Liu Bei's takeover of Yi Province

Liu Bei's takeover of Yi Province was a military campaign by the warlord Liu Bei in taking control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from the provincial governor, Liu Zhang. The campaign took place between 212 and 214 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. It concluded with victory for Liu Bei and his successful takeover of the province from Liu Zhang. Yi Province would serve as the foundation of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period.

Liu Bei's takeover of Yi Province
Part of the wars at the end of the Han dynasty
Date212 – 214
Yi Province (present-day Sichuan and Chongqing), China
Result Liu Bei victory
Liu Bei Liu Zhang
Commanders and leaders
Liu Bei Liu Zhang Surrendered
at least 30,000 elite soldiers, later reinforced by Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang[1] 30,000+[citation needed]
Liu Bei's takeover of Yi Province
Traditional Chinese劉備爭奪益州之戰
Simplified Chinese刘备争夺益州之战


After the Battle of Red Cliffs, Sun Quan invited Liu Bei to take Yi Province with him, but the latter strongly rebutted the former, saying: "if you're going to conquer the land of Shu, I will loosen my hair and become a hermit in the deep hills. Earth under Heaven can hear my promise, and I'll live up to my words!"[2] Believing Liu Bei, Sun Quan aborted his plan; however, Liu Bei was actually trying to take Yi Province for himself and negotiated Yiling County and Nan Commandery from Sun Quan.[a] In 211, Liu Zhang, the Governor of Yi Province, heard that Cao Cao was planning to attack Zhang Lu in Hanzhong Commandery. As Hanzhong Commandery was a strategic location and the "gateway" into Yi Province, Liu Zhang sent Fa Zheng to form an alliance with Liu Bei after Zhang Song convinced him to do so. Liu Bei then led his men to Yi Province under the pretence of helping Liu Zhang conquer Hanzhong Commandery.

The campaignEdit

Takeover of JiamengEdit

Liu Bei led an expedition force into Yi Province after leaving behind Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun to guard Jing Province. Liu Zhang received Liu Bei warmly at Fu County (涪縣; in present-day Fuling District, Chongqing) and provided him with more troops under his command as well as abundant provisions and equipment. Liu Bei headed to Jiameng Pass (southwest of present-day Guangyuan, Sichuan) at the border between Liu Zhang and Zhang Lu's territories. Instead of engaging Zhang Lu, Liu Bei halted his advance and focused on building up connections and gaining influence around the area in preparation for his takeover of Yi Province.[3]

In 212, Pang Tong outlined three plans for Liu Bei to choose from: The first was to advance swiftly to seize Chengdu, the capital of Yi Province, from Liu Zhang. The second was to take command of Liu Zhang's armies in the north and then move to capture Chengdu. The third one was to return to Baidicheng to await further action. Liu Bei chose the second option and lied to Liu Zhang that he needed more troops to divert Cao Cao's attention away from the east (where Sun Quan was under attack), and requested for another 10,000 soldiers and additional provisions to aid in the defense of Jing Province. Liu Zhang gave him 40% of the troops and half of the others he asked for.

Zhang Su (張肅), Zhang Song's brother, discovered his brother's secret communications with Liu Bei and reported the issue to Liu Zhang. Liu Zhang was furious and stunned when he heard that Zhang Song had been helping Liu Bei to plot against him—he executed Zhang Song and ordered his military officers guarding the passes to Chengdu to keep secret his knowledge of Liu Bei's intention. Despite Liu Zhang's efforts, Liu Bei still found out from the spies he planted around Liu Zhang. Before Liu Zhang's men could reach Yang Huai (楊懷) and Gao Pei (高沛), the military officers guarding Boshui Pass, Liu Bei summoned and killed them on the excuse that they were disrespectful towards him. Liu Bei then took over their troops and turned to attack Fu County (涪縣; in present-day Fuling District, Chongqing). On his way, Liu Bei's troops bypassed Zitong Commandery, where the defenders closed the gates and resisted the invasion.[4]

Bribery strategyEdit

In the spring of 213, Liu Zhang sent Liu Gui (劉璝), Leng Bao (冷苞), Zhang Ren, Deng Xian (鄧賢) and other military officers under Wu Yi to defend Mianzhu (綿竹). Despite being the most trusted vassal of Liu Zhang, Wu Yi soon changed allegiance, so Li Yan and Fei Guan (費觀) were sent to replace him, but they surrendered to Liu Bei as well. At the time, Liu Zhang's soldiers were not used to intense combat and were low on morale, and he did not dish out intimidating punishments to the families of those surrendered, so only a few generals were determined to fight the invaders. On the contrary, Liu Bei was promising to provide wealth and positions to those who would switch allegiance, so many of Liu Zhang's subordinates simply welcomed him along his way until he reached Luo County (雒縣; north of present-day Guanghan, Sichuan), where the ones who could not be bought by wealth nor power played their staunch defence.

Defence of Luo CountyEdit

Liu Zhang's eldest son, Liu Xun (劉循), took command of the remnants and retreated to Luo County (雒縣; north of present-day Guanghan, Sichuan) to join forces with Ling Bao. Liu Bei ordered his troops to surround Luo County and sent his adviser Pang Tong to lead a major assault on the county. However, the defenders fought back with projectiles and Pang Tong was killed by a stray arrow. Thus, the siege became a prolonged one, forcing Liu Bei to call forth reinforcements from Jing Province. Zhang Fei led an army from Jing Province to attack Jiangzhou (in present-day Chongqing), where he captured an enemy officer, Yan Yan. Facing Zhang Fei's insults, Yan Yan condemned him for invading Yi Province. Yan Yan was originally ordered to be executed by the angry Zhang Fei, but his fearlessness of death impressed Zhang, who pardoned the captive's life. Following the Dian River (垫江), Zhang Fei broke through a thin defence line, guarded by an enemy major, and rendezvoused with Liu Bei. Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang also arrived from another route.

One of Liu Zhang's officers, Zhang Ren, attempted to break the siege by leading his men onto the Wild Goose Bridge and charging Liu Bei's forces, but he was defeated and captured. His loyalty and bravery were well known, so Liu Bei ordered his army to force the captive into submission. However, Zhang Ren said, "A loyal subject will never serve two masters!" Liu Bei lamented his determination and had him executed.[5]

Fall of ChengduEdit

More than a year had passed and Luo County finally fell, but Liu Zhang continued to hold on inside Chengdu. Ma Chao, a former Liang Province warlord and a vassal of Zhang Lu, killed Zhang Lu's subordinate Yang Bai (楊柏) and joined Liu Bei. Upon seeing Ma Chao's army to the north of Chengdu, the citizens inside the city were terrified, but they still insisted on fighting a desperate war.[6] However, the morale of Liu Zhang's army was at an all-time low and only Huang Quan was insistent on resisting Liu Bei despite a losing effort. Liu Bei decided to send his longtime adviser, Jian Yong, whom Liu Zhang was already fond of before the war broke out, to speak to Liu Zhang. Jian Yong managed to convince Liu Zhang to surrender. Thus, Liu Zhang opened Chengdu's gates and surrendered to Liu Bei; everyone inside the city wept for Liu Zhang's sacrifice.[7] Liu Bei then succeeded Liu Zhang as Governor of Yi Province, and he conferred on the latter the seal and tassel of General of Vehement Might (奮威將軍) before expatriating him and Liu Xun to Gong'an County in Jing province.

Liu Bei married Wu Yi's sister and attempted to solidify his control on the newly conquered domain. Most of Liu Bei's followers, new and old, were promoted to higher ranks; and a set of straight law code was applied to Yi Province, replacing the softer one set by Liu Zhang.


Upon hearing Liu Bei had taken Yi Province, Sun Quan sent envoys to ask him for the return of the commanderies in southern Jing Province, but Liu Bei said: "Jing Province will be returned after I take Liang Province."[8] Sun Quan was furious when his envoy reported Liu Bei's words, and he sent Lü Meng and Ling Tong with another four officers to retake southern Jing Province. After Lü Meng and his colleagues captured three commanderies, Liu Bei returned to Gong'an County and prepared to seize back the three commanderies by force. However, he eventually arrived at a border treaty with Sun Quan when he heard Cao Cao was planning to attack Hanzhong Commandery.

Order of battleEdit

In popular cultureEdit

The campaign is featured as one of the playable stages in Koei's video game series Dynasty Warriors. In the game, all the battles in the campaign were aptly summed up in one single battle, called the "Battle of Chengdu", although technically, there was no battle fought at Chengdu at all in the campaign. In Dynasty Warriors 3 and Dynasty Warriors 4, Liu Zhang's surrender is optional and often a special requirement for certain unlockable items. The concept was removed in Dynasty Warriors 5 and Liu Zhang surrenders immediately after his defeat. In Dynasty Warriors 6, the battle is renamed to "Pacification of Chengdu" and the geographical design of the stage has changed but the events remain almost the same. In Dynasty Warriors 7, the campaign is split into two battles with the Battle of Luo Castle and battle of Chengdu. Battle of Luo Castle has Liu Xun as commander of Liu Zhang's forces and Pang Tong as commander of Liu Bei's forces. The battle serves as Pang's only appearance in story mode. The Battle of Chengdu follows Lou Castle with Zhuge Liang as commander after Pang's death.


  1. ^ Yiling was an entrance to Yi Province from Jing Province (covering present-day Hubei and Hunan).


  1. ^ Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  2. ^ ((孫權)遣孫瑜率水軍住夏口。備不聽軍過,謂瑜曰:「汝欲取蜀,吾當被發入山,不失信於天下也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  3. ^ (先主北到葭萌,未即討魯,厚樹恩德,以收眾心。) Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  4. ^ (劉璋時入蜀為梓潼令。先主起事葭萌,進軍來南,連閉城不降) Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  5. ^ (益部耆舊雜記曰:任勒兵出於雁橋,戰復敗。禽任。先主聞任之忠勇,令軍降之,任厲聲曰:「老臣終不復事二主矣。」乃殺之。先主嘆惜焉。) Yizhou Qijiu Zaji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  6. ^ (先主遣人迎超,超將兵徑到城下。城中震怖) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  7. ^ (城中尚有精兵三萬人,谷帛支一年,吏民咸欲死戰。璋言:「父子在州二十餘年,無恩德以加百姓。百姓攻戰三年,肌膏草野者,以璋故也,何心能安!」遂開城出降,群下莫不流涕。) Sanguozhi vol. 31.
  8. ^ (孫權以先主已得益州,使使報欲得荊州。先主言:「須得涼州,當以荊州相與。」權忿之) Sanguozhi vol. 32.