A Qing dynasty illustration of Yuan Shu
|Courtesy name||Gonglu (Chinese: 公路; pinyin: Gōnglù; Wade–Giles: Kung-lu)|
Yuan Shu was said to be a younger cousin of the warlord Yuan Shao, but was actually Yuan Shao's younger half-brother. After the death of He Jin, he led a force to slay the eunuchs as the Imperial Corps Commander of the Imperial Tiger Guards, which was located just outside the capital. When Dong Zhuo seized control of the Han court, he wished to assign Yuan Shu as General of the Rear, but fearing Dong Zhuo's eventual downfall, Yuan Shu fled to Nanyang, where he took control of the commandery after Sun Jian killed its grand administrator Zhang Zi. His rule was despotic.
Later, he participated in an alliance against Dong Zhuo led by Yuan Shao. After the dissension of this alliance, he vied with Yuan Shao over control of northern China, each establishing opposing alliances. Yuan Shu allied with Yuan Shao's northern rival Gongsun Zan, and Yuan Shao in turn allied with Yuan Shu's southern rival Liu Biao.
Yuan Shu fled to Shouchun (present day Shouxian, Anhui) after repeated defeats by the combined armies of Cao Cao and Yuan Shao. He declared himself emperor under the short-lived Zhong dynasty (仲) in 197, citing superstition as his justification, including the Hanzi in his name and style name, and his possession of the Imperial Seal of China. This audacious action made him a target of the other warlords. His extravagant lifestyle and arrogance caused many of his followers to desert him. Most devastating of the departures and defections – both to Yuan Shu personally and to the strength of his forces – was that of Sun Ce, who had recently conquered most of the Jiangdong territory under Yuan's banner. Following crushing defeats by the armies of Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Lü Bu, Yuan Shu attempted to flee north to join his brother Yuan Shao. Yuan Shao sent his son, Yuan Tan, to try to aid Yuan Shu; however, an alliance between the Yuan brothers who had long hated each other was not destined, as Yuan Tan arrived too late, and Yuan Shu's forces were destroyed by Liu Bei. He died shortly thereafter of sickness and in grief.
- Grandfather: Yuan Tang (袁湯)
- Father: Yuan Feng (袁逢)
- Yuan Shao, elder half-brother
- Spouse: Lady Feng (馮氏), daughter of Feng Fang (馮方)
- Yuan Wei (袁隗), uncle
- Yang Biao (楊彪), brother-in-law
- He Kui (何夔), distant cousin
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 1011. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
- (绍之从弟也) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- Book of Later Han, vols. 74, 75..
- See Yuan Shao#Family background for the details on the relationship between Yuan Shu and Yuan Shao.
- (董卓之将废帝，以术为后将军；术亦畏卓之祸，出奔南阳。) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- (会长沙太守孙坚杀南阳太守张咨，术得据其郡。) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- (南阳户口数百万，而术奢淫肆欲，徵敛无度，百姓苦之) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- (既与绍有隙，又与刘表不平而北连公孙瓚；绍与瓚不和而南连刘表。) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- (将归帝号於绍，欲至青州从袁谭，发病道死。) Records of the Three Kingdoms, vol. 6 袁术
- Chen Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms, Volume 6, Biography of Yuan Shu.
- Fan Ye et al. Book of the Later Han, Volume 75.