Gan Ning was born in Linjiang in 175, and grew up to be an outlaw and pirate. With his merry band of pirates, he terrorized the surrounding waterways of the region. By the time he reached adulthood, he had joined Huang Zu and fought in the first battle against Sun Quan, killing Ling Cao in the process. By the second battle, he had defected to Sun Quan and given the title of general. Thanks to his expertise in light, quick naval warfare, Sun Quan’s forces were able to take the city of Jiangxia, and Gan Ning captured Huang Zu as he fled.
His actions against Sun Quan did not go entirely without reprieve, for Ling Tong nursed a grudge against him. The fights that would break out eventually led to Sun Quan reassigning Gan Ning to take him away to Xiakou and promoting Ling Tong. Fights would later erupt between the two again, forcing both Sun Quan and Lu Meng to intervene.
Gan Ning crops up in history again at the battle of Chi Bi, as one of the Wu officers who pretended to turn traitor and join Cao Cao. Once in Cao Cao’s camp, he killed several officers and put an end to Cao Cao’s much needed reinforcements. He fought in the battle of He Fei and later again in defense of Sun Quan at Ruxu, where he triumphed over Cao Cao’s much superior forces in great style without losing a single man. This impressed Sun Quan so much that he compared Gan Ning to the legendary Wei officer, Zhang Liao.
He was able to put the enmity between him and Ling Tong to rest by saving him from a fatal arrow. The two became close friends until Gan Ning’s death in 218 at the battle of Yi Ling.