Yang Hu

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Yang Hu
Simplified Chinese 羊祜
Traditional Chinese 羊祜

Not to be confused with Yang Hu zh:阳虎/陽虎, the Spring and Autumn retainer-usurper in the state of Lu.

Yang Hu (221–278), courtesy name Shuzi (叔子), was a military general who lived in the Western Jin Dynasty. His advocacy for plans to conquer the rival state of Eastern Wu finally persuaded Emperor Wu to carry them out, but he would not live to see the plans implemented. He was known for his humility and foresight. Chen Shou, author of Records of Three Kingdoms, described him as a man of medium height with fine eyebrows and a beautiful beard.

Both Yang Hu's grandfather Yang Xu (羊續) and father Yang Chai (羊茝) were commandery governors, and his mother was a daughter of the Han Dynasty historian and musician Cai Yong. His sister Yang Huiyu was Sima Shi's third wife, subsequently honored as an empress dowager after Emperor Wu established the Jin Dynasty in 265.

Yang Hu lost his father at age 11. He was raised by his uncle Yang Chen (羊耽) and served his uncle faithfully. As he matured, he became known for his intelligence, knowledge, and physical beauty. The general Xiahou Wei became impressed with him and married his niece (Xiahou Ba's daughter) to Yang. After his father-in-law defected to Shu Han in 249 in light of Sima Yi's coup against Cao Shuang, Yang was one of the few who were related by marriage who still dared to associate with the Xiahou clan. He served as a low level official during the reigns of the Cao Wei's emperors Cao Mao and Cao Huan. Because he warned Sima Zhao of Zhong Hui's intentions, Sima trusted his judgment greatly after Zhong rebelled (as he predicted) in 264. After this, he went on to serve as an executive secretary for Sima.

After Sima Zhao's death in 265, his son Sima Yan succeeded him, and later that year forced Cao Huan to abdicate in favor of him, ending Cao Wei and establishing Jin (as Emperor Wu). Emperor Wu wanted to make Yang a duke, but the latter declined.

Throughout the early part of Emperor Wu's reign, Yang was one of the few key officials who strenuously advocated for the conquest of the rival Eastern Wu. Emperor Wu, who liked the strategies that Yang submitted, had him take charge of the western border with Eastern Wu and stationed Yang at Xiangyang (襄陽, in present-day Xiangfan, Hubei). In 272, Yang participated in a failed mission to rescue the Eastern Wu defector Bu Chan (步闡) from Xiling (西陵, in present-day Yichang, Hubei), and was temporarily demoted, but was soon restored to his rank. After that defeat he set up a détente with the Eastern Wu general Lu Kang and treated the Eastern Wu border residents with kindness, with intent to win over their loyalty. His efforts succeeded, though Lu attempted to counter with his own gestures of goodwill. After Lu's death in 274, the Eastern Wu border residents became increasingly impressed with Jin in light of Yang's kindness.

By 277, Yang had fallen ill. While his plans of conquest had already been submitted and accepted by Emperor Wu, they were not ready for implementation. He performed his final act in the service of the empire- by recommending the capable Du Yu to succeed him. Du would eventually go on to be a major part of the success against Eastern Wu. He died in 278. The people of Xiangyang built a monument for Yang on Mount Xian (峴山), and ever after Yang's death, visitors to the monument often wept in memory of his benevolent governance, and so the monument became known as the "Monument of Tears" (墮淚碑). After Jin conquered Eastern Wu in 280, Emperor Wu had the declaration of victory read at Yang's shrine, and created his wife Lady Xiahou a lady over 5,000 households in appreciation.

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