Zhang Yi (Bogong)

Zhang Yi (died 3 March 264),[a] courtesy name Bogong, was a military general of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China. Born in the late Eastern Han dynasty, Zhang Yi was a 10th-generation descendant of Zhang Liang.[b] He started his career as a scribe under the warlord Liu Bei, who founded Shu later, and gradually rose to the positions of a county prefect and commandery administrator. In the early 230s, he served as an area commander tasked with maintaining the peace in Shu's southern commanderies. In 234, he led the Shu vanguard during the Battle of Wuzhang Plains against Shu's rival state Wei. From 238 to 259, Zhang Yi steadily rose through the ranks to become one of Shu's top generals. During this time, although he strongly opposed the Shu general Jiang Wei's aggressive stance towards Wei, he still accompanied Jiang Wei on his military campaigns against Wei. In 263, he surrendered to Wei forces along with the Shu emperor Liu Shan when Wei launched a large-scale invasion of Shu. In the following year, Zhang Yi was killed by mutineers during a rebellion by the Wei general Zhong Hui.[2]

Zhang Yi
Zhang Yi 2016 Han Zhao Lie Miao.jpg
Statue of Zhang Yi in a temple in Chengdu, Sichuan
Left General of Chariots and Cavalry
In office
259 (259) – 263 (263)
MonarchLiu Shan
Inspector of Ji Province (冀州刺史)
In office
259 (259) – 263 (263)
MonarchLiu Shan
Senior General Who Guards the South
In office
255 (255) – 259 (259)
MonarchLiu Shan
Senior General Who Attacks the West
In office
? (?) – 259 (259)
MonarchLiu Shan
Master of Writing (尚書)
In office
238 (238) – ? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Vanguard Army Commander (前領軍)
In office
234 (234) – 238 (238)
MonarchLiu Shan
Administrator of Fufeng (扶風太守)
In office
234 (234) – 234 (234)
MonarchLiu Shan
ChancellorZhuge Liang
General of the Household Who Pacifies the South (綏南中郎將)
In office
231 (231) – 234 (234)
MonarchLiu Shan
ChancellorZhuge Liang
Area Commander of Laixiang (庲降都督)
In office
231 (231) – 234 (234)
MonarchLiu Shan
ChancellorZhuge Liang
Preceded byLi Hui
Personal details
Pengshan District, Meishan, Sichuan
Died(264-03-03)3 March 264[a]
Chengdu, Sichuan
RelationsZhang Liang (ancestor)
ChildrenZhang Wei
Courtesy nameBogong (伯恭)
PeerageMarquis of a Chief Village

Family backgroundEdit

Zhang Yi was born sometime in the late Eastern Han dynasty in Wuyang County (武陽縣), Jianwei Commandery (犍為郡), which is present-day Pengshan District, Meishan, Sichuan.[3] He was a 10th-generation descendant of Zhang Liang, a strategist and statesman who served under Liu Bang (Emperor Gao), the founding emperor of the Han dynasty.[b] His great-great-grandfather Zhang Hao (張晧) and great-grandfather Zhang Gang (張綱) served as the Minister of Works and Administrator of Guangling Commandery respectively during the reign of Emperor Shun of the Eastern Han dynasty.[5]

Early careerEdit

In 214,[6] after the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from Liu Zhang and became the new provincial Governor, he employed Zhang Yi to serve as a scribe (書佐) in his office.[7]

Towards the end of the Jian'an era (196–220) of the Eastern Han dynasty, Zhang Yi was nominated as a xiaolian (civil service candidate) and subsequently appointed as the Chief of Jiangyang County (江陽縣; present-day Luzhou, Sichuan). He was later reassigned to be the Prefect of Fuling County (涪陵縣; present-day Pengshui County, Chongqing), and subsequently promoted to the rank of commandery administrator. He consecutively served as the Administrator of Zitong (梓潼; around present-day Zitong County, Sichuan), Guanghan (廣漢; around present-day Guanghan, Sichuan) and Shu (蜀; around present-day Chengdu, Sichuan) commanderies.[8]

As an area commanderEdit

In 231, the Shu government commissioned Zhang Yi as General of the Household Who Pacifies the South (綏南中郎將) and appointed him as the Area Commander of Laixiang to replace Li Hui, who went to serve in Zhuge Liang's Northern Campaign in Hanzhong, (庲降都督), putting him in charge of maintaining the peace in Shu's southern lands (covering parts of present-day southern Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan).[9] Zhang proved to be unpopular compared to his predecessor as he lacked the flexibility to adapt the Shu code of law to local conditions in his jurisdictions, he became very unpopular among the masses.[10]

In 233,[11] when a local tribal chief Liu Zhou (劉胄) started a rebellion, Zhang Yi rallied his troops and prepared to attack the rebels. However, before Zhang Yi managed to quell the revolt, the Shu central government summoned him to the capital Chengdu. When his subordinates urged him to follow orders and go to Chengdu immediately,[12] Zhang Yi refused and said:

"No. I have been recalled to Chengdu because I failed in my duty to prevent the barbarians from rebelling. However, as my successor has yet to arrive and because we are near the war zone, I should make preparations for stockpiling and transporting supplies so as to ensure that my successor will have adequate resources to quell the revolt. How can I neglect my role in public affairs just because I have been relieved of my command?"[13]

Zhang Yi then directed his troops to transport supplies to a staging area for the troops and kept them on high alert until his successor, Ma Zhong, arrived. Due to Zhang Yi's earlier efforts, Ma Zhong was able to successfully defeat Liu Zhou and suppress the revolt. Zhang Yi's actions earned him praise from Zhuge Liang, the Imperial Chancellor of Shu.[14]

Battles against WeiEdit

Battle of Wuzhang PlainsEdit

In 234,[11] Zhang Yi served as the Chief Controller of the Vanguard (前軍都督) when Zhuge Liang led Shu forces to attack Shu's rival state Wei for the fifth time since 228.[15] Zhuge Liang also appointed him as the nominal Administrator of Fufeng Commandery (扶風郡; around present-day Xingping, Shaanxi), which was under Wei control.[16]

Following Zhuge Liang's death later that year during the Battle of Wuzhang Plains, Zhang Yi was appointed as Vanguard Army Commander (前領軍). He also received a peerage as a Secondary Marquis (關內侯) for his contributions during the battle, as well as for his earlier efforts in helping Ma Zhong suppress Liu Zhou's rebellion.[17]

Guarding JianweiEdit

In 238, Zhang Yi was reassigned to the Shu capital Chengdu to serve as a Master of Writing (尚書) in the imperial secretariat. Within a short period of time, he was sent back to the frontline to serve as the Area Commander of Jianwei (建威; in present-day Longnan, Gansu) near the Wei–Shu border. In addition to his new appointment, he was granted acting imperial authority, promoted to Senior General Who Attacks the West (征西大將軍), and had his marquis rank increased from that of a Secondary Marquis to a Marquis of a Chief Village (都亭侯).[18]

Battle of DidaoEdit

In 255, Zhang Yi returned to the Shu capital Chengdu for a discussion on Shu general Jiang Wei's plan to launch another invasion of Wei. During the discussion in the imperial court, Zhang Yi strongly objected to Jiang Wei's plan and pointed out that Shu lacked the resources to go to war and that the people were already tired of war.[19] Jiang Wei ignored him and proceeded with his plan. He reassigned Zhang Yi to the position of Senior General Who Guards the South (鎮南大將軍) and ordered him to participate in the campaign.[20]

Jiang Wei attacked Wang Jing, the Wei governor of Yong Province, at Didao (狄道; present-day Lintao County, Gansu) and inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy. Tens of thousands of Wei soldiers fled after their defeat and drowned in the nearby Tao River.[21] At that point in time, Zhang Yi advised Jiang Wei: "It's time to stop. We shouldn't advance any further, or we'll risk losing everything we have gained so far." When Jiang Wei turned furious, Zhang Yi told him that advancing further would be equivalent to "adding legs to a snake."[c][22]

Jiang Wei did not heed Zhang Yi's warning and continued to besiege Wang Jing at Didao but failed to breach Didao's walls.[23] Upon learning that Wei reinforcements led by Chen Tai were approaching Didao, Jiang Wei gave up on the fortress and retreated back to Zhongti (鐘堤; south of present-day Lintao County, Gansu).[24]

Although Zhang Yi strongly disagreed with Jiang Wei's aggressive stance towards Wei and did not get along well with him, Jiang Wei still brought him along on his military campaigns against Wei. Zhang Yi also reluctantly participated in the campaigns.[25]

In 259, the Shu emperor Liu Shan promoted Zhang Yi to the position of Left General of Chariots and Cavalry (左車騎將軍) and appointed him as the nominal Inspector of Ji Province.[26]


In 263, the Wei regent Sima Zhao ordered his generals Zhong Hui, Deng Ai and others to lead a large-scale invasion of Shu from three fronts.[27] In response to the Wei invasion, the Shu generals Jiang Wei, Zhang Yi, Liao Hua, Dong Jue and others led their troops to resist the invaders. Zhang Yi and Dong Jue received orders to guard Yang'an Pass (陽安關; a.k.a. Yangping Pass 陽平關; in present-day Ningqiang County, Shaanxi) and provide backup on the external perimeter.[28]

Zhang Yi later joined Jiang Wei and Liao Hua at the heavily fortified mountain pass Jiange to resist the Wei army led by Zhong Hui. In the winter of 263, the Shu emperor Liu Shan surrendered when the Wei army led by Deng Ai showed up unexpectedly outside Chengdu after taking a detour across dangerous terrain. As a result of Liu Shan's surrender, the Shu state's existence came to an end and it became part of Wei.[27] After learning of Liu Shan's surrender, Zhang Yi and the other Shu generals at Jiange formally surrendered to Zhong Hui at Fu County (涪縣; present-day Mianyang, Sichuan).[29]

Zhang Yi returned to Chengdu on 29 February 264 with Zhong Hui and the others. Over the next few days, with Jiang Wei's support, Zhong Hui plotted a rebellion against the Wei regent Sima Zhao. On 3 March, a mutiny broke out when some of Zhong Hui's officers who were unwilling to participate in the rebellion turned against their superior and killed him and Jiang Wei. Zhang Yi also lost his life during the chaos.[30][27]


Zhang Yi's son, Zhang Wei (張微), was known for being ambitious and studious since he was young. He served as the Administrator of Guanghan Commandery (廣漢郡; around present-day Guanghan, Sichuan) during the Jin dynasty.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Zhong Hui's biography in the Sanguozhi recorded that the mutiny took place on the 18th day of the 1st month of the 1st year of the Xianxi era of Cao Huan's reign.[1] This date corresponds to 3 March 264 in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ a b Zhang Yi's great-great-grandfather, Zhang Hao, was a sixth-generation descendant of Zhang Liang.[4] Therefore, Zhang Yi was a 10th-generation descendant of Zhang Liang.
  3. ^ The phrase "adding legs to a snake" is derived from a Chinese idiom, hua she tian zu (畫蛇添足; 'draw a snake and add legs to it'). The idiom story says that a man who participated in a snake drawing contest finished before the time was up. However, instead of submitting his drawing, he decided to use the remaining time to add four legs to his snake. He lost the contest eventually. This idiom is used to describe people doing unnecessary things and ending up ruining what they set out to do in the first place.


  1. ^ ([咸熙元年正月]十八日日中, ... 姜維率會左右戰,手殺五六人,衆旣格斬維,爭赴殺[鍾]會。) Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  2. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 1086.
  3. ^ (張翼字伯恭,犍為武陽人也。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  4. ^ (張晧[浩?]字叔明,犍為武陽人也。六世祖良,高帝時為太子少傅,封留侯。) Houhanshu vol. 56.
  5. ^ (高祖父司空浩,曾祖父廣陵太守綱,皆有名迹。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  6. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 67.
  7. ^ (先主定益州,領牧,翼為書佐。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  8. ^ (建安末,舉孝廉,為江陽長,徙涪陵令,遷梓潼太守,累遷至廣漢、蜀郡太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  9. ^ (建興九年,為庲降都督、綏南中郎將。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  10. ^ (翼性持法嚴,不得殊俗之歡心。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  11. ^ a b Sima (1084), vol. 72.
  12. ^ (耆率劉胄背叛作亂,翼舉兵討胄。胄未破,會被徵當還,羣下咸以為宜便馳騎即罪, ...) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  13. ^ (... 翼曰:「不然。吾以蠻夷蠢動,不稱職故還耳,然代人未至,吾方臨戰場,當運糧積穀,為滅賊之資,豈可以黜退之故而廢公家之務乎?」) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  14. ^ (於是統攝不懈,代到乃發。馬忠因其成基以破殄胄,丞相亮聞而善之。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  15. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 71.
  16. ^ (亮出武功,以翼為前軍都督,領扶風太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  17. ^ (亮卒,拜前領軍,追論討劉胄功,賜爵關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  18. ^ (延熈元年,入為尚書,稍遷督建威,假節,進封都亭侯,征西大將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  19. ^ ([延熈]十八年,與衞將軍姜維俱還成都。維議復出軍,唯翼庭爭,以為國小民勞,不宜黷武。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  20. ^ (維不聽,將翼等行,進翼位鎮南大將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  21. ^ (維至狄道,大破魏雍州刺史王經,經衆死於洮水者以萬計。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  22. ^ (翼曰:「可止矣,不宜復進,進或毀此大功。」維大怒,曰:「為蛇畫足。」) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  23. ^ (維竟圍經於狄道,城不能克。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  24. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 76.
  25. ^ (自翼建異論,維心與翼不善,然常牽率同行,翼亦不得已而往。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  26. ^ (景耀二年,遷左車騎將軍,領兾州刺史。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  27. ^ a b c Sima (1084), vol. 78.
  28. ^ (及鐘會將向駱谷,鄧艾將入沓中。然後乃遣右車騎廖化詣沓中為維援,左車騎張翼、輔國大將軍董厥等詣陽安關口以為諸圍外助。) Sanguozhi vol. 44.
  29. ^ ([景耀]六年,與維咸在劒閣,共詣降鍾會于涪。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  30. ^ (明年正月,隨會至成都,為亂兵所殺。) Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  31. ^ (華陽國志曰:翼子微,篤志好學,官至廣漢太守。) Huayang Guo Zhi annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 45.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004156050.
  • Fan, Ye (5th century). Book of the Later Han (Houhanshu).
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.