Han Xuan was a minor warlord and the Administrator (太守) of Changsha (長沙) commandery during the late Han Dynasty. He served under Liu Biao, governor of Jing Province, for three years. After Liu Biao's death, the northern part of Jing Province was divided between two of Liu Biao's sons, Liu Qi and Liu Cong. The southern portion was divided between four Administrators, Zhao Fan, Jin Xuan, Liu Du and Han Xuan. Eventually, Changsha became an independent region under Han Xuan, and his land remained undisturbed by the other warlords for two years. Then in 210, Liu Bei invaded Jing Province, capturing all the lands from their leaders.
Liu Bei's conquest of Changsha was dramatized in Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, in which a series of fictional events were created by the author, including: When Liu Bei sent Guan Yu to take Changsha, Han Xuan sent his best general, Huang Zhong to engage the enemy. They arrived at a draw after two duels, and the third time Huang was ordered to fire an arrow at Guan. He intentionally struck Guan's helmet, which was seen as an act of betrayal by Han Xuan, who then ordered Huang put to death. However, Wei Yan came to Huang's rescue and he slew Han Xuan shortly afterward.
In actual history, Huang Zhong strongly recommended Han Xuan to surrender to Liu Bei, which Han did, and thus saving many civilian lives that would be lost if there was any battles. Both Han and Huang started serving under Liu Bei after their surrender and rose in ranks. Contrary to what was depicted in the novel where Han Xuan was killed by rebelling civilians who hated him, in reality, Han Xuan was a governor loved by his people, who built a worship hall for him that still stands today in Changsha, after being destroyed and rebuilt many times.