Born to a prosperous family in Hebei, Zhang's family moved into Song China because his father had committed a crime in Jin. Zhang Shijie gained his position after passing his civil service examination, eventually becoming a successful administrator overseeing civil, military, and naval duties for the Southern Song. After the fall of the capital Lin'an (modern day Hangzhou), Zhang commanded the Song naval forces during the Mongol invasion of China in 1276, and served as the last commander of the Song fleet, during the attempt to escort Emperor Bing of Song and other Imperial officials as they fled the Mongols in 1279. However, Zhang's fleet was intercepted by Mongol forces off the coast of Xinhui and the difference between army sizes led it to being destroyed at the Battle of Yamen on March 19, 1279, with the Emperor and his Prime Minister Lu Xiufu committing suicide following their defeat. Although Zhang was able to escape with his remaining ships, he was said to have died a few days later during a storm at sea. Although his fate remains a mystery, many suggest[who?] his death was simply Mongolian propaganda, as the remains of his fleet were never found. Along with Lu Xiufu and Wen Tianxiang, Zhang is considered one of the "Three heroes of the late Song Dynasty".
- Giles, Herbert A. A Chinese Biographical Dictionary. Taipei, 1975.
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