Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 62
Also Known As: Xuande
Born Country: China
Born in: Zhuozhou, Baoding, China
Famous as: Founder of the Chinese Shu Han Dynasty
Died on: June 10, 223
place of death: Baidicheng, Shu Han (present-day Fengjie County, Chongqing)
Founder/Co-Founder: Shu Han Dynasty
Liu Bei, also known as Xuande, was a Chinese warrior who founded the Shu-Han dynasty, one of the ‘Three Kingdoms’ that formed China at the end of the Han dynasty. Although it seems he was of noble descent, he was raised amidst poverty. He proved his worth in a battle during the ‘Yellow Turban Rebellion’ and became one of the main Han generals and a strong rival to another great general, Cao Cao. Although he suffered many defeats, he managed to form his own realm in central China, around Sichuan. He was later memorialized as a character in the 14th-century historical novel ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms.’ The dynasty he founded did not expand much, but he was said to be a kind and compassionate ruler who surrounded himself with good advisers and a great politician with Confucian tendencies.
Childhood & Early Life
Liu Bei was born in 161 in Zhuo County, near the Chinese border with Korea. His father died when he was just a child. Thus, Liu Bei and his mother had to sell straw sandals and mats to support themselves. However, his sense of ambition was strong even at an early age. He would often tell his friends that his goal was to become an emperor.
When he was 14, he was sent to study with Lu Zhi, a distinguished scholar. He was also a colleague of Gongsun Zan, who soon became his friend. However, it seems Liu Bei was more interested in hunting and music than in his studies. Records show that he was well-liked due to his kind nature and calm demeanor.
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In 184, the ‘Yellow Turban Rebellion’ began. It offered him a chance to prove his worth. His job was to assemble a militia that would help the government’s forces end the rebellion. He was in charge of an army of green-shirted men, mostly conscripts. His aides-de-camp were Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, and the three became good friends. They even made a strange oath to strengthen their friendship, vowing that they would die in the same place, in the same year, and on the same day. They called themselves the “Three Sworn Brothers” and earned a great reputation at the Battle of Guang Zhong, during the rebellion. That battle brought the end of the ‘Yellow Turban Rebellion.’
As a reward for his performance during the rebellion, the Han central government appointed him the “Prefect” of Anxi County. However, the government later dismissed the officials who had received functions as a reward. Thus, Liu Bei resigned, but not before attacking an inspector who had attempted to formally remove his title. He left to find another militia and joined them to fight against what remained of the ‘Yellow Turbans’ in the Xu province. His efforts were rewarded by the government again, with the title of the “Prefect” of Gaotang County.
While many warriors took part in the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Liu Bei decided to go to the northern regions and join his friend Gongsun Zan. Together, they managed to defeat the warlord Yuan Shao in 191. That victory brought a new reward for Liu Bei, as he was nominated to be the chancellor of Pingyuan State. He was also sent to fight alongside Tian Kai, against Yuan Shao’s eldest son, Yuan Tan.
In 194, Liu Bei managed another important victory, against the army of Cao Cao, who invaded from the north with an aim to kill Tao Qian, the governor of the Xu province. Cao Cao actually wanted to avenge his father’s death and was angry because his killer had been left unpunished. After Tao Qian died of an illness, Liu took his place as the governor of Xu.
Another important part of Liu Bei’s military career was his conflict with Lü Bu. Although in 195, Liu Bei had offered him shelter after the defeat Lü Bu had suffered in the hands of the forces of Cao Cao, he turned against Liu Bei in 196 and took over the control of the province. This forced Liu Bei to accept an alliance with Cao Cao to remove him. Cao Cao even appointed him the governor of the Yu province and gave him command on some of his troops. The fights against Lü Bu continued until he suffered a huge defeat in the hands of the combined forces of Cao Cao and Liu Bei at the Battle of Xiapi. They then captured and executed Lü Bu.
In 207, Liu Bei met the great sage Zhuge Liang, who gave him important pieces of advice for his political and military future. Liu Bei named him his military counselor. His expertize helped Liu Bei capture Jingzhou, with a little help from the kingdom of Wu, by attacking Cao Cao’s troops.
Without a doubt, his greatest accomplishment came in 221, when Liu Bei named himself the emperor in Chengdu and formed the kingdom of Shu. More specifically, his kingdom covered the Sichuan province, the Yunnan province, the northern part of the Guizhou province, and the southern part of the Shaanxi province. He also named his son Liu Shan the crown prince and declared that his intention was to make sure the Han dynasty continued.
In 223, he decided to fight against the kingdom of Wu because he wanted to avenge his sworn brother, Guan Yu. However, this was his final defeat. His camps were destroyed after fire attacks, and he had to take what was left of his troops and flee toward the west. Their enemy, Lu Xun, caught up with them, and the only way Liu Bei could escape was by ordering his men to set fire to their armors to create a firewall that gave them time to run.
Family & Personal Life
Liu Bei had many concubines and wives, such as Lady Sun, Lady Gan, Empress Wu, and Lady Mi. He also had four sons: Liu Shan, Liu Feng, Liu Yong, and Liu Li.
Liu Feng was the adopted son of Liu Bei.
He died in Baidicheng, after an illness, in the summer of 223. Following his death, he received the name “Zhaolie.”