Zhuge Dan

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Zhuge Dan
General of Cao Wei
Born (Unknown)
Died 258
Traditional Chinese 諸葛誕
Simplified Chinese 诸葛诞
Pinyin Zhūgě Dàn
Wade–Giles Chu-ke Tan
Courtesy name Gongxiu (Chinese: 公休; pinyin: Gōngxīu; Wade–Giles: Kung-hsiu)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhuge.

Zhuge Dan (died 258), courtesy name Gongxiu, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. When he held military positions during his middle to late career, he got involved in all Three Rebellions in Shouchun, which aimed to drive the de facto rulers of Wei, the Sima clan, out of power. During the second rebellion of 255, he actively assisted Sima Shi to destroy Guanqiu Jian and his rebels; however, in the third rebellion, he would be the main performer on stage, wherein he initiated an even larger revolution under exactly the same reason Guanqiu Jian once held.

As an imperial agent[edit]

Zhuge Dan was born in Yangdu County, Langya Commandery (present-day Yinan County, Shandong), just like many other members of the Zhuge clan. As a direct descendant of Colonel-Director of Retainers (司隸校尉) Zhuge Feng (諸葛豐), Zhuge Dan was educated, and became a clerk working in the imperial secretariat. Although his position was not very high, he held an intimate connection with many celebrities of Wei, his best friends were Xiahou Xuan and Deng Yang (鄧颺), both were well-known associates of Cao Shuang. Furthermore, Zhuge Dan would later have one of his daughters married to Sima Yi's son, Sima Zhou, and another daughter to Wang Ling's son, Wang Guang.

With the help of his powerful connection, Zhuge Dan entered the imperial agency and moved up the ranks smoothly until he reached the position of Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk (御史中丞), Master of Writing (尚書), as well as an imperial agent who directly assisted the imperial secretariat. This was the zenith of his career as a civil officer, and along with his friends, they enjoyed the highest praise at the time.[1] During his tenure, he would do a favour for anyone who went for him for a position, so he was loved by his men, but started to draw resentment from the emperor.[2] Furthermore, the reason his faction received such a good fame was due to the propaganda of their affiliates instead of solid accomplishments, so they were eventually demolished by the emperor Cao Rui, who got Zhuge Dan removed from office as a punishment.

Incident of Wang Ling[edit]

Further information: Wang Ling Rebellion

After Cao Rui's death, Xiahou Xuan exerted his authority and reinstated Zhuge Dan as Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk, and granted him the title of a general before promoting him to be the Governor of Yang Province. At the time, Cao Shuang and his affiliates including Xiahou Xuan and Deng Yang represented the dominant faction which controlled the court of Wei. However, the situation was reversed after the Incident at Gaoping Tombs, during which Cao Shuang's political enemy, Sima Yi, wiped the whole clan of Cao Shuang out, close aides like Deng Yang and several friends of Zhuge Dan were put to death, and Xiahou Xuan was replaced by Guo Huai. Facing political instability, many once influential gentries wavered on their belief that Wei would continue to have a member of the Cao clan on the throne.

Wang Ling, the grand commander who held the authority to mobilise troops around Yang Province, suspected Sima Yi had controlled the court and actually was the one wielding state power. His belief was reinforced when Sima Yi sent an envoy to announce Wang Ling's promotion to Grand Commandant (太尉), which was a post that did not have the direct command of armed forces.[3] Therefore, he secretly contacted his nephew Linghu Yu (令狐愚), who was recorded to be a talented civil officer, to plan for the overthrow of Sima Yi. Linghu Yu acted as Wang Ling's strategist, and told his uncle that Prince of Chu (楚王), Cao Biao (曹彪), was a brave sage, and suggested Wang to replace the young emperor with Cao Biao. Wang Ling then started preparation for a coup d'état; however, Linghu Yu died of an illness during the process, and Wang Ling was unable to draw much support. His intention was later reported to Sima Yi by a traitor, in response, Sima Yi granted Zhuge Dan the staff of authority, and granted him the title of General who Pacifies the East to assist him on his operation against Wang Ling. The expedition army advanced swiftly and pressed Wang Ling within 100 paces, and the latter submitted without a fight. Even Wang Ling did not actually start a revolt, this incident was regarded as the First Rebellion of Shouchun.

Battle of Dongxing[edit]

Main article: Battle of Dongxing

After the whole clan of Wang Ling was executed, Zhuge Dan became the new district commander of Yang Province, and he was made a marquis. Not long after Wang Ling's demise, Sima Yi also died, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sima Shi, who continued to control the court. In 252, Sima Shi devised a three-pronged offensive on Eastern Wu. One of the attack point was Dongxing, which was tasked to Zhuge Dan and his 70,000 strong army. Upon arrival, Zhuge Dan took quick control of the Dongxing Dam (東興隄, in present-day Chaohu, Anhui), which was destroyed in 241, but was rebuilt by the Wu regent, Zhuge Ke, recently to create a reservoir near the Chaohu Lake, with the dual purpose of using it as a defense against potential Wei attacks and, with two castles built nearby, as forward attack mechanism for Wu ships.

There were only 1,000 defenders for each castle under the command of Liu Lue and Quan Duan, so Zhuge Ke immediately took 40,000 men with him as reinforcements. At the time, Zhuge Ke was near the battlefield, Zhuge Dan had already laid siege upon the castles, stationed his troops on the dam, and set up camps beneath. Despite possessing both geographic and numerical advantages, Zhuge Dan was outmaneuvered by Wu vanguard, Liu Zan (留賛, father of Liu Lue) and Ding Feng, when the two adopted an unusual strategy and charged recklessly towards him with only 3,000 men.

After his embarrassing defeat, Zhuge Dan was demoted to General who Pacifies the South, and Guanqiu Jian replaced him as the Governor and District Commander of Yang Province.

Incident of Guanqiu Jian[edit]

Following the death of Sima Yi, Sima Shi inherited his father and became the new de facto ruler of Wei. In 254, Sima Shi deposed the emperor Cao Fang because the latter was unhappy with the former's authoritarian attitude. In an attempt to reserve the sovereignty of their state, generals Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin rose up and challenged the Sima faction. The two sent a secret letter to Zhuge Dan, asking the latter to join them to bring Sima Shi (Sima Yi's oldest son) down.[4] However, Zhuge Dan, on the other hand, executed Guanqiu Jian's messenger and reported the case to the central government under Sima Shi's grip. He then joined the expedition forces under Sima Shi to quell the military uprising known as the second rebellion in Shouchun. After Guanqiu Jian was assassinated by a traitor and Wen Qin fled for his life, Zhuge Dan breached the city of Shouchun. When the Wu forces led by Sun Jun arrived at Dongxing (present-day Dongxing, Guangxi), they heard that Shouchun had been overtaken by Zhuge Dan so they retreated as well. Zhuge Dan sent Jiang Ban (蔣班) to pursue and attack the retreating Wu forces. The Wu general Liu Zan was seriously ill at the time and insisted to stay behind to let the main Wu troops get away. As a result, Zhuge Dan was able to take revenge for his humiliating loss in Dongxing by killing Liu Zan in the ensuing battle.

Death at Shouchun[edit]

Main article: Zhuge Dan Rebellion

Not long after the revolt by Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin was suppressed, Sima Shi died of illness and his second brother Sima Zhao inherited his place in the Wei court. Shouchun was guarded by Zhuge Dan after the second rebellion was suppressed. Zhuge Dan had witnessed the deaths of Wang Ling and Guanqiu Jian after their failed rebellions and he felt uneasy. He tried to increase his popularity amongst the people in the Huai River region and gain their support. At the same time, he hired a group of bodyguards to protect himself.

Sima Zhao wanted to eliminate the remaining loyalists to the state, so he heeded Jia Chong's advice to force Zhuge Dan to rebel. Zhuge Dan received an imperial decree to report to the Wei court and assume the post of Minister of Works. However, Zhuge Dan became afraid after receiving the decree, so he killed the Inspector of Yang Province, Yue Lin, and rose in rebellion against Sima Zhao. He sent his Chief Clerk Wu Gang (吳綱) to Eastern Wu with his son Zhuge Jing (諸葛靚) as a hostage, asking for reinforcements from Wu.

Sima Zhao personally led 260,000 troops to suppress the rebellion and stationed his army in Qiutou (丘頭). He sent Wang Ji and Chen Qian (陳騫) to lead an army to besiege Shouchun. He sent Shi Bao (石苞), Hu Zhi (胡質) and Zhou Tai (州泰) to hold off the Eastern Wu forces. The Wu forces led by Wen Qin, Tang Zi and Quan Yì (全懌) managed to enter Shouchun before the encirclement by the Wei forces was completed. Subsequently, Wen Qin led his men to break out of the siege several times but failed. The Wu general Zhu Yi garrisoned at Anfeng (安豐), southwest of Shouchun, as backup, but was defeated by Zhou Tai. Sun Chen moved his army to Chaohu. He sent Zhu Yi, along with Ding Feng and Li Fei (黎斐) to break the siege on Shouchun, but were defeated by Shi Bao and Zhou Tai. The Wei general Hu Lie (胡烈) led a surprise attack on the Wu forces and succeeded in destroying the enemy's supplies.

Zhu Yi's army was unable to advance any further as they had lost their supplies. Sun Chen was furious and had Zhu Yi executed. Sun Chen then ordered a retreat to the Wu capital Jianye (present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu). Zhuge Dan's forces were besieged in Shouchun for a long time without any reinforcements arriving. Zhuge Dan's deputies Jiang Ban (蔣班) and Jiao Yi (焦彝) advised him to concentrate on attacking a single flank of the encirclement to break the siege. Wen Qin opposed the suggestion and insisted that Wu reinforcements will arrive soon. Zhuge Dan did not heed Jiang Ban and Jiao Yi's advice and wanted to kill them instead. Jiang Ban and Jiao Yi escaped from Shouchun and defected over to Sima Zhao's side. Sima Zhao followed Zhong Hui's strategy, by faking letters from Quan Hui (全輝) and Quan Yí (全儀) to trick Quan Yī (全禕) and Quan Duan (全端) to surrender. When Quan Yī received the letters, he thought that they were real and surrendered to Sima Zhao. Zhuge Dan's forces were taken by surprise.

In the first lunar month of the second year, Zhuge Dan, Wen Qin and Tang Zi attempted to break out of the siege again but failed and suffered heavy casualties. By then, supplies in the city were running out soon and several troops had surrendered. Wen Qin suggested release the northerners and Wu forces in the city to conserve supplies. Zhuge Dan ignored Wen Qin's suggestion and had him killed in anger. Wen Qin's sons, Wen Yang and Wen Hu, heard of their father's death and escaped from Shouchun and surrendered to Sima Zhao. The surrender of Wen Yang and Wen Hu caused the rebel army's morale to further plummet. In the second lunar month, Sima Zhao's forces succeeded in penetrating Shouchun. Zhuge Dan fled from the city and was killed by Hu Fen (胡奮)'s men during his escape. The Wu general Yu Quan was killed in battle while Tang Zi and Wang Zuo (王祚) of Wu surrendered to Sima Zhao.


  • Ancestor: Zhuge Feng (諸葛豐), served as Colonel-Director of Retainers in the Western Han dynasty
  • Cousins:
  • Children:
    • Zhuge Jing (諸葛靚), served Cao Wei, sent to Eastern Wu as a hostage during Zhuge Dan's rebellion.
    • Daughter, known as Lady Zhuge (諸葛太妃) in Book of Jin, married Sima Yi's son Sima Zhou. Mother of four sons: Sima Jin (father of Sima Rui), Sima Dan, Sima Yao and Sima Cui.
    • Daughter, personal name unknown, married Wang Ling's son Wang Guang (王廣), executed along with the rest of the Wang family when Wang Ling rebelled.
  • Grandsons:
    • Zhuge Yi (諸葛頤), Zhuge Jing's oldest son
    • Zhuge Hui (諸葛恢), Zhuge Jing's second son, served as a Master of Writing under the Jin dynasty

In popular culture[edit]

Zhuge Dan is first introduced as a playable character in the seventh instalment of Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (与夏侯玄、邓飏等相善,收名朝廷,京都翕然。) Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  2. ^ (人有所属托,辄显其言而承用之) Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  3. ^ Direct military commands were issued by colonels, generals or temporary assigned posts like commanders. Grand Commandant had become a honorific post since the late Eastern Han dynasty.
  4. ^ (后毌丘俭、文钦反,遣使诣诞,招呼豫州士民。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.