Biography (SGZ): Yuan Shao (Benchu)

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Yuan Shao (Benchu)
袁紹 (本初)
(AD 154-202)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Jack Yuan

Yuan Shao, styled Benchu, was from Ruyang in Ru’nan (I). His great-great-grandfather An was the Minister over the Masses of Han. Four generations of the clan since An had occupied the positions of the ‘Three Excellencies’ and its power resonated throughout the empire (1). Shao had an impressive appearance and could condescend to show respect to those below him. He had many followers and even the Grand Progenitor [Cao Cao] was acquainted with him in his youth. As Departmental Head under the General-in-Chief, he was made Attendant Imperial Clerk (2). Soon afterward he was reassigned to become Colonel of the Central Army and reached Sili.

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class="trn toggle" id="aI">I: Han dynasty Ruyang was situated to the southwest of present day Shangshui 商水 in eastern Henan 河南 province. It was a populous agricultural basin irrigated by the numerous tributaries of the Huai , home to a number of locally prominent gentry clans. The first individual of the Yuan clan to be mentioned by the standard histories is a certain Yuan Liang 袁良, grandfather of Yuan An, who held the minor post of Prefect around CE 25 and risen to office for his learning in the Yi jing. An, the son of Liang’s eldest son Chang , was the first one to reach a position of national importance. For a discussion of the genealogical claims of the Yuan clan, see note 108. According to the Yuanshi jiapu 袁氏家譜 of Tianjialoucun 田家樓村, the location of the Yuan estates was some distance to the east of the ancient county seat, in the vicinity of the modern township of Yuanlao 袁老, bordering the Fen River 汾河 in the south. Around a third of the population there still bears the surname of Yuan.

1: Hua Qiao’s Han shu: “An, styled Shaogong, delighted in study and had an impressive and dignified manner. During the reign of Emperor Ming, he was the Grand Administrator of Chu commandery, in which capacity he administered the gaol of the King of Chu. He heard proceedings against more than four hundred families and resolved them all supportively, earning for himself renown as a minister. An became Minister over the Masses during the reign of Emperor Zhang. He begot Jing, Grand Administrator of Shu commandery. Jing’s younger brother Chang was Minister of Works. Jing’s son Tang was Grand Commandant. Tang had four sons, the eldest of whom was Ping. Ping’s younger brother Cheng was General of the Gentlemen of the Household of the Left. He died early. Cheng’s younger brothers Feng and Wei were both ‘Excellencies’”.

Wei shu: “Since An, the clan had accommodated followers with a spirit of universal fraternity. They never picked or chose clients and retainers on the basis of whether they were worthy or foolish. So the entire world joined them. Shao was the son of Feng by a concubine; he and Shu were half-brothers. Later he became the adopted heir of Yuan Cheng”.

Yingxiong ji: “Cheng, styled Wenkai, was physically strong and possessed qualities of leadership. His aristocratic family was powerful and bold. Since the time of the General-in-chief Liang Ji, they had made widespread alliances, claiming that there were none in the world who were not their followers. Hence the leaders of the capital had a saying: ‘If there is disharmony, ask Wenkai.’”

2: Yingxiong ji: “Shao’s father died when he was born; he was adored by the two Excellencies (II). In his childhood he was made a gentleman. In his youth he was appointed Chief of Puyang and enjoyed an unsullied reputation. Then he suffered the loss of his mother. Thus Shao retired to mourn her, and also his departed father; this he did at their tomb for six years. After the rites were, he went to live in seclusion in Luoyang. There he did not freely associate with his clients and retainers; he would receive in his company no one who was not famed throughout the empire. Later he also delighted in meeting questing knights-errant 遊俠, and became travelling friends with Zhang [Miao ] Mengzhuo 張孟卓, He Boqiu 何伯求, Wu Ziqing 吳子卿, Xu Ziyuan 許子遠 and Wu Deyu 伍德瑜 amongst others. He paid no attention to summons or decrees. The Regular Palace Attendant 中常侍 Zhao Zhong 趙忠 said to the ‘Yellow Gates’ 黃門: ‘Yuan Benchu does not heed summons and instead accommodates useless officers. I know not what this boy is planning to do.’ When Yuan Shao’s uncle Wei heard of this, he censured Shao repeatedly: ‘You will be the ruin of our family!’ Subsequently, Yuan Shao rose from exile to take up the summons of the General-in-chief.”

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class="trn toggle" id="aII">II: The text is not clear, but it is likely that the ‘two Excellencies’ refers to Yuan Feng and Yuan Wei, uncles of Yuan Shao.

In the archives of Pei Songzhi 裴松之, the Wei Shu says: “Yuan Shao is the son of Feng by a concubine. Later he became the adopted heir to his father’s elder brother Cheng.” According to his record, it seems that Yuan Shao was indeed the son of Cheng. There is no mention, though, of the rites of mourning for his natural parents. On this the two works are neither clear nor complete.

After Empress Ling passed away the General-in-chief 大將軍 He Jin 何進, elder brother of the Empress Dowager 太后, plotted with Yuan Shao to kill the eunuchs (3), but the Empress Dowager would not consent. Subsequently Dong Zhuo 董卓 was summoned in order to coerce the Empress Dowager. The Regular Attendants 常侍 and ‘Yellow Gates’ heard of this, and placed themselves at He Jin’s mercy, begging for his forgiveness. At the time, Yuan Shao repeatedly advised that the eunuchs could be thus disposed of but He Jin would not allow it. Yuan Shao was ordered to direct the martial and civil officials of Luoyang to investigate the dealings of the eunuchs. Another order was given to Yuan Shao’s younger brother Yuan Shu , the General of the Gentlemen of the Household As Rapid As Tigers, to select two hundred good-natured ‘Rapid As Tigers’ officers to enter the Forbidden Palace 禁中 and replace the arms-bearing ‘Yellow Gates’ eunuch guards. The Regular Palace Attendant Duan Gui 段珪 and others summoned He Jin in the name of the Empress Dowager for discussions at the palace. Then they killed him and the palace was thrown into disorder (4). Yuan Shu led the ‘Rapid As Tigers’ to raze the Qingsuo Gate 青瑣門 of the Jiade Hall 嘉德殿 in the Southern Palace 南宮 with the intention of smoking Duan Gui out. Duan Gui and others did not emerge, instead they kidnapped the Emperor and his younger brother, the King of Chenliu 陳留王, and fled to Xiaoping Ford 小平津. Yuan Shao beheaded the eunuch-appointed Colonel Director of Retainers Xu Xiang 許相. He then directed the soldiers to apprehend all eunuchs and to kill them all without regard of age. There were even those without beards who were wrongfully killed whilst others had to show their bodies to escape death. Those benevolent eunuchs who had refused to be contaminated by evil influences were likewise slaughtered. The massacre occurred in this manner and there were more than two thousand dead. Duan Gui and the others were closely pursued. They drowned themselves in a river. The Emperor was then able to return to the palace.

3: Xu Han shu 續漢書 [‘Epilogue of Han’]: “Yuan Shao sent his client Zhang Jin 張津 to advise He Jin: ‘The Yellow Gates 黃門 and Regular Attendants 長侍 have usurped power for a long time. Even the Empress Dowager Yongle 永樂太后 is corrupt and interloped with them. General, you should shake up the world and destroy this source of trouble.’ He Jin agreed that it was so, then he began conspiring with Yuan Shao.”

4: Jiuzhou Chunqiu 九州春秋: “Earlier Yuan Shao had advised He Jin: ‘The Yellow Gates and Regular Attendants are the great scourge of our time, their prestige being known throughout the world. In the past, Dou Wu planned to put them to death but was himself assassinated. It was solely because word had leaked out from the officers of the five regiments 五營 (III). These officers were born and raised in the capital, they consented and acquiesced to the eunuchs. Yet Sir Dou still relied on their might. Subsequently the rebel officers fled to the Yellow Gates and he brought defeat and extermination upon himself. At the moment, general, you have the honoured designation of imperial maternal uncle. You control the resolute soldiers of two departments—their troops (buqu) and officers are all heroes and gentlemen who are willing to do their utmost under your command. The great affairs of state are in your hands—an opportunity sent from Heaven. If today you eliminate these evil influences for the world, your merits will be celebrated and your name will be known to later generations like Baron Shen 申伯 of Zhou . Lead a great procession to the front hall with imperial edict in hand. Lead the troops to guard it, but do not enter.’ He Jin planned to follow his advice, but later began to hesitate. Yuan Shao feared that He Jin would change his mind, so he urged on him: ‘Now the battle lines have been drawn and the situation has crystallised. General, why do you not seek an early decision? If action is delayed too long, the state of affairs will change and the result will be calamity.’ He Jin refused; subsequently he was defeated.”

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class="trn toggle" id="aIII">III: The five regiments formed the Northern Army, the professional standing army normally stationed at the capital. In the crisis of 168, they had refused to support the General-in-chief Dou Wu 竇武 and under the command of Zhang Huan, were instrumental in the final elimination of Dou.

Dong Zhuo summoned Yuan Shao to discuss his plans of deposing the Emperor and enthroning the King of Chenliu. At the time Yuan Shao’s uncle [father’s younger brother] Yuan Wei was Grand Tutor, so he pretended to consent and said: “This is a matter of great import. It should be discussed with the Grand Tutor.” Dong Zhuo said: “The kind that are the Liu clan do not deserve to be left on the throne.” Yuan Shao did not reply. He drew his sword, made a deep bow and left (5). After leaving, Yuan Shao fled to Jizhou 冀州. The Palace Attendant 侍中 Zhou Bi 周毖, Colonel of the City Gates 城門校尉 Wu Qiong 伍瓊 and Gentleman-consultant 議朗 He Yong 何顒 among others were all prominent statesmen. Dong Zhuo trusted them, yet they were secretly for Yuan Shao. Hence they said to Dong Zhuo: “The important matters of deposing and enthroning an emperor cannot be undertaken by common men. Yuan Shao could not see the greater scheme of things. He fled in fear and not for any other purpose. If we impulsively attempt to arrest him, the circumstances will turn against us. The favours of the Yuan clan have been established for four generations and their clients, retainers and former subordinates are spread throughout the empire. If he calls on champions and assembles his followers, heroes will rise against us. The lands to the east of mountain 山東 will then no longer be under your control, excellency. It would be better to pardon him and give him a commandery to administer. Then Yuan Shao will be pleased at your amnesty and will certainly not be a threat.” Dong Zhuo saw reason. He appointed Yuan Shao as grand administrator of Bohai and enfeoffed him as Marquis of Kangxiang 邟鄉侯.

5: Xiandi chunqiu 獻帝春秋 [‘Spring and Autumn Annals of Emperor Xian‘]: “Dong Zhuo planned to depose the Emperor. He said to Yuan Shao: ‘The Emperor is young and benighted. He is not fit to be the ruler of ten thousand chariots. Now, the King of Chenliu seems to be superior to him—I plan to enthrone him. Some men have little wisdom and great foolishness in some things but they always act so capable—do you not remember Emperor Ling? Just remembering him makes me angry.’ Yuan Shao said: ‘The house of Han has been the sovereign of the world for more than four hundred years. Its benevolence and favour is deeply ingrained and the people love and esteem it. Now the reign of the emperors are rich in years and there has been nothing appalling to declare to the world. My lord, if you plan to depose the son of a wife to enthrone the son of a concubine, I fear that the host will not follow your argument.’ Dong Zhuo took his sword and cursed Yuan Shao: “How dare you act like this, you fool! The affairs of the world, are they not at my behest? If I wish it to be so, who dares to disobey? Do you think that the sword of Dong Zhuo is not sharp?’ Yuan Shao was angered, he said: ‘Lord Dong is not the only man of power in the world.’ He drew his sword from his belt, made a deep bow and left.”

Subsequently Yuan Shao raised troops at Bohai against Dong Zhuo, a discussion of which is in Wu ji (IV). Yuan Shao named himself General of Chariots and Cavalry 車騎將軍 and became the leader of coalition [against Dong]. He and Han Fu 韓馥 sought to enthrone Liu Yu 劉虞, the Governor of Youzhou 幽州, as emperor. They sent an emissary bearing their memorial to persuade him, but Liu Yu dared not accept. Later, Han Fu’s army was at Anping 安平 and he was defeated by Gongsun Zan 公孫瓚. Gongsun then led his soldiers into Jizhou province in the name of subduing Dong Zhuo. His real intention, however, was to attack Han Fu. Han was much distressed (6). As it happened, Dong Zhuo had travelled [back] west through the passes. Yuan Shao withdrew his army to Yanjin Ford 延津. Because Han Fu was alarmed, Gao Gan of Chenliu 陳留 and Xun Chen 荀諶 of Yingchuan 潁川 among others were sent to advise him: “Gongsun Zan has followed up on his victory and marched south; now the commanderies have answered his call to arms. General Yuan leads his army east, but no one knows his intentions. We feel that you, general, may be under threat.” Han Fu said: “What do you think I can do?” Xun Chen said: “Gongsun commands the soldiers of Yan and Dai and he cannot be opposed. Sir Yuan is a prominent man of our times and is certainly not lesser to you, my general. Your province of Jizhou is strategically important in the empire. If the two powers combine and their soldiers meet below the city walls, then your demise will be but a matter of time. Sir Yuan is your old friend and also an ally. Strategising for you now, general, it would be best for you to offer Jizhou province to him. When Sir Yuan gains Jizhou and Gongsun Zan is unable to contest it, then he will be very grateful to you. When Jizhou is in the hands of such a close friend, my general will be known for resigning to a more worthy man and your person will be as secure as Mount Tai 泰山. I hope that my general will not hesitate.” Han Fu was fainthearted by nature and hence was easily led by the advice. Han Fu’s Chief Clerk 長史 Geng Wu 耿武, Aide-de-Camp 別駕 Min Chun 閩純 and Attendant Official at Headquarters 治中 Li Li 李歷 advised him: “Although Jizhou is on the frontier, it boasts armoured soldiers by the million and enough grain to last ten years. Yuan Shao is lacking in both followers and an army; he depends on our power. It is as a mother with her babe—deprive the child of milk and he will starve. Why should we then give Jizhou to him?” Han Fu said: “I am a former official under the Yuan clan and I am not as able as Benchu [Yuan Shao]. To weigh one’s virtue against that of another and then resign in his favour was esteemed by the ancients. Why is it that you are so apprehensive?” The Attendant Officials 從事 Zhao Fu 趙浮 and Cheng Huan 程奐 requested soldiers to resist Yuan Shao but Han Fu would not hear of it. He then handed the province over (7) and Yuan Shao became the Governor of Jizhou 冀州牧.

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class="trn toggle" id="aIV">IV: Wu ji 武紀 refers to chapter 1 of Sanguozhi, the biography of Cao Cao titled Wudi ji 武帝紀 (‘Annal of Emperor Wu’). The text of relevant section, on pp 6-8, is set out in the appendix.
6: Yingxiong ji 英雄記: “Feng Ji 逢紀 advised Yuan Shao: ‘General, you rely on what resources others give you for your great undertaking. Without a province to occupy, you cannot guarantee your own survival.’ Yuan Shao replied: ‘The troops of Jizhou are strong whilst mine are hungry. If we cannot solve this problem, then there is no hope of establishing myself.’ Feng Ji said: ‘You can contact Gongsun Zan, and direct him to come south to attack Jizhou. He will come and Han Fu will be much alarmed. Then we can send an emissary to advise him on his options. After he has heard them, he will definitely resign in your favour. And with this, you can occupy his position.’ Yuan Shao followed his advice, and as predicted Gongsun Zan did come.”
7: Jiuzhou chunqiu 九州春秋: “Han Fu sent the Attendant Officials to the Chief Controller 都督從事 Zhao Fu and Chen Huan with 10,000 crossbowmen to garrison Heyang 河陽. When Zhao Fu and the others heard that Han Fu was planning to hand Jizhou to Yuan Shao, they galloped east from Mengjin Ford 孟津. At the time Yuan Shao was close to Chaoyang 朝陽, at the mouth of the Qing River 清水口. Zhao Fu and the others came up from the rear with a hundred vessels and a force of more than 10,000. They passed the Yuan camp by night in ordered ranks beating their drums, much to Yuan Shao’s aggravation. When Zhao Fu and the others arrived [back with Han Fu], he said to Han Fu: ‘Yuan Benchu’s army has not a bushel of grain and many have already deserted. Though he has Zhang Yang 張楊 and Yufuluo 于扶羅 as his new followers, they will not be content to be under his employ and will not be our match. This minor Attendant Official and others request to lead troops to oppose him. Within a few days, Yuan Shao’s forces will have collapsed. Enlightened general, you will then be completely secure without fear nor anxiety.’ Han Fu refused. Subsequently he resigned his post and retired to the former residence of Zhao Zhong. He sent his son to Liyang 黎陽 to hand over the Seal and Tassel of Jizhou to Yuan Shao.”

The Attendant Official Ju Shou 沮授 advised Yuan Shao: “When you, general, entered court at a youthful age, you were already famed within the seas. At the vital moment of deposing and enthroning [of the Emperor], you demonstrated your loyalty and righteousness. When you fled on a lone mount, Dong Zhuo became anxious. When you crossed the He north, Bohai yielded to you. When you led the soldiers of that single commandery, the host of Jizhou came into your control. Your prestige resonates in the lands north of the He 河朔 and your name is famed throughout the empire. Though the Yellow Turbans 黃巾 are cunning and frenzied; and the Heishan 黑山 bandits reckless and domineering; when you led the army east Qingzhou 青州 can be secured. Then when you return to subdue the Heishan bandits, Zhang Yan 張燕 will be eliminated. When your forces withdraw to the north, Gongsun Zan will surely lose his life. When you awe the Rong and Di , the Xiongnu 匈奴 will undoudtedly capitulate to you. If you conquer the domain north of the Great He 大河 and unite the lands of four provinces; collect the merits of heroes and assemble a host of millions; receive the great procession of the Emperor at the western capital [Chang’an 長安] and restore the clan temple [of the imperial house] at Luoyi 洛邑 [Luoyang]; issue decrees to the empire and subdue those who refuse to submit—then who can resist you? In a few years, achieving these victories will not be hard.” Yuan Shao was delighted, and said: “This is what I had in mind.” He immediately appointed Ju Shou as Supervisor of the Army 監軍 and as the General Who Displays Awe 奮威將軍 (8). Dong Zhuo sent the Bearer of the Gilded Mace 執金吾 Humu Ban 胡母班 and the Court Architect 將作大匠 Wu Xiu 吳修 with imperial edict to persuade Yuan Shao [to give up his arms]. Yuan Shao ordered Wang Kuang 王匡, Grand Administrator of Henei 河內太守, to kill them (9). When Dong Zhuo heard that Yuan Shao had occupied the lands east of the passes 關東, he had all of Yuan Shao’s clansmen put to death, including the Grand Tutor Yuan Wei. At that time, many champions and knights-errant joined Yuan Shao, all hoping for a chance at revenge. The provinces and commanderies all rose in rebellion, and each did so in Yuan Shao’s name. Han Fu was alarmed and requested to leave to join Zhang Miao 張邈 (10). Later, Yuan Shao sent an emissary to Zhang Miao. The emissary whispered his message in the Zhang’s ear. Han Fu, thinking that they were conspiring against him, soon rose from his seat and committed suicide in the lavatory (11).

8: Xiandi ji 獻帝紀 [‘Annals of Emperor Xian‘]: “Ju Shou was from Guangping 廣平. He had high aspirations in his youth and was clever, resourceful and tactically minded. He was appointed as Aide-de-Camp of the Province 州別駕 and recommended as a ‘Flourishing Talent’ 茂才. He spent time as the Prefect of two counties and then became the Aide-de-Camp to Han Fu, being recommended and appointed as Chief Commandant of Cavalry 騎都尉. Ju then joined Yuan Shao, after the latter gained Jizhou.”

Yingxiong ji 英雄記: “At the time the reign title was Chuping 初平 [190-194]. Yuan Shao was styled Benchu 本初, so he thought that since his name matched with the reign title, he could certainly overcome the turmoil.”

9: Han mo mingshi lu 漢末名士錄 [‘Record of Eminent Officers of Late Han’]: “Humu Ban, styled Jipi 季皮 (V), was from Taishan 太山. In his youth, he and Du Shang 度尚 of Shanyang 山陽, Zhang Miao 張邈 of Dongping 東平 and others—eight in all—combined their meagre wealth to do good deeds and help the people. Their contemporaries called them the ‘Eight Kitchens’ 八廚.”

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class="trn toggle" id="aV">V: Hou Han shu has Jiyou 季友 instead of Jipi.

Xie Cheng’s 謝承 Hou Han shu 后漢書: “Humu Ban was Wang Kuang’s brother-in-law [husband to Wang’s sister]. Dong Zhuo sent Humu Ban with imperial edict to Henei to reconcile with the ‘righteous troops’ 義軍. Wang Kuang received an order from Yuan Shao, so he arrested Humu and planned to kill him before the army. Humu Ban wrote to Wang Kuang: ‘Since antiquity, there have not been regional lords who have raised troops against the capital. Liu Xiang zhuan says: the leaping rat fears the implements of man. In any case Dong Zhuo has now secured himself in the palace and taken the Son of Heaven for protection. With the young lord in the palace, how can anyone campaign against him? The Grand Tutor Ma Gong, grand coachman Zhao Qi, Privy Treasurer Yin Xiu and my humble self all bear imperial edicts. Though the various commanderies east of the passes do truly loath Dong Zhuo, they must accept the authority of the monarch and dare not abuse it. Yet you alone detain me in this gaol in order to rouse the war drums. This is the action of a dreadfully fiendish, immoral man. What relations have I with Dong Zhuo that I would commit evil deeds with him? Yet, opening the jaws of a tiger or a wolf, you spit the venom of a serpent. In fury at Dong Zhuo, you shift your anger to me—how very cruel! Death is the adversity of man, but my death will be branded murder by a crazed man. If a deceased has a soul, then mine will descend from the august Heaven to vent its grievances. In the past we were as one, now we are joined by blood. The dead man’s sons are your own nephews. After I have died, please do not order that there be mourning over my body.’ When Wang Kuang received his letter, he embraced Humu’s two sons and weeped. Subsequently Humu Ban died in gaol. The story of how Humu saw the Lord Governor of Taishan the Duke of the He is in the Soushen ji (VI). It is not recorded here for its length.

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class="trn toggle" id="aVI">VI: Soushen ji 搜神記 4/74 pp 124-128 relates an allegorical tale of how Humu was received in audience by these two spirits. The Lord Governor of Taishan 泰山府君, was the local god of the Mount Taishan, the great sacred peak of China. He was believed to hold a register of mens’ souls so that he could stand judgement when they died. The Baron of the He 河伯 was the ghost of a certain Feng Yi 馮夷, who drowned in the Yellow River and later became its water god.

10: Yingxiong ji: “Gongsun Zan attacked the Yellow Turban bandits of Qingzhou province and completely defeated them. He withdrew to garrison Guangzong, and replaced the administrators and prefects. The officials of Jizhou all rose in response, opening their gates to receive him. Yuan Shao travelled personally to campaign against Gongsun Zan. They battled twenty li south of Jieqiao Bridge. Gongsun Zan had more than 30,000 infantry in his ranks. Cavalry were placed on two wings, each numbering more than 5000. The ‘White Horse voluntary followers’ 白馬義從 were the centre core. [The army of Yuan Shao] was also separated into two divisions. The left would fire to the right whilst the right would fire to the left. Their banners and armour lighted up Heaven and Earth.

Yuan Shao ordered Qu Yi 麴義 with eight hundreds troops as vanguard. A thousand strong crossbowmen were arrayed on the flanks in support. Yuan Shao himself was at the rear with tens of thousands of footsoldiers in reserve. For many years Qu Yi had been in Liangzhou 涼州, and fought many encounters against the Qiang ; his troops were all determined and keen. When Gongsun Zan saw that these troops were few, he loosed his cavalry to trample them. Qu Yi’s troops hid under their shields and made no move. Waiting until Gongsun’s men were a few dozen paces away, they then rose together. They let out great screams and charged straight forward to attack. The crossbowmen fired like lightning and all those who were struck fell. In front of the ranks, Yan Gang 嚴綱, Gongsun Zan’s Inspector of Jizhou 冀州刺史, was beheaded and more than a thousand armour and heads were taken. Gongsun Zan’s army was defeated. He fled with his horsemen and did not return to his camp. Qu Yi pursued to Jieqiao Bridge. Gongsun Zan’s rearguard returned to battle on the bridge. Qu Yi defeated them again and then entering Gongsun’s camp, cut down his Standard 牙門. The remaining forces in the camp disbanded and fled. Yuan Shao was at the rear, a few dozen li from the bridge, having dismounted. Seeing that Gongsun Zan had been routed, he took no further care. With a few dozen crossbowmen and a little more than a thousand halberdsmen in company, he proceeded forth. More than 2000 of Gongsun’s dispersed cavalry arrived on the scene. They surrounded Yuan Shao and their arrows fell like rain. The Aide-de-Camp 別駕 Tian Feng 田豐 was about to support Yuan Shao behind a low wall for refuge. Yuan threw his helmet to the ground, and said: ‘A real man should die in front of the ranks. To be idle behind a wall, that is no way to live!’ The crossbowmen continued to fire, many were wounded and killed. Gongsun Zan’s cavalry didn’t know that it was Yuan Shao, so slowly they began to withdraw. At that time Qu Yi came to the mêlée, and they retreated. Gongsun Zan would frequently ride a white horse in his battle against outlaws. When he pursued them, he would acquire many captives and many weapons. The outlaws told one another: ‘Avoid the white horse’. Since the white horse was so greatly feared by the outlaws, several thousand white steeds were chosen to be the mounts of the cavalry archers—dubbed the ‘righteous White Horse followers’. Many strong Hu and Yi rode the white horses and Gongsun Zan had several thousand of them in his employ. After Yuan Shao had defeated Gongsun, he led his army south to Boluojin Ford 薄落津 and held a conference with his retainers and generals. They heard that the troops of Weijun 魏郡 had rebelled, and joined with Yu Du 于毒 of the Heishan bandits 黑山賊 to overthrow Yecheng 鄴城, killing the Grand Administrator Li Cheng 栗成. More than ten battalions of the bandits, numbering tens of thousands, had assembled in the region of Ye . Of those at the conference who had families at Ye, some sat in shock whilst others started weeping. Yuan Shao’s complexion did not change. The bandit Tao Sheng 陶升, a former minor official at Neihuang 內黃, had a benevolent heart. He entered first through the western gates with his followers. Then he closed off the other gates, not allowing any other bandits in. In carriages he placed Yuan Shao’s family, as well as his clothing, possessions and other people of the city, whom he then courageously escorted to Chiqiu 斥丘 before withdrawing. When Yuan Shao arrived, he then garrisoned Chiqiu and made Tao Sheng General of the Gentlemen of the Household Who Establishes Righteousness 建義中郎將. He then led his army through the Cangyangu Gorge 蒼岩谷 in Mount Luchangshan 鹿場山 of Chaoge 朝歌 to subdue Yu Du. Yuan surrounded and besieged Yu for five days and defeated him. Yu Du was beheaded as was Hu Shou 壺壽, the Governor of Jizhou appointed by [the imperial court at] Chang’an 長安. Yuan Shao travelled north along Mount Xunshan 尋山 and attacked the various bandits Zuo Fazhangba 左髮丈八 and others, beheading them all. He also attacked Liu Shi 劉石, Qing Niujiao 青牛角, Huang Long 黃龍, Zuo Xiao 左校, Guo Daxian 郭大賢, Li Damu 李大目, Yu Digen 于氐根 and others. Of those manning the fortifications or who took off anf fled, tens of thousands were beheaded.

Yuan Shao returned to garrison Ye. In the fourth year of Chuping 初平 [193], the Son of Heaven 天子 sent the Grand Tutor 太傅 Ma Ridi 馬日磾 and the Grand Coachman 太仆 Zhao Qi 趙岐 to make peace in the lands east of the passes. Zhao Qi came with imperial edict north of the River. Yuan Shao travelled a hundred li out from his city to receive the decree of the Emperor. Zhao Qi stayed in the Yuan camp and travelled with his documents to inform Gongsun Zan. Gongsun then sent an emissary bearing his letter to Yuan Shao: ‘Grand Coachman Zhao comes with the virtue of Zhou Zhao 周召, bearing his edict to demonstrate the munificence of the imperial court. Seeing such serenity, it seems that the clouds have parted and the sun shines once again. In the past, Jia Fu 賈復 and Kou Xun 寇恂 also battled with their troops, wishing harm upon each other. Then they encountered the magnanimity of [Emperor] Guangwu 光武. Henceforth they entered court together and travelled in the same carriage, bringing honour unto themselves. I hold only these frontier lands. To have a bond with you, general, would indeed be for your grace and my own good fortune.’ Boasting of his victories, Qu Yi became arrogant and reckless, so Yuan Shao killed him.”

11: Yingxiong ji 英雄記: “Yuan Shao made Zhu Han 朱漢 of Henei 河內 Aide-de-Camp to the Official at the capital 都官從事. Early in the Han, Zhu Han had been treated with disrespect by Han Fu so he held the latter in hatred. Wishing to anticipate Yuan Shao’s intentions he raised troops to surround Han Fu’s house. When he entered the building with knife in hand, Han Fu fled to the upper storey. Zhu Han seized his eldest son and broke both his legs. Yuan Shao immediately seized Zhu Han and killed him. Han Fu was anxious and afraid, so he informed Yuan Shao and left.”

At the offset, the enthroning of the Son of Heaven 天子 [Emperor Xian 獻帝] was not the intention of Yuan Shao. When the Emperor was at Hedong 河東, Yuan Shao sent Guo Tu 郭圖 of Yingchuan as his emissary. After his return, Guo advised Yuan Shao to receive the Son of Heaven and to establish the capital at Ye but Yuan refused (12). At that time the Grand Progenitor received the Son of Heaven and established the capital at Xu . He had conquered the lands south of the He 河南 and the region of Guanzhong 關中 yielded to him. Yuan Shao regretted his earlier decision and wanted the Grand Progenitor to escort the Son of Heaven to establish his capital at Juancheng 鄄城, nearer to his own territories. The Grand Progenitor refused. The Son of Heaven made Yuan Shao Grand Commandant 太尉, later transferred to General-in-chief, with enfeoffment as Marquis of Ye 鄴侯 (13). Yuan Shao refused to accept the enfeoffment. Soon afterward, he defeated Gongsun Zan at Yijing 易京 and absorbed his followers (14). Yuan Shao sent his eldest son Yuan Tan 袁譚 to become the [Inspector] of Qingzhou 青州. Ju Shou counselled Yuan Shao: “This will assuredly be the source of calamity.” Yuan Shao would not hear of it, he said: “I plan to give my children each a province to command” (15). He also made his second son Yuan Xi 袁熙 [Inspector] of Youzhou and his nephew Gao Gan [Inspector] of Bingzhou 并州. His forces numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Shen Pei 審配 and Feng Ji 逢紀 were given charge of military affairs. Tian Feng 田丰, Xun Chen 荀諶 and Xu You 許攸 became leading advisors. Yan Liang 顏良 and Wen Chou 文丑 became the chief commanders. A hundred thousand elite troops were selected with ten thousand cavalry, as Yuan Shao planned to besiege Xu (16).

12: Xiandi zhuan: “Ju Shou advised Yuan Shao: ‘General, your clan has given honoured assistants to one ruler after another, and each generation has contributed loyalty and righteounsness. Now the imperial court is adrift and the imperial clan temple destroyed. As I see it, the provinces and commanderies profess to be raising ‘righteous troops’ but furtively they are conspiring against each other. There is no one who will preserve our lord or rest the commoners. Now that the province has generally been secure, you should receive the great carriage of the Emperor, establish the palace at the capital Ye and hold the Son of Heaven to give orders to the lords. Then amassing soldiers and horses to campaign against those who remose to submit to the court, who can resist us?’ Yuan Shao was delighted and the generals followed. Guo Tu and Chunyu Qiong said: ‘The house of Han is weak, and has been so for a long time. For you to plan to restore it now, is that not too difficult? Moreover, at present heroes have occupied the provinces and commanderies. Their forces number in the tens of thousands. This is what was meant by the phrase: the Qin has lost its deer, and whoever captures it will be the monarch. If we receive the Son of Heaven close to ourselves, then we will have to report our actions to him. If we follow him then are power will be diminished. If we disobey him then we will be opposing the Mandate. This is not a good plan.” Ju Shou said: ‘If we receive the imperial court now, we will be on the side of righteousness and be acting in accordance with the grand plan of our times. If you do not decide early, then someone else will beat you to it. Do not lose this opportunity, merit will come with swift action. General, make the decision!’ Yuan Shao refused to accept his advice.” Guo Tu’s (Ju Shou’s) plan as described in this work contradicts with the one in the present biography.
13: Xiandi chunqiu: “Yuan Shao was troubled to be lower in rank than the Grand Progenitor. In anger he said: ‘Cao Cao should have died many times over. It is only because I saved him that he still lives. Yet today he requites my kindness by holding the Son of Heaven to give orders to me.’ When the Grand Progenitor heard of this, he resigned the position of General-in-chief in favour of Yuan Shao.”

14: Dian lue: “Since this, Yuan Shao’s tribute to the Emperor became infrequent and lingering. His Master of Records Geng Bao secretly expressed: ‘The virtue of red is waning and the Yuan are descendants of yellow (VII). You should follow the will of Heaven [and become Emperor]. Yuan Shao informed his generals and officials in council of Geng’s views. Those in discussion all thought that Geng was mad and should be punished. Subsequently Yuan Shao killed Geng Bao to excuse himself.”

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class="trn toggle" id="aVII">VII: Toward the end of the Former Han, the ‘generation theory’ of history arose under Liu Xiang 劉向 and his son Liu Xin 劉歆. It held that the succession of dynasties occurred according to a cycle of phases, the order of which was regarded to be: wood—fire—earth—metal—water. See Sources of Chinese Tradition pp 347-51. The Han dynasty ruled by virtue of the phase fire, and honoured it by adopting the colour red in its vestments and flags. Logically, the next dynasty to follow should rule by the phase earth, with the colour yellow. The Yuan clan traced their ancestry back through the high nobility of the Spring and Autumn state of Chen to Duke Hu 胡公, who according to Shi ji 史記 36, was a descendant of the legendary sage emperor Shun . Liu Xin’s reconstruction of the history of past ages reckoned that Shun had ruled by virtue of yellow, so by somewhat twisted logic, the Yuan clan had a legitimate claim to succeed the Han. Yuan Shu advanced a similar claim in 197, when he attempted to establish his own dynasty, by asserting his descent from the Chen nobleman Yuan Taotu 轅濤塗. It is possible that at the time the Yuan clan held genealogies of their noble ancestry, since detailed pedigrees of the family have survived in a number of sources. (See for example, Xin Tang shu 新唐書 46) Their assertion of descent from Duke Hu or Yuan Taotu is unconvincing, however, and any genealogy stretching into the remote past was probably fraudulent. These claims have interest more as a sociological phenomenon rather than for historical accuracy.

Jiuzhou chunqiu: “Yuan Shao received Zheng Xuan of Beihai in audience and treated him with disrespect. Zhao Rong heard of this and said: ‘The worthy have the confidence of the noble man. The worthy who are discourteous will lose the confidence of the noble man. A man with promise will not dare to lose the adoring hearts of the people, not to mention the noble man. When a man loses the confidence of the noble man he ceases to be promising.”

15: Ju Shou’s words of counsel are recorded in the Jiuzhou chunqiu: “It is said that when a single hare goes astray, ten thousand men will pursue it. When one man gains it, the greedy all stop because the thing is settled. It was the institution of the ancients that one who is full in age is worthy and one who is virtuous is ordained. Remember the victories and defeats of earlier generations and think of the principle of settling the pursuit of the hare.’ Yuan Shao said: ‘I want to order my four children each a province to occupy, to observe their ability.’ Ju Shou uttered: ‘Calamity will come of this this!’ When Yuan Tan first arrived in Qingzhou, he was Chief Controller not Inspector. Later the Grand Progenitor appointed him Inspector. His territory to the west of the He extended to about Pingyuan. Subsequently he destroyed Tian Kai in the north and besieged Kong Rong in the east. His troops illuminated the edges of the sea. At the time the commoners were without a lord, he loved and esteemed them. Then he began to place his trust petty men, and delighted in hearing simple words. He had great ambitions and extravagant faults, knowing nothing of the tribulations of agricultural production. Hua Yan and Kong Shun, both treacherous petty men, became his confidants, whilst Wang Xiu and others were merely given office. Then he received and accommodated clients and retainers, recruited the famed and honoured gentlemen … [text omitted]

16: Shi yu ‘Tales of the World’ 世語: “Yuan Shao possessed 50,000 infantry and 8000 cavalry.” Sun Sheng commented: “According to the archives, Emperor Wu of Wei said to Cui Yan: ‘The household registers in the old archives say that a rich province can boast a host of some three hundred thousand.’ Deducing from this, if the troops of Jizhou are this many, then what of You, Bing and Qingzhou? In the great rise of Yuan Shao, he was sure to have assembled the largest army possible. That number would have been closer to a hundred thousand.

Xiandi zhuan: “Yuan Shao was about to marshall his army south. Ju Shou and Tian Feng counseled: ‘The army has been on campaign for many years; the commoners are weary and in distress; the granaries are empty and there are no stores; conscription and corvee are at a worrying stage—these are serious concerns of the state. You should send an emissary with spoils of war to the Son of Heaven whilst managing agriculture and resting the commoners. If your emissary cannot get through then declare that Sir Cao is obstructing the way to the monarch. Then advance to garrison Liyang and gradually encamp south of the He. Construct more ships and boats, keep your engines and equipment in good repair. Send detachments of elite cavalry to raid the border regions to ensure that the enemy is never at peace whilst we can take our ease. Within three years, these affairs can be settled.’ Shen Pei and Guo Tu said: ‘‘The treatises of war say that the enemy can beaten with ten encirclements and five sieges. Now with my enlightened lord’s divine martial abilites, if you …” [text omitted]

Earlier, the Grand Progenitor had sent Liu Bei 劉備 to Xuzhou 徐州 in order to oppose Yuan Shu. After the death of Yuan Shu, Liu Bei killed Che Zhou 車冑, the local Inspector and led his army to garrison Pei . Yuan Shao sent cavalry to support him. The Grand Progenitor sent Liu Dai 劉岱 and Wang Zhong 王忠 to attack, but they were unsuccessful. In the fifth year of Jian’an 建安 [200], the Grand Progenitor personally went on campaign in the east against Liu Bei. Tian Feng advised Yuan Shao to assault the Grand Progenitor’s rear, but Yuan Shao refused under the pretext of his son’s illness. Tian Feng struck the ground with his cane, and said: “What a pity that this heaven sent opportunity should be squandered but for the illness of a child.” The Grand Progenitor reached [Xuzhou] and defeated Liu Bei. Liu Bei fled to Yuan Shao (17).

17: Yuan Shao’s summons to the provinces is recorded in the Weishi chunqiu 魏氏春秋: [Document text omitted] These are the words of Chen Lin 陳琳.”

Yuan Shao advanced his army to Liyang 黎陽 and sent Yan Liang to besiege Liu Yan at Baima 白馬. Ju Shou again counselled Yuan Shao: “Yan Liang is narrow-minded by nature. Though he is resolute and brave, he should not be given singular command.” Yuan Shao would not hear of it. The Grand Progenitor relieved Liu Yan, battled Yan Liang and beheaded him (18). Yuan Shao crossed the He and made camp south of Yanjin Ford (19). He sent Liu Bei and Wen Chou to challenge the enemy to battle. The Grand Progenitor defeated them and beheaded Wen Chou. When they battled again, he then captured one of Yuan Shao’s great generals, sending shockwaves through Yuan Shao’s army. The Grand Progenitor withdrew to Guandu 官渡. Ju Shou spoke again: “Our northern troops are great in number but not equal to the morale of the southerners. The southern supply of grain is small and not equal to the material resources of us northerners. The southerners will benefit from a swift battle whilst us northerners will benefit from a protracted struggle. It would be best for us to delay for a drawn-out campaign and use the days and months to hinder them.” Yuan Shao refused. He advanced the linked encampments forward to approach Guandu, and battled with the enemy. The Grand Progenitor’s army was unsuccessful, so he withdrew to his fortifications. Yuan Shao constructed watchtowers, and erected an earthern mound, to fire into the enemy encampment. Those in the camp protected themselves with shields; there was great alarm in the ranks. Subsequently the Grand Progenitor made catapults and demolished Yuan Shao’s watchtowers. Yuan’s forces nicknamed them the ‘thunderclap carriages’ 霹靂車 (20). Yuan Shao made tunnels to attack the Grand Progenitor’s camp. In response, the Grand Progenitor did the same within his own ranks to counter the enemy. He also sent crack troops to attack Yuan Shao’s supply train. They completely defeated it and burned all the grain. The Grand Progenitor had opposed Yuan Shao for a long time. The commoners were weary and many defected to Yuan. The army was short of food. At the time Yuan Shao had sent Chunyu Qiong 淳于瓊 amongst others with more than 10,000 men to receive the supply train from the north. Ju Shou advised Yuan Shao: “We can send the general Jiang Qi 蔣奇 with another column as sentinel to sever any foray by Lord Cao.” Again Yuan Shao refused. Chunyu Qiong made camp at Wuchao 烏巢, forty li from Yuan Shao’s army. The Grand Progenitor left Cao Hong 曹洪 to defend the encampment, himself stealthily leading a infantry-cavalry force of 5000 by cover of night to besiege Chunyu Qiong. Yuan Shao sent cavalry to relieve Chunyu, but they retreated in defeat. After Chunyu Qiong and the others were defeated, they were all beheaded. The Grand Progenitor returned and before he reached the camp, Yuan Shao’s generals Gao Lan 高覽, Zhang He 張郃 and others led their forces in surrender. Yuan Shao’s forces collapsed and he alone fled with Yuan Tan cross the He. The remaining forces feigned surrender, and were all buried alive (21). Ju Shou did not escape in time with Yuan Shao. He was arrested and taken before the Grand Progenitor. The Grand Progenitor treated him well (22). Later, Ju conspired to return to the Yuan clan and was executed.

18: Xiandi zhuan 獻帝傳: “As Yuan Shao was about to set out, Ju Shou assembled his clansmen and distributed his property among them. He said: ‘If we survive, my influence will be known everywhere. If we fail, alas, I will not escape with my life.’ His younger brother Zong said: ‘Lord Cao’s 曹公 soldiers will not be our match, what fear have you of him?’ Ju Shou said: ‘It is because Cao of Yanzhou 曹兗州 is enlightened in his strategy and holds the Son of Heaven 天子 under his wing. Though we have conquered Gongsun Zan 公孫瓚, our forces are exhausted. Our generals are arrogant and our ruler proud. This will be cause of our defeat. Yang Xiong once said: ‘For the foolishness of the six kingdoms, the Ji weakened to the Ying.’ He spoke for the present time (VIII).”

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class="trn toggle" id="aVIII">VIII: Yang Xiong 楊雄 (53 BC E—CE 18) was an eminent scholar of Wang Mang’s time, a thinker who represented the culmination of Confucian idealism of the Former Han. This quotation is from chapter 10, p. 3a of the Fayan 法言 (Model sayings), which Yang considered to be the completion of Confucius’ Analects. Here he is referring to the six Warring States kingdoms of Zhao , Yan , Qi , Chu , Wei and Han , who weakened the Son of Heaven of Zhou with their constant warfare and allowed Qin to conquer China. Ji was the surname of the house of Zhou whilst Ying was that of the kings of Qin.
19: Xiandi zhuan: “As Yuan Shao was preparing to cross the He, Ju Shou counselled: ‘The changes which may affect victory or defeat must not be overlooked. At present it would be best to stay and garrison Yanjin and to divert troops out to Guandu. If they can succeed and capture it, then it will not be too late to join up with them. However, if your advance encounters difficulties, then none of the army will be able to return.” Yuan Shao refused. As he was about to cross, Ju Shou signed: ‘The master above is too confident, and his servants below are too ambitious. O lonely Yellow River, why should I cross it?’ Subsequently he pleaded sick and asked to leave. Yuan Shao became angry, abolished his command and gave his troops to Guo Tu.
20: Weishi Chunqiu: “It is known that in ancient times there were slingshots. The Chuan also says: ‘The Kuai moved and the drums began.’ The Shuo wen says: ‘Kuai is the firing of stones.’ Then the stone-throwing carriages were constructed.
21: Zhang Fan’s 張璠 Han ji 漢紀: “Eighty thousand of Yuan Shao’s soldiers were killed in total.”
22: Xiandi zhuan: “Ju Shou screamed: ‘Ju Shou will not surrender, I will remain under the detention of the army.’ The Grand Progenitor had known him of old, he received him in audience and said: “We have been separated under different mansions of the stars, and it is long since our paths have crossed. It was unexpected that we should have captured you today.’ Ju Shou replied: ‘Jizhou [Yuan Shao] made bad plans and has fled north. I was neither intelligent enough nor strong enough and it is fitting that I should be taken.’ The Grand Progenitor said: ‘Benchu had not wisdom and did not use your plans. There is still disorder and confusion, the state is still not secure. You should make plans with me together.’ Ju Shou said: ‘My uncle, mother, brother are still under the command of Sir Yuan. I would be much obliged if you were kind enough to kill me quickly.’ The Grand Progenitor sighed and said: ‘If I had of had you early, then the empire would not be a concern.’

In the offset, when Yuan Shao led his army south, Tian Feng (23) had advised him: “Lord Cao is skilled at warfare, he changes his tactics constantly. Though his forces are few, we cannot underestimate them. It would be best to delay for a long period. General, you occupy the barriers of the mountains and the He, and hold the forces of four provinces. Ally with heroes from without, develop your agriculture and prepare for battle within. Then select the elite and divide them into squadrons of crack troops. They can march forth in the enemy’s moment of weakness to raid the lands south of the He. If the enemy relieves the right we will attack the left; if the enemy relieves the left we will attack the right; to weaken them to the point of flight and to allow their commoners no moment of peace. Before we are tired they will already be exhausted. In no more than two years, we can securely conquer them. To give up today the chance at a secure victory to decide our success in a single battle—if it does not turn out as you have intended, then it will be too late for regrets.” Yuan Shao refused. Tian Feng persisted in his counsel. Yuan Shao was extremely angered. Thinking that Tian was demoralising his forces, he threw him into goal. After Yuan Shao’s troops were defeated, someone said to Tian Feng: “Our lord will surely esteem you now.” Tian Feng said: “If the army had succeeded, I could live. But now that the army has been defeated, I will probably die.” When Yuan Shao returned, he said to his subordinates: “Tian Feng will mock me for not heeding his words.” Then he killed Tian Feng. On the exterior, Yuan Shao is generous and refined. He seems tolerant and never shows his emotions. But inside he is very narrow-minded, jealous and malicious. He treated others as he treated Tian Feng.

23: Xianxian xingzhuang: “Tian Feng, styled Fuhao, was from Julu. Some say that he was from Bohai.”

Many of the cities and estates of Jizhou revolted, so Yuan Shao campaigned once more to secure them. Since his defeat [at Guandu] he was constantly ill. In the seventh year [202], he died a dejected man.


Wu ji 武紀 refers to chapter 1 of Sanguozhi, the biography of Cao Cao titled Wudi ji 武帝紀 (‘Annal of Emperor Wu’). The text of relevant section, on pp 6-8, is set out below:

In the first month of the first year of the Chuping era [190], the General of the Rear Yuan Shu, the Governor of Jizhou Han Fu, the Inspector of Yuzhou Kong Zhou, the Inspector of Yanzhou Liu Dai, The Grand Administrator of Henei Wang Kuang, the Grand Administrator of Bohai Yuan Shao, the Grand Administrator of Chenliu Zhang Miao, the Grand Administrator of Dongjun Qiao Mao, the Grand Administrator of Shanyang Yuan Yi, the Chancellor of Jibei Bao Xin amongst others raised troops together, each numbering tens of thousands strong. They elected Yuan Shao as alliance leader. The Grand Progenitor became the acting General Who Displays Firmness.

In the second month, Dong Zhuo heard that the allied armies had risen, and coerced the Son of Heaven to transfer the capital to Chang’an. He himself remained in Luoyang and razed the palaces and offices of state. At that time Yuan Shao garrisoned Henei; Zhang Miao, Liu Dai, Qiao Mao and Yuan Yi garrisoned Suanzao; Yuan Shu garrisoned Nanyang; Kong Zhou garrisoned Yingchuan and Han Fu was at Ye. Dong Zhuo’s troops were strong, so Yuan Shao and the others dared not approach. The Grand Progenitor said: “The great host who have raised righteous troops to destroy oppression and disorder have now united, so why do various lords hesitate? As Dong Zhuo hears that the righteous troops have risen in Shandong, he will employ the power of the Imperial Court to occupy the strategic lands of the twin Zhous and dispatch troops east to dominate the Empire. Even though his actions are perverse and defy morality and justice, they nonetheless represent a grave peril. Now he has razed the palaces of the Luoyang, forced the emperor to transfer capital and caused disorder throughout the nation. The people do not know whom to follow: this is the time which Heaven has decreed to be Dong Zhuo’s doom. We need only to win a single battle in order to secure All Under Heaven. Do not lose this opportunity.” Subsequently Cao Cao led his army west to occupy Chenggao. Zhang Miao send his general Wei Zi with a division to aid the Grand Progenitor. Reaching the Bian River of Xingyang, they encountered Dong Zhuo’s general Xu Rong. They suffered heavy losses and were defeated. The Grand Progenitor was struck by stray arrows and his horse was wounded under him. His younger cousin Cao Hong offered his own horse and only then was the Grand Progenitor able to escape into the night. Xu Rong saw that the Grand Progenitor’s troops were few in number and fought vigorously for an entire day. Seeing that Suanzao would be hard to take, he led his army in withdrawal.

The Grand Progenitor reached Suanzao, the troops of the various armies—numbering more than 100,000 in strength—feasted every day without a thought of advancing. The Grand Progenitor reproached them, and suggested his plan: “Listen to my stratagem, my lords. Let the lord of Bohai [Yuan Shao] lead the host of Henei to Meng Ford and the various generals of Suanzao defend Chenggao, garrison Aocang, secure Huanyuan and Taigu, thus occupying all strategic points. Let General Yuan Shu lead the army of Nanyang to the Dan and Xi in order to enter Wu Pass and disrupt the Three Capital Districts. Then we should all take position behind high walls and deep trenchs, and not engage the enemy in open battle, employing instead deceptive deployments. By showing All Under Heaven our strong position and using righteousness to subdue the rebels, peace can be established very quickly. At present our troops have joined because our cause is just, but if we hesitate and delay we will lost the hopes of the empire. I feel shame for you, my lords!” Zhang Miao and the others refused to accept his suggestion.

Copyright © 2004–2005 Jack Yuan
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s annotations
All Rights Reserved