Zhao Ang

Zhao Ang (fl. 210s), courtesy name Weizhang, was a Chinese politician who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty and was aligned with the faction that would later become the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period. He is best known for resisting the warlord Ma Chao in Liang Province (covering roughly present-day Gansu and Ningxia) in the 210s. His wife, Wang Yi, is famous for supporting her husband throughout their conflict with Ma Chao.[1]

Zhao Ang
Inspector of Yi Province (益州刺史)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Personal details
Tianshui, Gansu
Spouse(s)Wang Yi
  • Zhao Ying
  • Zhao Yue
  • two other sons
Courtesy nameWeizhang (偉章/偉璋)

Early careerEdit

Zhao Ang was from Tianshui Commandery (天水郡), which is in present-day Tianshui, Gansu. In his early years, he served as an Assistant Officer (從事) in Liang Province, alongside Yang Fu and Yin Feng (尹奉), who were also from Tianshui Commandery.[2][3]

Later, while Zhao Ang was serving as the Prefect () of Qiangdao County (羌道縣; around present-day Zhugqu County, Gansu), Liang Shuang (梁雙) started a revolt in the county and conquered Xi (西), a district in Qiangdao where Zhao Ang's family members lived. Zhao Ang's two sons were killed, while his wife Wang Yi and his daughter Zhao Ying (趙英) were held hostage by Liang Shuang. They survived and were reunited with him after Liang Shuang made peace with the local authorities.[4]

Siege of JichengEdit

Sometime during the Jian'an era (196–220) in the reign of Emperor Xian, Zhao Ang was reassigned to be an Army Advisor (參軍事) and relocated to Ji (兾; also called Jicheng, in present-day Gangu County, Gansu), the provincial capital of Liang Province.[5] In 211, the northwestern warlord Ma Chao started a rebellion against Cao Cao, the de facto head of the Han central government. Cao Cao defeated Ma Chao and his allies at the Battle of Tong Pass later that year. In the subsequent years after the battle, Ma Chao constantly raided the lands in Liang Province and attacked the counties in the area.

When Ma Chao attacked Ji, Zhao Ang and his troops put up a firm defence and managed to hold off the enemy for some time. However, over time, the city gradually ran out of supplies and its defenders and civilian population began to suffer. Zhao Ang's superior, Wei Kang, the Inspector (刺史) of Liang Province, took pity on the plight of the people and planned to start peace talks with Ma Chao. Zhao Ang tried to dissuade Wei Kang from doing so but was ignored. When he told Wang Yi about the problem, she urged him to fight on and encourage his men to do the same. However, by the time Zhao Ang went back to see Wei Kang, the latter had already concluded his negotiations with Ma Chao, with both sides agreeing to end the conflict.[6]

Driving Ma Chao out of Liang ProvinceEdit

Ma Chao broke his word later – he killed Wei Kang, captured Zhao Ang, and kept Zhao and Wang Yi's son, Zhao Yue (趙月), as a hostage in Nanzheng County. He hoped that Zhao Ang would comply with his demands and serve him, but was uncertain about Zhao's intentions. Wang Yi met Lady Yang (楊氏), Ma Chao's wife, and managed to get close to her and convince her that Zhao Ang was loyal to Ma Chao. Ma Chao's suspicions towards Zhao Ang gradually decreased.[7]

Zhao Ang had been secretly planning with Yang Fu, Yin Feng, Jiang Xu and others to avenge Wei Kang and drive Ma Chao out of Liang Province. However, he was worried that Ma Chao would harm Zhao Yue, who was still being held hostage, but eventually agreed with his wife to sacrifice their son for the sake of upholding righteousness.[8]

The plan turned out to be a success: Yang Fu and Jiang Xu started a rebellion against Ma Chao in Lu (鹵; or Lucheng, in present-day southeastern Gansu), while Yin Feng and the others who were with Ma Chao in Ji (兾; also called Jicheng, in present-day Gangu County, Gansu) at the time pretended to urge Ma Chao to lead troops to Lu to suppress the revolt. Ma Chao failed to recapture Lu from the rebels so he returned to Ji, but found himself locked out because while he was away, Yin Feng and the others had seized control of Lu and killed his wife and child(ren).[9] Ma Chao retreated to Hanzhong Commandery, borrowed troops from the warlord Zhang Lu, and returned to attack Liang Province. Zhao Ang and Wang Yi had moved to Mount Qi (祁山; the mountainous regions around present-day Li County, Gansu) by then. Ma Chao's army besieged Zhao Ang's forces at Mount Qi for about 30 days until reinforcements led by Cao Cao's generals Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He arrived and lifted the siege. After his defeat, Ma Chao went to Nanzheng County and killed Zhao Yue. For the whole period of time from the siege at Ji to the battle at Mount Qi, Zhao Ang had launched a total of nine attacks on Ma Chao.[10]

Later careerEdit

Zhao Ang eventually rose to the position of Inspector (刺史) of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing),[11] but never assumed office in reality because Yi Province was under the control of the warlord Liu Bei, one of Cao Cao's key rivals.

In 219, during the Battle of Mount Dingjun, Liu Bei's general Huang Zhong defeated and killed Cao Cao's general Xiahou Yuan and an official Zhao Yong (趙顒; 赵颙; Zhào Yóng). Zhao Yong held the appointment of Inspector of Yi Province.[12] This "Zhao Yong" is believed to be Zhao Ang because the Chinese characters for yong and ang had similar meanings,[13] and also because yong and ang had the same pronunciation in Old Chinese.[14] Moreover, they held the same appointment and lived around the same period of time. Therefore, it is possible that the name "Zhao Ang" was erroneously recorded as "Zhao Yong".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 1094.
  2. ^ (楊阜字義山,天水兾人也。) Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  3. ^ (魏略曰:阜少與同郡尹奉次曾、趙昂偉章俱發名,偉章、次曾與阜俱為涼州從事。) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  4. ^ (昂為羌道令,留異在西。會同郡梁雙反,攻破西城,害異兩男。異女英,年六歲,獨與異在城中。 ... 雙與州郡和,異竟以是免難。 ...) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  5. ^ (建安中,昂轉參軍事,徙居兾。) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  6. ^ (及超攻急,城中饑困,刺史韋康素仁,愍吏民傷殘,欲與超和。昂諫不聽,歸以語異,異曰:「君有爭臣,大夫有專利之義;專不為非也。焉知救兵不到關隴哉?當共勉卒高勳,全節致死,不可從也。」比昂還,康與超和。) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  7. ^ (超遂背約害康,又劫昂,質其嫡子月於南鄭。欲要昂以為己用,然心未甚信。 ... 昂所以得信於超,全功免禍者,異之力也。) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  8. ^ (及昂與楊阜等結謀討超,告異曰:「吾謀如是,事必萬全,當柰月何?」異厲聲應曰:「忠義立於身,雪君父之大恥,喪元不足為重,況一子哉?夫項託、顏淵,豈復百年,貴義存耳。」昂曰:「善。」) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  9. ^ (計定,外與鄉人姜隱、趙昂、尹奉、姚瓊、孔信、武都人李俊、王靈結謀,定討超約,使從弟謨至兾語岳,并結安定梁寬、南安趙衢、龐恭等。約誓旣明,十七年九月,與叙起兵於鹵城。超聞阜等兵起,自將出。而衢、寬等解岳,閉兾城門,討超妻子。) Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  10. ^ (遂共閉門逐超,超奔漢中,從張魯得兵還。異復與昂保祁山,為超所圍,三十日救兵到,乃解。超卒殺異子月。凡自兾城之難,至于祁山,昂出九奇,異輒參焉。) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  11. ^ (謐又載趙昂妻曰:趙昂妻異者,故益州刺史天水趙偉璋妻,王氏女也。) Lie Nü Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
  12. ^ (二十四年春,自陽平南渡沔水,緣山稍前,於定軍山勢作營。淵將兵來爭其地。先主命黃忠乘高鼓譟攻之,大破淵軍,斬淵及曹公所署益州刺史趙顒等。) Sanguozhi vol. 32.
  13. ^ (顒顒昂昂,如圭如璋。) Shijing, Poem 252. See here for an English translation.
  14. ^ (in Chinese) 臺語之古老語古典. The eighth point mentions that the Chinese characters 顒 and 昂 had the same pronunciation in Old Chinese.
  • 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.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).