Yao Xiang

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Yao Xiang
Grand Chanyu (大單于) (self-appointed)
In office
355 (355) – 357 (357)
MonarchMurong Jun
General Who Pacifies the North (平北將軍)
In office
352 (352) – 353 (353)
MonarchEmperor Mu of Jin
General of Agile Cavalry (驃騎將軍)
In office
351 (351) – 351 (351)
MonarchShi Zhi
Personal details
RelationsYao Yi
Yao Ruo
Yao Chang
Yao Xu
Yao Yinmai
Yao Shuode
Yao Shao
Yao Jing
Yao Huang
31 unnamed brothers
FatherYao Yizhong
Courtesy nameJingguo (景國)
Posthumous namePrince Wu of Wei (魏武王)

Yao Xiang (331-357), courtesy name Jingguo, was a Qiang warlord during the Sixteen Kingdoms and Jin dynasty (266-420). He was the fifth son and heir of the Later Zhao general Yao Yizhong who went to serve the Jin dynasty following his death. However, after suspecting the Jin commander Yin Hao of planning to assassinate him, Yao Xiang proclaimed independence and attempted to establish his own state in the Central Plains, fighting against Jin and Former Qin. Despite his losses, Yao Xiang was charismatic in nature, keeping and receiving the loyalty of many until his death in 357 when he fought the Former Qin general Deng Qiang. His brother Yao Chang would surrender to Qin but in 384 he established his state of Later Qin following the Battle of Feishui. Yao Chang would honor his brother as 'Prince Wu of Wei'.

Career under Yao Yizhong[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

The year of Yao Xiang's birth is a matter of controversy. It is said that he was born in 331 as the fifth child of Yao Yizhong's 42 children. However, Yizhong's 24th son, Yao Chang, was born the same year as Yao Xiang, leading some to believe that either Xiang or Chang's recorded birth year was an error. His father Yao Yizhong was a trusted general of Later Zhao. Yao Xiang was eight chi five cun tall (6 ft 8 In) and even in his youth, he was very popular among the gentry and common people for his talents and hospitality.[1] His first recorded military action was in 350 amidst the aftermath of Ran Min's usurpation of the Later Zhao government. He fought against Yizhong's colleague, the Di leader Pu Hong, over the strategic location of Guanyou (關右, west of present-day Tongguan county, Shaanxi) but was badly routed.[2]

Wei-Jie War[edit]

Later that year, Yao Yizhong was appointed the Prime Minister of the Right. As he looked for an heir, many of his subordinates and followers pushed for Yao Xiang but Yizhong declined, as Xiang was only the son of his chief wife and was not the eldest. Eventually, as support for Yao Xiang grew, Yizhong gave in and chose Xiang as his heir. Xiang was also appointed by Shi Zhi as Commissioner Bearing Credentials.[1]

In 351, Shi Zhi was besieged by Ran Min. Yao Yizhong sent Yao Xiang to lift the siege but before going, Yizhong told his son to promise him that he would capture Ran Min for massacring the Shi clan.[3] Yao Xiang arrived in Yecheng with assistance from Shi Kun (石琨) and Former Yan's general Yue Wan. Yao Xiang defeated Ran Min's general Hu Mu (胡睦) at Zhanglu (長蘆, in present-day Cangzhou, Hebei). As the three forces approached, Ran Min decided to face Yao Xiang outside the city, This proved to be a mistake as Yao Xiang, Shi Kun and Yue Wan attacked Ran Min from three sides while Shi Zhi came out to attack from behind. Ran Min suffered a terrible defeat but managed to escape. Yao Yizhong was angered by this and punished Yao Xiang by a hundred floggings.[4]

Flight to the south[edit]

Shi Zhi would die the same year after his subordinate Liu Xian (劉顯) assassinated him and defect to Ran Min. Yao Yizhong submitted to the Jin dynasty and received a number of titles. Yao Xiang himself received General Who Pacifies the North and a few other positions for himself. The following year, Yao Yizhong passed away. Before his death, he advised his son to join the Jin dynasty now that the Shi clan had been destroyed. Yao Xiang succeeded his father but kept his death a secret. He attacked the counties of Fagan (發乾; present-day Guan County, Shandong), Yangping (陽平; present-day Shen County, Shandong) and Yuancheng (元城; present-day Daming county, Hebei) before stopping at Que'ao Crossing (碻磝, in present-day Chiping District, Shandong) to give out appointments. He continued his way down south encountering Former Qin forces and suffered a defeat at Matian (麻田, east of present-day Luoyang, Henan). In the battle, Yao Xiang's horse died, so Yao Chang gave up his horse to him to allow him to escape but fortunately for the two reinforcements came in time. He arrived at Xingyang, where only then he started mourning ritual for his father.[5]

As general of Jin[edit]

Yin Hao's northern expedition[edit]

Yao Xiang sent five of his younger brothers to the Jiankang as hostages. The court accepted them and stationed Yao Xiang at Qiao (譙; present-day Bozhou, Anhui). The southlands were quick to be charmed by Yao Xiang's personality and respected him. Around this time, Yao Xiang visited the Jin official Xie Shang at Shouchun. Xie Shang recognised Yao Xiang despite him wearing a headscarf and the two easily befriend each other.[6]

At the time of Yao Xiang's entry into the Jin dynasty, Yin Hao was already carrying out his northern campaign against Former Qin. Yao Xiang and Xie Shang attacked Xuchang while Former Qin's Heavenly King Fu Jiàn sent Fu Xiong and Fu Jing (苻靚) to fight them. Xie Shang was defeated at Chengqiao (誠橋; near Xuchang) at Ying river causing him to retreat to Huainan. Yao Xiang abandoned his baggages to escorted Xie. The defeat forced Yin Hao's return to Shouchun and demote Xie Shang.[7]

Escaping assassination[edit]

In 353, Yao Xiang believed that Former Qin and Former Yan had both grown strong, and to attack them would only result in defeat. Instead, he decided to set up military agricultural farms along the Huai river to train troops and strengthen Jin's frontier for the future.[8] Yin Hao grew wary of Yao Xiang's growing influence and wanted to kill him. Yin Hao sent assassins against Yao Xiang but they were very impressed by Xiang that they instead revealed their plans, although most likely did not reveal Yin Hao's involvement. Yin Hao then sent a general named Wei Jing (魏憬) to surprise attack Yao Xiang but he was killed by Xiang.

With his plans to kill him both failing, Yin Hao decided instead to move Yao Xiang somewhere else. He planned to replace Yao Xiang with Liu Qi (劉啟) and move him from Qiao to Litai (蠡台, in present-day Shangqiu, Henan).[9] Meanwhile, Yao Xiang was worried as he noticed that Wei Jing's sons and brothers were constantly roaming around Yin Hao's base in Shouchun. Yao Xiang sent his advisor Quan Yi to discuss the issue with Yin Hao. While discussing, Quan Yi managed to receive hints of Yin Hao's intention to kill Yao Xiang through their conversation.[10]

When Yin Hao marched north again, Yao Xiang served as his vanguard. However, Yao Xiang now had the intention to break away from Jin. When Yin Hao's army were close to Yao Xiang, Yao fled north during the night but also set ambushes as he predicts the Jin army would pursue him. When Yin Hao heard of Yao Xiang betrayal, he quickly rushed to stop him just as Yao wanted. The results were devastating for Jin as Yao Xiang killed thousands of their forces and claimed their supplies that they had abandoned. He left his brother Yao Yi to guard Shansang (山桑; in present-day Mengcheng County, Anhui) while Yao Xiang returned south to Huainan.[11]

War with Jin and Former Qin[edit]

Campaigns against Jin[edit]

Yin Hao sent Liu Qi and Wang Binzhi (王彬之) to stop Yao Xiang but they were both killed, and Shao Slope (芍陂; in present-day Shou County, Anhui) was captured. Yao Xiang crossed the Huai river and camped at Xuyi where he received the surrender of thousands of refugees and officials. He instructed his newfound followers to farm and start silkworm cultivation while he sent envoys to Jiankang denouncing Yin Hao and apologising for his decision to rebel. In response, the Jin court sent Xie Shang to defeat Yao Xiang, in hopes that their friendship could convince Yao Xiang to surrender. [12]

The following year, Yao Xiang submitted to Former Yan and was appointed Inspector of Yuzhou and Duke of Danyang by Murong Jun.[13] Later, Jin's Interior Minister of Chenliu Liu Shi was captured by Guo Chang and Qihuo commanders, who offered Yao Xiang to surrender Jin's territories north of the Yangtze river. This caused the Jin court to panic as losing the territories would leave the capital exposed to Yao Xiang.[14]

In 355, Yao Xiang declared himself Grand Chanyu and Grand General. He marched north at the advice of his followers and captured Xuchang from Jin despite an early defeat at Waihuang (外黃).[15]

Battle of Yi River[edit]

The next year, Huan Wen was appointed by Jin as Grand Commander of the Expeditionary Force to campaign against Yao Xiang. Meanwhile, Yao Xiang attempted to capture Luoyang from the warlord Zhou Cheng (周成). He could not make a breakthrough even after a month of siege, and his Chief Clerk Wang Liang (王亮) advised him to retreat but he refused, stating that Luoyang would be valuable to hold.[16] Soon enough, Huan Wen arrived at the Yi river. Yao Xiang broke off his siege to defend against Huan Wen. Yao Xiang sent Huan Wen a letter, stating that he is willing to surrender back to the Jin dynasty. Huan Wen however rejected it, replying back that he is more interested in recovering the Central Plains, not in capturing him. The two fought at the river, with Huan Wen emerging victorious and Yao Xiang retreating north of Luoyang.[17]

Yet, his defeat did not encourage many to surrender to Huan Wen. While Yao Xiang retreated, men in Luoyang abandoned their families to join Yao Xiang, and when rumours of Yao Xiang's death circulated, the people of Xuchang and Luoyang mourned him. As Yao Xiang fled west, Huan Wen gave chase and received the surrender of one of Yao Xiang's officer, Yang Liang (楊亮). Huan Wen asked him what kind of man Yao Xiang is, to which he said, "Yao Xiang has divine wisdom and a broad mind, just like Sun Ce, but in valor and martial prowess he surpasses even the latter".[17]

Campaign against Former Qin[edit]

Yao Xiang reached Pingyang, where he received the surrender of the Inspector of Bingzhou, Yin Chi (尹赤), who also happened to be one of his former subordinate. He then captured Xiangling (襄陵: in present-day Sui County, Henan) but was repelled by Former Qin's general Zhang Ping. Yao Xiang negotiated peace with Zhang Ping by swearing an oath of brotherhood, and the two forces withdrew from each other.[18]


In the summer of 357, Yao Xiang intended to conquer the Guanzhong region from Former Qin. Yao Xiang camped at Xingcheng (杏城, in present-day Yan'an, Shaanxi), where he sent Yao Lan (姚蘭) to attack Fucheng and Yao Yisheng (姚益生) and Wang Qinlu (王欽盧) to get the surrender of the Qiangs. Former Qin's emperor sent his generals Deng Qiang and Fu Huangmei (苻黃眉) to defeat Yao Xiang. Yao Xiang refused to give fight initially but Deng Qiang enticed him to attack by pretending to be defeated. Yao Xiang pursued Deng Qiang until they reached Sanyuan, where Yao was met with Former Qin forces under Fu Huangmei and Fu Jiān. Yao Xiang was dealt with defeat and attempted to flee by horse. However, his horse was shot and this time he was killed.[19]

Yao Chang took over Yao Xiang's army and surrendered to Former Qin. Yao Xiang was given a ducal funeral by Fu Sheng, while his father Yao Yizhong, whose coffin he carried around, was given one for a prince. Yao Chang would become an important general in Former Qin but following Qin's disastrous defeat at the Battle of Feishui and his fall out with Fu Jiān, he would establish his state of Later Qin in 384, posthumously naming his brother 'Prince Wu of Wei'.[19]

Cao Cao's Mausoleum[edit]

In 2008, the mausoleum of the prominent warlord during the fall of the Han dynasty, Cao Cao, had been discovered. However, some historians casted their doubts that the mausoleum was actually that of Cao Cao's. One in particularly was Hu Juezhao, a history professor at the Xi'an Municipal Party Committee School, who claims in an interview in 2010 that the mausoleum actually belongs to Yao Xiang.[20]


  1. ^ a b (襄字景國,弋仲之第五子也。年十七,身長八尺五寸,臂垂過膝,雄武多才藝,明察善撫納,士眾愛敬之,咸請為嗣。弋仲弗許,百姓固請者日有千數,乃授之以兵。石祗僭號,以襄為使持節、驃騎將軍、護烏丸校尉、豫州刺史、新昌公。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  2. ^ (姚弋仲、蒲洪各有據關右之志。弋仲遣其子襄帥衆五萬擊洪,洪迎擊,破之,斬獲三萬餘級。洪自稱大都督、大將軍、大單于、三秦王,改姓苻氏。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 98
  3. ^ (祗與閔相攻,弋仲遣其子襄救祗,戒襄曰:「汝才十倍于閔,若不梟擒,不須復見我也。」) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  4. ^ (襄擊閔于常盧澤,大破之而歸。弋仲怒襄之不擒閔也,杖之一百。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  5. ^ (姚弋仲有子四十二人,及病,謂諸子曰:「石氏待吾厚,吾本欲為之盡力。今石氏已滅,中原無主;我死,汝亟自歸於晉,當固執臣節,無為不義也!」弋仲卒,子襄秘不發喪,帥戶六萬南攻陽平、元城、發乾,破之,屯於碻磝津,以太原王亮為長史,天水尹赤為司馬,太原薛瓚、略陽權翼為參軍。襄與秦兵戰,敗,亡三萬餘戶,南至滎陽,始發喪。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 99
  6. ^ (晉處襄於譙城,遣五弟為任,單騎度淮,見豫州刺史謝尚于壽春。尚命去仗衛,幅巾以待之,一面交款,便若平生。襄少有高名,雄武冠世,好學博通,雅善談論,英濟之稱著于南夏。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  7. ^ (夏四月,安西將軍謝尚帥姚襄與張遇戰于許昌之誡橋,王師敗績。苻健使其弟雄襲遇,虜之。) Book of Jin, Volume 8
  8. ^ (姚襄屯歷陽,以燕、秦方強,未有北伐之志,乃夾淮廣興屯田,訓厲將士。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 99
  9. ^ (中軍將軍、揚州刺史殷浩憚其威名,乃因襄諸弟,頻遣刺客殺襄,刺客皆推誠告實,襄待之若舊。浩潛遣將軍魏憬率五千餘人襲襄,襄乃斬憬而並其眾。浩愈惡之,乃使將軍劉啟守譙,遷襄于梁國蠡台,表授梁國內史。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  10. ^ (襄遣權翼詣浩,浩曰:「姚平北每舉動自由,豈所望也。」翼曰:「將軍輕納奸言,自生疑貳,愚謂猜嫌之由,不在於彼。」浩曰:「姚君縱放小人,盜竊吾馬,王臣之體固若是乎?」翼曰:「將軍謂姚平北以威武自強,終為難保,校兵練眾,將懲不恪,取馬者欲以自衛耳。」浩曰:「何至是也。」) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  11. ^ (浩以姚襄為前驅。襄引兵北行,度浩將至,詐令部眾夜遁,陰伏甲以邀之。浩聞而追襄至山桑。襄縱兵擊之,浩大敗,棄輜重,走保譙城。襄俘斬萬餘,悉收其資仗,使兄益守山桑,襄復加淮南。會稽王昱謂王彪之曰:「君言無不中,張、陳無以過也!」) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 99
  12. ^ (襄鼓行濟淮,屯於盱眙,招掠流人,眾至七萬,分置守宰,勸課農桑,遣使建鄴,罪狀殷浩,並自陳謝。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  13. ^ (慕容儁以襄為豫州刺史、丹陽公。) Book of Northern Wei, Volume 95
  14. ^ (流人郭斁等千餘人執晉堂邑內史劉仕降於襄,朝延大震,以吏部尚書周閔為中軍將軍,緣江備守。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  15. ^ (襄方軌引北,自稱大將軍、大單于,據許昌。) Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms, Volume 5
  16. ^ (襄自許遂攻洛陽,逾月不尅。) Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms, Volume 5
  17. ^ a b (晉征西大將軍桓溫自江陵伐襄,戰于伊水北,為溫所敗,率麾下數千騎奔於北山。其夜,百姓棄妻子隨襄者五千餘人,屯據陽鄉,赴者又四千餘戶。襄前後敗喪數矣,眾知襄所在,輒扶老攜幼賓士而赴之。時或傳襄創重不濟,溫軍所得士女莫不北望揮涕。其得物情如此。先是,弘農楊亮歸襄,襄待以客禮。後奔桓溫,溫問襄於亮,亮曰:「神明器宇,孫策之儔,而雄武過之。」其見重如是。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  18. ^ (姚襄率眾萬餘,攻其平陽太守苻產于匈奴堡,苻柳救之,為襄所敗,引還蒲阪。襄遂攻堡,克之,殺苻產,盡坑其眾,遣使從生假道,將還隴西。生將許之,苻堅諫曰:「姚襄,人傑也,今還隴西,必為深害,不如誘以厚利,伺隙而擊之。」生乃止。遣使拜襄官爵,襄不受,斬其使者,焚所送章策,寇掠河東。生怒,命其大將軍張平討之。襄乃卑辭厚幣與平結為兄弟,平更與襄通和。) Book of Jin, Volume 112
  19. ^ a b (襄尋徙北屈,將圖關中,進屯杏城,遣其從兄輔國姚蘭略地鄜城,使其兄益及將軍王欽盧招集北地戎夏,歸附者五萬餘戶。苻生遣其將苻飛拒戰,蘭敗,為飛所執。襄率眾西引,生又遣苻堅、鄧羌等要之。襄將戰,沙門智通固諫襄,宜厲兵收眾,更思後舉。襄曰:「二雄不俱立,冀天不棄德以濟黎元,吾計決矣。」會羌師來逼,襄怒,遂長驅而進,戰于三原。襄敗,為堅所殺,時年二十七,是歲晉升平元年也。苻生以公禮葬之。萇僭號,追諡魏武王,封襄孫延定為東城侯... 景國弱歲英奇,見方孫策,詳其幹識,無忝斯言,遂踐迷途,良可悲矣!襄實英果。) Book of Jin, Volume 116
  20. ^ http://book.ifeng.com/culture/whrd/201001/0111_7467_1505513.shtml