Battle of Dongkou

The Battle of Dongkou was a naval battle fought between October 222 and January 223 between forces of the state of Cao Wei and the Kingdom of Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. The battle concluded in a Wu victory.

Battle of Dongkou
Part of the wars of the Three Kingdoms period
DateOctober 222 – January 223[1]
Dongkou (洞口; along the Yangtze near present-day Liyang, Jiangsu)
Result Wu victory; overall stalemate; Wei army retreats
Cao Wei Kingdom of Wu
Commanders and leaders
Cao Xiu Lü Fan


After the Shu emperor Liu Bei was defeated by Sun Quan's forces at the Battle of Xiaoting, Sun benefited from his submission to the Wei ruler Cao Pi; who would help Sun in the conflict against Liu Bei.[2] However, on both sides of the two forces, this was never a popular concept, especially in the ranks of Sun Quan,[3] who defeated Cao Cao at the Battle of Red Cliffs 14 years ago after resisting surrender. To make matters worse, Cao Pi and his officers were uneasy about Sun's titles and ranks (such as King of Wu) because it was quite inappropriate since they were considered a vassal state under Wei.[4] It was even considered within Sun Quan's forces that the alliance with Wei was pointless, because the defeat they caused Liu Bei at Xiaoting was so critical that it meant that their alliance with Wei was no longer necessary for survival. Sun Quan also appeared as if he was planning to have this alliance go not much longer than it was supposed to.[5]

In a matter of time, Cao Pi's plan to keep Sun Quan and Shu's relations sour backfired as Sun Quan and Liu Bei rekindled their alliance. In an attempt to improve his own relations with the Sun clan, he demanded Sun Deng (Sun Quan's eldest son) to be sent to the Wei capital Luoyang as a hostage. However Sun Quan declined this request, and later apologised to Cao Pi, stating his son was still very young and vulnerable in his health to be away from his home and family.[6] Cao Pi did not bring up or press the matter. However Cao Pi demanded Sun Deng as hostage again soon. This was also declined.

Diplomatic ties between the two continued to sour until finally, Cao Pi decided to attack Sun Quan. Sun Quan would repetitively send envoys to negotiate peace between the two, but resulted in failure. Soon after, Sun Quan would proceed to declare independence in November 222.[7]

The battleEdit

First movesEdit

In late October 222, Cao Pi ordered Cao Xiu, Zhang Liao and Zang Ba to attack Dongkou (洞口); Cao Ren to attack Ruxu (濡須); and Cao Zhen, Xiahou Shang, Zhang He and Xu Huang to besiege Nan Commandery (南郡).[8] In response, Sun Quan put Lü Fan in command of five armies to resist Cao Xiu; Zhuge Jin, Pan Zhang and Yang Can (楊粲) were dispatched to relieve the siege on Nan Commandery which was being defended by Zhu Ran while Zhu Huan defended the fortress of Ruxu from Cao Ren.[9]

Wei offensiveEdit

Initially, the Wei forces easily penetrated the Wu front lines, no doubt because of their strength. In addition, Lü Fan's forces were hit by a storm, causing serious damage, although Cao Xiu also achieved little out of his initial efforts because of the storm. He was hot-headed, and he had to be advised strongly by his troops. Dong Zhao also assured Cao Pi that Cao Xiu's troops would do this.[10] Sun Quan was afraid when he heard that Zhang Liao was participating in the campaign, and said to his subordinates, "Zhang Liao may be ill, but he is still a foe to be reckoned with. Be careful!" Zhang Liao and the Wei generals later defeated Lü Fan.[11] When Cao Xiu, Zhang Liao and Zang Ba launched their attack, Lü Fan, along with Xu Sheng, Quan Cong and Sun Shao, led naval forces to resist the enemy at Dongkou.[12]

By this time it was early 223, and Cao Xiu ordered Zang Ba to attack Sun's small stronghold at Xuling. However, Zang Ba achieved nothing and was quickly defeated. Nonetheless, Cao Xiu eventually managed to gain the advantage as Lü Fan's forces were beginning to struggle.

Turn of events and Wei retreatEdit

Miraculously, reinforcements arrived and Lü Fan's generals Sun Shao and Xu Sheng managed to resist the Wei forces, continuously gaining morale due to the Wei struggle at Nan commandery and other locations along the western area of the Yangtze. Eventually, Cao Xiu and the Wei forces at Dongkou were repelled and withdrew to the Wei capital Luoyang.


Following the Wei defeat at Dongkou and failed invasion of the western Yangtze region, Sun Quan took his chance to launch an offensive during the summer of 223, successfully destroying the new Wei Commandery at Qichun. The success of Sun Quan during his resistance against the Wei invasions would soon inspire Sun Quan to declaring himself emperor of Eastern Wu, being the last to establish the three dynasties during the Three Kingdoms period.

Sun Lang, also was banished from the Sun clan, and had to change his name to Ding Lang and was expelled from the army.

Order of battleEdit

In Romance of the Three KingdomsEdit

In the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Wei general Zhang Liao was killed in this battle while defending Cao Pi from an attack by the Wu general Ding Feng. He was hit in the waist by an arrow fired by Ding Feng and died from his wound not long after the battle. Cao Pi held a grand funeral for Zhang Liao.[13]


Zhang Liao's biography in the Sanguozhi stated that he died of illness. In 222, he participated in the Battle of Dongkou against Wu forces even though he was ill. When Sun Quan heard that Zhang Liao was involved in the battle, he warned his men to be careful. Zhang Liao and other Wei generals defeated the Wu general Lü Fan in that battle. However, Zhang Liao's condition worsened and he died later that year in Jiangdu (江都; present-day Jiangdu District, Yangzhou, Jiangsu).[14]

In popular cultureEdit

The battle is a playable stage in the seventh instalment of Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game franchise. The stage is the final stage of the Wu story mode, and the player uses Sun Quan, and Sun Quan kills Zhang Liao. In the stage, though Cao Pi surrenders, later the game reveals in a following Wu cinematic clip that Sun Quan was dreaming.


  1. ^ (秋九月,魏乃命曹休、張遼、臧霸出洞口,曹仁出濡須,曹真、夏侯尚、張郃、徐晃圍南郡。 ... 冬十一月,大風。呂範等兵溺死者數千,余軍還江南。曹休使臧霸以輕船五百、敢死萬人襲攻徐陵,燒攻城車,殺略數千人。) Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  2. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. With the full defeat of Liu Bei in the late summer and early autumn of 222, Sun Quan had obtained all possible benefit from his formal submission to Cao Pi and the empire of Wei, and he wasted very little time in breaking that connection.
  3. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. It had never been popular with his officers.
  4. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. , and even at the time of his enfeoffment as King of Wu there had been those who argued against accepting such a rank from the usurping Emperor, and who suggested that Sun Quan should take some independent title as Lord of Nine Provinces, claiming hegemony in support of Han. This was, as we have discussed, quite inappropriate and impractical in the circumstances, and the submission to Cao Pi was an essential preparation for dealing with Liu Bei.
  5. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. On the other hand, the alliance with the north was always a matter of expediency, and there seems no probability that Sun Quan intended it to last any longer than it needed.
  6. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. Sun Quan sent up a letter of apology, saying that his son was too young and delicate in health to be sent away from home, and for the time being Cao Pi did not press the matter.
  7. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. At this ultimatum, surely by no means unexpected, in the tenth month, being early November of 222, Sun Quan declared his independence of Wei.
  8. ^ (秋九月,魏乃命曹休、張遼、臧霸出洞口,曹仁出濡須,曹真、夏侯尚、張郃、徐晃圍南郡。) Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  9. ^ (權遣呂範等督五軍,以舟軍拒休等,諸葛瑾、潘璋、楊粲救南郡,朱桓以濡須督拒仁。) Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  10. ^ De Crespigny, Rafe. "Online Publications" (PDF). Asian Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2012. His adviser Dong Zhao assured him he need have no such worry: even if Cao Xiu was hot-headed enough to court such disaster, his wiser subordinates would be quite well aware of the dangers and would refuse to support him. Cao Pi may have been re-assured that Cao Xiu would not do anything rash, but there is nothing in the record to suggest that anyone under his command had any confidence of the most limited success.
  11. ^ (權甚憚焉,敕諸將:「張遼雖病,不可當也,慎之!」是歲,遼與諸將破權將呂范。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
  12. ^ (曹休、張遼,臧霸等來伐,范督徐盛、全琮、孫韶等,以舟師拒休等於洞口。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  13. ^ Sanguo Yanyi ch. 86.
  14. ^ (遼還屯雍丘,得疾。帝遣侍中劉曄將太醫視疾,虎賁問消息,道路相屬。疾未瘳,帝迎遼就行在所,車駕親臨,執其手,賜以御衣,太官日送御食。疾小差,還屯。孫權復叛,帝遣遼乘舟,與曹休至海陵,臨江。權甚憚焉,敕諸將:「張遼雖病,不可當也,慎之!」是歲,遼與諸將破權將呂范。遼病篤,遂薨於江都。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.