|General Who Defeats Bandits (蕩寇將軍)|
? – 254
|Administrator of Yuexi/Yuesui (越巂太守)|
? – ?
|Officer of the Standard (牙門將)|
? – ?
? – ?
Longxi County, Gansu
|Resting place||Mian County, Shaanxi|
|Courtesy name||Boqi (伯岐)|
|Peerage||Secondary Marquis (關內侯)|
Zhang Ni (died 254), courtesy name Boqi, was a military general of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China. Famous for his courage and generosity, Zhang Ni made his name known while rescuing a magistrate's wife through bandits and leading her to safety. Often working with the skillful Ma Zhong He was instrumental in pacifying the indigenous tribes residing within and around the border of Shu. He spent at least 18 years dealing with the continuum of domestic uprisings around Yuexi/Yuesui and Ba commanderies though he was a talented general, Zhang Ni often looked for humane solution and sought to make peace or negotiate with the foreign tribes when he could. Thanks to his rightful attitude, those tribes loved him weeping and grabbing hold of his carriage when they learned he would be leaving. Feeling he was growing weak and old, Zhang Ni gave a stirring speech asking to give him a chance to repay his lord's largesse or died trying. Liu Shan was moved to tears by his speech. During one of Jiang Wei's Northern Expeditions, he was killed in battle by the Wei general Xu Zhi though he killed and injured numerous Wei soldiers. When they learned of his death, none among the Han or foreign clan of Yuexi did not weep with grief. After his death, they established a temple for him and brought offerings even in times of famine and hardship. Respected, even revered. Liu Shan compared him to the great heroes of antiquity and Chen Shou thought he was not so far. His name is sometimes rendered as Zhang Yi.
Zhang Ni was from Nanchong County (南充縣), Ba Commandery (巴郡), which is present-day Nanchong, Sichuan. He started his career around the age of 19 as an Officer of Merit (功曹) in the local county office. In 214, when the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from its provincial governor Liu Zhang, some bandits used the opportunity to raid the county office. During the ensuing chaos, Zhang Ni engaged the bandits in close combat and protected the county magistrate's wife. He became famous for his courageous actions and was later summoned to the commandery office to serve as an Assistant Officer (從事). Around this time, two scolars Gong Lu and Yao Zhou were appointed at a very important salary within the same prefecture than Ni. Lu and Zhou at the time enjoyed a good reputation and some fame, however both of them heard of Zhang Ni's accomplishement hence they respected him and become friends with him
Around 227, when the Shu chancellor Zhuge Liang was assembling forces in Hanzhong Commandery in preparation for the first of a series of campaigns against Shu's rival state Wei, local bandits pillaged the villages in Hanzhong, Guanghan and Mianzhu commanderies. Zhang Ni, then holding the rank of an acting Commandant, led troops to deal with the bandits, who scattered and hid in different locations when they heard of Zhang Ni's approach. Zhang Ni could not force them to come out to fight him, so he pretended to offer to extend a heqin policy to the bandit chiefs, and then managed to coax them into attending a banquet to celebrate the peace. After the unsuspecting bandit chiefs got drunk, Zhang Ni ordered his men to kill all of them and then sent his troops to hunt down and eliminate the rest. The massacre lasted for about 10 days, after which the area was clear of bandits.Later After that, Zhang Ni fell seriously ill and unfortunately his family was too poor to afford a good treatment. However The Administrator of the Shu Commandery Guanghan who was He Zhī (廣漢) was known as a generous man and talented doctor hence Ni thought he should appeal to him. But Zhang Ni and him didn't know each other and so despite his illness, Ni personally took a carriage to visit him to entrust Zhi with a treatment that could cure his illness. Zhi knew of Ni's reputation as a brave and generous man, hence he did not spare any expense in to cure him. Finally, after several years the illness was cured. Both of them remained friends after this event.
When Ni's recovered, he was made to Officer of the Standard (牙門將) for his feats against the different bandits. And placed under Ma Zhong's command. In 232, They quickly quelled the rebelling Qiang tribes of the Wen Mount, allied of Wei in the north while in the south, they supressed the foreign tribes such as Liu Zhou. Zhang Ni often led the vanguard and had numerous feats in battle and in planning. Ni and Zhong instilled much fear in the restless local tribes throughout Shu territories.
Zhang Ni lead the vanguard with few troops around 300 men and horses. He worked under Ma Zhong in quelling the Qiang tribes. Ni led his own unit at the front separate of the main army and first arrived to the village of Tāli. The location of the village make it difficult to attack since he was atop a high steep. However Ni climbed the mountains and set up his own camp four to five lǐ far of Tali. The Qiang knew there was danger and built a stone gate, atop the gate they set an elevated platform and gathered many stones atop it so that they would protect themselves while crushing the ennemies. Ni judged that an assault on the gate would be complicated and so he sent an interpreter to inform them:
“All of you, the tribes of Wen mountain have rebelled and done harm to the innocents hence Heaven’s Son ordered us at once to quell and destroy the evil. However if you bow your heads and permit the army to pass, giving provisions and supplies then you may enjoy good fortune and eternal prosperity and will be repaid a hundredfold. But if to the end, you do not obey then the great army will have no choice but to arrive and supress you like a lightning bolt striking down and though here you may repent It will be too late.”
When the elder leaders heard this command, they all quickly went out to meet with Ni and even provided provisions and let the army pass. Finnaly the Shu army striked Tali and was vitorious. When the rest of the Qiang tribes heard that Tali had already fall, all of them were terrified and confused. Many among them welcomed the army and went out to surrender. While others fled into the valleys. Ma Zhong and Zhang Ni hunted those who fled and achieve total victory. In 233, the southern foreigner Liu Zhou led a massive revolt.Zhang Yi (Bogong) was unable to quell them so Ma Zhong was appointed Commander of Laijiang with the misson to defeat Zhou, Ni again served under him and led the vanguard. Since Ni always led the army personally at the head, he thereupon beheaded Zhou. Whith Zhou's death most of the southern's tribes surrended however in Zangge and Xīnggu's commandery, the Liao tribes revolted again. So Ma Zhong send Ni to command the army to go quell them. Ni also enticed most of them to surrender and quickly two thousand men joined him and were all transferred to Hanzhong. Around 236, in Wudu on the border between Shu and Wei,though It belonged to Shu. His hold was weak and mostly led by the Di tribes. One of his most famous leader, Fu Jian offered his surrender so the General in Chief Jiang Wan sent the General Zhang Wei to receive them but he took more time than Wan thought and he started to worry. Ni was at Chengdu at this time and try to appease Wan's worries:
"Fu Jian’s request to join us was sincere and certainly his mind has not changed. However It is commonly heard that Jian’s younger brother is sly and treacherous, moreover that the foreign Di tribes have difficulty working together so likely there has been change and unusual circumstanceshence may have delayed Zhang Wei and that's why he remained to accomplish his task.”
Several days later, news arrived and Zhang Ni’s prediction was right. Jian’s younger brother had indeed led most of the tribes to join Wei while Jian came to submit with Zhang Wei.
Sometime in 220s or 230s, the Sou (叟) tribes in Yuexi/Yuesui Commandery (越巂郡; around present-day Liangshan Prefecture, Sichuan), the commandery belonged to Shu since the forceful subjugation of Gāo Dìng in 225 by Li Yan.But Shu had problems maintaining his authority over it. The situation degenerated when the rebels killed the two administrators Gōng Lù and Jiāo Huáng send by the Shu government to govern Yuexi Commandery. With such hostilities from the locals, the subsequent administrator would not enter Yuexi Commandery to assume their offices, could only reside at Ānshàng county, eight hundred lǐ away and could not assume office. As a result, the Shu government's claim over Yuexi Commandery was in name only.
At this time, there was discussion about restoring the prefecture therefore the Shu government appointed Zhang Ni as the Administrator of Yuexi Commandery. When he arrived, Nì led those he commanded in Yuexi and enticed the tribes with favor and generous treatment hence the foreigners all started to return to submission. However, The northern region of Zhuomǎa were the most rebellious. They were stalwart and strong therefore they would refuse to submit to authority quickly, so Nì led his army to quell them. Ni captured their leader Wei Lang alive but released him as a show of mercy to win over the trust of his kind. Later, he memorialized the court to have Lang be given a fief as a city Marquis and have his tribe of three thousand households be officialy recognized hence they were pacified. When the other tribes heard of this, they gradually surrendered to Ni. For his feats, The Shu government rewarded Ni by granting him the title of a Secondary Marquis.
Still some tribes rebelled, the people of Suqiyi were led by the chieftain Dong Feng and his younger brother Wei Qu. Qú and the Suqiyi had already surrendered but they rebelled while Ni was concentrating on matters in Zhuomǎa. Nì put quickly defeated them and put to death Féng. However Feng’s wife was the daughter of another tribal leader, the ruler of the Máoniú tribe. In order to avoid rebellion from them, Ni concentrated to isolate them hence prevented their rebellion. But Feng's brother Qú used this time to fled to the western frontier, he rallied the remnant Suqiyi. Qu was a fierce and strong warriors hence the Suqiyi deeply feared him. Qu sent two of his close relatives to feign surrender to Ni but in reality to obtain information. However Nì saw throught this and with great gifts he convinced them to defect then Ni had the two men killed Qu. With the death of Qu, all the tribes were secure. After this, Ni turned his attention to the Dūqí leader Lǐ Qiúchéng, who previously had personally killed the former Administrator Gōng Lù. Nì raised and recruited an army to capture him and easily defeated him. Qiúchéng was captured in battle, Ni then read a list of his crimes and executed him.
Originally, because of the tribal raids. Most of Yuexi's prefecture infrastructure were in ruins. Ni initiated building project to have the city walls repair in order to protect the people. Most of the work was done by the foreign and local tribes, among the men and women none did not work their hardest to help Ni. Ni was in office for three years in Yuexi Commandery until he was repatriated to his former prefecture in Ba Commandery.
Dingzhuo (定莋), Taideng(台登) and Beishui (卑水) those three counties were over three hundred lǐ away from the Yuexi's headquarters. Those counties had a pivotal role in Yuexi’s revenue since they produced valuable commodities like salt, iron, and lacquer. These counties were on the western border and the foreign tribes had long seized it for themselves. Ni led his army to seize control of the counties and establish a Chief Clerk to oversee the production. However Dìngzuó proved to be the most difficult, when Nì arrived. The chieftain's leader Háo Lángcén, the Pánmù King’s maternal uncle who was greatly trusted by the foreigner tribes hated Nì for invading and would not go meet him. Rather than attack Dingzhuo, Ni decided to intimidate the tribes into surrendering. He sent several tens of strong warriors to go capture Lángcén, beat and kill him. Then, Ni sent the body back to the tribes along with generous rewards, describing Lángcén’s evils crimes and also saying:
"Do not rush mindlessly into action. If you act, you will be exterminated!.”
When they heard this, the foreign people all dirtied their faces and bound themselves to apologize for their crimes. To reward them, Ni killed an ox for a great feast and did not harm them. Hence, Ni reaffirmed his grace and trust among the tribes. And so, he regained control of Dingzhuo and so the production of salt, iron and tools were all provided for.
The Hànjiā prefecture’s border had Máoniú foreign tribes of over four thousand households while their leader Láng Lù held a grudge against Zhang Ni since the deaths of Dong Feng and Wei Qu of the Suqiyi. Dong Feng’s wife was the aunt of Lang Lu, the chief of the Máoniú tribe so they resented his death. Lu sent his father's younger brother Lang Li to take command of Dong Feng's remnants army and engage Ni in battle. Rather than face them, Ni observed the situation and in response sent one of his own relatives to Li with presents such as oxen and wine as gifts of appreciation. Additionally, Li’s elder sister had been under Ni’s care since her husband’s execution (Dong Feng) ùso he sent her back to her family to show his good intentions. Li received both the gifts and met his older sister, both him and his sister were overjoyed to meet again so Li led his followers to submit to Ni. Nì bestowed generous rewards and treatment and sent them back to the Maoniu who they then persuaded to submit entirely. The Máoniú because of this were no longer a problem.
The prefecture had an old road that led through Yuexi to Chengdu that was both in good state. But it went through Maoniu territory and was cut off since over a century after that the safe route wasn't good anymore. Ni sent his attendants to Lang Lu as ambassadors along with generous gifts also asked Lù’s paternal aunt to convey his intentions. Offering friendship and expressing his desire to reopen the road. So Lu thereupon led his brothers, wives and children to all go to Nì swear an oath of alliance reopen the old road then a thousand lǐ were cleared and the former relay stations restored allowing communication between Chengdu and the west. Ni memorialized the court to give a fief to Lu as King of the Máoniúgōupí while Lu sent an envoy to Chengdu to present his formal surrender to Shu. For this exemplary work in the west, Ni was made General Who Settles Military Affairs with authority over the prefecture as before.
Ni remained Administrator of Yuexi for 15 years and under his care it became a peaceful region. Feeling that his mission was done. He repeatedly asked to return, and so his request finally granted, he was summoned back to Chéngdū. The Han and the foreign people were all deeply attached to Ni and grabbed the wheels of his carriage, wept and sobbed as they learned of his departure. When Ni passed through the Maoniu lands, using the road that both the Han and the foreigners, that both Ni and Lu had repaired together. The tribe leader Lu came forward to welcome him, carrying his child on his back. He followed Ni to the border of Shǔ prefecture Yuexi and sent an escort of 100 warriors to present tribute to Chengdu with him. 
Upon his arrival, Ni was made General Who Cleanses Bandits. In Chengdu, Ni well received by his colleagues. He was known as generous and heroic so scholars everywhere greatly esteemed him however he was criticized by some for being too lax in morals and lacking in courtesy. That was Yánxī seventeenth year (254) just after Fei Yi’s assassination. Times were changing.
Ni met the General of Chariots and Cavalry Xiahou Ba who said to him: “Though you and I are not acquainted yet I confide my feelings to you as if we were old friends. You should understand this intention.” Nì answered: “I do not yet know you and you do not yet know me. When great principles lead elsewhere, how can you speak of confiding feelings? Let us after three years speak again.” A wise scholar took this as a praiseworthy anecdote of Ni's character.[a]
That year, Li Jian (李簡), a county magistrate from Shu's rival state Wei secretly contacted the Shu government and expressed his desire to defect to Shu. Liu Shan convened a meeting to discuss whether to accept Li Jian's defection. Many officials expressed worries that it might be a ruse but Zhang Ni believed that Li Jian was sincere and managed to convince Liu Shan to agree. Liu Shan then allowed the general Jiang Wei to launch a campaign against Wei with Li Jian acting as a spy for them in Wei territory. When the Shu army led by Jiang Wei arrived at Didao, as Ni accurately predicted Li Jian led his followers to join the Shu army and helped them gain control of Didao. 
At the time, Ni suffered rheumatism illness and was in his 60s. When he arrived at the capital, it became severe and he needed a crutch so he could rise. When Jiāng Wéi set out many within the army thought Nì should be sent back to Chengdu, that due to his illness he could not keep up. Because of this Nì personally begged to unleash all left of his strength against the central plains to reach the enemy. Facing them, he said to Liu Shan:
“I your servant served you enlightened sage and received excessive grace. Moreover my body is ill, and I am always afraid that one morning I shall fall you and end and fail to repay the honor I have received. The world Under Heaven disobeys your wishes and must be settled with military affairs. If Liáng province is settled then I your servant will be your defense and guard the border. If victory cannot be won then I will sacrifice my body as recompense.”
Liu Shan was so touched after hearing Zhang Ni that he shed tears and permitted Ni to go on the campaign.
However, the campaign went awry as the Shu army started attacking Xiangwu County (襄武縣; southeast of present-day Longxi County, Gansu), where the Wei defenders led by Xu Zhi put up fierce resistance. Ni led a unit to attack Xu Zhi and managed to force him to retreat but lost his life in the process though those he killed and injured were also numerous.
In recognition of Zhang Ni's valiant actions on the battlefield, Liu Shan enfeoffed Zhang Ni's eldest son, Zhang Ying (張瑛), as the Marquis of Xi Village. Zhang Ni's original marquis title was then inherited by his second son, Zhang Huxiong (張護雄). Nì’s grandson Yì was a Jìn Inspector of Liángzhōu.
When the Han people and foreigners of Yuèxī heard that Nì had died. There were none that did not weep with grief. They later established a Temple for him and during all seasons even when there was flood or drought they offered sacrifices to it providing food for his spirit.
Zhang Ni previously observed that Fei Yi had become General-in-Chief but he was unrestrained by nature and careless in showing favor. Hence, he was excessive in his trust and good treatment of newcomers to his following. Ni sent a letter to admonish him that said: “In the past Cen Peng was a great commander wielding Staff of Authority, but was killed by an assassin. Now you wise General occupy a position of great power and importance and should reflect on past events. You should act less careless on guard.” Later Yi was indeed killed by a surrendered Wei man Guo Xiu.
Eastern Wu's Grand Tutor Zhuge Ke because he previously defeated the Wei army raised a massive army to counterattack. The Palace Attendant Zhuge Zhan was Chancellor Zhuge Liang's son so Zhuge Ke’s younger cousin. Nì wrote him a letter that said:
“The Eastern Ruler Sun Quan has just perished and the new Emperor Sun Liang is truly young and weak. The Grand Tutor has received a heavy burden of trust and how can that be considered easy? Because your kinsman has the talent of Zhou Gong, it is also as if there are Guan and Cai spreading rumors that he intends to usurp and just as when Huo Guang received appointment there are high officials Yan and Ge planning to resist and rebel. He must rely on the wisdom of Cheng and Zhao in order to avoid this disaster. In the past, I always heard the Eastern Ruler never gave the authority to kill, bestow rewards or punishments to his subordinates yet now It has changed and at the time of his death. Before he died, he summoned the Grand Tutor and entrusted all future affairs to him, that is truly worrisome. Additionally the lands of Wu and Shu are vulnerable and in the past this has been noted yet the Grand Tutor leaves the young ruler and walks to face the enemy stronghold. I fear this is not a good plan for the long term. Though it is said that the eastern country is ordered and solumn and that high and low all are harmonious. Is not even one loss out of a hundred something the wise should consider? The past led to now, and now follows the past. If you honored sir do not go forward to give loyal advice to the Grand Tutor, who else is there to speak freely? Withdraw the army and develop agriculture, handle affairs with virtue and kindness and within several years. Both East and West will develop together then it will not be too late. I hope you will thoroughly consider this.”
I have observed Zhāng Nì’s behavior, appearance and speech it cannot frighten people but his tactical abilities are considerable and his intensity is indeed enough to establish his authority. As a servant, he has loyal and devoted to integrity. He is of the sort that has clear and upright nature and when he acts he always considers the law. Liu Shan deeply esteemed him. And even compared him to the heroic warriors of the ancient past, he was not so far!
In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhang Ni was one of the more notable generals in Shu's later years. He participated in many of Zhuge Liang's campaigns and displayed a fiery passion for Zhuge Liang's endeavours. Due to this, he sometimes found himself over his head and in dangerous situations, nearly being killed by Wang Shuang at Chencang before being rescued by Liao Hua and Wang Ping and being led into a trap and captured by Lady Zhurong during the Southern Campaign. While on his deathbed, Zhuge Liang named Zhang Ni, along with Liao Hua, Ma Dai, Wang Ping and Zhang Yi, as the loyal generals of Shu who should be given greater responsibilities.
During Jiang Wei's Northern Expeditions, Zhang Ni often urged Jiang Wei to concentrate on internal affairs rather than attacking Wei. He forfeited his life in Chapter 111, while saving Jiang Wei from Chen Tai.