Battle of Jiangling (223)

The Battle of Jiangling was fought between the forces of the state of Wei and the Kingdom of Wu in the early Three Kingdoms period of China. The battle, which took place around present-day Jiangling County, Hubei, was an integral part of the Wei emperor Cao Pi's three-pronged campaign against the Wu leader Sun Quan. It spanned a period of about six months from October 222 to April 223.[a] Of the three fronts, the most critical Wei attacks were concentrated against the Wu fortress at Jiangling.[3]

Battle of Jiangling (223)
Part of the wars of the Three Kingdoms period
Datec. October 222 – April 223[a]
Western banks and middle region of the Yangtze River, in Jing Province (Jiangling and Nan Commandery)
Result Wei retreat; overall stalemate
Cao Wei Kingdom of Wu
Commanders and leaders
Cao Pi (stationed in Wancheng)
Cao Zhen (frontline commander)
Zhu Ran


When Liu Bei attacked Sun Quan in the Battle of Xiaoting of 221–222, Sun Quan sent his envoys with gifts to relate his wish to submit to Cao Pi, who in 220 ended the Eastern Han dynasty and established the state of Wei. As such, Sun Quan nominally became a vassal under Wei, but actually operated his Wu regime independently like he used to. Cao Pi's adviser Liu Ye suggested to his lord to attack Sun Quan while the latter was fighting Liu Bei, but Cao Pi rejected the proposal because he needed Sun Quan's submissive posture to solidify his authority as the legitimate founder of a new dynasty.

After Sun Quan defeated Liu Bei around October 222 at the Battle of Xiaoting, Cao Pi began to make plans on taking advantage on Sun Quan, despite opposition from Liu Ye.[4] Wei troops were mobilised in late October or November 222, and Cao Pi repeatedly requested Sun Quan to send his firstborn son to Wei as a hostage, prompting Sun Quan to send a humble letter of apology.[5] However, Sun Quan could not agree on sending his son to Cao Pi, which ended the peace negotiations and started the war.

Cao Xiu was ordered by Cao Pi to attack Dongkou and Cao Ren was entrusted to take Ruxu; Cao Zhen and Xiahou Shang were put in charge of taking Jiangling (present-day Jingzhou City, Hubei), the capital of Nan Commandery and Jing Province. In November 222, Sun Quan adopted Huangwu (黃武) as the era name of his reign, and formally declared independence from Wei.

The battleEdit

Wei's advancementEdit

When the armies were moving onto Wu, Sun Quan tried to arrange diplomatic agreements between himself and Wei, but they were all rejected.[6] The only other choice was to send an envoy to Liu Bei, which succeeded.

The first objective of the Wei forces was to attack and capture Nan Commandery, which would open up the opportunity to capture Jiangling. The forces of Wei were dispatched from possibly Xiangyang and Fancheng. Cao Zhen, Xiahou Shang and Zhang He attacked Jiangling County,[7] as Cao Pi moved a supporting force from the Wei capital Luoyang to Wancheng in case of any required backup.[8] At this time, it was very critical and uneasy for the Wu forces, since the commander, Zhu Ran was in control of a very low number of troops. Quickly, the Wei forces overran the Wu forces at Nan Commandery, after Zhang He defeated Sun Sheng (孫盛). The Wei forces then made way to assist the main army's siege of Jiangling County.

Siege of JianglingEdit

The forces led by Zhang He immediately used the south side of the Yangtze below Jiangling County and the north banks to build pontoon bridges to cut off supplies from the Wu commander Zhu Ran, whose forces were shut inside the city.[3] Zhu Ran also had to face the task of keeping order within the city. For example, when the city was running low on its water supply, some civilians and soldiers tried to surrender to Wei by opening the gates, but Zhu Ran put an end to the plot.[3]

However, the position where the Wei forces set up the pontoon bridges was too exposed to be maintained by the Wei forces.[3] Soon, another batch of Wu reinforcements led by Zhuge Jin and Yang Can (楊粲) arrived.[9] Pan Zhang said: "The Wei army's prowess was formidable at the beginning, and the river waters were shallow, so we could not match them at first."[10] Pan Zhang then ordered his men to move to 50 li upstream from the Wei army's location. They cut down and bundled together large quantities of reeds from the river to make big rafts, and sent them afloat down the river towards the pontoon bridges. The reeds were set on fire, therefore burning down the pontoon bridges to a crisp.[11] The Wu forces then executed a counterattack on the Wei forces.

The conflict would go on six months well into April 223[a] before a plague broke out in the Wei camp, causing the Wei forces to withdraw from the siege in defeat. By early summer 223, Cao Pi had already returned to the capital at Luoyang.[3]


During the time of the withdrawal from Jiangling, the battles at Dongkou and Ruxu also ended in failure for the Wei side and they withdrew as well.

Order of battleEdit

Wei forcesEdit

Forces attacking Jiangling County and Nan Commandery:

Supporting forces at Wancheng:

Wu forcesEdit

Defending forces in Jiangling:

  • General Who Attacks the North (征北將軍) Zhu Ran[21]
    • Prefect of Jiangling (江陵令) Yao Tai (姚泰). On seeing that Jiangling's defenders were outnumbered by Wei forces, and supplies in the fortress were running low, he attempted to collaborate with the enemy. However his plot was discovered and he was killed.[22]
    •   Jiang Yi (蒋壹). Killed in battle at Nan Commandery.[23]



  1. ^ a b c The Zizhi Tongjian recorded that the Battle of Jiangling took place between the 9th month of the 3rd year and the 2nd month of the 4th year of the Huangchu era of Cao Pi's reign.[1] This period corresponds to 23 October 222 to 17 April 223 in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ The Sanguozhi recorded that many Wu soldiers were affected by disease. Only about 5,000 men were able to fight.[2]


  1. ^ Sima (1084), vols. 69-70.
  2. ^ (時然城中兵多腫病,堪戰者裁五千人。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  3. ^ a b c d e de Crespigny (2004), p. 13.
  4. ^ (備軍敗退,吳禮敬轉廢,帝欲興眾伐之,曄以為「彼新得志,上下齊心,而阻帶江湖,必難倉卒。」帝不聽。) Sanguozhi vol. 14.
  5. ^ (秋九月,魏乃命曹休、張遼、臧霸出洞口,曹仁出濡須,曹真、夏侯尚、張郃、徐晃圍南郡。權遣呂範等督五軍,以舟軍拒休等,諸葛瑾、潘璋、楊粲救南郡,朱桓以濡須督拒仁。時揚、越蠻夷多未平集,內難未弭,故權卑辭上書,求自改厲,"若罪在難除,必不見置,當奉還土地民人。) Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  6. ^ de Crespigny (2004), p. 11.
  7. ^ a b (... 召郃與真並朝許宮,遣南與夏侯尚擊江陵。郃別督諸軍渡江,取洲上屯塢。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
  8. ^ (魏遣曹真、夏侯尚、張郃等攻江陵,魏文帝自住宛,為其勢援,連屯圍城。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  9. ^ (諸葛瑾、楊粲並會兵赴救,未知所出,而魏兵日渡不絕。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  10. ^ (璋曰:"魏勢始盛,江水又淺,未可與戰。") Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  11. ^ (便將所領,到魏上流五十里,伐葦數百萬束,縛作大筏,欲順流放火,燒敗浮橋。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  12. ^ a b (與夏侯尚等征孫權,擊牛渚屯,破之。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  13. ^ (上軍大將軍曹真征硃然於江陵,毗行軍師。) Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  14. ^ (黃初三年,車駕幸宛,使尚率諸軍與曹真共圍江陵。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  15. ^ a b (贼两头并前,官兵一道引去,不时得泄,将军石建、高迁仅得自免。) Sanguozhi vol. 14.
  16. ^ (秋九月,魏乃命曹休、張遼、臧霸出洞口,曹仁出濡須,曹真、夏侯尚、張郃、徐晃圍南郡。) Sanguozhi vol. 47.
  17. ^ (帝自許昌南征,諸軍兵並進,權臨江拒守。十一月辛丑,行幸宛。) Sanguozhi vol. 2.
  18. ^ (大駕幸宛,征南大將軍夏侯尚等攻江陵,未拔。...) Sanguozhi vol. 14.
  19. ^ (五年,幸广陵泗口,命荆、扬州诸军并进。会群臣,问:“权当自来不?”咸曰:“陛下亲征,权恐怖,必举国而应。又不敢以大众委之臣下,必自将而来。”晔曰:“彼谓陛下欲以万乘之重牵己,而超越江湖者在於别将,必勒兵待事,未有进退也。”大驾停住积日,权果不至,帝乃旋师。) Sanguozhi vol. 14.
  20. ^ (與夏侯尚圍江陵,使聘別屯沔口,止石梵,自當一隊,御賊有功,遷後將軍,封新野侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
  21. ^ a b (權遣將軍孫盛督萬人備州上,立圍塢,為然外救。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  22. ^ (江陵令姚泰領兵備城北門,見外兵盛,城中人少,穀食慾盡。因與敵交通,謀為內應。垂發,事覺,然治戮泰。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  23. ^ ((蒋钦)子壹封宣城侯,领兵拒刘备有功,还赴南郡,与魏交战,临陈卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  24. ^ a b (權遣潘璋、楊粲等解而圍不解。) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
  25. ^ a b (魏將夏侯尚等圍南郡。分前部三萬人作浮橋,渡百里洲上。諸葛瑾、楊粲並會兵赴救,未知所出,而魏兵日渡不絕。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  26. ^ (吳錄曰:曹真、夏侯尚等圍硃然於江陵,又分據中州,瑾以大兵為之救援。) Wu Lu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 52.
  27. ^ (權將諸葛瑾與尚軍對江,瑾渡入江中渚,而分水軍於江中。) Sanguozhi vol. 9.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2004). "Chapter Seven: Claim to the Mandate 222-229". Generals of the South: The foundation and early history of the Three Kingdoms state of Wu (PDF) (internet ed.). Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.