Also known as Tung Cho
Familiar or Ordinary name
A major 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 AD. The character of Dong Zhuo is based on a historical figure as almost all of the novel's characters are.
Dong Zhuo was an arrogant, pompous and cruel individual. He was known to be enormously overweight and rather disgusting in personal habits. He delighted in torture, and he reveled in absolute control and power and, unfortunately, he controlled China.
Born in Lint'ao in modern day Shensi, Dong Zhuo's father was a prefect of this area before him and Zhuo followed his father to the calling. During the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Dong Zhuo did very little at first. His armies held back and did not really engage the enemy. Eventually though, Zhuo would find himself in control of a portion of the war.
The Fight Against the Yellow Turbans
When Lu Zhi (Lu Chih), a general of He Jin (Ho Chin), was unable to follow up a victory versus the armies of Zhang Jiao (Chang Chio), a eunuch was dispatched to find out the reason. The eunuch upon arriving at the camp of Lu Zhi demanded that Zhi give a bribe in order to keep his command. Zhi, understanding that he must give this bribe, was still forced to ask just where the eunuch expected him to find money for a bribe on the battlefield. The eunuch, angry at not receiving his bribe reported that Lu Zhi had not actually attacked the enemy, but was cowering behind his field works. This caused Lu Zhi to be transferred back to the capitol bound and in disgrace and Dong Zhuo was given command of Zhi's forces.
Within weeks, Dong Zhuo had managed to turn the momentum from the imperial side to that of the rebels. He lost engagement after engagement. Finally he was hemmed in and the forces of the empire where close to destruction. He was saved only by the timely arrival of Liu Bei (Liu Pei), who threw the armies of Zhang Jiao back and rescued Dong Zhuo. Zhuo, upon hearing that no officers of rank accompanied Liu Bei, treated Bei and his brothers with distain. This would have been Zhuo's last action in life had not the older brothers Liu Bei and Guan Yu (Kuan Yu) kept their younger brother Zhang Fei (Chang Fei) from slaying Zhuo. The three brothers were quick to depart to other areas of the fighting.
Even with the damage that Liu Bei and his brothers had wreaked upon the rebel army, Dong Zhuo made no major gains. He continued to lose battles until finally he was relieved from command. The overall military commander of the campaign, Huangfu Song (Huangfu Sung), was finally given direct control of Zhuo's forces and Zhuo himself was relieved in disgrace.
Though Lu Zhi, who previously had been relieved from command, had not survived that change, Dong Zhuo managed to pay enough in bribes to actually get promoted. Given command of An Ding, he retired there after the rebellion was crushed.
The battle between He Jin and the 10 eunuchs: Dong Zhuo gains control
Zhuo would not be heard from for another few years, as he stayed peacefully in An Ding. When a summons from He Jin came to An Ding, Zhuo received the commands to fight the eunuchs with much trepidation. His officer Li Ru (Li Ju) had a different idea. He counseled Zhuo to accept the summons, but to bring enough troops to take control after the struggle had weakened both He Jin and the eunuchs. Accepting the advice, Dong Zhuo rode out at the head of his armies.
It would so happen that both He Jin and the eunuchs were destroyed during the struggle, and the emperor was kidnapped. Cao Cao (Tsao Tsao) and Yuan Shao had found the emperor and were escorting him back to Luoyang (Loyang) when they saw the troops of Dong Zhuo in the distance. Yuan Shao, not knowing who the troops represented, rode forward to demand identification, but was ignored. The Emperor Pien simply stood there stricken with fear, so that his half brother, the Prince of Chen-liu, Hsien, was forced to demand to know who commanded the army. At this Dong Zhuo replied, and when the Prince demanded to know if Dong Zhuo was a protector or to be a thief of the emperor, Zhuo replied at once he would protect the emperor. This was when Zhuo decided that he would replace Pien with Hsien, for he admired the Prince's determination.
Once Zhuo had arrived in the capitol, he set his armies to patrolling the streets. He was constantly escorted by guards and violated most of the laws of proper respect when in the presence of the emperor. It was evident to all that Dong Zhuo was in control. Eventually he began to openly discuss the plans to depose the emperor. Dong Zhuo finally summoned all the lords in the capitol to hear the plan to place Hsien in power. All but one was too afraid to speak out against Dong Zhuo. That one was Ding Yuan (Ting Yuan) and his words broke the resistance, forcing Zhuo to hold off on his plans.
Ding Yuan held people's respect for one reason. His adopted son Lu Bu was considered to be the best warrior in the entire empire. None wanted to fight Yuan, because that would also mean fighting Lu Bu. Dong Zhuo though, once again through the councils of Li Ru, decided to bribe Lu Bu. They offered Bu great riches and a horse. This horse, the Red Hare, was considered the greatest such animal in China. Lu Bu, not swayed by the riches, was completely bought by the Hare. Agreeing to Zhuo's request, Lu Bu slew his adopted father and joined Dong Zhuo.
When Dong Zhuo tried once more to bring forth the subject of disposing the emperor Yuan Shao, the last major lord left at the capitol, opposed him. Shao though, was forced to leave the capitol and Zhuo, trying to appease Shao gave him control of Pohai (Bohai) and let the lord leave. Now nothing at all stood in his way. In the ninth month, Dong Zhuo deposed Emperor Pien and placed the Prince of Chen-liu, Hsien as the new emperor. Emperor Pien had reigned for only half a year.
Dong Zhuo becomes Prime Minster
Now Dong Zhuo ruled over the nine year old Emperor Hsien as Prime Minister and prison guard. Walking into the throne room armed and guard, never hastening to the emperor's requests and generally showing disdain for the emperor. When Dong Zhuo heard of the sad poems the former emperor Pien was writing, he used that as provocation and had Pien's mother strangled before her son's eyes and Pien himself poisoned.
This action brought a series of attempted assassinations, culminating in Cao Cao's famed attempt with the "Jeweled Sword". Cao Cao, being summoned to see the Minister, proceeded slowly to the summons, when Zhuo asked why it had taken so long; Cao replied that his horse was old and tired. The ploy worked and Dong Zhuo ordered his lone bodyguard, Lu Bu to go find Cao a better horse. Once Bu had left, Cao Cao drew the jeweled sword from its scabbard and moved forward to stab the Minister. As the minister was enormously fat, there was no way he could defend himself from Cao. Unfortunately for Cao's plot, Lu Bu returned before Cao had gathered the courage. Making a swift change, Cao handed Dong Zhuo the sword as a present and hastened to check on his new horse, which he immediately mounted and road out of the city. By the time Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu had figured out Cao's real motivation, the assassin was long gone.
Cao Cao assembles the coalition against Dong Zhuo. The city of Luoyang is burned.
With all his major enemies gone or dead, Dong Zhuo was incomplete control of Luoyang. But not much time would pass before word came that Cao Cao had assembled a coalition of almost every major lord in China against Dong Zhuo. Yuan Shao himself would lead the armies of this coalition. Dong Zhuo sent Hua Xiong (Hua Hsiung) to meet the forces of the coalition at Ssushui Pass. Though initial battles went in Zhuo's favor, the war eventually was brought back to the pass. Dong Zhuo became uncomfortable. Though it was against the majority of his follower's wishes, Dong Zhuo left the capitol Luoyang to go to the old, western, capitol of Chang An (Changan). Driving the people of Luoyang form the city and toward Chang An, he burned Luoyang. The city which had been the imperial capitol for over 200 years went up in flames.
Cao's coalition fell apart shortly thereafter and Dong Zhuo settled in quiet control in Chang An. Not liking the city though, he employed slave labor and massive amounts of gold in the building of a new capitol, Malwa.
The Chain Plot. Anarchy Reigns.
Dong Zhuo continued to abuse his powers. When a group to the north rebelled, Zhuo sent troops against them. Though the rebels surrendered without fighting, Zhuo, in a banquet supposedly to honor their return to the righful rule, delighted in the torture of each one in front of the assembled guests. Feats such as the plucking of eyes and shaving of skin were common fare at this feast. Wang Yun, the Emperor's last true advisor was disgusted and determined to destroy Dong Zhuo. With the help of his adopted daughter, Diao Chan (Tiaoch'an, or Sable Cicada), Wang Yun assembled the Chain Plot. Using Chan as the bait, he introduced her to both Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu. Both men fell in love with her and proceeded to fight over her.
Though Li Ru tried to intervene and get Zhuo to simply give the girl to Lu Bu, Dong Zhuo refused. Eventually, Lu Bu was driven from Dong Zhuo's side. When Zhuo and Chan went to Malwa, Lu Bu went to Wang Yun. There Yun persuaded Lu Bu to betray Dong Zhuo. Using another betrayer, Li Su, Dong Zhuo was summoned to the capitol. Li Su told Dong Zhuo that Emperor Hsien was going to abdicate the throne and that Zhuo would become emperor. At the steps to the imperial palace, Dong Zhuo was surrounded by the troops of Wang Yun.
Though he pleaded for the help of his "son" Lu Bu, he would not get it. When Bu arrived, he did so with a decree from the emperor to destroy a rebel. So he slew Dong Zhuo, whose head was then cut off by Li Su and displayed from the wall of Chang An. The troops of Dong Zhuo then fell to the control of Lu Bu, while Dong Zhuo's more loyal followers fled to the west under the command of Li Jue.
Within weeks, the capitol would be in anarchy. Lu Bu would flee, forced to leave Diao Chan behind. Both Diao Chan and Wang Yun would fall to the blades of old followers of Dong Zhuo and the emperor would spend months and then years in control of several different leaders.
Note :: All names in parentheses () are alternate spellings, or in some cases familiar names that are used very often in the novel.