|Bearer of the Mace (執金吾)|
222 – ?
|General Who Guards the East (鎮東將軍)|
220 – 222
|General Who Spreads Might (揚威將軍)|
? – 220
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
|Inspector of Xu Province (徐州刺史)|
? – 220
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
Fei County, Shandong
|Courtesy name||Xuangao (宣高)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Wei (威侯)|
|Peerage||Marquis 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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, was 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.
On the border between Cao Cao and Sun Quan's territory, In 209, after the Battle of Red Cliffs, 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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). 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." 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. 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.