|General of Cao Wei|
|Courtesy name||Xuangao (Chinese: 宣高; pinyin: Xuāngāo; Wade–Giles: Hsüan-kao)|
|Posthumous name||Marquis Wei (Chinese: 威侯; pinyin: Wēi Hóu; Wade–Giles: Wei Hou)|
Zang Ba (c. 162 – 230s), courtesy name Xuangao, was a general who lived in the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms period. He served the warlord Tao Qian initially, followed by Lü Bu and finally Cao Cao and his successors, but for the most part of his career, he remained semi-autonomous over his troops and eastern China. The years of his birth and death are not recorded, but he served Cao Wei until the reign of Cao Rui. During his life he was granted autonomous power over Qing Province and Xu Province. He would eventually hold the title of marquis of various counties within, but by the time of his death held the prestigious title of Mayor of the Capital (執金吾). Zang was an arrogant general, but also a powerful regional leader who contributed much to the state of Wei. He was a rare case in which an insolent subordinate like him enjoyed a good ending.
Incident in hometown
Zang Ba was originally from Huaxian (華県), Taishan Prefecture (泰山郡). According to Records of the Three Kingdoms by the Jin dynasty historian, Chen Shou, his father, Zang Jie, who served as a prison warden in the Huaxian region, was displeased with the Grand Administrator's (太守) abuse of laws to order the death of the locals. Thus, he stopped obeying the orders of the Grand Administrator, and the latter, greatly angered, had Zang Jie arrested and decided to transfer him to the region's capital. Zang Ba, although only 18 at the time, led a mafia of some 20 or 30 men to rescue his father. Although there were over 100 soldiers escorting Zang Jie, none of them dared to stop Zang Ba. Henceforth, father and son became refugees, but Zang Ba's bravery also became well known.
As a bandit leader
After the national breakout of the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Zang entered the service of the governor of Xu Province, Tao Qian, and gathered adventures and gangsters around the area to fight the Yellow Turbans. Within his recruits, Sun Guan (孫観), Wu Dun (吳敦), Yin Li, and Chang Xi (昌豨) were the most outstanding, and together they protected the province from the rebels. But they did not return to Tao after the campaign, instead, they camped at Kaiyang (開陽) and established independency.
When Lü Bu gained control of Xu Province, Zang and his gangs became known as the Taishan Bandits and attacked Lu's ally, Chancellor of Langye, Xiao Jian (萧建), and seized the treasury of Langye. Being enraged, Lu personally led troops to fight Zang, despite opposition from his subordinate, Gao Shun, and was repelled. On the other hand, Zang, fearing the bigger threat from Yuan Shu, who at the time was one of the most powerful warlords, agreed to form an alliance with Lu, and assisted in Lu's counterstrike against Yuan's aggression.
Autonomy over Xu Province and Qing Province
When Lu Bu and his subordinate, Liu Bei, fought amongst themselves, Cao Cao, the warlord who had the Emperor controlled as a puppet ruler, went east and supported Liu to fight Lu. Zang sided with Lu to oppose Cao, but as a result of the Battle of Xiapi, Cao Cao eventually defeated Lü Bu, and started a manhunt on Zang Ba.
Upon the capture of Zang, however, Cao asked his allegiance, and granted Zang autonomy over the provinces of Qing and Xu right away. Zang's old friends, Sun Guan and Wu Dun, were also made local administers. Zang and his gangs maintained their power, even after their submission to Cao. Once, Cao ordered Liu Bei (now a subordinate of Cao Cao) to ask Zang for the heads of two traitors who defected to Zang when the latter was still hostile to Cao. Zang refused and told Liu to bring words to Cao Cao that the reason why he could remain independent was that he never did such things (turned over his own subordinates). Despite Zang's arrogance, Cao surprisingly did not punish his vassal, instead, he humbly told Zang, "Your conduct can be compared to the ancient sages, it's my desire you can behave thus." As a matter of fact, Cao Cao was in dire need of help from Zang and Sun Guan, who wielded enormous influence around the area, to hinder his archival Yuan Shao's eastern flank, so he tried his best to appease the former Taishan Bandits, and even formally assigned the two traitors Zang protected to be administrators as well. In Cao Cao's battles with Yuan Shao, Zang Ba led elite soldiers into Qing province, allowing Cao Cao to focus the majority of his soldiers on the main battles at hand, and not having to worry himself about the east. Later, when Cao Cao defeated Yuan Tan in the Battle of Nanpi, Zang Ba went personally to Cao Cao to congratulate him on his great victory. During the celebration banquet, he offered to move his family to be moved to Ye, Cao Cao's headquarters, effectively as hostages to bound his loyalty. Cao Cao refused, expressing his full confidence in Zang.
On many occasions, Zang Ba put down rebellions in the areas he was charged with defending. For these accomplishments, he was given the rank of Marquis. He also put down the rebellion of Chang Xi, his former subordinate, together with Yu Jin. In addition to this, he also fought alongside Xiahou Yuan to put down remnants of the Yellow Turbans. In name of a promotion, Zang was formally assigned as the governor of Xu Province, and his close comrade, Sun Guan, was assigned as the governor of Qing Province, but the logistic officer, Xiahou Yuan, would take care of the military supplies for the two provinces, effectively took back Zang's autonomy, but Zang still had firm control over his Qing province troops.
Battles against Sun Quan
On the border between Cao Cao and Sun Quan's territory, a local leader named Chen Lan (former general of Yuan Shu) rebelled against Cao Cao with the local pavenue Mei Cheng. Zhang Liao was sent to put down the rebellion, and Zang Ba joined him. On the other hand, Zhang Liao was worried that Sun Quan would sent his general, Han Dang, with an army to assist Chen in resisting Cao Cao's forces. Han Dang was in charge of defending Huan, a major city in Lujian at that time so Zhang Liao sent Zang Ba to attack Han Dang in Huan to ensure that he could not move to reinforce the rebels. Zang Ba attacked Huan, but Han Dang defended the city well and actually succeeded in driving Zang Ba back. However this was a minor win as Sun Quan then dispatched a force of some 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers to assist Chen Lan but Zang Ba was able to ambush them and drive them away. Zang gave chase at night and attacked in the morning. Many soldiers of Sun could not board their ships, and were forced into the water and drowned. Without the intervention of Sun, Zhang Liao was able to defeat Chen Lan's rebellion.
Later, during the Battle of Ruxukou (213), Zhang Liao and Zang Ba both led the van. However, Sun's generals laid a solid defense line despite their inferior manpower; when Cao Wei tried to broke that line with a charge, Sun Guan went to the foremost of the van and was fatally injured (albeit being saved by Zang on the field, Sun died in camp). The progress was worse than expected, especially when continuous rainfall had raised the water level, the huge army under Zhang Liao and Zang Ba felt uneasy when enemy warships moved forward. Even Zhang Liao, the general who was renowned to be the bravest warrior of Wei, wanted to retreat without permission, Zang Ba told him, "Cao Cao is wise, and (he) will not simply abandon us." The next day, an official order to retreat indeed arrived, and both generals safely returned to their territory. Zhang Liao told Cao Cao of what happened, and Cao Cao was greatly impressed. Thereafter, Zang moved to Juchao with Xiahou Dun to resist Sun Quan from potential invasion, and was supposed to have taken part in Battle of Xiaoyao Ford, albeit playing a minor role in the campaign.
Quarrel with Cao Pi, and death
When Cao Cao was seriously ill at the twenty fourth year of Jian'an reign, Zang sent a detachment to the capital to observe the situation. Upon knowing the death of Cao Cao, Zang's detachment and his Qingzhou troops took leave without permission, and refused to take command from Cao Pi, Cao Cao's successor. Nevertheless, Cao Pi was successful on stabilizing the situation, and formally established the state of Cao Wei as its emperor. As a result, Zang Ba was promoted along most of the officials. However, the new emperor would place Zang a direct supervisor, Cao Xiu, who had supreme authority over Qing and Xu provinces. Zang accompanied Cao Xiu on several campaigns against Sun Quan's generals, and was credited with defeating Lu Fan at Dongpu (洞浦, in the vicinity of present day Wuhu, Anhui). After the victory, Zang was given the prestigious rank of Mayor of the Capitol and was called to Luoyang. However, he refused to leave his troops and complained to Cao Xiu that Cao Pi did not make use of his full potential, and claimed that "if he was given 10,000 infantry and cavalry, he would be invincible along Yangtze River." Cao Xiu reported Zang's speech to Cao Pi, who had not forgotten Zang's previous arrogance in his father's funeral, plotted to strip off his military power. When Cao Pi launched his 3-pronged attack against Sun Quan, and personally moved east, Zang went to Cao Pi's tent to greet him, wherein his command was stripped, and was required to go for his post in the capital. Interestingly, even Zang no longer served the army, he was consulted by Cao Pi on military issues from time to time, and was still respected. When Cao Rui succeeded his father, Cao Pi, to be the new emperor, Zang enjoyed a stunning tax revenue of 3,500 households, a salary way higher than other generals who also assumed responsibility for the eastern border (Cao Xiu had a tax revenue of 2,500 households, and Zhang Liao 2,600 households at respective heights). After his death, Zang was posthumously named Majestic Marquis (威侯), and was succeeded by his son, Zang Ai.
- Father: Zang Jie (臧戒)
- Zang Ai (臧艾)
- Zang Shun (臧舜)
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. pp. 1021–3. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
- (割青、徐二州，委之於霸。) It is recorded in SGZ that Cao Cao "ceded" Qing Province and Xu Province to Zang Ba.
- (遂收兵於徐州，與孫觀、吳敦、尹禮等並聚眾，霸為帥，屯於開陽。) SGZ, biography of Zang Ba.
- (太祖以霸為琅邪相，敦利城、禮東莞、觀北海、康城陽太守) SGZ.
- (霸謂備曰：霸所以能自立者，以不為此也。) SGZ.
- (乃皆以翕、暉為郡守。) SGZ.
- de Crespigny, p. 1022
- (權遣數萬人乘船屯舒口，分兵救蘭，聞霸軍在舒，遁還。) SGZ.
- (行遇霖雨，大軍先及，水遂長，賊船稍進，將士皆不安。) SGZ.
- (建安二十四年，霸遣別軍在洛。會太祖崩，霸所部及青州兵，以為天下將亂，皆鳴鼓擅去。) Yu Huan. Brief History of Wei.
- (與曹休討吳賊，破呂范於洞浦，徵為執金吾，位特進。) SGZ.
- (文帝即位，以曹休都督青、徐，霸謂休曰：「國家未肯聽霸耳！若假霸步騎萬人，必能橫行江表。」) Brief History of Wei.
- (休言之於帝，帝疑霸軍前擅去，今意壯乃爾！遂東巡，因霸來朝而奪其兵。) Brief History of Wei.