Xú Xuān appellation Bǎojiān was a Guǎnglíng Hǎixī man. He fled the chaos to the Jiāng’s east, but declined to serve Sūn Cè, and returned to his home prefecture. With Chén Jiǎo together he restored law and order. The two men were of comparable reputation but privately did not get along, but both were valued by the Administrator Chén Dēng, and with Dēng joined their hearts with Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo].
Hǎixī and Huáipǔ two counties’s people rebelled, Commandant Wèi Mí and Magistrate Liáng Xí in the night fled to Xuān’s house, and he secretly helped them escape. Tàizǔ sent Commander of the Army Hù Zhì to come suppress the rebels, but as his troops were few he did not advance. Xuān secretly met and reproached him, informed on the current situation, and [Hù] Zhì therefore advanced and defeated the rebels.
Tàizǔ recruited him as an Excellency of Works staff official, sent him out as Magistrates of Dōngmín and Fāgān, promoted to Administrator of Qí-jùn, and entered [Court] as Commander Beneath the Gates, and followed to Shòuchūn.
At the time Mǎ Chāo rebelled, the main army campaigned west, and Tàizǔ met his officials in staff and said: “Now we are about to campaign far away, but this region is not yet settled, and will become a worry to the rear, so it is suitable to find one of great honesty and virtue to defend and govern it.” Therefore he appointed Xuān as Left Protector of the Army, to remain and govern the various armies. He returned and became the Chancellor’s East Department Official, and was sent out as Administrator of Wèi-jùn.
Tàizǔ ended at Luòyáng , and the various ministers all entered the Palace Hall and mourned. Someone said could change all the city Administrators to employ [only] Qiáo and Pèi men. Xuān sternly said: “Now those far and near are united and men all harbor and seek integrity. Why only employ those of Qiáo and Pèi and so break the hearts of those in vigil?” Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] heard this and said: “This is what is said to be a servant of the State Altars.”
When the Emperor ascended, he became Censorate Internal Deputy with fief as Marquis Within the Passes, transferred to Colonel of the City Gates, within the moon was promoted to Colonel-Director of Retainers, transferred to Cavalier Regular Attendant. He accompanied to Guǎnglíng, the Six Armies boarded ships, the wind and waves violently rose, and the Emperor’s ship turned back. Xuān was ill at the rear, rode the waves and came forward, and of the officials none were before him. The Emperor was impressed with him and appointed him to the Secretariat.
When Míng-dì [Cáo Ruì] was enthroned , he was made Marquis of Jīnyáng precinct with a fief of 200 households. Internal Manager of the Army Huán Fàn recommended Xuān, saying: “I your Servant hears that when rulers employ men, they judge circumstance in learning ability. In times of conflict, strategy and tactics is first. After settlement, loyalty and righteousness is the head. That is why Jìn Wén[-gōng] followed Jiù Fàn’s plan but rewarded Yōng Jì’s words, (1) [Hàn] Gāozǔ used Chén Píng’s wisdom but entrusted the future to Zhōu Bó. I have met Secretariat Xú Xuān. His conduct is honest and considerate, and his character maintains uprightness and clarity. He is refined and unique, is not confined to worldly customs, true and difficult to move, and has the integrity of the State Altars. He has served in the provinces and commanderies, and in all places was competent. Now there is an opening for Servant-Shooter, and Xuān can be entrusted with later affairs. In bearing the civil officer’s burden, none is more suitable than Xuān.” The Emperor therefore appointed Xuān as Left Deputy-Direcotr, later increased to Attendant Internal Merit Grandee.
- (1) Lǚshì Chūnqiū states: Previously Jìn Wén-gōng was about to with the men of Chǔ battle at Chéngpú, and summoned Jiù Fàn and asked him: “The Chǔ are many and we are few, what can we do?” Jiù Fàn answered: “I your Servant have heard that rulers of many rituals are deficient in culture and rulers of many battles are deficient in trickery. You lord can also trick them and nothing more.” Wén-gōng told Jiù Fàn’s advice to Yōng Jì, and Yōng Jì said: “In draining a pond to get fish, how can one not obtain fish? But next year there will be no fish. In burning a marsh to make farm fields, how can one not capture beasts? But next year there will be no beasts. In the way of trickery, though now it can be successful, afterward it cannot be repeated, and it is not the way for the long term.” Wén-gōng used Jiù Fàn’s advice, and defeated the men of Chǔ at Chéngpú. However in bestowing rewards, Yōng Jì was the highest. His attendants remonstrated him: “The achievement at Chéngpú was due to Jiù Fàn’s planning. You lord used his advice but placed him after [in ranking], how can this be?” Wén-gōng said: “Yōng Jì’s advice is the benefit for a hundred generations. Jiù Fàn’s advice is a matter for one time. How can a matter for one time be before [in ranking] the benefit of a hundred generations?”
When the Imperial Chariot visited Xǔchāng, he remained to manage all affairs. The Emperor returned, and the Registrar presented a written report. An Imperial Order said: “How is my opinion different from the Servant-Shooter [Xú Xuān]?” and indeed he did not look at it.
The Specialists Director Zuò Wěi came under investigation, and Xuān sent up memorial explaining authority and punishments for great crimes, and also remonstrated that construction of palaces was exhausting the people’s strength, and the Emperor for all these hand-wrote Imperial Order answers and praise.
Xuān said: “At seventy there is the custom of carriages. Now I am already sixty-eight, and can retire.” Therefore he firmly cited illness and resigned his position, but the Emperor to the end would not accept.
Qīnglóng fourth year  he died. His final will ordered plain clothing and head-cloth, and restrained time of mourning. An Imperial Order said: “Xuān’s truly served in affairs, direct and known inside and out, successively serving Three Courts, just and resolute, had the integrity to be entrusted with my special orders, and can be said to be a stone pillar servant. I always wished to rely on him like a supporting terrace, but did not have time to ascend it. What a pity that his great life was not longer! He is posthumously titled General of Chariots and Cavalry, and buried by the Rites of an Excellency.”
Posthumous name Zhēn-hóu “Pure Marquis.” His son Qīn succeeded.