Wang Ping (Three Kingdoms)
|General of Shu Han|
|Style name||Zijun (Chinese: 子均; pinyin: Zǐjūn; Wade–Giles: Tzu-chün)|
|Other names||He Ping (Chinese: 何平; pinyin: Hé Píng; Wade–Giles: Ho Ping)|
Service under Cao Cao
Wang Ping was born in Dangqu, Baxi (present-day Qu County, Sichuan). He was surnamed He (何) because he was raised by He clan, from which his mother originated. He Ping presumably changed his surname back to Wang during his later years (historic records show a discrepancy on how he was called, so it is also possible that he had his surname changed posthumously).
He began his career by serving Du Huo (杜濩), and was made an acting colonel when he followed his supervisor to visit the imperial court. When Du Huo joined Cao Cao in a campaign to wrestle control over the area of Hanzhong with Shu region warlord, Liu Bei, Wang served the expedition force. When they arrived the battlefield, Liu Bei refused to give battle, burdening Cao Cao forces with logistical difficulty. Many of Cao Cao's soldiers started deserting, joining the other side who could provide food and shelter. Wang Ping was one of those surrendered to Liu Bei.
Service under Shu
As a reward for his defection, Wang Ping was given the rank of Major-General. Wang Ping went on to work in Liu Bei’s military, but his accomplishments were far and between during his first 10 years of service.
In 228, a critical event to Wang Pang's life happened when he fought under Ma Su, an inexperienced vanguard, during the Battle of Jieting. As an assistant to the young Ma Su, Wang Ping advised against abandoning the water sources and encamping atop a mountain. Ma Su rejected the advice, but gave a detachment to camp where Wang Ping saw fit. Indeed, the Shu-Han van was defeated by the Cao-Wei general Zhang He when the latter cut off Shu's water supply.
Observing Ma Su's dire situation, Wang Ping and his unit of 1000 soldiers near the mountain foot rolled their drums loudly to alarm a defense. Zhang He probably mistook the enemy as giving out a signal for ambushing units, so he did not attack Wang Pang's direction. Thus, Wang Ping was able to regroup the defeated forces and regather supplies scattered everywhere. In the aftermath of the fiasco, Ma Su was executed but Wang Ping was greatly promoted.
In 231, Shu-Han's Chancellor and regent, Zhuge Liang, launched his fourth northern expedition, encumbering Wang Ping with greater responsibility. He was ordered by the Chancellor to guard the hill south to Lucheng (鹵城, Lu Fortress). When the fastness was being attacked by the enemy main force, Wang Ping's garrison was attacked by a contingent led by Zhang He, but the defenders were able to repel the aggressors. After Zhuge Liang's death in 234, Wang Pang received credit for his effort on quelling the "rebellion" of Wei Yan, and was promoted as a Governor, under supervision of Wu Yi.
Wang Ping later replaced Wu Yi as the Area Commander of Hanzhong region, and received a title of Marquis Stabilizing Han. In 244, the Wei regent Cao Shuang led sixty to seventy thousand soldiers to attack Hanzhong. Wang Ping's forces were intimidated by the Wei regent's boost of over one hundred thousand troops. Generals under Wang Ping urged him to vacate the area for a more concentrated defense in the rear. However, general Liu Min insisted on following arrangements of the dead Wei Yan to resist the invaders on the outskirt. Wang Ping agreed with Liu Min's view, and they moved the troops to Xingshi, where the army occupied a mountain. Wang Ping only had 30,000 men at the time, but his strength was not known by the enemy. Liu Min then erected a flow of flags and streamers across the hill. Therefore, both sides perceived the other party larger than their actual sizes, and hesitated to engage in combat. While Cao Shuang was vacillating between a decisive attack and a general retreat, forces led by Fei Yi finally arrived, effectively forcing the latter choice onto the Wei regent.
Appraisal and death
Wang Ping came from a lower origin, and spent most of his life in the military. In terms of literature, he could not write a single word, and all he could read were no more than ten words. When he needed to make reports, he would ask his clerk to do the paperwork. In fear others might deride his education level, Wang Ping would excuse that he was there to fight, not to write. However, Wang Ping loved to listen to stories, and he was talented to give orations.
Wang Ping was a straight disciplinarian, who never made a joke. Besides giving orations, Wang Ping seldom used his mouth, and he would just sit from morning till dusk, and then slept. Trifles of Wang Ping (the northern commander) was comparable to that of Deng Zhi of the east and Ma Zhong of the south. General Wang finally died in 248, leaving his son Wang Xun as heir.
In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Wang Ping was given a fictionalized and more prominent role in the Hanzhong Campaign, opposing Xu Huang's tactics and defecting. Xu Huang wanted his army to cross the Han river and battle Liu Bei's forces on the other side. Wang warned that it would be impossible to retreat once they cross the river, as the river would significantly slow down the retreat and will be vulnerable to enemy fire. Xu claimed that the soldiers will fight to the death and have no need to retreat if they are in a dire situation (in conjunction with the tactic by legendary Western Han general Han Xin, where he purposely placed his army near a river in order to unleash their full potential). Wang then claimed that Han only used that tactic because the opposition had no strategist to see through it, but Liu's army had the support of Zhuge Liang, who would be able to easily see through this tactic. Xu refused to listen and, as expected, suffered great defeat. He asked why Wang didn't come to his rescue, and Wang replied, "if I come to rescue you with my portion of the army, then our main camp would have no protection; I warned you multiple times against crossing the river, but you did not listen, which resulted in this defeat." Xu was greatly angered by this and planned to kill Wang that night, however the plan was leaked out and Wang set the camp on fire and defected to Shu.
- (随杜濩、朴胡诣洛阳，假校尉，从曹公征汉中，因降先主，拜牙门将、裨将军。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (十五年，进封安汉侯，代壹督汉中。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (平生長戎旅，手不能書，其所識不過十字，而口授作書，皆有意理。使人讀《史》、《漢》諸紀傳，聽之，備知其大義，往往論說不失其指...然性狹侵疑，為人自輕，以此為損焉。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (遵履法度，言不戲諺，從朝至夕，端坐徹日，懷無武將之體。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- (是時，鄧芝在東，馬忠在南，平在北境，鹹著名跡。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
- Chen Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Pei Songzhi. Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).