Battle of Guling, November 203 BC

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The battle of Guling (203 BC) was the last victory won by Xiang Yu during the Chu-Han Contention, and saw him defeat the isolated Han army of Liu Bang. Xiang Yu and Liu Bang had only recently agreed to split China between them, with Liu Bang getting the west and Xiang Yu the east (Treaty of the Hong Canal). While Xiang Yu began to march his armies’ home, Liu Bang and his advisors decided to strike before his own armies dispersed.

Map showing the Eighteen Kingdoms, 206-202 BC
Map showing the
Eighteen Kingdoms,
206-202 BC

Liu Bang summoned his most powerful supports, Han Xan king of Qi and Peng Yue, then chancellor of Wei, to join him with their armies. Liu Bang then launched his invasion of Chu, advancing to Guling. Much to his surprise neither Han Xan nor Peng Yue were there to meet him, but Xiang Yu and the Chu army was. Xiang Yu attacked the Han at Guling and won a major victory. Liu Bang was forced to retreat into a fortified camp, where he concentrated on improving his defences.

The defeat at Guling had a major impact on the nature of early Han China. Liu Bang’s advisors suggested that the problem had been that Han Xan and Peng Yue hadn’t been offered any rewards for taking part in the campaign. To make sure that they turned up Liu Bang offered to make Peng Yue king of Wei, while Han Xan’s kingdom of Qi was to be expanded towards the coast, and was also to get the part of Chu that included Han Xan’s home town.

This tactic worked. Both men turned up with their armies, and the combined force defeated Xiang Yu at Gaixia (202 BC). In the aftermath of this battle Xiang Yu escaped, but was hunted down and committed suicide before he could be captured. His death effectively ended the Chu-Han Contention, and a few months later Liu Bang declared himself to be Emperor, the first of the Han Dynasty.  

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 February 2012), Battle of Guling, November 203 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_guling.html

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