Who is the smartest person in the Three Kingdoms? Can Jia Yu do it?

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Yi Zhongtian said in the program “tasting the Three Kingdoms” of the hundred family forum that Jia Xu was “probably” the most intelligent person in the history of the Three Kingdoms. Because Jia Xu was very cautious and prudent, he never gave advice to Cao Cao easily. He lived a long life at the age of 77!

Different people have different opinions. After all, there was no concept and instrument of IQ test in that era. It was impossible to judge who was the smartest by IQ data. However, in the annals of the Three Kingdoms, Yan Zhong also said, “Jia Xu, a commoner, has no choice but to change his mind. He is good and peaceful!” You should know that both Zhang Liang and Chen Ping were important think tanks that helped Liu Bang win the world, and they were the embodiment of wisdom in people’s hearts at that time.

Then, how smart was Jia Xu at that time when there were so many heroes and so many advisers?



Jia Xu. Figure source: Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1987 Edition)

adjust to changing circumstances

Jiaxu, with the word Wenhe, was born in Wuwei, Liangzhou. At first, he was appreciated by Yanzhong, Hanyang County, and was promoted to be Xiaolian Lang. Chen Shou recorded such a short story in the annals of the Three Kingdoms——

It is said that Jia Xu met a group of Di horse thieves on his way home from illness. Horse thieves kill people and steal goods. People with money and goods may also spend money to eliminate disasters and escape their lives. People without money and goods basically start and end as long as they fall into the hands of horse thieves.

At that time, dozens of people in the same trade were caught.  

Jia Xu didn’t have any money with him, but he didn’t mess up in the face of danger. Instead, he cheated the Di people and said, “I’m the grandson of ‘Duke Duan’. If you lock me up separately, my family will pay a lot of money to redeem me.”

“Duke Duan” refers to the Taiwei Duan GUI, a fellow townsman of Jia Xu, who lived in the border area of Jiuzhen and the west of Weizhen. In those days, when the Qiang rebellion was flourishing, Duan Gu wiped out the Qiang rebellion with the loss of 400 people and beheaded 40000 people.

Basically, the horse thief has developed limbs and simple mind, and has no awareness of verifying the authenticity of information. As soon as they heard Jia Xu’s words, they panicked. Who is tired of living and dares to provoke Duan Yu’s grandson? Therefore, they not only dared not harm Jia Xu, but also became sworn brothers with Jia Xu and sent him home, while the others were killed.  

It is evident from Jia Xu’s ability to adapt to circumstances.

Moreover, his diction is also very clever. Instead of directly threatening the Di people and saying that he would not let me go, my grandfather Duan GUI would tear you to pieces. Instead, he said that he would lock me up as a hostage, and you could exchange gold and silver treasures. He understands that mere “coercion” may make the other party take risks and kill people. Only by adding “inducement” to provide benefits and give the other party a better choice, can the other party adopt a compromise and cooperative attitude.

Without a deep insight into the hearts of the people, you can’t say such a thing.

When Jia Xu returned to the state, he immediately reported to the government. According to the clues provided by Jia Xu, the government pursued all the way to eliminate the gang of horse thieves, which was regarded as revenge for more than a dozen people in the same trade. This is also his philosophy of life. He will never show mercy to the enemy.

Play against the trend

After taking Xiaolian as his Lang, Jia Xu joined Zhang Huan, the governor of Wuwei Prefecture, and became the commander of the army, Ma DongZhuo. Later, he was promoted to be a prisoner of war captain under the account of Niu Fu, DongZhuo’s son-in-law.

After Dong Zhuo was killed by situ Wangyun in Chang’an, the generals of Liangzhou had no head and no place to go. At this time, Wang Yun was in power and planned to liquidate the Xiliang army. The first person he killed was Caiyong, a famous scholar who only sympathized with DongZhuo, the father of caiwenji, a talented woman. What is the difference between Wang Yun’s style of not listening to any opposition, stubbornly acting and indiscriminately killing innocent people and Dong Zhuo’s?

When the generals of the Xiliang army Li Xi, Guo Si, Zhang Ji and others saw that Wang Yun wanted to kill people, they wanted to disband their troops and return to their villages.



Wang Yun. Figure source / stills of the new Three Kingdoms

At this time, Jia Xu said to them that if we disband the team and go alone, a small pavilion leader can catch us all. Now, taking advantage of the panic, we might as well, under the banner of revenge for Duke Dong, take in those stragglers all the way, fight back to Chang’an and kill Wang Yun. Maybe we can still live.

Li Xi and Guo Si were moved by Jia Xu’s words. They would rather fight to the death than sit and wait for death! So they recaptured the Liangzhou soldiers who had been scattered by birds and beasts, and led their troops to March day and night to attack Chang’an. At the foot of Chang’an City, more than a hundred thousand people gathered. The general Lv Bu was outnumbered. He had to lead more than a hundred horses to escape to Kanto. Wang Yun died in the country.

Li Zhen, Guo Si and others were even more brutal than Dong Zhuo. They plundered soldiers, causing more than 10000 casualties among officials and people. Their bodies were piled up in the streets. Important ministers of the imperial court, besides Wang Yun, were also killed, including Sili Xiaowei, zuofengyi and youfufeng. This bloodbath swept away the central power of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Later, Li and Guo Si fought against each other, attacking and killing each other, which affected the people. Guanzhong area became a hell on earth. According to historical records, Dong Zhuo died at the beginning of his death, and the three auxiliary people were still hundreds of thousands of households. Li and others sent troops to loot and starve. In the two years, the people ate a little.

And all this is thanks to Jia Xu. Of course, Wang Yun also bears great responsibility.



Li Xi, Guo Si. Figure source / screenshot of the new Three Kingdoms

If we put aside the moral condemnation and only proceed from the perspective of personal interests, Jia Xu’s suggestions to Li Xi, Guo Si and others are right. He not only saved the survival of the Liangzhou army, but also allowed them to control the government again in a dignified manner. He himself became famous in the first World War and became a world-famous counselor. Zhugeliang once said among the Confucians that “if you want to cover the national plan and ensure the safety of the country, you are a mastermind, not a boaster. You are deceiving people by falsely praising them. You can sit down and talk. No one can reach you. If you are able to change your situation, you will be laughed at by the world.” According to this contingency standard, Jia Xu is a first-rate counselor.

Maybe Jia Xu felt guilty. In order to quell the disaster, he used a separatist trick to persuade thousands of Qiang Hu who planned to take refuge in Li Fu to leave, weakening Li Fu’s strength. Therefore, the biography of Jia Xu in the annals of the Three Kingdoms justly mentioned: “protecting the minister is powerful.”


Later, Jia Xu assisted Emperor Xian of Han Dynasty to leave Chang’an.

plan very carefully with every conceivable possibility taken into account

After assisting Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty to leave Chang’an, Jia Xu resigned from his official position and came to Zhang Xiu’s army. Why did Zhang Xiu listen to Jia Yuyan and even worship him? Because Zhang Xiu is the nephew of Zhang Ji, the general of the Xiliang army mentioned above. After Zhang Ji’s death, Zhang Xiu took over all his territory and men and became a warlord. If Jia Xu hadn’t persuaded Zhang Ji to go back to Chang’an, Zhang Ji would have become a powerless civilian even if he hadn’t been pursued and killed by Wang Yun, and there would be no “legacy” for Zhang Xiu.

Therefore, Jia Xu is a great benefactor of Zhang Xiu.



Zhang Xiu. Figure source /94 screenshot of romance of the Three Kingdoms

At this time, Cao Cao had already sent Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty to Xu county


And hold the emperor to order the princes. Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu are both entrenched in Henan Province. How can they allow others to sleep? Zhang Xiu became a thorn in the flesh of Cao Cao.  

Two years of construction and installation


At the suggestion of Jia Xu, Zhang Xiu stationed troops in Wancheng. In the first month of the same year, Cao Cao came to attack Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu also knew the current affairs very well. Knowing that she could not defeat Cao Cao, she took the initiative to surrender and handed over the command of Wancheng to Cao Cao.

However, according to the annals of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao had a propensity to possess married women. He seized Zhang Xiu’s Uncle Zhang Ji’s widow. In addition, the Fu Zi said that Cao Cao secretly gave Zhang Xiu’s Senior General Hu che’er a lot of gold. Zhang Xiu was afraid that Cao Cao would use Hu che’er to harm herself.

In short, Cao Cao angered Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu decides to fight to the death with Cao Cao. Jia Xu gives Zhang Xiu a plot to outwit Cao Cao. He asked Cao Cao to garrison the army on the main road, and Jia Xu stationed his troops who pretended to surrender on the high slope. Then Zhang Xiu suggested to Cao Cao that he had too few transport vehicles and that his soldiers should take as much of them as possible, so as to reduce the weight and quantity of the vehicles.  

Cao Cao agreed without much thought. Maybe Zhang Xiu was a martial artist in his eyes. There was nothing to worry about. As a result, at Zhang Xiu’s command, Zhang Xiujun, who was fully armed, rushed to Cao Jun’s camp from a commanding position. Cao Jun was caught off guard and killed by surprise. Cao Cao was also in a panic. Unable to organize effective defense, he had to run away.

Although Cao Cao escaped from heaven, he suffered heavy losses. His eldest son Cao ang, nephew Cao Anmin, and confidant Dian Wei all died.

Cao Cao was sure to retaliate. When Cao Cao attacked Zhang Xiu again, Yuan Shao raided Xudu behind his back and kidnapped the son of heaven, so Cao Cao had to retreat. Zhang Xiu saw that Cao Cao had retreated and wanted to pursue him. Jia Xu dissuaded her from pursuing him and she would be defeated. Zhang Xiu did not listen and was defeated. When Zhang Xiu brought back the defeated soldiers, Jia Xu told him that he could pursue them now and that they would win. As a result, Zhang Xiu really defeated Cao Cao.

Zhang Xiu was puzzled and asked Jia Xu: “just now we chased back the army with elite soldiers. Sir said we would lose. Now we chased the army with defeated soldiers. Sir said we would win. I really can’t figure out the mystery.”.

Jia Xu said that when Cao Cao retreated, he would break the rear line himself, so the general would be defeated. However, Cao Cao made no mistakes and did not do his best when he attacked Daocheng. If he retreated without fighting, there must be a problem in the rear. After he retreated the pursuers, he must be on his way. The people who stayed behind were not the general’s opponents, so he was sure to win.

You know, Jia Xu didn’t have a God’s perspective at that time. He knew that Cao Cao’s retreat was due to a fire in the backyard. He logically deduced the conclusion purely through the actions of the enemy.

Jia Xu, as expected, was as good as his head.



Jia Xu and Cao Cao. Figure source / screenshot of the film “GuanYunChang”

judge the hour and size up the situation

On the eve of the outbreak of the battle of Guandu, yuanshao and Cao Cao both sent personnel to attract Zhang Xiu to their side. According to common sense, Yuan Shao’s strength is far greater than that of Cao Cao. He has a greater chance of winning. He should follow Yuan Shao. Moreover, Zhang Xiu and Cao Cao have deep blood feuds. However, Jia Xu did the opposite and persuaded Zhang Xiu to reject Yuan Shao and choose Cao Cao. In order to cut off Zhang Xiu’s future, Jia Xu decisively tore up Yuan Shao’s letter in front of Yuan Shao’s envoy.

Zhang Xiu was stunned, and Jia Xu analyzed it for him. First, yuanshao had many powerful people, and Cao Cao had few soldiers. His own people were insignificant in yuanshaona, and in Cao Cao it was a timely help, which must be valued; Second, Cao Cao has the ambition of being a king. He will not care about past grievances. Instead, he will take himself as an example to show his magnanimity to the world and subdue others with virtue; Third, Cao Cao used the emperor’s orders to disobey his ministers, so as to occupy political legitimacy and take refuge in him.

Although Zhang Xiu was afraid of joining Cao Cao, she still listened to Jia Xu. Sure enough, Cao Cao ignored past grievances – at least on the surface. As soon as Zhang Xiu arrived, Cao Cao shook hands and held a banquet to wash away the dust like an old friend. He appointed him general Yang Wu and granted him the rank of marquis. He also asked his son Cao Jun to marry Zhang Xiu’s daughter. The two became in laws. There was no mention of the hatred, as if it had never happened.

Zhang Xiu became one of the brave generals under Cao Cao, while Jia Xu was appointed as the chief envoy and became an important adviser around Cao Cao.

The battle of Guandu kicked off, and Cao’s army soon ran out of rations, revealing that Cao’s comprehensive strength was not as good as Yuan Shao’s. Cao Cao asked Jia Xu about his plan. Jia Xu said, “Gongming wins Shaoxing, Yong wins Shaoxing, employing people wins Shaoxing, and deciding on opportunities wins Shaoxing. If there are four wins and it is uncertain for half a year, but Gu Wanquan is the reason. We must decide on the opportunities and we can decide in a moment.” He gave Cao Cao a shot in the arm.

Sure enough, Xu you of the Yuan Shao camp later offered Cao Cao advice, and Cao Cao raided Yuan Shao’s WuChao granary, resulting in Yuan Shao’s defeat. After Cao Cao’s victory, he made Jia Xu a doctor of Taizhong.

Before the battle of Chibi, Jia Xu thought that the people should be pacified rather than fighting against Jiangdong. Cao Cao did not listen and was severely defeated.

Later, after Cao Pi became emperor, he asked Jia Xu whether he should conquer Shu first or Wu first. Jia Xu said that you should not worry too much, because although Wu and Shu are small in size, they are easy to defend but difficult to attack because of the mountains and rivers, Moreover, “Liu Bei has great talents, Zhugeliang is good at governing the country, Sun Quan knows the actual situation, Lu Xun sees the potential of the military, and it is difficult for him to make plans by boating in the Jianghu according to the danger and importance. The way of using the military is to win first and then fight, and to measure the enemy and judge the general, so there is no strategy left. The ministers steal information from the ministers, who are unprepared and have the right power. Although they face the threat of heaven, they do not see the potential of perfection. In the past, Shun danced with Qi and Miao clothes, and the ministers thought that it is appropriate to stabilize the domestic economy and calm the people’s hearts.”, And then use force against the two countries.



Cao Pi. Figure source /94 screenshot of romance of the Three Kingdoms

Cao Pi did not listen to the dissuasion and returned without success.

Jia Xu has an insight into world affairs, can judge the situation, and always tries to turn the tide at the critical moment. Those who do not listen to his suggestions basically end up in failure.

be worldly-wise and play safe

What Professor Yi Zhongtian appreciates most is that Jia Xu knows how to protect himself and let himself die at the age of 77.

In the troubled times of the Three Kingdoms, it is very difficult to do this. As a counselor, you must know how to show your cleverness. If you don’t make a move, you will be hit; Also learn to keep a low profile, especially don’t let your boss think you are showing off your cleverness.

Xu you is a typical negative example. After he helped Cao Cao defeat Yuan Shao, he began to be proud of his contributions. At each banquet, Xu you called Cao Cao by his nickname and said, “ah, you can’t get Jizhou without me, and you might be captured by Yuan Shao.” Although Cao Cao laughed on the surface and agreed with Xu you, he was very unhappy in his heart.

Xuyou was still at the east gate of Yecheng. He told the passers-by on the street that Cao Cao could not enter from this gate without him. Cao Cao took Xu you into custody and killed him.

The same is true of Yang Xiu in the romance of the Three Kingdoms. He always likes to show his intelligence in front of people, showing that he is smarter than the Lord. As we all know, in order to curry favor with Cao Cao, someone sent a box of crisp from outside the Great Wall. When Cao Cao saw it, he wrote three words “Yihe crisp” on the box. As a result, Yang Xiu directly took the tableware and gave it to the ministers. After eating, he plausibly said that “one bite of crisp for one person” was written on the box. Why is Yang Xiu so clever?



Cao Cao and Yang Xiu. Figure source /94 screenshot of romance of the Three Kingdoms

In contrast, Jia Xu only spoke on the key problems encountered by Cao Cao and put forward effective strategies to help Cao Cao solve practical problems. For example, Cao Cao wrote a letter to Jia Xu when he was on the western expedition to South Korea. Jia Xu suggested to alienate Han and Ma, and Cao Cao acted according to the plan. As expected, twice the result with half the effort. Jia Xu never showed his cleverness in the matter of “yihesu”, because such behavior would not have any practical significance except that it would cause the Lord’s disgust.

In addition to not shaking his wits, Jia Xu also “closed his door, retired without personal friends, married men and women, and did not form high schools”, so that Cao Cao had no suspicion at all.

What should be said and what should not be said, Jia Xu’s heart is like a mirror; Jia Xu knows what to do and what not to do. Therefore, he was able to survive in the cruel cracks. In his early years, he acted according to circumstances and turned good luck many times. In his later years, he was able to retreat bravely and protect himself. Therefore, Chen Shou said that he should return to the world for wisdom.

reference material:

1. Annals of the Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou

2. Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

3. Records of the later Han Dynasty by Yuanhong





Zhe Xufei



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