Lü Meng's invasion of Jing Province

Lü Meng's invasion of Jing Province was fought between the warlords Sun Quan and Liu Bei in the winter of 219–220 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. Sun Quan's forces, led by Lü Meng, invaded Liu Bei's territories in southern Jing Province, which covered present-day Hubei and Hunan. The campaign occurred after the Battle of Fancheng and concluded with victory for Sun Quan's forces, who completely captured all of Liu Bei's territories. Guan Yu, Liu Bei's general guarding those territories, was captured and executed by Sun Quan's forces. The fall of Jing Province and Guan Yu's death provided the trigger for the Battle of Xiaoting between Liu Bei and Sun Quan between 221 and 222.

Lü Meng's invasion of Jing Province
Part of the wars at the end of the Han dynasty
Datec. November 219 – February 220
Result Sun Quan victory
Sun Quan Liu Bei
Commanders and leaders
Lü Meng
Lu Xun
Zhu Ran
Pan Zhang
Guan Yu Executed
Guan Ping Executed
Liao Hua (POW)
Zhao Lei Executed
Mi Fang Surrendered
Shi Ren Surrendered
Pan Jun Surrendered
Lü Meng's invasion of Jing Province
Traditional Chinese呂蒙攻取荊州之戰
Simplified Chinese吕蒙攻取荆州之战


Sun Quan "lending" Jing Province to Liu BeiEdit

In 210, Liu Bei travelled to Jing (京; present-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu) to meet Sun Quan and request for the governorship of Jing Province. Lu Su advised Sun Quan to "lend" Nan Commandery (南郡; around present-day Jingzhou, Hubei), the administrative centre of southern Jing Province, to Liu Bei so as to strengthen the Sun–Liu alliance against their common rival, Cao Cao.[1] He argued that since Sun Quan's forces had just recently occupied Nan Commandery after the Battle of Jiangling, they would not be able to defend Nan Commandery well if Cao Cao's forces attacked, so it would be better to "lend" it to Liu Bei and let him serve as a "buffer" against Cao Cao. Sun Quan then agreed to "lend" Nan Commandery to Liu Bei.[2][3]

In the meantime, Liu Bei had also conquered the four commanderies of Wuling (武陵; around present-day Changde, Hunan), Changsha (長沙), Guiyang (桂陽; around present-day Chenzhou, Hunan) and Lingling (零陵; around present-day Yongzhou, Hunan) so he effectively controlled all the territories in southern Jing Province by 211.[4]

Sun–Liu territorial disputeEdit

Between 212 and 214, Liu Bei embarked on a campaign to seize control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from its governor, Liu Zhang. He left Guan Yu behind to guard his territories in Jing Province during his absence.[5]

At the time, tensions were rising at the Sun–Liu border in Jing Province as both sides became more suspicious and wary of each other. Around July 215, Sun Quan asked Liu Bei to "return" three commanderies in southern Jing Province – Changsha, Lingling and Guiyang – since the latter already had a new base in Yi Province. When Liu Bei refused, Sun Quan decided to seize the three commanderies by force. He stationed himself at Lukou (陸口; at Lushui Lake near present-day Chibi, Hubei) while ordering Lü Meng to lead troops to attack the three commanderies and Lu Su to lead 10,000 troops to Yiyang to block Guan Yu. After Lü Meng succeeded in capturing Lingling by trickery and persuading the administrators of Changsha and Guiyang to surrender to Sun Quan's side, he then led his troops to Yiyang to reinforce Lu Su. When Liu Bei heard about it, he returned to Gong'an County and ordered Guan Yu to lead an army to stop Lü Meng.[6][7]

During this time, Guan Yu had a standoff with Lu Su at Yiyang, where he planned to lead 5,000 elite soldiers to cross the upstream shallows at night. In response, Lu Su ordered Gan Ning to lead 1,000 troops to guard their side of the shallows. Guan Yu did not dare to cross the shallows and instead ordered his men to make camp on their side. The shallows were thus named 'Guan Yu's Shallows' (關羽瀨).[8]

Lu Su and Guan Yu then held talks to discuss the territorial dispute. During the negotiations, both sides stationed their soldiers more than 100 paces away from the meeting area and the officers present at the talks were each armed with only a blade weapon.[9] Although the talks were inconclusive, the territorial dispute eventually ended by the end of August 215 when Liu Bei decided to give in upon learning that Cao Cao was attacking Hanzhong Commandery. As Hanzhong was the "northern gateway" into Yi Province, Cao Cao would pose a greater threat to Liu Bei's base in Yi Province if he succeeded in conquering Hanzhong, so Liu Bei had to switch to countering Cao Cao in Hanzhong. Liu Bei and Sun Quan then withdrew their forces after agreeing to divide southern Jing Province between them along the Xiang River.[7]

Battle of FanchengEdit

In August 219, following Liu Bei's victory over Cao Cao in the Hanzhong Campaign in June that year, Guan Yu decided to follow up by attacking Cao Cao's stronghold at Fancheng (樊城; present-day Fancheng District, Xiangyang, Hubei), which was guarded by Cao Ren. Cao Cao ordered Yu Jin to lead reinforcements to help Cao Ren. It was in autumn and there were heavy showers so the Han River flooded and destroyed Yu Jin's reinforcements. Yu Jin himself surrendered to Guan Yu while his subordinate Pang De refused and was executed.[10][11]

After Yu Jin's defeat, Cao Cao considered relocating the imperial capital from Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) further north into Hebei because Xu was too near enemy territory. However, Sima Yi and Jiang Ji reminded him that Sun Quan would feel restless if Guan Yu managed to capture Fancheng since he already felt uneasy about Liu Bei's growing influence. They suggested to Cao Cao to ally with Sun Quan and get him to help them hinder Guan Yu's advances. In return, Cao Cao would make peace with Sun Quan and recognise the legitimacy of Sun Quan's claim over the territories in the Jiangdong region. Cao Cao heeded their advice[12] and later ordered Xu Huang to lead reinforcements to help Cao Ren. Xu Huang broke through Guan Yu's encirclement and routed his forces on the battlefield, thus lifting the siege on Fancheng.[13] Guan Yu withdrew his forces after seeing that he could not capture Fancheng.[14][11]

Guan Yu scorning Sun QuanEdit

Earlier on, Sun Quan had sent a messenger to meet Guan Yu and propose a marriage between his son and Guan Yu's daughter. However, Guan Yu not only rejected the proposal, but also scolded and humiliated the messenger. Sun Quan was enraged.[15][11]

After Yu Jin's surrender during the Battle of Fancheng, Guan Yu saw that his army lacked food supplies so he seized grain from one of Sun Quan's granaries at Xiang Pass (湘關).[16]

Lü Meng and Lu Xun putting Guan Yu off guardEdit

When Lü Meng first heard that Guan Yu had led his troops to attack Fancheng, he wrote to Sun Quan:[17]

"When Guan Yu went to attack Fan, he left behind many backup forces because he was afraid that I would seize the territories in his absence. I am often ill. Now, I request to return to Jianye under the guise of seeking medical treatment. When Guan Yu learns that I have left Jing Province, he will definitely withdraw the backup forces and move all out towards Xiangyang. When that happens, our troops will sail along the river, travelling day and night, and swiftly attack the weakly defended territories. We can thus conquer Nan Commandery and capture Guan Yu."[18]

Sun Quan agreed to Lü Meng's plan and played along by openly approving Lü Meng's request to return to Jianye for medical treatment.[19]

After Lü Meng returned to Jianye, he recommended Lu Xun to replace him as the frontline commander of Sun Quan's forces in Jing Province. He explained that although Lu Xun was talented and capable of assuming great responsibilities, he was still a relative nobody at the time so Guan Yu would not be wary of him. Sun Quan then commissioned Lu Xun as a Lieutenant-General and ordered him to go to Jing Province to take up Lü Meng's post at Lukou (陸口; at Lushui Lake near present-day Chibi, Hubei).[20]

When Lu Xun first assumed his new appointment at Lukou, he wrote to Guan Yu to flatter him:

"Previously, I had the privilege of seeing you in action. You uphold good discipline in your army and achieved success with minimal effort. That is praiseworthy! Our enemy has been defeated. It is to our mutual benefit that we strengthen our alliance. Having received this piece of good news, I intend to pack up all my belongings and join you in striving to accomplish our lords' common goals. I am unintelligent, but I have received orders to travel to the west and take up this responsibility. I hope to catch a glimpse of your glory and receive some good advice from you."[21]

Later, after Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu during the Battle of Fancheng, Lu Xun wrote again to Guan Yu:

"Now that Yu Jin and others have been captured, everyone far and near rejoices, and your feat will be praised for generations. Neither Duke Wen of Jin's victory at Chengpu nor the Marquis of Huaiyin's strategy in conquering Zhao can be compared to your achievement. I heard that Xu Huang and his forces are approaching and preparing for an offensive. Cao Cao is very cunning and his intentions are difficult to predict. I am afraid he might secretly increase the number of troops (in Xu Huang's army) to achieve his aim. Even though the enemy is weary, they still have some fighting spirit left in them. Every time after scoring a victory, there is a tendency for us to underestimate the enemy. The best military leaders in ancient times maintained their defences even after they won battles. I hope that you can make grander plans to secure a total victory. I am but a scholar, negligent and slow, and unworthy in many aspects. I am pleased to have a majestic and virtuous neighbour like you; I cannot contain my excitement. Even though we have not worked together yet, I always hope for such an opportunity. If you require my attention, I will pay my fullest attention."[22]

Guan Yu fell for the ruse and lowered his guard against Lu Xun.[11]

Invasion of Jing ProvinceEdit

Nan Commandery
Map of present-day Hubei showing key locations of the invasion of Jing Province: Nan Commandery, Gong'an, Fancheng, Lukou, Xunyang, Maicheng and Linju.

By November 219, Sun Quan had already secretly agreed to ally with Cao Cao against Liu Bei. He ordered Lü Meng and others to lead troops to invade Liu Bei's territories in Jing Province while he followed behind with reinforcements. At Xunyang (尋陽; present-day Huangmei County, Hubei), Lü Meng ordered his men to hide in vessels disguised as civilian and merchant ships and sail towards Jiangling, the capital of Nan Commandery. Along the way, Lü Meng employed infiltration tactics to disable the surveillance towers set up along the river so that Guan Yu would be unaware of the invasion.[23] This event is called "crossing the river in civilian clothing" (白衣渡江) in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.[24]

Surrenders of Mi Fang and Shi RenEdit

When Guan Yu embarked on the Fancheng campaign, he left his subordinates Mi Fang and Shi Ren behind to defend his key bases in Jing Province – Nan Commandery (南郡; around present-day Jingzhou, Hubei) and Gong'an County. Guan Yu had all along treated Mi Fang and Shi Ren with contempt. During the Battle of Fancheng, when Mi Fang and Shi Ren failed to ensure that sufficient supplies were delivered to Guan Yu's army at the frontline, an annoyed Guan Yu remarked, "I will deal with them when I return." Mi Fang and Shi Ren felt very uneasy after that.[25]

During the invasion of Jing Province, Lü Meng showed understanding towards Mi Fang and successfully induced him into surrendering Nan Commandery. Yu Fan, one of Sun Quan's advisers, also managed to persuade Shi Ren to give up resistance and surrender Gong'an County. Liu Bei's territories in Jing Province largely fell under Sun Quan's control after the surrenders of Mi Fang and Shi Ren.[26]

Guan Yu's capture and executionEdit

By the time Guan Yu retreated from Fancheng, Sun Quan's forces had occupied Nan Commandery and Gong'an County, and captured the families of Guan Yu's soldiers. Lü Meng ordered his troops to treat the civilians well and ensure that they were not harmed. Most of Guan Yu's soldiers lost their fighting spirit and deserted and went back to Jing Province to reunite with their families.[27]

Guan Yu knew that he had been isolated so he withdrew to Maicheng (麥城; present-day Maicheng Village, Lianghe Town, Dangyang, Hubei) and later headed west towards Zhang District (漳鄉). At Zhang District, his remaining men deserted him and surrendered to Sun Quan's forces. Sun Quan sent Zhu Ran and Pan Zhang to block Guan Yu from retreating further west to Yi Province. Guan Yu, along with his son Guan Ping and subordinate Zhao Lei (趙累), were captured alive by Pan Zhang's deputy, Ma Zhong (馬忠), in an ambush. Guan Yu and Guan Ping were later executed by Sun Quan's forces in Linju (臨沮; present-day Nanzhang County, Hubei).[28][29][30]


Lu Xun's follow-up pacification of southern Jing ProvinceEdit

Although Sun Quan's forces successfully captured Guan Yu's key bases in southern Jing Province during the invasion, there were still some areas controlled by Liu Bei's forces or other forces hostile towards Sun Quan. Lu Xun followed up by sending his subordinates Li Yi (李異) and Xie Jing (謝旌) to lead 3,000 men to attack Liu Bei's forces led by Zhan Yan (詹晏) and Chen Feng (陳鳳). After Li Yi and Xie Jing defeated Zhan Yan and Chen Feng, they also attacked Fangling Commandery (房陵郡) and Nanxiang County (南鄉縣) respectively and captured these territories.[31]

Wen Bu (文布) and Deng Kai (鄧凱), two influential men in Zigui County, rallied thousands of locals to form an army to attack Lu Xun in the west of southern Jing Province. In response, Lu Xun ordered Xie Jing to lead troops to attack them. After their defeat, Wen Bu and Deng Kai fled further west in Yi Province, where Liu Bei received them and appointed them as military officers. Lu Xun later managed to induce Wen Bu to lead his men to defect to Sun Quan's side.[32]

Battle of XiaotingEdit

Two years later in 221, Liu Bei personally led his forces to attack Sun Quan retake Jing Province and avenge Guan Yu. This led to the Battle of Xiaoting of 221–222 which ended with a decisive victory by Sun Quan's forces, under Lu Xun's command, over Liu Bei's forces.

Order of battleEdit

In popular cultureEdit

The campaign is featured as a playable stage in some installments of Koei's video game series dynasty Warriors, in which it is known as the "Battle of Mai Castle". In some installments this battle is merged with the Battle of Fan Castle into one single stage. Some of Sun Quan's generals, such as Cheng Pu and Gan Ning, who did not participate in the battle in history, appeared in this stage.


  1. ^ (後備詣京見權,求都督荊州,惟肅勸權借之,共拒曹公。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  2. ^ (漢晉春秋曰:呂範勸留備,肅曰:「不可。將軍雖神武命世,然曹公威力實重,初臨荊州,恩信未洽,宜以借備,使撫安之。多操之敵,而自為樹黨,計之上也。」權即從之。) Han Jin Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  3. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 66.
  4. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 65.
  5. ^ Sima (1084), vols. 66–67.
  6. ^ (及羽與肅鄰界,數生狐疑,疆埸紛錯,肅常以歡好撫之。備旣定益州,權求長沙、零、桂,備不承旨,權遣呂蒙率衆進取。備聞,自還公安,遣羽爭三郡。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  7. ^ a b Sima (1084), vol. 67.
  8. ^ (羽號有三萬人,自擇選銳士五千人,投縣上流十餘里淺瀨,云欲夜涉渡。 ... 肅便選千兵益寧,寧乃夜往。羽聞之,住不渡,而結柴營,今遂名此處為關羽瀨。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  9. ^ (肅住益陽,與羽相拒。肅邀羽相見,各駐兵馬百步上,但請將軍單刀俱會。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  10. ^ ([建安]二十四年, ... 是歲,羽率衆攻曹仁於樊。曹公遣于禁助仁。秋,大霖雨,漢水汎溢,禁所督七軍皆沒。禁降羽,羽又斬將軍龐德。 ... 羽威震華夏。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  11. ^ a b c d Sima (1084), vol. 68.
  12. ^ (曹公議徙許都以避其銳,司馬宣王、蔣濟以為關羽得志,孫權必不願也。可遣人勸權躡其後,許割江南以封權,則樊圍自解。曹公從之。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  13. ^ (賊圍頭有屯,又別屯四冢。晃揚聲當攻圍頭屯,而密攻四冢。羽見四冢欲壞,自將步騎五千出戰,晃擊之,退走,遂追陷與俱入圍,破之,或自投沔水死。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
  14. ^ (而曹公遣徐晃救曹仁,羽不能克,引軍退還。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  15. ^ (先是,權遣使為子索羽女,羽罵辱其使,不許婚,權大怒。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  16. ^ (羽果信之,稍撤兵以赴樊。魏使于禁救樊,羽盡禽禁等,人馬數萬,託以糧乏,擅取湘關米。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  17. ^ (後羽討樊,留兵將備公安、南郡。蒙上疏曰: ...) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  18. ^ (... 「羽討樊而多留備兵,必恐蒙圖其後故也。蒙常有病,乞分士衆還建業,以治疾為名。羽聞之,必撤備兵,盡赴襄陽。大軍浮江,晝夜馳上,襲其空虛,則南郡可下,而羽可禽也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  19. ^ (遂稱病篤,權乃露檄召蒙還,陰與圖計。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  20. ^ (蒙至都,權問:「誰可代卿者?」蒙對曰:「陸遜意思深長,才堪負重,觀其規慮,終可大任。而未有遠名,非羽所忌,無復是過。若用之,當令外自韜隱,內察形便,然後可克。」權乃召遜,拜偏將軍右部督代蒙。) Sanguozhi vol. 58.
  21. ^ (遜至陸口,書與羽曰:「前承觀釁而動,以律行師,小舉大克,一何巍巍!敵國敗績,利在同盟,聞慶拊節,想遂席卷,共獎王綱。近以不敏,受任來西,延慕光塵,思稟良規。」) Sanguozhi vol. 58.
  22. ^ (又曰:「于禁等見獲,遐邇欣歎,以為將軍之勳足以長世,雖昔晉文城濮之師,淮陰拔趙之略,蔑以尚茲。聞徐晃等步騎駐旌,闚望麾葆。操猾虜也,忿不思難,恐潛增衆,以逞其心。雖云師老,猶有驍悍。且戰捷之後,常苦輕敵,古人杖術,軍勝彌警,願將軍廣為方計,以全獨克。僕書生疏遲,忝所不堪,喜鄰威德,樂自傾盡,雖未合策,猶可懷也。儻明注仰,有以察之。」) Sanguozhi vol. 58.
  23. ^ (權聞之,遂行,先遣蒙在前。蒙至尋陽,盡伏其精兵[][]中,使白衣搖櫓,作商賈人服,晝夜兼行,至羽所置江邊屯候,盡收縛之,是故羽不聞知。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  24. ^ Sanguo Yanyi ch. 75.
  25. ^ (又南郡太守麋芳在江陵,將軍傅士仁屯公安,素皆嫌羽自輕己。羽之出軍,芳、仁供給軍資不悉相救。羽言「還當治之」,芳、仁咸懷懼不安。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  26. ^ (於是權陰誘芳、仁,芳、仁使人迎權。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  27. ^ (權已據江陵,盡虜羽士衆妻子,羽軍遂散。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  28. ^ (權遣將逆擊羽,斬羽及子平于臨沮。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  29. ^ (會權尋至,羽自知孤窮,乃走麥城,西至漳鄉,衆皆委羽而降。權使朱然、潘璋斷其徑路,即父子俱獲,荊州遂定。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  30. ^ (權征關羽,璋與朱然斷羽走道,到臨沮,住夾石。璋部下司馬馬忠禽羽,并羽子平、都督趙累等。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  31. ^ (遜遣將軍李異、謝旌等將三千人,攻蜀將詹晏、陳鳳。異將水軍,旌將步兵,斷絕險要,即破晏等,生降得鳳。又攻房陵太守鄧輔、南鄉太守郭睦,大破之。) Sanguozhi vol. 58.
  32. ^ (秭歸大姓文布、鄧凱等合夷兵數千人,首尾西方。遜復部旌討破布、凱。布、凱脫走,蜀以為將。遜令人誘之,布帥衆還降。) Sanguozhi vol. 58.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2004). "Chapter 6: Struggle for Jing Province". Generals of the South (PDF) (internet ed.). Canberra: National Library of Australia. pp. 22–25. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.