An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zhao Yun 趙雲

Feb 15, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhao Yun 趙雲 (d. 229), courtesy name Zilong 子龍, was a military commander of the state of Shu-Han 蜀漢 (221-263), one of the Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE).

He was a native of Zhending 真定 (today's Zhengding 正定, Hebei) in the princedom of Changshan 常山. Zhao was known as a brave and skilled warrior. He first served Yuan Shao 袁紹 (d. 202), then Gongsun Zan 公孫瓚, and finally offered his service to Liu Bei 劉備 (161-222).

When Liu was defeated by Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220) in the battle of Changban 長坂 (Dangyang 當陽, Hubei), Zhao abandoned his wife and children and fled to the south, where he earned laurels in securing Liu Bei's wife, Lady Gan 甘夫人, and her son Adou 阿斗, the heir apparent and eventual Emperor Liu Shan 劉禪 (r. 223-263 CE). Zhao also participated in Liu Bei's conquest of the city of Chengdu 成都 (today Sichuan province) and the pacification of the province of Yizhou 益州, where Liu eventually established his realm. For his military achievements, Zhao Yun was awarded the title of General of the Wing Armies (yijun jiangjun 翊軍將軍) and General Conquering the South (zhengnan jiangjun 征南將軍), and was invested as Neighbourhood Marquis of Yongchang 永昌亭侯. He is known as one of the five tiger generals (wu hu shangjiang 五虎上將, wuhujiang 五虎將; the others were Guan Yu 關羽, Zhang Fei 張飛, Ma Chao 馬超, and Huang Zhong 黃忠) of the state of Shu.

Zhao escorted Liu Bei to the court of the realm of Wu 吳 (222/229-280) in the east to take in a new wife, a princess of Wu. He accompanied Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234) to Wu to deliver a letter of condolence for Zhou Yu 周瑜 (175-210) which deterred the generals of the Wu from making any sudden move. At Fengming Mountain 鳳鳴山 in the province of Liangzhou 涼州, he killed general Han De 韓德 and his four sons. In 228, he launched a campaign to attack the region of Guanzhong 關中, but failed due to the lack of troops and logistical miscalculation, and was demoted in rank to the title of General Defending the South (zhennian jiangjun 鎮南將軍).

His posthumous title was Marquis Shunping 順平侯.

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1992). Sanguozhi cidian 三國志辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 556.
Zhuang Hanxin 莊漢新, Guo Juyuan 郭居園, eds. (1991). Zhongguo gujin mingren da cidian 中國古今名人大辭典 (Beijing: Jingguan jiaoyu chubanshe), 540.
Zhu Quan 朱詮, ed. (2001). Wenxue zuopin renwu cidian 文學作品人物詞典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 18.