Chéng Yù styled Zhòngdé was a man of Dōng’ē in Dōng-jùn. He was eight chǐ three cùn [~1.9 meters] tall, with great whiskers and beard.
The Yellow Scarves rebelled , and the County Deputy Wáng Dù rebelled in support of them, burning the warehouses. The County Magistrate abandoned the city and fled, and the officials and people carried on their back their young and old and fled east to Qúqiū mountain. Yù sent someone to spy on Dù and learned Dù and the others held an empty city and could not defend and so had left and set up camp five to six lǐ west of the city.
Yù said to the county people’s powerful clan leaders Xuē Fáng and others: “Now Dù and the others have obtained the city but cannot occupy it, so we know their strength. They only wish to plunder and steal treasure, and do not have the will to build a strong military force to attack or defend. Why do we not now hurry back to the city and defend it? Moreover the walls are high and think, with many provisions and grain. If we now hurry back to rescue it, we can together firmly defend it, and Dù certainly cannot last, and when we attack we can destroy them.”
[Xuē] Fáng and the others agreed, but the officials and people would not follow, saying: “The bandits are to the west, but we have the east and that is enough.” Yù said to Fáng and the rest: “The ignorant masses cannot make plans.” Therefore he secretly sent several riders to raise up banners atop the eastern hills, let Fáng and the others see it, and greatly shouted: “The bandits have already arrived!” They immediately went down from the mountain and fled to the city, and the officials and people all fled and followed them, and so they rescued the County magistrate, and together defended the city.
[Wáng] Dù and the others came to attack the city, but could not capture it, and wished to retreat. Yù sent the officials and people to open the city gates and urgently attack them, and Dù and the others were defeated and fled. Dōng’ē by this was saved.
During Chūpíng [190-193], Inspector of Yǎnzhōu Liú Dài sought to recruit Yù, but Yù would not answer. At the time [Liú] Dài with Yuán Shào and Gōngsūn Zàn were at peace. [Yuán] Shào sent his wives and children to stay with Dài, and [Gōngsūn] Zàn also sent his advisor Fàn Fāng to lead cavalry to assist Dài. Later Shào and Zàn had a rift. Zàn attacked and defeated Shào’s army, and then sent a messenger to speak with Dài, to order him to send away Shào’s wife and children to cut off relation. [Gōngsūn Zàn] also sent separate orders to Fàn Fāng: “If Dài does not send away Shào’s family, lead your riders back. Once I have settled Shào, next I will lead troops against Dài.”
Dài thought it over for several days without deciding. His Aide-de-Camp Wáng Yù informed Dài: “Chéng Yù has planning ability and can settle great affairs.” Dài therefore summoned and met [Chéng] Yù and asked him about plans. [Chéng] Yù said: “If you refuse the nearby aide of [Yuán] Shào to seek the distant support of [Gōngsūn] Zàn, it is like the saying to summon someone [all the way] from Yuè in order to save a drowning child. This Gōngsūn Zàn is not a match for Yuán Shào. Now though he has harmed Shào’s army, in the end he will be captured by Shào. If you only focus on one morning’s advantage and do not consider distant plans, you General will in the end be destroyed.” Dài followed this. Fàn Fāng was about to lead his cavalry back, but before he arrived, Zàn was greatly defeated by Shào. Dài memorialized [Chéng] Yù as Cavalry Commandant, but [Chéng] Yù plead illness and declined.
Liú Dài was killed by Yellow Scarves. Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] took command of Yǎnzhōu, and recruited Yù. When Yù was about to go, the people of his hometown said: “What is different between now and then?” Yù laughed and would not answer.
Tàizǔ spoke with him, and was pleased with him, and appointed Yù as Magistrate of Shòuzhāng. Tàizǔ campaigned into Xúzhōu, and sent [Chéng] Yù and Xún Yù to remain to defend Juànchéng. Zhāng Miǎo and others rebelled and welcomed Lǚ Bù, and the commanderies and counties joined in answer. Only Juànchéng, Fàn, and Dōng’ē did not move. A surrendered man of [Lǚ] Bù’s army said that Chén Gōng wished to personally lead troops to capture Dōng’ē, and had also sent Fàn Yí to capture Fàn, and all the officials and people were afraid.
[Xún] Yù said to [Chéng] Yù: “Now Yǎnzhōu has rebelled, and we have only these three cities. [Chén] Gōng and the rest face them with a powerful army, and if we do not deeply rouse their spirits, these three cities will certainly fall. You sir are someone the people look toward. If you return and persuade them, this danger can be dealt with!”
[Chéng] Yù therefore returned, passed Fàn, and persuaded its Magistrate Jìn Yǔn: “I have heard that Lǚ Bù has captured your mother, younger brother, wives and children. A filial son truly cannot bear this! Now the world Under Heaven is in great chaos, heroes all rise, and there certainly will be one to dominate the age, one able to end the chaos Under heaven, and these the wise select out, prospering with a capable leader, and perishing with a failed leader. Chén Gōng has rebelled and invited Lǚ Bù and a hundred cities have all joined in answer, and they appear to be powerful. However, from your view, what sort of man is [Lǚ] Bù? This [Lǚ] Bù is coarse and does not value his kin, stubborn but rude, and is only a hero among common fellows and that is all. [Chén] Gōng and the rest are snobbish and feign cooperation, but will not accept you. Though their troops are many, in the end they will fail. Cáo [Cāo] as a leader has truly uncommon wisdom and skill, as one sent by Heaven! You can certainly defend Fàn, while I guard Dōng’ē, and so the achievement of Tián Dān [reconquering all lost territory from seemingly hopeless situation] can be accomplished. Who would turn from loyalty and follow evil and lose mother and children? May you thoroughly consider this!”
[Jìn] Yǔn weeping said: “I do not dare have two hearts.”
At the time Fàn Yí was already in the county. [Jìn] Yǔn therefore met [Fàn] Yí, hid troops and assassinated him, then returned to prepare troops and firmly defend. (1)
- (1) Xú Zhòng criticizes: [Jìn] Yǔn and Excellency Cáo were not lord and servant. A mother is the closest relation, and by righteousness he should have answered and gone. In the past when Wáng Líng’s mother was captured by Xiàng Yǔ, the mother knew that Gāozǔ would certainly win the empire Under Heaven and therefore killed herself to protect [Wáng] Líng’s ambition [serving Gāozǔ]. A wise heart without relations can achieve the integrity to do the utmost to the death. Wèi Gōng-zǐ first served Qí and for many years did not return. Guǎn Zhòng believed that one who did not cherish one’s kin could not be trusted to love one’s lord, so he could not be Chancellor. Therefore to find a loyal servant one must go to the door of a filial son, and [Jìn] Yǔn should have first rescued his family. Xú Shù’s mother was captured by Excellency Cáo, so Liú Bèi sent [Xú] Shù back. One who wishes to rule the world Under Heaven should forgive the feelings of a son. Excellency Cáo also should have sent away [Jìn] Yǔn.
[Chéng] Yù also sent a separate cavalry division to cut off Cāngtíng ford. When Chén Gōng arrived, he could not cross. [Chéng] Yù arrived at Dōng’ē. Magistrate of Dōng’ē Zǎo Zhī had already strict led the officials and people to resist and defend the city. Additionally, Yǎnzhōu Advisor Xuē Tì and [Chéng] Yù made plans together, in the end saved the three cities, and waited for Tàizǔ. When Tàizǔ returned, he grasped [Chéng] Yù’s hand and said: “If not for your strength, I would have nowhere to return to.” He then memorialized [Chéng] Yù as Chancellor of Dōngpíng, garrisoning Fàn. (2)
- (2) Wèishū states: When [Chéng] Yù was young he once dreamed he was atop Tàishān, and with his two hands held up the sun. [Chéng] Yù personally thought it strange, and spoke of it to Xún Yù. When Yǎnzhōu rebelled, because of [Chéng] Yù three cities were saved. Thereafter [Xún] Yù told Tàizǔ about the dream. Tàizǔ said: “You sir to the end will be my guts and heart [civil official].” [Chéng] Yù was originally named Lì 立. Tàizǔ then added atop it a sun 日, changing his name to Yù 昱.
Tàizǔ fought with Lǚ Bù at Púyáng, and was repeatedly unsuccessful. There was an outburst of locusts, and so both sides retreated. Then Yuán Shào sent someone to persuade Tàizǔ to alliance and ask Tàizǔ to send his family to reside at [Yuán Shào’s capital] Yè. Tàizǔ had newly lost Yǎnzhōu, his military provisions were exhausted, and he was about to accept this.
At the time [Chéng] Yù had been sent out and just returned, asked to meet, and thus said: “I have heard that you General wish to send your family and ally with Yuán Shào. Is this true?”
Tàizǔ said: “It is.”
[Chéng] Yù said: “I see that you General in a dangerous situation are afraid, or else you would never consider this! This Yuán Shào occupies the lands of Yān and Zhào, and has the intention to unite the realm Under Heaven, but his wisdom is insufficient. General, do you think you can accept being his subordinate? You General have the power of dragons and tigers. Can you do the same as Hán [Xìn] and Péng [Yuè]? Now though Yǎnzhōu is lost, there are still three cities. The soldiers capable of fighting are not less than ten thousand. With your divine military ability, and with [Xún Yù] Wénruò and me and others to serve you, the enterprise of an overlord can still be achieved. May you reconsider!”
Tàizǔ therefore stopped. (1)
- (1) Wèilüè records: [Chéng] Yù advised Tàizǔ: “In the past Tián Héng was of the dominant clan of Qí. With his brothers, the three were successively King, occupying a thousand lǐ of territory, commanding an army of millions, and with their vassals they faced south and styled themselves as sovereigns. Later Gāozǔ obtained the empire Under Heaven, and [Tián] Héng instead became a surrendered prisoner. At that time, what must Héng have been thinking!” Tàizǔ said: “Indeed. That was extremely disgraceful.” Yù said: “I am inferior and cannot presume to understand your intentions, General, but you cannot match Tián Héng. Tián Héng was merely a strong warrior of Qí and that is all, but even he was ashamed to be Gāozǔ‘s subject. Now I hear you General wish to send your family to Yè, and face north to serve Yuán Shào. If you General despite your genius and divine military ability are not ashamed to be subordinate to Yuán Shào, then I would be ashamed for you, General.”
- After this the rest is the same as the base biography.
When Heaven’s Son set the capital at Xǔ , [Chéng] Yù was appointed to the Secretariat. Yǎnzhōu was not yet at peace, so Yù was again appointed East Internal Cadet-General, with office as Administrator of Jìyīn, to command all the affairs of Yǎnzhōu.
Liú Bèi lost Xúzhōu, and came to surrender to Tàizǔ. Yù advised Tàizǔ to kill Bèi, but Tàizǔ did not listen, as told in Wǔjì [SGZ 1]. Later Bèi was again sent to Xúzhōu to intercept Yuán Shù. Yù and Guō Jiā advised Tàizǔ: “In previous days your Excellency did not execute [Liú] Bèi, and this was truly our failure. Now that he has borrowed troops, he will certainly be disloyal.” Tàizǔ was regretful and pursued but was unsuccessful. When [Yuán] Shù died of illness, Bèi arrived at Xúzhōu, killed [the Inspector] Chē Zhòu, and raised troops to turn against Tàizǔ. Shortly afterward, Yù was promoted to General of Shaking Authority.
Yuán Shào was at Líyáng  and about to cross south. At the time Yù had seven hundred troops to defend Juànchéng. Tàizǔ heard of this, and sent someone to inform Yù he intended to reinforce him with 2000 troops. Yù refused, saying: “Yuán Shào commands an army of a hundred thousand, and believes himself unstoppable. Now he sees that my troops are few, and will certainly be contemptuous and not attack. If my troops are increased, then when he passes he cannot but attack, and if he attacks he will certainly succeed, and we both would be weakened in vain. May your excellency have no doubts!” Tàizǔ followed this. When Shào heard Yù’s troops were few, he indeed did not go there. Tàizǔ said to Jiǎ Xǔ: “Chéng Yù’s courage exceeds [Mèng] Bēn and [Xià] Yù.”
Yù captured fugitives in Shānzé, raised several thousand elite troops, and then led the army to join Tàizǔ at Líyáng, attacking Yuán Tán and Yuán Shàng. Tán and Shàng were defeated and fled, and Yù was appointed General Exerting Martiality and given fief as Marquis of Ānguó precinct.
Tàizǔ campaigned in Jīngzhōu , and Liú Bèi fled to Wú. Commentators believed Sūn Quán would certainly kill Bèi, but Yù predicted: “Sūn Quán is newly come to power, and is not yet feared Within the Seas. Excellency Cáo has no match in the world Under Heaven. When he first raised up against Jīngzhōu, his authority shook beyond the Jiāng, and though [Sūn] Quán had planning ability, he cannot oppose us alone. Liú Bèi has heroic reputation, and Guān Yǔ and Zhāng Fēi are both a match for ten thousand enemies. [Sūn] Quán will certainly use them to oppose us. As his difficulty has been resolved, Liú Bèi is saved and cannot be taken and killed.” [Sūn] Quán indeed gave [Liú] Bèi troops to resist Tàizǔ.
After this the Central Plains were gradually pacified. Tàizǔ patted Yù on the back and said: “At the defeat at Yǎnzhōu, if I had not listened to your words, where would I be now?” Oxen and wine were presented for a great feast to honor him. Yù said: “To be content is to not be disgraced. I can retire.” Therefore he sent up a memorial to return his troops, and closed his gates and did not go out. (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: Tàizǔ campaigned against Mǎ Chāo , Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] was left to defend, and employed [Chéng] Yù as military advisor. Tián Yín, Sū Bó, and others rebelled in Héjiān, and General Jiǎ Xìn was sent to suprress them. Over a thousand rebels came to surrender, and commentators all believed they should be dealt with by the old laws [executed]. Yù said: “Executing the surrendered is for troubled times when all the world Under Heaven is in uprising. The reason those who surrender after being encircled are not pardoned is to show authority to the world Under Heaven, so that victory is easier and matters do not have to reach the point of encirclement. Now the realm Under Heaven is nearly settled, and moreover this occurred within the state’s territory, and these were rebels certain to be defeated. To kill them does not demonstrate authority, and is not the purpose of past executions of the surrendered. I your servant believe they cannot be executed. Even if they are to be executed, we should first report [to Cáo Cāo].” The army commentators said: “In military affairs there are special cases, so we do not need to ask.” Yù did not answer. [After the meeting] Wén-dì rose and went, and specially met with Yù and said: “You have not yet said everything?” Yù said: “These special cases are for times of emergencies, when things must be settled in a breath and that is all. Now these rebels are already in Jiǎ Xìn’s hands, and things will not change in a morning and night. Therefore this old servant hopes you will not act this way, General.” Wén-dì said: “Your thinking is good.” Then he informed Tàizǔ and Tàizǔ indeed did not execute them. When Tàizǔ returned, he heard of the debate, and said to Yù: “You sir are not only good at military strategy, but also good at handing relations between a father and son.”
Yù by nature was stubborn and ruthless, and frequently offended other people so that someone accused Yù of plotting rebellion, but Tàizǔ treated him with great favor. When Wèi state was established  be was appointed its Minister of the Guard, but fought over authority with Subaltern Xíng Zhēn, and was dismissed. When Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] ascended , he was restored as Minister of the Guard, advanced to Marquis of Ānxiāng with fief increased by 300 households, added to previous to a total of 800. It was divided to give fief to his youngest son Yán and grandson Xiǎo as Ranked Marquis.
He was about to be appointed to the Excellencies, but at that time he died, and the Emperor wept for him and gave him posthumous office as General of Chariots and Cavalry. His posthumous name was Sù-hóu “Solemn Marquis.” (1)
- (1) Wèishū state: Yù at the time was eighty years.
- Shìyǔ states: Previously, Tàizǔ’s provisions were exhausted. Yù plundered his home county, providing three days of provisions, mixed with pieces of human flesh. Because of this he lost the Court’s favor, and therefore his rank did not reach the Excellencies.
His son Wǔ succeeded. Wǔ died, and his son Kè succeeded. Kè died, and his son Liáng succeeded.
[Chéng] Xiǎo during Jiāpíng [249-254] became Yellow Gate Attendant-Cadet. (1)
- (1) Shìyǔ states: Xiǎo appellation Jìmíng was widely learned.
At the time Overseers were excessively harsh, and Xiǎo sent up a memorial that said:
“The Zhōulǐ says: ‘Establish officials with divided duties to rule the people.’ The Chūnqiūzhuàn states: ‘Heaven has ten suns. Men have ten ranks.’ The foolish cannot face the worthy, the treacherous cannot face the noble. Therefore to together establish the sagely, establish reputation. Illuminate and test merit, and record all accomplishments. Each teach their own enterprise, thinking without leaving position. Therefore Luán wrote hoping to support Jìn-hóu, but his son did not listen. The dead lay across the streets, and do not know happiness. The high do not take achievement for what they do not do, the low are not rewarded for what is not their responsibility, the officials do not have the authority to claim multiple posts, the people are not conscripted for multiple jobs; these are truly the importance principles of the state, and the way to govern chaos. The distant look to ancient record, and the near look to Qín and Hàn. Though position names have changed, and duties are not the same, so the high restrain the subordinate, clearly divide into ranks, in order to join as one. Previously there was no Overseer office to meddle with government officials. In the past Wǔ Huángdì‘s [Cáo Cāo] great undertaking had a rough beginning. The officials were not prepared and the military officers worked bitterly hard, the hearts of the people were not at ease, and so if there was a small crime it could not but be investigated, and so there was established Overseers, for all affairs and that is all. However in investigation there are proper methods, and they should not be unrestrained. That is only the power of an overlord, not the proper rule of a monarch. As a result gradually the false see appointment, like an illness returning, things cannot be restored, and none can correct the body. Then the high investigate the Palace and Temple, the low take over the various positions, officials have no offices, duties have no limits, and each do as they please, following what their heart thinks suitable. Law is invented at the pen point, and does not rely on Imperial Order. The prison is set up below the door, and quickly overthrown. This selection of official responsibilities takes caution as coarse and rashness as sagely ability. With this governing of affairs, the cruel becomes powerful, and the reasonable become weak. Outside Heavenly authority is entrusted based on reputation, and inside the treacherous are gathered as the core officials. Great officials are shamed and divided in power and endure without speaking. Petty men fear punishment, and problems are not reported. And so Yǐn Mó below his eyes did not restrain evil thought; when evil is made known travelers all know, but when little evils are passed after many years it is not yet heard. This is both not the Zhōulǐ‘s intention in setting up offices and also not the way of the Chūnqiū‘s ten ranks. Now outside there are Excellencies and Ministers overseeing all the departments, and inside Palace Attendants and Secretariats overseeing all actions, the Director of Retainers supervises the capital, the Censorate Palace Deputy manages the Palace, and all value selecting worthy talents to serve their offices, and declare they have Imperial Order to justify their violations. If these worthies are not sufficient to appoint, then Overseer as a minor office certainly cannot be trusted. If these worthies each think to serve loyally, Overseers are redundant, and again serve no advantage. If they highly select state scholars as Overseers, than the Palace Deputy Retainers have one more office and that is all. If the selection is as before, than the treachery of Yǐn Mó will appear again. Knowing when to advance and depart, then there is no use. In the past Sāng Hóngyáng was a Hàn Profit-Seeker, and divination claimed that if Hóngyáng was boiled alive then Heaven would bring rain. If government merits and faults can affect Heaven and Earth, then I your servant fear there will be disasters of flood and drought, and not necessarily only due to Overseers. Cáo Gōng-gōng was far from superior gentlemen and close to petty men, and the state turned to assassinating him. Wèi Xiàn-gōng abandoned great officials and made plans with petty officials, and in settling Jiāng Wèi had crimes. Giving free reign to Overseers has no benefit to the state, and by righteousness to speak of it, it harms the hearts of great officials, and moreover when treachery is exposed it is not removed. It is what even Yǎn Quē could not repair, confused and cannot be restored.”
Therefore the Overseer office was ended. Xiǎo was transferred to Administrator of Rǔnán. Aged over forty years he died. (2)
- (2) Xiǎo Biézhuàn states: Xiǎo wrote many essays but most were lost. Now those still extant are not even one out of ten.