Xun You

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Not to be confused with Xun Yu.
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Xun.
Xun You
Strategist of Cao Cao
Born 157[1]
Died 214 (aged 57)[1]
Traditional Chinese 荀攸
Simplified Chinese 荀攸
Pinyin Xún Yōu
Wade–Giles Hsün Yu
Courtesy name Gongda (traditional Chinese: 公達; simplified Chinese: 公达; pinyin: Gōngdá; Wade–Giles: Kung-ta)
Posthumous name Marquis Jing (Chinese: 敬侯; pinyin: Jìng Hóu; Wade–Giles: Ching Hou)

Xun You (157–214),[1][2] courtesy name Gongda, was a politician who served as an advisor to the warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He later opposed Cao Cao taking the title of "King of Wei". His uncle, Xun Yu, was better known for opposing Cao Cao accepting the title of Duke. He helped advised Cao Cao in the Battle of Red Cliffs alongside Cheng Yu.

Early life[edit]

Xun You was born in Yingchuan and part of the distinguished Xun family. His exact relation to Xun Yu is unknown, although it has been narrowed down to Xun You being either his cousin or nephew. Just as Xun Yu, he was known to be frugal, wise and humble. He would often discuss his plans with his masters in private. Xun You was recruited in 189 as an advisor to He Jin while the latter was fighting for power against the eunuchs. He was appointed "Gentleman in Attendance of the Yellow Gates" and, despite the fact that it was a rather low position, it allowed him to enter the imperial palace and thus ensure He Jin's command.

Later that year, He Jin was assassinated by the eunuchs and the capital fell into chaos when Yuan Shao and others started to massacre the eunuchs. The control over the capital and the emperor eventually fell into the hands of Dong Zhuo and Xun You entered his service. In 192, Xun You and two officials named Chong Ji and Zheng Tai made plans to assassinate Dong Zhuo. They were discovered and Xun You was put into jail. A short time later, Dong Zhuo himself was killed by Lu Bu and Xun You was released from prison. He left the capital and sought to hold an office in Lujiang in Yang Province, but he ultimately did not take the appointment and went to seek refuge in Jing Province instead.

Service under Cao Cao[edit]

In 196, Xun You was recommended to serve Cao Cao by his relative Xun Yu. Cao Cao made him as one of the Masters of Writing and was so impressed with his abilities that he further promoted him to Master of the Army, responsible for organizing and disciplining the soldiers as well as giving advice to the commander, in this case Cao Cao. In 197, Xun You advised Cao Cao to hold back a large-scale assault on Zhang Xiu, who had allied himself with Liu Biao after his victory at Wancheng, saying that they would eventually have a fall-out. Cao Cao took the advice and besieged Zhang Xiu only at Rang, but had to withdraw when Yuan Shao began to mobilize troops against Cao Cao.

When Lu Bu allied himself with Yuan Shu, Xun You urged Cao Cao to attack him. He served Cao Cao as a military advisor during the campaign against Lu Bu. Lu Bu suffered numerous defeats and retreated to Xiapi castle. Cao Cao wanted to retreat, but Xun You and Guo Jia persuaded him to keep up the attack. By the end of 198, Lu Bu surrendered. Two years later, Cao Cao began to engage Yuan Shao in battle. Cao Cao set out to help Liu Yan at Baima, who was attacked by Yan Liang. Xun You advised Cao Cao to send out a decoy unit to lure Yan Liang away from the main unit and take him by surprise. Cao Cao followed his advice and conducted a successful surprise attack on Yan Liang, who was killed by Guan Yu. Xun You then served as Cao Cao's chief adviser during the campaign and advised him to send Xu Huang to assault Han Meng's barrage train, depriving Yuan Shao of a large portion of his supplies. While Cao Cao carried out a surprise attack on Wuchao, Xun You guarded his main camp with Cao Hong and advised the latter to accept Zhang He's surrender after they defeated him.

After the death of Yuan Shao, his sons Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang fought for power. Xun You served as one of Cao Cao's advisors during the campaign against them. In 203, Yuan Tan sent Xin Pi to form an alliance with Cao Cao. Xun You convinced Cao Cao to accept the alliance and side with Yuan Tan. This allowed Cao Cao to focus on the conquest of Ye and drive Yuan Shang out of Ji Province. Later, Yuan Tan broke his alliance with Cao Cao and was defeated and killed at Nanpi in 205. Cao Cao went on to conquer the rest of Yuan Shao's former territory by 207. Cao Cao wanted to enfeoff many of his subjects after the unification of Hebei, including Xun Yu. Xun Yu, however, sent Xun You to inform Cao Cao that he would refuse any accolades, which included the building of a big estate for him, which was going to be as great as those of the Three Excellencies.

Xun You went on to serve Cao Cao as a civil administrator in the subsequent years. In 213, Cao Cao was made Duke of Wei and Xun You was promoted to the Prefect of Masters of Writing of the state of Wei, which was basically one of the rewards for longtime supporters in order to create a copy of the central Han government to easen a later transition from Han to Wei. Xun You eventually died in 214.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Wei Shu (魏書) mentioned that Xun You died at the age of 58 (by East Asian age reckoning) in the 19th year of the Jian'an era (196-220) in the reign of Emperor Xian of Han. (魏書曰:時建安十九年,攸年五十八。計其年大彧六歲。) By calculation, Xun You's birth year should be around 157.
  2. ^ de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 928. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.