(55.8) Gān Níng 甘寧 [Xīngbà 興霸]

[last updated 2021 July 12]

Gān Níng appellation Xīngbà was a Bā prefecture Línjiāng man. (1) When young he had vitality and strength, enjoyed traveling as an adventurer, recruiting and gathering reckless youths, became their chief commander; the gathering followed him, wielding bows and crossbows, carrying feather banners and girdling bells, the people hearing the bell sounds, then at once knew it was Níng. (2) People who encountered him, even subordinates of the city’s chief clerk, if they received him with grandeur and generosity then he had good relations with them, and if not, then he would unleash those he commanded to steal their goods and money, in the chief clerk’s jurisdiction robbed and harmed, acting uncontrollably, reaching to over twenty years. When he stopped and did not attack and plunder, he inclined to reading the various masters, and so went to join Liú Biǎo, and therefore resided at Nányáng, did not meet with advancement or use, later transferred to Huáng Zǔ, and Zǔ also treated him as an ordinary person. (3)

甘寧字興霸,巴郡臨江人也。〔一〕少有氣力,好游俠,招合輕薄少年,為之渠帥;群聚相隨,挾持弓弩,負毦帶鈴,民聞鈴聲,即知是寧。〔二〕人與相逢,及屬城長吏,接待隆厚者乃與交歡;不爾,即放所將奪其資貨,於長吏界中有所賊害,作其發負,至二十餘年。止不攻劫,頗讀諸子,乃往依劉表,因居南陽,不見進用,後轉托黃祖,祖又以凡人畜之。〔三〕

  • (1) Wúshū states: Níng originally was a Nányáng man, his ancestors were guests in Bā prefecture. Níng became an appointment and calculations official, filled vacancy as Shǔ prefecture Deputy, shortly afterward, deserted office and returned home.

〔一〕 吳書曰:寧本南陽人,其先客於巴郡。寧為吏舉計掾,補蜀郡丞,頃之,棄官歸家。

  • (2) Wúshū states: Níng recklessly adventured and killed people, living in hiding and fleeing in exile [alternative interpretation: “hid and gave shelter to those fleeing in exile”], and was heard throughout the prefecture. When going out and in, on marching then he lined up chariots and cavalry, on water then he linked light boats, his attendant followers wore embroidery, as if lighting up the roads, when stopping he always with silk brocade fastened boat, leaving he might cut it and abandon it, to show his extravagance.

〔二〕 吳書曰:寧輕俠殺人,藏舍亡命,聞於郡中。其出入,步則陳車騎,水則連輕舟,侍從被文繡,所如光道路,住止常以繒錦維舟,去或割棄,以示奢也。

  • (3) Wúshū states: Níng commanded boys and retainers of eight hundred men to meet Liú Biǎo. Biǎo was a classicist, not practiced in military affairs. At the time various outstanding heroes each raised troops, Níng judged Biǎo’s situation, that in the end he would certainly be without achievement, feared in one morning it would all collapse, and he also would receive its calamity, and wished to go east to enter Wú. Huáng Zǔ was at Xiàkǒu, the army was not able to cross, and so he remained to join Zǔ. For three years, Zǔ was not courteous to him. [Sūn] Quán suppressed Zǔ, Zǔ’s army was defeated and fled, the pursuing troops were fast, Níng as he was skilled at shooting, commanded troops at the rear, and shot and killed Colonel Líng Cāo. Zǔ therefore was able to escape, the army withdrew back to camp, [but] he treated Níng as before. Zǔ’s Chief Controller Sū Fēi several times recommended Níng, Zǔ did not employ him, and had people go convert and entice his [Níng’s] retainers, and the retainers gradually left. Níng wished to leave, feared he would not be able to escape, and was alone and discouraged not knowing what to do. [Sū] Fēi knew his intentions, and so invited Níng, for him set liquor, and said: “I recommended you several times, [but] the master does not employ [you]. Days and moons pass by, a man’s life is how long? You should distantly go, and perhaps meet one who understands you.” Níng after a long while then said: “Though I have that ambition, I do not know how.” [Sū] Fēi said: “I wish to recommend you as Zhū Chief, then you leaving, would be [easy] like facing block and rolling ball.” Níng said: “Very good!” Fēi informed Zǔ, who agreed to have Níng go to the county. He recruited the deserted retainers and added willing followers, obtaining several hundred people.

〔三〕 吳書曰:寧將僮客八百人就劉表。表儒人,不習軍事。時諸英豪各各起兵,寧觀表事勢,終必無成,恐一朝土崩,并受其禍,欲東入吳。黃祖在夏口,軍不得過,乃留依祖,三年,祖不禮之。權討祖,祖軍敗奔走,追兵急,寧以善射,將兵在後,射殺校尉淩操。祖既得免,軍罷還營,待寧如初。祖都督蘇飛數薦寧,祖不用,令人化誘其客,客稍亡。寧欲去,恐不獲免,獨憂悶不知所出。飛知其意,乃要寧,為之置酒,謂曰:「吾薦子者數矣,主不能用。日月逾邁,人生幾何,宜自遠圖,庶遇知己。」寧良久乃曰:「雖有其志,未知所由。」飛曰:「吾欲白子為邾長,於是去就,孰與臨版轉丸乎?」寧曰:「幸甚。」飛白祖,聽寧之縣。招懷亡客并義從者,得數百人。


Therefore he submitted to Wú. Zhōu Yú and Lǚ Méng both together recommended him, Sūn Quán was additionally impressed, and treated him the same as the longer serving ministers.

於是歸吳。周瑜、呂蒙皆共薦達,孫權加異,同於舊臣。

Níng explained strategies saying: “Now Hàn’s reign daily lessens, Cáo Cāo increases arrogance, and in the end will be a usurper bandit. Southern Jīng’s lands, the mountains and hills are favorable, the rivers and streams flow and connect, it truly is the state’s western opportunity. I Níng have already observed Liú Biǎo, his thoughts are not far-sighted, his sons are also inferior, and not ones able to continue the enterprise and pass on the foundations. The utmost honored should early plan against them, and cannot be after [Cáo] Cāo. The strategy to plan against them, should first take Huáng Zǔ. [Huáng] Zǔ now is old, his senility already extreme, wealth and grain both exhausted, his left and right attendants cheat and trifle, attending to monetary profits, encroaching on the officials and soldiers, the officials and soldiers in heart are resentful, the boats and battle equipment, are all worn and not repaired, negligent of plowing and farming, the army without law and order. If the utmost honored now goes, their defeat can be certain. Once defeating [Huáng] Zǔ’s army, drum to go on west, to the west occupy Chǔ’s passes, great power will all the more spread, and indeed can gradually reach to Bā-Shǔ.” [Sūn] Quán deeply accepted this.

寧陳計曰:「今漢祚日微,曹操彌憍,終為篡盜。南荊之地。山陵形便,江川流通,誠是國之西勢也。寧已觀劉表,慮既不遠,兒子又劣,非能承業傳基者也。至尊當早規之,不可後操。圖之之計,宜先取黃祖。祖今年老,昏耄已甚,財穀並乏,左右欺弄,務於貨利,侵求吏士,吏士心怨,舟船戰具,頓廢不脩,怠於耕農,軍無法伍。至尊今往,其破可必。一破祖軍,鼓行而西,西據楚關,大勢彌廣,即可漸規巴蜀。」權深納之。

Zhāng Zhāo at the time was seated in attendance, and criticized it saying: “Below Wú there are many affairs, if the army indeed goes, one fears it certainly will cause chaos.”

張昭時在坐,難曰:「吳下業業,若軍果行,恐必致亂。」

Níng said to Zhāo: “The country with Xiāo Hé’s responsibilities entrusts you, you reside in safety and worry of chaos, how is this admiring the ancients?”

寧謂昭曰:「國家以蕭何之任付君,君居守而憂亂,奚以希慕古人乎?」

[Sūn] Quán raised liquor to give to Níng and said: “Xīngbà, this year going to suppress, is like this liquor, the decision is entrusted to you. You only must exhort and establish strategy, and must conquer [Huáng] Zǔ, then your achievement, why suspect Chief Clerk Zhāng’s words?”

權舉酒屬寧曰:「興霸,今年行討,如此酒矣,決以付卿。卿但當勉建方略,令必克祖,則卿之功,何嫌張長史之言乎。」

Quán therefore went west, and indeed took [Huáng] Zǔ, completely capturing his soldiers and armies. Therefore awarded Níng with troops, garrisoning Dāngkǒu. (1)

權遂西,果禽祖,盡獲其士眾。遂授寧兵,屯當口。〔一〕

  • (1) Wúshū states: Previously, [Sūn] Quán defeated [Huáng] Zǔ, first making two baskets, wishing to fill them with [Huáng] Zǔ’s and Sū Fēi’s heads. Fēi had someone urgently tell Níng, Níng said: “Even if Fēi had not spoken, how could I forget him?” Quán for the various officers set liquor, Níng descended from mat and knocked head, blood and tears flowing, and for Quán said: “Fēi in the past gave old kindness, if I Níng had been without Fēi, assuredly I would already be lost bones in a ditch, unable to devote life below your banners. Now Fēi’s punishment is execution, I specially from you General beg for his head.” Quán was moved by his words, and said: “Now I to you send him, what if he flees?” Níng said: “Fēi escapes the disaster of being split apart, receives the kindness of restored life, even if pursued he certainly will not flee, how can one plan for fleeing? If it is so, Níng’s [my] head will substitute his in the basket.” Quán thus pardoned him.

〔一〕 吳書曰:初,權破祖,先作兩函,欲以盛祖及蘇飛首。飛令人告急於寧,寧曰:「飛若不言,吾豈忘之?」權為諸將置酒,寧下席叩頭,血涕交流,為權言:「飛疇昔舊恩,寧不值飛,固已損骸於溝壑,不得致命於麾下。今飛罪當夷戮,特從將軍乞其首領。」權感其言,謂曰:「今為君致之,若走去何?」寧曰:「飛免分裂之禍,受更生之恩,逐之尚必不走,豈當圖亡哉!若爾,寧頭當代入函。」權乃赦之。


Later he accompanied Zhōu Yú in resisting and defeating Excellency Cáo at Wūlín. Attacked Cáo Rén at Nán prefecture, had not yet taken it, Níng established plan to first directly advance to take Yílíng, went and at once captured its city, and so entered and defended it. At the time at his hand were several hundred troops, all of them newly obtained, not even a thousand men. Cáo Rén thus ordered five to six thousand men to besiege Níng. Níng was attacked for accumulated days, the enemy established high towers, like rain shooting into the city, the soldiers were all afraid, only Níng talked and laughed as usual. Sent envoy to report to [Zhōu] Yú, Yú used Lǚ Méng’s plan, commanding several officers to relieve the siege.

後隨周瑜拒破曹公於烏林。攻曹仁於南郡,未拔,寧建計先徑進取夷陵,往即得其城,因入守之。時手下有數百兵,并所新得,僅滿千人。曹仁乃令五六千人圍寧。寧受攻累日,敵設高樓,雨射城中,士眾皆懼,惟寧談笑自若。遣使報瑜,瑜用呂蒙計,帥諸將解圍。

Later accompanied Lǔ Sù in defending Yìyáng, resisting Guān Yǔ. Yǔ claimed having thirty thousand men, personally selected elite soldiers of five thousand men, upstream of the county by over ten lǐ at the rapids, saying he wished to in the night cross. Sù with the various officers discussed it. Níng at the time had three hundred troops, and so said: “Can again with five hundred men reinforce me, I will go face him, I guarantee Yǔ upon hearing me cough, will not dare cross the river, if he crosses the river he will at once be by me taken.” Sù then selected a thousand troops to reinforce Níng, Níng then in the night went. Yǔ heard this, halted and did not cross, and bound firewood into a camp, now therefore this place is called Guān Yǔ rapids. Quán commended Níng’s achievement, appointed him Xīlíng Administrator, governing Yángxīn and Xiàzhì two counties.

後隨魯肅鎮益陽,拒關羽。羽號有三萬人,自擇選銳士五千人,投縣上流十餘里淺瀨,云欲夜涉渡。肅與諸將議。寧時有三百兵,乃曰:「可復以五百人益吾,吾往對之,保羽聞吾欬唾,不敢涉水,涉水即是吾禽。」肅便選千兵益寧,寧乃夜往。羽聞之,住不渡,而結柴營,今遂名此處為關羽瀨。權嘉寧功,拜西陵太守,領陽新、下雉兩縣。


Later he accompanied in attacking Huán, as the scaling the city walls commander. Níng hand grabbed silk, his body along the walls, and was the first of the officials and soldiers, in the end defeating and capturing Zhū Guāng. In calculating the achievement, Lǚ Méng was the highest, Níng next after him, appointed Breaking Charge General.

後從攻皖,為升城督。寧手持練,身緣城,為吏士先,卒破獲朱光。計功,呂蒙為最。寧次之,拜折衝將軍。


Later Excellency Cáo set out against Rúxū, Níng was the front division commander, receiving orders to set out and chop down the enemy front camps. Quán specially bestowed rice and liquor and many delicacies, Níng then bestowed to his on hand men of over a hundred to eat. When finished eating, Níng first with silver bowl poured liquor, himself drank two bowls, then poured to share with the chief controller. The chief controller prostrated, not agreeing to accept. Níng drew white blade and set it atop his knee, huffing and saying to him: “You are known of by the utmost honored, why were you shared with me Gān Níng? I Gān Níng yet do not begrudge death, why do you alone begrudge death?” The chief controller saw Níng’s expression was strict, and at once rose to bow and accept the liquor, and continued pouring for the troops each one silver bowl. Reaching the time of second watch, biting gags, they set out to chop down the enemy. The enemy was alarmed, and therefore retreated. Níng was all the more valued heavily, increased his troops to two thousand men. (1)

後曹公出濡須,寧為前部督,受敕出斫敵前營。權特賜米酒眾殽,寧乃料賜手下百餘人食。食畢,寧先以銀碗酌酒,自飲兩碗,乃酌與其都督。都督伏,不肯時持。寧引白削置膝上,呵謂之曰:「卿見知於至尊,熟與甘寧?甘寧尚不惜死,卿何以獨惜死乎?」都督見寧色厲,即起拜持酒,通酌兵各一銀碗。至二更時,銜枚出斫敵。敵驚動,遂退。寧益貴重,增兵二千人。〔一〕

  • (1) Jiāngbiǎozhuàn states: Excellency Cáo set out against Rúxū, claiming infantry and cavalry of four hundred thousand, overlooking the Jiāng to water horses. Quán led armies of seventy thousand to answer them, sending Níng to command three thousand men as front division commander. Quán secretly ordered Níng, having him in the night enter the Wèi army. Níng then selected on hand warriors of over a hundred men, directly going below Excellency Cáo’s camp, having them pull apart the abatis, going over the ramparts to enter the camp, beheading and taking several tens. The northern army was alarmed and drummed and trumpeted, lighting fires like stars, Níng had already returned to his camp, drummed and trumpeted, declaring ten thousand years. Therefore in the night he met Quán, Quán happily said: “Was it enough to startle the old man or not? It was enough to observe your guts at least.” At once bestowed fabric of a thouand shū, sabers of a hundred. Quán said: “Mèngdé has Zhāng Liáo, I have Xīngbà, enough to match one another.” Stationed for over a moon, the northern army then retreated.

〔一〕 江表傳曰:「曹公出濡須,號步騎四十萬,臨江飲馬。權率眾七萬應之,使寧領三千人為前部督。權密敕寧,使夜入魏軍。寧乃選手下健兒百餘人,徑詣曹公營下,使拔鹿角,踰壘入營,斬得數十級。北軍驚駭鼓譟,舉火如星,寧已還入營,作鼓吹,稱萬歲。因夜見權,權喜曰:「足以驚駭老子否?聊以觀卿膽耳。」即賜絹千疋,刀百口。權曰:「孟德有張遼,孤有興霸,足相敵也。」停住月餘,北軍便退。


Although Níng was coarse and ferocious and enjoyed killing, however he was open and frank and had planning and strategy, thought little of wealth and respected servicemen, able to generously raise warriors, and warriors also were happy to devote their lives. Jiàn’ān Twelfth Year [215], followed in attacking Héféi, it happened there was epidemic, the armies all already withdrew out, only below the chariot Tiger Guard of over a thousand men, together with Lǚ Méng, Jiǎng Qīn, Líng Tǒng and Níng, accompanying Quán at ease at the ford’s north. Zhāng Liáo saw and knew of them, and at once commanded infantry and cavalry to suddenly arrive. Níng drew bow and shot the enemy, with Tǒng and the rest fighting to the death. Níng in stern voice asked the drums and trumpets why they were not sounding, his strong vitality firm resolute, Quán specially commended him. (1)

寧雖麤猛好殺,然開爽有計略,輕財敬士,能厚養健兒,健兒亦樂為用命。建安二十年,從攻合肥,會疫疾,軍旅皆已引出,唯車下虎士千餘人,并呂蒙、蔣欽、淩統及寧,從權逍遙津北。張遼覘望知之,即將步騎奄至。寧引弓射敵,與統等死戰。寧厲聲問鼓吹何以不作,壯氣毅然,權尤嘉之。〔一〕

  • (1) Wúshū states: Líng Tǒng blamed Níng for killing his father Cāo, Níng always guarded against Tǒng, not with him meeting. Quán also ordered Tǒng to not take revenge on him. Once at Lǚ Méng’s residence meeting, drinking and intoxicated, Tǒng then with a saber danced. Níng rose and said: “I Níng am able to dance with twin halberds.” Méng  said: “Though Níng able, it is not as skillful as me Méng.” Therefore he grasped saber and held shield, with his body separating them. Afterward Quán knew Tǒng’s intentions, and therefore ordered Níng to lead troops and so transferred garrison to Bànzhōu.

〔一〕 吳書曰:淩統怨寧殺其父操,寧常備統,不與相見。權亦命統不得讎之。嘗於呂蒙舍會,酒酣,統乃以刀舞。寧起曰:「寧能雙戟舞。」蒙曰:「寧雖能,未若蒙之巧也。」因操刀持楯,以身分之。後權知統意,因令寧將兵,遂徙屯於半州。


Níng’s kitchen servant once had a fault, and fled to Lǚ Méng. Méng feared Níng would kill him, and therefore did not at once return him. Later Níng presented gifts to pay respects to Méng’s mother, acting as if [to his own mother] in ascending the hall, and so [Lǚ Méng] produced the kitchen servant to return to Níng. Níng promised Méng to not kill him. After returning to his boat, he bound [the servant] to a mulberry tree, and personally drew bow to shoot and kill him. When finished, he ordered the boat people to again increase the barge moors, untied his clothes and lied in the boat. Méng was greatly furious, and struck drums to gather his troops, wishing to go to the boat to attack Níng. Níng heard this, and therefore lied down and did not rise. Méng’s mother barefooted went out to remonstrate Méng and said: “The utmost honored treats you like bone and flesh [kin], entrusts you with great affairs, how can you for personal angers yet wish to attack and kill Gān Níng? On Níng’s death day, even if the utmost honored does not investigate, you would be a servant who violated law.” Méng by nature was utmostly filial, heard his mother’s words, and immediately his thinking was resolved, he personally went to Níng’s boat, laughed and called to him saying: “Xīngbà, my mother is treating you to food, quickly come up!” Níng shedding tears sobbed and said: “[I] disappointed you.” He with Méng together returned to meet the mother, feasting all day.

寧廚下兒曾有過,走投呂蒙。蒙恐寧殺之,故不即還。後寧齎禮禮蒙母,臨當與升堂,乃出廚下兒還寧。寧許蒙不殺。斯須還船,縛置桑樹,自挽弓射殺之。畢,敕船人更增舸纜,解衣臥船中。蒙大怒,擊鼓會兵,欲就船攻寧。寧聞之,故臥不起。蒙母徒跣出諫蒙曰:「至尊待汝如骨肉,屬汝以大事,何有以私怒而欲攻殺甘寧?寧死之日,縱至尊不問,汝是為臣下非法。」蒙素至孝,聞母言,即豁然意釋,自至寧船,笑呼之曰:「興霸,老母待卿食,急上!」寧涕泣歔欷曰:「負卿。」與蒙俱還見母,歡宴竟日。


Níng died, [Sūn] Quán pained and grieved for him. His son Guī, due to a crime was exiled to Kuàijī, and soon after died.

寧卒,權痛惜之。子瑰,以罪徙會稽,無幾死。

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