Battle of Yiwulu

The Battle of Yiwulu took place during a major expedition against the Xiongnu launched by the Han dynasty in February 73 CE, after the fall of Xin Dynasty. The battle was a success for the Han, who were led by Dou Gu. In 73, annoyed at the Xiongnu's constant incursions against the northern border, the Han Dynasty dispatched four columns, commissioned generals Dou Gu and Geng Chong to lead an army against the Xiongnu from Jiuquan. The majority of this expedition only had minor successes, but had captured the Yiwulu area in this battle.

Battle of Yiwulu
Part of the Han–Xiongnu War
DateFebruary 73 CE
Result Han victory
Northern Xiongnu Han dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Prince Huyan Dou Gu
Geng Chong
Units involved

Army of the Han dynasty

Unknown 12,000
Casualties and losses
1,000 dead Unknown


In Yiwulu, Dou Gu set up an agricultural garrison, and appointed a commander to make sure that the army stationed in the Western Regions had a lasting supply of provisions. In the same year, Dou Gu sent Ban Chao and Guo Xun along with 36 men to go south. Ban Chao successfully organised the three states of Shanshan, Yutian and Shule against the Xiongnu, restoring peace and order in the Western Regions. Subsequently, in 74, the Han government reestablished the Protectorate of the Western Regions, in the city of Jinman at the state of North Jushi. In 75, on the death of the short-reigned Emperor Ming of Han, the Xiongnu with its allies seized their opportunity and captured Jushi and Liuzhong, and killed the Protector General Chen Mu. In 76, the Han government abrogated the Protectorate of the Western Regions. As the Western Region's situation was getting precarious, Ban Chao, who was left to defend Shule and Yutian, won the support of the local officials and people and drove the Xiongnu troops from the capital of Gumo in Shicheng. In 80, he wrote to the imperial court, proposing that they send more troops to the Western Regions. The new emperor agreed to his proposal and ordered Xu Gan to lead an army to help Ban Chao.

During the war against the Xiongnu's allies which lasted several decades, Ban Chao distinguished himself as a statesman and strategist. Relying on the various nationalities in the Western Regions, he united all the people and maintained the unity of the empire. In 90, Ban Chao detained an envoy from Kushan who requested a marriage for his king. In retaliation, the Kushan marched on Ban Chao with a force of 70,000 under commander Xie, and besieged the city of Shule for about ten days. Ban Chao continued to defend the city, until the attackers exhausted their food supplies and retreated. In 91, the Han government appointed Ban Chao the Protector General of the Western Regions, with his office in Tanqian, state of Qiuci. In 94, Ban Chao organised an army of 70,000 mercenaries, approach and arrested the kings of Yanqi and Yuli, they were executed where Chen Mu was killed. In 97, Ban Chao commissioned an envoy named Gan Ying to visit Rome. He was unsuccessful, but returned after traveling as far as the Persian Gulf.

For more than thirty years Ban Chao worked in the Western Regions until he was seventy, when he retired and returned to Luoyang. Ren Shang succeeded Ban Chao as the Protector General of the Western Regions in 102, but as he was unkind and harsh toward the local people, they rose against him, plunging the region into disorder. The Han court soon recalled him in 106, and replaced him with Duan Xi. On July 29, 107, the Han government abrogated the protector generalship, and recalled Duan Xi back under the escort of General Wang Hong.


  1. ^ Graff 2002, p. 40.


  • Fan Ye et al., Hou Hanshu. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1965. ISBN 7-101-00306-0
  • Sima Guang, comp. Zizhi Tongjian. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1956. ISBN 7-101-00183-1
  • Graff, David A. (2002). Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300 – 900. London, New York City: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23955-9.