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Zang Ba

Zang Ba
Bearer of the Mace (執金吾)
In office
222 (222) – ? (?)
MonarchCao Pi
General Who Guards the East (鎮東將軍)
In office
220 (220) – 222 (222)
MonarchCao Pi
General Who Spreads Might (揚威將軍)
In office
? (?) – 220 (220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Inspector of Xu Province (徐州刺史)
In office
? (?) – 220 (220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Personal details
Bornc. 162[1]
Fei County, Shandong
Diedc. 230s[1]
  • Zang Ai
  • Zang Shun
FatherZang Jie
Courtesy nameXuangao (宣高)
Posthumous nameMarquis Wei (威侯)
PeerageMarquis of Liangcheng

Zang Ba (c. 162–230s), courtesy name Xuangao, was a military general who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China.[1] He served the warlord Tao Qian initially, followed by Lü Bu and finally Cao Cao and his successors, but for the most part of his career, he remained semi-autonomous over his troops and eastern China. The years of his birth and death are not recorded, but he served the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period until the reign of the second Wei emperor, Cao Rui. During his life he was granted autonomous power over Qing and Xu provinces.[2] He eventually held the title of marquis of various counties within, but by the time of his death held the appointment Bearer of the Mace (執金吾; i.e. mayor of the imperial capital). Zang Ba was known for being an arrogant general, but also a powerful regional leader who contributed much to the state of Cao Wei. He was a rare case in which an insolent subordinate like him enjoyed a good ending.

Incident in hometown

Zang Ba was originally from Hua County (華県), Mount Tai Commandery (泰山郡), which is around present-day Fei County, Shandong. According to the Records of the Three Kingdoms, Zang Ba's father, Zang Jie, who served as a prison warden in Hua County, was displeased with the commandery administrator's abuse of his powers. Thus, he stopped obeying the administrator's orders. The administrator, who was greatly angered, had Zang Jie arrested and arranged to be escorted as a prisoner to the provincial capital. Zang Ba, although only 18 at the time, led a group of some 20 or 30 men to rescue his father. Although there were over 100 soldiers escorting Zang Jie, none of them dared to stop Zang Ba. Henceforth, the Zangs became fugitives but Zang Ba's bravery also became well known.

As a bandit leader

After the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in the 180s, Zang Ba entered the service of Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province, and gathered adventurers and gangsters around the area to fight the Yellow Turban rebels. Within his recruits, Sun Guan (孫観), Wu Dun (吳敦), Yin Li and Chang Xi (昌豨) were the most outstanding, and together they protected Xu Province from incursions by the rebels. However, they did not return to Tao Qian after the campaign and instead camped at Kaiyang (開陽) and established their own independent regime.[3]

When Lü Bu gained control of Xu Province, Zang Ba and his gangs became known as the Taishan Bandits and attacked Lü Bu's ally, Xiao Jian (萧建), and seized the treasury of Langye Commandery. Enraged, Lü Bu personally led his troops to attack Zang Ba, despite opposition from his subordinate Gao Shun, but was driven back. On the other hand, Zang Ba, fearing the bigger threat from the southern warlord Yuan Shu, agreed to make peace with Lü Bu and ally with him against Yuan Shu.

Autonomy over Xu Province and Qing Province

When Lü Bu and Liu Bei were in conflict, the warlord Cao Cao, who controlled the Han central government, led his forces east to Xu Province to support Liu Bei in his war against Lü Bu. Zang Ba sided with Lü Bu against Cao Cao and Liu Bei, but after Lü Bu's defeat and execution following the Battle of Xiapi, Zang Ba lost his ally and became a fugitive.

After Zang Ba was captured, Cao Cao asked for his allegiance and granted him control over Qing and Xu provinces immediately. Zang Ba's old friends, Sun Guan and Wu Dun, were also appointed as local administrators.[4] Zang Ba and his followers maintained their power, even after their submission to Cao Cao. Once, Cao Cao ordered Liu Bei (then his subordinate) to ask Zang Ba for the heads of two traitors, Mao Jun and Xu Xi, who defected to Zang Ba when the latter was still hostile to Cao Cao. However, Zang Ba refused to turn the two men over. He told Cao Cao that the reason he had been able to earn the loyalty of so many people was because he never turned his back on them. He would stick by his people no matter what happened. As such, he did not want to turn these two men over to Cao Cao. Instead of getting upset at Zang Ba's insolence, Cao Cao praised him for his honourable conduct, comparing it to that of ancient heroes. He even went so far as to pardon Mao Jun and Xu Xi and appoint them as commandery administrators.

During Cao Cao's battles with Yuan Shao in the early 200s, Zang Ba led elite soldiers into Qing Province, allowing Cao Cao to focus the majority of his soldiers on the main battles at hand, and not having to worry himself about the east. Later, when Cao Cao defeated Yuan Tan in the Battle of Nanpi, Zang Ba went personally to Cao Cao to congratulate him on his great victory. During the celebration banquet, he offered to move his family to Ye city, Cao Cao's headquarters, effectively as hostages to bound his loyalty. Cao Cao refused, expressing his full confidence in Zang.[5]

On many occasions, Zang Ba put down rebellions in the areas he was charged with defending. For these accomplishments, he enfeoffed as a marquis by Emperor Xian, the figurehead Han emperor. He also put down the rebellion of Chang Xi, his former subordinate, together with Yu Jin. In addition to this, he also fought alongside Xiahou Yuan to put down remnants of the Yellow Turban rebels. Zang Ba was then formally appointed as the Inspector of Xu Province, and his close comrade, Sun Guan, became the Inspector Qing Province. However, Xiahou Yuan, who was in charge of supplies for the military forces in the two provinces, effectively curtailed some of Zang Ba's autonomy.

Battles against Sun Quan

On the border between Cao Cao and Sun Quan's territory, In 209, after the Battle of Red Cliffs,[6] Zang Ba led a contingent to join Cao Cao's army as he advanced across the Huai River to attack Sun Quan north of the Yangtze River. Zang Ba was the leader in the capture of Juchao, Lujiang Commandery.

Later on Cao Cao sent two separate forces to suppress another rebellions of Chen Lan (陳蘭) and Mei Cheng (梅成) started a rebellion in Lu County (六縣; in present-day Lu'an, Anhui). Yu Jin and Zang Ba to attack Mei Cheng; Zhang Liao, with Zhang He and Niu Gai (牛蓋) as his deputies, to attack Chen Lan. Mei Cheng pretended to surrender to Yu Jin, and then led his men to join Chen Lan at Mount Tianzhu as soon as Yu Jin and Zang Ba left.[7] On the other hand, Zhang Liao was worried that Sun Quan would send his general, Han Dang, with an army to assist Chen in resisting Cao Cao's forces. Han Dang was in charge of defending Huancheng, a major stronghold in Lujiang Commandery at that time so Zhang Liao sent Zang Ba to attack Han Dang in Huancheng to ensure that he could not move to reinforce the rebels. Zang Ba attacked Huancheng, but Han Dang defended the stronghold well and actually succeeded in driving Zang Ba back. However this was a minor victory as Sun Quan then dispatched a force of some 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers to assist Chen Lan but Zang Ba was able to ambush them and drive them away.[8] Zang Ba gave chase at night and attacked in the morning. Many of Sun Quan's soldiers could not board their ships in time to escape and were forced into the water, where they drowned. Without external interference from Sun Quan, Zhang Liao was able to crush Chen Lan's rebellion easily.

Later, during the Battle of Ruxu in 213, Zhang Liao and Zang Ba both led the vanguard. However, Sun Quan's generals laid a solid defence line despite their inferiority in numbers; when Cao Cao's forces tried to break that line with a charge, Sun Guan went to the foremost of the vanguard and was fatally injured (albeit being saved by Zang Ba on the field, Sun Guan died in camp). The progress was worse than expected, especially when continuous rainfall had raised the water level, the huge army under Zhang Liao and Zang Ba felt uneasy when enemy warships moved forward.[9] When Zhang Liao wanted to retreat without permission, Zang Ba told him, "Cao Cao is wise, and (he) will not simply abandon us." The next day, an official order to retreat indeed arrived, and both generals safely returned to their territory. Zhang Liao told Cao Cao of what happened, and Cao Cao was greatly impressed. Thereafter, Zang Ba moved to Juchao with Xiahou Dun to resist potential invasions from Sun Quan, and was supposed to have taken part in Battle of Xiaoyao Ford, albeit playing a minor role in the campaign.

Quarrel with Cao Pi, and death

When Cao Cao was seriously ill in early 220, Zang Ba sent a detachment to Luoyang to observe the situation. Upon learning of Cao Cao's death, Zang Ba's troops from Qing Province took leave without permission, and refused to take command from Cao Pi, Cao Cao's successor.[10] Nevertheless, Cao Pi was successful on stabilising the situation, and formally established the state of Cao Wei with himself as its emperor after usurping the throne from the last Han emperor, Emperor Xian. After ascending the throne, Cao Pi promoted Zang Ba along most of the officials. However, the new emperor placed Zang Ba under the supervision of the general Cao Xiu, who had supreme authority over Qing and Xu provinces. Zang Ba accompanied Cao Xiu on several campaigns against Sun Quan's forces, and was credited with defeating Lü Fan at Dongpu (洞浦; in the vicinity of present-day Wuhu, Anhui). After the victory, Zang Ba was summoned back to Luoyang to serve as Bearer of the Mace (i.e. the mayor of the imperial capital).[11] However, he refused to leave his troops and complained to Cao Xiu that Cao Pi did not make use of his full potential, and claimed that "if he was given 10,000 infantry and cavalry, he would be invincible along the Yangtze River."[12] Cao Xiu reported Zang's speech to Cao Pi. Cao Pi, who still bore a grudge against Zang Ba for his arrogance at Cao Cao's funeral, plotted to strip off his military command. When Cao Pi launched a three-pronged invasion of Sun Quan's territories in 222, Zang Ba went to Cao Pi's tent to greet him, but the emperor relieved him of his command and sent him to Luoyang.[13] Even though Zang Ba no longer served in the military, Cao Pi still consulted him on military affairs from time to time and treated him respectfully. In 226, following Cao Pi's death, Cao Rui became the new emperor and he increased the number of taxable households in Zang Ba's marquisate to 3,500, a number higher than other marquises who held key military appointments along Wei's eastern border. (Cao Xiu had 2,500 households while Zhang Liao had 2,600 households in their respective marquisates.) After his death, Zang Ba received the posthumous title "Marquis Wei" (威侯; literally "majestic marquis") and was succeeded by one of his sons, Zang Ai.

See also


  1. ^ a b c de Crespigny (2007), pp. 1021-3.
  2. ^ (割青、徐二州,委之於霸。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  3. ^ (遂收兵於徐州,與孫觀、吳敦、尹禮等並聚眾,霸為帥,屯於開陽。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  4. ^ (太祖以霸為琅邪相,敦利城、禮東莞、觀北海、康城陽太守) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  5. ^ de Crespigny, p. 1022.
  6. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vol. 66.
  7. ^ (陳蘭、梅成以氐六縣叛,太祖遣于禁、臧霸等討成,遼督張郃、牛蓋等討蘭。成偽降禁,禁還。成遂將其衆就蘭,轉入灊山。灊中有天柱山,高峻二十餘里,道險狹,步徑裁通,蘭等壁其上。遼欲進,諸將曰:「兵少道險,難用深入。」遼曰:「此所謂一與一,勇者得前耳。」遂進到山下安營,攻之,斬蘭、成首,盡虜其衆。太祖論諸將功,曰:「登天山,履峻險,以取蘭、成,盪寇功也。」增邑,假節。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
  8. ^ (權遣數萬人乘船屯舒口,分兵救蘭,聞霸軍在舒,遁還。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  9. ^ (行遇霖雨,大軍先及,水遂長,賊船稍進,將士皆不安。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  10. ^ (建安二十四年,霸遣別軍在洛。會太祖崩,霸所部及青州兵,以為天下將亂,皆鳴鼓擅去。) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  11. ^ (與曹休討吳賊,破呂范於洞浦,徵為執金吾,位特進。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  12. ^ (文帝即位,以曹休都督青、徐,霸謂休曰:「國家未肯聽霸耳!若假霸步騎萬人,必能橫行江表。」) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  13. ^ (休言之於帝,帝疑霸軍前擅去,今意壯乃爾!遂東巡,因霸來朝而奪其兵。) Weilue annotation in 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).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.