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Lü Fan

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Lü Fan

Lü Fan
Official of Sun Quan
Born (Unknown)
Died 228
Traditional Chinese 呂範
Simplified Chinese 吕范
Pinyin Lǚ Fàn
Wade–Giles Lü Fan
Courtesy name Ziheng (Chinese: 子衡; pinyin: Zǐhéng; Wade–Giles: Tzu-heng)

Lü Fan (died 228), courtesy name Ziheng, was an official serving under the warlord Sun Quan in the late Eastern Han Dynasty and early Three Kingdoms period.


  • Early life 1
  • Service under Yuan Shu and Sun Ce 2
  • Service under Sun Quan 3
  • Descendants and legacy 4

Early life

Lü Fan was from Runan Commandery in Yang Province. He was married to a woman of the Liu clan. He first served Yuan Shu, but later changed allegiance to Sun Ce. He was integral to the military progress of Wu and contributed much to the state's welfare until his death in 228.

Service under Yuan Shu and Sun Ce

Lü Fan began his career as a minor official in the service of Yuan Shu. It was there that he met Sun Ce, one of Yuan Shu's young generals. They became close friends, and Lü Fan participated in all of Sun Ce's battles under Yuan Shu from then on.

It is said that Lü Fan recommended himself through a game of weiqi - Sun Ce made a bad opening move, and Lü Fan capitalized upon it, pointing out Sun's mistake. Sun Ce was suitably impressed and offered Lü Fan a post. Rather than accept a high and lofty position, however, Lü Fan insisted upon remaining in a low and humble one where he could more effectively manage troops. This also impressed Sun Ce, and the two became inseparable. The game of weiqi in question, called the "Sun-Lü Game", is purported to be the first weiqi game to be recorded move for move, but many scholars doubt its authenticity. After this, Lü Fan was appointed as Chief Controller.

At one point during the beginning of Sun Ce's career, Lü Fan was sent to fetch Sun's family from Guangling to Qu'e. The governor of Xu Province, Tao Qian, despised Sun Ce and sought to imprison Lü Fan as a spy and torture him, but some retainers freed him, and he was able to successfully rescue Sun Ce's family. Lü Fan became so trusted by Sun Ce that he was treated the same as a member of Sun's own family, given food and drink before Sun's own mother, Lady Wu.

Lü Fan was third only to Cheng Pu and Xu Kun in terms of merits, following Sun Ce in every battle. His unit defeated and killed Yan Baihu's subordinate, Chen Mu. However, Lü Fan was concerned about the quality of Sun Ce’s army. He feared that though their force had grown, it comprised mostly untrained rabble with just a few veterans supporting them. Lü Fan believed that such an army could achieve limited success at best. As such, he requested that Sun Ce transfer him to his personal staff and make him the marshal of his forces. Though this title eventually came to hold a great deal of authority in Wei, at the time a marshal was just a minor staff officer responsible for training and drilling the troops. As such, this was a demotion for Lü Fan, and Sun Ce tried to talk him out of it. Lü Fan’s mind was made up, though, and he eventually persuaded Sun Ce of the importance of his request.

So at his own request, Lü Fan was demoted to be Sun Ce’s marshal, and he took charge of training the army. Because Sun Ce was the commander of the entire army in the south, Lü Fan’s authority extended to the troops of the subordinate generals, giving him power over the entire military administration. Under Lü Fan, the Sun family forces were transformed. They became a well-trained, highly disciplined fighting force, vastly superior to the conscripted armies of other warlords. In his oversight, Lü Fan was strict but fair. He ensured that all military regulations were obeyed to the letter, but he was not cruel or excessive, so the troops did not resent him.

Later, when Yuan Shu declared himself emperor, Sun Ce declared his independence, and Lü Fan remained with his forces, and even participated in battle against his former master. Chen Yu, a man appointed by Cao Cao to supposedly aid Sun Ce in the war against Yuan Shu, secretly plotted to destroy Sun Ce from within, but Sun foresaw this and sent Lü Fan to destroy him. Lü Fan decisively defeated Chen Yu, and as a result, Chen fled to Yuan Shao in the north, never to be heard from again.

Upon his victory over the leader of the remnants of Yuan Shu's forces, Liu Xun, as well as Huang Zu and Liu Biao at Sha County, Sun Ce submitted a memorial to the emperor, naming Lü Fan as designated Grand Administrator of Guiyang (an area within Liu Biao's jurisdiction) among other things.

Lü Fan served as Sun Ce's chief strategist historically, while in popular culture, that role is often fulfilled by Sun Ce's close friend, Zhou Yu. However, Zhou Yu was absent for many of Sun Ce's campaigns, whereas Lü Fan was present at each one.

Service under Sun Quan

Lü Fan served as one of Sun Quan's most trusted civil officers. Initially, before Sun Ce's death, Sun Quan and Lü Fan had had some disagreement - being young and foolhardy, Sun Quan often took money for personal interests and asked Lü Fan to fix the books. Lü Fan, however, remained honest, thus causing Sun Quan to dislike him. After his brother's death, however, Sun Quan matured greatly and admired Lü Fan's earlier honesty, thus valuing him highly.

In 208, Cao Cao led a fleet to the Battle of Red Cliffs in hope of destroying his weakened rival, Liu Bei, and sought Sun Quan's assistance in the matter. At the request of Zhou Yu and others, however, Sun Quan instead opposed Cao Cao and allied with Liu Bei. Lü Fan participated in the battle, serving as a subordinate to Zhou Yu.

After the victory at Red Cliffs, Lu Su suggested ceding the southern part of Jing Province to Liu Bei. Zhou Yu and Lü Fan protested against such a plan, but after Zhou Yu's death in 210, Sun Quan agreed to Lu Su's plan instead, even allowing additional concessions to Liu Bei.

In 223, Wei generals Cao Xiu and Zang Ba launched an attack on Dongkou. Lü Fan commanded the defense, leading men such as Sun Shao and Xu Sheng into battle. Things went poorly for Wu from the start: a heavy wind came and destroyed much of Lü Fan's fleet, and Cao Xiu attacked viciously. To further add to Wu's troubles, Sun Quan's younger brother, Sun Lang, accidentally burnt Lü Fan's supplies of food and weaponry. Miraculously, Sun Shao and Xu Sheng were able to counterattack, and it was through their hard work that the battle was won (although the biography of Zang Ba said Wei was the victor of the battle).

Afterwards, Lü Fan was appointed as governor of Yang Province and commander-in-chief. However, he died shortly after his appointment in 228. It is said that Sun Quan wept deeply upon his death, crying out his name repeatedly.

Descendants and legacy

Lü Fan was succeeded by two sons, the first of which had died young. The third, Lü Ju, inherited his father's title of nobility and was a talented general in his own right. However, in 252, he was part of a plot to overthrow the tyrannical Wu general, [[Sun

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