Wang Jian (Qin)

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Wang Jian
秦大将军王翦.jpg
A Qing dynasty portrait of Wang Jian
Chinese 王翦

Wang Jian (fl. 220s BC) was a military general of the State of Qin during the Warring States period. Under his command, the Qin army conquered the states of Zhao, Yan, and Chu. He is considered one of the four greatest generals of the Warring States period, along with Bai Qi, Lian Po and Li Mu.

Wang was born in Dongxiang, Pinyang, Guanzhong (northeast of modern Fuping County, Shaanxi province). His son, Wang Ben (王賁), was also a Qin general.

Conquest of Chu, 225–223 BC[edit]

In 225 BC, only three kingdoms (states) remained independent: Chu, Yan and Qi. Chu had recovered significantly enough to mount serious resistance after their disastrous defeats to Qin in 278 BC and losing their centuries-old capital of Ying (Jingzhou). Despite its territorial size, resources and manpower, Chu's fatal flaw was its largely corrupt government that mostly overturned the legalistic-style reforms of Wu Qi from a century and a half earlier, when Wu Qi transformed Chu into the most powerful state with an area of almost half of all the states combined. Wu Qi was from the same state (Wei) as Shang Yang, whose legalistic reforms turned Qin into an invincible war machine at this stage.

The King of Qin, Ying Zheng, decided to finally defeat the remnants of the Chu state located in Huaiyang. According to Shiji's chapter on the great generals of the Warring States, Ying Zheng had first requested his great general Wang Jian to lead the invasion, and further inquired the military strength needed for the siege. Wang Jian stated that he needed a force of 600,000 men for the invasion. However, when the same question was posed to Li Xin, he requested only 200,000 men. The King, Ying Zheng, believed the latter. Wang Jian retired, claiming sickness. The first invasion was a disaster when the 200,000 Qin troops were defeated by 500,000 Chu troops in the unfamiliar territory of Huaiyang, modern-day northern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Ying Zheng recalled Wang Jian, who finally agreed to lead the second invasion force after receiving the force of 600,000 men that he had requested before.

In 224 BC, Wang Jian finally began the second invasion. Chu's morale had greatly increased after their success the previous year. The Chu forces were content to defend and awaited a siege. Wang Jian tricked the Chu army by appearing inactive in his fortifications while secretly training his troops to fight in Chu territory. After a year, Chu decided to disband due to the lack of action. Wang Jian then invaded and overran Huaiyang and the remaining Chu forces. Xiang Yan, the Chu general, managed to resist and inflict bloody losses on Wang Jian until the King Fuchu of Chu was killed by Wang Jian's second in command, Meng Wu, father of Meng Tian. Xiang Yan later committed suicide. Chu was finally conquered in 223 BC. During their peaks, the armies of Chu and Qin combined numbered over 1,000,000 troops, more than the massive campaign at Changping between Qin and Zhao 35 years before. The excavated personal letters of two Qin regular soldiers, Hei Fu {黑夫} and Jin {惊}, records a protracted campaign in Huaiyang under general Wang Jian. Both soldiers wrote letters requesting supplies (clothing) and money from home to sustain the long campaign.

In popular culture[edit]

In the manga Kingdom, he was described as a man who was acknowledged by Hu Shang, for his unique tactical skills. In that manga, he was shown to wear a mask, and excels in defense building and tactical intellect and is the best in art of the war

References[edit]