Xun You (Gongda)
Xun You was the cousin of the famous minister Xun Yu and a member of the extremely distinguished Xun family of Yingchuan.
Xun You was said to be a very quiet man, but also extremely wise and sensible. When he disapproved of a proposal, he would fight against it until it was finally dropped. When he became one of Cao Cao’s advisers, he would make plans alone with Cao Cao and never discuss them in the open. It is said that not even Xun You’s sons and nephews were informed of his plans. In spite of the high position he later held, Xun You was humble and frugal. He was not concerned with appearances and lived quietly, keeping to himself.
In 189, He Jin – brother of the Empress Dowager He and uncle to Emperor Shao (Liu Bian) – controlled the affairs of the court as Grand General [da jiangjun] and was vying for power against the eunuch Jian Shi, who had sought to enthrone Liu Xie (later Emperor Xian) instead of Liu Bian. To aid him in his struggle for power, He Jin recruited Xun You and others as advisers. Xun You was appointed as Gentleman in Attendance of the Yellow Gates. While the post was technically a low-standing position, this made Xun You one of the few officials entitled to enter the palace, helping to secure He Jin's command over royal affairs.
Eventually, the conflict between He Jin an Jian Shi came to a head and He Jin executed Jian Shi. After this, He Jin came into conflict with the Dong family. Grand Empress Dowager Dong had been the mother of the recently-deceased Emperor Ling. She had raised Liu Xie had desired to enthrone him instead of Liu Bian. The Grand Empress Dowager was deported to her home estate and died under suspicious circumstances only a month later. Her relative, Dong Zhong, held the position of General of the Agile Cavalry. He Jin arrested Dong Zhong and stripped him of his authority. Dong Zhong also died under suspicious circumstances.
Although Jian Shi was dead, He Jin feared that the other eunuchs – as confidants of the emperor – would be a threat to his power. Some officials, most notably Yuan Shao – urged him to exterminate them. He Jin asked the Empress Dowager to dismiss the eunuchs but she refused. He Jin's partisans suggested summoning military leaders from across the company to the capital in order to protest against the eunuchs. They hoped that the show of support would change the Empress Dowager's mind – or that the military force behind it would intimidate her. Though some officials advised against this, He Jin approved of the plan.
One of the leaders He Jin called was Dong Zhuo. Though Dong Zhuo had achieved much success as a general, he was known to disregard the orders of the court and flaunt his power. As Dong Zhuo's army drew closer, He Jin began to have second thoughts about including him and kept him from entering the capital.
He Jin went to speak with Empress Dowager He once more. After the meeting, he was killed by the eunuchs and chaos erupted. Yuan Shao massacred the eunuchs while Yuan Shu set fires in the city. A group of eunuchs fled with Emperor Shao and Liu Xie. They were pursued by Lu Zhi and Min Gong, who caught up with them at the Yellow River. Lu Zhi and Min Gong rescued the imperial family and escorted them back to Luoyang.
In the chaos, Dong Zhuo moved in with his army and took control. He ruled through force, killing those who opposed him and issuing orders through the emperor. Though a few leaders rose to challenge him, none succeeded in breaking his power over the imperial court.
In 192, Xun You, along with two men named Zheng Tai and Chong Ji, made plans to assassinate Dong Zhuo. They were discovered and Xun You was arrested while Zheng Tai fled to Yuan Shu. Fortunately for Xun You, Dong Zhuo was subsequently assassinated by Lü Bu and Wang Yun, so Xun You was released from prison.
Som time after this, Xun You sought to hold office in Shu county (the capital county of Lujiang commandery, Yang province). However, he ultimately did not take the appointment and sought refuge in Jing province.
By 196, Cao Cao had come into power as the guardian of Emperor Xian (formerly Liu Xie). Xun Yu – Xun You's cousin – was a chief adviser to Cao Cao and recommended Xun You as an adviser. Cao Cao summoned Xun You and made him one of the Masters of Writing [shangshu]. Cao Cao was very impressed with his abilities and also appointed him Master of the Army. It is assumed that this was a position on the general staff, perhaps with responsibility for organizing and disciplining the soldiers in addition to advising the commander (in this case Cao Cao).
By 197, Cao Cao had spent some time at war with the warlord Zhang Xiu, who relied on Liu Biao for support. Xun You advised Cao Cao that sooner or later, Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao would have a falling out of which Cao Cao could take advantage. On Xun You's advice, Cao Cao held back from large-scale assaults, electing to besiege Zhang Xiu at Rang instead of outright attacking him. Because Cao Cao was forced to retreat from the siege early when Yuan Shao began plotting to attack the capital, the value of Xun You's advice is unclear.
Later that year, Lü Bu allied with the false emperor Yuan Shu, so Cao Cao wanted to attack him. Many officials argued against it, citing that Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao were still a threat. Xun You encouraged Cao Cao to attack Lü Bu, wagering that it was safe to do so because Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao had recently suffered a heavy defeat at Cao Cao's hands. Cao Cao acted on Xun You's advice and defeated Lü Bu's army in many engagements, driving Lü to seek refuge at his capital of Xiapi. Cao Cao thought of abandoning the campaign then, but Xun You and Guo Jia urged him to continue the siege. Ultimately, the campaign proved successful. Lü Bu and many of his officers surrendered.
After defeating Lü Bu, Cao Cao came into conflict with Yuan Shao. In 200, Yuan Shao sent his general Yan Liang to besiege Boma, the stronghold of Liu Yan, Grand Administrator of Dong commandery. Cao Cao rode to Boma to relieve Liu Yan. Because Yuan Shao's army was very large, Xun You suggested sending a decoy to lure the main body away so that Cao Cao could arrive at Boma and take Yang Liang by surprise. This strategy was a complete success and Yang Liang was killed in the fighting. Xun You further helped Cao Cao organize and execute an ambush against Yuan Shao's forces at Yan Crossing that killed one of his generals and caused others to flee.
Cao Cao met Yuan Shao's army in open battle at Guandu, where Xun You serve as a chief adviser. On Xun You's advice, Cao Cao sent the general Xu Huang to assault a baggage train led by Yuan Shao's officer Han Meng. The raid was successful, depriving Yuan Shao of a large portion of his supplies. Later, Cao Cao went to assault Yuan Shao's primary supply base at Wuchao and Xun You defended the main camp along with Cao Hong. They repelled an attack by Zhang He. When Zhang He desired to defect, Xun You convinced Cao Hong to accept him.
Yuan Shao lost most of his influence after the failed campaign and died two years later. His sons, Yuan Shang and Yuan Tan, fought with each other over succession. Yuan Shang achieved the most early success and drove Yuan Tan to seek refuge in Pingyuan. In 203, Yuan Tan sent Xin Pi to ally with Cao Cao. Xun You convinced Cao Cao to side with Yuan Tan. Cao Cao subsequently brought his army north to Liyang, threatening Yuan Shang. In response Yuan Shang broke off the siege of Pingyuan and retreated to Ye.
In spring of 204, Yuan Shang resumed the siege of Pingyuan. Cao Cao, in turn, advanced to besiege Ye. Cao Cao began the siege in the second month of 204. In the seventh, Yuan Shang arrived to reinforce the city. Cao Cao drove Yuan Shang off and in despair, officers within Ye revolted against their commander, Shen Pei, and surrendered the city to Cao Cao. This broke Yuan Shang’s base of power. While Cao Cao besieged Ye, Yuan Tan set about absorbing some of Yuan Shang’s territory – instead of helping Cao Cao with the siege. As a result, Cao Cao turned his army against Yuan Tan after conquering Ye. He drove Yuan Tan out of Pingyuan and forced him to flee to Nanpi. At the start of 205 Cao Cao took Nanpi and killed Yuan Tan. Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang were later driven out of their territory by their own soldiers and were forced to seek the protection of the Wuhuan tribes, outside of China. In 207, Cao Cao led an attack against the Wuhuan and utterly crushed them. Yuan Shang fled to Gongsun Kang of Liaodong, who promptly executed him and sent his head to Cao Cao. This secured Cao Cao’s control over north and central China.
In 207, Cao Cao recommended many of his officers and administrators for enfeoffment. He also tried to increase Xun Yu’s domain and grant him permission to build an estate that was as grand as those of the Three Excellencies. Xun Yu sent Xun You to make it clear to Cao Cao that Xun Yu would refuse these accolades.
Xun You served as a civil administrator for some time after that. In 213, Cao Cao was made Duke of Wei. Sun Sheng’s Chronicles of Wei [weishi chunqiu] lists Xun You as the Prefect of the Masters of Writing [shangshu ling] for the state.Rafe de Cresigny comments that the officials of the Wei ducal state are poorly recorded in official histories gives the whole business the air of a propaganda exercise rather than a practical arrangement. With these appointments, Cao Cao was rewarding longtime supporters and creating a copy of the central government within his own state, something that would make it easy for Wei to translate from a ducal state to the formal government.
Xun You passed away in 214 while serving as Prefect of the Masters of Writing in Wei.
Though quiet, Xun You was by no means timid. He personally made plans to assassinate Dong Zhuo. He proved to be a level-headed and clever adviser who always gave sound advice. Due to his quiet nature and his preference for discussing matters privately, his exact contributions are unknown, but Cao Cao held him in the same esteem as his famous cousin Xun Yu. Xun You was certainly one of Cao Cao’s great military advisers.
The SGZ biography of Xun Yu lists the many distinguished members of the Xun family.
 Jian’an 19, W
 From Xun Yu’s sanguozhi biography.
 Zhongping 6, F
 Zhongping 6, G
Analysis taken from de Crespigny's note 12 of Zhongping 6
 Zhongping 6, H
Zhongping 6, A
 Zhongping 6, I
 Zhongping 6, K
 Zhongping 6, M
 Zhongping 6, R
 Zhongping 6, S
 Chuping 3, L
 de Crespigny's note 38 of Jian'an 1
 Jian'an 1, X
 de Crespigny's note 41 of Jian'an 1
 Jian'an 3, B
 Jian'an 3, E
 Jian'an 3, H
 Jian'an 3, M
 Jian'an 5, H
 Jian'an 5, I
 Jian'an 5, K
 Jian'an 5, AA
 Jian’an 8, D
 Jian'an 8, E
 Jian’an 8, F
 Jian’an 9, A
 Jian’an 9, D
 Jian’an 9, F
 Jian’an 9, N
 Jian’an 10, A
 Jian’an 10, H
 Jian’an 12, E
 Jian’an 12, F
 Jian’an 12, A
 During the Later Han, the nobility was essentially restricted to two different ranks: Marquis [tinghou] and Prince [wang]. Marquis received estates that were generally no larger than a single county and were often smaller than that. Particularly accomplished marquis could hold estates that covered multiple counties. Princes, by contrast, were members of the imperial family. Their enfeoffment was an entire commandery, called a state [guo]. A prince had nothing to do with the administration of his state and it was operated just like any other commandery. However, the officials of a state held titles like those of the top administrators in the capital. Instead of a Grand Administrator [taishou], a state was headed by a chancellor [xiang]. Regarding the rank of duke: it was a special honor that was rarely given and indicated rank between that of a marquis and a prince. Cao Cao’s enfeoffment was Wei commandery, which then became Wei state. Its administration was altered to reflect that of the capital.
 Jian’an 17, K
 Jian’an 18, M
 de Crespigny’s note 38 of Jian’an 18.
 Jian’an 19, W