Xiahou Dun 夏侯惇 was a Wei general who fought under Cao Cao as a major military general and is famous for losing his eye from an arrow shot. He was one of Cao Cao's closest and most trusted generals and a kinsman of Xiahou Yuan.


At the age of 14, Xiahou Dun's teach was insulted. In response to this, Dun murdered the offending party; and because of this Xiahou Dun earned a reputation of being a spirited, but violent individual.

In 189 A.D., when Cao Cao 曹操 began his military career, Xiahou Dun was among the first to follow him on campaign; and would always act as Cao Cao's right-hand man. In the following year, Xiahou Dun helped Cao Cao recruit soldiers in Yang province before serving in the campaigns against Dong Zhuo 董卓, acting as Major to Cao Cao.[1] Dun was later separately garrisoned at Baima (白馬) and appointed as General Who Breaks Enemy Lines and Grand Administrator of Dong Commandery (東).

Battle of Yan ProvinceEdit

Main article: Battle of Yan Province

By 194 A.D., Cao Cao had taken control of Yan province but was invading Xu province to the east in order to avenge the death of his father, a crime for which Cao Cao blamed on the Grand Administrator of Xu, Tao Qian 陶謙. Cao Cao took the majority of his forces east, but left a few of his best officers behind to defend his territory; Xiahou Dun was left to defend Yan's western flank, being garrisoned at Puyang (濮陽); and Cao Cao's Major, Xun Yu 荀彧, at Juancheng (鄄城), Cao Cao's main base.

Zhang Miao 張邈 betrayed Cao Cao's trust by welcoming the warlord Lü Bu 呂布 and even sent Liu Yi 劉翊 to Juancheng to request supplies for Bu. Xun Yu easily recognised Miao's deception and immediately summoned Xiahou Dun to reinforce Juancheng and protect Cao Cao's family.[2]

In collusion with Zhang Miao, many of the cities of Yan province rose up in rebellion. Acting on Xun Yu's summons, Xiahou Dun brought forth his forces from Puyang and led a contigent of light cavalry to Juancheng and immediately set about executing several dozen dissensious agents within the city. Lü Bu himself came up to seize Juancheng, but due to the quick actions of Xiahou Dun and Xun Yu, Bu found no success, instead he withdrew west to seize Puyang, in the process Bu was able to raid Xiahou Dun's baggage train which was still on the road.[n 1].[3]

Lü Bu dispatched officers to feign surrender and Xiahou Dun fell for their ruse, being taken hostage. The hostage-takers demanded a ransom for Dun and his army was panicking and fearful. Xiahou Dun's officer, Han Hao 韓浩, quickly took charge he, ordered the men to block the gates of the garrison; summoned together the army officials and told them to use armed men to keep the soldiers under control; then went to visit the hostage-takers. Hao shouted at them, saying: "You vicious rebels, how dare you abduct our great general and still expect to get out of this alive! Furthermore, we have been given commands to punish traitors, yet you would expect freedom all on account of a single general." Weeping, he then faced Xiahou Dun and said: "I am bound by the laws of the state." Han Hao quickly summoned soldiers to take out the hostage-takers. Frightened, they abruptly fell to their knees and kowtowed, saying: "We merely wanted to take the ransom and leave!" Their pleas for absolution fell on deaf ears as Han Hao counted off their sins before beheading every last one of them, and so Xiahou Dun was saved.

Having heard of Han Hao's actions, Cao Cao was quite pleased. He wrote a decree stating that when dealing with hostage situations, in all cases, the safety of the hostages was not to be taken into consideration and that hostage-takers were all to be attacked and killed. Because of this, the incidents of hostage taking disappeared.[n 2]

Cao Cao abandoned his campaign against Tao Qian and returned to Yan province to oust Lü Bu. Xiahou Dun followed and during the fighting he lost his left eye due to a stray arrow. At this time, both Xiahou Dun and his brother Xiahou Yuan 夏侯淵 served as generals to Cao Cao; and so some within the army referred to Dun as 'the Blind Xiahou', a nickname which Dun loathed. If he saw his reflection in a mirror he would hurl it to the ground.[4]

Xiahou Dun was then appointed Grand Administrator of Chenliu (陳留)[n 3] and Jiyin (濟陰), promoted to General Who Establishes Firmness and ennobled as District Marquis of Gao'an (高安). The hostilities between Cao Cao and Lü Bu had continued for over three months until severe drought and a plague of locusts forced both sides to withdraw.[5] Xiahou Dun ordered the Taishou River (太壽) be dammed to form a reservoir, he personally assisted the peasants in carrying loads of earth and encouraged his officers and soldiers to plant rice; the populace benefited greatly from Dun's leadership and he was appointed as Intendant of Henan (河南).

Cao Cao's battle against Lü Bu raged on, and by 198 A.D., Bu had established himself in Xu Province. Governor of Xu Province Liu Bei 劉備 had attempted to fight Bu as well but Bu's officer, Gao Shun 高順, he had been defeated. In the seventh month, Cao Cao dispatched Xiahou Dun to assist Liu Bei, but Gao Shun again managed to drive them away.[6][7][8]

Battle at BowangEdit

Main article: Battle of Bowang

Around 203 A.D., Governor of Jing Province Liu Biao 劉表 dispatched Liu Bei to raid Cao Cao's southern borders, arriving at She (葉)[n 4]. Cao Cao responded by dispatching Xiahou Dun along with Major-General Li Dian 李典 and Lieutenant-General Yu Jin 于禁 to oppose him. They met at Bowang (博望), but after one day, Liu Bei set fire to his own camp and fled. Dun prepared the various armies to go in pursuit, bu Dian said: "The enemy had no reason to run away, and I am sure they will lay an ambush. The road to the south is narrow and the trees and bushes are thick. You should not follow him."[9] Dun ignored Dian's warning and went in pursuit followed by Jin, whilst Dian remained behind as a rearguard. Liu Bei had indeed prepared an ambush and Dun soon found himself in dire straits; having seen Dun in trouble, Dian then led his forces to the rescue, at which point Liu Bei broke off his attack and withdrew.[10][11]

In 204 A.D., Cao Cao crossed north of the Yellow River to annex the northern territories. At that time, Xiahou Dun was appointed General-in-Chief and remained behind to protect Cao Cao's rear. When the northern stronghold of Ye (鄴) was taken, Xiahou Dun was promoted to General Who Calms the Waves and again appointed as Intendant of Henan. Cao Cao had such respect for Dun that he permitted him to impose laws as he saw fit, without needing to follow regulations. In 207 A.D., Xiahou Dun's accomplishments were recorded from start to finish, and his fief was increased by 1,800 households to 2,500 households.

Campaigns Under WeiEdit

In 215 A.D., Xiahou Dun participated in the annexation of Hanzhong. Facing the formidable fortifications at Yangping (陽平), Cao Cao had lost many men and intended to withdraw. Xiahou Dun and Martial Guard of the Gentlemen of the Household Xu Chu 許褚 called for the men to return, but in the darkness of night, some found themselves lost and inexplicably managed to wander past the defences at Yangping and breach an enemy camp. Believing their fortifications had been breached, the enemy forces fled and the soldiers returned to Dun and Chu to tell them the good news. Dun was skeptical of their claims, but after having observed it for himself returned to tell Cao Cao, soon enough Hanzhong was settled.[12]

In the tenth month of 216 A.D., Cao Cao raised soldiers to invade the territory of Sun Quan 孫權 of Wu. The Wu forces were deeply entrenched at Ruxu Fortress (濡須口) and Cao Cao's forces were suffering from a great plague, so when Sun Quan requested a truce, Cao Cao complied. Cao Cao left Xiahou Dun behind in command of 26 armies, garrisoned at Juchao (居巢), along with General Who Manifests Awe Zang Ba 臧霸, Wei Inspector of Yan Province Sima Lang 司馬朗, et al.[13][14][15]

Of all the officers under Cao Cao's command, none received Cao Cao's favour like Dun. Dun would often accompany Cao Cao, and was permitted to enter Cao Cao's personal living quarters. Cao Cao bestowed upon Xiahou Dun skilled musicians and famous dancers as a reward with a decree, saying: "Because he made peace with the Rong tribe, Wei Jiang's exploits still endure, recorded in bronze and stone slabs. General Xiahou deserves more than that!"[n 5]

In the tenth month of 219 A.D., Xiahou Dun followed Cao Cao in an attack on Liu Bei's general, Guan Yu 關羽, at Mobei (摩陂). At this time, the various officers in Cao Cao's service received their titles from Wei, with the exception of Dun who received his from the Han Emperor. Dun therefore sent a memorial to the court stating that he wished to receive honours from Wei too. Cao Cao replied, saying: "I have heard that the greatest relationship between ruler and subjects is where the subject act as teachers to the ruler. The second best relationship is where the subject acts as a friend to the ruler. The greatest subjects are men of nobility and virtue. The state of Wei is insignificant and would not do justice to someone like you." Xiahou Dun refused to relent and so Cao Cao finally bestowed the rank of General of the Van[16], overseeing the various southern armies from his garrison at Zhaoling (召陵).

Xiahou Dun's LegacyEdit

Following Cao Cao's death in 220 A.D., his son Cao Pi 曹丕 acceded the throne of Wei. On the day yimao of the third month, Xiahou Dun was appointed as General-in-Chief. And on the day gengwu of the fourth month, Xiahou Dun passed away.[17]

Although Xiahou Dun was often travelling with the army, he would often receive teachers in order to receive their guidance. He was both irreproachable and frugal in nature, he did not hold any properties or businesses and would distribute his excess wealth amongst others, or if he didn't have enough would provide it from the office treasury. He was posthumously canonised as Loyal (忠) Lord of Gao'an. Emperor Cao Pi also ennobled Dun's seven sons and two grandsons as secondary marquises.

In 266 A.D., Xiahou Dun's grandson, Zuo 佐, died, ending Dun's main family line. An edict was sent down saying: "Xiahou Dun's accomplishments were the first in Wei's history, and his meritorious service has been recorded on bamboo and silk. In former days, sacrifices in memorial of him have waned, a lamentable situation, moreover we were subject to the abdication of Wei and so how could we possibly neglect his achievements as a subject! We should select Xiahou Dun's closest relative and enfeoff them."[18]



  • Xiahou Yuan 夏侯淵
  • Unknown name - Died some time around 194 A.D. leaving only a daughter.[19]
  • Xiahou Lian (廉) - Younger brother to Dun, was ennobled as a Marquis.



  • Xiahou Yi (廙) - Chong's son and heir.


  • Xiahou Shao (劭) - Yi's son and heir.


  • Xiahou Zuo - Died without heirs.

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  1. Xiahou Dun's SGZ says that Bu and Dun met and engaged in battle, but that Bu then withdrew to Puyang before seizing Dun's baggage train. Unfortunately, neither of Bu's SGZs make any mention of these actions.
  2. Sun Sheng 孫盛 comments that this hardline approach was followed in Emperor Guangwu's reign (33 A.D.), when bandits abducted Honoured Lady Yin's mother and brother, officials attacked the bandits and the bandits murdered their captives. But since the times of Emperor An (106-125 A.D.) and Emperor Shun (125-144 A.D.) this hardline approach was not observed and soon not even nobles and royals were exempt from kidnapping. Han Hao was the first to reintroduce the hardline method, thus Cao Cao commended him.
  3. During his time as Administrator of Chenliu, Wei Zhen's SGZ records an altercation with Xiahou Dun, where Dun invited Zhen and his wife to a feast, but Zhen thought it improper and refused. Dun was furious and grabbed Zhen, but later forgave him.
  4. Pronounced She according to de Crispigny.
  5. Wei Jiang was the chief minister to Duke Dao of Jin (573-558 B.C.) and was able to pacify the Rong and Di tribes. His achievements were presumedly recorded on bronze and stone relics, which recorded history of the first three dynasties.

Fact vs FictionEdit


  • …Xiahou Dun did not lose his eye to Cao Xing and did not go on to kill him.
  • …Xiahou did not consume the eye he lost.
  • …Xiahou Dun's abilities were rather administrative than military.


  1. SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
  2. SGZ: Biography of Xun Yu.
  3. SGZ: Biography of Xun Yu.
  4. SGZ: Wei lüe quoted in the SGZ Biography of Xiahou Dun.
  5. SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
  6. SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
  7. SGZ: Biography of Liu Bei.
  8. SGZ: SGZ Biography of Zhang Miao.
  9. de Crespigny. Chapter 64 in To Establish Peace Vol 2, Jian'an 7, section I
  10. SGZ: Biography of Liu Bei.
  11. SGZ: SGZ Biography of Li Dian.
  12. SGZ: Memorials of the Celebrated Ministers of Wei quoted in the SGZ Biography of Zhang Lu.
  13. SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
  14. SGZ: SGZ Biography of Zang Ba.
  15. SGZ: SGZ Biography of Sima Lang.
  16. SGZ: Book of Wei quoted in the SGZ Biography of Xiahou Dun.
  17. SGZ: Biography of Cao Pi.
  18. SGZ: Chronicle of Jin quoted in the SGZ Biography of Xiahou Dun.
  19. SGZ: Biography of Xiahou Yuan.


  • de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 2. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.