Yuan Shao's state (Yuán Shào shìlì 袁紹勢力) was a nameless state ruled by Yuan Shao during the final years of the Later Han dynasty. In its prime the state covered the four northern provinces Ji 冀, You 幽, Qing 靑 and Bing 并.

Brief historyEdit

Following the death of Emperor Ling, the subsequent eunuch slaying and powerseizure by Dong Zhuo 董卓 Yuan Shao left Luoyang in month one of 190 to became leader of a coalition against Dong Zhuo east of the mountains. Warlords who joined him were men such as Yuan Shu, Bao Xin and Cao Cao.

Roughly half a year later the coalition starting falling apart and the warlords started plotting against each other. Through clever trickery Yuan Shao managed to obtain Ji Province from Han Fu 韓福 in 191. Yuan Shao then began to build a warlord state from his base city at Ye and had recruited brave generals such as Qu Yi 麴義 in the meantime. With a base under his control, Yuan Shao set his sights on conquering more territory, mainly from his two nemesis' Cao Cao and Gongsun Zan 公孫瓚. He finally managed to defeat the latter in 199 and became potentially the most powerful warlord of that time. He turned his attention to Cao Cao to the south the very next year already and engaged him at Guandu. Though Yuan Shao outnumbered Cao Cao (but only just), he lost the battle and retreated to the north where he died 2 years later.

Yuan Shao may have taken too long to defeat Gongsun Zan, and after having finally conquered Gongsun Zan's lands he perhaps turned south too early, as he had not yet developed the lands of Gongsun Zan's former territory. Furthermore, Yuan Shao might've been past his prime, while Cao Cao was right in the middle of his. After Yuan Shao passed away, his sons quarrelled over his land and forces until their defeat at the hands of Cao Cao.

The reign colour of Yuan Shao's stateEdit

Main article: Five Powers

Every Chinese dynasty ruled through one of the Five Powers; wood—fire—earth—metal—water, and their corresponding colours became reign colours, which would be used in its vestments and flags. It held that the succession of dynasties occurred according to a cycle of phases. During the final years of Former Han the accepted cycle of phases was the cycle of natural succession.

The Han dynasty reigned Red through the Power of Fire. The next power in the cycle of natural succession is Earth (ashes), with the colour Yellow. The dynasty that was to succeed Han, would thus reign Yellow through Earth.

It seems Yuan Shao might've adopted the colour Yellow and the power Earth if he had founded a dynasty of his own. Yuan Shao's official biography in the Records of the Three Kingdoms contains a quotation of the Dian lüe 典略 by Yu Huan, which says:

Dian lue says: “Since this, Yuan Shao’s tribute to the Emperor became infrequent and lingering. His Master of Records Geng Bao 耿苞 secretly expressed: ‘The virtue of red[n 1] is waning and the Yuanare descendants of yellow 黃. 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.

Furthermore, the Yuan family traced their ancestry back through the high nobility of the Spring and Autumn state of Chen 陳 to Duke Hu 胡. Duke Hu was a descendant of the legendary Emperor Shun 舜. One Liu Xin 劉歆[n 2] of Former Han made a reconstruction of past ages and claimed that Shun must've reigned Yellow through the Power of Earth. So by this logic, the Yuan family had a claim to succeed the Han.



Advisors / StrategistsEdit



  • Bi Yu

See alsoEdit


  1. In reference to the Han, which reigned Red through the Power of Fire.
  2. The theory of the cycle of natural succession arose under Liu Xin and his father Liu Xiang 向.


  1. Pei Songzhi. annotations to "Book of Wei 6," Records of the Three Kingdoms.