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Reading some historical texts on Liu Bei, the famous Three Kingdoms warlord, I was surprised to see that in more than one occasion, he is referred to as 明将军. What does this name mean, and where did it come from?

For example:

Zhuge Liang

亮乃進曰:「明將軍當復有遠志,但結毦而已邪!」

Fa Zheng

正旣宣旨,陰獻策於先主曰:「以明將軍之英才,乘劉牧之懦弱;張松,州之股肱,以響應於內;然後資益州之殷富,馮天府之險阻,以此成業,猶反掌也。」

I don't think Liu Bei ever had a formal title of "明将军". Instead, he had the title of "General of the Left" (左将军), bestowed by the Han emperor.

Is it simply an honorific? Was the title used on other people? Or is this another name for Liu Bei that I'm not aware of?

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It's an honorific, meaning "illustrious" or "enlightened general", and as such is not specific to Liu Bei.

For example, in the Records of the Three Kingdoms, Pei Song's annotations cite a passage where Huangfu Li (皇甫酈) addresses Li Jue (李傕) as 明將軍:

近董公之強,明將軍目所見...

In recent times, you yourself, illustrious general, saw with your own eyes how powerful Dong Zhuo was ...

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  • 1
    Yes, I think 明公 is the same kind of honorific and used more often. – congusbongus Feb 18 '16 at 23:55

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