Deng Zhi

Deng Zhi
Deng Zhi
Minister of Shu Han
Born (Unknown)
Xinye, Xiangyang
Died 251
Simplified Chinese 邓芝
Traditional Chinese 鄧芝
Pinyin Dèng Zhī
Wade-Giles Teng Chih
Style name Bomiao (伯苗)

Deng Zhi (died 251) was a minister of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history.



Early career

Deng Zhi was a native of Xinye (新野; in present-day Nanyang, Henan), and went to Yi Province (益州; covering the Sichuan Basin) to avoid the turmoil of central China. He was not recognized in the area and was not even respected, so he became concerned with his prospect and asked the local fortune-teller, Zhang Yu (張裕), about his future. Zhang Yu told him that he would become the Grand General and a marquis, but only after 70 years old. Still, Deng Zhi could not gain a sense of security from Zhang Yu, and when he heard the Grand Administrator of Western Ba, Pang Xi, was fond of guests, he quickly joined the later and took shelter under him.[1]

When the warlord Liu Bei invaded Yi Province, Pang Xi surrendered, and Deng Zhi was made a low-ranking official after Liu Bei took over the province. Once, Liu Bei passed by Picheng (郫城), where Deng Zhi held his post, and discovered the latter's talent after a conversation.[2] Thus, Deng Zhi soon ascended to Grand Administrator of Guanghan, and worked hard on proving himself. As a result, Guanghan received good governance, and Deng Zhi was ordered to join the central politics in Shu's capital of Chengdu.

As an ambassador

When Liu Bei died soon after his catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Xiaoting, the regent, Zhuge Liang, was so worried that chief ally, Eastern Wu, would alter its diplomatic policy.[3] At the time, the residents in the southern part of Shu openly severed ties with the regime and had Zhuge Liang's representative, Zhang Yi, bound and sent to Wu, so Zhuge Liang became more worried and did not know what to do. Deng Zhi walked up to Zhuge Liang and proposed, "his Highness, being newly ascended, is young and weak, we should send an envoy to Wu to renew our good relationship." Zhuge Liang responded, "then it'll be you to be the envoy!"[4] Thus, Deng Zhi went east, but the Wu ruler Sun Quan deliberately refused to see him. It was after Deng Zhi personally presented a memorial to Sun Quan was he allowed a meeting. Sun Quan excused by saying the nature of Shu emperor, Liu Shan, made him hesitant and he was concerned that the smaller Shu might be taken advantage by its rival state of Cao Wei. Deng avoided to mention Liu Shan, but said, "your Majesty is a dynastic hero, but Zhuge Liang is also a hero of the time. Considering the geographic advantages of our states, if we could combine them and work together, then we can take all lands under heaven if we proceed; or remain our positions if we recede. On the contrary, if you send your son as a hostage to Wei, then you will be asked to go north also. When you refused, they will claim you as a rebel and attack your position, and Shu will also follow the flow to go downstream and take your land. Thus, the land of Jiangnan will no longer be yours."[5] Sun Quan was thrown into deep thought by Deng Zhi's speech. After a long while of silence, Sun Quan finally decided on severing ties with Wei, and at the same time released the inmate Zhang Yi. Finished with his mission, Deng Zhi went back to Shu with Sun Quan's representative, Zhang Wen (張溫). When Zhang Wen needed to go back, Deng Zhi was again sent to Wu a second time, and Sun Quan remarked that "Deng Zhi was the only person who could harmonize the two countries"!

As a general

Later, when Zhuge Liang launched his Northern Expeditions to invade Wei, Deng Zhi was assigned as the Central-Commissioner to assist the veteran general, Zhao Yun. Together they marched along the Qi Valley and fought the Wei commander, Cao Zhen, but was defeated because they were only given weaker soldiers. Seven years later, Zhuge Liang died and Deng Zhi was promoted to Adviser-of-the-Front and General-of-the-Front, and as Zhang Yu foretold years earlier, Deng Zhi received the honorific title of a marquis. He was later assigned as an Area Commander for Jiangzhou region, bordering Eastern Wu. Sun Quan explicitly communicated with this old friend of his on numerous occasions, and Deng Zhi received plenty of gifts from Sun during his tenure.[6]

In 248, Deng Zhi was made General of Chariots, a title only next to the Grand General in military ranking. Five years later, the residents of Fu County rose against Shu Han regime and Deng Zhi led his force to suppress them, and succeeded in chopping off the heads of the local leaders.

Appraisal and death

Deng Zhi had been a general for over 20 years, during his tenure, he treated his troops nicely. He acquired clothing and food from his office, but did not act in accord with the virtue of frugality. When Deng Zhi died, his family had no excess wealth.[7] His son, Deng Liang, succeeded him and continued to serve Shu until its downfall.

Deng Zhi was obstinate and simple, also an boaster who would not act humbly, so he could not befriend the scholars. People at the time did not honor him, and Deng Zhi did not respect the others, except for Jiang Wei.[8] A story from the biography of Jin Zhong says that when Deng Zhi visited the imperial court from Jiangzhou, he saw the old Jin Zhong was given military command, so he teased the latter by saying, "according to ritual, sixty-year-old people don't take part in the military, but you just accepted troops, why?" Jin Zhong rebuked Deng Zhi, "you, who aged over 70, still refuse to give back the troops, why couldn't I take command at the age of sixty?" Deng Zhi neglected his own age when he teased Jin Zhong, so the latter's reply greatly made a mock. Actually, Deng Zhi's arrogance in Shu was so well-known that nearly everyone including his supervisor, the Grand General Fei Yi, avoided him, only Jin Zhong would not yield.[9]

In fiction

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, after the Battle of Xiaoting and the death of Liu Bei, Deng Zhi was sent by Zhuge Liang as an envoy to rebuild their former alliance with Sun Quan's forces. Sun Quan's advisor Zhang Zhao suggested to set up a large cauldron filled with boiling water outside the meeting hall. When Deng Zhi arrived, he did not pay the proper respects to Sun Quan, and Sun threatened to have him thrown into the cauldron. However, Deng Zhi succeeded in persuading Sun Quan to let him live and convinced Sun to form an alliance with the state of Shu Han.

Appointments and titles held

  • Picheng Official Residence Cabinet Supervisor (郫城府邸閣督)
  • Prefect of Pi (郫令)
  • Administrator of Guanghan (廣漢太守)
  • Imperial Secretary (尚書)
  • Central Army Supervisor (中監軍)
  • General Who Spreads Martial Might (揚武將軍)
  • Military Advisor of the Vanguard (前軍師)
  • General of the Vanguard (前將軍)
  • Inspector of Yan Province (袞州刺史)
  • Marquis of Yangwu (陽武亭侯)
  • General of Chariots and Cavalry (車騎將軍)

See also

  • List of people of the Three Kingdoms


  1. ^ (芝闻巴西太守庞羲好士,往依焉。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Biography of Deng Zhi.
  2. ^ (先主出至郫,与语大奇之,擢为郫令,迁广汉太守。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  3. ^ (丞相诸葛亮深虑权闻先主殂陨,恐有异计,未知所如。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  4. ^ (芝见亮曰:“今主上幼弱,初在位,宜遣大使重申吴好。”亮答之曰:“吾思之久矣,未得其人耳,今日始得之”。芝问:“其人为谁?”亮曰:“即使君也。”乃遣芝修好于权。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  5. ^ (芝对曰:“吴、蜀二国四州之地,大王命世之英,诸葛亮亦一时之杰也。蜀有重险之固,吴有三江之阻,合此二长。共为唇齿,进可并兼天下,退可鼎足而立,此理之自然也。大王今若委质于魏,魏必上望大王之入朝,下求太子之内侍。若不从命,则未辞伐叛,蜀必顺流见可而进。如此,江南之地非复大王之有也。“). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  6. ^ (权数与芝相闻,馈遗优渥。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  7. ^ (芝为大将军二十余年,赏罚明断,善恤卒伍。身之衣食资仰于官,不苟素俭,然终不治私产,妻子不免饥寒,死之日家无余财。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms. Note this passage from his biography largely contradicts the rest of the biography. He was named the General of Chariots in 243 and died in 251, so it is impossible for him to be the Grand General (大将军 in the quote) for over 20 years. Also, he was recorded to have at least received numerous personal gifts from Sun Quan, but at the end of his biography, Deng Zhi's family was depicted to be "unavoidable to hunger and cold".
  8. ^ (性刚简。不饰意气,不得士类之和。于时人少所敬贵,唯器异姜维云。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  9. ^ (时车骑将军邓芝自江州还,来朝,谓预曰:“礼,六十不服戎,而卿甫受兵,何也?”预答曰:“卿七十不还兵,我六十何为不受邪?”...芝性骄傲,自大将军费祎等皆避下之,而预独不为屈。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.


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