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Gao Shun

Gao Shun
Died7 February 199
OccupationMilitary General
Gao Shun
Traditional Chinese高順
Simplified Chinese高顺

Gao Shun (About this soundpronunciation ) (died 7 February 199)[a] was a military officer serving the warlord Lü Bu during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. Although he only had 700 men under his command, his unit was nicknamed as the "camp crusher (or formation breaker)" (陷陣營) for its destructive charges. Gao came to be known as Lü Bu'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 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 Bu. Gao was then executed along with his lord.


According to Pei Songzhi's annotation in Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms, Gao Shun, from Shangdang Commandery, was a stern and incorrupt man, with an air of authority and few words. As an unblemished and pure person, Gao refused alcohol and undue gifts. It is also stated in Records of Heroes (英雄記) by Wang Can that he 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".

A Qing dynasty illustration of Lü Bu

Zang Ba, the head of the bandit leaders around Mount Tai, attacked and defeated the Chancellor of Langye, Xiao Jian, at Ju County. He then seized Xiao Jian's treasure and provisions, and promised to present them to Lü Bu. When he reneged on his words, however, Lü went to ask for the goods himself. Gao 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 could not heed Gao's advice. Indeed, Zang turned Lü Bu 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 office of Xiapi, where Lü Bu resided. The startled Lü had to climb over the wall of a toilet and escape to the camp of Gao Shun. Lü told Gao that the leader of the rebels has a Henei accent, and Gao Shun says that it must be Hao Meng. Gao then led a force to quell the rebellion. By the next morning, Hao Meng and his troops had all been forced to retreat back to their own camp. Cao Xing, a subordinate of Hao Meng, turned on Hao Meng and the two duelled. Cao Xing was injured in the fight but cleaved an arm off of Hao Meng. Gao Shun 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 knew Gao was very loyal, his advice was not always welcome. Furthermore, Lü trusted Gao even less after the incident of Hao Meng. Lü stripped Gao of his commission and reassigned his troops to Wei Xu (魏續), who was Lü's relative. Whenever there was a battle, however, Gao would be reinstated. Despite this treatment, he remained eternally loyal and never bore a grudge against his lord.

Lü, 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 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.

Portrait of Liu Bei in the Tang dynasty-era Thirteen Emperors Scroll
A Ming dynasty illustration of Cao Cao in the Sancai Tuhui

In the same year, Lü was threatened by his vassal Liu Bei, who was forced to surrender earlier and was now constantly building up his forces, so he sent Gao to attack Xiaopei, Liu's base, and Gao Shun succeeded in his mission. Liu Bei'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 base. When the city finally fell on 7 February 199,[a] Gao was captured along with Lü. Showing no fear nor resistance, Gao then saw Cao Cao shifting his attention to him, and guards surrounding Gao hustled him in front of Cao Cao. "Anything to say?" Cao Cao asked him. Not wishing to join Cao Cao, Gao remained silent and accepted his fate. Cao Cao then had him executed along with Chen Gong.

The heads of Lü Bu, Chen Gong, Gao Shun and some of Lü Bu's subordinates were sent to Xuchang where they were buried.

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms

In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Gao Shun was said to have duelled Xiahou Dun during an encounter outside Xiaopei.

After forty to fifty bouts, Gao 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, secretly took aim and fired an arrow at Xiahou Dun. The arrow hit Xiahou Dun in the left eye. With a cry, Xiahou Dun pulled out the arrow along with his eyeball, which he swallowed, filling soldiers on both sides with fear.

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.

See also


  1. ^ a b The Zizhi Tongjian recorded that Lü Bu surrendered to Cao Cao on the guiyou day of the 12th month of the 3rd year of the Jian'an era of the reign of Emperor Xian of Han. He was executed on the same day along with Gao Shun and Chen Gong.[1] This date corresponds to 7 February 199 in the Gregorian calendar.


  1. ^ ([侯]成忿懼,十二月,癸酉,成與諸將宋憲、魏續等共執陳宮、高順,率其衆降。[呂]布與麾下登白門樓。兵圍之急,布令左右取其首詣[曹]操,左右不忍,乃下降。 ... 宮請就刑,遂出,不顧,操為之泣涕,幷布、順皆縊殺之,傳首許市。操召陳宮之母,養之終其身,嫁宮女,撫視其家,皆厚於初。) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 62.