A Qing dynasty illustration of Tian Feng
|Attendant Officer (別駕)
(under Yuan Shao)
c. 191 – 200
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
Julu County, Hebei /
Nanpi County, Hebei
|Courtesy name||Yuanhao (元皓)|
There are two accounts of Tian Feng's origins: One said that he was from Julu Commandery (鉅鹿郡), which is around present-day Julu County, Hebei; the other claimed that he was from Bohai Commandery (勃海郡), which is around present-day Nanpi County, Hebei. He lost his parents at a young age and lived a rather unhappy life. However, he was known for being well-read, knowledgeable and intelligent. He started his career probably sometime during the reign of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189) as a minor official in the office of the Grand Commandant (太尉). Later, he was nominated as a maocai (茂才; outstanding civil service candidate) and promoted to an Imperial Clerk (御史). When the eunuch faction dominated the imperial court, Tian Feng felt so disillusioned with politics that he resigned and returned home.
Around 190, the warlord Yuan Shao joined a coalition of warlords in a campaign against the tyrannical warlord Dong Zhuo, who controlled the Han central government and the figurehead Emperor Xian. He had heard of Tian Feng and wanted to recruit him as an adviser, so he sent Tian Feng expensive gifts and wrote him a letter in a humble and sincere tone. Tian Feng accepted the invitation because he saw it as an opportunity for him to serve the Han Empire and save it from collapse. Yuan Shao appointed him as an Attendant Officer (別駕).
Around 195, Tian Feng advised Yuan Shao to welcome Emperor Xian to Ji Province so that he could control the Emperor and use him as a "trump card" against rival warlords. However, Yuan Shao refused after listening to his other advisers. Eventually, Yuan Shao's rival Cao Cao welcomed Emperor Xian to his base in Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) and established the new imperial capital there.
Throughout the 190s, Yuan Shao engaged Gongsun Zan in a war for supremacy over northern China. During the Battle of Jieqiao in 192, when Yuan Shao came under attack by Gongsun Zan, Tian Feng urged him to take cover behind a wall, but Yuan Shao threw his helmet to the ground and said it would be cowardly of him to hide behind a wall. Nevertheless, Yuan Shao heeded Tian Feng's advice and managed to defeat Gongsun Zan at the Battle of Yijing in 199. After securing his control over the four provinces in northern China, Yuan Shao prepared to wage war against Cao Cao and launch an attack on the imperial capital Xu. Tian Feng and Ju Shou advised Yuan Shao to adopt a slow, steady and step-by-step approach, so as to gradually wear out Cao Cao's forces. However, Yuan Shao heeded the advice of Guo Tu and others instead, and chose to start an all-out war against Cao Cao immediately.
In 200, when Cao Cao was away attacking Liu Bei in Xu Province, Tian Feng urged Yuan Shao to seize the opportunity to launch an attack on Cao Cao's base at Xu. However, Yuan Shao refused and said that he was more concerned about his son, who was sick. The frustrated Tian Feng hit the ground with his staff and said, "What a pity that he let a rare opportunity slip by just because of a child's illness!" In the meantime, Cao Cao defeated Liu Bei and retook Xu Province. Liu Bei fled north after his defeat and took shelter under Yuan Shao.
Later in 200, before the Battle of Guandu, Tian Feng analysed the situation, advised Yuan Shao to fight a long-term war against Cao Cao and pointed out how it would work to Yuan Shao's advantage. When Yuan Shao refused to listen, Tian Feng repeatedly attempted to push his ideas through. Yuan Shao, thinking that Tian Feng was trying to dampen his troops' morale, became furious and ordered Tian Feng to be put in chains and thrown into prison.
After Yuan Shao lost the Battle of Guandu against Cao Cao, someone told Tian Feng, "Your talents will be put to good use again." Tian Feng, however, replied, "If our army won the battle, I will survive; if they lost, I will die." Previously, Tian Feng was not on good terms with Pang Ji, one of Yuan Shao's other advisers. After the battle, Pang Ji lied to Yuan Shao that Tian Feng clapped his hands and rejoiced upon hearing of their defeat. Yuan Shao became so angry that he ordered Tian Feng's execution.
- (先賢行狀曰：豐字元皓，鉅鹿人，或云勃海人。豐天姿瓌傑，權略多奇，少喪親，居喪盡哀，日月雖過，笑不至矧。博覽多識，名重州黨。初辟太尉府，舉茂才，遷侍御史。閹宦擅朝，英賢被害，豐乃棄官歸家。) Xianxian Xingzhuang annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (袁紹起義，卑辭厚幣以招致豐，豐以王室多難，志存匡救，乃應紹命，以為別駕。) Xianxian Xingzhuang annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (勸紹迎天子，紹不納。) Xianxian Xingzhuang annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (別駕從事田豐扶紹欲郤入空垣，紹以兜鍪撲地曰：「大丈夫當前鬬死，而入牆間，豈可得活乎？」) Yingxiong Ji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (紹後用豐謀，以平公孫瓚。) Xianxian Xingzhuang annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 7.
- (獻帝傳曰：紹將南師，沮授、田豐諫曰：「師出歷年，百姓疲弊，倉庾無積，賦役方殷，此國之深憂也。宜先遣使獻捷天子，務農逸民；若不得通，乃表曹氏隔我王路，然後進屯黎陽，漸營河南，益作舟船，繕治器械，分遣精騎，鈔其邊鄙，令彼不得安，我取其逸。三年之中，事可坐定也。」 ...) Xiandi Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (建安五年，太祖自東征備。田豐說紹襲太祖後，紹辭以子疾，不許，豐舉杖擊地曰：「夫遭難遇之機，而以嬰兒之病失其會，惜哉！」太祖至，擊破備；備奔紹。) Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (初，紹之南也，田豐說紹曰：「曹公善用兵，變化無方，衆雖少，未可輕也，不如以乆持之。將軍據山河之固，擁四州之衆，外結英雄，內脩農戰，然後簡其精銳，分為奇兵，乘虛迭出，以擾河南，救右則擊其左，救左則擊其右，使敵疲於奔命，民不得安業；我未勞而彼已困，不及二年，可坐克也。今釋廟勝之策，而決成敗於一戰，若不如志，悔無及也。」紹不從。豐懇諫，紹怒甚，以為沮衆，械繫之。) Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (紹軍旣敗，或謂豐曰：「君必見重。」豐曰：「若軍有利，吾必全，今軍敗，吾其死矣。」紹還，謂左右曰：「吾不用田豐言，果為所笑。」遂殺之。) Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- (逢紀憚豐亮直，數讒之於紹，紹遂忌豐。紹軍之敗也，土崩奔北，師徒略盡，軍皆拊膺而泣曰：「向令田豐在此，不至於是也。」紹謂逢紀曰：「兾州人聞吾軍敗，皆當念吾，唯田別駕前諫止吾，與衆不同，吾亦慙見之。」紀復曰：「豐聞將軍之退，拊手大笑，喜其言之中也。」紹於是有害豐之意。) Xianxian Xingzhuang annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 6.
- Chen, Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Fan, Ye. Book of the Later Han (Houhanshu).
- Pei, Songzhi. Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
- Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.