Zhong Hui's Rebellion

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Zhong Hui's Rebellion
Part of the wars of the Three Kingdoms period
Date 1st lunar month of 264 CE
Location Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Result Zhong Hui and Jiang Wei killed by revolting troops.
Deng Ai and his son executed.
Rebellion suppressed.
Zhong Hui Cao Wei Revolting troops formerly under Zhong Hui
Commanders and leaders
Zhong Hui 
Jiang Wei 
Sima Zhao
Deng Ai Executed
Deng Zhong Executed
Wei Guan
Hu Lie
Hu Yuan
Qiu Jian

Zhong Hui's Rebellion was an uprising against the state of Cao Wei in 264 by the general Zhong Hui, aided by the general of the newly destroyed Shu Han state Jiang Wei. Zhong Hui considered himself capable enough of overcoming the regime of Sima Zhao to create a kingdom in the ruins of Shu, and led an army against his former colleague Deng Ai.[1] The resulting conflict saw Deng Ai killed and the rebellion fragmented under revolts against Zhong Hui.


Both Deng Ai and Zhong Hui had taken part in the Conquest of Shu in 263, having acted as foils to each other during the invasion - where Zhong Hui had demanded an advance through Jiange, Deng Ai had instead chosen to move through Yinping. Jiang Wei, having been surprised from Zhong Hui's eastern offensive, moved all troops from Yinping to halt Zhong Hui's advance. As a result, Deng Ai's advance through Yinping was swift enough to allow him to quickly reach Chengdu and demand Liu Shan's surrender.

In the following occupation of the Shu territory, Zhong Hui began exhibiting signs of hubris, believing himself to no longer be capable of serving under another.[1] Jiang Wei, by contrast, liaised with Liu Shan, outlining a plan to trick Zhong Hui into rebellion, weakening Wei troops, before killing Zhong and seizing power of the troops while redeclaring Shu's independence.


Zhong Hui's first course of action was to falsify letters proving a purported plan by Deng Ai to rebel, creating distrust between Sima Zhao and Deng Ai; this was supplemented by Deng Ai's own growing arrogance in his correspondence with Sima. In early 264, Sima Zhao issued an edict eneoffing Zhong Hui as Minister of the Interior and ordering Zhong Hui to capture Deng Ai. However, at the same time, he personally led an army out of the capital of Luoyang towards Chengdu. Wei Guan was ordered to arrest Deng Ai and his son Deng Zhong on Zhong Hui's command. Zhong Hui hoped that Wei Guan would be killed doing this, which would strongly back up the false accusations against Deng Ai. However, Wei Guan surprised Deng Ai in the night, successfully capturing him.

Upon hearing of Sima Zhao's mobilisation, Zhong Hui then openly declared his rebellion with the likes of Jiang Wei as Zhong Hui's chief general. In preparation for the revolt, Jiang Wei suggested that Zhong Hui execute the high-ranking Wei officers, letting him absorb the troops from Deng Ai into the rebel forces. This was, in fact, a ploy to weaken the Wei forces preceding a resurrection of the Shu state, and Zhong Hui, though doubtful, agreed to the plan. However, word of their plan was leaked to the generals Hu Lie, his son Hu Yuan, Qiu Jian and Wei Guan, who had been feigning illness; they promptly incited a revolt in the ranks of Zhong Hui's troops. Zhong Hui, Jiang Wei and their personal guard were surrounded and killed by a mob of revolting soldiers.

Wei Guan, having taken control of Zhong Hui's forces, ordered the execution of Deng Ai and Deng Zhong for fear that they would seek retaliation against Wei Guan for his involvement in their capture. Following these events, Wei Guan returned to service under Sima Zhao, eventually serving under his son Sima Yan and the Jin Dynasty, which he founded soon after.

In popular culture[edit]

The rebellion is featured in Chapter 119 of the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. A popular anecdote included in the novel concerning the rebellion is that when Jiang Wei was killed, his body was mutilated to expose the gall bladder (the traditional source of courage in Chinese culture,) which had swollen to a huge size, implying reckless foolishness — it is described with a phrase now used as a proverb: "膽大如斗 gallbladder as big as a dou".[2] His gallbladder was said to have been buried separately from his body, and a tomb stands in its purported burial place.[3]


  1. ^ a b Alan Kam-Leung Chan, National University of Singapore. http://www.iep.utm.edu/zhonghui/#H1
  2. ^ A dou (斗) is a traditional unit of measurement.
  3. ^ China History Forum thread, "Three Kingdoms tombs". http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/index.php?/topic/3330-three-kingdoms-tombs/