|Minister over the Masses|
|Died||192 AD (aged 54/55)|
|Style name||Zishi (子师)|
Wang Yun (137–192) was a Minister over the Masses under Emperor Xian during the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. During Wang Yun's time, the emperors were mere puppets under the power of eunuchs and warlords. In 192, Wang Yun plotted and successfully staged Lü Bu's assassination of Dong Zhuo, the tyrannical warlord in power. However, Dong Zhuo's former subjects soon led a coup, in which Wang Yun along with most of his family were executed.
In the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms Wang Yun was the adoptive father of the possibly fictional Diaochan, whom he used to seduce both Lü Bu and Dong Zhuo. The subsequent rift that arose between the foster father and son eventually saw the death of Dong Zhuo by the hands of Lü Bu.
According to Book of Later Han, Wang Yun was from Qi County, Taiyuan (present-day Qi County, Shanxi). His family had many members who had served as administrative officials in the regional government for generations. Wang Yun himself was an official at the age of 19, and became the Inspector of Yuzhou (豫州刺史) at the time of the Yellow Turban Rebellion. However, later he failed in the power struggle with the eunuch Zhang Rang. He had to abandon his position and hide himself in countryside. After the death of Zhang Rang, warlord He Jin came into power, and Wang Yun was promoted to the Gentleman of the Household and later to the Intendant of Henan (河南尹).
In 190, the capital Luoyang fell into chaos following the death of He Jin and a bloody clash between the powerful eunuch faction and government officials. Dong Zhuo, a warlord from Liangzhou (凉州) managed to take control of the situation and eventually placed in the throne a puppet emperor whom he held in his power. At the end of the eunuch riot era, Wang Yun was the Minister over the Masses (司徒) and the Director of Imperial Secretariat (尚书令).
Dong Zhuo's subsequent tyrannical and cruel behavior aroused the wrath of many. Wang Yun then colluded with several other court officials in a plot to assassinate Dong Zhuo. The plan received a huge boost when the conspirators managed to recruit the help of Dong Zhuo's own foster son Lü Bu. Bringing along a dozen men, Lü Bu cornered Dong Zhuo outside the palace gate and delivered the fatal blow himself.
After the death of Dong Zhuo, rumors spread that the court intended to execute all his former troops from Liangzhou. When a royal decree of pardon was not issued, former subjects of Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Guo Si, led a coup and defeated Lü Bu.
Before Lü Bu relinquished from the capital, he sought out Wang Yun and asked the minister to join him. Wang Yun, however, refused to leave the young emperor behind. The rebels soon seized Wang Yun along with many of his family members, who were then executed openly in the city center. Many of his brother's family managed to escape, and one of them, his nephew Wang Ling, was a Grand Commandant under Cao Cao.
The classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong, was a romanticization of the events that occurred before and during the Three Kingdoms era. Luo Guanzhong delineated an elaborate and cunning scheme for Wang Yun's plot to eliminate Dong Zhuo. It involved two stratagems from the Thirty-Six Strategies: the Strategem of Beautiful Women (美人计) and the Strategem of Combining Tactics (连环计).
In Chapter 8, Wang Yun was contemplating a plot to assassinate Dong Zhuo late one night when he heard a girl grieving in his garden. Tracing the sound, he found Diaochan, a song girl who was brought up in his household but whom he had been treating like his own daughter. An idea then struck Wang Yun to use Diaochan to plant the seed of dissension between Dong Zhuo and his foster son, Lü Bu.
Inviting Lü Bu over one night, Wang Yun asked Diaochan to serve wine to the guest. Lü Bu was immediately seized by the girl's beauty. Well aware of this, Wang Yun then promised to marry Diaochan to the mighty warrior.
A few days later, however, Wang Yun laid a feast for Dong Zhuo and repeated the feat. Like Lü Bu, Dong Zhuo could not lift his eyes off the beautiful Diaochan, who also displayed her prowess in song and dance. Dong Zhuo then brought Diaochan home and made her his concubine.
When Lü Bu heard this the next morning, he headed for Dong Zhuo's bedroom and peeped in through the window. There he saw Diaochan sitting up grooming her hair while Dong Zhuo was still asleep. Aware of Lü Bu's presence, Diaochan then put up a sorrowful expression and pretended to wipe tears off her eyes with a handkerchief.
A similar incident recurred about a month later, but this time Dong Zhuo woke up in time to see Lü Bu staring fixedly at Diaochan. Lü Bu was then shoved away and forbidden to come into the house.
Then one day, while Dong Zhuo was holding a conversation with Emperor Xian, Lü Bu stole to his foster father's residence and met with Diaochan in the Fengyi Pavilion (凤仪亭). Weeping, Diaochan pled with Lü Bu to rescue her from Dong Zhuo. Placing his halberd aside, Lü Bu held Diaochan in his arms and comforted her with words.
Right then, Dong Zhuo returned to find the duo in the pavilion. The startled Lü Bu turned to flee. Dong Zhuo grabbed the halberd and gave chase. Being too obese, Dong Zhuo could not catch up with the agile Lü Bu. He then hurled the halberd at Lü Bu but the latter fended it off and got away.
After he had calmed down, Dong Zhuo took the counsel of his advisor Li Ru and decided to marry Diaochan to Lü Bu in order to consolidate support from the powerful warrior. When Dong Zhuo told Diaochan of the plan, however, she wailed and threatened to kill herself. Dong Zhuo then gave up the idea.
On the other hand, Lü Bu was becoming increasingly displeased with Dong Zhuo. This displeasure was further heightened by Wang Yun, who suggested subtly that Lü Bu take over Dong Zhuo. Lü Bu attempted weakly to argue for Dong Zhuo's paternal relationship to himself, but Wang Yun dismissed it, saying, "His name is Dong and yours is Lü. Where was the paternal feeling when he threw the halberd at you?" Upon hearing this, Lü Bu made up his mind to kill Dong Zhuo.
After Dong Zhuo's death, his former subjects Li Jue and Guo Si led a coup and surrounded Emperor Xian and Wang Yun at the Xuanping Gate (宣平门). To ensure the safety of the emperor, Wang Yun then gave himself up to the rebel leaders, who jointly slew him.
Role in Fiction
Wang Yun is a major character in the story "Switchblade". After the execution of Dong Zhuo, he takes power with Lu Bu and Li Su, killing and executing all of Dong Zhuo's companions. He executes Li Su to increase his power. He is soon pushed out of Chang'an but is killed in one of his attacks.
- Chen Shou (2002). San Guo Zhi. Yue Lu Shu She. ISBN 7-80665-198-5.
- Luo Guanzhong (1986). San Guo Yan Yi. Yue Lu Shu She. ISBN 7-80520-013-0.
- Lo Kuan-chung; tr. C.H. Brewitt-Taylor (2002). Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3467-9.