Zhang Ni

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Zhang Ni
Zhang Ni 2016 Han Zhao Lie Miao.jpg
Statue of Zhang Ni in a temple in Chengdu, Sichuan
General Who Defeats Bandits (蕩寇將軍)
In office
? (?) – 254 (254)
MonarchLiu Shan
Administrator of Yuexi/Yuesui (越巂太守)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Officer of the Standard (牙門將)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Commandant (都尉)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Personal details
Nanchong, Sichuan
Longxi County, Gansu
Resting placeMian County, Shaanxi
  • Zhang Ying
  • Zhang Huxiong
Courtesy nameBoqi (伯岐)
PeerageSecondary Marquis (關內侯)

Zhang Ni (died 254), courtesy name Boqi, was a military general of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was instrumental in pacifying the indigenous tribes residing within and around the border of Shu. He spent at least 18 years dealing with the continuum of domestic uprisings around Yuexi/Yuesui and Ba commanderies, and only entered the central government after numerous petitions. He was killed in battle by the Wei general Xu Zhi during one of Jiang Wei's Northern Expeditions. His name is sometimes rendered as Zhang Yi.

Early life and career[edit]

Zhang Ni was from Nanchong County (南充縣), Ba Commandery (巴郡), which is present-day Nanchong, Sichuan. He started his career around the age of 19 as an Officer of Merit (功曹) in the local county office. In 214, when the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from its provincial governor Liu Zhang, some bandits used the opportunity to raid the county office. During the ensuing chaos, Zhang Ni engaged the bandits in close combat and protected the county magistrate's wife. He became famous for his courageous actions and was later summoned to the commandery office to serve as an Assistant Officer (從事).[1]

Sometime in the 220s or 230s, the Sou (叟) tribes in Yuexi/Yuesui Commandery (越巂郡; around present-day Liangshan Prefecture, Sichuan) started a rebellion as a form of reprisal against forceful subjugation in 225 by the Shu Han state, and killed two administrators appointed by the Shu government to govern Yuexi Commandery. Due to such hostilities from the locals, the subsequent administrator did not dare to enter Yuexi Commandery to assume office. As a result, the Shu government could only claim its rule over Yuexi Commandery in name.[2]

At this juncture, the Shu government appointed Zhang Ni as the Administrator of Yuexi Commandery. During his tenure, Zhang Ni managed to persuade the local tribes to submit to Shu rule. The Shu government rewarded him by granting him the title of a Secondary Marquis. Zhang Ni stayed in Yuexi Commandery for three years until he was repatriated to his native Ba Commandery.

Subjugation of the indigenous tribes[edit]

When Zhang Ni learnt that local tribes in Dingji (定莋), Taideng (台登) and Beishui (卑水) counties discovered iron and lacquer, he led his troops to pillage the counties and assigned officials to watch over the tribes.[3] He then moved to Dingji County, where he expected tribal chiefs to come to meet him.

Lang Cen (狼岑), an uncle of a tribal chief who had much prestige among his tribesmen, sent a representative to meet Zhang Ni instead of meeting him in person because he felt indignant over Zhang Ni's earlier plunders of the counties.[4] In response, Zhang Ni led his troops to arrest Lang Cen and had him flogged to death. He then brought Lang Cen's dead body to the tribe as a public demonstration of his authority. He said that Lang Cen was evil and warned the tribesmen, "Don't move (i.e. try to take revenge) or you'll end up like him."[5] He then offered gifts to the tribesmen to bribe them and managed to make them willingly surrender to him.

Around 227, when the Shu chancellor Zhuge Liang was assembling forces in Hanzhong Commandery in preparation for the first of a series of campaigns against Shu's rival state Wei, local bandits pillaged the villages in Hanzhong, Guanghan and Mianzhu commanderies. Zhang Ni, then holding the rank of an acting Commandant, led troops to deal with the bandits, who scattered and hid in different locations when they heard of Zhang Ni's approach. Zhang Ni could not force them to come out to fight him, so he pretended to offer to extend a heqin policy to the bandit chiefs, and then managed to coax them into attending a banquet to celebrate the peace. After the unsuspecting bandit chiefs got drunk, Zhang Ni ordered his men to kill all of them and then sent his troops to hunt down and eliminate the rest. The massacre lasted for about 10 days, after which the area was clear of bandits.[6] For his efforts, Zhang Ni was promoted to Officer of the Standard (牙門將), and served under Ma Zhong's command. They subsequently quelled many uprisings and instilled much fear in the restless local tribes throughout Shu territories.

Battle of Xiangwu and death[edit]

The Shu government highly appreciated Zhang Ni's finesse in dealing with the local tribes, but Zhang Ni himself was not particularly enthusiastic about his job because he had been doing it for over 15 years. He solicited the Shu emperor Liu Shan to let him serve in the central government in Chengdu on numerous occasions, and finally got his wish granted in 254.[7] However, he had been suffering from a form of inveterate rheumatism for some years already.

In 254, Li Jian (李簡), a county magistrate from Shu's rival state Wei, secretly contacted the Shu government and expressed his desire to defect to Shu. Liu Shan convened a meeting to discuss whether to accept Li Jian's defection. Many officials expressed worries that it might be a ruse, but Zhang Ni believed that Li Jian was sincere and managed to convince Liu Shan to agree. Liu Shan then allowed the general Jiang Wei to launch a campaign against Wei, with Li Jian acting as a spy for them in Wei territory.

As Zhang Ni had been suffering from rheumatism, Jiang Wei and the Shu officers felt that he might not be able to participate in the campaign. However, Zhang Ni wrote a memorial to Liu Shan, stating his wish to die on the battlefield to repay the emperor's kindness. Liu Shan was so touched after reading Zhang Ni's memorial that he shed tears and permitted Zhang Ni to go on the campaign.

When the Shu army led by Jiang Wei arrived at Didao, as Zhang Ni accurately predicted, Li Jian led his followers to join the Shu army and help them gain control of Didao. However, the campaign went awry as the Shu army started attacking Xiangwu County (襄武縣; southeast of present-day Longxi County, Gansu), where the Wei defenders led by Xu Zhi put up fierce resistance. Zhang Ni led a unit to attack Xu Zhi and managed to force him to retreat, but lost his life in the process.[8]

In recognition of Zhang Ni's valiant actions on the battlefield, Liu Shan enfeoffed Zhang Ni's eldest son, Zhang Ying (張瑛), as the Marquis of Xi Village. Zhang Ni's original marquis title was then inherited by his second son, Zhang Huxiong (張護雄).

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms[edit]

In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhang Ni was one of the more notable generals in Shu's later years. He participated in many of Zhuge Liang's campaigns and displayed a fiery passion for Zhuge Liang's endeavours. Due to this, he sometimes found himself over his head and in dangerous situations, nearly being killed by Wang Shuang at Chencang before being rescued by Liao Hua and Wang Ping and being led into a trap and captured by Lady Zhurong during the Southern Campaign. While on his deathbed, Zhuge Liang named Zhang Ni, along with Liao Hua, Ma Dai, Wang Ping and Zhang Yi, as the loyal generals of Shu who should be given greater responsibilities.

During Jiang Wei's Northern Expeditions, Zhang Ni often urged Jiang Wei to concentrate on internal affairs rather than attacking Wei. He forfeited his life in Chapter 111, while saving Jiang Wei from Chen Tai.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (先主定蜀之际,山寇攻县,县长捐家逃亡,嶷冒白刃,携负夫人,夫人得免。由是显名,州召为从事。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  2. ^ (越巂郡自丞相亮讨高定之后,叟夷数反,杀太守龚禄、焦璜,是后太守不敢之郡,只住安上县,去郡八百馀里,其郡徒有名而已。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  3. ^ ( 定莋、台登、卑水三县去郡三百馀里,旧出盐铁及漆,而夷徼久自固食。嶷率所领夺取,署长吏焉。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  4. ^ (嶷之到定莋,定莋率豪狼岑,槃木王舅,甚为蛮夷所信任,忿嶷自侵,不自来诣。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  5. ^ (嶷使壮士数十直往收致,挞而杀之,持尸还种,厚加赏赐,喻以狼岑之恶,且曰:"无得妄动,动即殄矣!"种类咸面缚谢过。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  6. ^ (嶷度其鸟散,难以战禽,乃诈与和亲,克期置酒。酒酣,嶷身率左右,因斩慕等五十馀级,渠帅悉殄。寻其馀类,旬日清泰。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  7. ^ (在郡十五年,邦域安穆。屡乞求还,乃征诣成都) Sanguozhi vol. 43.
  8. ^ (军前与魏将徐质交锋,嶷临陈陨身,然其所杀伤亦过倍。) Sanguozhi vol. 43.