Biography (SGZ): Yu Jin (Wenze)

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Yu Jin (Wenze)
于禁 (文則)
Lifespan: Unlisted

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Sun Zhongmou

Yu Jin, styled Wenze, is from the Tai Mountain prefecture at the Ju Ping County. During the Yellow Turban rebellion, Bao Xin gathered the people to fight against the threat. Yu Jin initially wanted to serve under him. However, when Cao Cao took over Jizhou, Yu Jin and his friend went to serve him. He was placed under Wang Lang as Du Po. Wang Lang treated Yu Jin with the greatest respect and recommended him for the position of a general. After Cao Cao met Yu Jin for a talk, he appointed the latter as a Jun Si Ma. Cao Cao then ordered Yu Jin to march to Xuzhou to attack Guangwei. He was then promoted to Xian Chen Du Wei.

Yu Jin went with Cao Cao to Pu Yang to attack Lu Bu. He defeated two camps of troops under Lu Bu. He also scored a major victory against Gao Ya. He later followed Cao Cao to attack Shou Zhang, Ting Tao, Li Gu and other areas. He surrounded Zhang Chao at Yangqiu and returned triumphant. Yu Jin went with Cao Cao to attack the Yellow Turbans, Liu Pi and Huang Shao. He stationed his troops at Pan Liang. Huang Shao and the rest attempted an ambush on Cao Cao during the night. However, Yu Jin rallied his troops to fight off the attackers and defeated them. He killed Huang Shao and his people while managing to capture all their troops. As a result, he was promoted to Ping Lu Jiao Wei.

Later, Yu Jin went with Cao Cao to Ku County to surround Qiao Rui. He killed four of Qiao Rui’s generals. Following this, he followed Cao Cao to Wan to get Zhang Xiu to surrender. However, Zhang Xiu unexpectedly rebelled and Cao Cao was repeatedly defeated in battle. The army then retreated to Wu Yin. At that time, the army was in a total chaos. Everyone was trying to escape back to Cao Cao’s military base using the backroads. Only Yu Jin continued to fight while the army withdrew. His troops retreated in an orderly fashion without scattering. Eventually, when the enemy troops halted their pursuit, Yu Jin was able to relax and to reorganize his troop formation. After that, he sounded the drums to order for the return to base. However, on his journey back, Yu Jin encountered a score of people with their clothes completely stripped from them. They were also injured. When Yu Jin queried them about the matter, they replied, “We were robbed by the soldiers of Qingzhou and we were also injured by them”.

When the Yellow Turbans surrendered earlier on, they called themselves the soldiers of Qingzhou. As Cao Cao was too lenient with them, they started to get bold and began to cause trouble. They also committed robbery in a brazen and open manner. Yu Jin became very angry after he learn about the matter and said to his men, “Although the Qingzhou soldiers also serve under Lord Cao together with us, they dare to cause trouble by committing banditry.”

He then led his men to attack the Qingzhou soldiers and to denounce their crimes. The Qingzhou soldiers immediately ran to Cao Cao to make accusations against Yu Jin. When Yu Jin returned to base, he did not see Cao Cao immediately. He first ordered his troops to set up camp.

Someone then advised Yu Jin, “The Qingzhou soldiers had already said bad things about you in front of Lord Cao. You should clarify the matter immediately with him.”

Yu Jin replied, “The enemy soldiers are right behind us. They could catch up at anytime. If we do not prepare to face them first, how can we deal with them later on? Anyway, our lord is discriminating and he will not believe their lies.”

He continued to supervise his troops to set up camp and to dig trenches. When it was settled, only did he went to meet Cao Cao and reported the matter to him. Cao Cao was very happy after he heard the matter and said to Yu Jin, “The trouble at Yu Shui is my direst hour. You have managed to control your troops amidst such chaos to fight off these enemies and to hold the position. You have shown the virtue of loyalty and steadfastness. Even the generals of ancient times are no match for you.”

Thus, Cao Cao recorded Yu Jin’s achievements from the past and the present and appointed the latter as the Marquis of Continuous Longevity.

Yu Jin followed Cao Cao to Rang County to attack Zhang Xiu and then to Xia Pi to capture Lu Bu. Furthermore, he also attacked Gui Gu at Si Quan together with Shi Huan and Cao Ren. He achieved a great victory and killed Gui Gu.

When Cao Cao began his campaign against Yuan Shao, the latter’s military power was very powerful. Yu Jin proclaimed his bravery and volunteered to become the vanguard. Cao Cao greatly praised Yu Jin and assigned him to defend against Yuan Shao at Yan Jin. Cao Cao himself returned with his troops to Guan Du. When Liu Bei created an uprising in Xuzhou, Cao Cao went to put it down. Yuan Shao took advantage of this to attack Yu Jin. Yu Jin defended his position fiercely and Yuan Shao was unable to prevail. Moreover, Yu Jin together with Yue Jin led 5,000 infantry and cavalry troops to attack Yuan Shao’s military camps nearby – starting from the southwest of Yan Jin, along the Yellow River until the two counties of Ji and Hu Jia. They burned a total of over 30 fortifications while killing and capturing thousands of men. They also caused two of Yuan Shao’s great generals, He Mao and Wang Mo, to surrender.

Cao Cao then ordered Yu Jin to station his troops at Yuan Wu to attack Yuan Shao’s military bases near Du Shi Jun. He also achieved victory in the matter. He was then promoted to Major-General. After that, he followed Cao Cao back to Guan Du. The camps of both Cao Cao and Yuan Shao were very close to each other. Both sides had built a mound of earth to oppose each other. Yuan Shao attacked Cao Cao’s camps with arrows and killed a lot of his soldiers. The soldiers became very afraid as a result. Yu Jin supervised the troops to defend the mound and gave fierce resistance to Yuan Shao’s troops. He managed to increase the momentum and he finally defeated Yuan Shao. He was promoted as Lieutenant-General.

When Yizhou was pacified, Cheng Xi started a rebellion. Cao Cao sent Yu Jin to put down the rebellion again. Yu Jin rushed to attack Cheng Xi and the latter was unable to prevail. As Cheng Xi and Yu Jin were friends, the former decided to surrender to Yu Jin. All of the generals feel that Cheng Xi should be sent to Cao Cao to be dealt with as he had already surrendered. Yu Jin said, “Have you forgotten what Lord Cao usually exhorts us to do? A man who surrenders after he is surrounded cannot be pardoned. Carrying out the law is the duty of a vassal in obeying his lord. Although Cheng Xi is my old friend, how can I forget my duty as a vassal?”

He personally visited Cheng Xi to bid farewell. He wept whiled he had Cheng Xi executed. At that time, Cao Cao was stationed at Chun Yu. When he heard news about the matter, he sighed and said, “Cheng Xi wanted to surrender but he doesn’t come to me. Instead he went to Yu Jin. Isn’t his death fated?

From then on, Cao Cao made even greater use of Yu Jin. He appointed Yu Jin to become the General of Tiger’s Might after the latter pacified Tong Hai.

Later on, Yu Jin attacked Mei Cheng together with Zang Ba. Zhang Liao, Zhang He and the rest was sent on a punitive expedition on Chen Lan. When Yu Jin arrived, Mei Cheng surrendered to him with his 3,000 men. However, he revolted again later and brought his men to seek refuge with Chen Lan. Zhang Liao and the others could not prevail for long against Chen Lan as their provisions were dwindling. Yu Jin transported the provisions in assistance and this enabled Zhang Liao to defeat Chen Lan and Mei Cheng. As a result, Cao Cao increased Yu Jin’s holdings to 200 households. This is a total of 1,200 households from previous rewards.

At that time, Yu Jin together with Zhang Liao, Yue Jin, Zhang He and Xu Huang were all of Cao Cao’s famous generals. Each time Cao Cao set out on his campaigns, they will become the vanguard and when retreating, they are the rearguard. Yu Jin is extremely strict when it comes to military discipline. Every time he obtains the valuables of an enemy, he will not hoard it for himself. As a result, Yu Jin’s rewards were extremely favourable. But as he was too strict, he could not entirely win the heart of his men.

Cao Cao often bore a grudge against Zhu Ling and he intended to stripped the latter’s military powers. As Zhu Ling was in awe of Yu Jin’s reputation, he did not dare to revolt. Thus, Cao Cao assigned Zhu Ling to serve under Yu Jin. All respected the decision. This clearly shows the awe in which Yu Jin was held by people in general. Cao Cao then promoted Yu Jin to the General of the Left and rewarded him with a ceremonial axe and assigned 500 households to him. One of Yu Jin’s sons was enfeoffed as a ranking marquis.

In the 24th year of Jian An (AD 219), Cao Cao, who was at Chang An at the time, sent Cao Ren on a punitive expedition against Guan Yu at Fan castle. He sent Yu Jin to assist Cao Ren. There was heavy rain during the autumn season for that year and Han Shui overflowed. The level terrain was flooded by more than a few zhang (one zhang is about 3 1/3 meters) high. Yu Jin and the other troops climbed to high ground to monitor the flood and there were no place to escape. Guan Yu later attacked them in a huge boat. Yu Jin was unable to prevail and he surrendered. Only Pang De refused to surrender and was killed.

When Cao Cao received news about the matter, he sighed for a long time and said, “I have used Yu Jin for thirty years and I never expect him to surrender at the last moment and betraying his honour. He is unable to equal Pang De.”

At the same time, Sun Quan captured Guan Yu and his subordinates. Yu Jin surrendered to Wu. When Cao Pi ascended the throne, Sun Quan submitted as his vassal and he sent Yu Jin back. Wen Di (Cao Pi) gave an audience to Yu Jin. His hair has turned white and he looked very exhausted. When Yu Jin saw Wen Di, he collapsed and wept. Cao Pi consoled him and used the example of Xun Ling Fu and Meng Ming Shi as a precedent (meaning that the defeat at Fan castle was caused by the flood and not Yu Jin’s fault) and pardoned Yu Jin. He appointed Yu Jin as the General who Pacifies Far-Off Lands and sent him as an emissary to Wu. He (Cao Pi) first ordered Yu Jin to pay his respects at Cao Cao’s mausoleum at Ye. Cao Pi had earlier sent workmen to paint on the walls of the mausoleum showing the victory of Guan Yu with Pang De in anger and Yu Jin surrendering. When Yu Jin saw the drawing, he felt extremely shameful, then fell sick and died. His son, Yu Gui, succeeded his position and was appointed as the Marquis of Continuous Longevity. Yu Jin was posthumously appointed as the Marquis of Severity.

Copyright © 2004 Sun Zhongmou
Translated from Chen Shou’s Records of the Three Kingdoms annoted by Pei Songzhi