Campaign against Yuan Shu

Campaign against Yuan Shu

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Campaign against Yuan Shu
partof=the wars of the Three Kingdoms

result=Liu Bei victorious
combatant1=Liu Bei
combatant2=Yuan Shu
commander1=Liu Bei
commander2=Yuan Shu
The Campaign against Yuan Shu in 199 was initiated by Liu Bei during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period in China. Liu Bei emerged victorious against Yuan Shu's forces.


Yuan Shu had taken the imperial seal and declared himself emperor but was defeated by Lü Bu and Cao Cao. After Lü Bu’s demise seemed certain, Yuan Shu sent messengers to incite the Shanyue, as well as clan leaders like Zu Lang, to attack Sun Ce. Sun Ce quickly defeated Zu Lang, and continued to strengthen his position in the Southeast. Yuan Shu’s position, meanwhile, only grew worse and worse. Yuan Shu’s treasury held no money and his military was not strong enough to defend against a rebellion or invasion. Because of this, Yuan Shu overthrew Gongsun Zan and decided to head north to seek help from Yuan Shao. Knowing this, Liu Bei borrowed solders from Cao Cao and went after Yuan Shu. Zhang Fei slew Ji Ling with a single blow, causing Yuan Shu's army to fall into chaos. Yuan Shu finally opted to incinerate his palace buildings and escape to the Qian hills, where Lei Bo and Chen Jian, two of his former followers, had been hiding. When Lei Bo and Chen Jian refused to support their former lord, Yuan Shu wrote to Yuan Shao, formerly his enemy, and stated that he would give up the imperial seal if Yuan Shao would help him. Yuan Shao dispatched his son, Yuan Tan, to escort Yuan Shu over the Huai River, through Xiapi and north to Qing. Liu Bei, Yuan Shu’s adversary for a long time, intercepted Yuan Shu’s small band of followers before it could make it to Yuan Shao’s territory. While trying to return to Shouchun Yuan Shu died. Liu Bei used this campaign to escape Cao Cao's influence and gained independence in Xu Province. [ Comprehensive biography of Yuan Shu] ]

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

The angry Yuan Shu sent Zhang Xun with two hundred thousand troops to Xuzhou. The army consisted of seven divisions under seven commanders: Zhang led the Center Army; Qiao Rui, the First Left Army; Lei Bo, the Second Left Army; Han Xian, the Third Left Army; Chen Ji, First Right Army; Chen Lan, Second Right Army; and Yang Feng, the Third Right Army. Each commander was instructed to make a certain town his objective.

Lü Bu found out from his scouts that his own Xuzhou was the objective of Zhang Xun; the other towns to be first attacked were Xiaopei, Yi Du, Lang Ye, Jie Shi, Xiapi, and Jun Shan. The invading armies were marching twenty miles a day, and plundering the countryside as they advanced. Lü Bu called all his advisors to his court to discuss the matter. Chen Gong blamed the attack on the schemes of Chen Gui and Chen Deng. However, Chen Deng only laughed at Chen Gong’s anxiety and presented Lü Bu with a plan to destroy Yuan Shu’s army. Lü Bu gave the plan a chance and ordered Chen Deng to carry out the plan. A memorial was sent to the capital, relaying the strategy that would deal with the traitor Yuan Shu. [ Sanguoyanyi biography of Lü Bu] ]

Lü Bu again pursued and this time he encountered Yuan Shu’s personal army. Beneath a yellow silken parasol sat Yuan Shu on horseback, clad in silver mail with a sword handle showing at each wrist. Yuan Shu railed at his opponent and sent out Li Deng to oppose Lü Bu. After the second bout, Li Deng’s hand was injured and he dropped his spear. Lü Bu immediately pressed the attack and his army prevailed. The other side fled, leaving much spoil, clothing, mail, and horses. Yuan Shu’s army hadn't gone far before they met with Guan Yu’s troops. The casualties were plentiful and Yuan Shu managed to escape only with a handful of soldiers. With this victory, Lü Bu, accompanied by Guan Yu, Han Xian, and Yang Feng returned to Xuzhou. Banquets were held in celebration and Lü Bu appointed Yang Feng as Governor of Lang Ye, and Han Xian as Governor of Yi Du. They were immediately sent to their cities on Chen Gui’s advice.

The wounded Yuan Shu was now caught between Cao Cao, Lü Bu, and Sun Ce. Being short on food, he raided Chen Liu. In response, Cao Cao personally led his army to destroy Yuan Shu. Letters were sent to Liu Bei, Lü Bu, and Sun Ce, calling them to join in the attack. Liu Bei was the fist to answer the call and when he joined Cao Cao, he offered the heads of Han Xian and Yang Feng, explaining that while they were Governors in Xuzhou, they allowed their troops to abuse the civilians. Cao Cao thanked Liu Bei for getting rid of them. When Lü Bu arrived, Cao Cao treated him courteously promising him the seal as soon as they returned to Xuchang. Lü Bu was exceedingly pleased with this. Then the three armies merged, Cao Cao commanded the center, Lü Bu the left, and Liu Bei the right. Xiahou Dun and Yu Jin were the vanguard.

Qiao Rui led the vanguard of Yuan Shu’s army, engaging Xiahou Dun on the outskirts of Shouchun. Xiahou Dun rode out to challenge him, and Qiao Rui fell in the third bout, and his army withdrew into the city. Sun Ce’s army was approaching from the west, and would arrive shortly. The three other land divisions each took a direction to attack. Cao Cao attacked the north, Lü Bu the east, and Liu Bei the south. Yuan Shu saw that the situation was desperate, so he appointed Li Deng, Yue Jiu, Liang Gan, and Chen Ji to defend Shouchun with a hundred thousand troops. Yuan Shu took the rest of the troops and escaped the city by crossing the Huai River. He gathered the wealth of the city and took it with him.

Cao Cao’s army needed large quantities of food every day, and since the land around Shouchun had been struck by famine for several years, there was no way to get new food supplies. Therefore, Cao Cao hastened the military operations while the defenders tried to prolong the battle as much as they could. A month passed and the siege seemed as unsuccessful as before. The food supplies were low, so Cao Cao sent a letter to Sun Ce, whom immediately sent a hundred thousand carts of grain. Cao Cao’s cruel tactics from then on ensured that the united army worked non-stop to end the siege as quickly as possible. Soon the walls were scaled, the gates rammed in, and the besieged were captured. The enemy generals, Li Deng, Yue Lie, Liang Gang, and Chen Li were all captured alive and executed in the market place. All the insignia and symbols of Yuan Shu’s "Empire" were burned, and the city was wrecked. Yuan Shu wasn't pursued and the three armies returned to their capitals. [ Sanguoyanyi biography of Lü Bu] ] Luo, Guanzhong "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"]

Modern references

The first appearance of this campaign in "Dynasty Warriors" is in "Dynasty Warriors 6" where the player can only play Liu Bei's forces scenario.


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