A Qing dynasty portrait of Ding Yuan
|Regional governor and minor warlord|
|Courtesy name||Jianyang (建陽)|
Ding Yuan (died 189), courtesy name Jianyang, was a regional governor and minor warlord during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. In 189, both he and Dong Zhuo were summoned into the capital Luoyang with their individual troops to assist in the struggle against the powerful eunuch faction. Ding Yuan, however, was eventually killed by his trusted aide Lü Bu, who had been bought over by Dong Zhuo.
According to the Records of Heroes (英雄記) by Wang Can, Ding Yuan was born in a poor family. Uncouth but brave, he was adept in horse riding and archery. During his early career as a county magistrate, he never turned away from his responsibility no matter the adversity or risk. He always pitched himself in front during confrontations with fugitive criminals and bandits. He was eventually promoted to Inspector of Bing Province (并州; present-day Shanxi) when he met Lü Bu. The martial prowess of the young warrior greatly impressed Ding Yuan, who made him Chief Secretary and kept him close at side.
In 189, Emperor Ling died. The General-in-Chief He Jin then summoned Ding Yuan into the capital Luoyang with his regional troops to assist in the power struggle against the eunuch faction. Before Ding Yuan could arrive, however, the eunuchs assassinated He Jin. Dong Zhuo, a warlord from Liang Province (涼州; present-day western Gansu) who was also summoned by He Jin, arrived in Luoyang ahead of Ding Yuan and defeated the eunuchs, grasping military control of the capital. After Ding Yuan arrived, Dong Zhuo managed to buy over Lü Bu, who killed Ding Yuan and presented the latter's head to Dong Zhuo.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a 14th-century historical novel by Luo Guanzhong, was a romanticization of the events that occurred before and during the Three Kingdoms era. In Chapter 3, Ding Yuan was said to be regarded as a rival by Dong Zhuo as he opposed the latter's plan to depose the young emperor in favor of Emperor Xian. However, Dong Zhuo refrained from killing Ding Yuan on the spot as the mighty warrior Lü Bu, who in the novel was the foster son of Ding Yuan, was standing closely by.
Li Su, a general under Dong Zhuo who was from the same county as Lü Bu, then volunteered to persuade his fellow townsman to defect. Bringing along a famous steed named Red Hare and other luscious gifts, he came to see Lü Bu, who was encamped outside the city. Lured by the presents and Li Su's words, Lü Bu was easily convinced to betray his master. That very night, Lü Bu carried a sword into the tent of Ding Yuan, who was reading under the candlelight. With a stroke of his sword Lü Bu severed Ding Yuan's head, which he brought to Dong Zhuo the next morning.
Appointments and titles held
- Inspector of Bing Province (并州刺史)
- Commandant of Cavalry (騎都尉)
- 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.