Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

Huangfu Song 皇甫嵩 was a military general of the Later Han dynasty. He played significant roles in putting down the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Liang Province Rebellion.

History of the Later Han official biography [translation][]

  Huangfu Song, style name Yizhen, was from Chaona county, Anding commandery [in Liang province]. He was the son of the elder brother of Huangfu Gui, who served as General on the Liao (dù-Liáo jiāngjūn 度遼將軍). His father Huangfu Jie was the Grand Administrator of Yanmen commandery. When [Huangfu] Song was young, he bore big ambitions to achieve political and military feats. And he enjoyed the Classic of History and Poetry. He was trained in archery and horseback riding. In the beginning, he was recommended to the government as Filial and Incorrupt (xiàolián 孝廉) and Abundant Talent (màocái 茂才).[1] Grand Commandant Chen Fan and the General-in-Chief [Dou Wu] summoned him a few times, but he did not accept the invitations. Emperor Ling sent a special carriage to summon him as Gentleman Consultant, and later he was promoted as Grand Administrator of Beidi commandery.

[1] Xu Han shu states, “He was appointed as Gentleman of the Palace Interior (lángzhōng 郎中), and later as Magistrate of Baling and Linfen. He resigned for the funeral of his father.”

  In the beginning, Zhang Jue 張角 of Julu commandery, declared himself to be the Great Virtuous Teacher (dà xiánliáng shī 大賢良師).[1] He devoted himself to the practice of the Way of Huang-Lao (Huáng-Lǎo Dào 黃老道), and began to attract disciples who knelt down and confessed their sins to him.[2] To treat diseases, he used charmed water, and chanted incantations. Many patients did recover, and people worshipped and trusted him. Zhang Jue then dispatched eight disciples to different areas, where they preached by doing good deeds. His followers convinced others to join their cause. For more than ten years, he attracted hundreds of thousands of disciples, who practiced his teachings in all prefectures and fiefs. People in the eight provinces of Qing, Xu, You, Ji, Jing, Yang, Yan and Yu, all were active in such practice. Zhang Jue established thirty-six Divisions (fāng 方).[n 1] Each Division had its leader who took a military title [equivalent] of general. A Large Division (dà fāng 大方) consisted of more than ten thousand members, whereas a Small Division (xiǎo fāng 小方) may include six to seven thousand. Each Division was installed with a gang leader (qú shuài 渠帥).[n 2] They spread rumors, with one saying, “The azure sky is dead and a Yellow Heaven will take its place. When the year is jiazi great fortune will come to the world.[n 3] They chalked the word “jiazi” 甲子[n 4] with white earth onto the gates of temples in the capital and government compounds in prefectures across the nation. In the First Year of Zhongping,[n 5] Ma Yuanyi 馬元義, leader of a Large Division, and a number of Division generals first assembled several tens of thousands of disciples, and set a date to start the revolt in Ye. [Ma] Yuanyi visited the capital several times. Regular Palace Attendants Feng Xu 封諝 and Xu Feng 徐奉 acted as his inside collaborators. They plotted to start the revolt simultaneously on the fifth day of the third lunar month. However, before the revolt took place, a disciple named Tang Zhou 唐周 from Ji'nan commandery wrote a whistle-blowing letter to inform the government of the plot. Ma Yuanyi was arrested and torn into four pieces in Luoyang.[n 6] Emperor Ling ordered the Three Excellencies and the Director of Retainers to investigate the matter. The Emperor also ordered Zhou Bin, Director of Imperial Parks, to lead the staff of the Three Excellencies to investigate palace guardians, attendants, and civilians who served in Zhang Jue’s sect. The government executed more than one thousand people. The investigators went to Ji province to trace and apprehend Zhang Jue and his followers. Knowing that their plot had leaked, Zhang Jue kept sending directives to all the Divisions day and night. All Divisions revolted simultaneously. All the rebels distinguished themselves by wearing a yellow turban.[3] People of the time referred to them as Yellow Turbans, or Ant Rebels.[4] The rebels slew people as a sacrificial offering to the heaven.[n 7] Zhang Jue declared himself as Lord of Heaven General (tiāngōng jiāngjūn 天公將軍). Zhang Bao 張寶, younger brother of Zhang Jue, took the title of Lord of Earth General (dígōng jiāngjūn 地公將軍). Zhang Liang 張梁, younger brother of Zhang Bao, assumed the title of Lord of Man General (réngōng jiāngjūn 人公將軍). Wherever there were the rebels, government buildings were burnt, and the rebels looted civilians. Many prefectures were seized, and officials fled. Within a period of ten days, rebels across the nation echoed to the revolt. The capital city was in panic.

[1] The character liang 良 may have a variation as lang 郎.
[2] The character 首 is pronounced as shou.
[3] The character 幟 is pronounced as zhi, or shi.
[4] The character 蛾 was pronounced as yi, namely the character 蟻, meaning that there is a large number of rebels, like ants.

  The Emperor ordered commanderies to prepare fortifications and weapons. Military commandants were dispatched to guard the passes of Hangu 函谷, Dagu 大谷, Guangcheng 廣城, Yique 伊闕, Huanyuan 轘轅, Xuanmen 旋門, Mengjin 孟津, and Xiaopingjin 小平津.[1] The Emperor convened a meeting of ministers. Huangfu Song advised that the government should lift the ban on factionalism, and allocate more funds from palace vaults and horses in the west park to support soldiers. The Emperor agreed, and summoned elite troops across the nation, and selected a large number of commanders. The Emperor appointed Song as the General of the Household of the Left (zuǒ zhōngláng jiāng 左中郎將). And Song was also granted the right of Bearing the Staff of Authority (zhíjié 持節).[n 8] With the assistance of Zhu Jun 朱儁, the General of the Household of the Right (yòu zhōngláng jiāng 右中郎將), he summoned the Five Regiments [of the Northern Army],[n 9] cavalry of Henan commandery, Hexi commandery and Hedong commandery. They also recruited forty thousand men in total. Song and [Zhu] Jun both led an army respectively to quell the Yellow Turban rebels.

[1] Dagu and Huanyuan are located to the southeast of Luoyang. Xuanmen is to the west of Sishui River.

  Jun went to fight against rebel Bo Cai’s 波才 troops, but was defeated. Song led his troops to guard Changshe. Bo Cai led a huge number of troops to siege the city. Outnumbered, the soldiers under Huangfu Song panicked. He summoned his officers and told them, “Warfare varies in mysterious ways, and victory does not depend on number of soldiers.[1] Now that the rebels set their camps near grass, it is easy to use wind and fire to launch an attack. If we set fire to their camp at night, they will definitely go into a chaos. We then send our forces to attack them, and encircle them from four sides. The feat of Tian Dan can be achieved.”[2] That night, a gale began. Song ordered all soldiers to climb up into the city wall with a bunch of dry reed in hand.[3] He ordered the bravest people to take sideways to go out of the encirclement, and they set fire and started roaring. The soldiers who had climbed up set fire as a response. As drumming began, Huangfusong began to charge against the enemy’s battle formations. The rebels panicked and ran for their lives in all directions. It happened that the Commandant of Cavalry Cao Cao 曹操, dispatched by the Emperor, arrived at the battleground. Song, Cao and Zhu Jun joined forces with each other and continued to fight. The trio defeated the rebels significantly and annihilated several tens of thousands of rebels. The Emperor conferred the title of Marquis of Duxiang to Huangfu Song. Exploiting the victory, Song and Jun marched to Runan and Chen to exterminate the Yellow Turban rebels. They caught up with Bo Cai in Yangdi, and attacked Peng Tuo 彭脫 in Xihuan, defeating both enemies.[4] The remnant rebels surrendered and fled. The three prefectures were retrieved by the government.

[1] The Art of War says: “In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flows of rivers and streams. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack, the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”
[2] Tian Dan is a general of the Kingdom of Qi. He was in charge of the garrison at Jimo. Yan troops attacked the city. Tian Dan dressed up a thousand buffaloes with coloured cloth, bound spears and shields to their horns, lit up their tails. The buffaloes rushed out of the city, while soldiers roared in it. The Yan troops had a fiasco. This battle was written down in Records of the Grand Historian.
[3] The pronunciation of the character 苣 is ju. Shuowen says, “Bind reed and burn it.”
[4] Xihua is a county in Runan commandery.

  They went further to Dong commandery, where they attacked Yellow Turban rebels led by Bu Yi 卜已[n 10] at Cangting village. They captured Bu Yi alive, and slew more than seven thousand rebels in the battle.[n 11] Lu Zhi 盧植, General of the Household of the North, and Dong Zhuo 董卓, General of the Household of the East, both attacked Zhang Jue, and returned without success.[n 12] The Emperor ordered Huangfu Song to suppress the rebels. In Guangzong, Song fought against Zhang Liang, younger brother of Zhang Jue.[1] Zhang Liang’s troops were strong and brave, and Song could not defeat them. The next day, Song closed his camps and ordered his troops to rest, and observed the situations. Knowing that the rebels went a little slack, he organized his forces secretly at night, and ordered them to charge to the enemy formations when roosters began to crow. He had a big victory, beheaded Zhang Liang, and slew thirty thousand rebels. About fifty thousand rebels were drowned in the Yellow River. More than thirty thousand chariots loaded with gears were burnt. All women and children of the rebels were captured, and many rebels were captured. Zhang Jue had died earlier. Song ordered soldiers to cut up Zhang Jue’s coffin and corpse. Zhang Jue’s head was severed and transported to the capital.

[1] Guangzong is present-day Zongcheng county.

  Again, Huangfu Song, with the Grand Administrator of Julu commandery Guo Dian 郭典 of [Zuo]Pingyi commandery attacked Zhang Bao at Xiaquyang. Zhang Bao, who was younger brother of Zhang Jue, was slain. More than one hundred thousand rebels were annihilated. They buried all enemy corpses in a massive grave, which was named as “Capital Observatory” (京觀 jīngguān), in the south of the city.[1] The Emperor appointed Song as General of Chariots and Cavalry on the Left, and he was also granted the post as Imperial Protector of Ji province and a noble title of Marquis of Huaili, with two counties of Huaili and Meiyang[2] as his fief, in which there were eight thousand households.

[1] Du Yuankai’s annotation to Zuo zhuan says: “A jingguan is a massive grave with corpses piled up and covered with earth.”
[2] Huaili and Meiyang both belong to Fufeng commandery.

  The Imperial Court changed the reign title into Zhongping to mark the suppression of the Yellow Turban Rebellion.[n 13] Huangfu Song asked the Imperial Court to exempt the farm rent of Ji province for one year, in order to relieve the hungry people. The Emperor agreed. The people sang a song to praise him, “When the nation became chaotic, cities turned into ruins. Mothers couldn’t protect their sons, and wives lost their husbands. Thanks to Lord Huangfu, we were able to live in peace.” Song was nice to his soldiers, and was popular with the crowd. Whenever his forces were to rest at a place, he would wait till all camps were erected, and then enter his tent. He also would wait till all his soldiers had eaten, and then begin to have his meal. Some officers took bribes for some reasons, he gave them more money and gifts. The officers felt ashamed, and some even committed suicide.

  Since Huangfu Song suppressed the Yellow Turban Rebellion, he inspired awe throughout the nation. The political situation deteriorated day by day, and the entire Empire was exhausted and stranded in difficulties. Yan Zhong 閻忠, a native of Hanyang who served as former Xindu Magistrate, tried to persuade Huangfu Song rashly,[1]

Timing is something hard to obtain but easy to be lost. Along with the right timing comes opportunity. That’s why sagacious people act in accordance with timing, and wise people let opportunities guide their behaviors. My general, now that you have encountered rare fortune and opportunities that may easily change, if you do not accept the fortune and exploit the opportunity to act, how can you secure your power and reputation?

  Song said, “What were you talking about?” Zhong said,

The Heaven does not favor any specific person. The people only support the mightiest one. Now, my general, you were authorized in late spring to suppress the rebels, and you achieved feats in late winter.[2] Your military maneuvers were miraculous, and your strategies all worked well. You defeated the formidable enemies so easily as if you broke some dead wood. You eliminated hard opponents as if you had poured hot water onto snow. Within a few months, your military operations wiped out the rebellion like lightning bolts. You buried the enemy corpses and inscribed your feats onto monuments. You reported to the Imperial Court, and earned great prominence in the Empire. Your fame traveled overseas. Even Emperor Tangwu’s feats are not greater than yours. Now that you have achieved great feats that cannot be rewarded with incentives, and you are a man with remarkable virtues, you still serve an incompetent Emperor, how can you guarantee your safety?

  Huangfu Song said, “I worked hard day and night, and never forget to be loyal to His Majesty. Why shouldn’t I feel safe?” Yan Zhong said,

That’s probably not the case. In the past, Han Xin was grateful for the one meal treated by Emperor Gaozu, and gave up the opportunity to rule one third of the entire territory. When a sharp sword was placed on his throat, he regretted bitterly and sighed. His opportunity was lost and his plot failed.[3] The authority of the present Emperor is weaker than Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, whereas your power is greater than that of Han Xin (Marquis of Huaiyin). When you wave your fingers, you may stir up wind and cloud. If you shout loud, you may summon thunder and lightning.[4] If you rise up decisively, and exploit this critical political situation, you are able to subvert the Empire easily.[5] You may offer incentives to the people who first show support to you, and use violence to coerce the people who are hesitant to obey you. You may summon people from Jizhou, and organize troops stationed in seven prefectures. First, you can first issue an official denunciation. And then, you dispatch troops to traverse Zhang River, and march to Mengjin. You slay all eunuchs and eliminate the villains at the Court. Even children would wave their fists to show their support to you; even women could roll up their sleeves and work for you, not to mention the mighty forces. They can carry out operations as swiftly as wind! When your feats have been achieved, and the people are all obedient, you may offer sacrifice to the Heavenly Lord, and inform Him of the Mandate of Heaven. You will unify the empire again and assume the imperial throne. You seize the treasure of power and bury the Han Empire. This is truly the best opportunity and timing for you. The Han Empire is corrupt as rotten wood, which is impossible for carving.[6] This dynasty is in decline, and it is difficult for you to contribute to its governance. If you are stubborn to do it, you would feel that it is as difficult as letting balls roll up over a slope themselves, or sailing a boat against strong wind. Is that supposed to be easy? And now the eunuchs have formed their alliance, and the villains gather like people in a market.[7] The Emperor’s edicts are never implemented. All power goes to the eunuchs that are close to the throne. It is hard for you to survive for long under such a weak boss.[8] Since the feats you achieved cannot be rewarded with incentives, there will be slanderers and backstabbers. If you do not take actions soon, someday you may feel it is too late to regret it.

  Huangfu Song said with fear,

Unusual schemes cannot be exercised in such a stable situation. It can’t be possible for an average man to achieve great feats. The Yellow Turban rebels are small enemies. They are never as mighty as the Qin Empire and Xiang Yu. They formed their organizations not long ago, and they were easy to dissolve. They were not supposed to succeed in their cause. And the people are still loyal to the Emperor. The Heaven does not favor traitors. If I expect to achieve great feats that I do not deserve, this would only bring disasters to me soon. It is still better that I keep my remain a loyal official to the Imperial Court. Even there would be much slandering, the worst result for me is exile or deposition. I still have a clean reputation, and will be remembered by the people after my death.[9] Your unusual suggestion is something I dare not hear.

  Yan Zhong knew that his advice would not be accepted, so he fled.[10]

[1] The character 干 means “rashly”.
[2] Laozu says, “The Heavenly Way favors nobody specifically. It usually rests with good people.” The Classic of Changes says, “From counsels of spiritual beings to counsels of men, the people only support the mightiest to rule.” Huainanzi says, “When appointing someone as a general, the Emperor should confer the battle axe to the recipient, and say, ‘From this object to the Heaven above, my general, you may exercise your power.”
[3] According to History of Han, Xiang Yu sent Wu She to persuade Han Xin, and Han Xin said, “The King of Han let me wear his own coat, and offered me his own meal. It’s bad to betray him.” Kuai Tong also tried to persuade Han Xin to betray Han, so that Han Xin may rule one third of the Empire to form a political balance of three kingdoms. Han Xin said, “The King of Han treated me well. How can I betray him?” Later, Han Xin plotted a rebellion, and was captured by Empress Lyu. He sighed, “It’s a shame that I didn’t accept Kuai Tong’s advice. Isn’t this the intention of the Heaven?”
[4] The character 撝 is in fact the same as the character 麾. The word chizha 叱吒 means “fury”.
[5] The pronunciation of the character 扺 is zhi, meaning “to attack”.
[6] The word baoqi 寶器 symbolizes the imperial throne.
[7] In Zuo zhuan, Han Xuanzi said, “The fellow villains make deals like merchants in the market.”
[8] In Records of the Grand Historian, Fan Li said, “One cannot live long with great fame.”
[9] Both sentences are cited from Zuo zhuan.
[10] Records of Heroes and Champions says, “Wang Guo and his fellow rebels from Liang province captured Yan Zhong and served him as their lord. Yan Zhong led rebels in thirty-six divisions, and was declared as General of Chariots and Cavalry. Later, Zhong died in fear and shame.

  At that time, Bian Zhang 邊章 and Han Sui 韓遂 started a revolt in Longyou. In the next spring, the Emperor summoned Huangfu Song back to garrison Chang’an and defend the imperial guardens and mausoleums. The rebels led by Bian Zhang again invaded the capital. The Emperor ordered Song to quell the rebellion.

  Before this, when Huangfu Song began to attack Zhang Jue, his forces took a path via Ye, where he saw that the residence of Regular Attendant Zhao Zhong 趙忠 exceeded the proper standards to which Zhao was entitled. He submitted a memorial to the throne, and the residence was confiscated. Regular Attendant Zhang Rang 張讓 asked Song for fifty million coins in private, but Song refused. The two eunuchs bore a grudge against him. They told the Emperor that he achieved no feats after a series of battles, only to waste much military resources. In the autumn that year, Song was summoned back to the court. His seal and silk ribbon of the Left General of Cavalry and Chariots were taken. The number of households of his fief was reduced by six thousand. His noble title was changed to Marquis of Duxiang, with a fief of two thousand households.

  In the fifth year of Zhongping, Wang Guo 王國, a rebel from Liang province besieged Chencang. The court reinstated Huangfu Song as General of the Household of the Left again. He and Dong Zhuo, who was General of the Van (qián jiāngjūn 前將軍) under him, each led twenty thousand men to resist the rebels. Dong Zhuo desired to advance to Chencang immediately, but Huangfu Song refused the idea. Dong Zhuo said, “A wise man never delays to act when timing is right. A brave man never hesitates. If we reinforce the city soon, it will remain at our hands. If we do not, it will be seized by the rebels. Whether the city remains safe depends on our decision now.” Song said, “That is not the case. It is better that you subdue the enemy without fighting than that you emerge victorious in every battle. Therefore, we must feign that we are invicible, and wait till the enemy could show some defects to be defeated. We are invicible, while they can be defeated. They do not have enough capacity to fortify the city if they do capture it, but we have more than enough capacity to attack them.[1] He who has more than enough capacity flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. He who does not have enough capacity hides in the most secret recesses of the earth.[2] At present, though Chencang is a small city, it is firmly fortified, and thus it is not confined in the most secret recesses of the earth. Though Wang Guo’s forces are powerful, when they attack the city which we do not reinforce, such a situation is not advantageous for them. If the situation is not advantageous, the attacker is under threat. If the situation is not disadvantageous, the guarding forces would not be defeated. Now that Wang Guo is under threat, and Chencang remains a firm city that will not be taken. It is not necessary for us to reinforce the city, and we can still secure our victory. Why shall we reinforce?” Thus, Huangfu Song did not accept Dong Zhuo’s advice. Wang Guo’s besiege lasted eighty days from winter till the end of the next spring, but the fortification of the city was firm, and eventually Wang’s attack failed. Frustrated and tired, the rebels eventually gave up the siege and left as expected. Huangfu Song decided to attack them. Dong Zhuo said, “Sir, we cannot do that. According to military principles, we are not supposed to pursue the hard-pressed enemies when they return to their camp.[3] Now if we pursue Wang Guo, it means that we violate the principle. Even a trapped beast struggles, and even a bee sting is venomous,[4] not to mention a group of rebels.” Song said, “That’s not right. Last time I did not launch an attack, because I had to avoid their high morale. Now if I attack them, I just need to wait till their morale is exhausted. The enemy that I attack is in fatigue, and they are not returning. Wang Guo’s people are about to flee.They are not willing to fight. With my well organized forces, I can attack the undisciplined rebels. And I have not violated the principle.” Huangfu Song then sent his troops to attack the rebels. He ordered Dong Zhuo to be his rear guard. Song then won in a series of attacks against the rebels, and annihilated more than ten thousand rebels. Wang Guo fled and died on the way. Dong Zhuo felt very ashamed, and began to bear a grudge against Song.

[1] This is the text from The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
[2] The Art of War says, “The general who is skilled in defence hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven.” The Warfare Tactics of Empyrean Goddess says, “The way of warfare is the treasure of heaven and earth. The heaven and the earth both have their exteriors and interiors respectively. The topmost heights of heaven include six Jiazi Cycles, whereas the most secret recesses of the earth include six Guiyou Cycles. If you can obey such rules, your safety can be absolutely secured.”
[3] This is the text from Sima's Art of War.
[4] This is the text from Zuo zhuan.

  In the next year, Dong Zhuo was appointed as Governor of Bing province. The Emperor ordered him to hand over his troops to Huangfu Song, but he refused. Huangfu Li 皇甫酈, nephew of Huangfu Song, served in the army.[1] Li tried to persuade Song, “This government did not perform well in politics, and the people are suffering. Only you and Dong Zhuo are capable of suppressing chaos and stabilizing the empire. Now that you bear a grudge against each other, it is inevitable that you cannot both survive. Dong Zhuo was ordered to hand over his troops to you, but he submitted a memorial in which he refused the order. This is disobedience. The capital is now in chaos, but he deliberately hesitated and did not go to visit the throne. That means he bears ulterior motives. And this man is vicious and ruthless. His officers and soldiers do not support him. Now you are the commander-in-chief. If you attack him with the state authority, you can demonstrate your loyalty to the throne, and you can eliminate a vicious threat to the empire. Such a feat is equal to that of the Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Jin.” Song said, “Though he is guilty for his disobedience, if I attack and slay him, I will be held accountable.[2] I’d better publicly inform the court of what he did, and let the court deal with the matter.” Then, Song submitted a memorial to the throne. The Emperor blamed Dong Zhuo, and Dong Zhuo grew angrier with Song. Later, when Dong Zhuo assumed the power of regency, in the first year of Chuping, he summoned Song as Commandant of the Capital Gates, and attempted to have him executed. When Song was about to assume office, his Secretary Liang Yan tried to persuade him, “The Han court is weak. The eunuchs are wreaking havoc on state politics. Though Dong Zhuo eliminated all of them, he is not loyal to the state. He again invaded the capital and looted the people. He deposed and instated emperors at his will. Now he offers you a title. If you are to have a big trouble, you life may be at risk. If the consequence is small, you may have some predicaments. Now Dong Zhuo is in Luoyang, and His Majesty will come westwards. My general, if you lead your thirty thousand men to receive the Emperor, and accept an edict to exterminate the rebels, you may issue an official call to arms, and summon troops from around the state. The Yuan clan attacks him from the east, and you press him from the west. He will be apprehended easily.” Song refused the idea, and accepted the post. Relevant departments managed to fathom the attempt of the edict, and they submitted a memorial to the throne, and advised the Emperor to dispatch officials to interrogate Song, so that Dong Zhuo could have him slain.

[1] The pronunciation of the character 酈 is li.
[2] Zuo zhuan says, “Those who obey orders do not have unchallengeable authority, and those who do not are not filial.”

  Huangfu Jianshou 皇甫堅壽, son of Huangfu Song, fled from Chang’an to Luoyang, and sought asylum from Dong Zhuo. Dong Zhuo was at a banquet. Jianshou approached and rebuked him with righteous principles.[1] His eyes were welling with tears when he kowtowed. The people who were seated were touched. They all left their seats to appeal to Dong Zhuo for mercy. Dong Zhuo stood up, and invited Jianshou to be seated. Dong Zhuo freed Song from arrest, and reinstated him as Court Counselor. Later, Song was promoted to the post of Palace Assistance Secretary. When Dong Zhuo returned to Chang’an, officials welcomed him at roadside. He implied that officials whose title is below Palace Assistance Secretary should all kneel down, with an intention to make Song submit to him.[2] After the ceremony, Dong Zhuo took his hand and said, “Yizhen, are you obedient now?”[3] Song smiled and made an apology, and Dong Zhuo vented his hatred.[4]

[1] The character zhi 質 means to rectify.
[2] The pronunciation of the character 風 is the same as the pronunciation of 諷, meaning to give an implication.
[3] The pronunciation of the character 犕 is the same as the character 服. Shuowen says, “Oxen are reined, and horses ridden.” The character 犕 is the ancient counterpart to the character 服. At present, people from Hebei still use this word, and the pronunciation of it is bei.
[4] The Chronicle of Emperor Xian says, “In the beginning, Dong Zhuo served as General of the Van, whereas Huangfu Song served as Left General. Both of them were ordered to suppress Bian Zhang and Han Sui. The two contended for a higher status. When Song knelt down under Dong Zhuo’s vehicle, Dong Zhuo asked him, “Are you obedient now?” Song said, “How could I know that your excellency could ascend to such a high post?” Dong Zhuo said, “A swan has high aspirations that cannot be known to swallows and sparrows.” Song said, “In the past, we were both swans, but your excellency has become a phoenix today.”

  When Dong Zhuo was slain, Huangfu Song was appointed as General Who Subdues the West (hēngxī jiāngjūn 征西將軍), and later he was promoted as General of Chariots and Cavalry (jūjì jiāngjūn 車騎將軍). In autumn that year, he was appointed as Grand Commandant (tàiwèi 太尉). In winter, meteors appeared, and his official title was stripped.[1] Later, he was reinstated as Household Counselor (guānglù dàfū 光祿大夫), and later promoted as Minister of Ceremonies (tàicháng 太常). When Li Jue started a mutiny, Huangfu Song died of an illness. The Emperor awarded him posthumously the seal and ribbon of General of Agile Cavalry (piāojí jiāngjūn 驃騎將軍), and one of his family was summoned to the court as a counselor.

[1] Xu Han shu says that Huangfu Song was stripped of his official title because there was solar prominence over the sun.

  Huangfu Song was benevolent, cautious, and dutiful. He submitted memorials to the throne and offered more than five hundred beneficial suggestions. He wrote the memorials personally, and always destroyed the drafts and never leaked them to others. He was humble to intellectuals, and he recommended many talents to the court and did not retain them for his own purposes.[1] People of the time all spoke highly of and supported him.

[1] This means he recommended talents to the court fast.

  [Huangfu] Jianshou was also prominent at the time, and later he was appointed as Palace Attendant (shìzhōng 侍中), a title which he refused. He died of an illness.

See also[]



  1. GJCM notes: it probably was not a coincidence Zhang Jue set up exactly thirty-six Divisions. The number thirty-six had long been an auspicious number in China.
  2. GJCM notes: each Division thus had a leader, commonly called a “Division Leader”. Under a Division Leader there was one or more gang leaders. Gang leader is a perjorative term.
  3. GJCM notes: Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang spread many more rumours and also told of omens, such as horses giving birth to humans, or the appearance of a dark rainbow.
  4. GJCM notes: jiazi was the first year of a new cycle. Every cycle contains of 60 years.
  5. GJCM notes: the first year of the reign era Zhongping is the year 184 AD.
  6. GJCM notes: According to He Jin’s official biography in History of the Later Han chapter 69 it was He Jin who discovered the plot and he was enfeoffed for it. Possibly Tang Zhou’s letter had fallen into He’s hands.
  7. GJCM notes: Rafe de Crespigny, in Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling says this may be an attempt at slander.
  8. The Staff of Authority gave the bearer plenipotentiary powers to act on behalf of the emperor, taking his own initiative and reporting only afterwards. It was made of bamboo, about 185cm long and had three yaks’ tails fastened to the top as tassels
  9. The Northern Army was a fully trained professional army stationed in Luoyang. It served as a central strategic reserve of the empire.
  10. GJCM notes: this Yellow Turban rebel is sometimes called Bu Si 卜巳, and sometimes Bu Yi 卜已 (there is a minor difference in the top left of the second character). The History of the Later Han calls him Bu Yi, while most other sources, such as the Zizhi tongjian go with Bu Si.
  11. GJCM notes: though in this text the victory against Bu Yi is ascribed to Huangfu Song, it was actually Fu Xie, who commanded a troop of Huangfu Song’s army, who defeated Bu Yi.
  12. GJCM notes: in the official biography of Dong Zhuo we learn that by the time Dong Zhuo arrived to fight the rebels, Zhang Jue had fallen ill. The Yellow Turban army Dong Zhuo fought had since been led by Jue’s younger brother Zhang Liang.
  13. GJCM notes: Zhongping means “Pacification Achieved”.