An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Lü Bu 呂布

Mar 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Lü Bu 呂布 (died 198), courtesy name Fengxian 奉先, known as the "Flying General" (Feijiang 飛將), was a warlord at the end of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220) and follower of the powerful minister Dong Zhuo 董卓.

He hailed from Jiuyuan 九原 (modern Baotou 包頭, Inner Mongolia) and was in the beginning a retainer of the regional inspector (cishi 刺史) Ding Yuan 丁原, where he held the position of commandant of cavalry (jiduwei 騎都圍) and assistant magistrate (zhubu 主簿).

When Emperor Ling 漢靈帝 (r. 167-188) died, Ding Yuan followed the order of the chief minister He Jin 何進 and led his troops to the capital Luoyang. Dong Zhuo, seizing power of the central government, incited Lü Bu to kill his superior and to take over his troops. Lü Bu soon became a trusted follower of the mighty Dong Zhuo and was appointed Leader of the court gentlemen (zhonglangjiang 中郎將). As head of Dong Zhuo's guard and Marquis of Duting 都亭侯, he had always access to him.

After Dong Zhuo had burnt down the capital Luoyang 洛陽 and had moved the court to Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), the ancient capital of the Han dynasty, Lü Bu lost his confidence in his leadership competency. Together with Wang Yun 王允 he made a plot to assassinate the potentate Dong Zhuo. For this murder he was awarded the title of General of Advancing Martiality (fenwu jiangjun 奮武將軍) and was given the title of Marquis of Wen 溫侯.

Yet he had to flee in order to escape the remaining adherents of Dong Zhuo and sought refuge with the warlord Yuan Shu 袁術, later Yuan Shao 袁紹, Zhang Miao 張邈 and finally Liu Bei 劉備. He was able to occupy the the province of Xuzhou 徐州 (today's northern Jiangsu) that he defined as his own territory.

In 198, he was captured and strangulated by the warlord Cao Cao 曹操. Although admired for his military strengths, he is generally dispised as someone who easily changed sides for profit.

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1994). Sanguozhi cidian 三國志辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 135.