Battle of Xiaoting

Battle of Xiaoting

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Xiaoting
partof=the Three Kingdoms period

date=July 221 – July 222 AD
place=Yiling, Hubei
result=Decisive Wu victory
combatant1=Eastern Wu
combatant2=Shu Han
commander1=Lu Xun
commander2=Liu Bei
casualties1=Tens of thousands
casualties2=Tens of thousands
The Battle of Xiaoting (猇亭之戰), also known as the Battle of Yiling (夷陵之戰), is a battle in 222 during the Three Kingdoms period in China. It was fought between Shu Han and Eastern Wu in the plains of Yiling. The decisive battle here halted Liu Bei's invasion of Wu and eventually led to his death.


Liu Bei, enraged at the execution of his sworn brother Guan Yu at the hands of the Kingdom of Wu in 219, led an attack force to the plains of Yiling. In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", it was dramatized by Luo Guanzhong to be 750,000 soldiers. Days before the Shu Kingdom mobilized its forces to attack Wu, Zhang Fei, the other sworn brother of Liu Bei, was assassinated by his own subordinates in retribution for treating them unfairly. The fact that these conspirators fled to Wu further enraged Liu Bei, who attacked Wu blindly against his officers' advice. The ablest of Shu's generals and the best troops were committed to this one campaign of retribution, with the exception of Zhuge Liang, who was left in charge of the domestic affairs of Shu, and Zhao Yun, who was ordered to look after logistics.

The battle

Contrary to the dramatization of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", in which Shu Han had an impressive 750,000 strong army and enjoyed five to one numerical advantage over Eastern Wu, the actual number of troops Shu Han could gather was barely over 40,000. Eastern Wu gathered a total of more than 160,000 troops and thus enjoyed a nearly four to one numerical advantage over Shu Han. The insufficient number of troops was one of the reasons that doomed Liu Bei's attempt to retake Jing Province, and eventually caused his downfall and death.

Order of battle

Shu Han: Liu Bei's plan was to be carried out in several fronts and stages, with the vanguard force tasked to strike deep into the enemy territory at Yidao (夷道) while the naval force was to take Yiling (夷陵) at the shore of the Yangtze River. Huang Quan's job was to guard the flank of the attacking force from possible attacks from Cao Wei. Additionally, Zhao Yun was stationed at Jiangzhou (江州) as backup, while Zhuge Liang stayed behind at Chengdu to help Liu Shan take care of domestic affairs.
*Commander-in-Chief: Liu Bei
*Frontline commander (Da Du, 大督): Feng Xi
*Vanguard: Zhang Nan (张南)
*Naval commander: Wu Ban
*Deputy naval commander: Chen Shi
*Zhenbei (镇北) General: Huang QuanThe total Shu force deployed in Wu was in excess of 40,000, and additional forces were mobilized in Shu, though they did not have the opportunity to participate in the battle.

Eastern Wu: Realizing its survival was at stake, Eastern Wu was thoroughly prepared and deployed its best commanders to defend important cities, and mobilized the largest concentration of troops available. Though Lu Xun was eventually ordered to take the overall command of Wu troops, this did not happen until the second half of the battle, and he was originally deployed as one of the many commanders.
*Commander-in-Chief: Lu Xun (Second half of the battle)
*Zhengwei (振威) General Pan Zhang defending Zigui (秭归)
*General Lu Yi (陆议) defending at Wu (巫) county
*General Li Yi (李异) defending Ba (巴) Mountain
*General Liu A (刘阿) defending Xing (兴) Mountain
*Naval commander Song Qian (宋谦) defending Zhijiang (枝江)
*Zhengxi (镇西) General Lu Xun defending Yiling (夷陵) (First half of the battle)
*Andong (安东) General Sun Huan defending Yidao (夷道)
*Zhaowu (昭武) General Zhu Ran defending Jiangling (江陵) with the help of general Han Dang
*Jianwu (建武) General Xu Sheng defending Danyang (当阳)
*Suide (绥德) General Zhuge Jin defending Gong'an (公安)
*Jianzhong (建中) General Luo Tong defending Chanling (孱陵)
*Pingwu (平武) General Bu Zhi defending Yiyang with the help of General Xianyu Dan (鲜于丹)
*Sun Quan stationed at Wuchang for supportEach general of Eastern Wu usually had around 10,000 troops under his command, and some of them had forces double the usual strength. The total Eastern Wu force that participated in the battle totaled in excess of 160,000, thus ensuring the numerical superiority over its enemy. This proved to be one of the important factors in its final victory.

First stage

Initially, generals of Eastern Wu had significantly underestimated the enemy's tenacity due to their numerical superiority. As the advancing Shu Han enemy took regions including Zigui (秭归), Wu (巫) county, Ba (巴) Mountain, and Xing (兴) Mountain, the Wu forces that ventured out their fortifications to engage the enemy were nearly annihilated. The initial defeat of Wu forced Sun Quan to adopt Lu Xun's strategy and name him the overall commander. Realizing that Shu Han forces were mostly infantry, much better in mountainous terrain than the Wu marines, Eastern Wu forces gave up territory and waited for the most opportune time to counterattack.

By January 222, Eastern Wu forces continued to retreat, letting Yiling (夷陵) be taken by Shu Han marines lead by Wu Ban and Chen Shi while at the same time, Liu Bei moved his headquarters forward to Zigui (秭归). Liu Bei did not stay at his new headquarters for long as Shu Han forces continued to make significant progress and pushed into the heart of Eastern Wu. In February 222, the vanguard of the Shu Han force reached deep behind enemy lines at Yidao (夷道) and badly mauled the defending Eastern Wu force in engagements outside the city. Sun Huan and his surviving Eastern Wu troops retreated behind the city walls and a stalemate was reached. Meanwhile, the main force of Shu Han, led by Liu Bei, reached Xiaoting (猇亭), where Lu Xun made his last stand. With Eastern Wu forces no longer retreating, another stalemate was reached.

As the supply lines from Chengdu grew longer, the Shu troops grew weary. As they advanced into Wu, the terrain became flatter, giving the Wu cavalry and navy a great advantage over the tired Shu infantry. Liu Bei deployed his troops in over fifty camps along the 350 km line from Wuxia (巫峡) to Yiling (夷陵), while his vanguard force was another 150 km further away, isolated at Yidao (夷道). The tide would soon turn in favor of Eastern Wu. Lu Xun, the competent young strategist who was given command of the Wu forces at the second half of the Battle of Yiling, was well aware that Wu must continue to wait. This was much to the dismay of most generals of Eastern Wu. While many of Wu's older officers questioned putting such a youth in charge, Lu Xun had been hand-picked by the ruler Sun Quan as the successor to previous Eastern Wu commander Lü Meng and Lu Xun's strategy was accepted before he reached his new post.

Since the beginning of March, 222, under Lu Xun's direction, the Eastern Wu forces refused to fight any more in mountainous terrain and stayed in their forts, thus taking away Shu's battlefield advantage. As Shu's supplies dwindled, the summer came on. Summer in those regions was extremely hot that year, and killed off many plants and shrubs, as Yiling was right on the Yangtze River next to a great forest. Liu Bei's forces were camped right outside the forest when Lu Xun reached his command, and soon the summer heat started affecting morale. The morale of Shu Han troops dropped further when Liu Bei's planned ambush failed: he had over 8,000 troops hiding in valleys under the command of Wu Ban, while the old and weak ones were sent to challenge Eastern Wu forces, in the hope of luring Wu forces out of their forts to the ambush. However, Lu Xun was smart enough to ignore the trap, and Shu Han forces only wasted more valuable supplies in the unsuccessful deployment.

econd stage

Lu Xun then adopted a waiting strategy similar to the one Sima Yi would later use against Zhuge Liang during the Northern Campaigns. Since the beginning of March, 222, Liu Bei's men challenged and taunted Lu Xun to send his forces out beyond his walls, but Lu Xun ordered his gates shut and refused to meet the taunts. Heat waves plagued Liu Bei's men during the standoff, and Liu Bei finally had to move his entire army, against Ma Liang's advice, into the forest for shade, in the dead heat of summer. Liu Bei's fatal error was exploited shortly after, in July 222, when Lu Xun's saboteurs crept behind Liu Bei's camp through the use of the navy and set the entire Yiling camp on fire. The woods, fueled by dead plants and dry air, erupted into wildfires that could not be put out, and as Liu Bei's men rushed for the water, Wu archers shot them down. Furthermore, when Shu Han attempted a counterattack, Pan Zhang's forces rushed forward, breaking the lines as they reformed, making retaliation impossible. The Shu Han navy performed slightly better by barely managing a somewhat orderly retreat: a Shu Han civilian official of Yizhou (益州从事祭酒) serving in the navy, Cheng Ji (程畿) led his force to remain and cover the retreat of others, and the Eastern Wu navy soon caught up with the slowly retreating rear guard of the Shu Han navy. Cheng Ji and his men were surrounded by the vanguard of the advancing Eastern Wu navy, but Cheng Ji personally held a halberd and joined the bloody fight, and led his men to sink all of the smaller boats of the Eastern Wu naval vanguard. However, such resistance was insufficient. When the main force of the Eastern Wu navy arrived, Cheng Ji and his men were killed. In the Romance of Three Kingdoms, the author chose a different death for Cheng Ji by depicting him committing suicide.

A rockslide at Ma'an Hills (马鞍山) dealt the final blow when out of the original fifty Shu Han camps in the 350 km stretch, over forty were destroyed. Liu Bei attempted to lead his surviving force at the hills to make last stand, but Lu Xun would not allow it. Lu Xun ordered Zhu Ran to lead five thousand men to cut off Liu Bei's surviving force, and he led Xu Sheng and Han Dang to continue the attack, thus would not provide any chance for Liu Bei to regroup. Liu Bei was not able to make the stand he wanted, and over ten thousand Shu Han troops were killed at Ma'an Hills. As Liu Bei narrowly escaped with his life to Baidicheng (White Emperor City) with less than a thousand men, the remaining surviving camps were set ablaze by retreating Shu Han troops themselves in order to deter the pursuing Wu army. The isolated vanguard of Shu Han forces at Yidao (夷道) 150 km further away from Yiling (夷陵) also completely perished, while at the same time while Shu Han commander Huang Quan, the General who Stablizes the North, and his deputies Shi He (史郃), the Administrator of the Southern Shire (南郡太守), and Pang Lin (庞林, the younger brother of Pang Tong), with their surviving force of 318 cavalries at the northern shore were forced to surrender to Eastern Wu as they were cut off. As Liu Bei fled to Zigui (秭归), the Eastern Wu troops soon followed. The demoralized Shu troops were not able to hold their ground, and Liu Bei was forced to continue his flight. Wang Fu, the civilian administrative official of Jing province, was killed in the ensuing battle, but his death bought time for Liu Bei to escape (In the Romance of Three Kingdoms, the author changed the date of Wang Fu's death by depicting him dying in Guan Yu's army when the Shu Han lost Jing province). The local Shu Han military commander, General of Standards (牙门将军), Xiang Chong (向寵) proved to be a capable officer and led an organized retreat without suffering any significant losses, while at the same time, safely escorting Liu Bei all the way back to safety several hundred mile away at the town of Yufu (鱼复, present day Fengjie County), later renamed as Young'an (永安) by Liu Bei before his death. For this great performance, Liu Bei promoted Xiang Chong (向寵) to the rank of Viceroy (都督). Xiang Chong (向寵) was able to fend off repeated Eastern Wu attacks on the city until the Shu Han reinforcement led by Zhao Yun arrived. The Eastern Wu troops outside the city of Young'an were forced to camp in the mountains to the south of the city. Thus a stalemate was reached before Eastern Wu troops were eventually forced to retreat. Most of the capable Shu Han commanders were killed in the battle. Only Wu Ban and Chen Shi, the commanders of the Shu Han naval forces, managed to escape back to Shu Han.

Afterwards, the stress of the crushing defeat and the loss of his beloved generals took their toll. Extremely ill at the age of sixty-three, Liu Bei's life ended at Baidicheng. Ma Liang, Liu Bei's military adviser for the Wu Retribution Campaign and the person who had advised him not to camp in the forest, later died in an uprising in Wu Ling.


The Battle of Yiling in 222 sealed Shu Han's fate as most of the entire army was killed or captured in a period of two days. Thereafter Shu Han's power was directed by Zhuge Liang, who eventually established ties with Eastern Wu.

The prestige of such a victory established Eastern Wu as the undisputed ruler of southern Jing province. Lu Xun, the young general who defeated Liu Bei, won recognition throughout the land as a great strategist. This battle marked the beginning of Lu Xun's illustrious career within the Eastern Wu hierarchy, culminating in his becoming the Prime Minister of Eastern Wu.

Liu Bei's death also led to the ascension of his less capable son Liu Shan, who would eventually lead Shu Han to defeat.

Fictional events

*In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", the Wu general Gan Ning is slain by the barbarian king Shamoke, who was asked to participate by Liu Bei.
*The elderly Shu general Huang Zhong is also killed in battle by an arrow fired by the Wu general Ma Zhong.
*In reality, General Gan Ning and General Huang Zhong had both passed on before the campaign took place. Gan Ning died of illness (rumored to be dysentery) and Huang Zhong most likely died of old age or illness.
*The Wu general Zhu Ran wasn't slain by Zhao Yun while pursuing Liu Bei. As a matter of fact, Zhu Ran outlived Zhao Yun.
*Pan Zhang wasn't killed by Guan Xing (who was a civil administrator, not a general), but rather died of illness. *Similarly, the Wu generals Xie Jing, Li Yi, and Tan Xiong were not slain by Guan Xing and Zhang Bao (who, likewise, is not recorded to have participated in any battles).
*Prior to the battle, Ma Zhong wasn't slain by Mi Fang. Further, Mi Fang, who had defected to Wu while serving Guan Yu, never attempted to return to Liu Bei's service, but served Wu until his death.
*Zhuge Liang was never opposed to the Wu campaign, but stayed behind to defend Chengdu. Zhao Yun did oppose the campaign, however.
*The numbers in the novel are greatly exaggerated for Shu, stating that Liu Bei gathered around 750,000 troops including troops from the western Qiang tribe.
*Also, Lu Xun was trapped in Zhuge Liang's Stone Sentinel Maze while in pursuit of the fleeing Liu Bei. He was guided out by Huang Chengyan, Zhuge Liang's father-in-law, who explained the array to Lu Xun. Lu Xun then exclaimed that he can never top the genius of Zhuge Liang. While such a maze is rumored to exist, there is no proof that Lu Xun ever needed to pass through it.

In Popular culture

In the "Dynasty Warriors" series for the Playstation 2, the Battle of Xiaoting, called the Battle of Yiling in the game, is a major turning point in the story. Players can follow history and burn the Shu camp to gain an advantage. The Stone Sentinel Maze also is a nuisance to players as the minimap is disabled upon entering.


*Luo, Guanzhong "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Battle of Red Cliffs — For the film also known as The Battle of Red Cliff, see Red Cliff (film). Battle of Red Cliffs Part of the wars of the Three Kingdoms …   Wikipedia

  • Zhuge Liang — Chancellor of Shu Han Born 181 Yangdu, Langya Commandery (present day Yinan County, Shandong) …   Wikipedia

  • List of battles before 601 — List of battles: before 601 601 1400 1401 1800 1801 1900 1901 2000 2001 current See also: List of Roman battles Before 500 BC5th century BC4th century BC*398 BC Siege of Motya Phoenician city Motya sacked. *397 BC Battle of Messene Ionian Greek… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Chinese battles — The following is a list of Chinese wars and battles, organized by date. The list is not exhaustive. Contents 1 Ancient China 2 Imperial China 2.1 Qin Dynasty (221 BC–207 BC) 2.2 Chu Han …   Wikipedia

  • Timeline of Chinese history — History of China ANCIENT …   Wikipedia

  • Deng Zhi — This is a Chinese name; the family name is Deng. Deng Zhi Minister of Shu Han Born (Unknown) Xinye, Xiangyang Died 251 Names …   Wikipedia

  • Sun Quan — Three Kingdoms infobox Name=Sun Quan Caption= Portrait of Sun Quan by an unknown artist. Title= Founder and Emperor Kingdom=Eastern Wu Born=182 Died=252 (aged 70) Predecessor=Sun Ce Successor=Sun Liang Simp=孙权 Trad=孫權 Pinyin=Sūn Quán WG=Sun Chuan …   Wikipedia

  • Chen Shi — Traditional Chinese 陳式 Simplified Chinese 陈式 Transcriptions …   Wikipedia

  • Sun Lang — Chinese t=孫朗 s=孙朗Sun Lang, styled Zaoan (早安), was an illegitimate son of Sun Jian, a military commander of the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms period. He is mistakenly referred to as Sun Ren in some versions of the novel Romance of the Three… …   Wikipedia

  • Oath of the Peach Garden — Traditional Chinese 桃園三結義 Simplified Chinese 桃园三结义 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.