Xu Huang 徐晃 was a military general who served three generations of the Cao family; Cao Cao 曹操 , Cao Pi 曹丕 and Cao Rui 曹叡. Formerly a Bobo bandit under Yang Feng 楊奉, Xu Huang switched allegiance when Yang Feng was defeated by Cao Cao in 196. He took to the field of battle on many occasions and arguably played his most significant role in the Battle of Fan Castle, where he broke the enemies' siege and defeated their general Guan Yu 關羽.
Xu Huang is mentioned as one of the Five Elite Generals of Wei for his skills in leadership and ability to achieve victory. Xu Huang valued discipline, both in himself and his troops, and toiled solely for the benefit of the state; because of this he was one of the most formidable commanders in the Three Kingdoms era.
Record of the Three Kingdoms translationEdit
- this section is work-in-progress
Xu Huang styled Gongming 公明, was a native of Yang county in Hedong commandery. As an official (lì 吏) of that commandery, he followed the General of Chariots and Cavalry (jūjì jiāngjūn 車騎將軍), Yang Feng 楊奉 (...), he was promoted to Chief Commandant of Cavalry (jí dūwèi 騎都尉).
[Emperor] Taizu 太祖 [Cao Cao] assigned Xu Huang troops and ordered him to attack the bandits at Juan 卷 and Yuanwu 原武 counties, defeated them, and was promoted to Major-General (pí jiàngjūn 裨將軍). Xu Huang followed Cao Cao into battle against Lü Bu 呂布. [Lü] Bu's generals, Zhao Shu 趙庶 and Li Zou 李鄒 surrendered.
Xu Huang first held office as an official in his local commandery. He served General of Chariots and Cavalry Yang Feng. Xu Huang earned merit fighting against bandits and was promoted to Commandant of Cavalry.
In 194 A.D., Li Jue and Guo Si were fighting within the capital, Chang'an (長安). Due to the conflict, the Emperor had to abandon Chang'an. Xu Huang said to Yang Feng that they should return the Emperor to the former capital, Luoyang (洛陽), Yang Feng agreed. The flight of the Emperor was fraught with perils, but eventually he escaped Li Jue and Guo Si and reached the relative safety of Anyi (安邑). The Emperor conferred rank on the numerous ministers and officials whom had accompanied him; Xu Huang was enfeoffed as a Marquis of a Chief Village.
By 12 Aug. the Emperor arrived at Luoyang. Dong Cheng and Han Xian remained at Luoyang to guard the Emperor, while Yang Feng and Xu Huang garrisoned at Liang (梁). Unfortunately, the Emperor's attendants were disorganised and soon began to quarrel with one another, it was only due to the Emperor's influence that they had not attacked one another yet, still Dong Cheng and Han Xian fought daily. Cao Cao arrived from Xu city to offer his support and Xu Huang persuaded Yang Feng to join him. Although Yang Feng initially allied with Cao Cao, he quickly began to regret it. Yang Feng attempted to attack Cao Cao, but was defeated. At this point Xu Huang decided to remain with Cao Cao.
Service to Cao CaoEdit
Cao Cao assigned Xu Huang troops and ordered him to attack the bandits at Juan (卷) and Yuanwu (原武) counties. He defeated them and was promoted to Major-General.
Xu Huang followed Cao Cao through several campaigns. He fought against Lü Bu, where he received the surrender of several of Lü Bu's generals including Zhao Shu and Li Zou. He fought under Shi Huan and beheaded Sui Gu. And he helped defeat Liu Bei at Xiapi.
In 200 A.D., Yuan Shao attacked Cao Cao and General Yan Liang was to lead the vanguard. To outdo the numerically superior enemy, Xun You suggested that a feint attack be made in order to split Yuan Shao's forces. Xu Huang's forces advanced across the Yan Crossing (延津) which lured off part of the enemy forces and allowed Yan Liang to be killed at Baima (白馬). Xu Huang was then part of the ambush against another of Yuan Shao's generals, Wen Chou, and was promoted to Lieutenant-General for his efforts.
Although Cao Cao had blunted Yuan Shao's spearhead, his main forces were still overwhelming and Cao Cao was surrounded at Guandu. Xun You suggested that the path to victory lay through destroying Yuan Shao's supplies. At that time, Han Meng was transporting thousands of grain carts to Yuan Shao and Xun You recommended Xu Huang be sent to intercept him. Xu Huang and Shi Huan were dispatched and intercepted Han Meng at Gushi (故市), they put him to rout and burned his baggage train. Xu Huang was enfeoffed as Marquis of a Chief Village.
By 203 A.D., Cao Cao had defeated Yuan Shao at Guandu, but his three sons still posed a problem. Though superior in force, their infighting reduced their strength giving Cao Cao the opportunity to destroy them and annex the northern provinces. Yuan Shang left his stronghold at Ye (鄴) city to attack his brother, Tan, at Pingyuan (平原) commandery; in response Cao Cao attacked Ye city. Ye city was too defensible, so Cao Cao left a portion of his force to besiege it and attacked the surrounding area, Handan (邯鄲) and Yiyang (易陽) counties.
Prefect of Yiyang Han Fan planned to feign surrender while he prepared defences. Xu Huang was dispatched to seize the city. When Xu Huang arrived, he wrote a letter, explaining why they should surrender, which he attached to an arrow and fired over the wall. Thereupon, Han Fan decided to surrender. Xu Huang then wanted to impress upon Cao Cao the value of receiving surrender, he said: "The Yuan have not yet been defeated, and all the cities that are thinking of surrender will listen carefully for news of how you handle this affair. Today, if you massacre Yiyang, tomorrow, all cities will defend to the last man, and I fear the area north of the Yellow river will not be settled any time soon. You should reward these two counties generously in order to encourage others" Cao Cao agreed with Xu Huang's advice and conferred noble ranks on the defenders of Handan and Yiyang as well as those others who surrendered.
Xu Huang then went to attack Mao city (毛城) which was guarding a supply route for the Yuan forces. Xu Huang concealed ambush soldiers and launched a surprise attack, taking 3 camps.
Yuan Tan had initially allied with Cao Cao against his brothers, but he betrayed the alliance and so Cao Cao brought his forces to punish him. Xu Huang followed Cao Cao in the attack Yuan Tan at Nanpi (南皮), then attacked the remainder of his forces around Pingyuan commandery. Yuan Tan was killed and his brothers fled north to a Wuhuan chieftain called Tadun in Liaoxi commandery. Xu Huang followed Cao Cao in the attack on Tadun and was subsequently promoted to General Who Traverses the Open Country.
In 208 A.D., Cao Cao invaded Jing province; Xu Huang was garrisoned at Fan (樊) Castle. From there he attacked enemies at Zhonglu (中廬), Linju (臨沮) and Yicheng (宜城). Xu Huang and Man Chong went to attack Guan Yu at Han Crossing (漢津).[n 1] Xu Huang was then stationed in Jiangling (江陵) under Cao Ren and fought against Zhou Yu.
In 210 A.D., Xu Huang was assigned to Xiahou Yuan's command. Xiahou Yuan was sent to subdue the rebel Shang Yao who had surrounded Daling (大陵). They lifted the siege of Daling, captured over 20 enemy camps, beheaded Shong Yao and massacred his forces.
In 211 A.D., Cao Cao wanted to annex Hanzhong. In his advance west, the warlords of Liang province rebelled under Ma Chao and Han Sui and blocked Cao Cao's advance at Tong Pass (潼關). Xu Huang was sent to camp at Fenyin (汾陰) to keep the Hedong commandery settled. Xu Huang gave meat and wine to the people and let them pray to their ancestors, thus they were calmed.
By August, Cao Cao had arrived at Tong Pass. Cao Cao wanted to circumvent the rebel forces by going north into Hedong, then west to Puban (蒲阪) then south, thereby avoiding the highly defensible Tong Pass. Xu Huang's actions had already secured Hedong, but Cao Cao feared the rebels would try to occupy Puban and block his advance. Xu Huang said to him: "Duke Cao, they hold your soldiers here and leave Puban unoccupied, so you know they cannot make plans. Now, if you lend me elite soldiers I will lead a vanguard force across Puban Crossing to secure the area and prevent the rebels from capturing it." Cao Cao agreed to his request and sent Xu Huang alongside Zhu Ling with 4,000 elite troops to set up a beachhead at Puban.
Xu Huang and Zhu Ling began to establish a bridgehead north of the Wei (渭) river, but before they could finish the fortifications, Liang Xing led over 5,000 soldiers in a night raid. Xu Huang repelled Liang Xing's forces. Thanks to Xu Huang's beachhead, Cao Cao could safely cross and defeat the rebels.
Xu Huang and Zhu Ling were then returned to Xiahou Yuan's command and they were sent to pacify the Yumi and Qian tribesmen, before reuniting with Cao Cao's main unit to besiege Yang Qiu at Anding (安定). After Yang Qiu's surrender, Cao Cao returned east to Ye city. Xu Huang, under Xiahou Yuan, was sent to hunt down the Liang rebels still at large in Fu (鄜) and Xiayang (夏陽). They tracked Liang Xing to Hu (鄠), where they beheaded him and received the surrender of 3,000 households.
In 216 A.D., Xu Huang followed Cao Cao in his campaign to annex Hanzhong (漢中). Afterwards he was sent to attack the Di tribesmen at Gongdu (攻櫝) and Chouyi (仇夷), all surrendered to him. Xu Huang was promoted to Bandit-Pacifying General. Xu Huang freed General Zhang Shun from an enemy encirclement. He then defeated the bandit Chen Fu and captured over 30 of his camps.
After annexing Hanzhong, Cao Cao returned to Ye city and left Xiahou Yuan to hold Hanzhong, and Xu Huang remained under his command. By 218 A.D., Liu Bei's forces were pressuring the southwestern Wei border at Yangping (陽平), just west of Hanzhong, and Xu Huang was one of many sent to resist the Shu-Han forces. Liu Bei dispatched Chen Shi to set up a dozen camps along the Mamingge (馬鳴閣) road in an attempt to cut the Wei supply lines[n 2], Xu Huang was dispatched to deal with him. Xu Huang defeated Chen Shi's forces, but because the road was so treacherous they could not retreat properly, and many of the Shu-Han soldiers threw themselves from the road into the valley below, dying. When Cao Cao heard of Xu Huang's actions, he presented Huang with the Staff of Authority and said: "That road is a critical choke point for entering Hanzhong. Liu Bei wanted to isolate Hanzhong from Wei in an effort to capture it. General Xu, in one fell swoop you have dashed the rebels' plans. Well done."
Cao Cao arrived at Yangping, but unfortunately for the Wei forces, Liu Bei had killed Xiahou Yuan and essentially secured Hanzhong, so Cao Cao had to withdraw from the west. In 219 A.D., Guan Yu besieged Cao Ren at Fan (樊) Castle; Xu Huang was sent to provide reinforcements by garrisoning Wan (宛) Castle farther north. Yu Jin had been dispatched to relieve the siege of Fan but the unfortunate flooding of the Han river had obliterated his forces and Yu Jin himself was captured. With the Wei reinforcements destroyed, Guan Yu had encircled Fan and also had General Lü Chang surround Xiangyang just to the south.
With Yu Jin's forces gone, Xu Huang essentially led the vanguard of the second wave of reinforcements. However, many of his subordinates were new recruits and no match for Guan Yu's forces, so he first made camp at Yangling Slope (陽陵陂) and waited for reinforcements. Cao Cao dispatched Xu Shang, Lu Jian, et al. to rendezvous with Xu Huang. Cao Cao also sent a command saying: "When the necessary soldiers and horses arrive, thereupon advance together." But Xu Huang headed south with the forces at his disposal.
Shu-Han forces had seized Yan city (偃城) in an attempt to obstruct Wei relief forces. When Xu Huang arrived, instead of trying to relieve the city he began to dig moats south of the city with the intention of isolating Yan city. Seeing their lines of communication being cut, the Shu-Han forces burned their camp and fled. Xu Huang secured Yan city and began to establish a succession of camps southwards. Xu Huang set up a dozen camps one of which was only 10 m from the Shu-Han siegeworks[n 3]. Yin Shu, Zhu Gai and others arrived to reinforce Xu Huang's camps.
Xu Huang and Guan Yu had long been close friends[n 4], although they were separated by vast distances and on opposing sides, they sent letters to one another. Of course as neither was disloyal to his lord, they would never speak of military matters and would only write about their everyday life. When Xu Huang arrived, he dismounted his steed and shouted: "For whoever obtains Guan Yu's head, there is a bounty of 1,000 taels of gold." Guan Yu was shocked and said: "Brother, what are you saying?!" Xu Huang replied: "This is a matter of state."
On four hills, Guan Yu had set up four satellite camps to support his main camp in the siege of Fan Castle. Xu Huang spread misinformation that he planned on attacking Guan Yu's main camp, but secretly he prepared to attack the four satellite camps. When Guan Yu realised his support camps were in danger, he personally led 5,000 troops in support. Xu Huang fought and defeated Guan Yu's forces and then led all his forces in pursuit right into Guan Yu's main camp. Despite being deep within the enemy ranks, the Wei forces momentum could not be stopped. The Wei forces broke the main camp and routed the Shu-Han forces, they quickly boarded their boats to flee across the Mian (沔) river to Xiangyang and many cast themselves into the river in a desperate effort to cross.[n 5]
When Cao Cao heard of Xu Huang's actions, he said: "The rebels had protected themselves with moats and rings of abatis 10 deep, yet he led all his forces deep into the enemy encirclement and secured victory; beheading many of their officers. For 30 plus years I have been commanding soldiers, and not in that time nor in the time of our ancestors have I ever heard a general would lead his forces into such an encirclement. Furthermore, the siege of Fan and Xiangyang was worse than that of Ju (莒)[n 6] or Jimo (即墨) district. General Xu's merits even exceed those of Sun Zi or Sima Rangju."
Xu Huang then brought his forces back to Mo Slope (摩陂) to reunite with the Wei main forces. Cao Cao came out 7 li to greet Xu Huang personally, he then ordered a great feast to recognise Xu Huang's achievements. Cao Cao raised a toast to Xu Huang, saying: "It was your good work that saved Fan and Xiangyang."
Service to Cao PiEdit
When Cao Pi acceded the throne of Wei, Xu Huang was promoted to General of the Right and ennobled as Marquis of Luxiang (逯鄉). And when Emperor Cao Pi took the imperial throne, Xu Huang was also enfeoffed as Marquis of Yang (楊).
In 220 A.D., Xu Huang and Xiahou Shang were sent to aid the Shu-Han defector Meng Da at Shangyong (上庸). Many of the Shu generals simply surrendered and the Wei forces pacified 3 commanderies and 9 counties. Later, Xu Huang was sent to guard Yangping and also enfeoffed as Marquis of Yangping.
In 222 A.D. during Cao Pi's Invasion of Wu, Xu Huang was among the forces sent to besiege Nan commandery.
In 227 A.D., Xu Huang died from his illness. He was posthumously title Magnificent (壯) Lord of Yang. Xu Huang was always cautious when it came to battle, he would send scouts out far and wide to assess the enemy. Only when he felt victory could be assured would he engage in battle. Then he would pursue the the enemy fiercely, running them down.
Some time ealier when the army was gathered, Cao Cao decided to inspect the various camps. Many of the soldiers had broken formation to catch sight of Cao Cao, however, Xu Huang's camp had remained perfectly orderly, his subordinates and soldiers stayed in formation remained motionless. Cao Cao sighed and said: "General Xu even embodies the spirit of Zhou Yafu." Xu Huang's forces were highly disciplined, and he would often drive them hard; sometimes his soldiers would be so busy they did not even have time to eat.
Xu Huang himself was also highly disciplined, he would always put state affairs before personal matters. Xu Huang would often say: "Our ancestors would often worry that they would not meet a perspicacious lord. Now, I am fortunate enough to have found one; I constantly work for his achievements, what use have I for personal reputation." As a result, Xu Huang had few friends upon his death.
- Xu Gai (徐蓋) - Xu Huang's heir.
- Xu Sun (徐孫) - Emperor Cao Rui split Xu Huang's marquisate and gave Xu Sun
- Xu Ba (徐霸) - Son of Xu Gai.
- ↑ Unlikely they actually fought, there's no mention in either Guan Yu's or Man Chong's SGZ. Guan Yu was supposed to have taken Liu Bei's fleet of ships down the Han river to rendezvous with Liu Bei at Jiangling. It's possible had held back to act as a distraction or as a rearguard and Xu Huang was sent to attack him but Guan Yu had left before he got there.
- ↑ Rafe suspects this particular road is a section of the greater Baoye road, which runs from Hanzhong and comes out near Chang'an. Chen Shi and his party must then have taken the Lianyun road farther west to circumvent the Wei forces and get behind them.
- ↑ The distance is three "zhang" 丈, which is approximately 10 m or 30 ft.
- ↑ Presumably they met around 200 A.D. during the time of Yuan Shao's attack on Guandu.
- ↑ Fan and Xiangyang were on the north and south banks of the river, respectively. The siege of Fan was lifted but Shu-Han forces still controlled the southern shore.
- ↑ Not sure what this one is.
Fact vs. FictionEdit
- …Xu Huang was not killed by Meng Da, but instead died of an illness.
- ↑ HHS: Annals of Emperor Xian.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Xun You.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ de Crespigny. Chapter 64 in To Establish Peace Vol 2, Jian'an 9, section B
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Yuan.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Yuan.
- ↑ SGZ: Shu Ji in SGZ Biography of Guan Yu.
- ↑ de Crespigny. Chapter 68 in To Establish Peace Vol 2, Jian'an 24, section SS
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Liu Feng.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Shang.
- Chen Shou 陳壽 (233–297). Sanguo zhi 三國志 “Records of the Three Kingdoms”, with official commentary compiled by Pei Songzhi 裴松之 (372-451).
- de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 2. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.
- Fang, Achilles. The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms. Vol. I. Harvard University Press, 1952. 2 vols.