A Qing dynasty portrait of Liu Biao
|Warlord of Eastern Han dynasty|
|Died||208 (aged 66)|
|Courtesy name||Jingsheng (Chinese: 景升; pinyin: Jǐngshēng; Wade–Giles: Ching-sheng)|
Liu Biao (142–208), 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. He was good-looking and his height was said to have been over eight chi (about 1.86 m).
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. During the battle, one of Liu Biao's strategists, Kuai Liang, devised a plan to eliminate Sun Jian by crushing him with logs as he rode towards the main camp of Liu Biao's camp, and succeeded. 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 208, 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 Xiakou 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. According to the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, long before his death, sensing his own deteriorating condition, he had discussed with Liu Bei which of his two sons should succeed him. The traditional choice would be his elder son Liu Qi, yet he predicted (correctly) that his wife would favor Liu Cong, his second son. Ultimately, he followed Liu Bei's advice and chose Liu Qi to succeed him. However, after Liu Biao's death, his wife altered his will, leaving Liu Cong with possession of much of Liu Biao's land. The weak Liu Cong immediately surrendered to Cao Cao and his elder brother, who had still retained control of one city. Due to its strategic positioning between all three warring factions during the Three Kingdoms era, many battles were fought in Jing Province over the course of the various campaigns and battles fought between the states of Shu, Wei and Wu in years to come.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- Chen Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms, Volume 6, Biography of Liu Biao.
- Fan Ye et al. Book of the Later Han, Volume 74.