A Qing dynasty portrait of Xu Chu
|General of Cao Wei|
|Courtesy name||Zhongkang (Chinese: 仲康; pinyin: Zhòngkāng; Wade–Giles: Chung-k'ang)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Zhuang (simplified Chinese: 壮侯; traditional Chinese: 壯侯; pinyin: Zhuàng Hóu; Wade–Giles: Chuang Hou)|
|Other names||"Tiger Fool" (simplified Chinese: 虎痴; traditional Chinese: 虎癡; pinyin: hǔ chī; Wade–Giles: hu ch'ih) (nickname)|
Xu Chu (died c. 230), courtesy name Zhongkang, was a military general who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period. He served as a bodyguard to the warlord Cao Cao, and continued to serve as a general in the state of Cao Wei – founded by Cao Cao's son and successor, Cao Pi – in the Three Kingdoms period. He was described to be a big and strong man, yet simple minded and honest, so he was nicknamed "Tiger Fool" by his men. After his death, he was posthumously honoured with the title "Marquis Zhuang", which literally means "robust marquis".
Xu Chu was from Qiao County (譙縣) in the Pei State (沛國), which is in present-day Bozhou, Anhui. He was over eight chi tall (about 177–192 centimetres) with a waist circumference of ten wei (approximately 90–100 centimetres). He had an imposing and sturdy look and was known for his great strength and courage.
Towards the end of the Han dynasty, Xu Chu rallied thousands of his clan members and they constructed a fortress to fend off the Yellow Turban rebels. An army of rebels from Runan (汝南; present-day Runan County, Zhumadian, Henan), numbering more than 10,000, once attacked Xu Chu's fortress. The defenders were outnumbered and worn out as the battle dragged on. When the arrows were used up, Xu Chu told all the men and women within the fortress to gather stones the size of chess pieces and place them in the four corners of the fortress. He then hurled the stones at the enemies, crushing the bones of all those who were hit. The rebels then kept a distance away and did not dare to come close. When the food supply was exhausted, Xu Chu pretended to negotiate a truce with the rebels and discuss a deal to exchange an ox for food. When the rebels came to collect the ox, the animal would always run back. Then Xu Chu, holding on to the ox's tail, pulled it along for more than a hundred steps. Seeing this, the startled rebels took off without the ox. The rebels in the surrounding areas heard of this incident and became fearful of Xu Chu.
Service under Cao Cao
In 197, when the warlord Cao Cao came to the Runan and Huainan area, Xu Chu led his militia to join Cao. Upon seeing Xu Chu's strength, Cao Cao exclaimed, "This man is my Fan Kuai!" Xu Chu was appointed as a Commandant (都尉) among Cao Cao's close guards, who were known as the "Tiger Warriors" (虎士). During Cao Cao's campaign against a rival warlord Zhang Xiu, Xu Chu was at the forefront of the battle and he slew thousands of enemy soldiers. He was promoted to Colonel (校尉) for his achievement.
In 200, Xu Chu followed Cao Cao to the Battle of Guandu against the northern warlord Yuan Shao. During the battle, Xu Ta (徐他) and some conspirators plotted to assassinate Cao Cao. They feared Xu Chu so they waited until he went to rest before they entered Cao Cao's tent with swords hidden under their clothes. Xu Chu felt uneasy earlier on so he returned to Cao Cao's tent to protect his lord. When Xu Ta and the others showed up in Cao Cao's tent, they were very surprised to see Xu Chu there and could not contain their astonishment. Xu Chu sensed their intentions and killed them. After this incident, Cao Cao trusted Xu Chu even more and would go nowhere without Xu by his side. Xu Chu participated in the Battle of Ye in 204 and received the title of a "Secondary Marquis" (關內侯) as a reward for his efforts.
Battle of Tong Pass
In 211, during the Battle of Tong Pass against a coalition of northwestern warlords led by Ma Chao and Han Sui, Cao Cao led his troops north across the Ji River (濟河) in an attempt to circle to the rear of the enemy. The bulk of Cao Cao's troops had already crossed the river, leaving Cao and his Tiger Warriors to bring up the rear. Just then, Ma Chao and his 10,000 horsemen caught up with them. As the enemies were approaching fast, Cao Cao's soldiers rushed to get on board the ferry, which was on the verge of sinking under the weight. Xu Chu held up a saddle with his left hand to shield Cao Cao from arrows and carried a sword on his right hand, using it to slash enemy soldiers were trying to clamber onto the vessel. By then, the boatman had been killed by arrows, so Xu Chu, still holding up the saddle with his left hand, used his other hand to grab a bargepole and push the ferry away from the ford to safety.
Cao Cao later agreed to meet Ma Chao and Han Sui for talks, and he brought along only Xu Chu. Ma Chao had confidence in himself and he secretly planned to use the opportunity to charge forward and capture Cao Cao, but he had heard of Xu Chu's might before and he suspected that the man beside Cao Cao was Xu. Ma Chao asked Cao Cao, "Where is your Tiger Marquis?" Cao Cao pointed at Xu Chu, who glared at Ma Chao. Ma Chao was afraid and did not dare to make his move. Both sides then returned to their respective camps. Several days later, a battle was fought, and Cao Cao scored a major victory. Xu Chu killed several enemies and was promoted to "Military Guard General of the Household" (武衞中郎將) for his achievement. This was the first time the term "Military Guard" (武衞) was used. Cao Cao's soldiers knew that Xu Chu possessed the might of a tiger, but he was also simple minded, so they nicknamed him "Tiger Fool" (虎癡).
Incident with Cao Ren
Xu Chu was known to be a cautious and serious person who did not talk much and was very mindful of rules and regulations. Once, Cao Cao's cousin and general Cao Ren travelled from Jing Province to meet Cao Cao – who had recently received the title of a vassal king, King of Wei (魏王), from Emperor Xian – in the capital Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan). Cao Cao was still in his personal chambers, with Xu Chu standing guard outside, when Cao Ren arrived. Cao Ren asked Xu Chu to join him in the side room for a chat. However, Xu Chu replied, "The King is coming out soon," and then entered Cao Cao's chambers. Cao Ren was very unhappy with Xu Chu. Later, someone told Xu Chu, "The General (Cao Ren) is a close relative and important subject of the King. He lowered himself when he asked to chat with you. How could you reject him?" Xu Chu responded, "He may be a close relative and important subject of the King, but he is in charge of external defences at the borders. I, Xu Chu, am in charge of internal security. If he wanted to chat with me, we could do so in public. Why did he ask to converse with me in private?" Cao Cao was impressed and he favoured Xu Chu even more after he heard about the incident, and he promoted Xu to "Central Resolute General" (中堅將軍).
Service under Cao Pi
When Cao Cao died in 220, Xu Chu was so overwhelmed with sorrow that he vomited blood. Later that year, Cao Cao's son Cao Pi ended the Han dynasty and established the state of Cao Wei, marking the start of the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Pi became emperor and he also favoured Xu Chu greatly. He promoted Xu Chu to "Military Guard General" (武衞將軍) and put him in charge of the palace guards, and also granted him the title "Marquis of Wansui Village" (萬歲亭侯). The original Tiger Warriors under Xu Chu's command were all commissioned as officers by Cao Cao, but among them, only slightly more than 10 rose through the ranks to become generals and recipients of marquis titles, while only about a hundred were promoted to commandants and colonels.
Cao Pi died in 226 and was succeeded by his son Cao Rui. Cao Rui granted Xu Chu the title "Marquis of Mou District" (牟鄉侯) and 700 taxable households under his control, and even conferred the title of a "Secondary Marquis" (關內侯) on one of Xu's sons. After his death, Xu Chu was given the posthumous name "Marquis Zhuang" (壯侯), which literally means "robust marquis".
Family and descendants
Sometime during the Taihe era (227-233) in the reign of Cao Rui, the emperor issued an imperial edict, praising Xu Chu and conferring the title of a "Secondary Marquis" (關內侯) on Xu Chu's son and grandson.
Xu Chu's titles were inherited by his son, Xu Yi (許儀). In 263, when Cao Wei launched a major campaign to conquer its rival state Shu Han, Xu Yi served as a yamenjiang (牙門將) under the Wei general Zhong Hui, who tasked him with overseeing the construction of roads leading into Shu. When the main army commanded by Zhong Hui passed through the roads, it turned out that the roads were poorly built. Zhong Hui had Xu Yi executed for his failure, and this incident shocked the Wei army. Xu Yi's titles were inherited by his son, Xu Zong (許綜), during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Jin dynasty.
Xu Chu's elder brother, Xu Ding (許定), also served in the Wei military and was promoted to "General Who Inspires Might" (振威將軍) and commanded the "Rapid as Tigers" (虎賁) division of the imperial guards.
Chen Shou, who wrote Xu Chu's biography in the Sanguozhi, commented that Xu Chu and Dian Wei were powerful bodyguards and were comparable to Fan Kuai, a general who served under Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han dynasty.
Xu Chu appears as a character in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, which romanticises the historical events before and during the Three Kingdoms period. His bravery and strength was emphasised by a fictional episode in chapter 59, when he duelled with Ma Chao during the Battle of Tong Pass.[a]
- See Battle of Tong Pass (211)#In fiction for more information.
- Xu Chu's death date was not stated clearly in his biography in the Sanguozhi, but it is known that he died after Cao Rui ascended the throne of Cao Wei in 226. Quote from Sanguozhi vol. 18: (明帝即位， ... 褚薨，...)
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 902. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
- (許褚字仲康，譙國譙人也。 ... 長八尺餘，腰大十圍，容貌雄毅，勇力絕人。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (漢末，聚少年及宗族數千家，共堅壁以禦寇。時汝南葛陂賊萬餘人攻褚壁，褚衆少不敵，力戰疲極。兵矢盡，乃令壁中男女，聚治石如杅斗者置四隅。褚飛石擲之，所值皆摧碎。賊不敢進。糧乏，偽與賊和，以牛與賊易食，賊來取牛，牛輒奔還。褚乃出陳前，一手逆曳牛尾，行百餘步。賊衆驚，遂不敢取牛而走。由是淮、汝、陳、梁閒，聞皆畏憚之。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (太祖徇淮、汝，褚以衆歸太祖。太祖見而壯之曰：「此吾樊噲也。」即日拜都尉，引入宿衞。諸從褚俠客，皆以為虎士。從征張繡，先登，斬首萬計，遷校尉。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (從討袁紹於官渡。時常從士徐他等謀為逆，以褚常侍左右，憚之不敢發。伺褚休下日，他等懷刀入。褚至下舍心動，即還侍。他等不知，入帳見褚，大驚愕。他色變，褚覺之，即擊殺他等。太祖益親信之，出入同行，不離左右。從圍鄴，力戰有功，賜爵關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (從討韓遂、馬超於潼關。太祖將北渡，臨濟河，先渡兵，獨與褚及虎士百餘人留南岸斷後。超將步騎萬餘人，來奔太祖軍，矢下如雨。褚白太祖，賊來多，今兵渡以盡，宜去，乃扶太祖上船。賊戰急，軍爭濟，船重欲沒。褚斬攀船者，左手舉馬鞍鞌太祖。船工為流矢所中死，褚右手並泝船，僅乃得渡。是日，微褚幾危。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (其後太祖與遂、超等單馬會語，左右皆不得從，唯將褚。超負其力，陰欲前突太祖，素聞褚勇，疑從騎是褚。乃問太祖曰：「公有虎侯者安在？」太祖顧指褚，褚瞋目盼之。超不敢動，乃各罷。後數日會戰，大破超等，褚身斬首級，遷武衞中郎將。武衞之號，自此始也。軍中以褚力如虎而癡，故號曰虎癡；是以超問虎侯，至今天下稱焉，皆謂其姓名也。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (褚性謹慎奉法，質重少言。曹仁自荊州來朝謁，太祖未出，入與褚相見於殿外。仁呼褚入便坐語，褚曰：「王將出。」便還入殿，仁意恨之。或以責褚曰：「征南宗室重臣，降意呼君，君何故辭？」褚曰：「彼雖親重，外藩也。褚備內臣，衆談足矣，入室何私乎？」太祖聞，愈愛待之，遷中堅將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (太祖崩，褚號泣歐血。文帝踐阼，進封萬歲亭侯，遷武衞將軍，都督中軍宿衞禁兵，甚親近焉。初，褚所將為虎士者從征伐，太祖以為皆壯士也，同日拜為將，其後以功為將軍封侯者數十人，都尉、校尉百餘人，皆劒客也。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (明帝即位，進牟鄉侯，邑七百戶，賜子爵一人關內侯。褚薨，謚曰壯侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (太和中，帝思褚忠孝，下詔襃贊，復賜褚子孫二人爵關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (先命牙門將許儀在前治道，會在後行，而橋穿，馬足陷，於是斬儀。儀者，許褚之子，有功王室，猶不原貸。諸軍聞之，莫不震竦。) Sanguozhi vol. 28.
- (子儀嗣。 ... 儀為鍾會所殺。 ... 泰始初，子綜嗣。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (褚兄定，亦以軍功封為振威將軍，都督徼道虎賁。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (許褚、典韋折衝左右，抑亦漢之樊噲也。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- Chen, Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Luo, Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).
- Pei, Songzhi. Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).