Wang Fang (Han dynasty)

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Wang Fang
Traditional Chinese 王方
Simplified Chinese 王方

Wang Fang was a military officer serving under the warlord Dong Zhuo during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history.


On Dong Zhuo's orders, the imperial capital of Luoyang was burned to the ground in 190, and the capital moved to Chang'an (modern Xi'an), protected from approach in the east by an easily defensible bottleneck at Shǎn near modern Sanmenxia.[a] Dong Zhuo's general Niu Fu was stationed there. Niu Fu's colonels Li Jue, Guo Si, and Zhang Ji were sent east to attack Zhu Jun, the governor of Henan, whom they defeated at Zhōngmù,[b] near modern Zhengzhou.[1] In the aftermath of their victory, Niu Fu's subordinates pillaged and looted widely in the nearby commandery of Yǐngchuān[c] (near modern Xuchang) and principality of Chénliú[d] (near modern Kaifeng).[2]

Siege and sack of Chang'an[edit]

Dong Zhuo was assassinated in 192. Lü Bu, the principal assassin, who was also in charge of military affairs in the capital, sent for Niu Fu to face execution for the crimes committed by his officers in the east. Niu Fu rebelled but was killed by his own men.[3] Having lost their lord and their commander and wanted for capital crimes, Li Jue, Guo Si, and Zhang Ji found themselves in somewhat desperate straits. Rather than all fleeing their own way, they decided to adopt Jia Xu's strategy and attempt to take the capital, reasoning that even if they were unable, they could plunder the surrounding lands and continue westward, retreating to their homelands deeper northwest in Liáng province.[e][4] The generals together were said to command a force in excess of one hundred thousand. Minister of the Interior Wang Yun, now in control of the eleven-year-old emperor Liu Xie, sent a force to meet the invaders, which was defeated at Xīnfèng[f] mere miles from the capital.[4]

The invading generals then liaised with a number of former officers under Dong Zhuo, including Fan Chou, Li Meng, and Wang Fang.[5] They surrounded and besieged Chang'an. According to Records of the Three Kingdoms, the siege lasted ten days, after which Li Jue, Guo Si, and Fan Chou captured the city, chasing out Lü Bu and executing Wang Yun, along with much of the rest of the populace for good measure. With the young emperor's authority they granted themselves fiefs and high-ranking generalships, sharing the regency. Zhang Ji was also given lavish titles and lands but was stationed outside the capital guarding the passes.[3] The parallel account in Book of the Later Han, which does not mention Wang Fang, has the siege lasting eight days, ending on 26 August 192,[6] when some soldiers from Shu in Lü Bu's employ opened the city gates from within, allowing Li Jue's cohort entrance. The populace was subsequently enslaved, with over ten thousand killed during the sack of the city. Wang Yun collected the emperor and fortified himself in the northernmost gatehouse on Chang'an's east wall, declared a general amnesty, and granted Li Jue, Guo Si, and Fan Chou high titles. Wang Yun thereafter surrendered himself but was executed in short order.[4]

In fiction[edit]

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the opening from the inside of Chang'an's gates is attributed to Wang Fang and Li Meng.[7]


  1. ^ It is this Shǎn (陝) whence the modern province Shaanxi takes its name.
  2. ^ Zhōngmù: 中牟
  3. ^ Yǐngchuān: 潁川郡
  4. ^ Chénliú: 陳留國
  5. ^ Liáng: 涼州
  6. ^ Xīnfèng: 新豐
  1. ^ Book of the Later Han, 72:2332
  2. ^ The Historical Atlas of China, vol 3 pp 5–6
  3. ^ a b Records of the Three Kingdoms, 6:181
  4. ^ a b c Book of the Later Han, 72:2333
  5. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, 6:181. The parallel account in Book of the Later Han names Fan Chou and Li Meng but excludes Wang Fang.
  6. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, 60:1937
  7. ^ Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Moss Roberts English translation, 9:155


See also[edit]