Yuan Shu : No alternate spellings known
Familiar Name or Ordinary Name : Kung-lu
Prefect of Nanyang

A central character in the early parts of Luo Guan Zhong's epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel based on the Three Kingdoms period of China, circa 2nd century A.D.. The character of Yuan Shu is based on a historical figure as almost all of the novel's characters are.

Master of the One Thousand and One Failed Plots Technique, Yuan Shu is basically the inept bad guy you can see in all the movies. He tried so hard to be evil, but just didn't have the skills needed. Yuan Shu managed to anger all of his powerful neighbors before his demise. Even his brother, Yuan Shao, grew tired of him very quickly.

Though Yuan Shu did not play much of a visible role during the revolt of the Yellow Turbans, he managed to secure the position of Prefect of Nanyang afterwards. When Cao Cao (Tsao Tsao) created the coalition against Dong Zhou (Tung Cho), Yuan Shu was specifically invited and agreed to join the efforts. It happened that the assembled nobles agreed to make Yuan Shao the leader of the coalition. Shao's first act was to appoint Yuan Shu Chief of the Commissary. Shao's second command was to send Sun Jian (Sun Chien) to Ssushui Pass to fight the vanguard of Dong Zhou's forces.

Sun Jian had not been able to dislodge the defenders at the pass and was first to retreat and encamp at Liangtung. He then sent a request to Yuan Shu asking for food for his troops and fodder for the horses. One of Yuan Shu's followers stated that Jian was a tiger, and should he manage to break through the pass and destroy Dong Zhou, Jian would be too powerful. Shu, heeding this advice gave his first major command of the campaign; he refused Sun Jian any provisions. Sun Jian's forces where defeated when they became discontent from lack of food.

During the council to discuss the next move, it was learned that Dong Zhou's Hua Hsiung had sallied from the pass and was taunting the assembled leaders with Sun Jian's captured banner. Yu She of Yuan Shu's train volunteered to go fight the enemy. He lasted only three bouts in personal combat against Hua Hsiung. When another officer had been sent to his death, Liu Bei's (Liu Pei) officer Guan Yu (Kuan Yu) volunteered. Yuan Shu immediately shouted Guan Yu down as worthless, due to the latter's low rank. Finally Guan Yu offered his own life if he failed.

The bout between the two side’s officers had barely begun before Guan Yu had killed Hua Hsing and routed the enemy soldiers. When Guan Yu returned, Liu Bei's other brother Zhang Fei (Chang Fei) was heard to exclaim that Guan Yu should have followed up the victory and taken Dong Zhou. Once again Yuan Shu spoke out, demanding that Guan Yu be forcibly removed from the tent for "flaunting" his prowess before his betters. Cao Cao again upheld Guan Yu's right to stay, at which point Yuan Shu threatened to quit the coalition.

Shortly thereafter, Liu Bei and his two brothers defeated the army of Lu Bu (Lu Pu), pushing them back to the pass. Though the three where unable to break through the pass, they had given the lords back the momentum. Yuan Shao immediately ordered Sun Jian to advance. Jian first made a visit to Yuan Shu's camp. Confronting Shu about earlier refusal of supplies, Jian demanded to know what his gain was in this campaign led by the two Yuans. Yuan Shu, very scared of the imposing Sun Jian ordered those who had given him the advice not to send supplies executed to appease Sun Jian. The coalition fell apart shortly after the forces had taken Luoyang (Loyang) and Yuan Shu returned home.

When Yuan Shu later heard that his brother, Yuan Shao, had attacked and taken Ichou, Shu requested 1000 horses him. He also sent a request to Liu Biao (Liu Piao) for grain. Both requests being denied, and Yuan Shu was determined to destroy both his brother and Liu Biao. Sending a plan to Sun Jian, he asked to Jian to support him in war against Shao and Biao. Sun Jian, obviously still distrustful of Yuan Shu, declined the offer and attacked Liu Biao alone. With Sun Jian's death in the war and due to fighting within the Sun family, his son, Sun Ce (Sun Ts'e), had no choice but to ask Yuan Shu, the nearest lord of any consequence other than Liu Biao, to become protector over the Suns.

Later, Cao Cao seeking to destroy either Liu Bei or Lu Bu and then in control of the emperor, sent a memorial ordering Liu Bei to attack south. At the same time he sent a message to Yuan Shu stating that Liu Bei had designs to conquer Shu's lands. So Yuan Shu and Liu Bei engaged in battle. About this time, Lu Bu was tricked into betraying his protector Liu Bei and Bei was forced to retreat from Yuan Shu's lands. When Yuan Shu heard that Lu Bu had taken a district from Liu Bei, he sent a messenger offering Lu Bu great riches if he would simply conquer Bei's last city. Lu Bu agreed and attacked Liu Bei again. Bei though heard about the attack, and fled well before the army arrived. When Lu Bu demanded the gifts for attacking the city Yuan Shu refused them on the grounds that Liu Bei had not been killed. This response enraged Lu Bu and he contemplated destroying Shu, but after being persuaded he was not strong enough, Lu Bu actually gave Liu Bei a city to administer for the future time when they could attack Yuan Shu.

Shortly after his betrayal of Lu Bu, Yuan Shu received word that Sun Ce had defeated the minor Prefect Lu Kang in the city of Lujiang (Luchiang). Sun Ce had been serving Shu loyally, but was desolate at not being able to be his own lord. Offering Shu the Hereditary Seal as collateral, Sun Ce asked for the loan of some troops to attack and "liberate" his family to the east. Yuan Shu eagerly agreed, for with the seal came the power of the emperor's command. Yuan Shu though made it clear that Sun Ce was still under Shu's "protection". Sun Ce conquered the east amazingly quick. And Ce, who still considered himself under the protection of Shu only asked for the seal back. Yuan Shu declined, wanting to keep the powers the seal represented. So Shu lost his great general Sun Ce and the lands Ce had conquered slipped from Shu's grasp as Sun Ce became a Prefect in his own right, but Yuan Shu was happy, for he still had the Hereditary Seal. Yuan Shu now turned to Liu Bei again, planning on attacking Bei.

To console Lu Bu, Yuan Shu sent him a small present, thus virtually guaranteeing the Lu Bu would not help Liu Bei when Yuan Shu attacked. Liu Bei heard of the plan and requested Lu Bu's help. Bu remembering Yuan Shao to the north became fearful that the two brothers would join together and destroy him. So he refused the gift and promised aid to Bei. When the armies of Yuan Shu arrived to fight Liu Bei, Lu Bu asked both sides to parlay. During this meeting, Lu Bu asked if both sides would agree to peace if Bu could hit the center of a halberd with an arrow at 150 paces. Both agreed, and when Bu miraculously hit the halberd, Yuan Shu's armies marched home.

Yuan Shu decided on a new plan and offered his son to marry Lu Bu's only daughter. To gain this privilege though, Lu Bu must destroy Liu Bei. As Shu was in control of the seal, his offer held the same weight as one from the emperor. Lu Bu almost agreed, but was convinced that he needed Liu Bei and so sent the messenger back with an answer of no.

As this drama was unfolding, Yuan Shu had yet another scheme. He would declare himself emperor. Yuan Shu threatened any of his retainers who opposed this plan with death. He began to wear the regalia of the emperor; he appointed an empress and an heir apparent and began to press for the quick marriage of his son to Lu Bu's daughter. So it was that when the answer of no was received Yuan Shu was extremely angry. Yuan Shu dispatches Zhang Xun (Chang Hsun) with seven divisions to attack Lu Bu. When Lu Bu hears of the army, he counsels his advisor Chen Gong (Ch'en Teng) who came up with a plan to get two of Yuan Shu's officers, Han Gian (Han Hsien) and Yang Feng to betray Shu. So Gong left to visit the two officers. As soon as he returned to say his plan was successful, Lu Bu marched to meet the invaders. During the night, as the two armies camped twenty li from each other, the traitors opened the gates of Yuan Shu's camp. The invaders where thrown into confusion and Lu Bu's troops attacked them throughout the night. As day broke though Yuan Shu, preceded by the imperial regalia and pomp, led his own forces to attack Lu Bu. As Shu reviled Lu Bu, the army of Guan Yu arrived. Yuan Shu fled in fear and his army was slaughtered. Yuan Shu returning home requested troops from Sun Ce, using his command as emperor. Sun Ce, seeing Shu as a traitor refused. Though Shu wanted to attack for this perceived insult, he was persuaded not to. Very soon after, a messenger from Cao Cao reached Sun Ce, asking Ce to join Cao in attacking Yuan Shu. Sun Ce seeing that he would have support should things turn bad, agreed.

Cao was preparing to attack Yuan Shu, when Shu, being low on food, made a raid on Cao's city of Chenliu. Cao immediately sent letters summoning Lu Bu, Liu Bei and Sun Ce to attack Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu's armies met his opponents at Shouchun. In personal combat Yuan Shu's van leader fell and the army fled into the city. Shortly thereafter Sun Ce approached and the city was besieged on all four sides, one side by each army. Shouchun was in a perilous state, but Shu happened upon a brilliant answer. The area had suffered from famine, so Yuan Shu knowing that the invaders could not forage withdrew his forces and wealth. As the attacker's food ran low the city still had not fell, and when Liu Biao began to raid Cao's land Yuan Shu had been saved, the enemy armies left the area of Shouchun.

Much later, when Cao Cao was destroying the last remnants of Lu Bu, Bu decided to finally accept the offer of marriage from Yuan Shu. In return Lu Bu wanted soldiers dispatched to help. Shu agreed to restart the marriage negotiations, but demanded that Lu Bu's daughter be sent to Yuan Shu before and relief forces would be dispatched to help Lu Bu. Unfortunately, Lu Bu's daughter never made it through the troops or Cao and his allies. Lu Bu was killed in battle and Cao now controlled the lands to the east of Yuan Shu as well as his original lands to the north and west.

Though Yuan Shu had achieved no real success, he continued to grow more haughty and corrupt by the day. Finally the people able to stand it no more began to rise up in revolt. Yuan Shu, in a desperate situation decided to yield the title of emperor and the seal to his brother. He abandoned his last city of Huainan and traveled toward Hopei. Cao Cao dispatched Liu Bei to destroy Yuan Shu before the two brothers could join strength. Yuan Shu managed to gain allies among the mountain bandits, which greatly bolstered his strength. But even on the run he could not contain his arrogance and these allies quickly grew tired of him. When the armies of Liu Bei and Yuan Shu met, the bandits held back. As soon as the main battle was engaged these "allies" attacked Yuan Shu's supply train, meanwhile at the front Liu Bei's armies slaughtered the forces of Yuan Shu. Shu tried to flee back into his lines, but met his former bandit allies. Shu and the bare remnants of his army were forced to flee again. Robbed of supplies and prestige, what food remained went to his soldiers. Yuan Shu grew sicker and sicker. Unaccustomed to plain fare, he was not "able" to eat what little was foraged. In the sixth month of the fourth year of "Established Tranquility" the proclaimed emperor Yuan Shu died of starvation.


Note :: All names in parentheses () are alternate spellings, or in some cases familiar names that are used very often in the novel.

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