as a chivalrous person. The Liu clan of Xiang Yi and Li Yong of Sui Yang were rivals, of which Dian Wei reported to the former. Li Yong grew up in Fu Chun, as bei wei, he was very attentive. Dian Wei got onto a transport cart of chicken and wine with false intentions entered the gate. Upon the opening of the gates, he withdrew from his bosom, a small knife and killed Li Yong and his wife. He left after obtaining another cart. Li Yong’s residence was near the market, the market crowd all panicked [at the killing]. Pursuers numbered several hundred, but none dared approach Dian Wei. After travelling about four to five li (I), he met his companion. They turned to fight before escaping. This was how the two met, they met because of heroic togetherness (hao jie).

(I) Translator’s notes: One Chinese li is equivalent to 0.50km of the metric system or approximately 0.3107miles in the imperial system. So when Dian Wei travelled between 4 to 5 li, it was 2km to 2.5km in the metric system or 1.24miles to 1.55 miles in the imperial system.

In the middle of Beginning Peace (Chu Ping) (II), Zhang Miao raised a volunteer army of which Dian Wei served as a soldier under the major (si ma) Zhao Chong. One time the troops could not gain any advantage as Dian Wei defended, Zhao Chong remarked his extraordinary strength.

(II) Translator’s notes: The reign style of Chu Ping was from AD 190 to AD 194 where the reign style was changed to Xin Ping. So this would place the events where Zhang Miao raised the volunteer army to be around AD 191-192

Afterwards [Dian Wei] served under Xiahou Dun. Due to his numerous merits in battle, Dian Wei was promoted to a major (si ma). The High Ancestor [Cao Cao] attacked Lu Bu at Pu Yang (III). To the west of Pu Yang, Lu Bu had various camps stationed fourty to fifty lis (IV) away. [Cao Cao] used a night raid and broke through the lines. Afterwards, Lu Bu’s reinforcements arrived and engaged in a three pronged attack. At the time, Lu Bu personally joined the battle. The battle lasted from dawn until day and the situation became quite desperate. 太祖募陷陳, 韋先占, around ten personnel were equipped with heavy armor, 棄楯, 但持長矛撩戟. At this time, now the west flank was in trouble. Dian Wei went forth to help, the arrows rained down like the rain. He didn’t take notice, instead he told the troops: “Tell me when they are ten paces away” The troops then cried: “Ten paces!” Again [Dian Wei] instructed: “Tell me when it’s five paces” The troops were fearful and cried: “They’re here!” In his hands, Dian Wei held onto over ten halberds, deeply exhaling he rose against those troops knocking them down. Lu Bu’s army retreated. That evening, [Cao Cao] withdrew his troops away. Dian Wei was then promoted as Chief Commandant (du wei), always by Cao Cao’s side, with personal guards numbering several hundreds, protecting [Cao Cao] in the army.

(III) Translator’s notes: Pu Yang laid on the western bank of the Yellow River, northeast of Xu Chang. Guan Du was an estimated 100km north of Xu Chang, with Wu Chao on the opposite side of the Qi River. Leaving Guan Du and following the Yellow River northeast, Pu Yang is an estimated 200km away.
(IV) Translator’s notes: One Chinese li is equivalent to 0.50km of the metric system or approximately 0.3107miles in the imperial system. So this would put Lu Bu’s camps at a distance of between 20km to 25km in the metric system or 12.43miles to 15.54 miles in the imperial system.

Dian Wei was a martial general; in each battle with his selected troops he would rise to the occasion and exhibit his prowess. For this his rank was changed to a Colonel (xiao wei). His nature was a man of devotion and attentiveness. It was common that he would stand watch from daylight to the end of the day. His night quarters were usually in a tent, rarely would he return to his private bed chambers. There were banquets in his honor thrown by Cao Cao. Dian Wei had a big pair of crescent halberds as well as a long sword. The troops in the army commented thus: “In the camp there is a huge officer, he is Gentleman Dian. In his hands he holds a pair of crescent halberds that weigh eighty jin’s (V).”

(V) Translator’s notes: One chinese jin is the equivalent to 0.5kg in the metric system or approximately 1.1015 pounds in the imperial system. So Dian Wei’s crescent halberds would weigh 40.00kg in the metric system or approximately 88.20 pounds in the imperial system.

[Cao Cao] invaded Jing Zhou, upon reaching Wan, Zhang Xiu offered to surrender. [Cao Cao] was greatly pleased by the surrender of Zhang Xiu and company that a great banquet was given. While [Cao Cao] was drinking merrily, Dian Wei stood behind him holding onto a great axe, the blade was over a chi in width (VI). Dian Wei, holding onto the axe, stared at everyone in front of [Cao Cao]. After the banquet, Zhang Xiu and his generals didn’t dare look. After ten days or so had passed, Zhang Xiu revolted. They stormed [Cao Cao’s] camp. The battle went against [Cao Cao], with no advantage, he fled on a light horse. Dian Wei battled at the gate preventing the traitors from entering. The troops then entered from the other gates. At the time Dian Wei had about ten or so men; they all fought a desperate battle; each fought like ten men. The traitors numbered many and were coming from front and rear. Dian Wei using his long crescent halberds attacked left and right destroying ten or more. The surrounding area littered with many casualties and dead. Dian Wei received over ten cuts, yet he continued to fight despite lacking troops. Dian Wei held onto two traitors underneath his arms, killing them. The remaining traitors dared not to advance any further. Dian Wei continued attacking the traitors, killing numerous men. His wounds took its toll, he let out a great cry and then died. The traitors dared not to advance and take his head [from his dead body]. They instead returned to the army. [Cao Cao] had retreated back to Wu Yin where he then heard about Dian Wei’s death. The news brought tears to his eyes. A funeral was arranged in which [Cao Cao] personally wept. The body was returned to Xiang Yi for burial. Dian Wei’s son Dian Man was made Gentleman of the Household (zhong lang). Whenever they passed by they would offer sacrifice and [Cao Cao] would think of Dian Wei. Dian Man was then promoted to a major (si ma). When the Literary Emperor [Cao Pi] assumed the throne, Dian Man was made a Chief Commandant (du wei) with the feudal rank Marquis of Guan Nei.

(VI) Translator’s notes: One Chinese chi is the equivalent to 33.33 centimeters in the metric system or approximately 13.12 inches in the imperial system. So the axe Dian Wei held was over 33 centimeters (0.33m) in width in the metric system or over 13 inches in the imperial system.

Copyright © 2004 jiuwan (Giao Chau)
Translated from Chen Shou’s Records of the Three Kingdoms annoted by Pei Songzhi