Xiang Yu 項羽 Simplified: 项羽 (Wade-Giles: Hsiang YŁ; 232 BC - 202 BC) was a prominent general during the fall of the Qin Dynasty. His name was Ji (籍), Yu was his courtesy name. He was a descendant of Chu nobility. He took over his uncle's rebel army after his uncle was killed by Qin. His army soon became the most powerful of all the rebels. Xiang Yu self-titled as "Xi Chu Ba Wang" (“西楚霸王”, lit. Overlord of the Chu West).
Liu Bang, who later founded Han Dynasty, was the first rebel to conquer Xianyang, the capital of Qin. But Liu was forced to hand over Xianyang and Ziying, the last ruler of Qin, to Xiang Yu. Xiang Yu then killed Ziying and burned down the palace - the unique copies of many "forbidden books" in the royal library were then lost forever.
The powerful Xiang Yu soon controlled the whole of China, but he lacked political expertise. He divided the country into 18 feudal states to his own satisfaction. Because he promoted based on nepotism, he alienated talented people away from his cause. Althrough he believed Liu Bang to be his biggest threat, he missed several chances to eliminate Liu Bang. After five years of
Chu Han Contention with Liu Bang, he soon lost all of his territory. His suffered his last defeat in Kaixia (垓下), where he lost his last armies. His beloved concubine Yuji (虞姬) committed suicide afterwards. The title of the Chinese opera "Farewell My Concubine", as well as the 1993 film based on the opera, comes from the aria that Xiang Yu sings to the Lady Yu before his last stand.
It should be mentioned he still had a great support in his homeland, but he felt he had "no face" to return home. Having once crossed the Wujiang River (烏江口/乌江口) with eight thousand men and returning with none of them, he felt the shame of returning to be unbearable and instead decided to hold a last stand. He committed suicide besides the river.
His heroic death at the hands of Liu Bang has been immortalized in the Shi Ji has made him a cultural hero in Chinese folk tales and poetry.