Liu Qi (Liu Biao's son)

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Liu Qi
Traditional Chinese 劉琦
Simplified Chinese 刘琦

Liu Qi (died 209) was the oldest son of the warlord Liu Biao during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. He provided reinforcements and refuge for Liu Bei when the latter was fleeing from Cao Cao's forces after the Battle of Changban, and assisted Liu Bei and Zhou Yu in the following Battle of Red Cliffs.

Fraternal strife[edit]

Although Liu Qi was Liu Biao's oldest son, his younger brother Liu Cong married better, to the niece of Lady Cai, Liu Biao's second wife. The Cai family had a powerful presence at court, including generals Cai Mao and Zhang Yun. As the Cai faction gained influence, they put pressure on Liu Biao to make Liu Cong his heir.[1][2] Following the death of Huang Zu after the Battle of Jiangxia in 208, Liu Qi was appointed Administrator of Jiangxia (present-day Yunmeng County, Hubei), about 250 km southeast of Jing Province's capital in Xiangyang. Sources differ on whether Liu Qi requested this appointment to escape the fraternal conflict or was forced out of the capital by the Cai clan.[3] In any case he seems to have been tasked with a counterattack against the forces of Sun Quan, who now held the area.[4]

Shortly after Liu Qi's move to Jiangxia, his father Liu Biao died suddenly[5] and Liu Cong succeeded him as Governor of Jing Province.[6] Liu Qi henceforth treated Liu Cong like an enemy, and may have attacked him had not it not been for the arrival of Cao Cao's army.

Cao Cao's army arrived from the north, not far from Liu Cong's capital of Xiangyang. Liu Qi fled south across the Yangtze.[7] Lacking the numbers and political support to wage war with Cao Cao, Liu Cong took the advice of 15 of his senior advisors and surrendered his country to Cao Cao.[8] Not long after this, Liu Bei, somewhat in extremis after his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Changban, crossed the Han River into Jiangxia with some dozens of close associates and met up with Liu Qi.[9] Liu Qi took his army and escorted Liu Bei back over the Han to collect Liu Bei's forces that had scattered after the Battle of Changban.[10]

Battle of Red Cliffs[edit]

Liu Qi is claimed to have commanded about 10,000 troops. While this may be an exaggeration, it is probable that his local forces were comparable in size to the reconstituted forces of Liu Bei including Guan Yu's fleet.[11][12][13] The promise of 10,000 more men waiting to join up with his army may or may not have swayed Sun Quan's decision to order the combined assault against Cao Cao's men.

With what little historical information recorded about the Battle of Red Cliffs buried under centuries of accumulated legend, it is difficult to say to any degree what role Liu Qi's forces had in the battle, but with the combined forces of Sun Quan, Liu Bei, and Liu Qi facing an army much more numerous, his troops must have taken part in the battle, possibly under his direct command.

After the victory over Cao Cao, Liu Qi was appointed Inspector of Jing Province, finally succeeding his father, albeit in an incomplete way.[14] He died at Jiangxia within a few months of his appointment.[15] After Liu Qi's death, Liu Bei took over his position at the considerably higher rank of Governor of Jing Province.[16]

In fiction[edit]

In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Qi is a subject in one of the 36 Strategies called "Lure them onto the Roof, then take away the Ladder" (上屋抽梯). The story goes with that Liu Qi was fearing for his life as his step mother Lady Cai had planned to remove him and install Liu Cong as heir. Liu Qi insist to ask Zhuge Liang for advice, although the latter is reluctant to help him and thus avoids Liu QI as he doesn't want to be involved in "Liu's family affair". Liu Bei felt sorry for Liu Qi and gave him a hint on how to put Zhuge Liang in an unavoidable position. The next day, Liu Qi asked Zhuge Liang to follow him to his private library in the upper floor as he has an ancient scroll he wants Zhuge Liang to read, as they climbed up to the floor, Liu Qi quickly removed the only ladder to the room and begged Zhuge Liang for advice. Zhuge Liang was still hesitant to be involved with Liu Qi family affair, however Liu Qi told him that "Only heaven can hear us and nobody else" and threatened to commit suicide in front him. Thus, Zhuge Liang finally relented and advised Liu Qi to move to Jiangxia as an excuse to fill up the position since the death of Huang Zu after the Battle of Jiangxia. This advice saved the life of Liu Qi and later become a key figure to secure an alliance between Liu Bei and Sun Quan in the battle of red cliff.

Appointments and titles held[edit]

  • Administrator of Jiangxia (江夏太守)
  • Inspector of Jing Province (荊州刺史)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, chapter 6, p. 213
  2. ^ Generals of the South, p. 241 (chapter 4)
  3. ^ Liu Biao's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms stated Liu Qi was forced out of the capital (chapter 6, p. 213); the biography of Zhuge Liang in the same work claims Liu Qi requested the appointment after a highly secretive yet diligently recorded meeting with Zhuge Liang (chapter 35, p. 914). This later account is followed by the Book of the Later Han (chapter 74, p. 2423) and Zizhi Tongjian (chapter 65, pp 2081–2).
  4. ^ History of Chinese Warfare, 4:120
  5. ^ Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 35, p. 914. An annotation by Pei Songzhi in volume 6 of Records of Three Kingdoms (p. 214) quotes Yu Huan's Dianlüe (典略) claiming Liu Biao had been sick for some time, and Liu Qi was denied entrance to see his father by his brother's political allies. Book of the Later Han (chapter 74, p. 2423) and Zizhi Tongjian (chapter 65, p. 2082) follow this.
  6. ^ In many sources, Liu Qi apparently discovered his brother's succession when he received the seal of a marquis from him. Infuriated, he threw it to the ground (Book of the Later Han chapter 74, p. 2424; Zizhi Tongjian chapter 65, p. 2082).
  7. ^ Book of the Later Han chapter 74, p. 2424
  8. ^ Generals of the South, p. 242
  9. ^ Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 32, p. 898
  10. ^ History of Chinese Warfare 4:121
  11. ^ Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 32, p. 878
  12. ^ Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 35, p. 915
  13. ^ Generals of the South, p. 255
  14. ^ Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 32, p. 879
  15. ^ Generals of the South, p. 289 (chapter 5)
  16. ^ Liu Bei's biography in the sgz claims that Liu Qi's supporters recommended Liu Bei for the position of governor. Records of Three Kingdoms chapter 32, p. 879