Lu Xun rose up from a tragic background to be one of the greatest strategists of his era. He was born in 183 AD and worked in the Wu military in a time when there were still long time soldiers and generals who were reluctant to embrace the power of tactics. However, some of the most interesting aspects of his past rise up from his youth. When he was only eight years old, both of his parents died suddenly. The circumstances are not completely clear, but some sources indicate that they perished in a fire. From there, he was sent to live with his granduncle, Lu Kang, who was very old and already had several children.
Once he grew and became the head of the family after Lu Kang’s death, his early positions were humble ones. He served Sun Quan, who at the time, was only a warlord and not yet emperor. Lu Xun was a minor official working in Sun Quan’s office, but he did rise through the ranks, even in these primarily administrative positions. He showed his intelligence and brilliance by becoming a Foreman Clerk in the East and West Bureaus, then not long after, he was promoted to Agricultural Commandant of Haichang. These positions may not sound exciting, but they show the excellence of his work ethic very clearly.
Lu Xun showed that he was concerned with the well being of the common citizens by opening up granaries and distributing food to the people of Haichang. Not only did he ensure that his people were well fed, he also assisted with defending the people of Wu from an early age. His first recorded military expedition of sorts happened when a group of bandits in the Jiangdong territories became too troublesome for the people of the villages to handle. They bandit forces were growing and starting to threaten Sun Quan’s rule, as their numbers were strangely vast and their equipment was much more elaborate than one would expect from ordinary bandits. This was because these bandits were secretly being funded by Cao Cao, leader of the enemy nation Wei.
Nevertheless, Lu Xun rose to the occasion. He rallied a volunteer army much like Sun Ce did in the early days of Wu and managed to gather a group of over two thousand men. As he continued to combat the bandits in different regions, he was finally given a title as a man of the military. He was dubbed the Colonel Who Establishes Might and put in control of a garrison at Lipu.
Lu Xun married one of Sun Ce’s daughters, who will be referred to as Lady Sun here. Some legends about the time period say that Lu Xun and Lady Sun eloped, something that was far from the norm for a young woman of her status.
The conflict in Jing Province was a complicated and dangerous combination of agreements gone sour, family ties being knotted, and alliances being torn asunder. When Wu gave land to Liu Bei, it was with an agreement that once Liu Bei had land of his own, he would return the land that Wu was lending to him. Yet even after Liu Bei secured a very large portion of land himself, he broke the agreement and would not return the borrowed deed.
Being arrogant, the forces of Shu did not expect Wu to attack and take back what was rightfully theirs. Lu Xun was tactical in every way when he approached the impending battle of Jing Province. In an important strategical move, he wrote to Guan Yu, one of Shu’s most infamous and powerful generals. By writing these letters, Guan Yu was completely unprepared for when Wu struck.
Not only was Lu Xun a brilliant strategist, he showed many of his other talents through the issues he faced in the battles he is known best for leading. He showed his bravery by leading from the vanguard, tackling the front lines. Many tacticians will seek safety by lingered toward the back of the army’s forces, but Lu Xun displayed his leadership skills by leading his men from the front.
Additionally, he was still rather young when he rose to high ranks of command, which made many of the older officers who had been serving Wu for a long time rather unhappy to be following the orders of someone so much younger and less experienced than them. However, Lu Xun took these issues of disobedience with grace and understood why the older officers were behaving in this manner. He did not report them to Sun Quan and when the emperor found out of this disobedience, he summoned Lu Xun to question him about it. Very tactfully, Lu Xun explained why he did not mention it, and Sun Quan was suitably impressed.
Some sources, such as the historic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, credit Lu Xun as having taken part in the historic battle of Chi Bi. However, as this novel is romanticized, not everything in it is factual, though it is treated as such in Chinese culture.
After his many successes, Lu Xun briefly rose to the rank of Chancellor, but by this point, Sun Quan had lost some of the stability that allowed him to govern Wu. Over an issue of succession, Lu Xun defended the right of Sun He to inherit the throne, which infuriated Sun Quan enough to demote him. Lu Xun is said to have died in anger and sadness from the rebuke of the emperor he had served so faithfully. He died in 245.