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A Qing dynasty illustration of Xiahou Dun swallowing his eyeball
23 April 220 – 13 June 220
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
|General of the Vanguard (前將軍)|
219 – 23 April 220
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
|Chancellor||Cao Cao / Cao Pi|
|General Who Calms the Waves (伏波將軍)|
204 – 219
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
|Chancellor||Cao Cao (from 208)|
|Died||[a]13 June 220|
|Courtesy name||Yuanrang (元讓)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Zhong (忠侯)|
|Peerage||Marquis of Gao'an District|
|Nickname||"Blind Xiahou" (盲夏侯)|
Xiahou Dun (pronunciation (help·info)) (died 13 June 220),[a] courtesy name Yuanrang, was a military general serving under the warlord Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He served for a few months under Cao Cao's successor, Cao Pi, before his death. As one of Cao Cao's most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun aided the warlord in his campaigns against Lü Bu, Liu Bei, Sun Quan and others.
Xiahou Dun lost his left eye when he was a hit by a stray arrow during a battle against Lü Bu in the late 190s, and subsequently became known among the rank and file as "Blind Xiahou". His image as a one-eyed warrior was popularised by the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which he yanked the arrow out of his eye and devoured his eyeball.
Xiahou Dun was from Qiao County (譙縣), Pei State (沛國), which is on present-day Bozhou, Anhui. He was a descendant of Xiahou Ying, who served under the Han dynasty's founding emperor, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao). He was notorious for his fiery personality as he once killed a man who insulted his teacher when he was just 13 years old. In 190, when Cao Cao was raising an army to participate in the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Xiahou Dun became an officer under Cao and fought in many battles. When Cao Cao was appointed as acting General of Uplifting Martial Might (奮武將軍) by the Han imperial court, Xiahou Dun was commissioned as a Major (司馬) and was ordered to garrison at Boma (白馬; near present-day Hua County, Henan). He was later promoted to Colonel Who Breaks and Charges (折衝校尉) and was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Dong Commandery (東郡; the areas around present-day Puyang, Henan and Liaocheng, Shandong).
In 193, Cao Cao left his base in Yan Province on a campaign against Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province, whom he held responsible for the murder of his father Cao Song. Xiahou Dun was left behind to defend Puyang, one of Cao Cao's key strongholds in Yan Province.
While Cao Cao was away in Xu Province, his subordinates Zhang Miao and Chen Gong rebelled in Yan Province and defected to another warlord Lü Bu. At that time, Cao Cao's family members were in Juancheng County, so Xiahou Dun led a lightly armed force towards Juancheng to fetch them. He encountered Lü Bu's army on the way and engaged the enemy in battle. Lü Bu withdrew his forces and took advantage of Xiahou Dun's absence to conquer Puyang and capture much of Xiahou's supplies and equipment. Lü Bu later sent his men to pretend to surrender to Xiahou Dun, who fell for the ruse and was taken hostage by the enemy in his own camp. Lü Bu's men demanded a heavy ransom. Xiahou Dun's troops became fearful and confused when they heard that their commander had been taken hostage.
Xiahou Dun's subordinate, Han Hao, led his men to outside Xiahou's camp, where he gave orders for the other officers to remain in their respective camps and not make any move. The situation in the other camps became stable. He then headed towards Xiahou Dun's tent and shouted at the hostage-takers, "You murderous traitors, how dare you take the commander hostage! Do you still expect to live? I've received orders to attack the enemy, so I won't let you have your way just for the sake of one officer." With tears in his eyes, he told Xiahou Dun, "This is the law. I've to follow it." Han Hao then ordered his men to attack the hostage-takers, who were shocked by his response and immediately gave up. The hostage-takers kowtowed and begged for their lives, "We only want to obtain some money for our use and we'll leave after that." Han Hao reprimanded them sternly and had them all executed. Xiahou Dun was saved.
When Cao Cao learnt of the rebellion, he withdrew his army from Xu Province and returned to Yan Province to attack Lü Bu. Xiahou Dun participated in the battles against Lü Bu, and was hit in the left eye by a stray arrow during a skirmish. After the loss of his left eye, he was given the nickname "Blind Xiahou" (盲夏侯) in Cao Cao's army. Xiahou Dun hated this nickname and he would throw a mirror to the ground whenever he saw his own reflection. Lü Bu was besieged by Cao Cao in Puyang for over 100 days and he eventually abandoned the city when a famine broke out. Cao Cao seized back his territories in Yan Province previously lost to Lü Bu.
Xiahou Dun was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Chenliu (陳留; around present-day Kaifeng, Henan) and Jiyin (濟陰; near present-day Dingtao County, Shandong) commanderies, and held the rank of General Who Builds Martial Might (建武將軍). He was also enfeoffed as the Marquis of Gao'an District (高安鄉侯). While he was in office, a drought broke out and there was a locust infestation in the region. To counter these problems, Xiahou Dun spearheaded an agricultural programme, in which he instructed workers to dam up the Taishou River (太壽水; a tributary of the Huai River) to create a large pond. He personally participated in the construction works and also encouraged the people to grow crops in the inundated land. This programme greatly aided the people during those years of severe famine. He was later reassigned to be the Intendant of Henan (河南尹).
Xiahou Dun did not participate in Cao Cao's campaigns in northern China against Yuan Shao, Yuan's sons and their allies throughout the 200s CE. Instead, he remained behind to defend Cao Cao's territories in central China. In 202, Cao Cao's rival Liu Bei, who had sought refuge under Jing Province's governor Liu Biao, received an order from Liu Biao to take advantage of Cao Cao's absence to attack Cao's base in the imperial capital, Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan). In response, Cao Cao sent Xiahou Dun, Yu Jin and Li Dian to lead an army to resist Liu Bei and both sides clashed at the Battle of Bowang. Liu Bei burnt his camps and feigned retreat to lure the enemy into an ambush. Xiahou Dun and his men fell for the trick and were defeated in the ambush. Li Dian, who suspected an ambush and did not join in the pursuit, led reinforcements to help Xiahou Dun and Yu Jin. Liu Bei withdrew his forces after seeing Li Dian's approach.
After the Battle of Ye in 204, Xiahou Dun was promoted to General Who Calms the Waves (伏波將軍) but retained his appointment as the Intendant of Henan. He was able to administer and oversee affairs smoothly without being hampered by layers of bureaucracy. In 207, Xiahou Dun was granted an additional 1,800 taxable households in his marquisate in recognition of his contributions, bringing the total number of households to 2,500.
In 216, after a campaign against Cao Cao's rival Sun Quan, Xiahou Dun was ordered to station at Juchao (居巢; in present-day Chaohu, Anhui) and was placed in command of 26 juns (軍).[b] As a reward for his contributions in battle, he received a number of performing courtesans to entertain him. The imperial order that came with the reward read: "When Wei Jiang (魏絳) pacified the Rong people, he was only rewarded with gold and riches. Don't you, General, deserve more than him?"
In 219, when Cao Cao was on a journey back from Mobei (摩陂; southeast of present-day Jia County, Henan), he treated Xiahou Dun like a close aide by letting Xiahou ride in the same carriage as him and allowing Xiahou to enter his private quarters. At the time, Emperor Xian had made Cao Cao a vassal king under the title "King of Wei" (魏王) and granted him permission to set up an independent vassal kingdom, which was still nominally under Han imperial control. While many of Cao Cao's subordinates had been appointed to positions in his vassal kingdom, Xiahou Dun still held appointments under the Han central government. Xiahou Dun requested to serve in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom to show his loyalty, but Cao Cao told him, "I heard that the best rulers learn from their subjects while the second best befriend their subjects. Officials are noble men of virtue. Why lower yourself to serve such a small kingdom like Wei?" Xiahou Dun insisted, so Cao Cao appointed him as General of the Vanguard (前將軍). Xiahou Dun then led his men to Shouchun (壽春) and later garrisoned at Zhaoling (召陵).
Around late 219, Xiahou Dun, along with Chen Qun, Huan Jie and others, urged Cao Cao to take the throne from Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun said, "Everyone in the Empire knows that the Han dynasty's lifespan has come to an end and that there are many contenders seeking to replace it. Since ancient times, whoever succeeds in eliminating the people's troubles will win the hearts of the people and become their ruler. As of now, Your Highness has been fighting battles for over 30 years, you've made outstanding achievements and the hearts of the people are with you. You should follow the will of Heaven and the people. What's there to hesitate about?" Cao Cao replied, "'These qualities are displayed in government. This then also constitutes the exercise of government.'[c] If the Mandate of Heaven does belong to me, I'll be like King Wen of Zhou."[d]
Cao Cao died in early 220 and passed on his vassal king title to his son, Cao Pi, who was still a nominal subject of Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun was promoted to General-in-Chief (大將軍). He died some months later.
The Cao Man Zhuan (曹瞞傳) and the Shiyu (世語) mentioned that Xiahou Dun once suggested to Cao Cao to eliminate Liu Bei first in order to force Sun Quan to surrender of his own accord, and then follow in the footsteps of the mythological rulers Shun and Yu by making Emperor Xian voluntarily abdicate the throne to him. Cao Cao accepted his proposal. After Cao Cao's death, Xiahou Dun regretted his words and fell sick and died. The historian Sun Sheng dismissed the Shiyu account as nonsense, saying that it did not match what was recorded in the main text of Xiahou Dun's biography in the Sanguozhi – Xiahou Dun felt ashamed of serving under the Han imperial court so he requested to serve in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom.
Cao Pi granted Xiahou Dun the posthumous title "Marquis Zhong" (忠侯), which literally means "loyal marquis". Xiahou Dun's original marquis title, "Marquis of Gao'an District" (高安鄉侯), was inherited by his son, Xiahou Chong (夏侯充). Later, in recognition of Xiahou Dun's past contributions, Cao Pi added 1,000 taxable households to Xiahou Chong's marquisate and made each of Xiahou Dun's seven sons and two grandsons a Secondary Marquis (關內侯).
Xiahou Dun's younger brother, Xiahou Lian (夏侯廉), was also enfeoffed as a marquis. Xiahou Dun's second son, Xiahou Mao, married one of Cao Cao's daughters, Princess Qinghe (清河公主), and held high-ranking positions in the Wei imperial court. Xiahou Dun also had two other sons—Xiahou Zizang (夏侯子臧) and Xiahou Zijiang (夏侯子江).
When Xiahou Chong died, his marquis title was inherited by his son, Xiahou Yu (夏侯廙). Xiahou Yu, in turn, was succeeded by his son Xiahou Shao (夏侯劭). According to the Jin Yang Qiu (晉陽秋), Xiahou Dun did not have any successor after his grandson, Xiahou Zuo (夏侯佐), died in 266.
Although Xiahou Dun was a soldier for most of his life, he was receptive to scholarly arts and even invited notable scholars to his camp to tutor him. He led a frugal and simple lifestyle and used his excess wealth to help the needy. He took from official treasuries (instead of directly from the common people) when he did not have enough money. He also did not own much property.
See the following for some fictitious stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms involving Xiahou Dun:
Xiahou Dun is featured as a playable character in Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series, as well as Warriors Orochi, a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. He also appears in all instalments of Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy game series.
Xiahou Dun also appears as a unique character in Total War: Three Kingdoms.