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Wen Ping

Wen Ping
Administrator of Jiangxia (江夏太守)
In office
220 (220) – ? (?)
MonarchCao Pi
In office
c. 208 (c. 208) – 220 (220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
General of the Rear (後將軍)
In office
c. 222 (c. 222) – ? (?)
MonarchCao Pi
Personal details
Nanyang, Henan
RelationsWen Hou (nephew)
  • Wen Dai
  • Wen Xiu (adopted son)
Courtesy nameZhongye (仲業)
Posthumous nameMarquis Zhuang (壯侯)
PeerageMarquis of Xinye

Wen Ping (fl. third century), courtesy name Zhongye, was a military general who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China.[1] During his tenure as a general under the warlord Cao Cao, he was credited with defeating the enemy general Guan Yu and defending Cao Cao's interests in Jiangxia Commandery from the eastern warlord Sun Quan.

Early life

Wen Ping was from Wan County (宛縣), which is in present-day Nanyang, Henan. He originally served under Liu Biao, the Governor of Jing Province, and was tasked with defending the province's northern frontier. In 208, after Liu Biao's death, his younger son and successor Liu Cong surrendered to the warlord Cao Cao, who was the de facto head of the Han central government. Wen Ping was initially reluctant to surrender even though he did in the end. When Cao Cao asked him why he surrendered so late, he promptly replied that he was considering putting up resistance because he saw it as his duty to defend the province from invasion.[2] Cao Cao was so impressed by Wen Ping's response that he put him in command of a detachment of the military forces in Jing Province.

Service under Cao Cao

Wen Ping participated at the Battle of Changban against Cao Cao's rival, Liu Bei, and routed him in battle. However, Liu Bei managed to escape and form an alliance with the eastern warlord Sun Quan. In the winter of 208–209, the allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei defeated Cao Cao's forces at the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs. After his defeat, Cao Cao allowed Wen Ping to retain command over some of the troops stationed in Jing Province and appointed him as the Administrator of Jiangxia Commandery (commandery capital in present-day Xinzhou District, Wuhan, Hubei), which was located strategically near the border between Cao Cao and Sun Quan's territories. Emperor Xian, the figurehead Han emperor, also enfeoffed Wen Ping as a Secondary Marquis (關內侯), the lowest among the marquis ranks of the Han dynasty.

In 209, Wen Ping joined Cao Cao's general Cao Ren at the Battle of Jiangling against Sun Quan's forces led by the general Zhou Yu. When Liu Bei's general Guan Yu attempted to cut off Cao Ren's connection, Wen Ping and his colleague Yue Jin defeated Guan Yu at Xunkou (尋口) and drove him back. In recognition of his contributions in battle, the Han imperial court promoted Wen Ping to a village marquis under the title "Marquis of Yanshou Village" (延壽亭侯) and awarded him the appointment of General Who Attacks Rebels (討逆將軍). Motivated by his victory, Wen Ping further overtook Guan Yu's supply depot at Han Ford (漢津) and caught him off guard on the Han River, where he burnt down most of Guan Yu's warships. At the time, Wen Ping and Yue Jin successfully secured the supply and communication lines of Jiangling; however, the casualties on Cao Cao's forces were beyond affordable level after nearly a year of intense fighting, so Cao Cao admitted defeat and ordered his generals to forfeit Jiangling. Thus, Wen Ping entered into a defensive position in the eastern flank at Jiangxia Commandery to resist incursions led by Sun Quan's general Cheng Pu.

Service under Cao Pi

After Cao Cao's death in 220, Wen Ping continued serving under his son and successor Cao Pi, who in late 220 usurped the throne from Emperor Xian and declared himself emperor of the Cao Wei state. In 221, when the Battle of Xiaoting broke out between former allies Liu Bei and Sun Quan, Cao Pi formulated a plan for a three-pronged attack on Sun Quan, whose forces were overstretched and diluted. He promoted Wen Ping from a village marquis to a district marquis under the title "Marquis of Chang'an District" (長安鄉侯) and ordered him to join the generals Zhang He and Cao Zhen in attacking Sun Quan's stronghold at Jiangling.

Like the last battle at Jiangling, the Wei forces enjoyed numerical advantage, but this time, they were on the offensive. However, the Wei forces ultimately did not make much progress because the defenders put up a strong defence, resulting in the siege being prolonged. Several months later, enemy reinforcements attempted to enter Jiangling while a branch of Sun Quan's navy sailed into the Mian River. Wen Ping managed to defend Miankou, a key chokepoint of the Mian River, with his warships. Cao Pi eventually called off the attack on Jiangling when additional enemy reinforcements arrived on the battlefield. Despite the disappointing outcome of the battle, Cao Pi nonetheless recognised Wen Ping for his achievements in holding his ground against the enemy and hence promoted him to General of the Rear (後將軍), in addition to elevating him from a district marquis to a county marquis under the title "Marquis of Xinye" (新野侯).

Cao Pi then ordered Wen Ping to lead his troops to rendezvous with his main army, which was advancing towards a fortress guarded by Sun Quan's general Xu Sheng. Obscured by thick fog, Wen Ping and Cao Pi fell victim to Xu Sheng's plot when the latter erected straw figures and flags along the city walls. Believing Xu Sheng had already set up his defences and gathered a large army with geographic advantage, Cao Pi ordered a retreat. Sun Quan's general Sun Shao took advantage of the enemy's retreat to launch an attack and managed to capture the bulk of the Wei army's baggage.

Later life

The last known battle that Wen Ping participated in, as recorded in history, took place at Shiyang (石陽). During the battle, he was surrounded by Sun Quan's 50,000 strong army. He firmly defended his position with a smaller army for about 20 days and launched a counterattack as the enemy retreated, defeating the enemy general Pan Zhang in the process. However, he was driven back by another enemy general Zhu Ran, who came to Pan Zhang's rescue.

It is not known when Wen Ping died. After his death, he was honoured with the posthumous title "Marquis Zhuang" (壯侯) by the Wei government. His adopted son, Wen Xiu (文休), inherited his marquis title ("Marquis of Xinye") because his biological son, Wen Dai (文岱), died early. Wen Xiu was in turn succeeded by his son, Wen Wu (文武), after his death. Wen Ping also had a nephew, Wen Hou (文厚), who was enfeoffed as a secondary marquis.

See also


  1. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 862.
  2. ^ (「先日不能輔弼劉荊州以奉國家,荊州雖沒,常願據守川漢,保全土境,生不負於孤弱,死無愧於地下,而計不得已,以至於此。實懷悲慚,無顏早見耳。」) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).