Yuán Shù appellation Gōnglù, was Excellency of Works [Yuán] Féng’s son, [Yuán] Shào’s younger cousin. For his adventuring he had reputation. He was nominated as a Filial and Incorrupt candidate, sent out as Cadet Internal, successively held office inside and outside [the capital], and later became Breaking Charge Colonel and Tiger Elite Internal Cadet General. When Dǒng Zhuó deposed the Emperor, he appointed Shù as General of the Rear; Shù also feared [Dǒng] Zhuó’s disaster, and went out and fled to Nányáng.
It happened that Chángshā Administrator Sūn Jiān killed Nányáng Administrator Zhāng Zī, and Shù obtained and occupied his prefecture. Nányáng’s population was several million, but Shù was extravagant and unrestrained in desires, his summons and collections were without limit, and the common people suffered from it. When he and [Yuán] Shào had discord, he also with Liú Biǎo were not at peace, and so he to the north allied with Gōngsūn Zàn; [Yuán] Shào with [Gōngsūn] Zàn were not in harmony and so he to the south allied with Liú Biǎo. These brothers betrayed each other, abandoning the close to join with the distant like this. (1) He led his army to enter Chénliú. Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] with [Yuán] Shào together struck, greatly defeating Shù’s army. Shù with his remaining army fled to Jiǔjiāng, killing Yáng Province Inspector Chén Wēn, and taking office over his province, (2) and appointing Zhāng Xūn and Qiáo Ruí and others as his Chief Generals. Lǐ Jué entered Cháng’ān, and wished to ally with Shù to be assistance, and appointed Shù as General of the Left, with fief as Yángdí Marquis, with Acting Staff, and sent Grand Tutor Mǎ Mìdī to therefore go and give bestowment. Shù seized away [Mǎ] Mìdī’s Staff, and detained him and did not send him. (3)
- (1) Wúshū states: At the time commentators believed Emperor Líng [Liú Hóng] had lost principle, and caused the realm Under Heaven to rebel in chaos, and that the Young Emperor [Liú Xié] was young and weak, and had been by a rebel minister enthroned, and also it was not known what mother he was born from. Yōu Province Governor Liú Yú resided in virtue and hope, and [Yuán] Shào and others wished to enthrone him to calm the times, and sent someone to inform Shù. Shù observed the Hàn House was in decline, and secretly harbored ulterior ambitions, and therefore outside held to righteousness in order to resist [Yuán] Shào.
- [Yuán] Shào again with Shù had letter: “Previously I with Hán [Fù] Wénjié together established a way to eternally prolong [the Hàn dynasty], wishing Within the Seas to see a restoration’s ruler. Now the west in name has a young ruler, not of true relation, and the Excellencies and Ministers down all flatter and serve [Dǒng] Zhuó, how can they again be trusted? We only need send troops to go garrison the critical passes, and they will all in distress die in the west. If the east enthrones a sagely ruler, Grand Peace can be hoped for, what is there to doubt? Also our house and family met with extermination, not remembering [the example of Wǔ] Zǐxū, can we again face north [as to a ruler]? Violating Heaven is inauspicious, may you thoroughly ponder this.”
- Shù answered: “The Sagely Ruler [Liú Xié] is intelligent and wise, with Zhōu [King] Chéng‘s character. The rebel [Dǒng] Zhuó because of a time of danger and chaos, uses authority to force submission of the government officials, and this then is the Hàn Family’s coincidence of small distress. The chaos is not yet suppressed, but you again wish to increase it [by enthroning another ruler]. Then you say the present ruler is ‘without blood relation,’ how is not false slander? From our ancestors on, through the generations passing on, loyalty and righteousness were foremost. The Grand Tutor was benevolent and compassionate, and although he knew the rebel [Dǒng] Zhuó would certainly cause disaster, he trusted in righteousness, and could not bear to leave. Our household was exterminated, death and exile flow free, the fortune immersed far and near come to support each other, and to not therefore at this time above suppress the state’s traitor and below wipe away the family’s disgrace, and instead plan like this, it has never been heard of. Also you say: ‘house and family met with extermination, can we again face north,’ this was [Dǒng] Zhúo’s doing, how was it the state? The ruler’s mandate is Heaven, Heaven cannot be opposed, so all the more for opposing the ruler’s mandate! With humble bare heart, my ambition is to destroy [Dǒng] Zhuó, and not consider anything else.”
- (2) Your Servant Sōngzhī cites Yīngxióngjì: “Chén Wēn appellation Yuántì was a Rǔnán man. Previously he was Yáng Province Inspector, and from illness died. Yuán Shào sent Yuán Yí to take office over the Province, but he was defeated and scattered, fled to Pèi state, and was by troops killed. Yuán Shù again employed Chén Yǔ in Yáng Province. [Chén] Yǔ appellation Gōngwěi, was a Xiàpī man. [Chén] Yǔ took office of the Province, but Shù was defeated at Fēngqiū, and went south toward Shòuchūn, and [Chén] Yǔ resisted Shù and would not receive him. Shù retreated and defended Yīnlíng, and again gathered army to attack [Chén] Yǔ, [Chén] Yǔ was afraid and fled back to Xiàpī.” By this [Chén] Wēn was not by Shù killed, and this with the base biography is not the same.
- (3) Sānfǔ Juélù Zhù states: [Mǎ] Mìdī appellation Wēngshū, was Mǎ Róng’s distant cousin’s son. When young he carried on [Mǎ] Róng’s work, and for his talent and learning was advanced. He with Yáng Biāo, Lú Zhí, Cài Yōng and others managed and inspected Internal Documents, and successively held position in the Nine Ministers, and then ascended to terrace assistance [was ranked in the Three Excellencies level].
- Xiàndì Chūnqiū states: Shù from [Mǎ] Mìdī borrowed Staff to observe it, and therefore stole and did not return it. He prepared in the army over a thousand men, and sent to hurriedly summon them. [Mǎ] Mìdī said to Shù: “Your family’s previous generations were Excellencies, what is summoning soldiers, and to hurry them, are you saying the Excellencies’ Staff Officials can be stolen and obtained?” He from Shù asked to leave, but Shù detained him and would not send him, and because he had lost his Staff he was humiliated, and in sorrow and rage he died.
At the time Pèi Chancellor Chén Guī of Xiàpī, was former Excellency Commandant [Chén] Qiú’s younger brother’s son. Shù with [Chén] Guī both were junior relatives in the clans of Excellencies, and when young together interacted and traveled, and sent letter to [Chén] Guī: “In the past Qín lost its governance, and the realm Under Heaven’s various powers fought over and seized it, and those with both wisdom and valor in the end received their submission. Now the world’s affairs are in turmoil, and again there is the situation of collapse, and it is truly the time for the outstanding to act. I with you are old friends, how can I make you an attendant? If gathering great affairs, you truly are my heart and backbone.”
[Chén] Guī’s middle son [Chén] Yīng at the time was at Xiàpī, and Shù also coerced and took as hostage [Chén] Yīng, planning to force [Chén] Guī to come. [Chén] Guī’s answer letter said: “In the past at Qín’s end, the unrestrained and violent indulged their nature, the oppressive flowed across the realm Under Heaven, harming the people, subordinates could not bear orders, and therefore then the lands collapsed. Now though it is a final phase, it is not yet the fall of Qín’s severe violent chaos. General Cáo [Cāo] with divine military ability answers the times, raising again law and punishment, and will capture and pacify the vicious and evil, purify and settle Within the Seas, and truly this will occur. I believe you should join strength and be of same heart, to rectify and support the Hàn House, but to secretly plot other course, is to bring on yourself disaster, how is it not sorrowful? If you are lost but know to turn back, yet you can be forgiven. We are old friends, and therefore I explain utmost feeling, and though it is only opposing, it is kindness as to bone and flesh kin. If you wish for me to flatter and fawn, even to the death I am unable.”
Xīngpíng Second Year  Winter, Heaven’s Son was defeated at Cáoyáng. Shù gathered his subordinates and said: “Now the Liú clan is feeble and weak, and Within the Seas is like a tripod boiling [in confusion]. My family for four generations were Excellencies assisting, who the common people submitted to, and I wish to answer Heaven and follow the People, what do you sirs think of it?” Of everyone none dared answer.
Registrar Yán Xiàng advanced and said: “In the past Zhōu from Hòu-jì up to Wén-wáng, accumulated virtue and achievement, of three parts of the realm Under Heaven they had two, yet they served Yīn. Though your enlightened excellency for generations had prosperity, it is not yet comparable to Zhōu’s flourishing, and though the Hàn House is weak, it is not yet comparable to Yīn Zhòu‘s tyranny.” Shù was silent and displeased.
He employed Hénèi’s Zhāng Jiǒng’s talisman orders, and therefore usurped [Imperial] title, (1) turning Jiǔjiāng Administrator to Huáinán Intendant, installed Excellencies and Ministers, and sacrificed in South and North Suburbs. His wasteful extravagance grew extreme, the Rear Palace [harem]’s several hundred all wore clothes of fine brocade silk, storing quality millet and meat, (2) but the soldiers were cold and hungry, and between the Jiāng and Huái was emptied and exhausted, and the people ate each other.
Shù first was by Lǚ Bù defeated, and afterward was by Tàizǔ defeated, and fled to his guard retainers Léi Bó and Chén Lán to Qiánshān, again was by them resisted, and was anxious and did not know where to go. He was about to yield his Emperor’s title to [Yuán] Shào, wishing to go to Qīng Province and follow Yuán Tán, but fell ill and on the road died. (3) His wives and children depended on Shù’s former official Lújiāng Administrator Liú Xūn, Sūn Cè defeated [Liú] Xūn, and again they met with capture. Shù’s daughter entered Sūn Quán’s Palace, son [Yuán] Yào was appointed Cadet Internal, and [Yuán] Yào’s daughter also was matched to [Sūn] Quán’s son [Sūn] Fèn.
- (1) Diǎnlüè states: Shù believed the Yuán surname came from Chén, and Chén was Shùn’s descendant, and Earth carried on from Fire, and so was conforming with destiny’s succession. Also he observed the prophecy: “The successor to Hàn will be street’s high.” He believed his name and appellation matched this, and therefore established title as the Zhòng dynasty.
- [Translator’s note: His name Shù and appellation Lù can both mean street. Zhòng can mean “second month of a season” or “second brother,” implying a natural succession from Hàn. In actuality, the prophecy was instead fulfilled by Wèi, which can mean the watchtower gate over a road, which is “street’s high.”]
- (2) Jiǔzhōu Chūnqiū states: Director of Retainer Féng Fāng’s daughter, was a beauty [to destroy] nations, fled the chaos to Yáng Province, Shù ascended the city walls and saw and was pleased with her, and therefore accepted her as concubine, deeply loving and favoring her. The other women hated her treatment, and said to her: “The General is a nobleman with ambition and integrity, and if at the time you often shed tears and show worry, you will certainly long meet with heavy respect.” Lady Féng believed this was correct, and later meeting Shù at once shed tears, and Shù believed she had ambition, and increased his pity for her. The other women therefore together strangled and killed her, and hung her from the lavatory roof beam, and Shù truly believed it was because she could not achieve her ambition that she died, and therefore gave generous coffin and burial.
- (3) Wèishū states: Shù gave Emperor’s title to [Yuán] Shào saying: “Hàn’s loss of the realm Under Heaven has been for a long time, Heaven’s Son is captured, governance left their family, imposing powers contend, diving apart the world, and this with Zhōu’s final years dividing into Seven States has no difference, and in the end the powerful will take it. Moreover the Yuán clan receiving Mandate to be Ruler, the talismans and auspicious signs are manifest and clear. Now you possess four provinces, people and households of millions, in strength then there is none greater, and in discussing virtue then there is none higher. Cáo Cāo wishes to support the fallen and aid the weak, how can he continue an ended Mandate and rescue the already extinguished?” [Yuán] Shào secretly agreed with this.
- Wúshū states: When Shù was by Léi Bó and the rest resisted, he remained stationed for three days, his soldiers and army exhausted provisions, and he therefore returned reaching Jiāngtíng, from Shòuchūn eighty lǐ [~33 km]. He asked kitchen subordinates, and there were still wheat crumbs of thirty hú [~60 L]. At the time it was very hot, and he wished to obtain honey broth, but there was no honey. He sat on a latticework of a bed, and sighed for a good while, and then greatly cried out: “How did Yuán Shù come to this?” Then he fell below the bed, vomited blood of over a dǒu [~2 L] and died.