Gao Shun bigraphy, stories - Military leader

Gao Shun : biography

- 00 198

Gao Shun (died 198) was a military general serving the warlord Lü Bu during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. Although he only had 700 men under his command, his unit was nicknamed as the "camp crusher (or formation breaker)" for its destructive charges, and Gao came to be known as Lü's most able commander. His noted accomplishments included conquest of Xiaopei and the subsequent victory over a relief force led by Xiahou Dun, a prominent general under the "imperial warlord" Cao Cao. In the same year, however, Cao personally laid a siege on Lü Bu's base in Xiapi, and defeated and captured Lü. Gao Shun was then executed along with his lord.


According to Pei Songzhi's annotation in Chen Shou's Records of Three Kingdoms, Gao Shun, from Shang Dang, was a stern and incorrupt man, with an air of authority and few words. As an unblemished and pure person, Gao Shun refused alcohol and undue gifts. It is also stated in Records of Heroes (英雄記) by Wang Can that Gao only commanded 700 men, but his men were considered equivalent to a thousand, and they were a well-equipped, well-trained, and disciplined elite force. Whenever his battalion fought, they were always successful of breaking into enemy formation, and could perform well, even if surrounded by enemies, so they were collectively called the "camp crusher".

Zang Ba, the head of the bandit leaders around Mount Tai, attacked and defeated the Chancellor of Langye, Xiao Jian, at Ju. He then seized Xiao's treasure and provisions, and promised to present them to Lü Bu. When he reneged on his words, however, Lü Bu went to ask for the goods himself. Gao Shun objected: "Your authority and reputation are known and respected everywhere. How can you ask for something and fail to obtain it? Yet you are going in person to beg for a present. If for some reason you are not successful, you will surely lose face." The rapacious Lü Bu could not follow Gao's words. Indeed, Zang turned Lü down, and the Bandits of Mount Tai no longer listened to Lü's orders.

One night in 196, a subject of Lü Bu named Hao Meng rebelled. Hao ordered his troops to surround the government house of Xiapi, where Lü Bu resided. The startled Lü Bu had to climb over the wall of the toilet and escape to the camp of Gao Shun. Lü Bu told Gao Shun that the leader of the rebels has a Henei accent, and Gao Shun says that it must be Hao Meng. Gao Shun then led a force to quell the rebellion. By the next morning Hao and his troops had all been forced to retreat back to their own camp. Cao Xing, a subordinate of Hao, turned on Hao Meng and the two dueled. Cao was injured in the fight but cleaved an arm off of Hao Meng. Gao had also identified the rebels, and arrived at the scene to finish off Hao Meng (who was a man from Henei or captain of the Henei soldiers).

Although Lü Bu knew Gao Shun was very loyal, his advice was not always welcome. Furthermore, Lü trusted Gao even less after the incident of Hao Meng, and stripped Gao of his commission and reassigned his troops to Wei Xu, who was Lü's relative. Whenever there was a battle, however, Gao Shun would be reinstated. Despite this treatment, he remained eternally loyal and never bore a grudge against his lord.

Lü Bu, whose actions were seldom consistent, made decisions hastily. For that, Gao often remonstrated him by saying, "When you start something, you never think of the details. Whenever there is a choice between the way to success or the possibility of failure, you always make the wrong decisions!" Gao Shun went on and said, "Those who lost their homes and states did not do so because they lacked loyal ministers and wise advisers. They did so because they wouldn't listen to those men. General, you are reluctant to think things through carefully before you act, and thus you commit mistakes, which are too many to count." Lü appreciated his loyalty, yet could not follow his advice.

In the same year, Lü Bu was threatened by his vassal Liu Bei, who was forced to surrender earlier and was now constantly builting up forces, so he sent Gao to attack Xiaopei, fortress city of Liu and Gao Shun succeeded his mission. Liu's new ally, Cao Cao, then sent his trusted general Xiahou Dun to rescue Xiaopei, but the allied forces were again defeated by Gao. In the end, Liu had to desert the city to take shelter under Cao Cao. In the winter of 198, Cao and Liu came back with a sizable army and attacked Lü's homebase, when the city finally fell, Gao Shun was captured along with Lü Bu. Showing no fear nor resistance, Gao then saw Cao shifting his attention to him, and guards surrounding Gao hustled him in front of Cao. "Anything to say?" Cao Cao asked him. Not wishing to join Cao, Gao remained silent and accepted his fate. Cao then had him executed along with Chen Gong.

The heads of Lü Bu, Chen Gong, Gao Shun, and some of the other generals were sent to Xuchang where they were buried.

In fiction

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Gao Shun was said to have dueled Xiahou Dun during an encounter outside Xiaopei.

After forty to fifty bouts, Gao Shun was outmatched and had to retreat. Xiahou Dun urged his mount forward and chased Gao Shun deep into the enemy ranks. Then Cao Xing, a subject of Gao Shun, secretly took aim and fired an arrow at Xiahou Dun. The arrow hit the target right in the left eye. With a cry, Xiahou Dun pulled out the arrow along with his eyeball, which he swallowed.

His spear firmly held up, Xiahou Dun then came straight for Cao Xing. With no time to react, Cao Xing was impaled through the face and died beneath his nemesis' horse. Gao Shun then turned and rallied his troops forward to defeat Xiahou Dun.

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