Yuan Shang

Yuan Shang (died 207), style name Xianfu (顯甫), was a warlord during the late han dynasty period of Chinese history. He was the third son of the warlord Yuan Shao, and succeeded his father. In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the three kingdoms, Yuan Shang was described as "strong but arrogant", and he was his father's favourite son.


Usurpation of Yuan Shao's legacy

It is documented in Chen Shou's Records of three kingdoms and Dianlue that Yuan Shao favored Yuan Shang due to his good looks, and he preferred Yuan Shang to be his choice for succession. However, Yuan Shao was never able to finalize on his decision regarding who should inherent his legacy. Following Yuan Shao's death in 202, many of Yuan's followers suggested that his oldest son, Yuan Tan, should assume control of the Yuan family's assets, as tradition dictated, but Yuan Shang and his supporters would not yield. Apprehensive that Yuan Tan's succession would harm their future, Shen Pei and Pang Ji, two influential advisors, supported Yuan Shang and pushed for him to succeed Yuan Shao. When Yuan Tan rushed back from his duty elsewhere, he could not revert the situation so instead he proclaimed himself "General of Chariots and Cavalry" (車騎將軍), his father's former title. The relationship between Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang greatly deteriorated due to this event.

Cao Cao, the warlord who defeated Yuan Shao at the Battle of Guandu, resumed his offensive to the north and attacked the Yuan brothers in 202. Yuan Tan stationed his troops in Liyang (northeast of present day Xun County, Henan ) against the attack, but his request for more troops was turned down by his brother, who feared Yuan Tan would take over military control. Yuan Shang then left Shen Pei to defend Ye and personally led a force to Liyang to assist in the defense. The war dragged on for about half a year until Yuan's forces suffered a major defeat outside the city gate. Apprehensive of being locked up inside the city, Yuan Shang fled under the cover of night, but was trailed to Ye, where Cao Cao took all the wheat around.

Fighting with Yuan Tan and Cao Cao

Cao Cao's advisor, Guo Jia, suggested that the Yuan brothers would fight between themselves in the absence of an external enemy. Cao Cao took the counsel and withdrew his troops to attack Liu Biao in Jing Province (present day Hubei and Hunan ). Meanwhile, Yuan Shang battled with his brother, and forced Yuan Tan to flee to Pingyuan (平原), where Yuan Shang laid a siege. Since Yuan Shang's attack was so intense, Yuan Tan had no other way but to send out Xin Pi to seek alliance with Cao Cao. Cao Cao agreed and even promised to marry a daughter to Yuan Tan to strengthen their tie.

As Cao Cao was moving north, Yuan Shang was forced to lift the siege and went back to Ye, but en route to the city of Ye, Yuan Shang was defeated and fled to Zhongshan. While Cao Cao was laying siege to Ye, Yuan Tan took the opportunity to attack Yuan Shang, and forced the latter to seek refuge alongside his second brother, Yuan Xi, who at that time was the protector of You Province. During Yuan Shang's stay in You Province, a mutiny broke out, and the two brothers were then forced to flee to Liaoxi, where the Wuhuan tribes resided. In 207, the Yuan brothers, along with the Wuhuan leader, Tadun, fought the Battle of White Wolf Mountain against Cao Cao. During the battle, the unit of Tadun was surprise-attacked by Cao's vanguard, Zhang Liao, and the allied forces was soon defeated after the capture of Tadun.


This time Yuan Shang and Yuan Xi fled to Liaodong, where they planned to take shelter from the administrator Gongsun Kang. However, they were betrayed by Gongsun, who executed them to appease Cao Cao.

Last update 30-05-2012

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