An illustration of Meng Da's death at the Xincheng Rebellion
|General of Cao Wei|
Meng Da (died 228), courtesy name Zidu, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei in the early Three Kingdoms period. He previously served the warlords Liu Zhang and Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han Dynasty before defecting to Wei. In Wei, he served under the first two rulers, Cao Pi and Cao Rui. Around late 227, he started a rebellion in Wei and aimed to rejoin the Shu-Han but the revolt was swiftly suppressed by the Wei general Sima Yi. Meng Da was captured and executed for treason.
Service under Liu Zhang and Liu Bei
Meng Da originally served Liu Zhang, the Governor of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing). He defected to another warlord, Liu Bei, when the latter invaded Yi Province in the early 210s and seized control of the province from Liu Zhang. Liu Bei sent Meng Da to guard Jiangling (江陵), and promoted him to Administrator (太守) of Yidu (宜都) later after settling Yi Province. Meng Da's original style name was "Zijing", but he changed it to "Zidu" to avoid naming taboo because "Zijing" was also the style name of Liu Bei's uncle.
In 219, Meng Da was ordered to lead a force from Zigui (秭歸) to attack Fangling (房陵). After conquering Fangling, Meng Da advanced further north and captured another city, Shangyong (上庸), where he rendezvoused with Liu Feng, Liu Bei's adoptive son. Later that year, when Liu Bei's general Guan Yu was trapped by enemy forces in Jing Province, Guan requested reinforcements from Liu Feng and Meng Da, but they refused. Guan Yu was eventually captured by forces of the eastern warlord Sun Quan and was executed.
Defection to Wei
Meng Da was afraid that he would be punished for refusing to help Guan Yu. At the time, his relationship with Liu Feng was also strained, hence he brought 4,000 soldiers with him and defected to Liu Bei's rival Cao Pi, who gave him a warm welcome. Meng Da then wrote a letter to Liu Feng, informing the latter that he was in grave danger, because someone close to Liu Bei had spoken ill of him, and he urged Liu Feng to surrender to Wei as well. However, Liu Feng ignored Meng Da's advice and returned to Chengdu, where he was executed by his adoptive father for failing to reinforce Guan Yu and failing to stop Meng Da from defecting.
Cao Pi later ended the Eastern Han Dynasty by forcing Emperor Xian to abdicate the throne to him, after which he became emperor and established the state of Cao Wei, marking the start of the Three Kingdoms period. In Wei, Meng Da received various important appointments and the title of a marquis. Cao Pi merged the three commanderies of Fangling, Shangyong and Xicheng (西城) to form a larger commandery, Xincheng (新城), and he appointed Meng Da as the Administrator (太守) of Xincheng and tasked him with defending Wei's southwestern border. Meng Da became close friends with the Wei officials Huan Jie and Xiahou Shang.
In 225, Li Hong (李鴻), a former Wei subject who surrendered to Shu Han (a state founded by Liu Bei), came to meet Shu's chancellor Zhuge Liang and the Shu officials Jiang Wan and Fei Shi. Li Hong told them about Meng Da's meeting with a person called Wang Chong (王沖), who told him that Zhuge Liang urged Liu Bei to execute Meng Da's family after Meng defected to Wei, but Liu Bei refused. Meng Da also did not believe Wang Chong.
Rebellion and death
Zhuge Liang attempted to contact Meng Da and induce him to defect back to Shu, despite objection from Fei Shi, who remarked that Meng Da was an untrustworthy traitor. By then, the Wei emperor Cao Pi had died and was succeeded by Cao Rui, who treated Meng Da less favourably. Meng Da's close friends Huan Jie and Xiahou Shang had also died, so Meng Da felt isolated and became increasingly disgruntled with the Wei imperial court. After some exchanging of letters between Zhuge Liang and Meng Da, the latter gradually developed animosity towards Wei and harboured the intention of starting a rebellion.
In 228, Zhuge Liang launched the first of a series of Northern Expeditions against Wei, and he succeeded in persuading Meng Da to assist the Shu army by rebelling against Wei. However, Meng Da's rebellion plot was leaked out by Shen Yi (申儀), the Administrator of Weixing (魏興), whom Meng Da had a feud with. The Wei general Sima Yi wrote letters to Meng Da to put the latter in a dilemma on whether to rebel or not, and secretly led an army from Wan (in present-day Nanyang, Henan) to attack Meng Da's base in Xincheng. Sima Yi's forces arrived at Xincheng in just eight days and caught Meng Da completely off guard. Meng Da was betrayed by his nephew Deng Xian (鄧賢) and subordinate Li Fu (李輔) and his rebellion was swiftly suppressed. He was captured and executed by Sima Yi.
Meng Da appeared as a character in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. His style name in the novel was "Ziqing" (simplified Chinese: 子庆; traditional Chinese: 子慶; pinyin: Zǐqìng; Wade–Giles: Tzu-ching). His role in the novel was mainly centered on the events in his rebellion.
Appointments and titles held
- Administrator of Yidu (宜都太守)
- Appointments and titles held by Meng Da after he defected to Wei:
- Attendant of Scattered Cavalry (散騎常侍)
- General Who Builds Martial Might (建武將軍)
- Marquis of Pingyang (平陽亭侯)
- Administrator of Xincheng (新城太守)
- (私怨人情，不能不見，恐左右必有以間於漢中王矣。) Chen Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms, Biography of Liu Feng.
- (建興三年，隨諸葛亮南行，歸至漢陽縣，降人李鴻來詣亮，亮見鴻，時蔣琬與詩在坐。鴻曰：「閒過孟達許，適見王沖從南來，言往者達之去就，明公切齒，欲誅達妻子，賴先主不聽耳。達曰：『諸葛亮見顧有本末，終不爾也。』盡不信沖言，委仰明公，無復已已。」) Chen Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms, Volume 41, Biography of Fei Shi.