Xún Yōu, appellation Gōngdá, was [Xún] Yù’s second cousin’s son. His grandfather Tán was Administrator of Guǎnglíng. (1)
- (1) Xúnshì Jiāzhuàn states: [Xún] Tán appellation Yuànzhì. His elder brother was [Xún] Yù 昱 styled Bóxiū.
- Zhāng Fán’s Hànjì says [Xún] Yù 昱 and [Xún] Tán both were distinguished and talented and had unique ability. [Xún] Yù 昱 with Lǐ Yīng, Wáng Chàng, Dù Mì, and others were called the Eight Talents, and his rank reached Chancellor of Pèi. Yōu’s father [Xún] Yí was a Provincial Advisor. [Xún] Yí and [Xún] Yù 彧 were second cousins.
Yōu was orphaned when young. When Tán died, his former clerk Zhāng Quán asked to guard his tomb. Yōu was aged thirteen, doubted him, and said to his father’s younger brother [Xún] Qú: “This clerk has an unusual countenance, and is probably planning some treachery.” [Xún] Qú in the night woke and interrogated him, and indeed found he had killed someone and was fleeing in exile. From this people saw [Xún Yōu] was special. (2)
- Wèishū states: When Yōu was aged seven to eight years, [Xún] Qú became very intoxicated and accidentally injured Yōu’s ear. When Yōu went out and played, he hid it so Qú would not be discovered. Later Qú heard of this, and so was astonished he was early matured like this.
- Xúnshì Jiāzhuàn states: [Xún] Qú’s son [Xún] Qí styled Bóqí and his cousin’s father [Xún] Yīn were both very famous. [Xún] Qí and Kǒng Róng discussed corporal punishments, and [Xún] Yīn and Kǒng Róng discussed the merits and faults of sages, and together they compiled works with Róng. Qí’s rank reached Administrator of Jìyīn. Yīn was later summoned as enlightened and reached Libationer to the Chancellor.
When Hé Jìn controlled the government , he summoned the famed scholars within the Seas, Yōu and others, over twenty men. Yōu arrived and was appointed Yellow Gate Attendant Cadet.
During the disorder of Dǒng Zhuó, soldiers east of the Passes rose up, and Zhuó moved the capital to Cháng’ān. Yōu with Consultants Zhèng Tài and Hé Yóng, Palace Attendant Zhǒng Jí, Yuè Cavalry Colonel Wǔ Qióng, and others plotted together and said: “Dǒng Zhuó is as brutal as Jié and Zhòu and all the realm despises him. Though he has gathered strong troops, in truth he is a common fellow and that is all. Now we should assassinate him to appease the common people, then occupy the Xiáo and Hán in assisting the ruler’s mandate, and so command the realm. This was how Huán and Wén rose up.”
Before the matter was settled the plot was discovered, and [Hé] Yóng and [Xún] Yōu were arrested and placed in prison. Yóng in fear killed himself. (3) Yōu spoke and ate and drank calmly as before, and it so happened that Zhuó died and so he escaped. (4)
- (3) Zhāng Fán’s Hànjì states: [Hé] Yóng appellation Bóqiú. When younger he with Guō Tài and Jiǎ Biāo and others studied abroad in Luòyáng. Tài and the others were alike in manner and likes. Yóng was well known at the Grand Academy. At the time the Interior Court’s famed ministers Grand Tutor Chén Fán, Director of Retainers Lǐ Yīng and others were all deeply involved with them. When the faction proscription began, Yóng’s name was also involved, so he changed his name and surname and fled to hide in Rǔnán, and informed everyone of the cruelty. Yóng impressed Tàizǔ and knew Xún Yù, Yuán Shào admired him, and he was a friend to exiles. At the time many of the scholar officials of the realm suffered proscription. Yóng every year repeatedly secretly went to Luòyáng and made plans with Shào, and saved many unfortunate scholars from disaster. But Yuán Shù was also brave and chivalrous, and competed with Shào for fame. Yóng never supported Shù, and Shù deeply hated him.
- Hànmò Míngshì Lù states: Shù once addressed a seat crowd and listed Yóng’s three faults: “Wáng Démí was a prominent elder with foresight, his fame and virtue high and brilliant, yet Bóqiú slighted him. This was his first fault. Xǔ Zǐyuàn was a vicious depraved man of lecherous unpure nature, yet Bóqiú was close with him. This was his second fault. Guō and Jiǎ were cold and poor and had no wealth while Bóqiú lived with fat horses and fine furs, and went out in luxury on the roads. This was his third fault.” Táo Qiūhóng said: “Wáng Démí was a great worthy but short in settling affairs on time. Though Xǔ Zǐyuàn was impure he was not afraid when faced with danger. Bóqiú used Démí as his model in raising goodness and Zǐyuàn as his example in handing difficulties. Moreover, Bóqiú once personally wielded blade to avenge Yú Wěigāo, raising his reputation for justice. Though you complain, your family’s accumulated wealth is enormous, with a hundred teams of spotted horses, and yet you criticize Bóqiú’s lean oxen and tired horses that stop on the sides of the road. This is baring your breast and inviting the enemy’s blade.” Shù was indignant. Later he met with Zōng Chéng of Nányáng at Quēxià. Shù was furious and said: “Who is this Bóqiú? He is of evil nature. I will kill him!” Chéng said: “Who is a good gentleman? If you sir are good to him, this will spread your honored name across the realm.” Shù therefore stopped. Later the proscription was ended, and [Hé Yóng] was recruited to the office of the Excellency of Works. Every time the officials of the three offices gathered for a conference, Yóng had many plans, but the commentators all believed they could not be completed. After he was transferred to the Northern Army, Dǒng Zhuó appointed him as Chief Clerk. Later Xún Yù became Director of the Secretariat, and sent an envoy to recover the coffin of his father’s younger brother Excellency of Works Shuǎng. The envoy also collected Yóng’s body, and buried it beside Shuǎng’s tomb.
- (4) Wèishū says that Yōu sent someone to speak with Zhuó and so escaped. This is in contradiction.
He resigned his office and returned home, but was again enlisted by the government, recommended to high rank, and appointed Chancellor of Rènchéng, but did not go to that post. Yōu, because the lands of Shǔ Hàn were rugged and defensive and the people prosperous, requested to be Administrator of Shǔ-jùn, but the roads were cut off, so he stopped at Jīngzhōu.
When Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] welcomed Heaven’s Son to move the capital to Xǔ , he sent a letter to Yōu: “Presently the entire realm is in chaos, and it is the time for wise scholars to labor with their minds. Yet you plan to watch and wait for changes while in Shǔ Hàn. Have you not waited enough?” Therefore he recruited Yōu as Administrator of Rǔnán, and he later entered Court in the Secretariat.
Tàizǔ had often heard of Yōu’s reputation, spoke with him and was greatly pleased, said to Xún Yù and Zhōng Yáo: “Gōngdá is no ordinary man. Now that I have him to make plans, what is there to worry about in the world?” and appointed him Master of the Army.
Jiàn’ān third year  he followed in the campaign against Zhāng Xiù. Yōu said to Tàizǔ: “Xiù and Liú Biǎo rely on each other to be strong, but Xiù for his traveling army relies on Biǎo for food. Biǎo will not be able to provide, and they will certainly separate. It is not as good as holding the army back to wait for this, and then we can entice them. If we press them, they will certainly rescue one another.”
Tàizǔ would not follow this, and advanced the army to Ráng, and fought. Xiù was desperate, and Biǎo indeed rescued him. The army was unsuccessful. Tàizǔ said to Yōu: “Because I did not use your advice it came to this.” Then he set up the army in ambush and returned to battle and greatly defeated them.
That year , Tàizǔ went from Wǎn to attack Lǚ Bù. (1) He arrived at Xiàpī. Bù was defeated and retreated to defend. [Tàizǔ] attacked [Lǚ Bù] but could not dislodge him, and after many battles the troops were weary. Tàizǔ wished to withdraw.
- (1) Wèishū states: Someone commented that Biǎo and Xiù were to the rear, so returning to attack Lǚ Bù would certainly be dangerous. Yōu believed: “Biǎo and Xiù are newly defeated, and do not dare move. Bù is violent and ferocious, and also allied with Yuán Shù. If he is given free reign among the Huái and Sì rivers, powerful figures will certainly join him. Now he has just rebelled and his army is not yet united in will. If we go we can destroy him.” Tàizǔ said: “Excellent.” At that time Bù had defeated Liú Bèi while Zāng Bà and others had allied with him.
Yōu and Guō Jiā explained: “Lǚ Bù is valiant but lacks planning. Now in three battles he has all been defeated, and his spirit is broken. The commander of the army is the leader, and when the leader is broken then the army has no reason to exert itself. Chén Gōng is wise but slow. Now when Bù’s spirt has not returned and Gōng has not yet made a plan, we must advance quickly and attack them, and Bù can be taken.”
Then they redirected the Yí and Sì rivers to the city, the city was flooded, and they captured Bù alive.
Later he followed in rescuing Liú Yán at Báimǎ, and with Yōu’s plan they beheaded Yán Liáng, as told in Wǔjì [SGZ 1]. As Tàizǔ withdrew from Báimǎ, he sent heavy supply wagons west along the [Yellow] River. Yuán Shào crossed the river and pursued, and the soldiers caught up to Tàizǔ.
All the officers were afraid, and said Tàizǔ should return and defend the camp. Yōu said: “This is so that the enemy can be taken. How can we leave?” Tàizǔ looked at Yōu and laughed.
They sent out the heavy wagons to lure out the rebels, and the rebels all rushed ahead, breaking formation. Then with infantry and cavalry [Tàizǔ] attacked, and completely defeated [the rebels], beheading their cavalry commander Wén Chǒu. Tàizǔ and Yuán Shào faced one another at Guāndù. The army’s food supplies were almost exhausted. Yōu said to Tàizǔ: “Shào’s transport carts arrive morning and night. The commander Hán Xún is sharp but overconfident. He can be attacked and defeated.” (1)
- (1) Your servant Sōngzhī comments: In various documents Hán Xún is also called Hán Měng and Hán Ruò. It is unclear which is correct.
Tàizǔ said: “Who can be sent?”
Yōu said: “Xú Huǎng can.”
Therefore they sent Huǎng and Shǐ Huàn to intercept them, drove them away, and burned their supply carts. At that time Xǔ Yōu came to surrender, and said that Shào had sent Chúnyú Qióng and others to command over ten thousand troops to transport grain, that the officers were arrogant and the troops lazy, and they could be intercepted. Everyone was doubtful. Only Yōu and Jiǎ Xǔ urged Tàizǔ to attack. Tàizǔ therefore left Yōu and Cáo Hóng to defend. Tàizǔ personally commanded the attack and defeated them, beheading Qióng and the others. Shào’s officers Zhāng Hé and Gāo Lǎn burned their siege engines and surrendered, and Shào then abandoned his army and fled.
When [Zhāng] Hé came, Hóng was suspicious and did not dare accept them. Yōu said to Hóng: “Hé’s plans were not used so he was angry and came. What is there to doubt?” Therefore they accepted the surrenders.
Seventh year  he followed in attacking Yuán Tán and Shàng at Líyáng. The next year  Tàizǔ turned to attack Liú Biǎo, and Tán and Shàng fought over Jìzhōu. Tán sent Xīn Pí to ask to surrender [to Tàizǔ] and request help. Tàizǔ was about to accept but then asked his subordinates. Many of the subordinates believed that Liú [Biǎo] was strong and should be settled first, while Tán and Shàng were not enough to be worried about.
Yōu said: “While the realm faces many affairs, Liú Biǎo sits and defends between the Jiāng and Hàn, and it can be seen that he has no plans elsewhere. The Yuán clan occupies the lands of four provinces with a hundred thousand soldiers. Shào by his generosity gained support, and if his two sons can make peace and maintain his legacy, then they the realm will not be easily settled. Now the brothers have turned on each other, and the two sides will not join forces. If they had stayed united they would be powerful, so powerful they would be difficult to deal with. If we take advantage of their discord, the realm can be settled. This opportunity cannot be missed.”
Tàizǔ said: “Agreed.” Therefore he permitted a marriage alliance with Tán and then returned to attack Shàng.
After this Tán rebelled. He followed in beheading Tán at Nánpí.
After Jìzhōu was pacified, Tàizǔ memorialized to give fief to Yōu: “Master of the Army Xún Yōu from the beginning was a great assistant and minister. No campaigns were unsuccessful and from beginning to end all enemies were conquered, all because of Yōu’s plans.” Therefore he was given fief as Marquis of Língshù precinct.
Twelfth year , an order was sent down commenting on merits and bestowing fiefs. Tàizǔ said: “In upright loyalty and confidential planning, supporting both the inside and out, [Xún Yù] Wénruò is this. [Xún Yōu] Gōngdá is next.” His fief was increased by 400, adding to the previous to a total of 700 households. (1)
- Wèishū states: When Tàizǔ returned from Liǔchéng, he passed Yōu’s residence and narrated in praise Yōu’s plans and meritorious labors and achievements from beginning to end, saying: “Now the realm is almost settled, and I wish to honor the services of our worthy scholar officials. In the past Gāozǔ sent Zhāng Zǐfáng to choose his own fief of thirty thousand households. Now I also wish your honor to select your own fief.”
He was transferred to Central Army Master. When the Wèi state was first established  he was appointed Director of the Secretariat [of Wèi].
Yōu maintained confidentiality in his planning. When he followed Tàizǔ on campaign, he always made plans in the tents. At the time no one, not even his sons and younger brothers, knew what he had said. (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: Yōu’s father’s sister’s son Xīn Tāo once asked Yōu to speak of how Tàizǔ had captured Jìzhōu. Yōu said: “An aide was sent by Yuán Tán to ask to surrender. The Ruling Army itself went to pacify him. What would I know?” After this, Tāo and everyone else did not dare ask about military and state affairs.
Tàizǔ always praised him: “Gōngdá is outwardly simple but inwardly brilliant, outwardly timid but inwardly valiant, outwardly weak but inwardly strong. He does not flaunt his good abilities and never boasts of his toils. His wisdom can be reached, but his modesty cannot. Even Yán-zǐ and Níng Wǔ cannot surpass him.”
When Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] was at the Eastern Palace [as a son and heir], Tàizǔ said to him: “Xún Gōngdá is a paragon to all men. You must respect him with the highest courtesy.” When Yōu was ill, The heir [Wén-dì] inquired as to his health, and personally bowed at his bedside. He received special honor in this way.
Yōu was friends with Zhōng Yáo. Yáo said: “Whenever I must do something, I think over it again and again, until I believe there is nothing left to be done. But then I ask Gōngdá, and then he always points out something that I had missed.”
Gōngdá from beginning to end created twelve unusual strategies that only Yáo knew about. Yáo was compiling them together for publication but before it was finished he died, and so it was lost to later generations. (2)
- (2) Your servant Sōngzhī comments: Zhōng Yáo died sixteen years after Yōu. What was so difficult about compiling Yōu’s unusual strategies? And when he was past eighty, did not he not fear that the plans Yōu had made while on campaign would not be passed down to later generations? What a pity!
Yōu accompanied the campaign against Sūn Quán  and died on the road. Whenever Tàizǔ spoke of this he would weep. (3)
- (3) Wèishū states: At the time of Jiàn’ān nineteenth year , Yōu was aged fifty-eight. One can can calculate he was older than Yù by six years.
- Wèishū records Tàizǔ‘s order: “I and Xún Gōngdá traveled together for over twenty years, and never once did he err.”
- He also said: “Xún Gōngdá is a true sage, the sort meant by the saying: ‘Kindhearted and moderate in all ways.’ Kǒng-zǐ said: ‘Yàn Píngzhòng was good to other men and ever respectful.’ Gōngdá was that sort of man.“
- Fùzǐ states:
- Question: Who were the greatest and most worthy gentleman of recent times?
- Answer: Director Xún [Yù] was benevolent, and Master of the Army Xún [Yōu] was wise. These can be said to be the greatest and most worthy gentlemen of recent times. Director Xún benevolently installed the virtuous and wisely raised up the worthy, never paid heed to flattery, and could plan for any situation. Mèng Kē said: “Every five hundred years a true King rises, and with them those certain to command the age.” This was Director Xún! Tàizǔ said: “When Director Xún advanced the good, he advanced it without rest. When Master of the Army Xún removed an evil, he opposed it without end.”
The eldest son Jī resembled Yōu, but died young. The next son Shì succeeded, but had no sons, and the succession ended. During Huángchū [220-226], the succession was restored, appointing Yōu’s grandson Biāo as Marquis of Língshù precinct, with a fief of 300 households. Later the fief was transferred to Marquis of Qiūyáng precinct. During Zhèngshǐ [240-249], Yōu received posthumous title as Jìng-hóu “Venerated Marquis.”