Gan Ning

Gan Ning


Gān Níng (175–219/220?) was a military general for Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms era of China. He was born in Linjiang in the Ba Prefecture and took the style name of Xīngbà (興霸). He gained the titles of General Who Oppresses the Enemy with Ferocity and Grand Administrator of Xiling during his military career.

Gan Ning was rough but forthright and head strong. He was open-minded, valorous and skilled in strategy. His lack of respect for material goods was balanced by his respect for talented men. Gan Ning was extravagant and often covered his travelling quarters in silk only to cut the cloth up when he left. He travelled surrounded by carriages and steeds or when by water, galleys or light ships. Ironically, he hated wealth. Throughout his younger years, he paid no heed to chivalry and often committed murder, both in public and in secret.

Early life

During his youth, Gan Ning gathered a gang of fellow idle youths to become pirates. They carried bells as a trademark, causing commoners to either run or hide or invite the party to a feast in order to avoid being looted. He continued the actions of looting, robbing and killing until he was in his early 20s. It was then that Gan Ning began to read literature from various intellectuals. This convinced him to put an end to his life of crime and he sought out Liu Biao's patronage, who rejected him for his background.

Instead, he went to join Huang Zu, who did not trust him and gave him an unworthy position. In an attack against Huang Zu by Sun Quan at the Battle of Xiakou, Gan Ning killed Ling Cao, saving Huang Zu. Still, Huang Zu did not respect him.

Joining Sun Quan

Gan Ning, irritated, sought to join Sun Quan. Su Fei, his friend, had recommended Gan Ning on many occasions. However, Huang Zu would not listen. Huang Zu had even tricked some of Gan Ning's followers to desert him, fearing his strength and reputation. Gan Ning was afraid that he would not get permission to leave. Su Fei invited him to a feast and told him that he was going to recommend him for the chieftainship of the Zhu prefecture. There, Gan Ning could cross the border and join Sun Quan. Gan Ning was grateful and was transferred to the Zhu prefecture on Su Fei's recommendation. Upon arriving, Gan Ning left with those who would follow him.

Ling Cao, father of Ling Tong, was killed by Gan Ning. Ling Tong repeatedly tried to avenge his father's death, so much so that Gan Ning went out of his way to avoid Ling Tong. Sun Quan also ordered Ling Tong not to bear a grudge against Gan Ning. However at a party, a confrontation arose between the two, and Ling Tong attacked him. Gan Ning fended Ling off with his chair. Sun Quan became aware of Ling Tong's intentions and ordered Gan Ning to the garrison at Banzhou.

Gan Ning was recommended by both Zhou Yu and Lü Meng. On Gan Ning's advice, Sun Quan marched west to destroy Huang Zu once and for all. Sun Quan captured Huang Zu and took his soldiers prisoner. Gan Ning was given a military command and was ordered to the Dangkou Garrison.

Gan Ning then requested amnesty for Su Fei when Sun Quan ordered the heads of Huang Zu and Su Fei after Huang Zu's defeat. He was willing to give his own head in exchange if Fei was given mercy. Sun Quan was moved by Gan Ning's words and granted amnesty to Su Fei.

Following Zhou Yu's attack on Wulin and Nanjun, Gan Ning won many important victories and was promoted to General Who Oppresses the Enemy with Ferocity. He also followed Lu Su to guard Yiyang and to defend against Guan Yu. Gan Ning asked for 500 additional men to fight along with his 300. He was given 1000 men. It was said that Guan Yu knew of Gan Ning's prowess, and for this reason alone, did not advance on Lu Su. Even today, the location of Guan Yu's camp is called "Guan Yu's Shallows."

Afterwards, Gan Ning followed Sun Quan to attack Wan, a city then under Cao Cao's Kingdom of Wei, and was put in charge of taking the city walls. He did so, felling its leader, Zhu Guang, with an iron chain, who was then killed by Wu soldiers attacking the city walls with Sun Quan himself hitting the drums, and the city was captured. He was then given the title of Rank-Breaking General, second in credit to Lü Meng. After the battle, when the Wu army was celebrating in a feast, Ling Tong, who arrived with the call of Sun Quan, was jealous of the credit that Gan Ning received, and, according to the historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", after staring at him for a long time, took out his sword and at the feast, and said to the others, 'Let me entertain you with my swordplay', seeking to kill Gan Ning in the middle of his play. Gan Ning, predicting his purpose, took out two halberds and said, 'Watch me handle my halberds in front of the feast.' Lü Meng, understanding their intention, took out his shield and sword, and fended them off each other.

Later, Sun Quan was held off by Zhang Liao when attacking Hefei from Ruxu, and, hearing that Cao Cao himself has come to the city's aid with a 400,000 strong army, Zhang Zhao, an advisor of Eastern Wu, proposed raiding the camps of the Wei army. According to the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", Ling Tong volunteered to do so with only 3,000 men. Gan Ning upon hearing this mocked him and said, 'One hundred horsemen are enough already, why is there the need of 3,000?' Sun Quan, afraid of the might of Cao Cao's army, rejected Gan Ning and told Ling Tong with his 3,000 men to attack. The attack failed as Ling Tong was held off by Zhang Liao and Sun Quan ordered Ling Tong to return. Seeing the failure, Gan Ning told Sun Quan that he would raid Cao Cao's camp with only 100 horsemen, and that even if he lost only one man or horse, it would count as a failure. Sun Quan, seeing his bravery, accepted and encouraged him. They were sent a special feast from Sun Quan. With his horsemen, Gan Ning sneaked into the camp and attacked. There were no Wu casualties, and Sun Quan ordered Zhou Tai to help him get back to the Wu camp. When Gan Ning was returning, Cao Cao, fearing an ambush, did not dare to pursue him. After returning to the Wu camp, Sun Quan, seeing his success, granted him one thousand pieces of silk and a hundred sharp swords, and exclaimed, 'Mengde(Cao Cao's styled name) has Zhang Liao, and I have Gan Xingba (Gan Ning's styled name).'

Later, Ling Tong, seeing Gan Ning's accomplishment, volunteered to attack Zhang Liao with a 5,000 strong army. Sun Quan led Gan Ning to watch his long time rival, Ling Tong, battling an enemy Wei general, Yue Jin, in a duel. Cao Cao, seeing that Yue Jin couldn't win, ordered Cao Xiu to shoot Ling Tong from behind. Ling Tong fell off his horse. Yue Jin immediately came to finish Ling Tong off with his spear. Seeing this, Gan Ning took a bow and shot Yue Jin in the face. When Ling Tong found out that it was Gan Ning who saved him, he ceased all hostility with him and they became dear friends afterwards. Later in the Battle of Hefei, Sun Quan was surrounded and nearly killed, and then forced to retreat months later.

Later, as Lü Meng and Lu Xun attacked the province of Jing which was held by Guan Yu under the Kingdom of Shu at that time, Gan Ning was ordered to become the vanguard. Guan Yu, fearing his reputation, stopped his army immediately and set up fortifications.


After Guan Yu was killed, Liu Bei, ruler of the Kingdom of Shu, sought revenge. Gan Ning died of illness before a decisive battle could come out of Yiling.

"Romance of the Three Kingdoms", however, created another ending for Gan Ning. In the novel, he was very ill when the Shu forces attacked Yiling. Even so, he went into battle. However, despite the man's amazing prowess, Gan Ning fled the field at the sight of the barbarian king Sha Moke, who was serving under Shu. As he retreated, Sha Moke fired an arrow at Gan Ning that struck his head. Gan Ning fled, wounded, and managed to reach Fuchikou. Here he dismounted and sat under a tree where he died. It is said that hundreds of crows surrounded his corpse as if to protect him. He was later avenged by Zhou Tai, who personally slayed Sha Moke when the Shu army was defeated. Sun Quan greatly grieved for him and erected a temple where he died dedicated to him.

Modern references

Gan Ning is a playable character in Koei's "Dynasty Warriors" video game series. He has been featured as a unique character from the second installment ("Dynasty Warriors 2") onwards.

Gan Ning is portrayed in similar fashion to a Bōsōzoku; vulgar, brash and extremely confident in his own skills. His clothing is always accompanied by his trademark bells, and his torso is heavily tattooed. He wields a large dao called the "Sea Master". In "Dynasty Warriors 5", Gan Ning's "Musou Mode" (story mode) revolves around his bitter conflict and subsequent friendship with Ling Tong. He initially kills Ling Tong's father, Ling Cao, in battle. This leads to strong hostility and rivalry from Ling Tong early in the game. Towards the end, Gan Ning rescues Ling Tong from a potentially fatal situation at Hefei, which then leads to a firm friendship between the pair.

Gan Ning's appearance changes greatly in Dynasty Warriors 6. Instead of a dao he now wields two elaborately decorated knives and for the first time wears armor, which is garishly adorned with bells and a feather cape.

Gan Ning also appears in Warriors Orochi, a crossover between Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors. In this game, he appears aiding Azai Nagamasa and Oichi but, all three join Wei after being defeated by them in battle.

ee also

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

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