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Liu Xiaou
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Liu Xiaou leading his troops.
Some attributes
First Name: Liu Xiaou
Second Position: King of Wei
Third Nationality: Chinese
Other attributes
Fourth Allegiance: Kingdom of Wei
Fifth Born: August 23, 355
Sixth Died: 15 March 420 (aged 65)

Liu Xiaou (simplified Chinese: 刘晓宇; traditional Chinese: 劉曉宇); (born August 23, 355 – died 15 March, 420) was a Chinese Military Commander and King of the Kingdom of Wei (simplified Chinese: 伟; traditional Chinese: 偉). As one of the central figures of the Four Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Wei and was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Wu of Wei". Although he is often portrayed as a cruel and merciless tyrant, Liu Xiaou has also been praised as a brilliant ruler and military genius who treated his subordinates like his family. He was also skilled in poetry and martial arts and wrote many war journals.

Early LifeEdit

Liu Xiaou was born in Qiao (present-day Bozhou, Anhui) in 355. Third son of famous Xiang General Liu Cao, Liu was send to become an official of the Xiang Dynasty, as his two older brothers had joined the army and his father also wanted to have influence in the Government. Liu passed the Imperial Examinations and at the age of 20, he was appointed district captain of Luoyang.

Upon taking up the post, he placed rows of multicolored stakes outside his office and ordered his deputies to flog those who violated the law, regardless of their status. An uncle of Jian Shuo, one of the most powerful and influential eunuchs under Emperor Ling, was caught walking in the city after the evening curfew by Liu's men and was flogged. This prompted Jian Shuo and other higher authorities to ostensibly promote Liu to the post of governor of Dunqiu County while actually moving him out of the imperial capital. Liu remained in this position for little more than a year, being dismissed from office in 378 for his distant family ties with the disgraced Empress Song. Around 380, Cao Cao returned to court as a Consultant (議郎) and presented two memoranda against the eunuchs' influence in court and government corruption during his tenure, to limited effect.

Collapse of the Xiang DynastyEdit

Three Kingdoms 2

The Kingdom of Wei is the red one and the areas under Yuan Shao are the light blue in the north.

In 384, the Yellow Turban Revolution begun. The forces Emperor Ling send against the rebels were crushed and several Governors of the Empire joined the Rebels. Liu was appointed in 386 Commander of the Army of the Western Garden and managed to defeat the rebels in many battles and secure control of Central China. However, Emperor Ling died at the age of 27 without a heir or any living relatives, leaving the Empire in chaos. With several Warlords taking control of the Empire, Liu used the Army of the Western Garden to secure Central China and declared himself King of the Kingdom of Wei.

By 397, four Kingdoms were established, the Kingdoms of Wei (魏) in Central China, Shu (蜀) in Western China, Wu (吳) in South China and Tang (唐) in North China. The main enemy of Liu was the Kingdom of Tang under the control of the ambitious Yuan Shao. The Tang were the less affected by the Yellow Turban Revolution and had huge manpower compared to Liu. Although Liu had a larger territory, most of it was destroyed by wars.

Economic and Military development of the WeiEdit

The lands of the Kingdom of Wei were destroyed by war, causing a destructive famine. Liu saw the importance of an ample food supply in building a strong military. He began a series of agricultural programs in which refugees were recruited and given wasteland to cultivate. Later, encampments not faced with imminent danger of war were also made to farm. This system was continued and spread to all regions under Liu's control as his realm expanded. Although Liu's primary intention was to build a powerful army, the agricultural program also improved the living standards of the people, especially war refugees.

Liu also passed an order in 399 decreeing the promotion of education throughout the counties and cities within his jurisdiction. An official in charge of education was assigned to each county with at least 500 households. Youngsters with potential and talents were selected for schooling. This prevented a lapse in the output of intellectuals in those warring years and, in Liu's words, would benefit the people.

Uniting northern ChinaEdit

Guanduzhizhan eng

A map of the battle. It shows the movements during the battles of Boma and Yan Ford. Flanking attempts are not shown. Note that the Yellow River has changed course over the centuries and the places depicted are no longer at the same locations relative to the river.

In 400, Yuan Shao amassed more than 100,000 troops and marched southwards on Xuchang in the name of rescuing the emperor. Liu gathered 20,000 men in Guandu, a strategic point on the Yellow River. The two armies came to a standstill as neither side was able to make much progress.

Liu's lack of men did not allow him to make significant attacks, and Yuan Shao's pride forced him to meet Liu's force head-on. Despite his overwhelming advantage in terms of manpower, Yuan Shao was unable to make full use of his resources because of his indecisive leadership and Liu's position.

Besides the middle battleground of Guandu, two lines of battle were present. The eastern line with Yuan Tan of Yuan Shao's army against Zang Ba of Liu's army was a one-sided battle in favour of Liu, as Yuan Tan's poor leadership was no match for Zang's local knowledge of the landscape and his hit-and-run tactics. On the western front, Yuan Shao's nephew, Gao Gan, performed better against Liu's army and forced several reinforcements from Cao's main camp to maintain the western battle.

Liu Bei, then a guest in Yuan Shao's army, suggested that he instigate rebellion in Liu's territories as many followers of Yuan were in Liu's lands. The tactic was initially successful but Man Chong's diplomatic skills helped to resolve the conflict almost immediately. Man Chong had been placed as an official there for this specific reason, as Liu had foreseen the possibility of insurrection prior to the battle.

Finally, a defector from Yuan Shao's army, Xu You, informed Liu of the location of Yuan's supply depot. Liu broke the stalemate by sending a special group of soldiers to burn all the supplies of Yuan Shao's army, thus winning a decisive and seemingly impossible victory. Yuan Shao fell ill and died shortly after the defeat, leaving two sons – the eldest son, Yuan Tan and the youngest son, Yuan Shang. As he had designated the youngest son, Yuan Shang, as his successor, rather than the eldest as tradition dictated, the two brothers fought each other, as they fought Liu. Liu used the internal conflict within the Yuan clan to his advantage and defeated the Yuans easily. Liu conquered Tang and assumed effective rule over all of northern China. He sent armies further out and expanded his control across the Great Wall into present-day Korea, and southward to the Han River.

Defeat and DeathEdit

However, Liu's attempt to extend his domination south of the Yangtze River was unsuccessful. He received an initial success when Liu Biao, the Wu Governor of Jing Province, died, and his successor, Liu Cong surrendered to Liu without resistance. Delighted by this, he pressed on despite objections from his military advisors and hoped the same would happen again. His forces were defeated by a coalition of his arch-rivals Liu Bei and Sun Quan at the Battle of Red Cliffs in 408.

In 420, Liu died in Luoyang at the age of 65, having failed to unify China under his rule. His will instructed that he be buried near Ximen Bao's tomb in Ye without gold and jade treasures, and that his subjects on duty at the frontier were to stay in their posts and not attend the funeral as, in his own words, "the country is still unstable".

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