Zhang He

Zhang He

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name=Zhang He

Caption=Illustration of Zhang He being shot to death from a Qing Dynasty edition of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
Title=Military general
Kingdom=Cao Wei
Pinyin=Zhāng Hé
WG=Chang Ho
Zi=Junyi (儁乂)
Post=Marquis Zhuang (壯侯)

Zhang He (167 – 231) was a distinguished military general under the powerful warlord Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. He began his military career when the Yellow Turban Rebellion erupted in 184 and subsequently served under Han Fu and Yuan Shao before defecting to Cao Cao during the Battle of Guandu. He participated in many major campaigns, including those against Yuan Tan, Zhang Lu, Ma Chao, and Liu Bei. After Cao Cao's death in 220, Zhang He was primarily engaged with defending Cao Wei against the Northern Expeditions led by Chancellor Zhuge Liang of the Kingdom of Shu. He died from an arrow wound received during an encounter with Zhuge Liang's forces in 231.

Famed for his resourcefulness that even Zhuge Liang was said to be wary of, Zhang He was considered by Chen Shou, author of the "Records of Three Kingdoms", to be one of the five top generals of the Kingdom of Wei, along with Zhang Liao, Xu Huang, Yue Jin and Yu Jin. He was also said to be full of respect for Confucian scholars, and supported the measure to adopt masters of the Five Classics in Cao Pi's court.


Early career

A local of Mao (鄚, present day Maozhou Town, Hebei), the birth year of Zhang He was not recorded. After the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in 184, Zhang He joined the volunteer army under Han Fu, governor of Jizhou (冀州, present day southern Hebei) to suppress the rebellion. He was appointed as a middle-ranking army commander. Although the rebellion was soon quelled, it led to the flourishing of many regional armies under the control of de facto warlords. After Emperor Ling died in 189, one such warlord from Liangzhou (涼州, present day western Gansu) named Dong Zhuo usurped power and placed in the throne the puppet Emperor Xian. Warlords from eastern China formed a coalition against Dong Zhuo in 190. The attempt did not pull through but did trigger a series of massive civil wars among the warlords themselves.

In 191, when Han Fu faced military threats from rival warlord Gongsun Zan, who was based in Youzhou (幽州, present day northern Hebei), he decided to turn over Jizhou to his ally Yuan Shao. Zhang He and his troops then came under command of the new lord. Yuan Shao promoted Zhang He to a high-ranking commanding post and charged him with defending the borders against Gongsun Zan. After he successfully defeated Gongsun Zan, Zhang He was further promoted to a junior general post.

Defection to Cao Cao

In 199, Yuan Shao defeated Gongsun Zan at the decisive Battle of Yijing and gained control of the four regions north of the Yellow River. He then turned his attention to Cao Cao, a rising warlord gaining power in Yanzhou (兗州, present day western Shandong) just south of the river. In the autumn of the next year, the two sides clashed at Guandu (官渡, northeast of present day Zhongmu County, Henan). Yuan Shao had his food supply stored at Wuchao (烏巢, southeast of present day Yanjing County, Henan), guarded by Chunyu Qiong. Zhang He advised Yuan Shao to reinforce the defense at Wuchao as Cao Cao would certainly seek to seize the food supply. However, Yuan Shao eventually took the counsel of advisor Guo Tu, who suggested concentrating forces on the base camp of Cao Cao should the latter decide to attack Wuchao.

Cao Cao indeed led a light force to attack Wuchao under the cover of the night. The food supply was lost and the massive army of Yuan Shao collapsed. The embarrassed Guo Tu then slandered Zhang He before Yuan Shao, accusing the general of taking pleasure in the defeat. The fearful Zhang He then decided to defect to Cao Cao along with colleague Gao Lan. Cao Cao was very pleased and compared Zhang He's surrender to those of Wei Zi (微子) and Han Xin (Wei Zi was an advisor to Di Xin but defected to King Wen of Zhou and contributed greatly to the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. Han Xin left Xiang Yu to join Liu Bang, who later founded the Han Dynasty.)

Henceforth, Zhang He participated in many campaigns Cao Cao waged, including a northern campaign against the heirs of Yuan Shao, a defensive campaign against Ma Chao and Han Sui, and the offensive on Zhang Lu in Hanzhong. For his achievements Zhang He was promoted to General Who Crushes Rebels (盪寇將軍) in 215 and deployed along with Xiahou Yuan to the defense of the greater Hanzhong region against invasions of Liu Bei. In 219, Xiahou Yuan was killed in the Battle of Mount Dingjun and Zhang He retreated to Yangping (陽平, northwest of Hanzhong). Xiahou Yuan's deputy Guo Huai threw his weight behind Zhang He, who then took over command of the late general's troops. According to "A Brief History of Wei" (魏略) by Yu Huan, although Xiahou Yuan was the overall in command of the defense force of Hanzhong, Liu Bei was really more worried about Zhang He. He was said to have expressed his disappointment that it was Xiahou Yuan instead of Zhang He who was killed in battle.

When Cao Cao received news of Xiahou Yuan's death, he personally came to Hanzhong to lead a counterattack against the enemy. Liu Bei held his position in the mountainous terrain and refused to engage in battles. Cao Cao was forced to retreat to Chang'an two months later, giving up the strategic Hanzhong. Zhang He then garrisoned his troops at Chencang (陳倉) to prevent further incursion by Liu Bei.

Zhang He is often associated with his loss to Zhang Fei while attempting to conquer Dangqu. However, after the defeat he was promoted by Cao Cao to General who Agitates Bandits - possibly because during his campaign he conquered both the Baxi and Badong commanderies.

Late life

After Cao Cao died in 220, his successor Cao Pi promoted Zhang He to General of the Left (左將軍). Months later, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate and declared himself the first emperor of Cao Wei. Zhang He was then enfeoffed as Marquis of Mao. In 221 He was sent together with Cao Zhen to subdue the Lushui Hu (盧水胡) and Eastern Qiang raiders in Anding Commandery (安定, present day western Gansu and southern Ningxia) on the western borders of China and was victorious. After an audience with the emperor in the capital Xuchang, Zhang He, Cao Zhen and Xiahou Shang were deployed south in 222 to seize Jiangling, which was under the control of the Kingdom of Wu. Although initial attacks were successful, an epidemic breakout forced the invaders to retreat.

When Cao Pi died in 226, he was succeeded by Cao Rui. Zhang He maintained his position in the south to defend against the Kingdom of Wu. When Zhuge Liang of the Kingdom of Shu launched his Northern Expeditions against the Kingdom of Wei in 227, Zhang He was recalled to his old battlefield west of Chang'an to fend off the attack. In the next year, Zhang He scored a brilliant victory against Ma Su at the Battle of Jieting. Zhuge Liang was forced to retreat to Hanzhong and self-demote three grades to take responsibility for the loss of the strategic position. Zhang He also pacified the commanderies of Nan'an (present day location unclear), Tianshui and Anding, which were turned over to Zhuge Liang during initial attacks.

Zhang He was then sent to assist Sima Yi, who was training a naval force in Jingzhou (荆州, present day Hubei and Hunan) to prepare for an assault against the Kingdom of Wu. However, the waters of Mian River (沔水, an alternate name for Han River in ancient times) during the winter were too shallow for large ships to sail in and the attack was called off. Meanwhile, Zhuge Liang launched the second of his expeditions and attacked Chencang. Zhang He was again sent to the rescue. He correctly predicted that the enemy would retreat before he even arrived because of shortage of food supply. He was then recalled to the capital and promoted to General of Chariots and Cavalry Who Campaigns the West (征西車騎將軍).


In 231, Zhuge Liang launched the fourth of his expeditions. Zhang He was sent to assist Sima Yi in fending off the attack. After initial victories, Zhuge Liang's army again ran short of supplies and had to retreat. Sima Yi then ordered Zhang He to give pursuit, despite Zhang He's warnings of possible ambush. Zhang He was indeed ambushed by crossbowmen as his force entered a narrow defile named Mumen Trail (木門道). An arrow struck him in his right knee and he died on the battlefield at the age of 64. He was posthumously titled Marquis Zhuang (壯侯), literally meaning the robust marquis.

Modern references

Zhang He appears in all 11 installments of Koei's "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" strategy game (though he is named "Zhang Yue" in the eleventh installment). His statistics and skills place him in the top 5% of officers in every installment. Both his appearance and background are depicted in accordance with the novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"' traditional historical depiction.

Zhang He is also a playable character in Koei's "Dynasty Warriors" and "Warriors Orochi" series. For more information, see List of Dynasty Warriors characters.


*cite book|author=Chen Shou|title=San Guo Zhi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=2002|id=ISBN 7-80665-198-5

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*"Records of Three Kingdoms"
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

External links

* [http://www.kongming.net/novel/sgz/zhanghe.php Biography of Zhang He at Kongming's Archives]

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