Title: The Black Mountain Bandits
Short Title: Heishan Bandits
Original Author: Qu Hui
Keywords: bandits, black mountain bandits, heishan bandits, poison yu, zhang yan
Description: Article detailing the rise and fall of the Heishan, or Black Mountain, Bandits, one of the most powerful bandit groups in Han China.
The Black Mountain Bandits first came to be in 185, when Zhang Yan (Flying Swallow Yan) formed a bandit group. He combined forces with one Ox-horn Zhang to attack Yingtao, but Ox-horn was shot and killed. Before he died, Ox-horn ordered his followers to join with Zhang Yan. Soon after, many bandits and robbers came to join him, and eventually his forces reached a million men; thus, the Black Mountain Bandits were born. They were able to attack all commentaries north of the Yellow River unimpeded by the Han Court.
However, Zhang Yan would surrender to the Imperial Court. He was given the title General of the Gentlemen of the Household Who Pacifies Disorder and ordered to manage the affairs of the hills and valleys north of the Yellow River. Not all of the bandit leaders would join Yan, and in 191 Poison Yu, Bo Rao, Sui Gu and their followers began to plunder Dong commandery. Wang Gong, Grand Administrator of Dong, could not hold out. Cao Cao would lead troops into Dong and defeat Bo Rao at Puyang. Later, the Black Mountain Bandits would attempt to ally with a group of Yellow Turbans at Bohai. Gongsun Zan would intercept the Turbans and deal a severe blow to the bandits, killing tens of thousands of men.
In 192, Poison Yu would again attack Dong, but was defeated by Cao and fled. A year later, the Heishan Bandits allied with Yuan Shu and Yufuluo of Xiongnu to oppose Cao Cao at Fengqiu. However, they were defeated and Yuan Shu was forced to flee to Shouchun.
In the third month of 193, Poison Yu and his men, aided by rebellious men of Wei commandery, assaulted Ye with tens of thousands of men. They stormed the city and killed the Grand Administrator. Yuan Shao, who had controlled Ye, encamped at Chiqiu; he would later regain the city, driving off Poison Yu to Luchang Hills in Chaoge. After a five day siege, Yuan Shao would defeat and kill Yu, along with over ten thousand bandits.
In 197, Gongsun Zan would ally with the Heishan Bandits to fight Yuan Shao. He planned to attack Ji, at Yuan Shao’s rear, with the help of the bandits. However, Zan would later decide against this plan, fearing that he would be destroyed if he left his fortifications.
End of the Heishan Bandits (199-205)
Zhang Yan would join up again with Gongsun in 199, bringing a hundred thousand men to relieve Zan’s position. Despite this, Zan would be defeated and killed by Shao’s men. With Gongsun Zan’s defeat, Zhang Yan would retreat to Changshan. In 204, Zhang Yan would ally with Cao Cao, and was made general who pacifies the north. Later, in 205, Zhang Yan would formally surrender to Cao Cao, along with one hundred thousand of his followers. Yan was appointed Marquis of Anguo by Cao.
Base of Power
The Black Mountain Bandits’ main base of power was the eastern Taiheng Mountains. Their influence varied from year to year; in the beginning, they were based in Taiheng. After Zhang Yan surrendered to the imperial court, they would spread all throughout the area north of the Yellow River. Poison Yu would attempt to extend their power base to Dong, but he would be defeated by Cao. While aiding Gongsun Zan, Zhang Yan was based in Changshan.
Notable Members and Info on Nicknames
One of the most notable members of the Black Mountain Bandits was it’s founder, Zhang Yan. Originally called Flying Swallow Yan, he would change his surname to Zhang in honor of his ally Ox-horn Zhang. Another notable member was Poison Yu, who attempted to expand the Heishan Bandits’ sphere of influence. Other members include Yu Digen, White Horse Zhang, Liu Shi, Zuo with the Eighty-foot Moustache, Grand Design to Pacify Han, Director of Retainers Who Scales the City Wall, Lord of Thunder, Floating Clouds, White Sparrow, Phoenix Yang, Poison Yu, Five Deer, Big-eyes Li, Bo Rao, Sui Gu and Dry Grub. Most of the leaders of the Black Mountain Bandits have nicknames, and thus their actual names have been lost to history.
Sima Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.
Rafe de Crespingy. To Establish Peace.