Lan Yu (general)

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Lan.
Lan Yu
Traditional Chinese 藍玉
Simplified Chinese 蓝玉

Lan Yu (died 1393) was a Chinese general who contributed to the founding of the Ming Dynasty. His ancestral home was in present-day Dingyuan County, Anhui. In 1393 Lan was accused of plotting a rebellion and put to death by the Hongwu Emperor. About 15,000 people were implicated in the case and executed.


According to the History of Ming, in his early years, Lan Yu was a subordinate of Chang Yuchun, another general[1] under the rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang (later the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming). Lan Yu was also the younger brother of Chang Yuchun's wife. As Lan Yu displayed courage in battle, Chang Yuchun spoke well of him numerous times in front of Zhu Yuanzhang, and Lan was later promoted from guanjun zhenfu (管軍鎮撫) to an administrative officer in the commander-in-chief's office (大都督府僉事). In 1371, Lan Yu followed Fu Youde to attack Shu (covering present-day Sichuan) and conquered Mianzhou (綿州) around present-day Mianyang. In 1372, he accompanied Xu Da on a campaign against the Northern Yuan Dynasty in Mongolia, departing from Yan Pass and defeating the Yuan armies at Mount Luan (亂山) and near the Tula River (土剌河). Seven years later he followed Mu Ying to attack Tibet, capturing three tribal leaders and around a thousand men. For his efforts, in 1379 Lan Yu was conferred the title of "Marquis of Yongchang" (永昌侯), in addition to receiving 2500 dan () of grain and a shiquan (世券), a type of plaque granted by the emperor to officials in recognition of their contributions.[2]

In 1381, Lan Yu was appointed "Left Deputy General Who Conquers the South" (征南左副將軍) and accompanied Fu Youde to attack Yunnan and pacify the region. He was rewarded with 500 dan of grain and his daughter was granted the title of "Princess Consort of Shu" (蜀王妃). In 1387, Nahachu (納哈出) of the Northern Yuan invaded Liaodong and the Hongwu Emperor sent Feng Sheng, with Lan Yu and Fu Youde as his right and left deputies respectively, along with a 200,000-man army to attack him. Nahachu was defeated and surrendered. Lan Yu garrisoned the army at Jizhou (薊州).[3]

In 1388, the Hongwu Emperor commissioned Lan Yu as General-in-Chief (大將軍) and sent him with 150,000 troops to attack the Northern Yuan ruler Uskhal Khan. In the fourth lunar month of that year, Lan Yu's force arrived at Buir Lake and defeated the Northern Yuan army, capturing Uskhal Khan's family members numbering more than 100, more than 77,000 civilians, more than 150,000 livestock, along with several priced items, including Uskhal Khan's imperial seals. Uskhal Khan attempted to flee to the Mongol Empire's old capital of Karakorum, but was killed shortly after the defeat. The Hongwu Emperor was pleased when he received news of Lan Yu's victory and intended to grant Lan the title of "Duke of Liang" (梁國公), but changed the Chinese character for "Liang" from "梁" to "涼" after he heard that Lan seized a Mongol noble lady for himself and violated her. This resulted in a change in the area that was to be Lan Yu's dukedom.[4] Despite so, Hongwu still praised Lan Yu as "comparable to Wei Qing of the Han Dynasty and Li Jing of the Tang Dynasty".[5] In 1392 a surrendered Yuan general Yuelutiemu'er (月魯帖木兒) rebelled in Jianchang (present-day Xichang, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan) and Lan Yu was sent to suppress the revolt. Lan Yu crushed the uprising and captured Yuelutiemu'er and his son, and was appointed as the Crown Prince's Tutor (太子太傅) for his achievement.

As he made more achievements, Lan Yu became more arrogant, self-indulgent and unbridled. He started abusing his power and status and behaved violently and recklessly, sometimes even showing disrespect towards the emperor. Once, after he seized land from peasants in Dongchang (東昌), an official questioned him on his actions, but Lan Yu drove the official away in anger. In another incident, after Lan Yu returned from a campaign in the north, he arrived at Xifeng Pass (喜峰關), where the guards denied him entry as it was already late at night, but Lan led his men to force his way through. When he was away at war, Lan Yu sometimes also demoted officers at his own will and defied orders, to the extent of going to battle without permission. During his appointment as the Crown Prince's Tutor, Lan Yu was unhappy that his post was lower than the dukes of Song and Ying, so he exclaimed, "Am I not fit to be the Imperial Tutor (太師)?"[6] The Hongwu Emperor became more angry with Lan Yu after learning of these incidents.

Lan Yu had a close friendship with the crown prince Zhu Biao. Once after Lan Yu returned from a campaign against the Mongols, he warned the crown prince that Zhu Di (the Prince of Yan and future Yongle Emperor) seemed to be a likely a threat to his succession. Zhu Di heard about this, so after Zhu Biao died in 1392, he cautioned the Hongwu Emperor that Lan Yu and other founding pioneers of the dynasty were becoming a threat to the throne and should be dealt with before they get out of control. Lan Yu and others did not restrain themselves and continued behaving in the same manner as they did. Around this time, Hongwu was already making plans to eliminate them. Five months later when Hongwu appointed Zhu Biao's son Zhu Yunwen (future Jianwen Emperor) as the new crown prince, he allowed Lan Yu to continue serving as the Crown Prince's Tutor.


In the second lunar month of 1393, a Jinyiwei (secret police) commander Jiang Huan (蔣瓛) accused Lan Yu of plotting a rebellion and a search was conducted in Lan's residence and around 10,000 Japanese swords were found. The Hongwu Emperor immediately had Lan Yu put to death on a charge of treason.[7] Lan Yu's clan was exterminated to the third degree and his properties confiscated. More than 15,000 people were implicated and executed in this incident, including 12 marquises and two counts. This incident is known historically as the Lan Yu Case (藍玉案).[8][9] It was believed that Hongwu Emperor orchestrated his death to eliminate any threat for his successor Zhu Yunwen; ironically, Lan Yu's death contribute greatly to Zhu Yunwen's downfall as after his death, there were no capable generals that could prevent the powerful Zhu Di (future Yongle Emperor) from usurping the throne after Hongwu Emperor's death.

See also


  1. China Archaeology and Art Digest, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 29. Art Text Ltd. (Hong Kong), 2000. Accessed 17 Oct 2012.
  2. (藍玉,定遠人。開平王常遇春婦弟也。初隸遇春帳下,臨敵勇敢,所向皆捷。遇春數稱於太祖,由管軍鎮撫積功至大都督府僉事。洪武四年,從傅友德伐蜀,克綿州。五年從徐達北征,先出雁門,敗元兵於亂山,再敗之於土剌河。七年帥兵拔興和,獲其國公帖里密赤等五十九人。十一年同西平侯沐英討西番,擒其酋三副使,斬獲千計。明年,師還。封永昌侯,食祿二千五百石,予世券。) Zhang Tingyu et al. History of Ming, Volume 132, Biography of Chang Yuchun.
  3. (十四年,以征南左副將軍從潁川侯傅友德征雲南,擒元平章達里麻於曲靖,梁王走死,滇地悉平。玉功為多,益祿五百石。冊其女為蜀王妃。二十年,以征虜左副將軍從大將軍馮勝征納哈出,次通州。聞元兵有屯慶州者,玉乘大雪,帥輕騎襲破之,殺平章果來,擒其子不蘭溪還。會大軍進至金山,納哈出遣使詣大將軍營納欸,玉往受降。納哈出以數百騎至,玉大喜,飲以酒。納哈出酌酒酬玉,玉解衣衣之,曰:「請服此而飲。」納哈出不肯服,玉亦不飲。爭讓久之,納哈出覆酒於地,顧其下咄咄語,將脫去。鄭國公常茂在坐,直前砍傷之,都督耿忠擁以見勝。其眾驚潰,遣降將觀童諭降之。還至亦迷河,悉降其餘眾。會馮勝有罪,收大將軍印,命玉行總兵官事,尋即軍中拜玉為大將軍,移屯薊州。) Zhang Tingyu et al. History of Ming, Volume 132, Biography of Lan Yu.
  4. Note that 梁 referred to an area covering parts of present-day Hubei, Henan and Anhui, while 涼 covered the area around present-day central Gansu.
  5. (時順帝孫脫古思帖木兒嗣立,擾塞上。二十一年三月,命玉帥師十五萬征之。出大寧,至慶州,諜知元主在捕魚兒海,間道兼程進至百眼井。去海四十里,不見敵,欲引還。定遠侯王弼曰:「吾輩提十余萬眾,深入漠北,無所得,遽班師,何以覆命?」玉曰:「然。」令軍士穴地而爨,毋見煙火。乘夜至海南,敵營尚在海東北八十余里。玉令弼為前鋒,疾馳薄其營。敵謂我軍乏水草,不能深入,不設備。又大風揚沙,晝晦。軍行,敵無所覺。猝至前,大驚。迎戰,敗之。殺太尉蠻子等,降其眾。元主與太子天保奴數十騎遁去。玉以精騎追之,不及。獲其次子地保奴、妃、公主以下百余人。又追獲吳王朵兒只、代王達里麻及平章以下官屬三千人,男女七萬七千余人,並寶璽、符敕金牌、金銀印諸物,馬駝牛羊十五萬余。焚其甲仗蓄積無算。奏捷京師,帝大喜,賜敕褒勞,比之衛青、李靖。又破哈剌章營,獲人畜六萬。師還,進涼國公。) Zhang Tingyu et al. History of Ming, Volume 132, Biography of Lan Yu.
  6. (玉長身赬面,饒勇略,有大將才。中山、開平既沒,數總大軍,多立功。太祖遇之厚。浸驕蹇自恣,多蓄庄奴、假子,乘勢暴橫。嘗佔東昌民田,御史按問,玉怒,逐御史。北征還,夜扣喜峰關。關吏不時納,縱兵毀關入。帝聞之不樂。又人言其私元主妃,妃慚自經死,帝切責玉。初,帝欲封玉梁國公,以過改為涼,仍鐫其過於券。玉猶不悛,侍宴語傲慢。在軍擅黜陟將校,進止自專,帝數譙讓。西征還,命為太子太傅。玉不樂居宋、潁兩公下,曰:「我不堪太師耶!」比奏事多不聽,益怏怏。) Zhang Tingyu et al. History of Ming, Volume 132, Biography of Lan Yu.
  7. Dun J. Li The Ageless Chinese (Charles Scribner's Sons: 1971), p. 276
  8. (二十六年二月,錦衣衛指揮蔣瓛告玉謀反,下吏鞫訊。獄辭雲:「玉同景川侯曹震、鶴慶侯張翼、舳艫侯硃壽、東莞伯何榮及吏部尚書詹徽、戶部侍郎傅友文等謀為變,將伺帝出耤田舉事。」獄具,族誅之。列侯以下坐黨夷滅者不可勝數。手詔佈告天下,條列爰書為《逆臣錄》。至九月,乃下詔曰:「藍賊為亂,謀泄,族誅者萬五千人。自今胡黨、藍黨概赦不問。」胡謂丞相惟庸也。於是元功宿將相繼盡矣。凡列名《逆臣錄》者,一公、十三侯、二伯。葉升前坐事誅,胡玉等諸小侯皆別見。其曹震、張翼、張溫、陳桓、硃壽、曹興六侯,附著左方。)
  9. Others implicated in the Lan Yu Case include: Han Xun (韓勛), Marquis of Dongping (東平侯); Cao Tai (曹泰), Marquis of Xuanning (宣寧侯); Cao Xing (曹興), Marquis of Huaiyuan (懷遠侯); Ye Sheng (葉升), Marquis of Jingning (靖寧侯); Cao Zhen (曹震), Marquis of Jingchuan (景川侯); Zhang Wen (張溫), Marquis of Huining (會寧侯); Chen Huan (陳桓), Marquis of Puding (普定侯); Zhang Yi (張翼), Marquis of Heqing (鶴慶侯); Zhu Shou (朱壽), Marquis of Zhulu (舳艫侯); Chahan (察罕), Marquis of Haixi (海西侯); Sun Ke (孫恪), Marquis of Quanning (全寧侯); He Rong (何榮), Count of Dongguan (東莞伯); Sang Jing (桑敬), Count of Huixian (徽先伯).
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