Zhan Zhao (展昭) is a fictional character in the Chinese wuxia classic The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants. Nicknamed the "Southern Hero", he is a righteous knight-errant with incredible martial arts skills, often helping Prefect Bao Zheng uphold justice. Emperor Renzong of Song made him a 4th rank royal guard and gave him the title "Royal Cat" for his swift movements.

Zhan Zhao
Wuxia character
Zhanzhao 1890.jpg
from one 1890 print of the novel
Created byShi Yukun
In-universe information
NicknamesSouthern Hero (南俠)
Royal Cat (御貓)
SpouseDing Yuehua
HomeWujin, Changzhou
Zhan Zhao


Saving Bao Zheng at the Gold Dragon MonasteryEdit

Zhan Zhao sees a Taoist priest attempting to commit suicide and saves him. The priest reveals that two lecherous monks have killed the old monk in the Gold Dragon Monastery, and are using the place to hide women they kidnap. The priest reported them, but the government took in bribes and physically punished the priest instead. Meanwhile, Bao Zheng and servant Bao Xing arrive at the monastery for overnight lodging. At night, Zhan climbs over the wall and discovers that the monks have locked the pair up with plans to murder them for money. Zhan helps them escape while he stays behind. A few hours later, Bao Zheng sees a huge fire from the direction of the monastery.

Saving Bao Zheng at Earth Dragon CragEdit

While passing through Earth Dragon Crag, Zhan Zhao is confronted by a bandit named Zhao Hu and defeats him quickly. Other bandits come to help and Zhan sees that his old friend Wang Chao is the leader. Wang invites Zhan to the crag where he rules with blood brothers Ma Han, Zhang Long and Zhao. Zhan discovers that they have two prisoners and recognizes them as Bao Zheng and Bao Xing whom he had saved once before. He asks the bandits to release them and after talking, suggests to the four that instead of remaining as bandits, they should help Bao Zheng serve the country. Eventually his suggestion is followed.

Unfoiling Bao Zheng's Assassination PlotEdit

Near Chenzhou, Zhan Zhao sees a woman crying and learns that Marquis Pang Yu had kidnapped a beautiful woman Jin Yuxian. At night, Zhan climbs over the wall to Pang Yu's palace and discovers a plot by Pang and Governor Jiang Wan to assassinate Bao Zheng, on his way to Chenzhou to investigate Pang's wrongdoings. Zhan follows the assassin Xiang Fu and notifies Bao beforehand. At night, Xiang is spotted on the roof by Bao's vigilant entourage and when he tries to escape, Zhan shoots him down with an arrow. Using Zhan's tips, Bao also saves Jin and arrests Pang.

Engagement to Ding YuehuaEdit

Zhan Zhao is invited by Ding Zhaohui to visit the Ding Family Village. There he tries sword dancing with a famous sword from the village, Zhanlu, and remarks that Zhanlu is much lighter than his own sword, Juque. Outraged, the younger cousin Ding Yuehua challenges Zhan to a duel as she is Zhanlu's owner. Zhan is very impressed with Ding Yuehua's skills and admits defeat when she cuts off his bandanna. However, Ding Zhaolan notices that Zhan has actually cut off Ding Yuehua's earring which is much more difficult. With the blessings of the entire Ding family, Zhan and Ding Yuehua exchange swords as engagement gifts.

Dueling with Bai YutangEdit

Zhan Zhao learns that Bai Yutang is in the capital looking to challenge him, as a result of him getting the nickname "Royal Cat" from Emperor Renzong. While Zhan talks about it in the Kaifeng court, Zhao Hu makes a comment that Bai is not to be feared. As soon as Zhao finishes the sentence, someone listening to the conversation outside throws something that breaks the wine cup Zhao has in hand. Zhan quickly goes outside and engages in a battle with this man in the night. Zhan is impressed with Bai's agility and feels his anger. He also gets serious and breaks Bai's sabre. Zhan pursues Bai, but Bai throws a stone, knocking off Zhan's bandanna and manages to escape.

Being Captured by Bai YutangEdit

Bai Yutang steals three treasures and leaves a note specifically challenging Zhan Zhao to follow him to Hollow Island. Jiang Ping and Gongsun Ce suggest that Zhan wait until Han Zhang is found. However, Zhan gets impatient and goes to Hollow Island by himself. The guards at Hollow Island would not open the gate and provoke him. Angry, Zhan climbs the wall at night and finds Bai's place well-lit. He goes inside, and after passing through a few rooms, steps on a spring-lock and falls in a trap. On the third day of his imprisonment he is saved by Ding Zhaohui and gets the three treasures back.


He was the royal guard of the palace. He was assigned to work together with Bao Zheng who was a governor of Kaifeng city, the capital city of Northern Song. He was a very honest person who was good at martial arts. In his life he was known for serving Bao Zheng even more than being a royal guard of the imperial court. Zhan Zhao was best known for his martial art skills. He was the body guard of Bao Zheng and the fourth ranking royal guard of the Song's Royal Palace. His title was "The Royal Cat" (御猫, yùmāo). He was the only man who was allowed to enter the Inner Palace armed. People said that he represented the Wu (martial) aspect while Bao Zheng represented the Wen (civil) aspect. He was also the leader of Bao Zheng's' guards, namely Wang Chao, Ma Han, Zhang Long and Zhao Hu.

Before Zhan Zhao became a royal guard, he was just a man traveling around the land. He was trained with high power martial art. There was one time that he fought against "The Five Rats" who each had a special power, specializing in water and others underground. Zhan Zhao was once ordered to catch Bai Yutang who was one of the "Five Rats". He invaded their island in order to fight against the five rats. He was able to defeat all of them. Of the Five Rats, Bai Yutang was the best among them and the youngest brother of Five Rats.

Media AdaptationsEdit

Justice Bao (1993 TV Series)Edit

One of the most well-known media adaptations of Zhan Zhao is the 1993, 236-episode Justice Bao television series. Zhan Zhao, played by Hong Kong actor Kenny Ho, is portrayed as a righteous, yet gentle and kind knight-errant who assists Bao Zheng, often taking on roles such as Bao's personal body guard, policeman, and detective.

Zhan Zhao's signature garments of the red robe is especially memorable for many, and is often repeated by other television adaptations following this one. It is also because of the red robe appearance that fans describe Kenny Ho's version of Zhan Zhao using these lines: 青锋昭律义 红袍展仁心, "the sword that serves justice, the red robe that displays a kind heart," thus incorporating Zhan Zhao's name (展昭), his personalities, and appearance.

Justice Pao (1995 TV Series)Edit

Following the popular 1993 TV series is this 80-episode series produced by Television Broadcast Limited. Zhan Zhao, played by Hong Kong actor Felix Wong, once again wears his signature red robe. This version of Zhan Zhao is similarly portrayed as the righteous and sympathetic paladin who aids Bao Zheng in his criminal cases.

Three Heroes and Five Gallants (2016 TV Series)Edit

A new adaptation of Shi Yukun's The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants produced by Huayi Brothers and Tianxing Yiyuan Entertainment (天星亿源影视), with actor Yan Yikuan playing Zhan Zhao / Shen Zhongyuan. Zhan Zhao is again portrayed as a righteous and clever hero who takes on the persona of Shen Zhongyuan in order to spy on enemies of the people and to complete missions assigned to him by Bao Zheng. It also allows him to team together with the Five Rats.

Justice Bao: The First Year (2019 TV Series)Edit


  • Bao Qingtian. Zhan Zhao VS Five Rats. Jin Chaoqun, Kenny Ho. CTS, 1994.