Xiahou Dun
Xiahou Dun Portrait.jpg
A Qing dynasty illustration of Xiahou Dun swallowing his eyeball
General-in-Chief (大將軍)
In office
23 April (23 April) – 13 June 220 (13 June 220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Pi
General of the Vanguard (前將軍)
In office
219 (219) – 23 April 220 (23 April 220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao / Cao Pi
General Who Calms the Waves (伏波將軍)
In office
204 (204)–219 (219)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao (from 208)
Personal details
Bozhou, Anhui
Died(220-06-13)13 June 220[a]
  • Xiahou Chong
  • Xiahou Mao
  • Xiahou Zizang
  • Xiahou Zijiang
  • at least three other sons
OccupationMilitary general, politician
Courtesy nameYuanrang (元讓)
Posthumous nameMarquis Zhong (忠侯)
PeerageMarquis of Gao'an District (高安鄉侯)
Nickname"Blind Xiahou" (盲夏侯)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese

Xiahou Dun (pronunciation ) (died 13 June 220),[a] courtesy name Yuanrang, was a Chinese military general and politician serving under the warlord Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China.[2] He served for a few months under Cao Cao's successor, Cao Pi, before his death. As one of Cao Cao's most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun aided the warlord in his campaigns against Lü Bu, Liu Bei, Sun Quan and others.

Xiahou Dun lost his left eye when he was a hit by a stray arrow during a battle against Lü Bu in the late 190s, and subsequently became known among the rank and file as "One-eyed Xiahou". His image as a one-eyed warrior was popularised by the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which he yanked the arrow out of his eye and devoured his eyeball.

Early life

Xiahou Dun was from Qiao County (譙縣), Pei State (沛國), which is on present-day Bozhou, Anhui. He was a descendant of Xiahou Ying, who served under the Han dynasty's founding emperor, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao). He was notorious for his fiery personality as he once killed a man who insulted his teacher when he was just 13 years old. In 190, when Cao Cao was raising an army to participate in the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Xiahou Dun became an officer under Cao and fought in many battles. When Cao Cao was appointed as acting General of Uplifting Martial Might (奮武將軍) by the Han imperial court, Xiahou Dun was commissioned as a Major (司馬) and was ordered to garrison at Boma (白馬; near present-day Hua County, Henan). He was later promoted to Colonel Who Breaks and Charges (折衝校尉) and was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Dong Commandery (東郡; the areas around present-day Puyang, Henan and Liaocheng, Shandong).[3]

Defence of Yan Province

Main article: Battle of Yan Province

In 193, Cao Cao left his base in Yan Province on a campaign against Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province, whom he held responsible for the murder of his father Cao Song. Xiahou Dun was left behind to defend Puyang, one of Cao Cao's key strongholds in Yan Province.[4]

While Cao Cao was away in Xu Province, his subordinates Zhang Miao and Chen Gong rebelled in Yan Province and defected to another warlord Lü Bu. At that time, Cao Cao's family members were in Juancheng County, so Xiahou Dun led a lightly armed force towards Juancheng to fetch them. He encountered Lü Bu's army on the way and engaged the enemy in battle. Lü Bu withdrew his forces and took advantage of Xiahou Dun's absence to conquer Puyang and capture much of Xiahou's supplies and equipment. Lü Bu later sent his men to pretend to surrender to Xiahou Dun, who fell for the ruse and was taken hostage by the enemy in his own camp. Lü Bu's men demanded a heavy ransom. Xiahou Dun's troops became fearful and confused when they heard that their commander had been taken hostage.[5]

Xiahou Dun's subordinate, Han Hao, led his men to outside Xiahou's camp, where he gave orders for the other officers to remain in their respective camps and not make any moves. The situation in the other camps became stable. He then headed towards Xiahou Dun's tent and shouted at the hostage-takers, "You murderous traitors, how dare you take the commander hostage! Do you still expect to live? I've received orders to attack the enemy, so I won't let you have your way just for the sake of one officer." With tears in his eyes, he told Xiahou Dun, "This is the law. I've to follow it." Han Hao then ordered his men to attack the hostage-takers, who were shocked by his response and immediately gave up. The hostage-takers kowtowed and begged for their lives, "We only want to obtain some money for our use and we'll leave after that." Han Hao reprimanded them sternly and had them all executed. Xiahou Dun was saved.[6]

When Cao Cao learnt of the rebellion, he withdrew his army from Xu Province and returned to Yan Province to attack Lü Bu. Xiahou Dun participated in the battles against Lü Bu, and was hit in the left eye by a stray arrow during a skirmish.[7] After the loss of his left eye, he was given the nickname "One-eyed Xiahou" (盲夏侯) in Cao Cao's army. Xiahou Dun hated this nickname and he would throw a mirror to the ground whenever he saw his own reflection.[8] Lü Bu was besieged by Cao Cao in Puyang for over 100 days and he eventually abandoned the city when a famine broke out. Cao Cao seized back his territories in Yan Province previously lost to Lü Bu.


See also: Battle of Bowang

Xiahou Dun was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Chenliu (陳留; around present-day Kaifeng, Henan) and Jiyin (濟陰; near present-day Dingtao County, Shandong) commanderies, and held the rank of General Who Builds Martial Might (建武將軍). He was also enfeoffed as the Marquis of Gao'an District (高安鄉侯). While he was in office, a drought broke out and there was a locust infestation in the region. To counter these problems, Xiahou Dun spearheaded an agricultural programme, in which he instructed workers to dam up the Taishou River (太壽水; a tributary of the Huai River) to create a large pond. He personally participated in the construction works and also encouraged the people to grow crops in the inundated land. This programme greatly aided the people during those years of severe famine. He was later reassigned to be the Intendant of Henan (河南尹).[9]

Xiahou Dun did not participate in Cao Cao's campaigns in northern China against Yuan Shao, Yuan's sons and their allies throughout the 200s CE. Instead, he remained behind to defend Cao Cao's territories in central China. In 202, Cao Cao's rival Liu Bei, who had sought refuge under Jing Province's governor Liu Biao, received an order from Liu Biao to take advantage of Cao Cao's absence to attack Cao's base in the imperial capital, Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan). In response, Cao Cao sent Xiahou Dun, Yu Jin and Li Dian to lead an army to resist Liu Bei and both sides clashed at the Battle of Bowang. Liu Bei burnt his camps and feigned retreat to lure the enemy into an ambush. Xiahou Dun and his men fell for the trick and were defeated in the ambush.[10] Li Dian, who suspected an ambush and did not join in the pursuit, led reinforcements to help Xiahou Dun and Yu Jin. Liu Bei withdrew his forces after seeing Li Dian's approach.[11]

After the Battle of Ye in 204, Xiahou Dun was promoted to General Who Calms the Waves (伏波將軍) but retained his appointment as the Intendant of Henan. He was able to administer and oversee affairs smoothly without being hampered by layers of bureaucracy. In 207, Xiahou Dun was granted an additional 1,800 taxable households in his marquisate in recognition of his contributions, bringing the total number of households to 2,500.[12]

Later life and death

In 216, after a campaign against Cao Cao's rival Sun Quan, Xiahou Dun was ordered to station at Juchao (居巢; in present-day Chaohu, Anhui) and was placed in command of 26 juns ().[b] As a reward for his contributions in battle, he received a number of performing courtesans to entertain him. The imperial order that came with the reward read: "When Wei Jiang (魏絳) pacified the Rong people, he was only rewarded with gold and riches. Don't you, General, deserve more than him?"[13]

In 219, when Cao Cao was on a journey back from Mobei (摩陂; southeast of present-day Jia County, Henan), he treated Xiahou Dun like a close aide by letting Xiahou ride in the same carriage as him and allowing Xiahou to enter his private quarters. At the time, Emperor Xian had made Cao Cao a vassal king under the title "King of Wei" (魏王) and granted him permission to set up an independent vassal kingdom, which was still nominally under Han imperial control. While many of Cao Cao's subordinates had been appointed to positions in his vassal kingdom, Xiahou Dun still held appointments under the Han central government. Xiahou Dun requested to serve in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom to show his loyalty, but Cao Cao told him, "I heard that the best rulers learn from their subjects while the second best befriend their subjects. Officials are noble men of virtue. Why lower yourself to serve such a small kingdom like Wei?" Xiahou Dun insisted, so Cao Cao appointed him as General of the Vanguard (前將軍).[14] Xiahou Dun then led his men to Shouchun (壽春) and later garrisoned at Zhaoling (召陵).[15]

Around late 219, Xiahou Dun, along with Chen Qun, Huan Jie and others, urged Cao Cao to take the throne from Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun said, "Everyone in the Empire knows that the Han dynasty's lifespan has come to an end and that there are many contenders seeking to replace it. Since ancient times, whoever succeeds in eliminating the people's troubles will win the hearts of the people and become their ruler. As of now, Your Highness has been fighting battles for over 30 years, you've made outstanding achievements and the hearts of the people are with you. You should follow the will of Heaven and the people. What's there to hesitate about?" Cao Cao replied, "'These qualities are displayed in government. This then also constitutes the exercise of government.'[c] If the Mandate of Heaven does belong to me, I'll be like King Wen of Zhou."[d][16]

Cao Cao died in early 220 and passed on his vassal king title to his son, Cao Pi, who was still a nominal subject of Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun was promoted to General-in-Chief (大將軍). He died some months later.[17]

The Cao Man Zhuan (曹瞞傳) and the Shiyu (世語) mentioned that Xiahou Dun once suggested to Cao Cao to eliminate Liu Bei first in order to force Sun Quan to surrender of his own accord, and then follow in the footsteps of the mythological rulers Shun and Yu by making Emperor Xian voluntarily abdicate the throne to him. Cao Cao accepted his proposal. After Cao Cao's death, Xiahou Dun regretted his words and fell sick and died.[18] The historian Sun Sheng dismissed the Shiyu account as nonsense, saying that it did not match what was recorded in the main text of Xiahou Dun's biography in the Sanguozhi – Xiahou Dun felt ashamed of serving under the Han imperial court so he requested to serve in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom.[19]


Facial makeup of Xiahou Dun in the Peking opera Mount Dingjun. The blue base tone is used to reflect his upright and courageous personality.
Facial makeup of Xiahou Dun in the Peking opera Mount Dingjun. The blue base tone is used to reflect his upright and courageous personality.

In late 220, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate the throne in his favour and established the state of Cao Wei, marking the end of the Han dynasty and the start of the Three Kingdoms period.

Cao Pi granted Xiahou Dun the posthumous title "Marquis Zhong" (忠侯), which literally means "loyal marquis". Xiahou Dun's original marquis title, "Marquis of Gao'an District" (高安鄉侯), was inherited by his son, Xiahou Chong (夏侯充). Later, in recognition of Xiahou Dun's past contributions, Cao Pi added 1,000 taxable households to Xiahou Chong's marquisate and made each of Xiahou Dun's seven sons and two grandsons a Secondary Marquis (關內侯).[20]

Xiahou Dun's younger brother, Xiahou Lian (夏侯廉), was also enfeoffed as a marquis. Xiahou Dun's second son, Xiahou Mao, married one of Cao Cao's daughters, Princess Qinghe (清河公主), and held high-ranking positions in the Wei imperial court.[21] Xiahou Dun also had two other sons—Xiahou Zizang (夏侯子臧) and Xiahou Zijiang (夏侯子江).[22]

When Xiahou Chong died, his marquis title was inherited by his son, Xiahou Yu (夏侯廙). Xiahou Yu, in turn, was succeeded by his son Xiahou Shao (夏侯劭).[23] According to the Jin Yang Qiu (晉陽秋), Xiahou Dun did not have any successor after his grandson, Xiahou Zuo (夏侯佐), died in 266.[24]


Although Xiahou Dun was a soldier for most of his life, he was receptive to scholarly arts and even invited notable scholars to his camp to tutor him. He led a frugal and simple lifestyle and used his excess wealth to help the needy. He took from official treasuries (instead of directly from the common people) when he did not have enough money. He also did not own much property.[25]

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Xiahou Dun is featured as a character in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which romanticises the historical events before and during the Three Kingdoms period.

See the following for some fictitious stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms involving Xiahou Dun:

In popular culture

Xiahou Dun is featured as a playable character in Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series, as well as Warriors Orochi, a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. He also appears in all installments of Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy game series.

There is a card based on Xiahou Dun, called "Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed",[26] in the Portal Three Kingdoms set of the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game.

The anime Battle Vixens, Koihime Musō, and Yuyushiki also make references to Xiahou Dun, in which he is known by his Japanese name "Kakōton".

Xiahou Dun also appears as a playable character in Total War: Three Kingdoms, and is prominently featured in the game as a general in the service of Cao Cao.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b Xiahou Dun's death date was recorded in Cao Pi's biography in the Sanguozhi. It stated: "General-in-Chief Xiahou Dun died on the gengwu day in the 4th month of the 1st year of the Yankang era."[1] This date is based on the Chinese calendar and the sexagenary cycle, and corresponds to 13 June 220 in the Gregorian calendar. "Yankang" (延康) was the era name of the last seven months of the reign of Emperor Xian of the Han dynasty before Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate in his favour and established the state of Cao Wei.
  2. ^ A jun was a military unit comprising 12,500 soldiers. However, the number of troops under Xiahou Dun's command might not add up to 325,000 because there was some flexibility in forming a jun.
  3. ^ The first two sentences in Cao Cao's reply to Xiahou Dun were quoted from Chapter 2 of Confucius's Analects.
  4. ^ Ji Chang (King Wen of Zhou) was a vassal lord under King Zhou of the Shang dynasty even though he controlled more territory than the king. After his death, his son Ji Fa (later King Wu of Zhou) overthrew the Shang dynasty, established the Zhou dynasty, and became its first king. Ji Fa posthumously honoured his father as "King Wen of Zhou". When Cao Cao said he preferred to be like King Wen, he was actually hinting that he would not take the throne from Emperor Xian for as long as he lived – just as King Wen of Zhou never replaced King Zhou of Shang – and instead leave the task to his successor – in the same way as how King Wu of Zhou overthrew King Zhou of Shang.


  1. ^ ([延康元年夏四月]庚午,大將軍夏侯惇薨。) Sanguozhi vol. 2.
  2. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 883.
  3. ^ (夏侯惇字元讓,沛國譙人,夏侯嬰之後也。 ... 年十四,就師學,人有辱其師者,惇殺之,由是以烈氣聞。太祖初起,惇常為裨將,從征伐。太祖行奮武將軍,以惇為司馬,別屯白馬,遷折衝校尉,領東郡太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  4. ^ (太祖征陶謙,留惇守濮陽。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  5. ^ (張邈叛迎呂布,太祖家在鄄城,惇輕軍往赴,適與布會,交戰。布退還,遂入濮陽,襲得惇軍輜重。遣將偽降,共執持惇,責以寶貨,惇軍中震恐。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  6. ^ (惇將韓浩乃勒兵屯惇營門,召軍吏諸將,皆案甲當部不得動,諸營乃定。遂詣惇所,叱持質者曰:「汝等凶逆,乃敢執劫大將軍,復欲望生邪!且吾受命討賊,寧能以一將軍之故,而縱汝乎?」因涕泣謂惇曰:「當柰國法何!」促召兵擊持質者。持質者惶遽叩頭,言「我但欲乞資用去耳」!浩數責,皆斬之。惇旣免,太祖聞之,謂浩曰:「卿此可為萬世法。」乃著令,自今已後有持質者,皆當并擊,勿顧質。由是劫質者遂絕。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  7. ^ (太祖自徐州還,惇從征呂布,為流矢所中,傷左目。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  8. ^ (魏略曰:時夏侯淵與惇俱為將軍,軍中號惇為盲夏侯。惇惡之,每照鏡,恚怒,輒撲鏡於地。) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  9. ^ (復領陳留、濟陰太守,加建武將軍,封高安鄉侯。時大旱,蝗蟲起,惇乃斷太壽水作陂,身自負土,率將士勸種稻,民賴其利。轉領河南尹。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  10. ^ (曹公旣破紹,自南擊先主。先主遣麋笁、孫乾與劉表相聞,表自郊迎,以上賔禮待之,益其兵,使屯新野。荊州豪傑歸先主者日益多,表疑其心,陰禦之。使拒夏侯惇、于禁等於博望。乆之,先主設伏兵,一旦自燒屯偽遁,惇等追之,為伏兵所破。) Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  11. ^ (劉表使劉備北侵,至葉,太祖遣典從夏侯惇拒之。備一旦燒屯去,惇率諸軍追擊之,典曰:「賊無故退,疑必有伏。南道窄狹,草木深,不可追也。」惇不聽,與于禁追之,典留守。惇等果入賊伏裏,戰不利,典往救,備望見救至,軍散退。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  12. ^ (太祖平河北,為大將軍後拒。鄴破,遷伏波將軍,領尹如故,使得以便宜從事,不拘科制。 ... 建安十二年,錄惇前後功,增封邑千八百戶,并前二千五百戶。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  13. ^ (二十一年,從征孫權還,使惇都督二十六軍,留居巢。賜伎樂名倡,令曰:「魏絳以和戎之功,猶受金石之樂,況將軍乎!」) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  14. ^ (魏書曰:時諸將皆受魏官號,惇獨漢官,乃上疏自陳不當不臣之禮。太祖曰:「吾聞太上師臣,其次友臣。夫臣者,貴德之人也,區區之魏,而臣足以屈君乎?」惇固請,乃拜為前將軍。) Wei Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  15. ^ (二十四年,太祖軍於摩陂,召惇常與同載,特見親重,出入卧內,諸將莫得比也。拜前將軍, ... 督諸軍還壽春,徙屯召陵。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  16. ^ (魏氏春秋曰:夏侯惇謂王曰:「天下咸知漢祚已盡,異代方起。自古已來,能除民害為百姓所歸者,即民主也。今殿下即戎三十餘年,功德著於黎庶,為天下所依歸,應天順民,復何疑哉!」王曰:「『施於有政,是亦為政』。若天命在吾,吾為周文王矣。」) Wei Shi Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  17. ^ (文帝即王位,拜惇大將軍,數月薨。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  18. ^ (曹瞞傳及世語並云桓階勸王正位,夏侯惇以為宜先滅蜀,蜀亡則吳服,二方旣定,然後遵舜、禹之軌,王從之。及至王薨,惇追恨前言,發病卒。) Cao Man Zhuan and Shiyu annotations in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  19. ^ (孫盛評曰:夏侯惇恥為漢官,求受魏印,桓階方惇,有義直之節;考其傳記,世語為妄矣。) Sun Sheng's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  20. ^ (謚曰忠侯。子充嗣。帝追思惇功,欲使子孫畢侯,分惇邑千戶,賜惇七子二孫爵皆關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  21. ^ (惇弟廉及子楙素自封列侯。初,太祖以女妻楙,即清河公主也。楙歷位侍中尚書、安西鎮東將軍,假節。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  22. ^ (魏略曰:楙字子林,惇中子也。 ... 乃發詔推問為公主作表者,果其羣弟子臧、子江所構也。) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  23. ^ (充薨,子廙嗣。廙薨,子劭嗣。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  24. ^ (晉陽秋曰:泰始二年,高安鄉侯夏侯佐卒,惇之孫也,嗣絕。詔曰:「惇,魏之元功,勳書竹帛。昔庭堅不祀,猶或悼之,況朕受禪於魏,而可以忘其功臣哉!宜擇惇近屬紹封之。」) Jin Yang Qiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  25. ^ (惇雖在軍旅,親迎師受業。性清儉,有餘財輒以分施,不足資之於官,不治產業。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  26. ^ Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed (Portal Three Kingdoms) - Gatherer - Magic: The Gathering
  27. ^ "TOTAL WAR: THREE KINGDOMS WARLORD LEGENDS – CAO CAO". Total War. 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2020-07-12.