Liu Zhang (warlord)

Liu Zhang (pronunciation ) (fl. 190s–210s), courtesy name Jiyu, was a Chinese politician and warlord who served as provincial governor who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He became the Governor of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing), succeeding his father Liu Yan and ruled the region until 214, when he surrendered to Liu Bei. Six years later, Liu Zhang again surrendered to Eastern Wu, and died shortly afterwards. Liu Zhang is often considered an incapable leader but is noted to have been the original lord of some of Shu Han's most famous generals and officials such as Fa Zheng, Meng Da, Yan Yan, Liu Ba, Huang Quan, Wu Yi, Li Yan, Dong He and others.

Liu Zhang
Liu Zhang Qing portrait.jpg
A Qing dynasty illustration of Liu Zhang
General Who Inspires Might (振威將軍)
In office
c. 214 (c. 214)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Governor of Yi Province (益州牧)
In office
c. 194 (c. 194)–214 (214)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Preceded byLiu Yan
Succeeded byLiu Bei
Inspector of Yi Province (益州刺史)
In office
c. 194
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Personal details
Qianjiang, Hubei
RelativesLady Wu (sister-in-law)
OccupationPolitician, warlord
Courtesy nameJiyu (季玉)

Early lifeEdit

Liu Zhang was a descendant of Liu Yu, who was Prince of Lu in the early Han dynasty.[1]

The youngest son of Liu Yan, Liu Zhang spent his early career at the Han imperial court as an assistant to his two eldest brothers, Liu Fan and Liu Dan. They served at the court when it was controlled by the warlords Li Jue and Guo Si. Liu Zhang was sent by the imperial court to admonish his father for brutal actions, but upon arriving his father refused to let him go back to the imperial court.[citation needed]

Governorship of Yi ProvinceEdit

Map showing the major warlords of the Han dynasty in the 190s, including Liu Zhang

In 194, following the deaths of his elder brothers and then his father, he took over the governorship of Yi Province. During his rule over Yi Province, he did not show ambition to expand his territory, but it is said that he was a good ruler and maintained peace in his realm.[citation needed]

In 200, Zhang Lu, who had previously recognised Liu Yan as his master, rebelled against Liu Zhang. Liu Zhang had Zhang Lu's mother, brothers and other family members executed.[citation needed]

In 211, at the suggestion of his adviser Zhang Song, he asked Liu Bei to come to his assistance in the battle against Zhang Lu. The welcoming of Liu Bei was a plan by Zhang Song, Fa Zheng and Meng Da to ultimately make him their leader, since they considered him more ambitious and worthy of serving than Liu Zhang. Wang Lei (王累), Huang Quan, Li Hui and others tried to persuade Liu Zhang not to accept Liu Bei into his territory, but their pleas were ignored and Liu Bei was welcomed as a guest of Liu Zhang where he would go to the front to fight against Zhang Lu.[citation needed]

When Zhang Song's true intentions were revealed to Liu Zhang by Zhang Song's elder brother Zhang Su, he executed Zhang Song and began his battle against Liu Bei, who then began his conquest of Yi Province. Although generals such as Zhang Ren fought hard to defend their master, Liu Bei's forces had the upper hand, and by 214 they had surrounded Yi Province's capital, Chengdu. Liu Zhang's advisers Liu Ba, Dong He and Hu Jing pleaded to their master to resist at all costs, but Liu Zhang rejected their pleas, saying "I don't want my subjects to suffer any more." He then surrendered to Liu Bei.[citation needed]

Later lifeEdit

Soon after surrendering his territory, Liu Bei sent Liu Zhang and his second son Liu Chan to the western part of Jing Province, on the border with Sun Quan's territory. In the year 219, however, forces led by Lü Meng, a subordinate of Sun Quan, captured Liu Bei's general Guan Yu and executed him, seizing Jing Province. Liu Zhang and Liu Chan were taken in by the Wu forces, and Sun Quan, seeking to establish a claim to the rest of Liu Bei's territory, appointed Liu Zhang as the Governor of Yi Province, which was his previous appointment before Liu Bei seized it from him. However, Sun Quan made no further attempts to invade Liu Bei's territory, and Liu Zhang died shortly after becoming a vassal under Sun Quan. Liu Chan continued to serve in Eastern Wu while Liu Xun served in Shu Han.


Liu Zhang had at least two sons. His eldest son, Liu Xun (劉循), served as a General of the Household of Equipage in the Shu Han state during the Three Kingdoms period. His second son, Liu Chan (劉闡), accompanied his father to Jing Province after their defeat by Liu Bei and served as Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk in the Eastern Wu state during the Three Kingdoms period.

Historical evaluationEdit

In popular accounts of the period, such as the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Zhang is portrayed as a foolish and incapable ruler.

In Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Zhang's rule is said to have been very peaceful until events of the period brought Liu Bei into his territory. However, Chen Shou, who had once served as an official in Shu Han, and still held some sympathy for his former masters, suggested that Liu Bei rightfully wrested leadership of Yi Province from Liu Zhang.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rafe de Crespigny (1967). "An Outline of the Local Administrations of the Later Han Empire" (PDF). Chung-chi Journal: 57–71.