|General of Cao Wei|
|Courtesy name||Wenze (simplified Chinese: 文则; traditional Chinese: 文則; pinyin: Wénzé; Wade–Giles: Wen-tse)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Li (simplified Chinese: 历侯; traditional Chinese: 厲侯; pinyin: Lì Hóu)|
Yu Jin (died 221), courtesy name Wenze, was a military general serving under the warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He joined Cao Cao in 192 around the start of the civil wars leading to the collapse of the dynasty, and fought in many of the campaigns which established the warlord's position as a central figure in that period. In 219, Yu Jin was tasked with leading forces to relief Cao Cao's general Cao Ren, who was being besieged in Fancheng by Liu Bei's general Guan Yu, but his armies were destroyed in a flood due to heavy rains. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu and became a prisoner-of-war, but was transferred to the custody of another warlord, Sun Quan, after Sun's forces captured Guan Yu's bases in late 219. Sun Quan treated Yu Jin like a guest and sent him back to the state of Cao Wei – founded in late 220 by Cao Cao's successor, Cao Pi, who ended the Eastern Han dynasty – in 221. Cao Pi pardoned Yu Jin and restored him to the position of a general. However, Yu Jin died later that year in regret after visiting Cao Cao's tomb, where he saw illustrations of the Battle of Fancheng depicting his surrender to Guan Yu.
Yu Jin was named one of the Five Elite Generals of his time, alongside Zhang Liao, Yue Jin, Zhang He and Xu Huang, by Chen Shou, who wrote his biography in the historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
Yu Jin was from Juping County (鉅平縣), Taishan Commandery (泰山郡), which is in present-day Tai'an, Shandong. In the early 180s, when the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out, Yu Jin responded to the Han government's call for volunteers to serve in the imperial army and help to suppress the revolt. He became a subordinate of the general Bao Xin, who was based in Yan Province (covering present-day southwestern Shandong and eastern Henan).
In 192, after the warlord Cao Cao took charge of Yan Province, Yu Jin and his fellow volunteers were appointed as doubos (都伯; a military officer in charge of 100 soldiers) and placed under the command of Wang Lang. Wang Lang felt that Yu Jin was extraordinary and had the potential to become a great general, so he recommended Yu to Cao Cao. Cao Cao commissioned Yu Jin as a Major (司馬) after interviewing him, and then sent him to attack Guangwei (廣威), a location in Xu Province, which was governed by Tao Qian. Yu Jin successfully conquered Guangwei and was promoted to Commandant Who Breaks Formations (陷陣都尉).
Battles against Lü Bu, Yellow Turban remnants and Yuan Shu
Between 194 and 195, Yu Jin fought on Cao Cao's side in a war against a rival warlord Lü Bu for control over Yan Province. He destroyed two of Lü Bu's camps at the south of the city during a battle in Puyang while his subordinates defeated Gao Ya (高雅), one of Lü Bu's officers, at Xuchang (須昌; northeast of present-day Dongping County, Shandong). He attacked Lü Bu's strongholds at Shouzhang (壽張; southwest of present-day Dongping County, Shandong), Dingtao (定陶; present-day Dingtao County, Shandong) and Lihu (離狐; southeast of present-day Puyang, Henan), and captured all of them. He also besieged Zhang Chao at Yongqiu (雍丘; present-day Qi County, Henan) and conquered the county.
Around 196, Yu Jin joined Cao Cao in a campaign against remnants of the Yellow Turban rebels led by Liu Pi, Huang Shao (黃邵) and others. They garrisoned at Banliang (版梁). One night, Huang Shao and the rebels attempted to launch a surprise attack on Cao Cao's camp, but were defeated by Yu Jin and his subordinates. Liu Pi, Huang Shao and the rebel leaders were killed and the remaining rebels surrendered. Yu Jin was promoted to Colonel Who Pacifies the Caitiffs (平虜校尉). In 197, he besieged Qiao Rui, an officer serving under a rival warlord Yuan Shu, at Ku County (苦縣; present-day Luyi County, Zhoukou, Henan) and killed Qiao and four other enemy officers.
Battles against Zhang Xiu, Lü Bu and Sui Gu
In 197, Yu Jin accompanied Cao Cao on a campaign against the warlord Zhang Xiu in Wan (宛; or Wancheng, in present-day Wancheng District, Nanyang, Henan). Zhang Xiu initially surrendered and pledged allegiance to Cao Cao, but rebelled later and defeated Cao in a surprise attack. There was chaos and disorder in Cao Cao's forces as they retreated to Wuyin (舞陰; northwest of present-day Qinyang, Henan). Only Yu Jin led his unit to continue fighting the pursuing enemy while maintaining an orderly retreat to Wuyin. They managed to stay together even though they had sustained many casualties and losses. When Zhang Xiu's forces slowed down on their pursuit, Yu Jin reorganised his men and led them towards Wuyin in a dignified manner even though they had lost the battle.
Before reaching Cao Cao's position, Yu Jin encountered about a dozen injured and naked men on the road. When he asked them what happened, they told him that they were robbed by the Qingzhou Corps (青州兵). The Qingzhou Corps was a unit in Cao Cao's forces formed by the former Yellow Turban rebels who surrendered to Cao in Qing Province (Qingzhou) in the early 190s. The furious Yu Jin said, "The Qingzhou Corps are part of Lord Cao's army. How dare they become robbers!" He then led his men to attack and punish them. Some of the Qingzhou soldiers escaped to Wuyin and accused Yu Jin of committing the crimes they were responsible for. When Yu Jin reached Wuyin, he immediately set up defensive fortifications around the camp instead of reporting directly to Cao Cao. His subordinates told him, "The Qingzhou soldiers framed you. You should explain matters to Lord Cao as soon as possible." Yu Jin replied, "The enemy is still in pursuit and may reach here anytime. If we don't set up defences now, how can we expect to hold them off? Lord Cao is intelligent and wise. Those accusations aren't a cause for concern." After the defences were set up, Yu Jin went to meet Cao Cao and explained everything. Cao Cao was pleased and he said, "How dangerous it was for me when we were defeated at the Yu River (淯水). General, you're able to bring order to chaos and hold your ground against a fierce enemy, and you display unwavering loyalty. Even the famous generals of ancient times couldn't have done better than you!" Yu Jin was awarded the title "Marquis of Yishou Village" (益壽亭侯) in recognition of his contributions.
In 198, Yu Jin followed Cao Cao on another campaign against Zhang Xiu at Rang County (穰縣; in present-day Dengzhou, Henan). He also participated in the Battle of Xiapi against Lü Bu, which resulted in Lü Bu's defeat and execution. Later, he joined Shi Huan (史渙) and Cao Ren in defeating Sui Gu at Shequan (射犬; present-day Qinyang, Henan).
In early 200 CE, when war broke out between Cao Cao and his northern rival Yuan Shao, with Yuan initially having the upper hand, Yu Jin volunteered to lead the vanguard to engage Yuan's forces. Cao Cao was impressed with Yu Jin's courage, so he placed Yu in command of 2,000 infantry and cavalry and ordered him to defend Yan Ford (延津; in present-day Yanjin County, Henan) from the enemy, while he personally led another army to Guandu (官渡; northeast of present-day Zhongmu County, Henan).
Around the time, the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Xu Province after killing Che Zhou (車冑), the provincial governor whom Cao Cao had appointed. Cao Cao then led his forces to attack Liu Bei. Yuan Shao concurrently attacked Yan Ford, but Yu Jin managed to hold his position. Later, Yu Jin and Yue Jin led 5,000 infantry and cavalry to attack Yuan Shao's camps along the Yellow River southwest of Yan Ford. They travelled as far as to the counties of Ji (汲; southwest of present-day Weihui, Henan) and Huojia (獲嘉; southeast of present-day Huojia County, Henan). They set fire to over 30 enemy camps, killed or captured thousands of enemy soldiers, and forced over 20 of Yuan Shao's officers, including He Mao (何茂) and Wang Mo (王摩), into surrender. Cao Cao then ordered Yu Jin to garrison at Yuanwu (原武; present-day Yuanyang County, Henan). Yu Jin attacked and destroyed Yuan Shao's camp at Dushi Ford (杜氏津).
Yu Jin was promoted to Major-General (裨將軍) for his achievement and was then relocated to Cao Cao's camp at Guandu. During the Battle of Guandu, Yuan Shao's forces piled up earth to form small hills and constructed platforms on top for their archers, who rained arrows on Cao Cao's camp. Cao Cao's forces sustained many casualties and the soldiers were all fearful. Yu Jin firmly defended his positions, fought bravely, and displayed great fervour. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General (偏將軍) after Cao Cao scored a decisive victory over Yuan Shao at Guandu.
Suppressing two rebellions
Cao Cao continued waging wars against Yuan Shao after the Battle of Guandu and against Yuan's heirs and allies after Yuan died in 202. By 206, after he had seized control of Ji Province (covering parts of present-day southern Hebei) from the Yuans, a minor warlord Chang Xi (昌豨) who had initially surrendered to him in early 201[b] rebelled against him. Cao Cao ordered Yu Jin to lead an army to attack Chang Xi. Chang Xi surrendered to Yu Jin, who was an old friend of his. When his subordinates suggested that he send Chang Xi as a prisoner-of-war to Cao Cao and let Cao decide Chang's fate, Yu Jin said, "Aren't you all aware of the norms established by Lord Cao? He doesn't spare those who surrender after they are surrounded. I should follow his norms and uphold law and order. Chang Xi may be an old friend of mine, but I won't break the norms because of this!" He personally supervised Chang Xi's execution and shed tears as he gave the order. When Cao Cao heard about it, he remarked, "Is it Heaven's will that Chang Xi had his fate decided by Yu Jin instead of me?" He regarded Yu Jin more highly than before after this incident. Yu Jin was promoted to General of Tiger's Might (虎威將軍) for his efforts in pacifying Chang Xi's revolt.
In 209, after the Battle of Red Cliffs, Chen Lan and Mei Cheng (梅成) started a rebellion in Lu County (六縣; in present-day Lu'an, Anhui). Cao Cao sent two separate forces to suppress the rebellion: Yu Jin and Zang Ba to attack Mei Cheng; Zhang Liao, with Zhang He and Niu Gai (牛蓋) as his deputies, to attack Chen Lan. Mei Cheng and his followers, who numbered about 3,000, surrendered when Yu Jin and Zang Ba showed up. However, after Yu Jin and Zang Ba left, Mei Cheng rebelled again and led his men to join Chen Lan. Zhang Liao led his army to attack the rebels, but was running short of supplies, so Yu Jin headed back and oversaw the transporting of supplies to the frontline to support Zhang Liao. Zhang Liao successfully suppressed the revolt and killed the two rebel leaders.[c] In recognition of his contributions during the campaign, Yu Jin was awarded an additional 200 taxable households in his marquisate, making it 1,200 households in total. Later, he was promoted to General of the Left (左將軍) and granted imperial authority. One of his sons was awarded a marquis title and given 500 households in his marquisate.
Battle of Fancheng
In 219, when Cao Cao was in Chang'an, he gave orders to his general Cao Ren to attack Liu Bei's general Guan Yu at Fan (樊; or Fancheng, in present-day Fancheng District, Xiangyang, Hubei). He also instructed Yu Jin to lead forces to support Cao Ren. It was in autumn at the time and there were heavy rains. The Han River overflowed and flooded the neighbouring flat lands. The water level reached as high as several zhang. Yu Jin's seven armies were destroyed in the flood, while Yu himself and his remaining men managed to escape to high ground and were trapped there. Guan Yu led naval troops to attack Yu Jin. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu, but his subordinate Pang De put up fierce resistance and ended up being captured and executed by Guan Yu when he refused to surrender. When Cao Cao received news of Yu Jin's surrender, he mourned Pang De's death for a long time and said, "I've known Yu Jin for 30 years, yet the behaviour he displayed in the face of danger was no better than that displayed by Pang De!"
Later life and death
Yu Jin remained as a prisoner-of-war in Guan Yu's base in Jing Province until late 219, when Liu Bei's territories in the province were captured by Sun Quan's general Lü Meng in a stealth invasion. Guan Yu was captured and executed by Sun Quan's forces. Yu Jin was released and brought to Wu (Sun Quan's domain), where he was treated like a guest. However, he was also ridiculed and humiliated by Yu Fan, an official serving under Sun Quan.[d]
Cao Cao died in early 220 and was succeeded by his son Cao Pi. Later that year, Cao Pi ended the Eastern Han dynasty and established the state of Cao Wei with him as its first emperor. Sun Quan pledged allegiance to Cao Pi in 221 and sent Yu Jin back to Wei in autumn. By then, Yu Jin was a pallid-looking old man with a head full of grey hair. He knelt down, kowtowed and cried when he met Cao Pi. Cao Pi comforted him, told him about Xun Linfu[e] and Mengmingshi,[f] and then commissioned him as General Who Pacifies the Borders (安遠將軍). Cao Pi wanted to send Yu Jin as his envoy to Wu (Sun Quan's domain). Before Yu Jin left, Cao Pi ordered him to visit Cao Cao's tomb at Gaoling (高陵) in Ye (in present-day Handan, Hebei). There, Yu Jin saw illustrations of the Battle of Fancheng, in which he was depicted surrendering to Guan Yu, while Pang De was portrayed in a ferocious and courageous manner. He was so filled with regret that he fell sick and died. Cao Pi granted him the posthumous title "Marquis Li", which literally means "severe marquis".[g]
Yu Jin's son, Yu Gui (于圭), inherited his father's title "Marquis of Yishou Village" (益壽亭侯). Yu Jin probably had at least one other son, who received a marquis title and 500 households in his marquisate (see above).
Chen Shou, who wrote Yu Jin's biography in the Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi), named Yu one of the Five Elite Generals of his time, alongside Zhang Liao, Yue Jin, Zhang He and Xu Huang. He mentioned that when Cao Cao went to war, these five generals were usually in command of either the vanguard (when making offensives) or the rear guard (when retreating). Yu Jin was known for maintaining high standards of discipline in his unit and for never keeping the spoils of war for himself. As such, he was often awarded a large share of rewards after battles. However, he was very unpopular with his men because he was harsh and unforgiving in enforcing rules and regulations. Cao Cao disliked Zhu Ling, one of his generals, and had the intention of removing him from his position. He knew that Yu Jin had an intimidating presence so he ordered Yu to take control of Zhu Ling's unit. Zhu Ling and his men did not dare to move when Yu Jin showed up at their camp and took over Zhu's command. Zhu Ling then became Yu Jin's subordinate and all his men obediently submitted to Yu's command. Such was Yu Jin's ability to strike fear into the hearts of others.
Pei Songzhi, who annotated Yu Jin's biography in the Sanguozhi, commented that even though Yu Jin followed the book when he executed Chang Xi (who surrendered after being surrounded), he had another option – send Chang as a prisoner-of-war to Cao Cao and let his lord decide Chang's fate – that was still not considered a violation of the norms. Pei felt that Yu Jin deserved his eventual fate – ending up as a prisoner-of-war and receiving a negative-sounding posthumous title ("severe marquis") after death – because he was unwilling to make an exception for an old friend, was inclined towards killing, and was harsh in suppressing dissent.
In popular culture
- The Sanguozhi did not mention exactly when he died. However, volume 69 of the Zizhi Tongjian mentioned that he died in 221.
- See Zhang Liao#Persuading Chang Xi to surrender for information on how Chang Xi initially surrendered to Cao Cao in early 201.
- See also Zhang Liao#Suppressing a mutiny and a rebellion for more information on this rebellion.
- See Yu Fan#Mocking Yu Jin for details.
- Xun Linfu (荀林父) was a general in the Jin state in the Spring and Autumn period. In 597 BCE, he lost the Battle of Bi against the Chu state. He requested that Duke Jing of Jin execute him as punishment for his defeat, but the duke pardoned him and reinstated him as a general. Xun Linfu redeemed himself later by defeating some of Jin's enemies in battle.
- Mengmingshi (孟明視) was a general in the Qin state in the Spring and Autumn period. He was a son of the Qin statesman Baili Xi. In 627 BCE, he lost the Battle of Xiao against the Jin state and was captured by the enemy, but was released later. He redeemed himself later by helping his lord, Duke Mu of Qin, emerge as one of the Five Hegemons of that era.
- According to the "Rules of assigning posthumous names" chapter in the Yizhoushu, an official would receive the posthumous name "Li" either for being cold-blooded and arrogant, or for having slaughtered innocent people. Quote from Yizhoushu vol. 6. ch. 54: (暴慢無親曰厲。殺戮無辜曰厲。)
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 995. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
- (評曰：太祖建茲武功，而時之良將，五子為先。于禁最號毅重，然弗克其終。張郃以巧變為稱，樂進以驍果顯名，而鑒其行事，未副所聞。或注記有遺漏，未如張遼、徐晃之備詳也。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (于禁字文則，泰山鉅平人也。黃巾起，鮑信招合徒衆，禁附從焉。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 60.
- (及太祖領兖州，禁與其黨俱詣為都伯，屬將軍王朗。朗異之，薦禁才任大將軍。太祖召見與語，拜軍司馬，使將兵詣徐州，攻廣威，拔之，拜陷陣都尉。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 61.
- (從討呂布於濮陽，別破布二營於城南，又別將破高雅於須昌。從攻壽張、定陶、離狐，圍張超於雍丘，皆拔之。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 62.
- (從征黃巾劉辟、黃邵等，屯版梁，邵等夜襲太祖營，禁帥麾下擊破之，斬辟、邵等，盡降其衆。遷平虜校尉。從圍橋蕤於苦，斬蕤等四將。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (從至宛，降張繡。繡復叛，太祖與戰不利，軍敗，還舞陰。是時軍亂，各間行求太祖，禁獨勒所將數百人，且戰且引，雖有死傷不相離。虜追稍緩，禁徐整行隊，鳴鼓而還。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (未至太祖所，道見十餘人被創裸走，禁問其故，曰：「為青州兵所劫。」初，黃巾降，號青州兵，太祖寬之，故敢因緣為略。禁怒，令其衆曰：「青州兵同屬曹公，而還為賊乎！」乃討之，數之以罪。青州兵遽走詣太祖自訴。禁旣至，先立營壘，不時謁太祖。或謂禁：「青州兵已訴君矣，宜促詣公辨之。」禁曰：「今賊在後，追至無時，不先為備，何以待敵？且公聦明，譖訴何緣！」徐鑿塹安營訖，乃入謁，具陳其狀。太祖恱，謂禁曰：「淯水之難，吾其急也，將軍在亂能整，討暴堅壘，有不可動之節，雖古名將，何以加之！」於是錄禁前後功，封益壽亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (復從攻張繡於穰，禽呂布於下邳，別與史渙、曹仁攻眭固於射犬，破斬之。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 63.
- (太祖初征袁紹，紹兵盛，禁願為先登。太祖壯之，乃選步騎二千人，使禁將，守延津以拒紹，太祖引軍還官渡。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (劉備以徐州叛，太祖東征之。紹攻禁，禁堅守，紹不能拔。復與樂進等將步騎五千，擊紹別營，從延津西南緣河至汲、獲嘉二縣，焚燒保聚三十餘屯，斬首獲生各數千，降紹將何茂、王摩等二十餘人。太祖復使禁別將屯原武，擊紹別營於杜氏津，破之。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (遷裨將軍，後從還官渡。太祖與紹連營，起土山相對。紹射營中，士卒多死傷，軍中懼。禁督守土山，力戰，氣益奮。紹破，遷偏將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 65.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 64.
- (兾州平。昌豨復叛，遣禁征之。禁急進攻豨；豨與禁有舊，詣禁降。諸將皆以為豨已降，當送詣太祖，禁曰：「諸君不知公常令乎！圍而後降者不赦。夫奉法行令，事上之節也。豨雖舊友，禁可失節乎！」自臨與豨決，隕涕而斬之。是時太祖軍淳于，聞而歎曰：「豨降不詣吾而歸禁，豈非命耶！」益重禁。東海平，拜禁虎威將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 66.
- (後與臧霸等攻梅成，張遼、張郃等討陳蘭。禁到，成舉衆三千餘人降。旣降復叛，其衆奔蘭。遼等與蘭相持，軍食少，禁運糧前後相屬，遼遂斬蘭、成。增邑二百戶，并前千二百戶。 ... 遷左將軍，假節鉞，分邑五百戶，封一子列侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (建安二十四年，太祖在長安，使曹仁討關羽於樊，又遣禁助仁。秋，大霖雨，漢水溢，平地水數丈，禁等七軍皆沒。禁與諸將登高望水，無所回避，羽乘大船就攻禁等，禁遂降，惟龐悳不屈節而死。太祖聞之，哀歎者乆之，曰：「吾知禁三十年，何意臨危處難，反不如龐悳邪！」) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (會孫權禽羽，獲其衆，禁復在吳。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 69.
- (秋八月，孫權遣使奉章，并遣于禁等還。) Sanguozhi vol. 2.
- (文帝踐阼，權稱藩，遣禁還。帝引見禁，鬚髮皓白，形容憔顇，泣涕頓首。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (帝慰喻以荀林父、孟明視故事，拜為安遠將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (欲遣使吳，先令北詣鄴謁高陵。帝使豫於陵屋畫關羽戰克、龐悳憤怒、禁降服之狀。禁見，慙恚發病薨。 ... 謚禁曰厲侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (子圭嗣，封益壽亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (是時，禁與張遼、樂進、張郃、徐晃俱為名將，太祖每征伐，咸遞行為軍鋒，還為後拒；而禁持軍嚴整，得賊財物，無所私入，由是賞賜特重。然以法御下，不甚得士衆心。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (太祖常恨朱靈，欲奪其營。以禁有威重，遣禁將數十騎，齎令書，徑詣靈營奪其軍，靈及其部衆莫敢動；乃以靈為禁部下督，衆皆震服，其見憚如此。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (臣松之以為圍而後降，法雖不赦；囚而送之，未為違命。禁曾不為舊交希兾萬一，而肆其好殺之心，以戾衆人之議，所以卒為降虜，死加惡謚，宜哉。) Pei Songzhi's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (Author unknown). Yizhoushu.
- Chen, Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Pei, Songzhi. Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
- Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.