Wang Lang

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Wang Lang
Minister over the Masses (司徒)
In office
January or February 227 (January or February 227) – December 228 (December 228)
MonarchCao Rui
Preceded byHua Xin
Succeeded byDong Zhao
Minister of Works (司空)
In office
11 December 220 (11 December 220) – January or February 227 (January or February 227)
MonarchCao Pi
Succeeded byChen Qun
Grandee Secretary (御史大夫)
(in Cao Pi's vassal kingdom)
In office
6 April 220 (6 April 220) – 11 December 220 (11 December 220)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Pi
Grand Judge (大理)
(in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Minister of Imperial Ancestral Ceremonies (奉常)
(in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Minister Steward (少府)
(in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Administrator of Kuaiji
In office
192 (192) – 196 (196)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Succeeded bySun Ce
Personal details
Tancheng County, Shandong
DiedDecember 228[a]
  • Wang Su
  • two other sons and one daughter
Courtesy nameJingxing (景興)
Original nameWang Yan (王嚴)
Posthumous nameMarquis Cheng (成侯)
PeerageMarquis of Lanling

Wang Lang (About this soundpronunciation ) (died December 228),[a][2] courtesy name Jingxing, was an official and minor warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He later served in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. Through his granddaughter's marriage to Sima Zhao, he was the great-grandfather of Sima Yan, the founding emperor of the Jin dynasty.

Early life and career[edit]

Wang Lang was from Tan County (郯縣), Donghai Commandery (東海郡), which is around present-day Tancheng County, Shandong. His original given name was "Yan" (嚴) but he changed it to "Lang" (朗) later.[3] He started his career as a Gentleman (郎中) due to his academic proficiency. When his teacher Yang Ci (楊賜) died, he left his post and went back to his home county. Later, he served Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province. During that time, he advised Tao Qian to form a general alliance with Dong Zhuo, the warlord who controlled the Han central government. Tao Qian then sent an envoy to the Han central government in Chang'an to pledge allegiance to Dong Zhuo's government, and in return received the appointment "General Who Pacifies the South". The Han central government also appointed Wang Lang as the Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery.

As a warlord[edit]

During his tenure as the Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery, Wang Lang formed a secret alliance with the Shanyue tribes. When the warlord Sun Ce started his Jiangdong campaign, Wang Lang financed the Shanyue leader Yan Baihu to fight Sun Ce, but Yan Baihu and the other Shanyue clan leaders lost to Sun Ce. At the time, Liu Yao, another warlord in the Jiangdong region, had also lost to Sun Ce in battle. Yan Baihu had become the head of a loose confederation composed of bandits and local officials, including Wang Lang, and he again gathered soldiers numbering tens of thousands. Despite opposition from his adviser Yu Fan, Wang Lang directly joined Yan Baihu in military operations against Sun Ce's forces, but they were defeated. He then escaped to Dongye (東冶). There, he gained the support from the Chief of Houguan (侯官長) and attempted to rebuild his power.[4] He also received support from Zhang Ya (張雅), a rebel leader who had a rather strong army. They succeeded in killing Han Yan (韓晏), the Commandant of the Southern Region (南部都尉) appointed by Sun Ce. However, they were ultimately defeated by He Qi, a general under Sun Ce.

Wang Lang tried to go further south to Jiao Province to recuperate, but was caught up and defeated by Sun Ce.[5] He then conducted a very humble speech to appease Sun Ce, who later accepted his surrender.

Service in Wei[edit]

Soon afterward, Wang Lang entered into a self-imposed retirement from public life, but was contacted by Cao Cao's spy and was asked to join Cao Cao in the new imperial capital, Xuchang, where the Han central government was based. Although he was initially hesitant, he became convinced after reading a letter from his old friend, Kong Rong, who advised him to go to Xuchang. Thus, he travelled north and reached Xuchang about a year later. Cao Cao highly valued Wang Lang's talent and appointed him as an adviser. Wang Lang later served in key appointments in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom of Wei after the latter was enfeoffed as a vassal king by Emperor Xian, the last emperor of the Han dynasty.[6] In 220, after Cao Cao's death, Cao Pi usurped the throne from Emperor Xian and established the state of Cao Wei to replace the Han dynasty. After becoming the emperor, Cao Pi appointed Wang Lang as the Minister of Works and enfeoffed him as the Marquis of Leping District. During Cao Pi's reign, Wang Lang made several suggestions regarding both military and civilian matters, which Cao Pi partially accepted.

In 227, when Cao Rui came to the throne, he promoted Wang Lang from a district marquis to a county marquis under the title "Marquis of Lanling", with a marquisate of 2,000 taxable households. (Wang Lang previously had 1,500 households in his marquisate during Cao Pi's reign.)

Once, Wang Lang went to Ye (in present-day Handan, Hebei) to visit the tomb of Empress Wenzhao and saw the populace was short on material; thus, he wrote to ask the emperor Cao Rui to reduce the scale of the building of his extravagant palaces and ancestral temples. Although Cao Rui publicly applauded Wang Lang's suggestion, he later reassigned Wang Lang to the position of Minister over the Masses so that Wang Lang could no longer monitor the construction of his palaces and ancestral temples.

Late life and death[edit]

After Wang Lang objected to Cao Rui's palace-building project, he noticed that Cao Rui had a small imperial harem and wrote to Cao Rui stating that an emperor should have more concubines in order to continue the imperial bloodline with more offspring. This time, Cao Rui wholeheartedly agreed with Wang Lang and started expanding the size of his imperial harem. Wang's advice had a profound influence: Nine years after Wang Lang's death, Cao Rui even ordered beautiful married women all be formally seized unless their husbands were able to ransom them, and that they would be married to soldiers instead – except that the most beautiful among them would become his concubines. Despite protests from some officials, this decree was apparently carried out, much to the distress of his people.[citation needed]

Wang Lang later focused on academic works and had published several books that were well received at the time. He died in 228 and was given the posthumous title "Marquis Cheng" (成侯), literally meaning "marquis of establishment".[b] He was succeeded by his son Wang Su, who continued serving as an official in Wei.

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms[edit]

In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Wang Lang died at the age of 76 in 228. Despite his age, he led a group of soldiers and set up camp to do battle with Zhuge Liang. In the novel, Cao Zhen was defeated by Zhuge Liang. Cao Zhen called for his subordinates to help, and Wang Lang decided to try and persuade him to surrender (even though Guo Huai was sceptical that it would succeed) and engaged Zhuge Liang in a debate, but was soundly defeated. Zhuge Liang among other things scolded him as a dog and a traitor, from the shock of which he fell off his horse and died on the spot. There is no record of this in history, and instead, it is said that he merely sent a letter to Zhuge Liang recommending that he surrender. The letter was ignored.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cao Rui's biography in the Sanguozhi recorded that Wang Lang died in the 11th month of the 2nd year of the Taihe era of Cao Rui's reign.[1] This month corresponds to 14 December 228 to 12 January 229 in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ A person who helped to establish a regime or gave comfort to the civilians could be given the posthumous name "Cheng." Wang Lang qualified for the first provision due to his contributions to the establishment of the Cao Wei regime. The rules of assigning posthumous names are detailed in the Lost Book of Zhou.[7]


  1. ^ ([太和二年]十一月,司徒王朗薨。) Sanguozhi vol. 3.
  2. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 823.
  3. ^ (魏略曰:朗本名嚴,后改為朗。) Weilue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 13.
  4. ^ (時王朗奔東冶,侯官長商升為朗起兵。) Sanguozhi vol. 60.
  5. ^ ((王郎)欲走交州,為兵所逼,遂詣軍降。) Xiandi Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 13.
  6. ^ (魏國初建,以軍祭酒領魏郡太守,遷少府、奉常、大理。) Sanguozhi vol. 13.
  7. ^ (安民立政曰成。) Yizhoushu.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
  • Luo, Guanzhong (14th century). Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).