Xiahou Dun

Xiahou Dun

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name=Xiahou Dun

Caption=Illustration of Xiahou Dun swallowing his own eyeball from a Qing Dynasty edition of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
Title=Military general
Kingdom=Cao Wei
Pinyin=Xiàhóu Dūn
WG=Hsiahou Tun
Zi=Yuanrang (元讓)
Post=Marquis Zhong (忠侯)
Other=Blind Xiahou (盲夏侯)

Xiahou Dun (? – 220) was a military general under the powerful warlord Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. Cao Cao's original family name was Xiahou, but his father, Song, was adopted by the Cao family, so Dun and Cao share family relations. One of the most trusted men of Cao Cao's, Xiahou Dun aided the warlord in his campaigns against Liu Bei, Sun Quan, and Lü Bu.

Xiahou Dun lost his left eye during a battle in 198 AD, and subsequently became known among the rank and file as "Blind Xiahou", which greatly irked him. His image as a one-eyed warrior was later popularized by the historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", in which he was said to have yanked the arrow fired by enemy general Cao Xing out of his eye and devoured his own eyeball to instill fear in his enemies.

The "Records of Three Kingdoms" describes Xiahou Dun as a modest and generous man. He personally fetched his teacher to the camp so that he could continue his studies during the midst of battle. He also distributed any excess wealth he had, taking from the treasury only in need, and did not own any property. At his death, he was given the posthumous title of Marquis Zhong (忠侯), literally meaning the loyal marquis.


Xiahou Dun was born in the county of Qiao (譙, present day Bozhou, Anhui). At the age of fourteen, Xiahou Dun killed a man who insulted his teacher. His fiery personality had been well-known ever since. In 190, Xiahou Dun joined Cao Cao as the latter was raising an army to join the coalition against the tyrannical warlord, Dong Zhuo.Xiahou Dun had been a close aide to Cao Cao during the initial battles against Dong Zhuo as well as the Battle of Yanzhou, and was made a deputy commander. However, he suffered a huge humiliation in 194 when he was held hostage in his own camp. At that time, Cao Cao was leading a campaign against Tao Qian (the governor of the Xuzhou (present day northern Jiangsu) whom Cao Cao accused of killing his father, leaving Xiahou Dun to guard the city of Puyang.

While Xiahou Dun was guarding the city, Zhang Miao and Chen Gong rebelled. They colluded with Lü Bu, a mighty warrior leading a wandering army, and quickly occupied most of Yanzhou (present day western Shandong). Xiahou Dun immediately drew on a light cavalry force and headed for Juancheng, where Cao Cao's family resided.

On the way, Xiahou Dun ran into Lü Bu's army. Lü Bu evaded the encounter and came for Puyang. With its commander out in the field, Puyang soon felled. Lü Bu then sent envoys to Xiahou Dun, pretending to surrender. Lü Bu's followers then took Xiahou Dun hostage within his own tent, and demanded a heavy ransom.

Fortunately, Xiahou Dun's subject Han Hao was calm and collected throughout the crisis. He quickly took over command of the troops and refused negotiations with the captors. He then ordered soldiers to storm Xiahou Dun's tent. Not expecting such hardline response, the traitors surrendered and were executed.

When Cao Cao learned of the rebellion, he hastily returned and laid siege on Lü Bu in Puyang. After more than hundred days of stalemate, a famine breakout forced Lü Bu to give up his position and seek refuge under Liu Bei in Xiapi.

Lü Bu soon turned on his host, however, and took control of Xiapi, sending Liu Bei to nearby town of Xiaopei. In 198, Lü Bu even deployed his general Gao Shun to attack Xiaopei. Under the request from Liu Bei, Cao Cao sent Xiahou Dun to engage Gao Shun. Xiahou Dun, however, lost the battle, during which his left eye was struck by an arrow; Xiahou Dun in response famously ripped the arrow out of his eye socket and ate his own eyeball. After personally leading an army to defeat Lü Bu, Cao Cao compensated Xiahou Dun by promoting him to Jianwu General.(建武將軍).

Xiahou Dun then spearheaded an agricultural program in the proximity of Chenliu (southeast of present day Kaifeng, Henan). He instructed workers to dam up the Taishou River (太壽水, a distributary of Huai River) so as to create a large pond. He then encouraged the people to grow paddy rice in the inundated land. The program greatly aided the people during the years of severe famine.

In 202, Xiahou Dun was sent to fight against Liu Bei's invasion in the Battle of Bowang, where Liu Bei suddenly set his own camp on fire. Xiahou Dun gave chase despite warnings by Li Dian, and his army was defeated when Liu Bei's forces ambushed him.

After Cao Cao's death in 220, his successor Cao Pi forced the last emperor of the Han Dynasty to abdicate and subsequently assumed the throne as the first emperor of the Kingdom of Wei. Cao Pi then made Xiahou Dun the Supreme General (大將軍). Xiahou Dun, however, died of illness just months later, as if to follow Cao Cao into the afterlife.


Xiahou Dun was said to be a righteous but violent man, kind and loyal to friends and family, ruthless and merciless to his enemies. He was considered Cao Cao's right-hand man and was said to often ride in the same carriage as his master, a privilege not even extended to Cao Cao's personal bodyguards Dian Wei and Xu Chu.

As a military general, however, his fiery personality was more often a hindrance than help. While his physical prowess was unquestioned, his military successes were few and far between. It was under his leadership that Cao Cao's forces fell to an ambush at the Battle of Bowang, costing thousands of men their lives when he pursued Liu Bei's forces into a nearby gulley. A fire attack was launched, and in the chaos many of Cao Cao's elite troops were killed. On another occasion, Xiahou Dun was captured and held hostage in his own camp by traitors. He was rescued when his subordinates refused to negotiate and attacked, slaying his captors.

When he was made a governor, Xiahou Dun quickly found his calling. Besides damming up the Taishou River and encouraging people to plant paddy in the resulting inundated land, he was also said to have personally joined in the planting. He gained a reputation for generosity because of his habit of distributing wealth among his people and keeping very little for himself. Because of this, he was well-loved by his people.

His hot-temper was well-known, however. Following the loss of his eye, he learned that he was nicknamed "the Blind Xiahou" by others. He despised the name, and according to the "Records of Three Kingdoms", whenever he caught sight of his face in a mirror, he would rip the mirror out and smash it into the ground.

Even more famous than his temper was his loyalty. An anecdote goes that when Cao Cao was made King of Wei, he gave titles to his generals but gave Xiahou Dun a title from the Han Empire, rather than the land of Wei. Xiahou Dun questioned Cao Cao about it, and the Wei ruler stated that great officers should belong to great lands, and that the land of Wei was not grand enough for an officer of Xiahou Dun's caliber. While touched, Xiahou Dun refused the Han title and requested a Wei title instead, demonstrating his loyalty to his master over his loyalty to the Han Emperor.

Xiahou Dun in Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", a historical novel by Luo Guanzhong, was a romanticization of the events that occurred before and during the Three Kingdoms era. In the novel, Xiahou Dun was said to be a cousin of Cao Cao, while his loss of an eye was also made much more dramatic than it probably was.

In 198, Xiahou Dun was sent to engage Gao Shun and Cao Xing, two aides of Lü Bu, outside Xiaopei (小沛). As his force came upon the enemies, Xiahou Dun rode forward with spear set to offer a challenge. Gao Shun took him on and the two dueled for forty or fifty bouts before Gao Shun, feeling outmatched, retreated. Xiahou Dun pursued him deep into the enemy lines. While Xiahou Dun was giving chase, Cao Xing secretly took aim and fired an arrow at Xiahou Dun. The arrow hit the target right in the left eye. With a cry, Xiahou Dun pulled out the arrow along with his eyeball. "Essence of my father, blood of my mother, I cannot throw this away," he exclaimed and swallowed the eye.

His spear firmly held up, Xiahou Dun then came straight for Cao Xing. With no time to react, Cao Xing was impaled right in the face and died beneath his nemesis' horse.

When Guan Yu surrenders to Cao Cao after Liu Bei is defeated at Xuzhou, Xiahou Dun is one of those skeptical of Guan Yu. After Guan Yu slays six commanders of the five passes after leaving the service of Cao Cao in search of Liu Bei, Xiahou Dun chases Guan Yu and is about to fight the latter when Zhang Liao arrives with orders from Cao Cao to let Guan Yu leave.

Xiahou Dun's death in the novel is attributed to the shock he receives from an encounter with Guan Yu's ghost rather than simple illness.

Modern references

Unlike his lord Cao Cao, Xiahou Dun tends to be viewed somewhat sympathetically (possibly because of his loyalty to his family). When he appears in anime or manga, he is often shown as being one of Cao Cao's top generals and most trusted advisors. He is portrayed as both courageous and just, in contrast to Cao Cao's infamous deceit and ruthlessness.

Xiahou Dun appears in Koei's "Dynasty Warriors" video game series. He wields a wolf's teeth club named Rock Smasher in "Dynasty Warriors 6". He wields a dao in 1 through 5. In every game he wears an eye patch.

Xiahou Dun is portrayed in the card, Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed [http://ww2.wizards.com/gatherer/CardDetails.aspx?&id=10590] from the set .

The Xiahou Clan

Direct descendants

*Xiahou Chong (夏侯充)
**Xiahou Yi (夏侯廙)
***Xiahou Zuo (夏侯佐)
***Xiahou Shao (succeeded Xiahou Zuo but is not a direct descendant of Xiahou Yi) (夏侯劭)
*Xiahou Mao (夏侯楙)

Immediate Family

*Xiahou Lian (younger brother) (夏侯廉)

Extended family

*Xiahou Yuan¹ (younger cousin)
*Xiahou Shang (nephew) (夏侯尚)
**Xiahou Xuan (夏侯玄)
***Xiahou Ben (grandnephew of Xiahou Shang) (夏侯本)
*Xiahou Ru (adopted cousin, adopted brother of Xiahou Shang) (夏侯儒)
*Xiahou En (distant nephew) (夏侯恩)
*Xiahou De (fictitious nephew in the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms") (夏侯德)
*Xiahou Feng (distant grandnephew, nephew of Xiahou Shang) (夏侯奉)

Uncertain relationships

*Xiahou Lan (夏侯蘭)
*Xiahou Cun (夏侯存)
*Xiahou Xian (夏侯獻)

¹ For a complete list of Xiahou Yuan's descendants, see Xiahou Yuan.


*cite book|author=Chen Shou|title=San Guo Zhi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=2002|id=ISBN 7-80665-198-5
*cite book|author=Luo Guanzhong|title=San Guo Yan Yi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=1986|id=ISBN 7-80520-013-0
*cite book|author=Lo Kuan-chung; tr. C.H. Brewitt-Taylor|title=Romance of the Three Kingdoms|publisher=Tuttle Publishing|year=2002|id=ISBN 0-8048-3467-9

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*"Records of Three Kingdoms"
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

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