Yuan Shao's battle against the Black Mountain bandits consisted of several small skirmishes against several leaders of the Black Mountain bandits in and around Yuan Shao's territory during the second half of the year 193 AD.

The BattleEdit

Before the battleEdit

History of the Black Mountain banditsEdit

The Black Mountain bandits refers to various bandit leaders, loosely confederated, who had emerged about the time of Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184. There were innumerable groups, and their leaders were all known by their nicknames, such as Yellow Dragon, White Rider Zhang, Five Deer, Phoenix Yang, Grand Design to Pacify Han, Director of Retainers Who Scales the City Wall and many more.

Most notably there was a man surnamed Zhang, who had the nickname “Ox-Horn Zhang”. He was from Boling commandery in Ji province. And there was also Chu Yan 褚燕, nicknamed “Flying Swallow Chu” of Changshan 常山 fiefdom, also in Ji province. One time, Ox-Horn Zhang and Flying Swallow Chu grouped up to attack Yingtao town in Julu commandery, but Ox-Horn Zhang got mortally wounded during the attack. Before he died he ordered all his followers to obey Flying Swallow Chu as their new leader. Chu Yan then changed his name to Zhang Yan 張燕. Flying Swallow Zhang was quick and agile and many bandits from the mountains and valleys in his region came to follow him.

Prior skirmishesEdit

In 191 groups of Black Mountain bandits led by Poison Yu, Bo Rao and Sui Gu, over 100.000 men strong, plundered Dong commandery in Yan province. The Grand Administrator of Dong commandery, Wang Gong, could not keep them out. Cao Cao led troops into Dong commandery and defeated Bo Rao. Yuan Shao then appointed Cao Cao as the new Grand Administrator of Dong commandery and he set his government at its Dongwuyang county.

In 192 a group of bandits from the Black Mountains, led by Poison Yu, attacked Dongwuyang. Cao Cao was at that moment camped at Dunqiu county, and led his troops west into the mountains against Poison Yu’s camp, which lay in the southern ridges of the Taihang mountains. His officers urged that he go to relieve Dongwuyang, but Cao Cao said,

If the enemy hear I have gone to the west and then come back, Wuyang will automatically be relieved. If they not come back, I can destroy their base and they will certainly not be able to take Wuyang.”

So he marched. When Poison Yu heard of it, he abandoned the attack on Dongwuyang and retreated. Cao Cao then attacked Sui Gu and the Xiongnu leader Yufuluo at Neihuang and completely defeated them.

Yuan Shao’s skirmishes with and against the Black Mountain banditsEdit

Luchang HillsEdit

The Luchang Hills were in the western part of Chaoge county and a south-eastern extension of the Taihang ranges. Chaoge county is located in Henei and south of Wei commandery.

Yuan Shao led his men into the Luchang Hills and attacked Poison Yu. He besieged him for five days and defeated him. Yuan Shao took the head of Poison Yu and of over 10.000 of his men.

Then Yuan Shao went north through the mountains where he attacked the bandit Zuo with the Eighty-foot Moustache, beheading him with all his followers.

Following up on his success, he went on to attack the bandit leaders Liu Shi, Green Ox-Horn, Yellow Dragon, Enclosure of the Left, Great-Virtue Guo, Big-Eyes Li and Yu Digen. In the process, Yuan Shao's forces killed over 10.000 men and destroyed their camps and defences.

Changshan CommanderyEdit

Having killed the bandits in the Luchang Hills, Yuan Shao headed west to Changshan commandery in Ji province, the location of Zhang Yan, nicknamed Flying Swallow Zhang, and four detachments of the Chuge group of the Xiongnu and the Wuhuan from Yanmen. Yuan Shao was assisted by Lü Bu, who rode the famous horse Red Hare during this battle.

They first attacked southwards, then marched north some 250 kilometres, clearing out the nests of bandits which had been established in the hill country along the edges of the Taihang Mountains. Zhang Yan had twenty or thirty thousand well-trained soldiers and several thousand horsemen. Yuan Shao and Lü Bu attacked Zhang Yan together, and the fighting continued for more than ten days. Many of Zhang Yan's troops were killed or wounded, but Yuan Shao's army was also exhausted. Both sides drew back.[1]


  • The strength of 50.000 men is based on the numbers in this article. Zhang Yan had 20.000 to 30.000 men and at Luchang Hills at least 20.000 men were killed.
  • The total number of men involved was probably no more than 60.000, based on the fact that the Luchang bandits were completely defeated, so there probably weren't that much more than the 20.000 mentioned as casualties.


  1. HHS 74/64A, 2381-82 (7a-b), the Biography of Yuan Shao.


  • de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 1. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.
  • Fan Ye 范曄 (398–445). Hou Han shu 後漢書 “History of the Later Han”.