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Lu Su

Lu Su
A Qing dynasty illustration of Lu Su
Politician, general and diplomat of Sun Quan
Born 172[1]
Died 217 (aged 45)[1]
Traditional Chinese 魯肅
Simplified Chinese 鲁肃
Pinyin Lǔ Sù
Wade–Giles Lu Su
Courtesy name Zijing (Chinese: 子敬; pinyin: Zǐjìng; Wade–Giles: Tzu-ching)

Lu Su (172–217),[1][2] courtesy name Zijing, was a politician, diplomat and military general serving under the warlord Sun Quan in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He was recommended by Zhou Yu as a talent to Sun Quan in 200 CE when Sun had just taken over the reins of power from his elder brother and predecessor, Sun Ce. As one of Sun Quan's most important subjects in the warlord's early career, Lu Su is best known for the following contributions he made. First, in 200 CE, he drafted a long-term strategy for Sun Quan to emerge as one of three major contending powers in China – a plan similar to Zhuge Liang's Longzhong Plan, which was proposed about seven years later. Second, before the Battle of Red Cliffs in late 208, he was the first person to persuade Sun Quan to ally with Liu Bei against Cao Cao. Third, he succeeded Zhou Yu as the frontline commander of Sun Quan's forces in 210 after Zhou's death and maintained the Sun–Liu alliance. Fourth, in 215, he represented Sun Quan at the negotiations with Liu Bei's general Guan Yu during the Sun–Liu territorial dispute over Jing Province.


  • Early life 1
  • Moving to Jiangdong 2
  • Nearly leaving Jiangdong 3
  • Drafting a plan for Sun Quan 4
  • Formation of the Sun-Liu alliance 5
    • Contradiction 5.1
  • Urging Sun Quan to resist Cao Cao 6
    • Alternative accounts 6.1
  • Battle of Red Cliffs 7
  • Handing over Jing Province to Liu Bei 8
  • Succeeding Zhou Yu 9
  • Sun-Liu territorial dispute 10
    • Background 10.1
    • Negotiations 10.2
  • Death 11
  • Descendants 12
  • Appraisal 13
  • In fiction 14
  • Modern references 15
  • See also 16
  • Notes 17
  • References 18

Early life

Lu Su was from Dongcheng County (東城縣), Linhuai Commandery (臨淮郡), which is located southeast of present-day Dingyuan County, Chuzhou, Anhui.[Sanguozhi 1] He lost his father not long after he was born, so he lived with his grandmother. Lu Su was very generous with his family's wealth as he used it to help the needy. The Wu Shu (吳書; Book of Wu), by Wei Zhao, described Lu Su as having a stalwart and extraordinary appearance. He had great ambitions since he was young and was very fond of strategy.[Sanguozhi zhu 1]

Towards the end of the Han dynasty, when chaos broke out throughout China due to the Yellow Turban Rebellion and Dong Zhuo's monopoly of the central government, Lu Su sold his family's lands and properties and used the money to help the poor. He also spent his time associating with other reputable and talented persons. He was well-loved by his fellow townsfolk.[Sanguozhi 2]

The Wu Shu gave another account of Lu Su's life during that chaotic period. Apart from learning sword-fighting, horse-riding and archery, he also rallied a group of young men as his followers, and provided them with clothing and food. They often went to the hills to hunt and practise military arts. The elders of the clan remarked, "The Lu family is in decline, that's how we got this wild boy!"[Sanguozhi zhu 2]

Moving to Jiangdong

Around 196, when Zhou Yu was nominally serving as the Chief (長) of Juchao County (居巢縣) under the warlord Yuan Shu, he planned to leave Yuan and travel east to the Jiangdong (or Wu) region to join Sun Ce, who had recently conquered some territories in Jiangdong over the past few years. Along his journey, Zhou Yu brought his militia, numbering a few hundred men, to visit Lu Su and request for supplies. At the time, Lu Su owned two large granaries, each capable of storing 3,000 hu (斛) of grain. He pointed at one granary and gave it to Zhou Yu. Zhou Yu realised that Lu Su was an extraordinary person, so he befriended him. Their friendship was likened to that of Gongsun Qiao and Ji Zha (季札) in the Spring and Autumn period.[Sanguozhi 3] The Chinese idiom "pointing at a granary and presenting it" (traditional Chinese: 指囷相贈; simplified Chinese: 指囷相赠; pinyin: zhǐ qūn xiāng zèng), which means to provide generous aid to a person,[3] originated from this incident.

When Yuan Shu heard of Lu Su's fame, he wanted to recruit him to serve as the Chief of Dongcheng County (東城縣) under him. However, Lu Su saw that Yuan Shu's administration was ill-disciplined and felt that Yuan would not be successful. He told his followers, "The central government has failed. Robbers and bandits are rampant. The areas around the Huai and Si rivers are no longer safe. I heard that the lands in Jiangdong are fertile, its people are prosperous, and its armies powerful. We can take shelter there. Are you willing to accompany me to that paradise and wait until the situation here stabilises?" They all agreed to follow him.[Sanguozhi zhu 3]

Lu Su led his followers and some civilians southward to Juchao county to join Zhou Yu. He ordered able-bodied young men to guard the rear while the others moved ahead first. The local authorities sent some armed horsemen to stop Lu Su and his party from leaving. When the riders caught up with them, Lu Su turned back and said to them, "You're all men of courage, so you should understand the situation well. The country is now in a state of chaos. You won't be rewarded for your efforts (even if you succeed in stopping us), but neither will you be punished if you don't pursue us. Do you really want to force us?" He then placed a shield upright on the ground and fired an arrow at it, piercing through the shield. The horsemen agreed with what Lu Su said and knew that they could not stop him so they gave up and left. Lu Su then crossed the Yangtze River with Zhou Yu and arrived in Jiangdong, where they met Sun Ce, who felt that Lu Su was a special person.[Sanguozhi zhu 4] Lu Su settled in Qu'e County (曲阿縣; in present-day Danyang, Jiangsu). When his grandmother died, he returned to Dongcheng County to attend her funeral.[Sanguozhi 4]

Nearly leaving Jiangdong

Liu Ye, a friend of Lu Su, once wrote a letter to Lu, "Now, warlords and heroes have emerged all over China. I feel the time has come for me to put my talents to good use. I'm in a rush to fetch my mother but I'll be stopping in Dongcheng for a while. I heard that recently, someone called Zheng Bao (鄭寶) has rallied thousands of followers in Chaohu and the lands under their control are very fertile. Many people in Lujiang (廬江) are planning to join him after hearing about him, not to mention me. I observe his situation and see that he is still gathering people. You should act fast and not lose this opportunity." Lu Su agreed to Liu Ye's plan. After his grandmother's funeral, Lu Su returned to Qu'e County and made plans to leave Jiangdong and head north. However, Lu Su found out that Zhou Yu had relocated his mother to Wu Commandery (吳郡; commandery capital in present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu) so he went to Wu to question Zhou about it.[Sanguozhi 5]

Sun Ce was assassinated in 200 CE and was succeeded by his younger brother, Sun Quan. When Lu Su arrived in Wu Commandery, Sun Quan was already the new lord of Jiangdong and was also in Wu. Zhou Yu told Lu Su, "In the past, Ma Yuan once told Emperor Guangwu, 'In this era, not only do lords choose their subjects, but subjects also choose their lords.' The new lord (Sun Quan) welcomes and respects persons of virtue and talent, and he has recruited many extraordinary people. Besides, I've also heard that the philosophers in the past had secretly predicted that the successor to the Liu family's empire will rise in the southeast. Based on the present situation, this event is already in motion. This is the time for heroes to rise up and display their abilities, and assist in the construction of a new empire for the reception of the Mandate of Heaven. Having said this, you won't need to take Liu Ye's words to heart." Lu Su heeded Zhou Yu's advice.[Sanguozhi 6]

The historian Chen Shou, who wrote Lu Su's biography, believed that Zhou Yu recommended Lu Su to Sun Quan because he knew that his lord needed to widely recruit more of such talents to accomplish his goal of achieving supremacy in China. As such, he could not afford to let Lu Su leave with Liu Ye.[Sanguozhi 7]

Drafting a plan for Sun Quan

Sun Quan immediately summoned Lu Su to meet him and was happy to see him. Later, when the other guests left the meeting, Lu Su also took his leave but Sun Quan called him back. They shared a table and had a private conversation over drinks. Sun Quan asked, "The Han dynasty is in decline and there is turmoil everywhere. I've inherited the work of my father and elder brother, and I intend to make achievements like those of Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Jin. I'm honoured to have your noble patronage. What advice do you have for me?" Lu Su replied, "In the past, Emperor Gao had wanted to serve under Emperor Yi of Chu but the emperor was harmed by Xiang Yu. The Cao Cao of today is like Xiang Yu in the past. Why do you still wish to follow the dukes Huan and Wen? I foresee that the Han dynasty cannot be revived and Cao Cao cannot be eliminated. What you can do is to establish a foothold in Jiangdong and observe how the situation changes. You shouldn't be disappointed with what you currently have. Why? Because the north is not stable. Hence, you should use this opportunity to eliminate Huang Zu and attack Liu Biao, then you will have the Yangtze River to your advantage. After that you can declare yourself an emperor and fight for supremacy over the empire, just as Emperor Gao did in the past." Sun Quan said, "Now I'm using all my power for the purpose of supporting the Han dynasty. What you said cannot be achieved."[Sanguozhi 8]

Zhang Zhao, a senior adviser to Sun Quan, felt that Lu Su was not humble enough so he often spoke ill of Lu in front of their lord. He claimed that Lu Su was too young and neglectful so he could not be entrusted with important responsibilities. However, Sun Quan was not bothered and he continued to treat Lu Su respectfully and hold him in high regard. He gave new clothes and curtains to Lu Su's mother and restored Lu Su's family to their original wealthy status.[Sanguozhi 9]

Formation of the Sun-Liu alliance

Liu Biao, the Governor (牧) of Jing Province (covering present-day Hubei and Hunan), died in 208 and was succeeded by his younger son, Liu Cong. Upon receiving news of Liu Biao's death, Lu Su went to see Sun Quan and said, "Jing Province is our neighbour. Its water routes travel north, it is connected to the major rivers, and it has mountainous terrain. It is firm and stable, its lands are fertile, and its population is wealthy and prosperous. Whoever controls that region has the resources for building an empire. Now, Liu Biao has recently died, his two sons are not in harmony, and his military officers are more concerned about themselves. Besides, Liu Bei has the reputation of an ambitious hero and he is Cao Cao's rival. When he sought shelter under Liu Biao, Liu Biao was jealous of his talent and did not entrust him with important responsibilities. If Liu Bei can unite with us in spirit and work together with us, we should try to appease him and form an alliance with him; if he is unwilling to join us, we should seek alternative ways to accomplish our great task. I hereby request that you appoint me as your ambassador to attend Liu Biao's memorial service and console his subordinates. At the same time, I'll ask Liu Bei to persuade Liu Biao's followers to unite with us to resist Cao Cao. Liu Bei will most certainly be happy to do so. If he agrees to ally with us, we will be able to pacify the empire. We must act fast because I fear that we may lose the opportunity to Cao Cao." Sun Quan then sent Lu Su as his representative to Jing Province.[Sanguozhi 10]

When Lu Su reached Xiakou (夏口; present-day Hankou, Hubei), he heard that Cao Cao and his army was advancing towards Jing Province, so he travelled day and night in the hope of reaching Xiangyang (Jing Province's capital) first. When he arrived in Nan Commandery (南郡; commandery capital in present-day Jiangling County, Jingzhou, Hubei), he received news that Liu Cong had already surrendered to Cao Cao, so Jing Province was now under Cao's control. At the same time, Liu Bei had been defeated by Cao Cao's cavalry at the Battle of Changban and was fleeing southward in an attempt to cross the Yangtze River. Lu Su met Liu Bei at Changban (長阪), Dangyang (當陽), where he conveyed his lord's intentions to the latter and mentioned that the situation in Jiangdong was very stable. Liu Bei was very pleased. Lu Su also met and befriended Liu Bei's strategist, Zhuge Liang, after he told Zhuge that he was a friend of Zhuge Jin, Zhuge Liang's elder brother. Liu Bei moved to Xiakou, where he instructed Zhuge Liang to follow Lu Su to meet Sun Quan and discuss the formation of a Sun-Liu alliance.[Sanguozhi 11]


Pei Songzhi, who annotated Lu Su's biography, mentioned that Lu was actually the first person to propose the formation of the Sun-Liu alliance. When Lu Su told Zhuge Liang that he was a friend of his elder brother, Zhuge had probably already heard of Lu numerous times but had yet to meet him in person. Pei pointed out that Zhuge Liang's biography in the Shu Shu (蜀書; Book of Shu) stated: "Zhuge Liang persuaded Sun Quan with his argument on forming an alliance. Sun Quan was very pleased." Going by the Shu Shu account, the first person who suggested the Sun-Liu alliance should be Zhuge Liang instead of Lu Su. Pei commented that the historians in Eastern Wu and Shu Han gave conflicting accounts on who was the first person who conceived the idea of the Sun-Liu alliance, because they wanted their respective states to claim that credit. Pei further remarked that this is a poor example of historical documentation, because both Lu Su and Zhuge Liang's biographies were written by the same person (Chen Shou) but yet they contradict each other.[Sanguozhi zhu 5]

Urging Sun Quan to resist Cao Cao

In late 208, when Sun Quan received news that Cao Cao was planning to lead his forces across the Yangtze River to invade Jiangdong, he held a discussion with his subjects on how to deal with Cao Cao. All those present at the meeting advised Sun Quan to surrender and welcome Cao Cao; Lu Su remained silent. When Sun Quan left the meeting for a change of clothes, Lu Su hurriedly left his seat and followed his lord. Sun Quan understood Lu Su's intention, so he held Lu's hand and asked, "What do you wish to tell me?" Lu Su replied, "The others have given you misleading advice. They cannot help in accomplishing our great task. I can surrender and welcome Cao Cao but you cannot. Why? Because if I submit to Cao Cao, he will grant me an appointment and the treatment I will receive is similar to that of his other followers. I can still have a carriage, personal bodyguards and servants, and continue to mingle with the scholar-gentry. Officials will not lose their provinces and commanderies. However, if you submit to Cao Cao, what will happen to you? I hope you can make up your mind on this important decision soon, and not be affected by what the others have said." Sun Quan sighed and said, "I'm very disappointed with what those gentlemen have said. Your thoughts are exactly the same as mine. This is a sign that Heaven has granted you to me."[Sanguozhi 12]

Alternative accounts

The Wei Shu (魏書; Book of Wei) and the Jiuzhou Chunqiu (九州春秋) gave different accounts on how Lu Su urged Sun Quan to go to war with Cao Cao. Lu Su attempted to use reverse psychology to persuade his lord by saying, "Cao Cao is truly a formidable foe. He has engulfed Yuan Shao's territories and his military forces are very powerful. If he uses the might of a victorious army to invade a state that is weak and chaotic, he'll definitely win. Why don't we despatch our troops to assist him, while you send your family to Ye (Cao Cao's base of operations in northern China)? If not, we'll be in danger." Sun Quan was enraged and he wanted to execute Lu Su, but Lu said again, "The current situation is very urgent. Since you've other plans, why don't you provide aid to Liu Bei instead of executing me?" Sun Quan agreed with Lu Su's idea, so he ordered Zhou Yu to lead his forces to help Liu Bei.[Sanguozhi zhu 6]

The historian Sun Sheng commented that both Wei Zhao's Wu Shu (吳書; Book of Wu) and the Jiang Biao Zhuan (江表傳) recorded that Lu Su advised Sun Quan to resist Cao Cao and build his own empire, and when Liu Biao died, he asked Sun Quan to observe the change in the situation. There was no mention of Lu Su using reverse psychology to persuade Sun Quan. Besides, there were many others among Sun Quan's subjects who urged their lord to surrender, but yet the two accounts mentioned that Sun Quan wanted to execute only Lu Su because Lu advocated surrender – even though that was not his true intention – but not any of the others who also gave similar advice. Sun Sheng felt that the accounts on Lu Su's "reverse psychology speech" are logically unsound and hence unreliable.[Sanguozhi zhu 7]

Battle of Red Cliffs

At the time, Zhou Yu was in Poyang Commandery (鄱陽郡), so Lu Su advised Sun Quan to quickly recall Zhou back to discuss their plans on how to counter Cao Cao. When Zhou Yu returned, he also urged Sun Quan to stand up against Cao Cao's impending invasion, which resulted in Sun arriving at his decision to go to war with Cao.[notes 1] Sun Quan put Zhou Yu in command of his military forces and appointed Lu Su as "Colonel Who Praises the Army" (贊軍校尉) to assist Zhou in formulating the battle plan.[Sanguozhi 13]

In the winter of 208–209, the allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei defeated Cao Cao's massive army at the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs. When Lu Su returned after the battle, Sun Quan hosted a grand reception for him and told him, "Zijing, I dismounted my horse and received you on foot. Is this enough to illuminate your glory?" Lu Su replied, "No." All the others present at the scene were startled by Lu Su's response. After taking his seat, Lu Su raised his horsewhip and said, "I hope that our lord will spread his might and virtues throughout the Four Seas, expand his territories to cover the Nine Provinces, and successfully build an empire. When he has achieved that and he comes to receive me on a carriage, I'll be the first to feel honoured." Sun Quan clapped his hands and laughed.[Sanguozhi 14]

Handing over Jing Province to Liu Bei

Around 209, after the Battle of Jiangling, Liu Bei travelled to Jing (京; present-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu) to meet Sun Quan and request for the governorship of Jing Province. Only Lu Su advised Sun Quan to "lend" Jing Province to Liu Bei so as to strengthen the Sun-Liu alliance against Cao Cao.[Sanguozhi 15]

At the time, Lü Fan urged Sun Quan to retain Liu Bei in Jiangdong and not let Liu return to Jing Province. However, Lu Su objected, "No. My lord, you may have received the blessings of Heaven, but Cao Cao's might is still nonetheless powerful. As we've recently taken control of Jing Province, we haven't earned the trust and support of its people yet. It's better to lease it to Liu Bei and let him help us pacify the area. The best strategy to adopt now is to create more enemies for Cao Cao and reduce the number of ours." Sun Quan agreed.[Sanguozhi zhu 8]

Cao Cao was in the midst of writing when he received news that Sun Quan had "leased" Jing Province to Liu Bei. He dropped his ink brush upon hearing that.[Sanguozhi 16]

Succeeding Zhou Yu

In 210, when Zhou Yu became critically ill, he wrote to Sun Quan, "As of now, the empire has yet to be pacified, and this has always been a worry for me. I hope that you, my lord, can make plans for the future now and then have a smooth journey later. Now, we have Cao Cao as our enemy, and Liu Bei is also nearby in Gong'an (公安; present-day Gong'an County, Jingzhou, Hubei). We've yet to gain the full allegiance of the people at the border, so it is best to have a competent general to guard the area. Lu Su, with his intelligence and wisdom, is capable of taking up that responsibility, as well as replacing me. The day I die will be the day all my lingerings cease."[Sanguozhi 17]

The Jiang Biao Zhuan (江表傳) provided a longer, but generally similar, account of Zhou Yu's message to Sun Quan before his death. Zhou Yu wrote, "I am of ordinary calibre, but I received very special and generous treatment from you, and earned your trust. I was entrusted with an honourable duty – placed in command of the armed forces and having full control over them. We should take control of Ba and Shu (present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) first and then conquer Xiangyang, after which we can depend on our might to secure victory. It is unfortunate that I contracted such a serious illness, but my condition is stabilising after receiving medical treatment. Everyone will die eventually, so I will not regret if my lifespan is fated to be short. I only feel anguish over not having realised my ambition and not being able to follow your orders anymore. Now, Cao Cao still remains as a threat in the north and the battlefields are not clear yet. Liu Bei may be seeking shelter under us, but the way we're treating him is equivalent to raising a tiger. There is no beginning nor end to the events in the world. This is a time for the ministers and you, my lord, to be worried. Lu Su is loyal and upright and he does not falter in the face of adversity. He can replace me. A dying person's last words are said in good faith. If you can heed this piece of advice, I will not have died in vain."[Sanguozhi zhu 9]

After Zhou Yu's death, Lu Su was appointed as "Colonel of Vehement Martial Might" (奮武校尉) and succeeded Zhou Yu. He took charge of the 4,000 troops and the four counties which used to be under Zhou Yu's control. Cheng Pu succeeded Zhou Yu as the Grand Administrator (太守) of Nan Commandery (南郡; commandery capital in present-day Jiangling County, Jingzhou, Hubei). Lu Su was at Jiangling initially, so he moved to Lukou (陸口; in present-day Jiayu County, Xianning, Hubei) and garrisoned there. Lu Su governed with justice and benevolence, and the number of troops under his command increased to over 10,000. He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant-General (偏將軍) and appointed as the Administrator of Hanchang Commandery (漢昌郡).[Sanguozhi 18]

In 214, Lu Su accompanied Sun Quan on a campaign at Huancheng (皖城; present-day Huaining County, Anqing, Anhui), a garrison under Cao Cao's control. After Sun Quan's forces emerged victorious, Lu Su was reassigned as "General Across the River" (橫江將軍).[Sanguozhi 19]

Sun-Liu territorial dispute


Before Zhou Yu died, he, along with Gan Ning and others, had constantly urged Sun Quan to attack Yi Province (益州; a region also known as "Bashu", covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from its governor Liu Zhang. However, Zhou Yu died of illness while he was making preparations for an invasion of Yi Province. When Sun Quan asked Liu Bei for his opinion, Liu, who secretly harboured the intention of seizing Yi Province for himself, lied to Sun Quan, "Liu Zhang and I are both members of the imperial clan, so we should strive to uphold the Han dynasty with the aid of our ancestors' blessings. Now, when I heard that Liu Zhang has offended his neighbours, I feel afraid and don't dare to probe further. I hope you can show leniency towards him. If you don't, I'll retire and return to the countryside." Liu Bei revealed his true intentions later when he attacked Liu Zhang himself and eventually seized control of Yi Province by 215. From 212–215, Liu Bei left his general Guan Yu behind to defend Jing Province in his absence. When Sun Quan heard about Liu Bei's takeover of Yi Province, he angrily remarked, "This cunning barbarian dares to trick me?"[Sanguozhi 20]

At the same time, tensions were rising at the Sun-Liu border in Jing Province as both sides became more suspicious of each other. Lu Su tried to reduce the tensions by being friendly towards Liu Bei's side. After Liu Bei had taken over Yi Province, Sun Quan asked him to return three commanderies in southern Jing Province – Changsha (長沙), Lingling (零陵) and Guiyang (桂陽) – but Liu refused. Sun Quan then ordered his general Lü Meng to lead his forces to seize the three commanderies by force. When Liu Bei received news about it, he returned to Gong'an (公安; present-day Gong'an County, Jingzhou, Hubei) and sent Guan Yu to lead an army to stop Lü Meng.[Sanguozhi 21]


Lu Su headed towards Yiyang and invited Guan Yu to discuss the issue. 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. Lu Su told Guan Yu, "Initially, my lord leased these lands to your lord because your side was suffering defeats and did not have a base of operations back then. However, now, after obtaining Yi Province, you don't seem to intend to return the lands. When we ask for only three commanderies, you still refuse." Before Lu Su could finish, he was interrupted by an unnamed person, who said, "Whoever has the ability to govern the land shall have control over it, isn't it so?" Lu Su rebuked that person angrily in a firm and stern tone. Guan Yu drew his sword, stood up, and said, "This is a national problem. We cannot hope to understand it." He left after that.[Sanguozhi 22]

Wei Zhao's Wu Shu (吳書; Book of Wu) provided more details on the meeting. Prior to the talks, Lu Su's subordinates feared that something would happen to their superior so they advised him against meeting Guan Yu. However, Lu Su replied, "It's better for us to settle this issue in a deliberate manner. Liu Bei may have acted against our lord's interests, but we've yet to agree on who is right and who is wrong. Do you think Guan Yu will dare to make a rash move, such as killing someone, at this point?" He then met Guan Yu, who told him, "My lord was personally involved in the Battle of Red Cliffs and he did not rest well during that time. He relied upon his own strength to overcome the enemy. How can he not gain even a single piece of land despite his efforts? And now you come to claim the land from him?" Lu Su replied, "No. When I first met your lord at Changban, his men were too few to form even a division and his situation then was very bad as compared to now. My lord considered that your lord did not have a place to settle down, so he offered your lord protection and shelter. However, your lord was not frank with us as he acted on his own, leading to the souring of relations between our sides. Now, after taking over Yi Province, he still intends to keep Jing Province for himself as well? This is something that an ordinary person will not bear to do, much less a leader of men! I heard that those who forsake moral principles for the purpose of satisfying their personal greed will end up in trouble. My son holds important appointments. He previously lacked a good sense of judgement when he handled issues, but after receiving some moral education, he became more responsible and started striving harder. If what one does is morally right, why should he worry that he will not become successful?" Guan Yu did not respond.[Sanguozhi zhu 10]

Liu Bei eventually agreed to divide Jing Province between his and Sun Quan's domains along the Xiang River. Both sides withdrew their forces.[Sanguozhi 23]


Lu Su died at the age of 46 (by East Asian age reckoning) in 217. Sun Quan mourned his death and attended his funeral. Zhuge Liang also held a memorial service for Lu Su.[Sanguozhi 24]


Lu Su's son, Lu Shu (魯淑), was born physically strong. Zhang Cheng once remarked that Lu Shu would become very outstanding in the future. Between 258 and 264, during the reign of Sun Xiu, Lu Shu served as "General of Illustrious Martial Might" (昭武將軍) and Area Commander (督) of Wuchang, and was named as a "Marquis of a Chief Village" (都亭侯). Between 269 and 271, during the reign of Sun Xiu's successor, Sun Hao, Lu Shu was reassigned as the Area Commander of Xiakou (夏口). Lu Shu was known for being very disciplined and competent in his duties. He died in 274.[Sanguozhi 25]

Lu Shu's son, Lu Mu (魯睦), inherited his father's marquis title and military post.[Sanguozhi 26]


Wei Zhao's Book of Wu (吳書) described Lu Su as follows: Lu Su was a strict person who rarely indulged in material pleasures, led a frugal life, and had no interest in common hobbies. He maintained good military discipline and executed orders without fail. Even when he was in the army, he was often seen reading books. He was proficient in arguing and writing. He could think far and possessed an exemplary sense of judgement. He was the best after Zhou Yu.[Sanguozhi zhu 11]

Sun Quan once told Lü Meng, "I had a discussion (with Lu Su) and obtained a plan on establishing a dynasty. That was one pleasant moment. Later, when Mengde took control of Liu Cong's territories, he declared that he would lead thousands of land and marine troops south (to attack me). I gathered all my subordinates and asked for their opinions, but none of their responses matched my thoughts. Zibu and Wenbiao suggested that I surrender, but Zijing argued that I shouldn't, and he urged me to recall Gongjin and put him in command (of the army) to engage the enemy. That was another pleasant moment. However, in terms of decisiveness, he was inferior to Zhang and Su. Although this weakness of his was evident when he advised me to lease land to Xuande, this shortcoming was not enough to overshadow his two strengths."[notes 2][Sanguozhi 27]

In 229, when Sun Quan was attending a ceremony to declare himself 'Emperor' and establish the state of Eastern Wu, he said to his subjects, "In the past, Lu Zijing often spoke about what is happening now. Indeed, he had good foresight."[Sanguozhi 28]

In fiction

Lu Su appeared as a character in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, which romanticises the historical events before and during the Three Kingdoms period. In the novel, Lu Su's role was significantly downplayed as compared to his historical counterpart, such that he was mainly used as a foil between Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu to highlight their intelligence, especially for the former. He was also used to add minor comic relief to the rivalry between Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu, particularly in the events leading to the Battle of Red Cliffs. Besides, he was also portrayed as an honest and sententious man who was often easily cheated and taken advantage of, resulting in his maladroit handling of the territorial dispute over Jing Province between Liu Bei and Sun Quan.

Modern references

Lu Su was first introduced as a playable character in the eighth instalment of Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series. He was also portrayed by Chinese actor Hou Yong in the two-part epic war film Red Cliff (2008-2009) directed by John Woo.

See also


  1. ^ See Zhou Yu#Advising Sun Quan to go to war with Cao Cao for details.
  2. ^ In this statement, Sun Quan commented that he was very pleased with two things that Lu Su had done for him: drafting a plan for him to emerge as one of three major contending powers in China; helping him arrive at his resolution to ally with Liu Bei against Cao Cao just before the Battle of Red Cliffs. However, Sun Quan also thought that Lu Su was incompetent in managing diplomatic ties as compared to Zhang Yi and Su Qin, two famous strategists and diplomats in the Warring States period. Despite so, Sun Quan still felt that Lu Su's two major contributions outshone this imperfection.


Citations from the Sanguozhi
  1. ^ (魯肅字子敬,臨淮東城人也。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  2. ^ (生而失父,與祖母居。家富於財,性好施與。爾時天下已亂,肅不治家事,大散財貨,摽賣田地,以賑窮弊結士為務,甚得鄉邑歡心。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  3. ^ (周瑜為居巢長,將數百人故過候肅,并求資糧。肅家有兩囷米,各三千斛,肅乃指一囷與周瑜,瑜益知其奇也,遂相親結,定僑、札之分。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  4. ^ (袁術聞其名,就署東城長。肅見術無綱紀,不足與立事,乃攜老弱將輕俠少年百餘人,南到居巢就瑜。瑜之東渡,因與同行,留家曲阿。會祖母亡,還葬東城。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  5. ^ (劉子揚與肅友善,遺肅書曰:「方今天下豪傑並起,吾子姿才,尤宜今日。急還迎老母,無事滯於東城。近鄭寶者,今在巢湖,擁衆萬餘,處地肥饒,廬江閒人多依就之,況吾徒乎?觀其形勢,又可博集,時不可失,足下速之。」肅荅然其計。 ... 葬畢還曲阿,欲北行。會瑜已徙肅母到吳,肅具以狀語瑜。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  6. ^ (時孫策已薨,權尚住吳,瑜謂肅曰:「昔馬援荅光武云『當今之世,非但君擇臣,臣亦擇君』。今主人親賢貴士,納奇錄異,且吾聞先哲祕論,承運代劉氏者,必興於東南,推步事勢,當其歷數。終搆帝基,以協天符,是烈士攀龍附鳳馳騖之秋。吾方達此,足下不須以子揚之言介意也。」肅從其言。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  7. ^ (瑜因薦肅才宜佐時,當廣求其比,以成功業,不可令去也。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  8. ^ (權即見肅,與語甚恱之。衆賔罷退,肅亦辭出,乃獨引肅還,合榻對飲。因密議曰:「今漢室傾危,四方雲擾,孤承父兄遺業,思有桓文之功。君旣惠顧,何以佐之?」肅對曰:「昔高帝區區欲尊事義帝而不獲者,以項羽為害也。今之曹操,猶昔項羽,將軍何由得為桓文乎?肅竊料之,漢室不可復興,曹操不可卒除。為將軍計,惟有鼎足江東,以觀天下之釁。規模如此,亦自無嫌。何者?北方誠多務也。因其多務,勦除黃祖,進伐劉表,竟長江所極,據而有之,然後建號帝王以圖天下,此高帝之業也。」權曰:「今盡力一方,兾以輔漢耳,此言非所及也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  9. ^ (張昭非肅謙下不足,頗訾毀之,云肅年少麤踈,未可用。權不以介意,益貴重之,賜肅母衣服幃帳,居處雜物,富擬其舊。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  10. ^ (劉表死。肅進說曰:「夫荊楚與國鄰接,水流順北,外帶江漢,內阻山陵,有金城之固,沃野萬里,士民殷富,若據而有之,此帝王之資也。今表新亡,二子素不輯睦,軍中諸將,各有彼此。加劉備天下梟雄,與操有隙,寄寓於表,表惡其能而不能用也。若備與彼協心,上下齊同,則宜撫安,與結盟好;如有離違,宜別圖之,以濟大事。肅請得奉命弔表二子,并慰勞其軍中用事者,及說備使撫表衆,同心一意,共治曹操,備必喜而從命。如其克諧,天下可定也。今不速往,恐為操所先。」權即遣肅行。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  11. ^ (到夏口,聞曹公已向荊州,晨夜兼道。比至南郡,而表子琮已降曹公,備惶遽奔走,欲南渡江。肅徑迎之,到當陽長阪,與備會,宣騰權旨,及陳江東彊固,勸備與權併力。備甚歡恱。時諸葛亮與備相隨,肅謂亮曰「我子瑜友也」,即共定交。備遂到夏口,遣亮使權,肅亦反命。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  12. ^ (會權得曹公欲東之問,與諸將議,皆勸權迎之,而肅獨不言。權起更衣,肅追於宇下,權知其意,執肅手曰:「卿欲何言?」肅對曰:「向察衆人之議,專欲誤將軍,不足與圖大事。今肅可迎操耳,如將軍,不可也。何以言之?今肅迎操,操當以肅還付鄉黨,品其名位,猶不失下曹從事,乘犢車,從吏卒,交游士林,累官故不失州郡也。將軍迎操,將安所歸?願早定大計,莫用衆人之議也。」權歎息曰:「此諸人持議,甚失孤望;今卿廓開大計,正與孤同,此天以卿賜我也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  13. ^ (時周瑜受使至鄱陽,肅勸追召瑜還。 ... 遂任瑜以行事,以肅為贊軍校尉,助畫方略。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  14. ^ (曹公破走,肅即先還,權大請諸將迎肅。肅將入閤拜,權起禮之,因謂曰:「子敬,孤持鞌下馬相迎,足以顯卿未?」肅趨進曰:「未也。」衆人聞之,無不愕然。就坐,徐舉鞭言曰:「願至尊威德加乎四海,總括九州,克成帝業,更以安車軟輪徵肅,始當顯耳。」權撫掌歡笑。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  15. ^ (後備詣京見權,求都督荊州,惟肅勸權借之,共拒曹公。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  16. ^ (曹公聞權以土地業備,方作書,落筆於地。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  17. ^ (周瑜病困,上疏曰:「當今天下,方有事役,是瑜乃心夙夜所憂,願至尊先慮未然,然後康樂。今旣與曹操為敵,劉備近在公安,邊境密邇,百姓未附,宜得良將以鎮撫之。魯肅智略足任,乞以代瑜。瑜隕踣之日,所懷盡矣。」) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  18. ^ (即拜肅奮武校尉,代瑜領兵。瑜士衆四千餘人,奉邑四縣,皆屬焉。令程普領南郡太守。肅初住江陵,後下屯陸口,威恩大行,衆增萬餘人,拜漢昌太守、偏將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  19. ^ (十九年,從權破皖城,轉橫江將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  20. ^ (先是,益州牧劉璋綱維頹弛,周瑜、甘寧並勸權取蜀,權以咨備,備內欲自規,乃偽報曰:「備與璋託為宗室,兾憑英靈,以匡漢朝。今璋得罪左右,備獨竦懼,非所敢聞,願加寬貸。若不獲請,備當放髮歸於山林。」後備西圖璋,留關羽守,權曰:「猾虜乃敢挾詐!」) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  21. ^ (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.
  22. ^ (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。肅因責數羽曰:「國家區區本以土地借卿家者,卿家軍敗遠來,無以為資故也。今已得益州,旣無奉還之意,但求三郡,又不從命。」語未究竟,坐有一人曰:「夫土地者,惟德所在耳,何常之有!」肅厲聲呵之,辭色甚切。羽操刀起謂曰:「此自國家事,是人何知!」目使之去。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  23. ^ (備遂割湘水為界,於是罷軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  24. ^ (肅年四十六,建安二十二年卒。權為舉哀,又臨其葬。諸葛亮亦為發哀。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  25. ^ (肅遺腹子淑旣壯,濡須督張承謂終當到至。永安中,為昭武將軍、都亭侯、武昌督。建衡中,假節,遷夏口督。所在嚴整,有方幹。鳳皇三年卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  26. ^ (子睦襲爵,領兵馬。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  27. ^ (孤與宴語,便及大略帝王之業,此一快也。後孟德因獲劉琮之勢,張言方率數十萬眾水步俱下。孤普請諸將,咨問所宜,無適先對,至子布、文表,俱言宜遣使修檄迎之,子敬即駁言不可,勸孤急呼公瑾,付任以眾,逆而擊之,此二快也。且其決計策,意出張蘇遠矣;後雖勸吾借玄德地,是其一短,不足以損失二長也。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  28. ^ (權稱尊號,臨壇,顧謂公卿曰:「昔魯子敬甞道此,可謂明於事勢矣。) Sanguozhi vol. 54.
Citations from annotations in the Sanguozhi
  1. ^ (吳書曰:肅體貌魁奇,少有壯節,好為奇計。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  2. ^ (天下將亂,乃學擊劒騎射,招聚少年,給其衣食,往來南山中射獵,陰相部勒,講武習兵。父老咸曰:「魯氏世衰,乃生此狂兒!」) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  3. ^ (後雄傑並起,中州擾亂,肅乃命其屬曰:「中國失綱,寇賊橫暴,淮、泗間非遺種之地,吾聞江東沃野萬里,民富兵彊,可以避害,寧肯相隨俱至樂土,以觀時變乎?」其屬皆從命。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  4. ^ (乃使細弱在前,彊壯在後,男女三百餘人行。州追騎至,肅等徐行,勒兵持滿,謂之曰:「卿等丈夫,當解大數。今日天下兵亂,有功弗賞,不追無罰,何為相偪乎?」又自植盾,引弓射之,矢皆洞貫。騎旣嘉肅言,且度不能制,乃相率還。肅渡江往見策,策亦雅奇之。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  5. ^ (臣松之案:劉備與權併力,共拒中國,皆肅之本謀。又語諸葛亮曰「我子瑜友也」,則亮已亟聞肅言矣。而蜀書亮傳云:「亮以連橫之略說權,權乃大喜。」如似此計始出於亮。若二國史官,各記所聞,競欲稱揚本國容美,各取其功。今此二書,同出一人,而舛互若此,非載述之體也。) Pei Songzhi's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  6. ^ (魏書及九州春秋曰:曹公征荊州,孫權大懼,魯肅實欲勸權拒曹公,乃激說權曰:「彼曹公者,實嚴敵也,新并袁紹,兵馬甚精,乘戰勝之威,伐喪亂之國,克可必也。不如遣兵助之,且送將軍家詣鄴;不然,將危。」權大怒,欲斬肅,肅因曰:「今事已急,即有他圖,何不遣兵助劉備,而欲斬我乎?」權然之,乃遣周瑜助備。) Wei Shu and Jiuzhou Chunqiu annotations in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  7. ^ (孫盛曰:吳書及江表傳,魯肅一見孫權便說拒曹公而論帝王之略,劉表之死也,又請使觀變,無緣方復激說勸迎曹公也。又是時勸迎者衆,而云獨欲斬肅,非其論也。) Sun Sheng's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  8. ^ (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.
  9. ^ (江表傳載:初瑜疾困,與權牋曰:「瑜以凡才,昔受討逆殊特之遇,委以腹心,遂荷榮任,統御兵馬,志執鞭弭,自效戎行。規定巴蜀,次取襄陽,憑賴威靈,謂若在握。至以不謹,道遇暴疾,昨自醫療,日加無損。人生有死,脩短命矣,誠不足惜,但恨微志未展,不復奉教命耳。方今曹公在北,疆埸未靜,劉備寄寓,有似養虎,天下之事,未知終始,此朝士旰食之秋,至尊垂慮之日也。魯肅忠烈,臨事不苟,可以代瑜。人之將死,其言也善,儻或可採,瑜死不朽矣。」案此牋與本傳所載,意旨雖同,其辭乖異耳。) Jiang Biao Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  10. ^ (吳書曰:肅欲與羽會語,諸將疑恐有變,議不可往。肅曰:「今日之事,宜相開譬。劉備負國,是非未決,羽亦何敢重欲干命!」乃自就羽。羽曰:「烏林之役,左將軍身在行間,寢不脫介,自力破魏,豈得徒勞,無一塊壤,而足下來欲收地邪?」肅曰:「不然。始與豫州觀於長阪,豫州之衆不當一校,計窮慮極,志勢摧弱,圖欲遠竄,望不及此。主上矜愍豫州之身無有處所,不愛土地士人之力,使有所庇廕以濟其患,而豫州私獨飾情,愆德隳好。今已藉手於西州矣,又欲翦并荊州之土,斯蓋凡夫所不忍行,而況整領人物之主乎!肅聞貪而棄義,必為禍階。吾子屬當重任,曾不能明道處分,以義輔時,而負恃弱衆以圖力爭,師曲為老,將何獲濟?」羽無以荅。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
  11. ^ (吳書曰:肅為人方嚴,寡於玩飾,內外節儉,不務俗好。治軍整頓,禁令必行,雖在軍陣,手不釋卷。又善談論,能屬文辭,思度弘遠,有過人之明。周瑜之後,肅為之冠。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 54.
Other sources
  1. ^ a b c The Sanguozhi mentioned that Lu Su died at the age of 46 (by East Asian age reckoning) in the 22nd year of the Jian'an era (196-220) in the reign of Emperor Xian of Han. Quote from Sanguozhi vol. 54: (肅年四十六,建安二十二年卒。) By calculation, Lu Su's birth year should be around 172.
  2. ^  
  3. ^ (Chinese) Dictionary definition of 指囷相赠

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