Liu Biao

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Liu Biao
Liu Biao Qing portait.jpg
A Qing dynasty portrait of Liu Biao
Warlord of Eastern Han dynasty
Born 142
Died 208 (aged 66)
Traditional Chinese 劉表
Simplified Chinese 刘表
Pinyin Líu Biǎo
Wade–Giles Liu Piao
Courtesy name Jingsheng (Chinese: 景升; pinyin: Jǐngshēng; Wade–Giles: Ching-sheng)

Liu Biao (142–208),[1] courtesy name Jingsheng, was a warlord and the governor of Jing Province who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He was a member of the extended family of the Han emperors, descended from Liu Yu, the fifth son of Emperor Jing.


When the Han Dynasty was consumed with war following the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Liu Biao held the title of governor of Jing Province. Liu Biao later started a war against the warlord Yuan Shu and his minor warlord vassal, Sun Jian. During the Battle of Xiangyang, Sun Jian was put in command of an army on Yuan Shu's orders to assault Liu Biao in Jing Province. Liu Biao appointed Huang Zu to command the forces against Sun Jian. Huang Zu was outmaneuvered by Sun Jian, but the latter was hit by an arrow and killed, effectively ending the battle in favour of Liu Biao's forces. Years after, Sun Jian's two eldest sons, Sun Ce and Sun Quan, caused Liu Biao no end of trouble as they sought to avenge their father's death. However, they did not cause Liu Biao's demise as they targeted Huang Zu, who was a general under Liu Biao, instead of Liu Biao himself. Whilst Cao Cao (in the north) was gaining strength, Liu Biao chose to neither help nor hinder his conquests, in part because he had been dealt a defeat against the forces of Sun Ce at the Battle of Shaxian.

During the birth of the third century, during Cao Cao's total victory over the rival warlord Yuan Shao at the Battle of Guandu, Liu Biao still remained neutral, despite being one of the only other warlords in a position to oppose the two powers. Liu Biao, however, eventually decided to shelter Liu Bei, an enemy of Cao Cao and relative in deep lineage when Cao Cao defeated Yuan Shao, where Liu Bei was previously sheltered after the events of 198. This made Liu Biao a target of Cao Cao's wrath due to the fact Liu Bei rebelled against Cao just before the war against Yuan Shao. After the Battle of White Wolf Mountain in 207, when Cao Cao finalized his unification of northern China, a large army was sent to conquer Jing Province. Along with Liu Bei, Liu Biao's forces took several early victories. After impressing the remnants of Yuan Shao's forces into joining his already grand army, Cao Cao's superior numbers eventually took toll on Liu Biao's defenses. With a decline in relations between Liu Biao and Liu Bei, as a result of the meddling of Cai Mao's family, Liu Biao's people were faced with difficulty. To make matters worse, Sun Quan's army had crushed and killed Liu Biao's subordinate Huang Zu at the Battle of Jiangxia and ultimately destroyed Liu Biao's defenses to the south.

Shortly after Cao Cao's main army began its offensive, Liu Biao died of illness. Liu Biao's successor, his younger son Liu Cong, elected to surrender instead of fight. Liu Biao's elder son, Liu Qi, who had had some disagreement with Liu Cong, joined the fleeing Liu Bei, leading to the [[Battle of Red Cliffs]. The aftermath of that battle split Liu Biao's former domain between the three resulting kingdoms. It would continue to be a flashpoint for the rest of the Three Kingdoms era, due to its strategic position between all three warring factions, with multiple battles and campaigns fought for control of the province.


  • Sons:
    • Liu Qi, elder son. Sided with Liu Bei after his brother was appointed as successor, but died of illness.
    • Liu Cong, younger son. Was appointed as his father's successor due to the interference of Cai Mao and Lady Cai.
    • Liu Xiu, youngest son. Presumably a half-brother of Liu Cong and Liu Qi. Accompanied Liu Cong when he surrendered to Cao Cao. About 210 he became administrator of Dong'an. He composed a number of poems, rhapsodies and formal hymns.[2]
  • Nephews:
    • Liu Pan, sent on a campaign against the rival warlord Sun Ce, but was defeated by Taishi Ci who was employed under Sun Ce's forces. Later joined Liu Bei at the recommendation of Huang Zhong.
    • Liu Hu, defended against Sun Ce during the Battle of Shaxian, but was defeated. His fate remains unknown, but many of Liu Biao's officers who participated in that battle were slain. (possibly making it difficult to resolve how each individual died)

Appointments and titles held[edit]

  • Inspector of Jing Province (荊州刺史)
  • General Who Guards the South (鎮南將軍)
  • Governor of Jing Province (荊州牧)
  • Marquis of Chengwu (成武侯)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 485. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0. 
  2. ^ SGZ 19:560 from de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 566. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.