Wang Ji (Three Kingdoms)

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Wang Ji
General of Cao Wei
Born 190
Died 261[1]
Traditional Chinese 王基
Simplified Chinese 王基
Pinyin Wáng Jī
Wade–Giles Wang Chi
Courtesy name Boxing or Boyu (traditional Chinese: 伯輿; simplified Chinese: 伯舆; pinyin: Bóyú; Wade–Giles: Po-yü)
Posthumous name Marquis Jing (Chinese: 景侯; pinyin: Jǐng Hóu; Wade–Giles: Ching Hou)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wang.

Wang Ji (died 261),[1] courtesy name Boxing or Boyu, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. Wang Ji gained prominence in Wei for leading second campaign of Goguryeo–Wei War and suppressing Guanqiu Jian's revolt. During Zhuge Dan's rebellion, Wang Ji led the vanguard, defeating Eastern Wu forces under both Zhu Yi and Tang Zi and personally engaged in many duels in battle against Wu and killing Yu Quan.


Wang Ji was born in Qucheng county of Donglai commandery, Qing province in 190. His father was Wang Bao. his father died in 192 his mother lived until 248. After Wang Bao’s death, Wang Ji was adopted by his uncle, Wang Weng.

Early career[edit]

By 206 when Wang Ji at the age of seventeen, he began his career serving as official in the local administration. However, Wang Ji disapprove the administration and resigned from the position after a very short term of service. Later on, he traveled to Xu province and studied at the academy founded by Zheng Xuan. Wang Ji appears very devoted in his years to his studies. During Cao Pi’s reign, Wang Ji went to work in the capital holding a position in the Imperial Library. In 235, Wang Ji was promoted to be Gentleman of the Palace Writers(zhongshu shilang) and then he sent a memorial to Emperor Cao Rui who succeeded Cao Pi, urging him to be more actively in dealing Wu and Shu.

Under Cao Shuang's rule[edit]

Since 239, the Wei government had been under the control of two figure, Sima Yi and Cao Shuang. Over the time, Sima Yi withdrew from government affairs and retired from the court entirely in the fifth month of 247, leaving affairs entirely under Cao Shuang’s control. After Wang Ji’s success against the Koguryŏ, Cao Shuang invited him to become a Gentleman of the General Staff [congshi lang]. After serving briefly in this position, Wang Ji was sent from the capital to serve as Grand Administrator[taishou] of Anfeng.

Later in 247, Sun Quan gathered a large army at Jianye and announced that he intended to attack Wei. Zhuge Dan was the Inspector of Yang and would be expected to meet any invasion by Sun Quan. He asked Wang Ji for advice. Wang Ji predicted that Sun Quan’s attack was a farce. He argued that Sun Quan was very old and would not lead the attack himself, and that none of his living generals were skilled enough to cause a danger to Wei. Instead, he said, Sun Quan was reorganizing his forces in order to consolidate power. Wang Ji’s prediction proved to be correct, as Sun Quan did not invade Wei.

While part of Cao Shuang’s faction, Wang Ji wrote a document called Essay on the Needs of the Times [shiyao lun], discussed contemporary affairs. After this, Wang Ji claimed that he was ill and resigned from his position in Anfeng. He was subsequently made Intendant[yin] of Henan. However Before Wang Ji could begin his new job Sima Yi took control of the government back from Cao Shuang and executed him. Because Wang Ji had been one of Cao Shuang’s associates, he was dismissed from his office.

Under Sima Yi's rule[edit]

However, Sima Yi apparently respected Wang Ji’s abilities. Later in 249, Wang Ji was promoted as Master of Writing(shangshu). Then, he was sent out of the capital as Inspector[cishi] of Jing. He was also given the title General of Vehemence[yanglie jiangjun].

Campaign against Wu in Jing province[edit]

In the twelfth month (January 10 – February 7, 251) of 250, the Wei's General Who Conquers the South(zhengnan jiangjun) Wang Chang, a protégé of Sima Yi, proposed a large-scale assault on the Wu territories north of the Jiang River in Jing province. The court led by Sima Yi agreed and the armies advanced on Jing province.

In this invasion Wang Chang was tasked to attack Jiangling and experienced great success by killing two Wu generals and capturing many prisoners while Zhou Tai, the Grand Administrator[taishou] of Xincheng who has been tasked to attack the counties of Wu, Zigui, and Fangling and also achieved impressive results. For his part, Wang Ji attacked Yiling(Present-day Yichang, Hubei) which was defended by Wu’s General Who Comforts the Army(fujun jiangjun), Bu Xie. Bu Xie was able to defend and Wang Ji feared that he would not be able to capture the city. Ignoring his original orders he instead launched a decoy attack on Yiling while he brought the bulk of his army to Xiongfu, a major supply depot for the Wu army. Wang Ji successfully seized Xiongfu and all of its food supply. furthermore Wang Ji was able to capture Wu’s general(anbo jiangjun), Tan Zheng and several thousand people, who after the battle resettled elsewhere in Yiling by Wang Ji. For this achievement he was made a Marquis of Guannei.

Under Sima Shi's rule[edit]

Sima Yi died in 251 and his eldest son, Sima Shi, took his place as Grand General[da jiangjun] and assuming control of Wei’s government. In 254, Sima Shi accused emperor Cao Fang of being a sexual miscreant and motioned that he be deposed. In November of that year, Cao Fang was deposed and Cao Mao took the throne.

Quelling Guanqiu Jian's rebellion[edit]

In the first month(January 5 – February 23) of 255, Wang Ji’s former superior, Guanqiu Jian revolted against Sima Shi along with the general Wen Qin. They led between fifty and sixty thousand soldiers respectively to Xiang and occupying the city. Guanqiu Jian oversaw the defense of their base while Wen Qin camped outside to engage enemies. Sima Shi gathered around 100,000 soldiers and advanced to Chen and Xuchang in order to begin operations against the rebels.

Wang Ji was summoned to be the commander of all the troops in Xuchang. He discussed the rebellion with Sima Shi, explaining that Guanqiu Jian did not have the support of his population in his jurisdictions or his soldiers in this revolt. his officers and soldiers were only rebelling because they were afraid that Guanqiu Jian would kill them if they did not join him. Wang Ji reasoned that, because of this, the majority of the rebel forces would scatter at the first sign of danger. Initially, Sima Shi appointed Wang Ji to lead the vanguard against the rebels, but he quickly changed his mind. Wang Ji argued that Guanqiu Jian had not advanced his large army and this would causing his soldiers worried because If Sima Shi’s army refused to advance, it would convince the people that the government soldiers were afraid of the rebels and their support would swing to Guanqiu Jian. He proposed, further, that Sima Shi should attack the supply depot at Nandun, which contained enough food to sustain Sima Shi’s enormous army for forty days. Wang Ji had to request permission repeatedly from Sima Shi, and Sima Shi eventually agreed to advance the army as far as Yin River. Wang Ji continued to urge Sima Shi to send him against Nandun, However Sima Shi declined. Wang Ji finally decided to disregard Sima Shi’s orders and advance on Nandun anyway. He occupied the supply depot and captured the provisions there. As it happened, Guanqiu Jian’s army was on its way to Nandun when Wang Ji occupied it, so Guanqiu Jian retreated without the supplies. However despite Wang Ji’s protests, Sima Shi’s general passive strategy to not move the main army was fruitful at the end. As he waited, enemy generals defected to his camp. Sima Shi reasoned that Guanqiu Jian controlling his troops by subterfuge and manipulation and in time, his soldiers will be plagued with doubt and would defect. In order to put pressure on the rebels Sima Shi ordered Zhuge Dan to occupy Shouchun. He also sent the General Who Conquers the East(zhengdong jiangjun) Hu Zun to occupy Qiao and Song counties, blocking Guanqiu Jian’s potential retreat to Wu territories. Sima Shi himself went to occupy Ruyang. With Wang Ji in Nandun, Guanqiu Jian’s position was completely surrounded. Sima Shi ordered his officers to put up defenses but not engage the enemy. Wen Qin and Guanqiu Jian were desperate for what to do in this position and their soldiers began to defect in huge numbers. Their forces quickly became so depleted that they were forced to conscript civilian farmers.

The rebellion was finally broken by the arrival of Deng Ai, an Inspector(cishi) of Yan Province (covering present-day southwestern Shandong and eastern Henan). He led 10,000 soldiers to occupy Luojia city. Sima Shi secretly came to Luojia to join with Deng Ai’s army. Wen Qin attacked Luojia Because he believed Deng Ai’s army to be weak and did not notice the city was already reinforced by Sima Shi's larger army. as a result Wen Qin suffered heavy losses against Deng Ai’s army and later Sima Shi sent forces to pursue Wen Qin. They caught the rebel at Shayang and dealt his remaining forces a resounding defeat. Wen Qin fled and his soldier surrendered. Wen Qin himself surrendered to Wu. Hearing that Wen Qin had been defeated, Guanqiu Jian abandoned Xiang and fled in the night, leaving his army behind. He went into hiding but was discovered by a man named Zhang Shu, who promptly shot him to death and sent his head to the capital.

However Sima Shi died very shortly after his exploits at Luojia due to his worsening sickness. His younger brother, Sima Zhao, was promoted to be Grand General(da jiangjun) and continued to rule Wei.[2]

Under Sima Zhao's rule[edit]

Shortly afterwards Sima Shi's younger brother, Sima Zhao returned to Luoyang anyway against edict to remain at Xuchang and was able to maintain control of the government consolidated his authority further. In 256, he had the emperor Cao Mao grant him the privilege of wearing imperial robes, crowns, and boots leaving the emperor and empress dowager with little power[3] and Wang Ji was promoted to General Who Guards the South(zhennan jiangjun). shortly afterwards Sima Zhao further promote him to Acting General Who Guards the East(zhendong jiangjun) and Marshal(dudu) of Yang and Yu.

Quelling Zhuge Dan's rebellion[edit]

In May of 257, Zhuge Dan rebelled against Sima Zhao. He already possessed between forty and fifty thousand soldiers and he used them to conscript another 100,000 peasants into military service. With these forces he seized control of Shouchun. He also sent his son to Wu as a hostage to requesting reinforcements. Sima Zhao advanced to Qiutou with 260,000 soldiers. Shortly after Wang Ji arrived. but before he could complete the encirclement of the city, Wu reinforcements arrived for Zhuge Dan, led by Wen Qin and Quan Yi. Because the encirclement was not completed they were able to enter the city. Sima Zhao ordered Wang Ji not to engage Zhuge Dan in battle, but to build fortifications first. Wang Ji repeatedly requested permission to attack but was always refused, so he put his efforts into fortifying his position. While he was doing this, the Wu general Zhu Yi arrived with 30,000 soldiers to reinforce Zhuge Dan and Wen Qin. Wang Ji was ordered to abandon his position around the city and engage these new forces. Wang Ji declined because now that they had begun fortifying their position and if abandoning it now would cause defeat and Zhuge Dan together with Wen Qin could attack from within the city and the siege would be undone. Wang Ji sent a memorial explaining his reasoning to the emperor, who gave him permission to attack Shouchun rather than Zhu Yi. Wang Ji assaulted Shouchun from all sides. Wen Qin led several attempts to lift the siege but Wang Ji repelled him every time he attack. Meanwhile, Sima Zhao sent Shi Bao, Zhou Tai, and Hu Lie to attack Zhu Yi. Meanwhile, Zhou Tai and the other generals has successfully defeated Zhu Yi in several battles and Hu Lie destroyed his supplies, forcing Zhu Yi to retreat. The leader of the Wu forces, Sun Lin, was angered by Zhu Yi’s failure and executed him afterwards. After this, Sun Lin turned his army around and returned to Jianye abandoning Wen Qin and the other Wu soldiers inside of Shouchun. subsequently Zhuge Dan now plagued by food shortages and defections. In the first month of 258, Zhuge Dan's force grew desperate. They launched desperate attack against Wang Ji’s encirclement, fighting day and night for six days, but they still cannot break the siege. Starving and exhausted, Zhuge Dan’s soldiers began to defect in massive numbers. Eventually Zhuge Dan completely lost control and executed Wen Qin. Wen Qin’s sons fled Shouchun and surrendered to Sima Zhao, who treated them well. After this the rebel army completely dispersed. Zhuge Dan attempted to flee from the city but was killed by Sima Zhao’s Major, Hu Fen.

Later life[edit]

After the victory over Zhuge Dan, Sima Zhao sent appraisal letter to Wang Ji for his insight and conviction. Shortly after that Sima Zhao was planning to invade Wu. Wang Ji argued against this course of action. Sima Zhao heeded his advice and confirmed his position as General Who Conquers the East [zhengdong jiangjun] and Chief Controller[dudu] of Yang. He was also enfeoffed as Marquis of Dongwu. Wang Ji declined the enfeoffment, attributing his success to his subordinates. As a result, seven of his officers were made Marquis instead.

In 259 Wang Ji promoted General to be Who Conquers the East(zhengdong jiangjun) and Marshal[dudu] of Yang. Furthermore, he also given the title Marquis of Dongwu for his services. he was further promoted to be General Who Conquers the South[zhengnan jiangjun] and Marshal[dudu] of Jing in the next year.

In 261, Hu Lie, the Grand Administrator[taishou] of Xiangyang reported that he had been in communication with the Wu generals Deng Yu and Li Guang, who wanted to defect to Wei along with many of their soldiers. Sima Zhao ordered Wang Ji to take his army to Ju River to receive the traitors. Wang Ji sent a letter to Sima Zhao explaining his suspicions that this was just a ruse to lure their armies into a trap. In response, Sima Zhao to halt the all army sent for the operations . Wang Ji sent more letters and ultimately convinced Sima Zhao to call off the entire expedition. Sima Zhao praised Wang Ji for standing by his convictions instead of altering his opinions to curry favor with him. Shortly thereafter, its proven later that Deng Yu and Li Guang's defection were only just a trap.[2]


Wang Ji died in 261 at the age of 71.


People of that time commented on the love and care of Wang Meng who took his nephew under his care after Wang Bao's death as well as great respect that Wang Ji showed to his uncle.[4]

Cao Wei's regent Sima Zhao personally praise Wang Ji for his insight and conviction, comparing him to the heroes of old for his achievements in quelling Zhuge Dan's rebellion.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wang Ji's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms stated that he died in the 2nd year of the Jingyuan era (260-264) in Cao Huan's reign. ([景元二年] ... 是歲基薨,追贈司空,謚曰景侯。)
  2. ^ a b c Translation of Wang Ji biography of Zizhi Tongjian("Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance)
  3. ^ Fang Xuanling et al. Book of Jin, Volume 2, Biography of Sima Zhao.
  4. ^ de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 818; as Zheng Xuan himself died in the year 200, Wang Ji must have been educated by pupils of his.