Zhu Ran 朱然 was nominated by Lü Meng to replace him as the defender of Jing province. Lü Meng's trust was rewarded as Zhu Ran withstood the siege of Jiangling against a superior Wei force.


When he was younger, Zhu Ran was a member of the Shi clan (施). Zhu Zhi had no sons of his own and so when Ran was 13, Zhu Zhi begged Sun Ce that he may take Ran as his heir.

Zhu Ran studied alongside Sun Quan and the two were close friends. In 200 A.D., Sun Ce died and Sun Quan took over affairs within Wu; Zhu Ran, 19 at the time, was appointed Chief of Yuyao (餘姚). He was transferred to Magistrate of Shanyin (山陰) county and (折衝) Colonel, with authority over five counties. Sun Quan thought Zhu Ran to be a man of rare talent, so he further promoted him; splitting Danyang (丹楊) commandery to make Linchuan (臨川), Zhu Ran was appointed Grand Administrator of this new commandery and given a command of 2,000 soldiers, which he used to pacify the growing number of mountain bandits.

In 217 A.D., Cao Cao attacked Ruxu (濡須) for a second time. Zhu Ran constructed a large dock and three camps for the defence. Zhu Ran was promoted to Lieutenant-General.

In 219 A.D., Sun Quan launched the offensive to take Shu-Han general, Guan Yu. As part of Lü Meng's plan, Zhu Ran and Pan Zhang were tasked with cutting the western passages into Yi province, thereby isolating Guan Yu and securing his defeat.[1] Ran and Zhang headed to Jiashi (夾石) in Linju (臨沮), where a Major of Zhang's captured Guan Yu and several other Shu-Han officers, and Pan Zhang had him executed.[2] Zhu Ran was promoted to General Who Shines in Martial Virtue (昭武將軍) and ennobled as Marquis of Xi'an (西安) Village.

General Lü Meng had been ill prior to the campaign against Guan Yu, and leading the Wu forces against him didn't help his condition. Lü Meng was getting sicker and Sun Quan asked: "Sir, if you do not recover, who can replace you?" Lü Meng replied: "Zhu Ran has bravery in excess, I believe you should appoint him." And so when Lü Meng died, Zhu Ran was bestowed the Staff of Authority and tasked with safeguarding Jiangling (江陵).

In 221 A.D. the inevitable retribution for the death of Guan Yu came; Liu Bei led his forces east, overrunning western Jing province. Under the command of Lu Xun, Zhu Ran was commanding 5,000 troops at Yidu (宜都) county. During the battle, Ran first broke the Shu-Han spearhead then later severed Liu Bei's supply lines. After Liu Bei's defeat, Ran was promoted to General Who Subdues the North and enfeoffed as Marquis of Yong'an (永安).

Following Liu Bei's defeat, many generals wanted to pursue Liu Bei and finish him off, but Zhu Ran, among others, were afraid that Cao Pi was plotting to invade;[3] their suspicions proved true as Cao Pi attacked Wu on three fronts. Cao Pi dispatched Cao Zhen, Xiahou Shang and Zhang He to attack Jiangling, where Zhu Ran was stationed. The numerous camps of the Wei forces were littered around Jiangling. To relieve Jiangling, Sun Quan dispatched Sun Sheng with 10,000 troops who set up a fortified dock on the nearby river islet in order to support Jiangling. But an attack by Zhang He routed Sun Sheng's forces and gave Wei control of the islet.

Now Jiangling was completely isolated from the outside. The enemy sappers attempted to tunnel into the city, others raised mounds of earth on top of which they built towers overlooking the city, and rained arrows upon the defenders. And to make matters worse, the men inside the city suffered from disease, those capable of battle were reduced to 5,000. Those within the city were petrified, yet Zhu Ran held his composure; he held his nerve even in this desperate situation and rallied his officers and soldiers; he studied the enemy formation, looking for openings in their defence and managed to destroy two of their camps.

Jiangling had been besieged daily for six months and the enemy had not yet retreated. Sun Quan had sent Zhuge Jin, Pan Zhang and Yang Can to relieve the siege, but Zhuge Jin had proved little help and had been routed,[4][5] and Pan Zhang had headed upstream in order to prepare a fire attack against the Wei forces.[6] The Magistrate of Jiangling, Yao Tai, had commanded the soldiers protecting the northern gate of the city; he had becoming increasing scared due to the numerical disadvantage, sickness and exhaustion of supplies, as such, he had started communicating with the besieging forces to broker a deal. However, Zhu Ran discovered the betrayal and had Yao Tai executed. Unable to break the city, the Wei forces had no choice but to withdraw. Because of his staunch defence, Zhu Ran's name became known throughout the Wei empire and he was enfeoffed as Marquis of Dangyang (當陽).

In 226 A.D., hearing of the death of the Wei Emperor Cao Pi, Sun Quan wished to lead an attack against Jiangxia commandery. Sun Quan himself led the attack against Shiyang (石陽) but could not find any advantage so retreated. But during the night, the enemy pursuit force cut off Pan Zhang's retreat, isolating him. Zhu Ran immediately turned about and repelled the enemy. Zhu Ran sent his fleet on ahead and maintained the rearguard himself, he only withdrew once the rest of the Wu forces had safely retreated.

In 229 A.D., Zhu Ran was promoted to General of Chariots and Cavalry and Protector of the Army of the Right, and appointed as Governor of Yan province. However, when Sun Quan declared himself Emperor of Wu, despite objection of other Shu-Han ministers, Zhuge Liang wanted to renew the old Sun-Liu alliance that had broken down a decade ago. As part of the alliance, the two states divided Wei among themselves and Yan province was promised to Shu-Han,[7] so in the end, Zhu Ran was relieved of the office of Yan province.

In 234 A.D, Wu and Shu-Han both raised forces for a simultaneous attack on Wei. Zhu Ran was promoted to Commander of the Left and granted the Ceremonial Battle-axe and the Wu forces attacked the New City of Hefei (新城). However, Sun Quan's soldiers suffered from disease, so the Wu forces found no success.

In the 7th month of 237 A.D.[n 1], Zhu Ran was sent with 20,000 troops to attack Zuzhong (柤中) in northern Jiangxia (江夏) commandery[n 2]. The Wei generals Pu Zhong and Hu Zhi each led several 1,000 troops to oppose him. Pu Zhong decided to take his troops and cut Zhu Ran's ran by occupying strategic passes while Hu Zhi had his forces ready to lend support. At the time, Ran's troops were spread about, yet when he heard that he had been isolated, Zhu Ran did not recall them. Instead, he pretended he was unaware of Zhong's actions and used the 800 soldiers with him to launch a surprise attack and defeat the Wei generals.[8]

In the 4th month (28 Apr-27 May.) of 241 A.D.[9][n 3], Zhu Ran besieged Yi Xiu at Fan (樊) castle who urgently called for help. Xiahou Ru came to the aid of Fan, yet had very few soldiers, so he camped at Dengsai (鄧塞) and had all his men beating drums and blowing horns to simulate a large army. Zhu Ran backed off a little, but soon returned to the siege.[10] In the sixth month, Sima Yi and Hu Zhi arrived with light-armoured forces to relieve the siege; during the night, Zhu Ran withdrew.[11][12][n 4]

Zhu Ran attacked Zuzhong again in the second month (5 Mar.-2 Apr.) of 246 A.D. Hearing of Zhu Ran's deep incursion into their territory, Li Xing led 6,000 infantry and cavalry to attempt to cut of his rear and isolate him. But during the night, Zhu Ran attacked, and routed the Wei forces before withdrawing. Zhu Ran captured or killed over 1,000 people and 10,000 families fled Zuzhong and headed south across the Mian (沔) river into Nan commandery.[13][14] On his return, Zhu Ran was promoted to Grand Marshal of the Left and Commander of the Army of the Right.


In 247 A.D., Zhu Ran fell ill and over the following two years it gradually worsened. Sun Quan himself took it quite hard also; he ate less and could not sleep; he would send out envoys looking for medicine and would stand around watching for their return; and whenever Ran sent a memorial, Sun Quan would immediately have the messenger admitted, give them food and wine and ask about Ran's condition, then he would present them fine clothes and silks upon their departure. In the third month (31 Mar.-29 Apr.) of 249 A.D.[15], Zhu Ran passed away in Jiangling[n 5]. Sun Quan wore white clothes in mourning of him; of all his vassals, Lü Meng and Ling Tong's sickness hit him the hardest, then Zhu Ran's.

Although not more than 7 chi in height[n 6], he handled himself with distinction and his behaviour pure. When on the battlefield, he would remain clam and composed, even in the face of adversity; he would also maintain military discipline, even if there was no immediate crisis, he would still beat the drums every morning and evening and keep the soldiers in formation. And whenever Zhu Ran fought the enemy his actions would always be unpredictable, so the enemy could never prepare for him, hence through all his campaigns he achieved merit.





  1. Zhu Ran's SGZ says this event occurs in 242 A.D., but Sun's Yitong Commentary in Zhu Ran's SGZ discredits this date and states it lines up better with 237 A.D.
  2. According to the Xiangyangji: Zu is pronounced like the Zū in 租稅. Zuzhong is 75 km from Xiangyang.
  3. Not mentioned in Zhu Ran's SGZ, but mentioned in several other's accounts.
  4. Sima Yi's bio states that after the retreat, Sima Yi pursued Zhu Ran and killed or captured over 10,000 of his men. But such a defeat would have some mention in the Wu accounts, yet they only say Zhu Ran left; furthermore, Hu Zhi's SGZ doesn't mention any great battle; finally, Sima Yi's bio is not entirely reliable as events tend to get "exaggerated". So I've left out the defeat.
  5. Sun Quan's SGZ has Zhu Ran in Jiangling in 248 A.D., as he was bedridden he likely never left the city. Also his position meant he was garrisoned at Jiangling, so wouldn't likely leave.
  6. Approximately 24 cm equals 1 chi, so he's shorter than 1.7 m.

Fact vs. FictionEdit


  • …Zhu Ran was not killed by Zhao Yun at the Battle of Xiaoting.


  1. SGZ: Biography of Lü Meng.
  2. SGZ: Biography of Pan Zhang.
  3. SGZ: Biography of Lu Xun.
  4. SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Shang.
  5. SGZ: Biography of Sun Quan.
  6. SGZ: Biography of Pan Zhang.
  7. SGZ: Biography of Sun Quan.
  8. SGZ: Biography of Cao Rui.
  9. SGZ: Biography of Sun Quan.
  10. SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Ru quoted in the Wei Lue in the Biography of Zhang Ji.
  11. SGZ: Biography of Hu Zhi.
  12. History of Jin: Annals of Sima Yi.
  13. SGZ: Biography of Sun Quan.
  14. SGZ: Hanjin Chunqiu quoted in the Biography of Cao Fang.
  15. SGZ: Biography of Sun Quan.