Battle of Wancheng

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Battle of Wancheng
Part of the wars at the end of the Han dynasty
Date 197 CE
Location Wancheng (around present-day Wancheng District, Nanyang, Henan)
Result Zhang Xiu victory
Belligerents
Zhang Xiu Cao Cao
Commanders and leaders
Zhang Xiu Cao Cao
Dian Wei 
Strength
5,000 infantry[citation needed]
Battle of Wancheng
Traditional Chinese 宛城之戰
Simplified Chinese 宛城之战

The Battle of Wancheng, also known as the Battle of Wan, was fought between the warlords Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu in 197 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. Zhang Xiu emerged victorious in the battle while Cao Cao escaped after his defeat.

Background[edit]

In 197, Cao Cao led his army from Xuchang to attack Jing Province (covering present-day Hubei and Hunan), which was governed by Liu Biao. On the way, Cao Cao arrived at Wancheng, which was controlled by Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu's strategist Jia Xu suggested to his lord to feign surrender to Cao Cao first, and then draw up a plan to drive Cao away. As Jia Xu predicted, Cao Cao accepted Zhang Xiu's surrender and allowed him to remain in control of Wancheng.

However, later, Cao Cao was attracted to the widow of Zhang Xiu's deceased uncle Zhang Ji (referred as Lady Zou (鄒氏) in Romance of Three Kingdoms), and he took her as a concubine. Zhang Xiu felt humiliated and wanted to take revenge on Cao Cao. When Cao Cao heard of Zhang Xiu's displeasure, he plotted to kill Zhang, but the plan was leaked out. Zhang Xiu revolted against Cao Cao and launched a surprise attack on Cao's camp at night.

The battle[edit]

Zhang Xiu gained an advantage over Cao Cao, as the latter was unprepared for the sudden assault. Cao Cao mounted a horse and sped away, while his general Dian Wei remained behind to prevent the enemy from passing through the gate. However, Zhang Xiu's troops broke through the other gates and eventually surrounded Dian Wei. By then, Dian Wei had only slightly more than ten men left with him, and they were fighting desperately. Dian Wei used his long crescent halberds to slash left and right, cutting down ten or more enemy soldiers. The surrounding area was littered with many casualties and dead bodies. Dian Wei had sustained over ten wounds but he continued to fight on, crushing two enemies under his arms with brute strength. The remaining enemy soldiers did not dare to advance further, while Dian Wei continued attacking and killing several of them until he reached his threshold, when he let out a loud yell and died. Zhang Xiu's men dared not move forward to take his head until they were sure he was dead and finally returned to their camp.

Cao Cao's son, Cao Ang, offered his steed to his father, and bravely stayed behind to hold off Zhang Xiu's soldiers. Although Cao Ang managed to buy time for his father to escape, he was eventually overwhelmed and killed. Cao Cao's nephew Cao Anmin also died in the battle. In the meantime, Cao Cao had retreated to Wuyin. He wept upon hearing news of Dian Wei's death.

Modern references[edit]

This battle is featured in Koei's video game series Dynasty Warriors as a playable stage and the highlight of Dian Wei's story mode. If the player is not playing as Dian Wei, Dian Wei makes his last appearance in that stage and does not appear again in the subsequent stages. In Dynasty Warriors 7, after Cao Cao's escapes from the castle, he attacks Zhang Xiu with Xiahou Dun and Xu Chu and ends up gaining Jia Xu in his ranks. If Zhang Xiu is defeated by Cao Cao, it is not known if he was killed by Cao or retreated from the battle.

References[edit]