Battle of Jiameng Pass

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A mural depicting the duel between Zhang Fei and Ma Chao at Jiameng Pass.
Battle of Jiameng Pass
Traditional Chinese 葭萌關之戰
Simplified Chinese 葭萌关之战

The Battle of Jiameng Pass is a fictional battle described in the 14th-century Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The battle was fought between the warlords Liu Bei and Zhang Lu in 214 during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period.


In 211, Ma Chao attacked Cao Cao after the latter lured his father (Ma Teng) and younger brothers (Ma Xiu and Ma Tie) into a trap and killed them. This led to the Battle of Tong Pass between Ma Chao and Cao Cao. Ma Chao was defeated and he took refuge under the warlord Zhang Lu in Hanzhong.

The battle[edit]

In 212, Liu Zhang invited Liu Bei into Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) to help him defend against Zhang Lu's forces in Hanzhong. Liu Bei proceeded to Jiameng Pass (located about 20 kilometres northeast of Jianmen Pass in present-day Jiange County, Sichuan) and stationed there. However, Liu Bei and Liu Zhang eventually turned hostile towards each other when Liu Zhang discovered that his follower Zhang Song had been plotting with Liu Bei to seize Yi Province from him.

Liu Zhang formed an alliance with Zhang Lu against Liu Bei. Zhang Lu sent Ma Chao to lead an army to attack Liu Bei at Jiameng Pass. There, Ma Chao encountered Zhang Fei and duelled with him. After engaging each other in two long separate fights, neither Zhang Fei nor Ma Chao was able to gain an advantage over his opponent, and they retreated back to their respective camps. Liu Bei did not want either his sworn brother or Ma Chao to get hurt, so he consulted Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang suggested that Ma Chao would be of great help to them if he was willing to serve Liu Bei. Hence, Liu Bei sent Li Hui to persuade Ma Chao to switch allegiance to him. Concurrently, Liu Bei also sent people to spread negative rumours about Ma Chao in Hanzhong, causing Zhang Lu to become suspicious of Ma Chao. Ma Chao heard that Zhang Lu was starting to doubt his loyalty and planned to defect to Liu Bei, especially since Liu Bei was a rival of his sworn enemy, Cao Cao.


At that time, Liu Bei was besieging Liu Zhang in Yi Province's capital Chengdu, when he received Ma Chao's request to serve him. Liu Bei was pleased and eagerly accepted Ma Chao's assistance, and sent troops and supplies to Ma's camp. Following that, Ma Chao led his army to attack Chengdu from the north. Liu Zhang was shocked because he did not expect Ma Chao to make such a move. Shortly later, Liu Bei's advisor Jian Yong managed to convince Liu Zhang to surrender, and Yi Province came under Liu Bei's control. Ma Chao became one of the Five Tiger Generals under Liu Bei after the latter defeated Cao Cao in the Hanzhong Campaign and declared himself "King of Hanzhong".


The Battle of Jiameng Pass was not documented in the historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou. There is no mention of a duel between Ma Chao and Zhang Fei. Ma Chao's defection from Zhang Lu to Liu Bei's side is described in Ma's biography as follows:

Ma Chao could not get along well with Zhang Lu and they were suspicious of each other. When Ma Chao heard that Liu Bei was besieging Liu Zhang in Chengdu (Yi Province's capital), he secretly wrote a letter to Liu Bei, expressing his willingness to surrender. Liu Bei sent his men to receive Ma Chao, and Ma led his troops to outside Chengdu. This caused panic in the city and Liu Zhang surrendered. Liu Bei appointed Ma Chao as "General Who Pacifies the West" and placed him in charge of Linju (臨沮).[1]

An annotation from the Dianlue in Ma Chao's biography stated:

When Liu Bei heard that Ma Chao had arrived he was pleased and said, "Yi Province is mine." He then sent his men to meet Ma Chao and sent reinforcements and supplies to the latter. When Ma Chao reached Chengdu, he stationed his army north of the city and Chengdu fell (to Liu Bei) within 10 days of Ma Chao's arrival.[2]

Nothing is mentioned about the roles Zhuge Liang, Yang Song and Li Hui played in Ma Chao's defection.

Modern references[edit]

In Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends, Ma Chao's legend, Battle of Jia Meng Gate (Jiameng Pass) is much different from the novelisation. The backstory of this battle is that Ma Chao has defected from Liu Zhang and joined Liu Bei. However, the other four Tiger Generals (Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, and Huang Zhong) are not pleased with all the attention Ma Chao has been getting. In an effort to prove their worth, a challenge is issued where each general is to defeat as many enemy soldiers as possible. The player must defeat more soldiers than the other four generals to win.

The Battle of Jiameng Pass is reenacted in Koei's video game Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends. If the player meets the necessary requirements, then Zhuge Liang forces Ma Chao to defect to Shu.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (魯不足與計事,內懷於邑,聞先主圍劉璋於成都,密書請降。先主遣人迎超,超將兵徑到城下。城中震怖,璋即稽首,以超為平西將軍,督臨沮,因為前都亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
  2. ^ (典略曰:備聞超至,喜曰:「我得益州矣。」乃使人止超,而潛以兵資之。超到,令引軍屯城北,超至未一旬而成都潰。) Dianlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 36.

Further reading[edit]