Mi Fang

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Mi Fang
General of Eastern Wu
Born (Unknown)[1]
Died (Unknown)[1]
Names
Traditional Chinese 麋芳
Simplified Chinese 麋芳[1]
Pinyin Mí Fāng
Wade–Giles Mi Fang
Courtesy name Zifang (Chinese: 子方; pinyin: Zǐfāng; Wade–Giles: Tzu-fang)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Mi.

Mi Fang (birth and death dates unknown), courtesy name Zifang, was an official serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He was also the younger brother of Mi Zhu, who also served Liu Bei. In 219, Mi Fang surrendered to Liu Bei's ally-turned rival Sun Quan, directly resulting in the loss of Jing Province (covering present-day Hubei and Hunan) and the death of Guan Yu. The Australian sinologist Rafe de Crespigny notes that Mi Fang had the remarkable record of serving each of the leaders of the Three Kingdoms during his lifetime.[1]

Early life[edit]

A local of the county of Qu (胊, present day Lianyungang, Jiangsu), Mi Fang was born in an extremely rich merchant family, which had over 10,000 slaves and guests. Mi Fang and his elder brother Mi Zhu were said to be proficient in horsemanship and archery. Along with the Chen clan (led by Chen Gui and Chen Deng), the Mi family served under Tao Qian, Governor of Xu Province (徐州, present day northern Jiangsu).

Service under Liu Bei[edit]

Upon Tao Qian's death, the influential Mi clan strongly advocated the governorship be passed on to Liu Bei, to whom Mi Fang had his sister married. Thereafter, the Mi brothers joined Liu Bei's army to Xuyi and Huaiyin (淮陰, in Guangling, south of Xu Province) to counter-attack the warlord Yuan Shu in 196 CE. Zhang Fei, who was left behind by Liu to guard Xiapi (capital of Xu Province at the time), killed Cao Bao, the chancellor of Xiapi when Tao Qian was still in charge of Xu Province, after an intense quarrel over some trivial things. Cao Bao's death caused unrest in the city, and the locals opened the city gate for Lü Bu, who then seized control of the city, capturing the families of Liu and Mi during the process. Upon hearing the news, Liu Bei's soldiers started to desert, and the remnant was defeated by the enemy commander Ji Ling. Liu Bei then retreated to Haixi (海西), Donghai Commandery (東海). Faced with enemies on both sides and a lack of supplies, the Mi brothers encouraged Liu Bei and used their personal wealth to support the army. Seeing no other viable option, Liu Bei requested for a truce with Lü Bu, who accepted and returned Liu's family as an act of good faith. In fear of being isolated by Yuan Shu, Lü Bu obstructed further attempt by Yuan to eliminate Liu.

Liu Bei moved his camp to Xiaopei where he was financed by the Mi brothers to rebuild his army, gathering over ten thousand men. Lü Bu became concerned and attacked Xiaopei. Liu Bei then fled to Xuchang, where warlord Cao Cao set his base. When Liu Bei served under Cao, the latter enticed Mi Zhu and Mi Fang by offering them governorships of Ying Commandery (嬴郡, northwest of present day Laiwu, Shandong) and Pengcheng respectively, but both chose to follow Liu Bei when their brother-in-law left Cao Cao, giving up the high positions for an unknown future.

Later, Liu Bei betrayed Cao Cao, and fled to the south after being defeated several times by the latter. After the battle of Jiangling, Liu Bei successfully negotiated the southern warlord Sun Quan to lend him Nan Commandery (南郡, present day Jiangling, Hubei) of Jing Province, and Mi Fang was assigned the post of the Administrator of the commandery. When Liu Bei embarked for Yi Province, Mi Fang was ordered to stay behind with Guan Yu in Jing Province.

Service under Sun Quan[edit]

In 219, Guan Yu launched an invasion against Cao Cao, leaving Mi Fang with the defence of the base city in Jiangling, and Shi Ren in Gong'an (公安, northwest of presentday Gongan, Hubei). Earlier, Mi Fang had accidentally set some military equipment ablaze, and Guan threatened to dish out harsh punishment should he triumph over Cao Cao. Since then, Mi Fang had been fraught with fear and receiving letters from Sun Quan, who was also a brother-in-law to Liu Bei, and also disgraced by Guan Yu's insolence.

Thus, when Sun Quan launched a surprise attack on Jiangling, Mi Fang listened to Shi Ren's suggestion and surrendered. Sandwiched on both sides by enemies, Guan Yu was captured by Lu Meng and executed. Mi Zhu was deeply ashamed of his brother's betrayal, and soon died of sickness. Mi Fang was not only blackened by Yang Xi (楊戲) of Shu Han for his betrayal, but had also been derided by Yu Fan of Eastern Wu for the very same reason.

In June, 223, an Eastern Wu commander named Jin Zong in charge of Qichun (蕲春) defected to Wei by launching a rebellion, so Sun Quan ordered He Qi to put down the rebellion. Mi Fang then served under He Qi as a commander, along with another two generals named Liu Shao (劉邵, not to be confused with 劉劭) and Xianyu Dan (鮮于丹), and they succeeded the mission, capturing Jin Zong alive and retaking Qichun. That was the last historical record of Mi Fang, after which he was not mentioned again.

Anecdotes[edit]

Once, Mi Fang's boat met with that of Yu Fan in a narrow waterway, the servants on Mi Fang's boat demanded Yu Fan to move out of the way by shouting: "Get out of the way for our general's boat." Yu Fan shouted back angrily in response: "How can one serve the lord when he had lost his loyalty? And how can one be called a general when he caused his [former] master to lose two cities?" Mi Fang was very ashamed and let Yu Fan's boat to pass instead. Another incident also involved Yu Fan when he had to pass through Mi Fang's camp. The officers at Mi Fang's camp did not open the gates, and Yu Fan angrily shouted: "How can one do this when what is supposed to be open is closed, but what is supposed to be closed is open instead?" Mi Fang was even more ashamed than he was in the waterway. Despite the ridicule, Sun Quan still treated Mi Fang with trust and dignity.

In fiction[edit]

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, both Mi Fang and Shi Ren (wrongly written as "Fu Shiren" in the novel) served in the Eastern Wu military after they surrendered to Sun Quan. In chapter 83, Liu Bei personally led a force against Eastern Wu to avenge Guan Yu. When they discovered that their men were plotting to kill them and surrender to Liu Bei, Mi and Fu assassinated their superior Ma Zhong and surrendered to Liu Bei. However, the unimpressed Liu ordered Guan Xing, son of Guan Yu, to execute the traitors as a sacrifice to Guan Yu.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 麋芳 is often (mis)printed as 糜芳 in copies of the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms in circulation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c de Crespigny, p. 671