Jiǎ Xǔ appellation Wénhé was a Wǔwēi Gūzāng man. In his youth of the people of the time none were aware of him. Only Yán Zhōng of Hànyáng was impressed with him and said he had the genius of [Zhāng] Liáng and [Chén] Píng. (1)
- (1) Jiǔzhōu Chūnqiū states:
- Zhōngpíng Inaugural Year , General of Chariots and Cavalry Huángfǔ Sōng had defeated the Yellow Scarves, and his authority shook the realm Under Heaven. Yán Zhōng at the time was dismissed from Magistrate of Xìndū, and advised Sōng: “What is hard to gain and easily to lose is time. Time arriving but going at the turn of the heel is opportunity. Therefore the saints always complied with the times and acted, and the wise certainly because of opportunity set out. Now you General have encountered a difficult to obtain fortune and tread on an easy to lose opportunity, and yet when walking by fortune you do not grasp it and when facing opportunity you do not set out, so how will you enjoy great reputation?”
- Sōng said: “What do you speak of?”
- Zhōng said: “Heaven’s way has no care for relations, and the common people gather around ability. Therefore if there is a very able person with achievement, he does not receive rewards from a mediocre ruler. Now you General received the Battle-Ax at the beginning of spring, and collected achievement by the end of winter, troops moving like spirits, making plans without needing revisions, and within weeks and moons, troops like divine lightning swept across, attacking the strong as easily as breaking a dried branch, destroying the enemy thoroughly like boiling water on snow, engulfing seven provinces and slaughtering thirty-six divisions, exterminating the armies of the Yellow Scarves and removing the worry of evil harm, [the Court] gave fief and carved stone [seals], facing south to reward virtue. Your authority shakes our Court, and your influence extends beyond the seas. Therefore the powerful men turn their heads and common people stand on their heels [to look at you]. Even the rising of Tāng Wǔ was not as high as you General. You have established the achievement of a great man, yet still face north to a mediocre ruler. How can you be at ease?”
- Sōng said: “If my heart does not forget loyalty, what is there to be uneasy about?”
- Zhōng said: “Not so. In the past Hán Xìn could not bear [to forget] the favor of even one meal, and abandoned the benefit of dividing [the ream] into three [with one third for himself], refused Kuǎi Tōng’s loyalty, and neglected the security of taking place in a tripod. Only when the sharp sword was already against his throat did he then sigh and regret, and so his sons and daughters were boiled alive. Now the ruler’s power is weaker than Liú [Bāng] and Xiàng [Yǔ] while you General wield power greater than [the Marquis of] Huáiyīn [Hán Xìn]. Directing your banner you can shake the wind and clouds and shouting you can raise thunder and lightning; awe-inspiringly rouse forth, to cause danger against the corrupt, with lofty kindness pacify those that join at front, and shaking martial power to lead those bowing behind. Summon the scholars of Jì[zhōu] and move the armies of seven provinces, send feathered dispatches urgently ahead to the front while the main army shakes and sounds behind, tread across the Zhāng and [Yellow] Rivers, water your horses at Mèngjīn, raise a heavenly net to snare the capital, execute the criminal eunuchs, wipe out the accumulated grudges of those that blame, and resolve the hanging upside down due to long standing dangers. In this way you can attack no strong cities will be guarded, without recruiting others like a shadow will follow, so even a child can exert himself with an empty fist to reach strength and women can replace their skirts to receive orders. Moreover you can wield intelligent and able scholars and then the power of fast winds, and then great achievement would be easily done and all eight directions easily united. Once your outstanding achievement is done and all the realm Under Heaven obedient, then you can burn [offerings] to god above to inform of Heaven’s Mandate, meld and level all six directions, face south to establish rule and transfer the divine instruments to your own House, pushing aside the fallen Hàn to settle the throne. This is truly a divine opportunity to be decisive and excellent time to set out. Wood that is rotten is not engraved, and a time of decline is difficult to support. You General though wish to turn to loyalty and with difficulty support the Court, you are engraving and drawing on rotten and broken wood, like trying to oppose a slope to roll a ball. It certainly cannot be. Now powerful eunuchs congregate, and also evil in the marketplace, the ruler above is not free, and Imperial Orders set out from his attendants. If you heed but not examine, and in this opportunity are not first, you will certainly be regretful, and also come to nothing.”
- Sōng would not listen, and Zhōng therefore fled.
- Yīngxióngjì states: Liángzhōu rebels Wáng Guó and others raised troops, and together seized Zhōng to be their leader, command thirty-six divisions, and take title as General of Chariots and Cavalry. Zhōng was deeply regretful, and fell ill and died.
He was examined as Filial and Incorrupt to become a Cadet, due to illness resigned his office, and returned west arriving at Qiān. On the road he encountered rebelling Dī peoples, and with fellow travelers several tens of men, all were captured by them. Xǔ said: “I am Lord Duàn’s maternal side grandson. You should separately bury my body. My family will certainly generously ransom it.” At the time the Grand Commandant was Duàn Jiǒng. In the past he had long been a frontier general, and his authority shook the western lands, and therefore Xǔ lied to scare the Dī. The Dī indeed did not dare harm him, and instead joined with him and escorted him, while the rest all died. Xǔ in fact was not a Duàn female side descendant. His ability to be opportunistic was all of this sort.
When Dǒng Zhuó entered Luòyáng , Xǔ as an official [in the staff of the] Grand Commandant became Commandant of Píngjīn, and was promoted to Colonel Suppressing Caitiffs. Zhuó’s son-in-law Internal Gentleman-General Niú Fǔ garrisoned Shǎn, and Xǔ was there assisting the army. Zhuó was destroyed  and Fǔ also died. The army was frightened, and Colonels Lǐ Jué, Guō Sì, Zhāng Jì, and others wished to disband and take side roads to return to their hometowns.
Xǔ said: “I have heard in Cháng’ān there is discussion of wanting to execute all people of Liángzhōu, but if you sirs all abandon the army and travel alone, then even a precinct chief is enough to capture you sirs. It is better to lead the army and go west, gather all the troops there, and with them attack Cháng’ān to avenge Lord Dǒng [Zhuó]. If by good fortune the matter is successful, we can serve the state by campaigning across the realm Under Heaven. If it is not successful, it would not be too late to flee.”
The army believed this correct. [Lǐ] Jué therefore went west to attack Cháng’ān, as told in the Biography of [Dǒng] Zhuó [SGZ 6]. (1)
- (1) Your Servant Sōngzhī believes narratives praise: “The speech of benevolent men, its benefits are extensive!” In that case then not benevolent speech logically must be the opposite. Benevolent achievements are difficult to make known, but sources of chaos are easy to achieve, and therefore in disaster one action creates calamity flowing for a hundred generations. At that time, the leader of evil was already removed, Heaven and Earth was just restoring, but the violent ranks again rejoined, greatly blocking restorative flow, the state unexpectedly suffered the tragedy of great loss and destruction, and the common people suffered the ruthlessness like the remnants of Zhōu. Was this not due to Jiǎ Xǔ’s words? This was Xǔ’s crime. How great it was! Since ancient times with its innumerable disasters, none were as grave as this.
Later Xǔ became [Intendant of] Zuǒpíngyì. Jué and the others due to his achievement wished to make him a Marquis. Xǔ said: “This was a plan to save my life. What achievement is there?” He firmly refused and would not accept.
They also wished to appoint him Secretariat Deputy-Director Xǔ said: “Secretariat Deputy-Director is a leader of officials and the realm Under Heaven looks to it. My name Xǔ is not important, and not something to reassure people. If I out of nowhere come to glory and profit, how would it benefit the state court?” Therefore they appointed Xǔ to the Secretariat, to manage selections and nominations [for office], and as a result he brought much correction and relief. Jué and the others were close with but feared him. (2)
- (2) Xiàndìjì states: Guō Sì and Fán Chóu with Jué turned against one another and wished to fight several times. Xǔ at once used reason to reproach them, and they would accept Xǔ’s speech.
- Wèishū states: Xǔ managed selection and nomination [for office], and often chose out former famous [officials] to serve as managers and servants, and commentators for this praised Xǔ.
It happened that his mother died and he resigned his post [for mourning]. He was appointed as Merit Grandee. Jué, Sì, and the others fought with one another in Cháng’ān. (3)
- (3) Xiàndìjì states: Jué and the others discussed with Xǔ on welcoming Heaven’s Son to establish Himself in their camp. Xǔ said: “This cannot be. To coerce Heaven’s Son is not righteous.” Jué did not listen. Zhāng Xiù said: “This is not a place one can long reside. Why do you not go?” Xǔ said: “I have recevied the state’s favor, and by righteousness cannot turn my back. You yourself go, but I cannot.”
Jué again invited Xǔ to be General Declaring Justice. (4)
- (4) Xiàndìjì states: Jué at the time summoned Qiāng and Hú several thousands of men, first giving them Imperial objects and colored silks and also promising them palace maids and women, wishing to command them to attack Guō Sì. The Qiāng and Hú several times came to peep and inspect the Gates, saying: “Is Heaven’s Son inside? General Lǐ promised us palace maids and beautiful women. Now where are they?” The Emperor was worried about this, and sent Xǔ to come up with a plan. Xǔ therefore secretly called the Qiāng and Hú chief commanders and gave them food and drink, promising them noble titles and valuable treasures, and thereupon they all drew back and left. Jué because of this grew weak.
Jué and the others making peace, releasing Heaven’s Son, and the protection of the great ministers, was due to Xǔ’s efforts. (5)
- (5) Xiàndìjì states: Heaven’s Son had gone east, but Lǐ Jué came in pursuit, and the ruler’s escort was completely defeated. Excellency of Works Zhào Wēn, Minister of Ceremonies Wáng Wěi, Minister of the Guard Zhōu Zhōng, and Director of Retainers Róng Shào were all hated by Jué, and he wished to kill them. Xǔ said to Jué: “These are all Heaven’ Son’s important ministers. How can you harm them?” Jué therefore stopped.
When Heaven’s Son was released, Xǔ sent up and returned his seals and ribbons. At the time General Duàn Wēi garrisoned Huáyīn (6) who was from the same prefecture as Xǔ, so he left Jué and joined Wēi.
- (6) Diǎnlüè praises Wēi in his time at Huáyīn for repairing agriculture and not plundering. When Heaven’s Son returned east, Wēi welcomed them on the road with tribute to provide for urgent needs.
- Xiàndìjì states: Later Wēi was appointed Minister Herald and Grandee Official. Jiàn’ān fourteenth year  he died of old age.
Xǔ was well-known and Wēi’s army looked to him. Wēi inside was afraid he would be usurped [by Jiǎ Xǔ], but outside he treated Xǔ with courtesy and thorough preparations, but Xǔ could not be at ease.
Zhāng Xiù was at Nányáng. Xǔ secretly communicated with Xiù, and Xiù sent someone to welcome Xǔ. Xǔ was about to go. Someone said to Xǔ: “[Duàn] Wēi has treated you well. Why are you leaving?”
Xǔ said: “Wēi by nature is very suspicious, and has doubts of my intentions. Though his courtesy is generous, he cannot be relied on, and after a while he will make plans [against me]. When I go he will certainly be pleased, and also hope I will maintain relations and serve as strong reinforcements outside, and will certainly generously treat my wives and children. [Zhāng] Xiù has no chief strategist, and will also wish to obtain me, and so my family and myself will certainly both be safe.” Xǔ therefore went. Xiù acted with the courtesy of a younger relation, and Wēi indeed well cared for his family.
Xǔ advised Xiù to make peace and alliance with Liú Biǎo. (1)
- (1) Fùzǐ states: Xǔ went south to meet Liú Biǎo, and Biǎo with the courtesy due to a guest treated him. Xǔ said: “Biǎo in peaceful times has the ability [to be of] the Three Excellencies, but he does not recognize things change, is suspicious without decisiveness, and will not be successful.”
Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] successively campaigned against them, then one morning led the army back and retreated, and Xiù personally pursued them. Xǔ said to Xiù: “They cannot be pursued. To pursue is to certainly be defeated.” Xiù did not listen, advanced his troops and did battle, and was greatly defeated and returned.
Xǔ said to Xiù: “Hurriedly again pursue them. Another battle is certain to be victorious.”
Xiù apologized and said: “Because I did not listen to your words it came to this. Now we are already defeated, how can we again pursue?”
Xǔ said: “Military situations always change. Urgently go for certain success.”
Xiù trusted him, and so gathered his scattered troops and again pursued, fought a great battle, and indeed returned victorious. He asked Xǔ: “I led elite troops to pursue a retreating army, but you said it was certain defeat. I went again with defeated troops to attack victorious soldiers, and you said it was certain success. In both cases it was as you said. How did you know it would be contrary [to usual expectations] both times?”
Xǔ said: “This is easy to understand and that is all. Though you General are good at using troops, you are no match to Lord Cáo. Though the army was newly retreating, Lord Cáo was certainly personally at the rear; though the pursuing troops were elite, the commanders were no match, while the enemy troops were also on guard, and therefore I knew it was certain defeat. When Lord Cáo attacked you General he made no miscalculations and his strength was not exhausted and yet he retreated, so it must be that within the state there was an issue. After defeating you General, he would certainly lead light troops and hurriedly go, leaving various other officers at the rear. Though these other officers were brave, they were also no match for you General, and therefore though you used defeated troops to fight it was a certain victory.”
Xiù was thus impressed.
After this, Tàizǔ resisted Yuán Shào at Guāndù. Shào sent an envoy to recruit Xiù and also write a letter to Xǔ to make alliance as reinforcements. Xiù wished to agree to this. Xǔ before where Xiù was seated said to Shào’s envoy: “Return with our apologies to Yuán Běnchū. He and his brothers [Yuán Shào and Yuán Shù] could not work with one another; can he work with the great men of the realm?”
Xiù was alarmed and afraid and said: “Why did you go as far as this?” He secretly said to Xǔ: “If it is like this, where can we give allegiance?”
Xǔ said: “It is better to follow Excellency Cáo.”
Xiù said: “Yuán is strong and Cáo weak, and also we and Cáo are enemies. How can we follow him?”
Xǔ said: “These are the reasons it is suitable to follow him. This Lord Cáo supports Heaven’s Son to command the realm Under Heaven, and this is the first reason to follow him. Shào is strong and flourishing, and if we with our small army follow him, he will certainly not consider us important. Lord Cáo’s army is weak, and if he obtains us he will certainly be pleased, and this is the second reason to follow. One who has the will to be overlord must assuredly set aside private resentments and show brilliant virtue to within the Four Seas, and this is the third reason. May you General have no doubts!”
Xiù followed this, and led his army to submit to Tàizǔ. Tàizǔ met them, was pleased, and grasped Xǔ by the hand and said: “The one who has made me trusted and esteemed by the realm Under Heaven is you sir.” He memorialized Xǔ as Bearer of the Metal Mace, with fief as Marquis of a capital precinct, then promoted to Governor of Jìzhōu. Jìzhōu was not yet settled, so he remained as Advisor to the Army of the Excellency of Works.
Yuán Shào besieged Tàizǔ at Guāndù. Tàizǔ’s provisions were about ot be exhausted, and he asked Xǔ for a plan to set out [and attack]. Xǔ said: “Your wisdom surpasses Shào, your valor surpasses Shào, your employment of men surpasses Shào, your decisiveness surpasses Shào. You have these four triumphs but in half a year have not settled him, only because you focus on the absolutely safe. Certainly seize an opportunity and immediately he can be settled.” Tàizǔ said: “Excellent” and therefore gathered troops troops and set out, besieged and attacked Shào’s camps over thirty lǐ away, and destroyed them. Shào’s army was greatly scattered, and north of the [Yellow] River was pacified. Tàizǔ took office as Governor of Jìzhōu, and transferred Xǔ as Grand Internal Grandee.
Jiàn’ān thirteenth year , Tàizǔ conquered Jīngzhōu, and wished to follow the Jiāng eastward down[stream]. Xǔ remonstrated him: “You wise lord previously destroyed the Yuán clan, and now collect the south of the Hàn [river]. Your authority and prestige extends far, and your military power has reached greatness. If you make use of the wealth of the [lands of] old Chǔ [Jīngzhōu], to reward the officials and soldiers, console and calm the people, to safeguard the land and restore industry, then you can without toiling the army cause the east of the Jiāng to surrender and submit.” Tàizǔ did not follow this, and the army then was unsuccessful. (2)
- (2) Your Servant Sōngzhī believes that this plan of Xǔ’s was not suitable for the situation of the time. At the time the followers of Hán [Suì] and Mǎ [Chāo] were like wolves watching from right [west] of the Passes, Wèi Wǔ [Cáo Cāo] could not safely occupy Yǐngdū and with his authority subdue Wú and Kuài[jī], and this was already obvious. This Jīngzhōu was certainly what Sūn [Quán] and Liú [Bèi] would certainly strive for. The people of Jīng admired Lord Liú’s imposing appearance and feared Sūn Quán’s military strategies, and when the days became long, it truly could not be what the Cáo family Generals could resist and defend. Therefore when Cáo Rén defended Jiānglíng, the defeat  was but at the turn of a heel. How could he pacify them with conduct, or have them bow and submit in that time? He had just newly pacified the Jiāng and Hàn [rivers] and his authority frightened [the lands of] Yáng and Yuè, gained Liú Biǎo’s naval war equipment, gathered hands of the oars of Jīng-Chǔ, and was truly a great opportunity to shake and clear away, a great opportunity to expansively settle things. If he did not follow up on this to seize Wú, could he easily wait? As for the defeat at Chìbì, that was due to destiny. Truly it was due to an epidemic greatly spreading that blunted the severity of the vanguard point, and a favorable wind from the south to be used to power a complete burning. This was truly due to Heaven, how can it be an affair of Man? In that case Wèi Wǔ’s going eastward down[stream] was not a miscalculation. Xǔ in this admonishment was not correct. Wèi Wǔ later overcame and pacified Zhāng Lǔ, and in Shǔ in one day there were several tens of alarms, and though Liú Bèi beheaded them he could not stop [the alarms]. Because he did not use Liú Yè’s plan, he lost to opportunity to roll it all up. The judgment was in error, he regretted and could do nothing, and this was also the same sort of situation. All said Liú’s plan was correct, so it is all the more obvious that Jiǎ’s words were wrong.
Tàizǔ later with Hán Suì and Mǎ Chāo fought south of the Wèi [river]. Chāo and the others offered to cede territory for peace, and also asked to send their sons [to Court] to take appointment [and thus serve as political hostages]. Xǔ believed they could falsely agree to this. [Cáo Cāo] also asked Xǔ if he had a plan, and Xǔ said: “Break them apart and that is all.” Tàizǔ said: “Understood,” and completely used Xǔ’s plans, as told in Wǔ-jì [SGZ 1]. The final defeat of Suì and Chāo began from Xǔ’s plans.
At the time Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] was General of All-Purposes, but the Marquis of Línzī [Cáo] Zhí’s genius and fame was flourishing. Each had factions of support, and discussions on how to gain the succession. Wén-dì sent someone to ask Xǔ for a way to preserve his position, and Xǔ said: “May you General be magnanimous and virtuous, personally undergo the work of plain scholars, morning and night work hard, and not violate the way of a son. It is this and nothing more.” Wén-dì followed this, and deeply worked on himself.
Tàizǔ also once dismissed his attendants to ask Xǔ [about the succession], but Xǔ closed his mouth and did not answer. Tàizǔ said: “I spoke with you but you did not answer. Why was this?”
Xǔ said: “I your subordinate was thinking about something, and therefore did not immediately answer and that is all.”
Tàizǔ said: “What were you thinking about?”
Xǔ said: “I was thinking of Yuán [Shào] Běnchū and Liú [Biǎo] Jǐngshēng, fathers and their sons.”
Tàizǔ greatly laughed, and by this the Heir-Apparent was then settled.
Xǔ himself recognized he was not an old follower of Tàizǔ but had profound plans, was concerned he would be suspected, so he closed his doors and kept to himself, kept away from private dealings, and his sons and daughters in their marriages were not connected to powerful families. Those of the realm Under Heaven who discussed wisdom and plans joined him.
When Wén-dì ascended  he appointed Xǔ as Grand Commandant (1), and advanced his rank to Marquis of Wèishòu village and increased his fief by 300, adding to the previous to 800 households.
- Wèilüè states: Wén-dì benefited from Xǔ’s answer to Tàizǔ and therefore at the ascension he was first promoted up to the Excellencies.
- Xún Xù Biézhuàn states: Jìn Excellency of Works was vacant, and Wǔ-dì [Sīmǎ Yán] asked who [could be appointed] to Xù. The answer was: “The Three Excellencies are looked to for guidance, and cannot use the wrong man. In the past Wèi Wén-dì employed Jiǎ Xǔ to the Three Excellencies, and Sūn Quán laughed at him.”
Also divided from the fief was 200 to give fief to his young son Fǎng as a Ranked Marquis. His eldest son Mù was appointed Consort Commandant.
The Emperor asked Xǔ: “I wish to cut down the disobedient to unite the realm Under Heaven. Wú or Shǔ first?”
[Jiǎ Xǔ] answered: “Those who attack and conquer place troop strength first, and those who establish foundations esteem virtuous enlightenment. Your Majesty has answered the times and accepted the abdication, overlooking and commanding the land. If you pacify it through culture and virtue and wait for a change, then pacification would not be difficult. Though Wú and Shǔ are trifling states, they rely on the obstructions of mountains and rivers, Liú Bèi has imposing ability, Zhūgě Liàng is good at ruling a state, Sūn Quán understands what is false and true, Lù Yì [Lù Xùn] knows military strength, they rely on natural barriers and defend critical points, float on boats on the rivers and lakes, and so all are difficult to make plans to end them. In the way of using troops, first surpass and afterward battle, judge the enemy and then discuss deployment, so that at deployment there is no omission in strategy. I your servant humbly judge that of our ministers, none are a match for [Liú] Bèi and [Sūn] Quán. Even with your Heavenly authority overlooking them, it is not absolutely sure. In the past Shùn danced with shield and battle-axe and the Miáo submitted. I your servant believe now it is suitable to first use the civil and afterward the military.”
Wén-dì did not accept this. Later he began the Jiānglíng campaign, and many soldiers died.
Xǔ was aged seventy-seven years and died, posthumous name Sù-hóu “Solemn Marquis.” His son Mù succeeded and held office as a prefecture Administrator. Mù died, and his son Mó succeeded. (2)
- (2) Shìyǔ states: Mó in the time of Jìn Huì-dì [Sīmǎ Zhōng, 259-307] was Cavalier Regular Attendant and General Protecting the Army. Mó’s son Yìn, Yìn’s younger brother Kān and younger cousin Yǎ, each reached high office and were prominent in Jìn.