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Albert Kawasi

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Lee Guang

The life of Lee Guang (ZZZ廡Z) makes for interesting reading. There are legendary heroic deeds, unbelievable misfortune and human errors. In short, it is a Greek tragedy play in real life.

We have very little, if not no, information on his life prior to 166BC (漢ZZ帡ZZZZZZZ幡Z). Thanks to the great historian Sema Qian (ZZ馬ZZZ) we have a good account of his life and the fate of his family from that point on.

Sema Qian began by saying Lee Guang was from Xingji, Longxie (ZZ西ZZZ紡Z). The family had a long and distinguished military history. One of the ancestors was Lee Xin (ZZZ信Z), the Qin general (秦ZZ) best known for capturing Prince Dan (太ZZ両Z). The family was known for its excellent archery and horsemanship.

In 166BC (漢ZZ帡ZZZZZZZ幡Z) the nomadic Xiongnus (ZZZ奡Z) invaded China. Lee Guang and his adopted brother, Lee Tsoi (ZZZZZZ), took part in the defence effort by joining the army. Because of their exceptional skills in archery and horsemanship, they quickly attained the rank of Zhonglang (中ZZ) with an annual remuneration of 800 bushels and served as the emperor's guards. The emperor, Han Wendi (漢ZZ帡Z), lamented that Lee Guang wasn't living at the time of Liu Pang (ZZZZZZ) because with his abilities he would've easily become a feudal lord of an area with ten thousand households (ZZZ侯).

By 156BC (ZZZZZZZ) Lee Guang was responsible for the defence of Longxie. In all Battles he showed exceptional courage and bravery. An example was the campaign against the Wu and Chu (ZZZZ楡Z) under the command of Zhou Ahfu (ZZZZ夡Z). He attacked the Wu forces and captured the enemy's banner. However, his bravery had many feared he would eventually be killed during a scrimmage.

When the Xiongnus invaded Shangjun (両ZZZZ) the emperor sent one of his servants with the title Chonggui Ren (中貴亡Z) to serve under Lee Guang. One day the Chonggui Ren with a small group of calvary encountered three Xiongnus and attacked. The Xiongnus fought back, wounded the Chonggui Ren and slaughtered the rest. Chonggui Ren escaped and reported to Lee Guang who concluded the three must be condor hunters, the best of archers.

Lee Guang decided to track them down with a force of one hundred calvary. By now the three had lost their and were on foot. After his troops surrounding them Lee Guang challenged them to an archery duo. He killed two and captured the other whom confirmed they were indeed condor hunters.

Just as they were about to return with their captive, they were approached by a Xiongnu force of several thousand. Upon seeing Lee Guang's small force they thought they had encountered the Han (漡Z) army's decoy or bait for an ambush. With great precaution, they lined up on top of a hill. Upon seeing this display of force struck fear in Lee Guang's calvary who wanted nothing more than a panic retreat.

But Lee Guang said, "We are far from our base if we retreat the enemy with its superior number would crush us. But if we stay they'll think we are here to bait them and wouldn't dare to attack."

He order his troops forward till they were within the enemy's range of fire. Then he ordered them to dismount and unsaddle their horses. These action further confirmed the Xiongnus' suspicion of a trick and refrained from attacking. Later, Lee Guang saw a Xiongnu general on a white horse drifted apart from the rest of his troops. There upon Lee Guang and ten odd soldiers mounted, charges and killed the white horse general with their arrows. At nightfall the Xiongnus now fully convinced of a Hans ambush which would take place under the cover darkness decided to withdraw.

The Xiongnus admired Lee Guang so much that there was a standing order in battle he was to be captured only. Thus later during the reign of Emperor Wu, Lee Guang went on an expedition against the Xiongnus. Being badly outnumbered, he was wounded and captured. His captors placed him in a hammock between two horses. Lee Guang faked unconscious to lower his captors' guards and to bid his time. After travelling a distance, an opportunity presented itself when a rider on a fast horse came by. Guang leaped onto the horse, pushed the rider off and took his bow. He headed back and rejoined the Han forces. Along the way he killed a number of his pursuers with the stolen bow and arrows. According to the Han Dynasty law Guang was held accountable for the heavy lost and his brief POW status. Capital punishment was the prescribed sentence. Because of his past heroic deeds, Guang was stripped of his ranks and booted out of the royal court instead.

Several years later the Xiongnus started to make forays into China again. The Chinese court finally realized Lee Guang's value to the defense against these forays and pardoned him. The Xiongnus's respect for Guang was so great they called him Han's Flying General (漢ZZ飡Z尡Z軡Z) and avoided the area he was stationed.

Legend has it that one evening Lee Guang was out patrolling. From the corner of his eyes he saw movements in the tall grass and a tiger-like form. Guang drew his bow and fired an arrow. All was quiet. In the morning, Guang and his troops returned to investigate. In the tall grass was a large rock pierced by Guang's arrow.

In 121BC Guang took part in one of Emperor Wu's campaigns against the Xiongnus. Guang and his four thousand cavalry were assigned to the flank. After foraying into enemy territory they encountered the enemy, a force of forty thousand. In face of such overwhelming odd many of Guang's troop showed fear. In an effort to settle his troops down Guang ordered one of his sons and a small group to charge the enemy. The troops settled down after seeing this small group not only charged through the enemy line but was able to do a reversal and rejoined them.

In preparation for the pending attack, Guang ordered his troops into a circular formation. In the ensuing attack Guang lost more than half of his troops. They had just about fired all their arrows. Guang's next order was to cease firing. He used his extra strong long bow to pick off several of the enemy's generals which stemmed the on slaughter for the day.

The next day the battle started again. However, at this critical moment Han reinforcement arrived. The Xiongnus retreated. Again Guang's bravery and merits were cancelled by the heavy casualties.

Two years later, 119BC, Emperor Wu embarked on another campaign against the Xiongnus. Guang asked to be included but was refused due to advanced age. Guang persisted and Emperor Wu finally relented. However, the supreme commander, General Wei Qing (衡ZZZZ), believing Guang was old and his luck bad assigned him to the right flank and attacked from the eastern route (ZZZZ) which was much more round about.

Guang's request for reassignment to the advance striking force was rejected. Reluctantly, Guang set out on the east route. As luck would have it, Guang and his troops lost their way and failed to join up with the rest of the Han army. Guang took full responsibility for the mishap. Rather than allowing himself to be humiliated again by the unfair Han regulation and petty bureaucrats, he drew his sword and committed suicide.

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