(1). He started off as a minor clerk in the commandery office, but then he was recommended as a “Filial and Incorrupt”. When Sun Jian recruited a volunteer force, Huang Gai followed him." />

Biography (SGZ): Huang Gai (Gongfu)

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Huang Gai (Gongfu)
黃蓋 (公覆)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
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Huang Gai, styled Gongfu, was a man from Chuanling in Lingling (1). He started off as a minor clerk in the commandery office, but then he was recommended as a “Filial and Incorrupt”A. When Sun Jian recruited a volunteer forceB, Huang Gai followed him. Sun Jian went on to defeat the Shanyue bandits in the south and sent Dong Zhuo fleeing in the north; he then made Huang Gai Major with a Separate Command. After Sun Jian died, Huang Gai followed Sun Ce and Sun Quan, fighting here and there, doing battle in the fields and conquering cities.

The Shanyue people were insurgent, and Huang Gai was assigned to oversee the troubled prefectures. However, the officers in Shicheng Prefecture were insubordinate and difficult to control. Thus Huang Gai appointed two officers as heads of the departments. He said to them thus, “Being the county's magistrate, I am neither talented nor virtuous. I obtained this post based on military merits, and administrative affairs are not my specialty. At this time, the bandits have not been pacified, and I have military duties to fulfil. Thus, I delegate the two of you to be in charge of all the documents, to supervise the various departments, and to point out as well as correct any mistake that they make. Within the jurisdictions of your two offices, you should discharge your responsibility for your administrative duties properly. Though I will neither punish you with whip nor cane, I hope that you will perform your duties to the best of your abilities, and not set a bad example for the rest.” At first, all were in fear of him, and night and day they took their tasks seriously. After a while, though, the officers, seeing that Huang Gai did not check their documents, became more relaxed and more lenient.

Huang Gai was unhappy with their lazy outlooks, and at some point in time, some inspections were carried out, and he obtained evidence of the two officials' unlawful activities. And so he held a gathering and invited all the officers to wine and food, and during the meal, he brought out the evidence and interrogated them about it. The two department heads had nothing to say in their own defence, and kowtowing, they begged for forgiveness. Huang Gai said, “Some time ago, I had already set out the decree – ‘Nor whip nor cane will I lay on you’. That was not said in vain.” Thus he had them executed. All within the prefecture trembled.

Later, he was transferred to be Chief of Chunju and Prefect of Xunyang. In all, he had been put in charge of nine prefectures, and wherever he was, the land became peaceful. In time he was promoted to be Colonel of Danyang, and there he received popular support from the Shanyue because he put down the powerful and supported the weak.

Huang Gai’s appearance was stern and determined, and he was good at training soldiers. Every time he went on a military expedition, his troops would fight to go first. During of the Jian’an reign, he followed Zhou Yu to defend against Lord Cao at Chibi. He suggested the stratagem of fire-attack. This is recorded in Zhou Yu’s biography (2). He was made “Martial-sharp” General of the Interior. When the southern tribes in Wuling rebelled and started to take over cities and towns, Huang Gai assumed the duties of the Grand Administrator [of one of the commanderies]. He only had five hundred men with him in the city. Knowing that they would lose in a simple attack, he had the city gates opened. When half of the bandits were in the city already, he struck, and in that battle several hundred enemies were beheaded. The rest fled, and returned to their home towns. Huang Gai defeated the leader of the rebels, and pardoned all those who surrendered. Between spring and summer, all the rebellions were quelled, and the chiefs from Ba, Li, You, and Dan who were supporting the rebels changed their ways. Bearing gifts, they asked for pardon, and everywhere within the boundaries of the commendary was peaceful again. Later on, Yiyang prefecture in Changsha was attacked by Shanyue bandits, and so Huang Gai went to fight them again. After that he was promoted to Lieutenant-General. He died of illness while in office.

Huang Gai was decisive and determined as an officer, and did not tarry on any of his tasks. People in the kingdom remembered him fondly (3). When Sun Quan assumed the throne, he considered Huang Gai’s past merits, and made his son Huang Bing a Marquis of the InteriorC.

(1) From History of Wu: He was the descendent of Huang Zilian, former Grand Administrator of Nanyang. The branches of his family were scattered, and since his grandparents moved to Lingling, Huang Gai’s family had lived there since. Huang Gai was orphaned at an early age, and endured all kinds of difficulties even when he was just a baby. However, he was full of great ambitions, and even though he was in a poor situation, he did not content himself in being like the ordinary rather, when he was not carrying firewood, he spent his free time learning how to read and write, and discussing military affairs. <return>

(2) From History of Wu: During the Chibi battles, Huang Gai was hit by a stray arrow, and fell into the river in full winter cold. He was saved by some soldiers of Wu, but they didn’t know that it was Huang Gai. They placed him lying in a bed. Huang Gai gathered enough strength to cry out Han Dang’s name, and when Han Dang heard it, he said, “That’s the voice of Gongfu!” Thus he turned to him, and weeping, he assisted him to change his wet clothes. And so Huang Gai survived. <return>

(3) From History of Wu: They also drew Huang Gai’s likeness and offered sacrifices to him all year long. <return>

Translator Notes
(A) The Han administration filled its offices through local recommendation of talented people. “Filial and Incorrupt” is one of the categories which one can be recommended for. Naturally, the official criteria for recommendation for this title are filial piety and upright behaviour. <return>

(B) To fight against Dong Zhuo. <return>

(C) A Marquis of the Interior is not given a fief, but salaried directly from the imperial court. <return>

Copyright © 2003
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi