Through the years China has had many dynasties and an even greater number of emperors ruling over them. Ranging from the great emperor Wu of the mighty Han Dynasty who is noted for leading china through its largest expanse in 141-87 BC to the Qin Dynasties creator Emperor Qin Shinuang just to name a few. China has had its fair share of turmoil along with its fair share of glory and, as is the case with all great empires, its fair share of legendary people. Dian Wei is one of these legends that is easy to overlook.
Dian Wei played a crucial role in the unifying of Imperial China, not so much in the sense as he brought everyone together, but in the role of a bodyguard. Dian Wei began his military career as a simple swordsman for Warlord Cao Cao under the command of General Xiahou Dun but was shortly granted the title of Major after showing potential. Dian Wei was then hand selected by warlord Cao Cao after a display of his military prowess during a surprise attack that Warlord Cao Cao orchestrated in 194 against the opposing Warlord Lu Bu. The goal of the attack was to catch Lu Bu’s forces of guard for a quick, decisive victory. However the insurgency took longer than anticipated which allows Lu Bu to send reinforcements from the near bye city of Puyang. The reinforcements were able to pincer Cao Cao’s men between the initial force and the reinforcements that had just arrived. Despite the seemingly inevitable impending doom that Cao Cao’s men faced Dian Wei stood tall providing guidance for the remaining troops. Dian Wei instructed the men to forgo their shields for the killing power of dual halberds and spears. To compensate for their lack of defense they were also instructed to adorn their fallen comrade’s armor on top of their own, this made the men nearly impervious to piercing, slashing and barrages of arrows. There was a downfall to this however, mobility was greatly reduced. Dian Wei countered this hindrance by instructing his men to inform him as the enemy troops approached. Once the opponents had nearly reached him his men broke rank providing Dian Wei direct contact with the enemy. Dian instantly reacted by hurling upwards of ten jis into the enemies ranks. The opposing forces tried to take down the small group of Cao Cao’s men but their double armor technique made them human tanks which forced Lu Bu’s forces to retreat.
Obviously an impressive feat such as that would catch the attention of Warlord Cao Cao. Once word reach Cao Cao, Dian Wei was promoted to his personal body guard. Dian Wei took his new found position with utmost seriousness, so much so that Dian Wei was rarely an earshot away from Cao Cao. It is said that Dian Wei would sleep outside the warlord’s tent with his armaments at the ready to defend the warlord, and defend he did.
Cao Cao pushed for a united China during the three kingdoms era, unfortunately all three states had their own idea of what united meant and were approaching that goal with their own approaches. Due to this the three kingdoms era is disputed as one of, if not, the most bloody time in history. Despite this, at Cao Cao’s height he had managed to unite all of Northern China with the use of the Han Dynasties Emperor Xian as a puppet ruler. Expansion and unity for all of China wasn’t in Cao Cao’s favor though. As is the case with all expansion there are moment where political awareness seems to go out the window in favor of more, natural goals. Such is that case with Cao Cao.
After Cao Cao’s men defeated rival Zhang Ji in the Eastern Han Dynasty in 197 Cao Cao decided to take Zhang Ji’s widow in as a concubine, which naturally upset the new warlord which coincidentally was Zhan Ji’s son, Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu launched a surprise attack against Cao Cao shortly thereafter which came to be known as the Battle of Wancheng. Cao Cao’s men were vastly unprepared for this attack which required an immediate retreat, however it was very unlikely that Cao Cao and his men would make it out alive. Once again Dian Wei stood tall and instructed Cao Cao to flee on horse while he and a small group stayed behind to hold off Zhang Xiu’s assassins. Dian Wei armed himself with two halberds, each weighing roughly 40lbs, and made his valiant last stand. Dian Wei’s men were eventually all killed in battle leaving only Dian Wei to fend off the remaining forces. Dian Wei managed to cut down upwards of 12 men by himself before sustaining any injuries, and even more thereafter. Once Dian Wei was disarmed from flanking enemies he still managed to crush two men with his bare hands before succumbing to his injuries. Zhang Xiu’s men were so terrified of the man that even in death they were hesitant to approach him and once the courage was conjured to do so they restrained the corpse and decapitated his head.
Although Dian Wei was defeated in the Battle of Wancheng he managed to save the Warlord with his quick planning and cunning military tactics. Had all of Cao Cao’s forces retreated it is thought that the Warlord himself would have been slain that very day. When news of Dian Wei’s death reached Cao Cao it is said that Cao Cao was so devastated that he ordered his army to go and retrieve Dian Wei’s body and gave him a funeral fit for a king. Cao Cao promoted Dain Wei’s son as his bodyguard shortly thereafter and continued to push for a unified China to great effect in the South. In 213 Warlord Ca Cao was granted the title “Duke of Wei” along with additional land to rule over. However, despite his efforts Cao Cao didn’t get much further after that and failed to unify China under a single rule, and eventually succumbed to death in 220. After his death Cao Cao’s son, Cao Pi, took charge and had Dian Man as his bodyguard as well. They say like father like son, and this couldn’t be any truer than in the case of Dian Wei and Cao Cao.