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Lü Kai

Lü Kai
Lu Kai 2016 Han Zhao Lie Miao.jpg
Statue of Lü Kai in a temple in Chengdu, Sichuan
Administrator of Yunnan (雲南太守)
In office
225 (225) – 225 (225)
MonarchLiu Shan
ChancellorZhuge Liang
Personal details
Baoshan, Yunnan
ChildrenLü Xiang
Courtesy nameJiping (季平)
PeerageMarquis of Yangqian Village

Lü Kai (fl. 223–225), courtesy name Jiping, was an official of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China.[1]


Lü Kai was from Buwei County (不韋縣), Yongchang Commandery (永昌郡), which is located northeast of present-day Baoshan, Yunnan.[2] He was allegedly from the same clan as Lü Buwei, a statesman of the Qin state in the Warring States period who was exiled to the Shu region (present-day Sichuan) after his fall from power.[a]

Service in Shu Han

Lü Kai started his career as an Officer of Merit (功曹)[1] in the bureau for general purposes in Yongchang Commandery's office.[4]

After Liu Bei, the founding emperor of the Shu Han (or Shu) state, died in June 223,[5] Yong Kai (雍闓), a tribal chief active in Shu's Nanzhong region (covering parts of present-day Yunnan, Guizhou and southern Sichuan), became more aggressive and rebellious towards the Shu state.[6] During this time, the Shu general Li Yan wrote a total of six letters to Yong Kai to dissuade him from rebelling but only received an arrogant response from the latter.[7] Yong Kai also pledged allegiance to Shu's ally-turned-rival state Eastern Wu (or Wu); in return, the Wu ruler Sun Quan appointed him as the Administrator of Yongchang Commandery (永昌郡; covering parts of present-day western Yunnan) even though Yongchang was under Shu control.[8]

Yongchang Commandery was located in the far southwest of Shu and was rather isolated from the Shu imperial capital, Chengdu, because the connecting roads were usually difficult to travel on or totally untraversable.[9] When Yong Kai showed up to take control of Yongchang, Lü Kai and his colleague Wang Kang (王伉) refused to recognise his legitimacy and led both the local government and civilians alike to resist Yong Kai and prevent him from entering the commandery.[10][1]

When Yong Kai repeatedly wrote declarations in his attempt to convince everyone that he was the rightful Administrator of Yongchang Commandery,[11] Lü Kai wrote a reply to him as follows:

"Heaven has brought us disaster and chaos. Warlords rise up and fight for power. The whole Empire feels resentful and sad. Everyone, regardless of their status, strives to do their best to save the Empire and prepares to sacrifice their lives if necessary. General, you and your family have received grace from the Han dynasty for generations. I thought that you would gather your followers and take the lead in doing your part to repay the emperors' kindness. By doing so, you would not disgrace your ancestors and would also leave your good name in history. Yet, you pledge allegiance to Wu and betray your roots. In the past, Shun worked hard to serve the people and died in Cangwu. History remembers him for his great deeds. He was buried in Jiangpu. What a pity! Kings Wen and Wu received the Mandate of Heaven, but their ambitions were only realised in King Cheng's time. The Previous Emperor rose up, gained support from throughout the Empire, and had brilliant and wise subjects serving under him. This was a sign that Heaven had bestowed his Empire with peace and prosperity. General, you fail to learn lessons from history and foresee your doom. Think of wildfires consuming grass plains and people crossing a frozen river. When the flames die out and the ice melts, what will you have to rely on? Your ancestor, the Marquis Yong, was an enemy of the Han dynasty but the Han dynasty still made him a marquis. Dou Rong knew that the Eastern Han dynasty would rise, so he pledged allegiance to Shizu and left his good name in history and let later generations sing praises of him. As of now, Imperial Chancellor Zhuge is exceptionally talented and perceptive. Since the Previous Emperor entrusted him with taking care of the Emperor, he has done well in bringing prosperity to the State. He does not take sides in quarrels between his subordinates, and he generously gives due credit to people regardless of what wrongs they did in the past. General, if you can recognise your mistake and be willing to mend your ways, I think it will not be difficult for you to leave your good name in history like the great men before you. By then, would you still want to govern only a small commandery like Yongchang? I heard that when Chu state showed disrespect towards the Zhou dynasty, Duke Huan of Qi admonished Chu for their behaviour; when Fuchai tried to become a hegemon, the Jin state thwarted his attempt. The lord you currently serve is not a good lord, so why would people want to submit to you? I always bear in mind the teachings of the ancients, and remind myself that I, as a subject of the State, should have no dealings with traitors like you. That was why I did not respond to all your previous attempts to contact me. However, after receiving your declarations, I decided to give you a piece of my mind. I hope that you, General, will think through this carefully."[12]

As the people of Yongchang Commandery highly regarded and trusted him, Lü Kai was able to maintain control over Yongchang and fulfil his loyalty as a subject of Shu.[13]

In the spring of 225, the Shu regent Zhuge Liang led an army on a southern campaign into the Nanzhong region to quell the rebellions and deal with intrusions by the Nanman tribes.[5] While the Shu army was on its way, Yong Kai was slain by the subordinates of Gao Ding (高定), another rebel leader.[14]

By the autumn of 225, Zhuge Liang had completely pacified Nanzhong and restored peace in the area.[5] He then wrote a memorial to the Shu emperor Liu Shan as follows: "Lü Kai, Wang Kang and other officials in Yongchang Commandery maintained their loyalty towards the State despite being stuck in a remote location for over 10 years. When Yong Kai and Gao Ding started rebellions in the northeast, Lü Kai stood by their allegiance to the State and refused to have any dealings with the rebels. I am so surprised that there exists such a culture of loyalty and righteousness here in Yongchang."[15]

Lü Kai was later appointed as the Administrator of Yunnan Commandery (雲南郡; covering parts of present-day Chuxiong, Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan), and enfeoffed as the Marquis of Yangqian Village (陽遷亭侯).[16][1] Lü Kai's colleague, Wang Kang (王伉), later became the Administrator of Yongchang Commandery and was also enfeoffed as a village marquis.[17]

Death and legacy

Lü Kai was killed by insurgents in Yunnan Commandery. His son, Lü Xiang (呂祥), inherited his peerage as the Marquis of Yangqian Village.[18][1] Lü Xiang served under the Jin dynasty after the end of the Three Kingdoms period and held the position of Colonel of the Southern Barbarians (南夷校尉). His son and descendants served as the Administrator of Yongchang Commandery generation after generation.[19]

In the fourth century, when Li Xiong, the founder of the Cheng state, led his forces to invade Ning Prefecture (寧州; covering present-day Yunnan and Guizhou), Lü Kai's descendants refused to surrender and led the people of Yongchang Commandery to resist the invaders.[20]

See also


  1. ^ During Emperor Wu's reign in the Western Han dynasty, the Han Empire expanded its boundaries southward and established commanderies and counties in present-day Sichuan and Yunnan. Around this time, the Han government relocated Lü Buwei's descendants to what was to become Buwei County and named the county after their ancestor.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e de Crespigny (2007), p. 627.
  2. ^ (呂凱字季平、永昌不韋人也。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  3. ^ (孫盛蜀世譜曰:初,秦徙呂不韋子弟宗族於蜀漢。漢武帝時,開西南夷,置郡縣,徙呂氏以充之,因曰不韋縣。) Shu Shipu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  4. ^ (仕郡五官掾功曹。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  5. ^ a b c Sima (1084), vol. 70.
  6. ^ (時雍闓等聞先主薨於永安,驕黠滋甚。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  7. ^ (都護李嚴與闓書六紙,解喻利害,闓但荅一紙曰:「蓋聞天無二日,土無二王,今天下鼎立,正朔有三,是以遠人惶惑,不知所歸也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  8. ^ (闓又降於吳,吳遙署闓為永昌太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  9. ^ (永昌旣在益州郡之西,道路壅塞,與蜀隔絕, ...) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  10. ^ (... 而郡太守改易,凱與府丞蜀郡王伉帥厲吏民,閉境拒闓。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  11. ^ (闓數移檄永昌,稱說云云。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  12. ^ (凱荅檄曰:「天降喪亂,姧雄乘釁,天下切齒,萬國悲悼,臣妾大小,莫不思竭筋力,肝腦塗地,以除國難。伏惟將軍世受漢恩,以為當躬聚黨衆,率先啟行,上以報國家,下不負先人,書功竹帛,遺名千載。何期臣僕吳越,背本就末乎?昔舜勤民事,隕于蒼梧,書籍嘉之,流聲無窮。崩于江浦,何足可悲!文、武受命,成王乃平。先帝龍興,海內望風,宰臣聦睿,自天降康。而將軍不覩盛衰之紀,成敗之符,譬如野火在原,蹈履河冰,火滅冰泮,將何所依附?曩者將軍先君雍侯,造怨而封,竇融知興,歸志世祖,皆流名後葉,世歌其美。今諸葛丞相英才挺出,深覩未萌,受遺託孤,翊贊季興,與衆無忌,錄功忘瑕。將軍若能翻然改圖,易跡更步,古人不難追,鄙土何足宰哉!蓋聞楚國不恭,齊桓是責,夫差僭號,晉人不長,況臣於非主,誰肯歸之邪?竊惟古義,臣無越境之交,是以前後有來無往。重承告示,發憤忘食,故略陳所懷,惟將軍察焉。」) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  13. ^ (凱威恩內著,為郡中所信,故能全其節。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  14. ^ (及丞相亮南征討闓,旣發在道,而闓已為高定部曲所殺。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  15. ^ (亮至南,上表曰:「永昌郡吏呂凱、府丞王伉等,執忠絕域,十有餘年,雍闓、高定偪其東北,而凱等守義不與交通。臣不意永昌風俗敦直乃爾!」) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  16. ^ (以凱為雲南太守,封陽遷亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  17. ^ (而王伉亦封亭侯,為永昌太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  18. ^ (會為叛夷所害,子祥嗣。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  19. ^ (蜀世譜曰:呂祥後為晉南夷校尉,祥子及孫世為永昌太守。) Shu Shipu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  20. ^ (李雄破寧州,諸呂不肯附,舉郡固守。王伉等亦守正節。) Shu Shipu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004156050.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.