Lan Yu -- An Extraordinary General in History of China Who Had to Die With His Best Friend

Brave General Lan Yu and His Early Military Life

There were two most talented and contributive generals in Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s army; they served him when he only had few soldiers. They were quite brave and extraordinary and played important roles in the establishment of the Ming Dynasty in the history of China.


One of them was famous General Chang Yuchun, and Lan Yu (? -- 1393) was his brother in law. 


Therefore, Lan Yu started his military life in Chang’s army, and Lan impressed Chang very soon, by his extremely braveness and decisiveness.


Under Chang’s recommendation, along with his remarkable military performance, Lan Yu then achieved more successes and had almost cooperated with all the amazing generals at that time.


He kept winning on battlefields and made great contributions to his kingdom. Besides Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, Lan Yu was widely considered as one of the top three marshals in the early Ming Dynasty. 


Marshal Lan Yu's Remarkable Military Achievement 

Lan Yu’s most noteworthy achievement was in Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s sixth Northern Expedition against the nomad government that was established by Genghis Khan’s Golden Family of the former Yuan Dynasty.


Lan Yu was the chief commander of the Ming Empire's army in that war, who led 150,000 soldiers marched into the current Bell Lake.


His troop carried limited food and water, which was a huge challenge to march in the endless desert, let alone they also needed to search for nomad army, and always stay prepared to fight.


When those warriors of the late Empire Yuan thought that the Ming’s army wouldn’t dare to go this far, because of the bad weather and limited water and food; on the other side, however, Lan Yu led his soldiers conquered all of these difficulties, pinpointed Yuan’s effective strengths, and defeated them out of sudden with little loses.


Lan Yu captured over 80,000 of their people, including hundreds of their royal members, and obtained large numbers of their treasures and livestock.


After this war, Genghis Khan’s honorable Golden Family lost their control over the Mongolian Plateau forever; the rest Mongolians then separated into three smaller regimes.

This war was the Battle of Buir Lake in Chinese history.


Lan Yu's Friendship with the Perfect Crown Prince Zhu Biao

Prince Zhu Biao, Lan Yu’s best friend, was the first son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, and Queen Ma Xiuying, also was the crown prince of the Ming Dynasty.


Prince Zhu Biao was a very kind and smart person, who was highly appreciated and loved by his parents.


After the Ming Dynasty was established, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang immediately nominated Zhu Biao as crown prince, and sent the best marshals and ministers to teach and assist him; since then, Zhu Biao was raised and trusted as the heir of Empire Ming.


Zhu Biao participated in politics and governance very young, and did an excellent job; he was respected and supported by everyone, important ministers, generals, other princes, let alone his beloved parents.


Moreover, he was a very good big brother, who always took care of his little brothers and covered up for them when they made mistakes. 


The perfect heir Zhu Biao married to a niece of General Lan Yu, and nominated her as his queen; this marriage made Lan Yu and Zhu Biao got even closer.


Lan Yu also suggested Zhu Biao eliminate his fourth younger brother Zhu Di, saying that Zhu Di was ambitious over the throne, and was quite able to rebel in the future.


A few years later, Lan Yu was proved quite correct; however, Zhu Biao didn’t believe that his behaved younger brother would do things like that. 


Zhu Biao was a polite and smart kid that was loved by his outstanding parents, a kind and highly respected crown prince that had supports of the most excellent generals and ministers and younger brothers, he would be a perfect emperor of the Empire Ming. 


Departing of the Crown Prince and the Dilemma of Lan Yu

But unfortunately, crown prince Zhu Biao passed away because of sickness when he was only 36 years old.


After long time grief and serious consideration, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang decided to nominate his grandson Zhu Yunwen, son of prince Zhu Biao, as the new crown prince. 


Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang never doubted Lan Yu’s loyalty to Zhu Biao; however, with Yunwen, no one could make sure.


Because Zhu Biao’s first son died very young; Zhu Yunwen, his second-oldest son, was given birth by another concubine, not Lan Yu’s niece.


That means Lan Yu, this very proud and genius marshal, was never close to this young heir Zhu Yunwen. But Lan Yu was the father in law of Zhu Yuanzhang’s eleventh son.


Therefore, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang considered General Lan Yu as a big potential risk for Zhu Yunwen’s reign in the future. 


Besides, Lan Yu was a very arrogant person. After he having achieved big success, he did something illegal, such as the wrongful occupation of lands. 


Later, he also showed his unsatisfactory with his rewards; he believed that he deserved higher titles and positions, based on his military achievements and extraordinary contribution.


But at that time, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang only demoted and warned Lan Yu, since he was the most loyal friend and valuable political asset for crown prince Zhu Biao. 


A Controversial Rebellion Buried Him with His Best Friend

Unfortunately, the next year after Zhu Biao’s departure, someone reported that Lan Yu was planning to rebel.


Soon Lan Yu was put into prison, and then sentenced to death; large numbers of people who had connections with Lan Yu were involved and executed as well. 


Some believed that Lan Yu did plan to rebel after Zhu Biao’s death, since he was unsatisfied with some of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s policies, and his title was not as noble as he had expected.


More people thought that Lan Yu was framed up for his potentiality to threaten the new heir, because Lan Yu did have the reason and ability to overthrow Zhu Yunwen and make his son in law, the eleventh son of Zhu Yuanzhang, as the new emperor. 


The truth of whether General Lan Yu had planned to rebel was still unclear since every side of the story was possible. But his friendship with crown prince Zhu Biao was sincere and genuine.


If Zhu Biao was alive, Lan Yu would stay alive, being a great and loyal marshal who could protect his best friend’s reign and assist him to keep the empire in peace. Zhu Di, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who snatched the throne from Zhu Yunwen, probably would always be a behaved younger brother and a lord, staying in his vassal state Beijing.


If Lan Yu hadn't sentenced to death and kept serving Emperor Zhu Yunwen, Zhu Di would never have the chance to win over the throne in that rebel war. 


But there were no ifs.


General Lan Yu and many other excellent marshals were executed soon after Zhu Biao’s death.

The prince Zhu Di, whom Lan Yu had always believed as a snatcher over the throne, did rebel, imprison, and murder most of Zhu Biao’s descendants. 

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