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|This article is part of
the War of the Eight Princes
|Other key figures|
|Empress Yang Zhi|
|Empress Jia Nanfeng|
|Empress Yang Xianrong|
Zhang Hua's father Zhang Ping (張平) was a commandery governor during Cao Wei, but died when he was young. Zhang Hua's family became impoverished, and he was a shepherd when he was young. A man from the same commandery, Liu Fang (劉放), became impressed with his talent, and gave his daughter to Zhang in marriage. He became known for his literary talent, and he wrote a collection of poems, ostensibly about birds—but in fact about people's tendencies. The poems received great renown, and the commandery governor recommended him to the regent Sima Zhao (211-265). Sima Zhao made him one of his secretaries, and he distinguished himself in that role. However, as Director of the Court of Sacrificial Worship he suffered disgrace because one of the beams in the Imperial Temple happened to break, for which he was cashiered. After Sima Zhao's son Sima Yan established Jin Dynasty (as Emperor Wu, r.265-289), he further elevated Zhang and created him an acting marquess. When Yang Hu encouraged Emperor Wu to conquer the rival Eastern Wu, most officials opposed, but Zhang greatly agreed with Yang and was later heavily involved with the strategies and the logistics behind the conquest of Eastern Wu in 279-280. After the fall of Eastern Wu, Emperor Wu created him the Marquess of Guangwu to honor him for his contributions. He had two sons, his First Son is named (張祎) from which the lineage produced Zhang Jiuling,and Zhang Jiazhen and his Second son (張韙).
After Emperor Wu's unification of China
However, Zhang soon fell out of favor with Emperor Wu—when Emperor Wu once asked him who could be a regent for his son Crown Prince Zhong (later Emperor Hui), Zhang recommended Emperor Wu's highly talented brother Sima You the Prince of Qi, and while Prince You was clearly capable, Emperor Wu was angry at the recommendation because he feared that all of the officials instead wanted Prince You to be emperor. The officials who previously opposed the campaign against Eastern Wu, who had been embarrassed by Zhang when Eastern Wu turned out to be an easy enemy to conquer, took this chance to falsely accuse Zhang, and Emperor Wu sent him out of the capital to be the military commander of You Province (幽州, modern Beijing, Tianjin, and northern Hebei). Zhang distinguished himself capable in that role as well, pacifying the various non-Han tribes of the region easily. Emperor Wu several times considered summoning him back to the capital Luoyang to be prime minister, but each time changed his mind after further false accusations.
Back to the capital
After Emperor Wu's death in 290, Zhang was summoned back to the capital to serve as the teacher of his grandson (the son of his son Emperor Hui), Crown Prince Yu, but without actual powers. After Empress Jia Nanfeng overthrew Empress Dowager Yang and her father the regent Yang Jun in a coup d'état, she became convinced that Zhang was capable but non-threatening, and so entrusted him with power. During the next few years, with Empress Jia in power, Zhang was able to use his skills to keep the various competing political forces in check, in conjunction with Empress Jia's cousin Pei Wei (裴頠). For his contributions, he was created the Duke of Zhuangwu.
Zhang's poetry was admired by such people as Ruan Ji and Chen Liu (陳留). He was profoundly learned, and when he changed houses it took thirty carts to carry his library. Zhang was the author of the Bowu Zhi (博物志), a collection of articles on various topics of interest. It appears to have perished during the Song dynasty, and the modern work which passes under that name was probably compiled from extracts found in other books.
However, after Empress Jia framed Crown Prince Yu of treason in 299 and had him deposed, the political firestorm became too big for Zhang to handle, particularly after Empress Jia, fearful of a return by Crown Prince Yu, had him murdered in 300. Sima Lun the Prince of Zhao, a granduncle of Emperor Hui, formed a conspiracy to depose Empress Jia. He tried to persuade Zhang to join the conspiracy, but Zhang hesitated. When Sima Lun's coup overthrew Empress Jia later that year, he had a number of her associates, including Zhang, killed, along with their clans. Only his grandson Zhang Yu (張輿) escaped. After Sima Lun briefly usurped the throne and was then overthrown in 301, Prince You's son Sima Jiong the Prince of Qi, then regent, had Zhang Hua's reputation and title of Marquess of Guangwu (but not the Duke of Zhuangwu, as Prince Jiong did not recognize Empress Jia's acts) restored, and Zhang Yu inherited Zhang Hua's title.