Battle of Sishui Pass

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Battle of Sishui Pass
Traditional Chinese汜水關之戰
Simplified Chinese汜水关之战

The Battle of Sishui Pass is a fictional battle described in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The battle was fought between the forces of Dong Zhuo and a coalition of regional warlords and officials (known as the Guandong Coalition) as part of the Campaign against Dong Zhuo in 190 during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period.


In 190, Dong Zhuo entered Luoyang, the capital of the Eastern Han dynasty, and took control of the imperial court. Dong Zhuo monopolised state power and governed with cruelty and brutality. Later that year, several warlords and regional officials formed a new coalition against Dong Zhuo, with Yuan Shao as their leader. Yuan Shao ordered his cousin Yuan Shu to manage the supplies for the coalition, and appointed Sun Jian as the vanguard to take Sishui Pass, one of the mountain passes leading to Luoyang.

Dong Zhuo was deeply alarmed by this news, but his foster son Lü Bu reassured him and said that he would personally go to battle and slay the enemies. Hearing that, Hua Xiong, one of Dong Zhuo's generals, stepped out and volunteered to go and fight the coalition forces. Dong Zhuo was pleased and he appointed Hua Xiong as a Colonel of Resolute Cavalry (驍騎校尉) and sent him with 50,000 troops to guard Sishui Pass, with Li Su, Hu Zhen, and Zhao Cen serving as his deputies.

The battle[edit]

First blood[edit]

Bao Xin, one of the coalition leaders, wanting to get merit before Sun Jian did, secretly sent his brother Bao Zhong with 3,000 men through a shortcut towards Sishui Pass. Hua Xiong charged out of the pass and slew Bao Zhong. He then sent Bao Zhong's head back to Dong Zhuo as a token of his victory, and Dong promoted him.

Sun Jian arrived at the pass with his generals Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, Han Dang and Zu Mao (祖茂). Hu Zhen led 5,000 men to engage Sun Jian, but Cheng Pu stabbed him in the throat with his spear soon after they clashed. Sun Jian then continued to the pass, where he was repelled by the archers. He retreated to Liangdong (梁東) and reported his victory to Yuan Shao, while pressing Yuan Shu for provisions.

Sun Jian defeated[edit]

Yuan Shu refused to send the supplies because he did not want Sun Jian to gain the top credit. Chaos broke out in Sun Jian's army due to the lack of supplies, and spies in his camp reported the situation to Hua Xiong. Li Su suggested to Hua Xiong to seize the opportunity to attack Sun Jian.

At midnight, Hua Xiong led an army to attack the front of Sun Jian's camp, so Sun came out and fought with him. A separate force led by Li Su sneaked into Sun Jian's camp from the rear and set fire. By then, Sun Jian had been surrounded, and he attempted to break out of the encirclement together with Zu Mao. Seeing that Sun Jian's red scarf could easily identify him, Zu Mao suggested to his lord to give him the scarf, which Sun did. Sun Jian then escaped while Zu Mao used the scarf as a bait to lure Hua Xiong into a trap. Zu Mao attempted to catch Hua Xiong off guard but failed and was killed by Hua.

Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, Han Dang eventually regrouped with Sun Jian, who mourned the death of Zu Mao and reported his defeat to Yuan Shao.

Guan Yu slays Hua Xiong[edit]

The following day, Hua Xiong rode towards the coalition camp and taunted them to fight him one-to-one. Yu She, a general under Yuan Shu, answered Hua Xiong's challenge but was killed in a few rounds. Pan Feng, a general under Han Fu took up the challenge but lost his life as well.

Guan Yu, who was only a mounted archer under Liu Bei (who joined the coalition under Gongsun Zan's banner) then, volunteered to fight Hua Xiong but was ridiculed by Yuan Shu because of his low rank. However, Cao Cao suggested that they allow Guan Yu to go since the latter was brave enough to volunteer anyway. Guan Yu promised to take Hua Xiong's head and if he failed he would face execution. Cao Cao offered Guan Yu a cup of warm wine to encourage him but the latter declined, claiming that he would return very soon. Within moments, Guan Yu returned with Hua Xiong's head and he proceeded to gulp down the wine, which was still warm. This episode is known as "Slaying Hua Xiong while the wine is warm" (温酒斩华雄).

The coalition forces took advantage of the situation to seize Sishui Pass and advance towards Hulao Pass, the next mountain pass on the way to Luoyang.


There is no mention of this battle in historical records such as the Book of the Later Han (Houhanshu) and Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi). In fact, Sishui Pass and Hulao Pass refer to the same mountain pass near Xingyang, except that there were two different names.[citation needed]

However, Sun Jian's biography in the Sanguozhi did mention a similar incident about Sun's scarf, but it did not involve Hua Xiong. It stated that when Sun Jian garrisoned at Liangdong (梁東), he came under heavy attack by Dong Zhuo (led by Xu Rong)[1] and he brought tens of horsemen with him to break out of the encirclement. He was wearing a red scarf then, so he took it off and passed it to Zu Mao (祖茂). Dong Zhuo's men recognised the scarf and pursued Zu Mao, while Sun Jian took another path and escaped. Zu Mao became tired so he dismounted, tied the scarf to a half-burnt pillar, and hid in the bushes nearby. Dong Zhuo's men approached the pillar, surrounded it, and left when they saw that it was just a pillar.[2] Zu Mao was not killed in that skirmish at Liangdong, but what happened to him after that incident was not recorded in history. Hu Zhen was not killed in that battle, and he served under Li Jue and Guo Si's government after Dong Zhuo's death.[3]

Sun Jian's biography also stated that Sun Jian defeated Dong Zhuo's army at Yangren (陽人; believed to be near present-day Wenquan, Ruzhou, Henan) and beheaded its commander Hua Xiong.[4][5]

Cultural references[edit]

In Chinese literature, this battle is known as the first battle which brought Guan Yu to fame.

This scene is depicted in Beijing opera as a play called "Killing Hua Xiong" (simplified Chinese: 斩华雄; traditional Chinese: 斬華雄; pinyin: Zhǎn Huà Xíong). The same scene is played in other forms of Chinese opera as well.

This event is also depicted in video games such as Koei's Sangokushi Eiketsuden, Sangokushi Sousouden and Dynasty Warriors, among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (孫堅移屯梁東,為卓將徐榮所敗,復收散卒進屯陽人。) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 60.
  2. ^ (堅移屯梁東,大為卓軍所攻,堅與數十騎潰圍而出。堅常著赤罽幘,乃脫幘令親近將祖茂著之。卓騎爭逐茂,故堅從間道得免。茂困迫,下馬,以幘冠塚閒燒柱,因伏草中。卓騎望見,圍繞數重,定近覺是柱,乃去。) Sanguozhi vol. 46.
  3. ^ (傕﹑汜等以王允﹑呂布殺董卓, ... 王允聞之,乃遣卓故將胡軫﹑徐榮擊之於新豐。榮戰死,軫以觿降。 ...) Houhanshu vol. 72.
  4. ^ (堅復相收兵,合戰於陽人,大破卓軍,梟其都督華雄等。) Sanguozhi vol. 46.
  5. ^ (卓遣東郡太守胡軫督步騎五千擊之,以呂布為騎督。軫與布不相得,堅出擊,大破之,梟其都督華雄。) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 60.