Li Dian

Li Dian

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name=Li Dian

Title=Scholarly general
Kingdom=Cao Cao
Pinyin=Lǐ Diǎn
WG=Li Tien
Zi=Mancheng (曼成)
Post=Marquis Min (愍侯)

Li Dian was a renowned scholarly general under the powerful warlord Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. He participated in the decisive Battle of Guandu between Cao Cao and rival warlord, Yuan Shao. Li Dian also played a significant role in the defense of Hefei during the Battle of Leisure Ford against the massive forces of Sun Quan.

According to the "Records of Three Kingdoms", Li Dian was a keen and humble learner who respected the literati. He did not fight with others for merits, and placed official affairs before himself.


A local of Juye, Li Dian's father Li Qian (李乾) had strong influence in the region. In the early 190s, Li Qian and his followers joined Cao Cao and participated in the warlord's subsequent campaigns against the Yellow Turban rebels, Yuan Shu, and Tao Qian.

During conflicts with Lü Bu in 194, Cao Cao bade Li Qian return to Chengshi (乘氏, present day Heze, Shandong) to reaffirm local support. Lü Bu's subjects Xue Lan (薛兰) and Li Feng (李封) tried to persuade Li Qian to defect but were rejected. Hence they killed Li Qian. Cao Cao then gave command of Li Qian's former troops to Li Dian's elder brother Li Zheng (李整), who was charged with avenging Li Qian. After the forces of Xue Lan and Li Feng were quelled, Li Zheng was made governor of Qingzhou (青州).

Following death of Li Zheng, the young Li Dian took over command of his father's former troops, although he was rather uninterested in military affairs. Recognizing Li Dian's intellects, Cao Cao made him governor of Lihu (离狐, southeast of present day Dongming, Shandong), primarily in charge of interior affairs.

In 200, Cao Cao confronted Yuan Shao at the famous Battle of Guandu. Leading his clansmen and subjects, Li Dian took charge of supplying the frontline troops with food and clothings. After Yuan Shao was defeated, Cao Cao launched his northern campaigns against Yuan Shao's heirs. Li Dian was again entrusted with logistics along with Cheng Yu. They struck out and eradicated an enemy force guarding the waterway to ensure the smooth delivery of military necessities.

In 205, Li Dian was sent to aid Xiahou Dun in the Battle of Bowang where he was to help defend against the attacks led by Liu Bei. Liu Bei burned his encampment and retreated abruptly, whereupon Xiahou Dun gave pursuit despite Li Dian's warnings. True enough, Xiahou Dun was ambushed by the enemy, who dispersed when Li Dian came to rescue with a relief force. In the same year, Li Dian and Yue Jin were also deployed to lay siege on traitor Gao Gan (高幹) at Hu Pass (壶关). Again Li Dian prevailed. He was then promoted to General who Captures Rebels (捕虏将军).

After Cao Cao lost the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208, he placed Zhang Liao, Yue Jin and Li Dian at Hefei with approximately 7,000 men to guard against advances of the southern warlord Sun Quan. Soon Sun Quan led a much more massive force upon Hefei, consisiting of approximately 200,000 men. Under instructions from Cao Cao, Zhang Liao and Li Dian picked 800 vanguard troops to deter the enemy at Leisure Ford (逍遥津). However, Zhang Liao feared that long-running uncordial relationships among the three might jeopardize their mission, but Li Dian assured him that affairs of the state should be placed before oneself. Unity among the generals despite their personal differences eventually ensured victory at the Battle of Leisure Ford.

It was not stated when Li Dian died, though his age at death was specified to be thirty-five. When Cao Pi succeeded Cao Cao in 220, he gave Li Dian the posthumous title of Marquis Min (愍侯), literally meaning the sympathetic marquis, in reminiscence of his merits at the Battle of Leisure Ford.


*cite book|author=Chen Shou|title=San Guo Zhi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=2002|id=ISBN 7-80665-198-5

ee also

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

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