Xu Chu 許褚, or Crazy Tiger, served as a bodyguard to Cao Cao. Xu Chu was by Cao Cao's side wherever he went, and his determination to protect his lord saved Cao Cao on more than one occasion.
Xu Chu was said to have a grand and determined appearance, and his courage exceeded that of his peers. He was also very large, almost 2m tall[n 2] and the circumference of his wait larger than that. During the latter days of the Han dynasty, Xu Chu had gathered up several 1,000 local youngsters and members of his clan to protect against bandits in the region. Xu Chu's militia constructed a strong wall in order to keep the bandit hordes at bay; and over 10,000 bandits from Runan (汝南) commandery came to plunder.
The militia numbers were far inferior to the bandits' yet they fought fiercely; they fired arrows into the enemy ranks till their quivers were empty, then Xu Chu ordered rocks and stone be brought up to the walls and flung those at the bandits instead. The bandits were afraid and dared not advance. Unfortunately, the militia were not really prepared for an extended siege and was low on food, so a temporary truce was called. The defenders exchanged an oxen with the bandits for food; however, when the bandits came to collect the oxen, it was spooked and fled. Xu Chu dashed out from amidst the crowd and grabbed the oxen's tail, then dragged it back over 100 m[n 3]. The bandit rabble was alarmed by Xu Chu's strength and wouldn't dare take the oxen, instead they fled. Chu's feat had made him famous in the region between the Huai (淮) and Ru (汝) rivers, as well as in Liang (梁) and Chen (陳) commanderies to the north.
Service to Cao CaoEdit
In 196 A.D., when Cao Cao had entered the region between the Huai and Ru rivers and shifted the capital to Xu (許), Xu Chu brought his retainers and submitted to Cao Cao. When Cao Cao saw him, he said: "Here is my Fan Kuai!" Cao Cao immediately appointed Chu the rank of Commandant, and had him assigned to guard him during the nights. The various retainers who followed Chu were said to have chivalrous bearings and so all were appointed as Tiger Warriors[n 4]
In 200 A.D., when Cao Cao was locked in stalemate with Yuan Shao at Guandu (官渡), Shao's numerically superiority made victory seem like an impossibility. At the time, Xu Tuo[n 7] and some of his fellows were harbouring rebellious intentions, yet because Xu Chu guarded Cao Cao, they did not dare make a move. They spied on Xu Chu and waited for a day when he was off-duty to strike. They concealed knives and entered Cao Cao's tent, but were shocked to see Chu standing there. Chu had returned to his tent but had an uneasy feeling so immediately returned to Cao Cao's side; when Tuo and his confederates saw him, the colour left their faces. Chu saw them and instantly recognised their intentions, slaying them where they stood.
Cao Cao's intimacy and trust in Xu Chu increased, and Chu would accompany Cao Cao wherever he went. After the battle at Ye (鄴) city, Xu Chu's merits got him ennobled as a Secondary Marquis.
Battle of Tong PassEdit
In 211 A.D., Cao Cao headed west in a campaign to annex Hanzhong (漢中); but he was met with resistance as the warlords of Liang province revolted under Ma Chao and Han Sui. The rebel forces had entrenched themselves at the eastern end of Tong Pass (潼關) and so Cao Cao wanted to circumvent their position by heading north across the river. Cao Cao was confident in his success, so when his main forces crossed the river, he elect to stay behind on the southern bank until all others had crossed, alongside Xu Chu and 100 of his Tiger Warriors.
When Ma Chao saw that Cao Cao's forces were on the move, he hastily led 10,000 troops to try and catch the small rearguard. Xu Chu informed Cao Cao of the mob approaching and said the time to cross was now; he ushered Cao Cao onto a waiting boat and cast off. Ma Chao's forces pressed their attack, their arrows fell like rain; soldiers in the water tried clambering onto the ship, their weight a danger of sinking it. With his left hand, Chu used a saddle to shield Cao Cao; with his right, he simultaneously hacked at the soldiers climbing into the boat whilst steering the boat against the current. Had Xu Chu not been there, Cao Cao might have died.
After outmanoeuvring the rebel forces and forcing their retreat westwards, Ma Chao and the other warlords wanted to parley with Cao Cao. Ma Chao and Han Sui rode out to talk with Cao Cao regarding a truce, yet secretly Ma Chao harboured a desire to snatch Cao Cao and end the battle. The only thing that stayed his hand was the reputation of Xu Chu, and Ma Chao suspected that warrior accompanying Cao Cao was he. Ma Chao asked: "I heard Lord Cao has a Tiger Marquis (虎侯), where would he be?" Cao Cao turned and pointed at Chu, who was glaring at Ma Chao the entire time. Seeing Chu, Ma Chao had to dismiss the idea of capturing Cao Cao that day.
Cao Cao was in an advantageous position so he would not accept a truce, and a few days later the two sides met in battle. The Liang rebels were badly defeated and Xu Chu performed admirably, slaying many enemies. For his exploits, he was promoted to Martial Guard of the Gentlemen of the Household; a position which had not existed prior to Chu's appointment, but which was continued on. Those within the army said Xu Chu's power was like that of a crazed tiger, so he was henceforth nicknamed "Crazy Tiger"; and because Ma Chao had referred to him as a "Tiger Marquis", that was another nickname that stuck.
Service to Cao PiEdit
When Cao Cao died, Xu Chu howled and wept until he coughed blood. When Emperor Cao Pi assumed the imperial throne, Xu Chu was enfeoffed as Marquis of Wansui (萬歲) Village, promoted to General of Martial Guard and Chief Controller of the Palace. Earlier, when Chu had joined Cao Cao, all those following Chu had been appointed as Tiger Warriors because Cao Cao admired their bearing; and when Chu was promoted to General, the Tiger Warriors were also rewarded, depending on their exploits. 10,000 people were granted nobility, 100 were made Commandants, and one a Colonel; all received ceremonial swords.
Service to Cao RuiEdit
When Xu Chu died, he was posthumously canonised as Magnificent (壯) Lord of Mou. By nature, Xu Chu was prudent, serious, respectful of laws and a man of few words. At one time, General Who Subdues the South Cao Ren had come from Jing province to visit Cao Cao at the imperial court. Cao Cao had not yet arrived, but Ren could see Chu standing outside the palace so he shouted at him to come sit down and join him. But Xu Chu simply said: "The King of Wei will come." Then Chu returned to his post.
Cao Ren was annoyed by Xu Chu's attitude and reproached him, saying: "I am General Who Subdues the South, an important minister and a member of the imperial clan, why do you not obey me! Perhaps you should just resign." Chu then replied: "Although you are intimate to the King and an important minister, you are outside of the palace. I serve inside the palace, having announced you is enough, why do you want me to engage in idle chit-chat?" When Cao Cao hear, he cherished Xu Chu even more and promoted him to Resolute General of the Palace.
- Xu Ding (許定) - Elder brother. Reached the rank of General Who Inspires Awe and was Chief Controller of the Rapid as Tigers.
- Xu Yi - Was killed by Zhong Hui on the approach to Shu.
- Xu Zong (許綜) - Became a Secondary Marquis.
- 1 unnamed grandson - Became a Secondary Marquis.
Fact vs. FictionEdit
- ...Did not strip down and fight with Ma Chao at Tong Pass.
- ↑ Sometimes called "Xu Zhu", however this is incorrect.
- ↑ SGZ says 8 chi (尺). 1 chi = 23 cm.
- ↑ Text says over 100 bu (步), which was 6 chi. 1 bu = 1.4 m.
- ↑ Like the Rapid as Tigers, the imperial guard unit for the Emperor.
- ↑ Not sure which attack on Zhang Xiu this refers to. It doesn't say he returned to attack Zhang Xiu, so I would guess it was the first encounter. But the first victory was fairly mediocre yet the second great, and considering Xu Chu's supposed accomplishments, it might fit better that this is a reference to that battle.
- ↑ Xu Chu's SGZ says "he beheaded 10,000", I doubt that's physically possible so I assume it is either an exaggeration or simply to imply he fought fiercely.
- ↑ The SGZ says Xu Ta (徐他) here. But a comment by Pei Songzhi in the SGZ of Cao Fang says it might actually be Xu Tuo (徐佗). Rafe also uses Xu Tuo, so that's what I've used here.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 de Crespigny (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms, page 902.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Cao Cao.
- ↑ SGZ: Biography of Ma Chao.
- Chen Shou 陳壽 (233–297). Sanguo zhi 三國志 “Records of the Three Kingdoms”, with official commentary compiled by Pei Songzhi 裴松之 (372-451).
- de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 1. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.
- de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 2. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.
- Fang, Achilles. The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms. Vol. I. Harvard University Press, 1952. 2 vols.