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Liu Yao (warlord)

Liu Yao
Born 154
Died 195 (aged 41)
Traditional Chinese 劉繇
Simplified Chinese 刘繇
Pinyin Liú Yáo
Wade–Giles Liu Yao
Courtesy name Zhengli (traditional Chinese: 正禮; simplified Chinese: 正礼; pinyin: Zhènglǐ; Wade–Giles: Cheng-li)

Liu Yao (154–195), courtesy name Zhengli, was a warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He controlled a portion of the lands in Jiangdong (southeastern China) before another warlord, Sun Ce, invaded and conquered his territories.


Liu Yao was an administrative official greatly respected by all, including his superiors and subordinates, as well as ordinary civilians. Liu Yao came from an aristocrat family, and he was the younger brother of Liu Dai, who was equally famous for his capability. Liu Yao's elder uncle Liu Chong (刘宠) was famed for his uncorrupted conducts, and his father Liu Yu (刘舆) was the governor of Shanyang (山阳). Liu Yao became instantly famous when he was just 19, after he rescued one of his uncle kidnapped by bandits. Liu Yao excelled in his study like his older brother Liu Dai, and became a maocai (茂才), the outstanding candidate recommended to the imperial court from the state. Each year, only a single maocai (茂才) could be recommended by a state, and the governor of the state where Liu Yao's family resided was complaining that Liu Dai was selected the previous year and if Liu Yao was selected this year, it would appear his family had monopolized the system, but people countered that the Liu brothers were recommended because they were indeed outstanding, and Liu Yao was selected.

Unfortunately, Liu Yao was not a good military commander despite being a good administrator. When Sun Ce attacked him, many his advisors correctly suggested to him that he should name Taishi Ci as the commander-in-chief of his force to defend themselves against Sun Ce, but Liu Yao refused, fearing that Taishi Ci was a fugitive who had just joined him, and his reputation would be tarnished for favoritism, since he was very good friend with Taishi Ci. The mistake proved to be fatal for Liu Yao and his defeat was generally the same as described in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Liu Yao soon died after fleeing to Dantu (丹徒). Afterwards, Taishi Ci surrendered to Sun Ce and was sent to ask for the surrender of Liu Yao's remaining force, Liu Yao's son agreed and more than ten thousands begun their service to Sun Ce, with Liu Yao's son eventually rose in ranks in later eras under Sun Quan.

Appointments and titles held

  • Filial and Incorrupt (孝廉) - nominated candidate to be a Gentleman Cadet (郎)
  • Gentleman (郎中)
  • Chief of Xiayi (下邑長)
  • Maocai (茂才)
  • Assistant to the Excellency of Works (司空掾)
  • Imperial Clerk (侍御史)
  • Inspector of Yang Province (揚州刺史)
  • Governor of Yang Province (揚州牧)
  • General Who Inspires Martial Might (振武將軍)

In fiction

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Yao was depicted as an incompetent warlord and was only given a short description as follows:

Sun Ce (eldest son of the "Tiger of Jiangdong", Sun Jian) was rapidly expanding his forces and reclaiming lands he perceived as the rightful property of the Sun family. Alongside his father's already impressive army, Sun Ce invaded the lands of Eastern Wu, which were under the protection and rule of Liu Yao at the time. Forming an alliance with Wang Lang (governor of Kuaiji (present day Shaoxing) and Yan Baihu (bandit leader and so-called "Virtuous King of Eastern Wu"), Liu Yao's forces clashed with Sun Ce's invading army, leading to many deaths in both camps. Yan Baihu was quickly defeated and slain by Sun Ce's newly recruited officer, Dong Xi, while Wang Lang's forces were eventually destroyed, forcing him to surrender Guiji to the Sun family. Liu Yao was now faced with the task of defending

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