Liu Zhang (warlord)

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For other people named Liu Zhang, see Liu Zhang (disambiguation).
Liu Zhang
Liu Zhang Qing portrait.jpg
A Qing dynasty portrait of Liu Zhang
Born (Unknown)
Died (Unknown)
Traditional Chinese 劉璋
Simplified Chinese 刘璋
Pinyin Líu Zhāng
Wade–Giles Liu Chang
Courtesy name Jiyu (Chinese: 季玉; pinyin: Jìyù; Wade–Giles: Chi-yü)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Liu.

Liu Zhang (birth and death years unknown), courtesy name Jiyu, was a warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He became the governor of Yi Province (益州; covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing), succeeding his father Liu Yan and ruled the region until 214, when he surrendered to Liu Bei. 6 years later, Zhang again surrendered to Eastern Wu, and died shortly afterwards. Liu Zhang is often considered a incapable leader but is noted to have been the original lord of some of Shu-Han's most famous generals and officials like Fa Zheng, Meng Da, Yan Yan, Liu Ba, Huang Quan, Wu Yi, Li Yan, Dong He, and others.

Governorship of Yi Province[edit]

The youngest son of Liu Yan, Liu Zhang spent his early career at the Han court as an assistant to his two eldest brothers, Liu Fan and Liu Dan. They served at the court when it was controlled by the warlords Li Jue and Guo Si. Liu Zhang was sent by the court to admonish his father for brutal actions, but upon arriving his father refused to let him go back to the court.

In 194, following the deaths of his elder brothers and then his father, he succeeded governorship of Yi Province. During his rule over the province, he did not show ambition to expand his territory, but it is said that he was a good ruler and maintained peace in his realm.

In 200, Zhang Lu, who had previously recognized Liu Yan as his master, rebelled against Liu Zhang. Liu Zhang had Zhang Lu's mother, brothers, and other family members executed.

In 211, at the suggestion of his advisor Zhang Song, he asked Liu Bei to come to his assistance in the battle against Zhang Lu. The welcoming of Liu Bei was a plan by Zhang Song, Fa Zheng, and Meng Da to ultimately make him their leader, since they considered him more ambitious and worthy of serving than Liu Zhang. Wang Lei, Huang Quan, Li Hui, and others tried to persuade Liu Zhang not to accept Liu Bei into his territory, but their pleas were ignored and Liu Bei was welcomed as a guest general of Liu Zhang where he would go to the front to fight against Zhang Lu.

When Zhang Song's true intentions were revealed to Liu Zhang by his elder brother Zhang Su, he executed Zhang Song and began his battle against Liu Bei, who then began his conquest of Yi Province. Although generals such as Zhang Ren fought hard to defend their master, Liu Bei's forces had the upper hand, and by 214 they had surrounded Liu Zhang's capital at Chengdu. Liu Zhang's advisors Liu Ba, Dong He, and Hu Jing pleaded to their master to resist at all costs, but Liu Zhang rejected their pleas, saying "I don't want my subjects to suffer any more." He then surrendered to Liu Bei.

Later life[edit]

Soon after surrendering his territory, Liu Bei sent Liu Zhang and his eldest son Liu Xun to the western part of Jing Province, on the border with Sun Quan's territory. In the year 219, however, forces led by Lü Meng, a subordinate of Sun Quan, captured Liu Bei's general Guan Yu and executed him, seizing Jing Province. Liu Zhang and his son, Liu Xun, were taken in by the Wu forces, and Sun Quan, seeking to establish a claim to the rest of Liu Bei's territory, gave Liu Zhang the title of Governor of Yi Province, which had been his previous title before suffering defeat at the hands of Liu Bei. However, Eastern Wu made no further attempts to invade Liu Bei's territory, and Liu Zhang died shortly after being made a vassal of Sun Quan. His eldest son, Liu Xun, continued to serve in Eastern Wu while Liu Chan served in Shu Han.


  • Father:
  • Sons:
    • Liu Xun, Liu Zhang's oldest son, defended Yi Province during Liu Bei's attack, served as General of the Household of Equipage in Shu Han
    • Liu Chan (劉闡), Liu Zhang's second son, followed his father to Jing Province after their defeat by Liu Bei, served as Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk in Eastern Wu later

Historical evaluation[edit]

In popular accounts of the period, such as Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Zhang is portrayed as a foolish and incapable ruler.

In Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Zhang's rule is said to have been very peaceful until events of the period brought Liu Bei into his territory. However, Chen Shou, who had once served as an official in Shu Han, and still held some sympathy for his former masters, suggested that Liu Bei rightfully wrested leadership of Yi Province from Liu Zhang.

See also[edit]