A Qing Dynasty portrait of Jia Xu
|Strategist of Cao Wei|
|Died||11 August 223|
|Courtesy name||Wenhe (Chinese: 文和; pinyin:Wénhé; Wade–Giles: Wen-he)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Su (simplified Chinese: 肃侯; traditional Chinese: 肅侯; pinyin:Sù Hóu; Wade–Giles: Su Hou)|
Jia Xu (147 – 11 August 223), courtesy name Wenhe, was an advisor to the warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He previously served Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Zhang Xiu before finally joining Cao Cao. During the Three Kingdoms era, he served as an official in the state of Cao Wei under Cao Pi, Cao Cao’s son and successor.
Jia Xu was a native of Guzang (姑臧), Wuwei (武威), which is in present-day Wuwei, Gansu. He received proper education since his childhood. A man from Hanyang named Yan Zhong (閻忠) once stated that Jia Xu had the genius of Zhang Liang and Chen Ping, two famous strategists in the early Han Dynasty. He was appointed as an official in the Eastern Han government when he was a youth. However, upon seeing the corruption in the government at the time, he returned to Wuwei with excuses of sickness. On the way back he was captured by rebels from the Di tribe along with several other travellers. He lied that he was the grandson-in-law of Duan Gong (段熲), an influential general in the Han imperial court at that time, and was treated with respect and released, while the other travellers were all executed.
In 185, the northwestern warlord Han Sui initiated a rebellion with the assistance of the various Qiang tribes, and took Liang Province for himself. The Han imperial court appointed Dong Zhuo to suppress the rebellion, and Jia Xu was one of Dong’s advisers at the time. In 189, Dong Zhuo entered the capital Luoyang, and became the de facto leader of the court by using Emperor Xian as a figurehead ruler to control the ministers. Dong Zhuo’s cruelty and recklessness, however, soon started to create enemies, and Jia Xu, sensing defeat in Dong Zhuo, left the court. Jia Xu was then appointed as an advisor of Dong Zhuo’s son-in-law, Niu Fu.
In May 192, Dong Zhuo was murdered by Lü Bu in Luoyang. Li Jue and a few other loyalists of Dong Zhuo, including Niu Fu Fan Chou,Guo Si, and Zhang Ji, managed to escape. However, Niu Fu was soon killed by one of his own servants, then Jia Xu went to join Li Jue and suggested him to gather troops and take Chang’an so as to avenge the death of Dong Zhuo and to take Emperor Xian captive. The plan succeeded; however, Guo Si and Li Jue start to fight over who was in control despite Jia Xu’s mediation, and Jia Xu left them, partly also because his mother died. Nonetheless, Li Jue and Guo Si, admiring his talent, ordered him back.
Serving Zhang Xiu
In 196, Li Jue and Guo Si were once again engaged in a major conflict against each other, and because of this, Jia Xu deserted them. Jia Xu then made connections with Zhang Ji’s nephew, Zhang Xiu, who was in Nanyang and joined him. Jia Xu suggested an alliance withLiu Biao, which was concluded. However, he soon repented and told Zhang Xiu that Liu Biao was weak in nature, a view shared by many others, including Zhuge Liang and Guo Jia.
In 197, the powerful warlord Cao Cao attacked Zhang Xiu. Jia Xu and Zhang Xiu feigned surrender and made a sudden fire attack against Cao Cao in the Battle of Wancheng, which crippled Cao Cao’s forces, though Cao himself managed to escape. In part to Jia Xu’s advice, Zhang Xiu was able to turn back several of Cao’s later attacks with the help of Liu Biao.
Serving Cao Cao
In 199, Yuan Shao, a major warlord at that time, sent a request for Zhang Xiu to join him in his fight against Cao Cao. Zhang Xiu wanted to accept the request; however, Jia Xu turned away the messenger and told Zhang Xiu that Yuan Shao was not worth serving. Ultimately, Jia Xu advised Zhang Xiu to surrender to Cao Cao, a surrender which was well received by Cao. Jia Xu then became an advisor to Cao Cao and later Cao Pi.
Jia Xu helped Cao Cao defeat Yuan Shao in the Battle of Guandu by advising Cao Cao to cut off Yuan Shao’s grain supply, which succeeded and became an important factor of the decisive victory of Cao Cao, and eventually his unification of northern China.
In 208, after Cao Cao took Jing Province from Liu Biao, Jia Xu suggested Cao Cao not to attack the southeastern warlord Sun Quan, an advice which was rejected, and Cao Cao soon regretted the decision when his entire army was demolished at the Battle of Red Cliffs. Soon afterwards, Cao Cao was attacked by an army led by Han Sui and Ma Chao in the Battle of Tong Pass. Jia Xu laid out a plan which turned Han Sui against Ma Chao and ensured victory for Cao Cao.
Jia Xu was a major supporter of Cao Pi, Cao Cao’s eldest surviving son, in his conflict with his younger brother Cao Zhi for the succession of Cao Cao, and successfully talked Cao Cao into selecting Cao Pi.
Serving Cao Pi and death
In late 220, after Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate the throne to him and established the state of Cao Wei, he asked Jia Xu whether to attack Eastern Wu or Shu Han first. Jia Xu told Cao Pi that Wei did not possess the power to attack Wu or Shu, at that time. Cao Pi rejected his advice and once again suffered a major defeat from Wu.
Jia Xu died out of natural causes when he was 77 years old by Chinese age reckoning. He was given the posthumous title “Marquis Su” (肅侯), which literally means “respected marquis”.
Family and descendants
According to the New Book of Tang, Jia Xu was a descendant of the Western Han Dynasty statesman Jia Yi. According to Weijin Shiyu (魏晉世語; Sayings of Wei and Jin), members of the Jia clan served as high-ranking officials during the reign of Emperor Hui of Jin.
Jia Xu’s eldest son, Jia Mu (賈穆), who inherited his father’s titles, served as a Prince Consort Commandant (駙馬都尉) and was appointed as Administrator (太守) of various commanderies. Jia Fang (賈訪), another son of Jia Xu, received a quarter of his father’s fief of 800 households and was also granted a marquis title.
Jia Mu’s eldest son, Jia Mo (賈模), inherited his father’s titles and served as an Attendant of Scattered Cavalry (散騎常侍) and General Who Protects the Army (護軍將軍) during the reign of Emperor Hui in the Jin Dynasty. Jia Mo’s sons Jia Yin (賈胤) and Jia Kan (賈龕), and his cousin Jia Pi (賈疋), also served in the Jin imperial court during Emperor Hui’s reign.
Appointments and titles held
- Filial and Incorrupt (孝廉) – nominated candidate to be a Gentleman Cadet (郎)
- Assistant to the Grand Commandant (太尉掾)
- Commandant of Pingjin (平津都尉)
- Colonel Who Attacks Barbarians (討虜校尉)
- Deputy Director in the Imperial Secretariat (尚書僕射)
- Imperial Secretary (尚書)
- Household Counsellor (光祿大夫)
- General Who Proclaims Righteousness (宣義將軍)
- Bearer of the Mace (執金吾)
- Marquis of a Chief Village (都亭侯)
- Army Advisor (參軍事) to the Excellency of Works
- Palace Counsellor (太中大夫)
- The following appointments and titles were held by Jia Xu when he served the state of Wei
- Grand Commandant (太尉)
- Marquis of Weishou District (魏壽鄉侯)
- Marquis Su (肅侯) – granted to Jia Xu posthumously
- Cao Pi’s biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms stated that Jia Xu died on the jiashen day in the sixth lunar month in the fourth year of the Huangchu era (220-226) in Cao Pi’s reign. This date corresponds to 11 August 223 in the Gregorian calendar. ([黃初四年夏六月]甲申，太尉賈詡薨。) Jia Xu’s biography mentioned that he was 77 years old (by East Asian age reckoning) when he died. (詡年七十七，薨， …) By calculation, Jia Xu’s birth year should be around 147.
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 370. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.