Ze Rong (pronunciation (help·info)) (died 195 C.E.) was a minor warlord and Buddhist leader who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He was active in Xu Province and was nominally a subordinate of the provincial governor, Tao Qian. When the warlord Cao Cao invaded Xu Province around 193, Ze Rong fled south with his followers, plundering two commanderies and killing their administrators along the way. He took shelter under the warlord Liu Yao but betrayed him later and seized control of Yuzhang Commandery (around present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi). Liu Yao ultimately defeated him and drove him out of the commandery. Ze Rong fled into the hills, where he was killed by the Shanyue tribes.
Ze Rong was from Danyang Commandery (丹陽郡), which is around present-day Xuancheng, Anhui. He gathered a few hundred followers and brought them along to join Tao Qian, the Governor of Xu Province. Tao Qian appointed him as a logistics officer and tasked him with overseeing the transporting of resources from Guangling (廣陵; around present-day Huai'an, Jiangsu), Xiapi (下邳; around present-day Pizhou, Jiangsu) and Pengcheng (彭城; present-day Xuzhou, Jiangsu) commanderies to Xu Province's capital, Tan County (郯縣; present-day Tancheng County, Shandong). However, Ze Rong allowed his followers to behave lawlessly and embezzled the resources from the three commanderies for himself. He then used the resources to build a large Buddhist temple in Xiapi Commandery with a capacity of 3,000 people. He also had large bronze statues constructed, painted in gold, and lavishly decorated. He also promoted Buddhism by welcoming people from neighbouring commanderies to join him, and managed to attract over 5,000 households. During Vesak, he hosted feasts for the masses along the streets and used cotton to cover several tens of li of the roads. Several thousands of people showed up to partake in the festivities. The budget was in the range of billions.
In 193, when the warlord Cao Cao attacked Xu Province, Ze Rong brought along several thousands of followers and 3,000 horses and fled to Guangling Commandery. Zhao Yu (趙昱), the Administrator of Guangling Commandery, treated Ze Rong like an honoured guest. When Ze Rong noticed that Guangling Commandery was abundant in wealth and resources, he lured Zhao Yu into a trap and killed him when he was drunk. He then ordered his followers to plunder Guangling Commandery, leaving behind nothing for the citizens. They then headed south to Moling (秣陵; present-day Jiangning District, Nanjing, Jiangsu) to join Xue Li (薛禮), the former Chancellor of Pengcheng who had moved to Moling with his men after being forced out of Xu Province by Tao Qian. Ze Rong later murdered Xue Li as well and took control of his forces.
Ze Rong later joined Liu Yao, the Governor of Yang Province. In 195, Liu Yao lost his base to the warlord Sun Ce, who was on a series of conquests in the Jiangdong region. Liu Yao then headed south to take shelter in Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡; around present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi). At the time, Zhou Shu (周術), the previous Administrator of Yuzhang Commandery, had died of illness so his office was vacant. Liu Biao, the Governor of Jing Province, supported Zhuge Xuan to be the new Administrator, but that became a problem because the Han imperial court had appointed Zhu Hao to succeed Zhou Shu. While waiting at Pengze County (彭澤縣; east of present-day Hukou County, Jiangxi), Liu Yao sent Ze Rong to lead troops to attack Zhuge Xuan. Xu Shao cautioned Liu Yao, "Ze Rong doesn't care about how others see him. Zhu Wenming (Zhu Hao) is too trusting of people. You should warn him to be wary (of Ze Rong)." After driving Zhuge Xuan away, as Xu Shao foresaw, Ze Rong killed Zhu Hao and took control of Yuzhang Commandery.
Liu Yao attacked Ze Rong but was driven back. He then recruited more soldiers from the surrounding counties to strengthen his forces and eventually defeated Ze Rong. Ze Rong fled into the hills, where he met his end at the hands of the Shanyue tribes.
- de Crespigny (2007), p. 1028.
- (笮融者，丹楊人，初聚衆數百，往依徐州牧陶謙。謙使督廣陵、彭城運漕，遂放縱擅殺，坐斷三郡委輸以自入。) Sanguozhi vol. 49.
- (乃大起浮圖祠，以銅為人，黃金塗身，衣以錦采，垂銅槃九重，下為重樓閣道，可容三千餘人，悉課讀佛經，令界內及旁郡人有好佛者聽受道，復其他役以招致之，由此遠近前後至者五千餘人戶。每浴佛，多設酒飯，布席於路，經數十里，民人來觀及就食且萬人，費以巨億計。) Sanguozhi vol. 49.
- (曹公攻陶謙，徐土搔動，融將男女萬口，馬三千匹，走廣陵，廣陵太守趙昱待以賔禮。先是，彭城相薛禮為陶謙所偪，屯秣陵。融利廣陵之衆，因酒酣殺昱，放兵大略，因載而去。過殺禮，然後殺皓。) Sanguozhi vol. 49.
- (獻帝春秋曰：是歲，繇屯彭澤，又使融助皓討劉表所用太守諸葛玄。許子將謂繇曰：「笮融出軍，不顧命名義者也。朱文明善推誠以信人，宜使密防之。」融到，果詐殺皓，代領郡事。) Xiandi Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 49.
- (繇進討融，為融所破，更復招合屬縣，攻破融。融敗走入山，為民所殺， ...) Sanguozhi vol. 49.
- Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- de Crespigny, Rafe (1990). Generals of the South. National Library of Australia. ISBN 0-7315-0901-3.
- de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004156050.
- Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).