Adept in battle on land
or at sea, Gan Ning was an undaunted figure. His candid personality
won him great respect among soldiers. Formerly, he was a pirate who
assembled a band of outlaws with whom he roamed over the rivers and
lakes. He wore a bell at his waist, and at the sound of this bell everyone
fled and hid. He fitted his boats with sails of Xichuan brocade, and
people called him the "Pirate with Sails of Silk." Then he served Liu
Biao under Huang Zu's command. When Sun Quan sought revenge on Huang
Zu, Gan Ning killed one of Sun Quan's leader, Ling Cao, with an arrow.
Instead of promoting him, Huang Zu treated him badly and said that he
was unsuited for any high positions because he was no more than a pirate.
So Gan Ning became a disappointed and resentful man.
Lu Meng brought him over to Sun Quan.
At first, he feared that he would not be welcomed, since he had killed
Ling Cao, but Lu Meng convinced him that Sun Quan would nourish no resentment
for former deeds. After all, every person was bound to do his best for
his master. Thereafter he served under Sun Quan. He proposed an attack
on Huang Zu in Jingzhou. Under his command, Sun Quan's army caught Huang
Zu off-guard and quickly procured territory for Wu.
During the Battle at Red Wall, Gan Ning
saw through the feigned desertion of Cai He and Cai Zhong, two brothers
who sneaked into Zhou Yu's camp as defectors. He played a part in the
ruse by Huang Gai which led to the burning of Cao Cao's navy. Furthermore,
when Cao Cao tried to escape, Gan Ning chased after and slew two of
his generals, Ma Yan and Zhang Yi.
In a later expedition, Gan Ning met Cao
Cao's army on the Wei and Wu border. With merely 100 men, he led a raid
on Cao Cao's men by night. Gan Ning's hundred horsemen rushed the enemy
in the dark, and returned without a single man lost. Sun Quan praised
him saying, "Cao Cao may have Zhang Liao, but I have mighty Gan Ning."
At the time when Gan Ning heard the armies
of Shu had come, he was seriously ill. But he roused himself and mounted
to go into the battle. Shamo Ke shot an arrow that pierced his skull.
Wounded as he was, Gan Ning rode on to Fuchikou. There he dismounted
and sat under a tree, where he died. On the tree were many hundreds
of crows, and they gathered round the corpse as if to protect the corpse.