An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Gongsun Ao 公孫敖

Sep 27, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Gongsun Ao 公孫敖 (died 93) was a high commander during the mid-Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from Beidi 北地 (modern Heshui 合水, Gansu) and was a skilled rider and archer. During the reign of Emperor Jing 漢景帝 (r. 157-141 BCE) he participated in small campaigns and entered the service of the imperial palace as gentleman of the cavalry (jilang 騎郎). He became a friend of the famous general Wei Qing 衛青 and took part in his many campaigns against the steppe federation of the Xiongnu 匈奴 as General of the chariots and cavalry (cheji jiangjun> 車騎將軍).

He rose to the high post of Superior Grand Master of the Palace (taizhong dafu 太中大夫). When his contingent was heavily defeated by the Xiongnu he was charged of treason and demoted to a commoner. Yet in 124 he was able to demonstrate his martial skills as a commander (duwei 都尉) in the army of Wei Qing. This time he was even given the title of Marquis of Heqi 合騎侯. A year later he was promoted to Central General (zhong jiangjun 中將軍).

In 121 he participated in Huo Qubing's 霍去病 campaign where he commanded one division that was to meet with the other. He failed to meet Huo's divisiono in time and was again demoted to commoner. In 104 he rose again as commander and was made General of the fence (gan jiangjun 杅將軍) and commanded laboures constructing the Great Wall north of Mt. Yinshan 陰山.

In 97 he commanded a division of Li Guangli's 李廣利 army and was again defeated. Sentenced to death, he managed to escape but was soon arrested and executed.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 129.