BiographyGan Ning was born around present-day Chungking (Chongqing), in what was then Yi Province. He was originally a pirate captain, with a crew of heartless raiders, with him and his men wearing feathered hats and attaching bells to themselves, so the ringing would be heard by merchants as heralds of death. He raided ships around Ba Commandery. One day he fell under the influence of Liu Biao and served his general Huang Zu. He befriended officer Su Fei while harboring a grudge against Huang Zu, yet fought bravely for the general in the Battle of Xiakou in 203 AD, killing Sun Quan's general Ling Cao; he would have a long-lasting rivalry with Cao's son Ling Tong while serving Sun Quan later in life. In 208 AD, Gan Ning fought Sun Quan again, but rather than fight for Huang Zu's losing army, he defected to Sun Quan's Forces and killed Huang Zu himself.
Gan Ning first distinguished himself at the Battle of Chibi, fighting on the front lines against Cao Cao's Forces the same year that he had joined Wu. By this time, Gan Ning had become a protege of Lu Meng, who in turn was a protege of Lu Su, a talented strategist. The two fought constantly as Lu Meng tried to stop his hate for Ling Tong, but Gan Ning fought on his own terms while ignoring Lu Meng's orders, and during the Battle of Jing Province in 209 AD, he ignored Lu Xun and Lu Meng's strategies and took over Changsha, Lingling, Guiyang, and Wuling from Liu Bei's Forces. He got excited fighting Zhang Liao in 215 AD at the Battle of Xiaoyao Ford, where he beat Ling Tong in a head-hunting competition but the two stopped their quarrels, as they were supposed to lead by example. In the Wei pursuit of the withdrawing Wu from Hefei at the Battle of Ruxu, Gan Ning saved Ling Tong from death by killing Yue Jin, a Wei general who was about to kill Ling Tong in a duel. From then on, they were sworn brothers, ending their animosity.
A year later, Gan Ning took part in the Battle of Fan Castle against Liu Bei's general Guan Yu, in which Lu Meng was mortally wounded, with nine orifices in his chest. Gan Ning wept bitterly over his mentor's death and vowed vengeance for his master. In 222 AD, he took part in the final battle with Shu at the Battle of Yiling.
At the Battle of Yiling, Gan Ning led a unit down the Chang Jiang River, swimming to the far bank at the Shu Camp, which was burnt in a fire attack by Zhu Ran. Gan Ning fought hard, but Shu auxilliary leader Sha Moke loosed an arrow into the back of Gan Ning's head. Gan Ning, mortally wounded, stumbled over to a tree, propping himself up, and Ling Tong found him dying under that tree. Gan Ning died there, and a fleeing Sha Moke was slain by Zhou Tai.