Battle of Xiangyang (191)

Battle of Xiangyang (191)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Xiangyang
partof=the wars of the Three Kingdoms

date= 191
place=Xiangyang (present day Xiangfan, Hubei), Jing province
result=Liu Biao's victory
combatant1=Liu Biao
combatant2=Sun Jian
commander1=Huang Zu
commander2=Sun Jian†, Sun Ben
The Battle of Xiangyang in 191 was a battle between Sun Jian and Liu Biao during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period in China. Liu Biao emerged victorious against Sun Jian's forces. Shortly after their coalition had ousted Dong Zhuo from the capital city, Luoyang, Yuan Shu and Yuan Shao, two feudal lords vying for power, had formed alliances against one another, with Sun Jian and Gongsun Zan supporting Yuan Shu while Cao Cao and Liu Biao supported Yuan Shao. [ Comprehensive biography of Sun Jian] ] Sun Jian was asked by Yuan Shu to attack Liu Biao in order to extinguish Yuan Shao's influence in the southern half of China. Although Sun's forces initially outmanoeuvred and outfought Liu's, Sun Jian himself was killed in battle, forcing his army to retreat.


Sun Jian and his forces encountered the forces of Liu Biao's general, Huang Zu, between Fancheng and Deng (near modern day Xiangfan). There, he easily routed Huang's forces and surrounded the city of Xiangyang itself. Within the confines of the city, Liu Biao again sent Huang Zu out, this time to make a surprise sortie. However, Huang was again defeated, and when he attempted to withdraw to the city once more, Sun Jian cut off his line of retreat, and he fled to Xianshan. [ Sanguozhi biography of Sun Jian] ] Wishing to follow up on his success, Sun Jian pursued. According to Sun Jian's "Sanguozhi" biography, he was shot by a soldier in Huang Zu's unit who was hiding in a bamboo grove where he was carried off the battlefield and died. [ "Generals of the South", Rafe de Crespigny (page 124)] ] Other theories of Sun Jian's death include Sun Jian fighting in the wilderness and being killed, or being crushed to death by boulders thrown down from above in 193. "Record of Heroes"]


Sun Jian's death effectively ended the battle, although Liu's forces had suffered far more casualties. Huan Jie, one of Sun Jian's officers, successfully negotiated for Sun's corpse to be returned, and Sun Jian's army temporarily came under the control of Sun Jian's nephew, Sun Ben. Sun Ben then went to join Yuan Shu with most of Sun Jian's followers. Sun Ce, Sun Jian's eldest son, was given Sun Jian's marquisate, but chose to pass the position down to his youngest brother, Sun Kuang, who was still young.

Liu Biao's success allowed him to expand his influence in the Jing Province. Though he would be unable to defeat either Sun Ce or his successor, Sun Quan, he would nonetheless remain an influential figure in the Han for the rest of his life.

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

The battle and its justifications were altered somewhat by Luo Guanzhong in the Chinese novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". In this fictionalized account, Sun Jian attacks Liu Biao in order to get revenge for Liu Biao's routing of his army during his withdrawal from the coalition against Dong Zhuo. Sun Jian's younger brother, Sun Jing, attempts to dissuade him from this course of action, though Sun Jian refuses to listen. Sun Ce is granted a command position and does well in his first battle.

After initially defeating Huang Zu, Sun Jian's army surrounds Xiangyang as happened historically. Two fictional officers, Chen Sheng (陳生) and Zhang Hu (張虎), are killed quickly by Sun Jian (or, in some versions, Sun Ce) and Han Dang, respectively. Sun Jian dies in a rockslide rather than being shot, having been lured in by Lü Gong and Huang Zu thanks to the strategies of Kuai Liang. Huang Gai, Sun Jian's subordinate, manages to capture Huang Zu, and Cheng Pu kills Lü Gong, but the damage is already done, and Sun Ce is forced to withdraw.

Huan Jie's involvement in recovering Sun Jian's corpse is similar in the novel to what happened historically, though in the novel account, Huang Zu is traded for Sun Jian's corpse. Historically, there is no mention of Huang Zu being captured.Luo, Guanzhong "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"]

Modern references

The Battle of Xiangyang appears in video games such as "Dynasty Warriors", but the name of the battle changes with almost every release. After Sun Jian is killed, Sun Ce takes command of the army instead of Sun Ben. How Sun Jian dies changes with each game release possibly to reflect the confusion on how he died.


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