Zhuge Zhan

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Zhuge Zhan
A Qing Dynasty illustration of Zhuge Zhan
General, politician of Shu Han
Born 227[1]
Died 263 (aged 36)[1]
Traditional Chinese 諸葛瞻
Simplified Chinese 诸葛瞻
Pinyin Zhūgě Zhān
Wade–Giles Chu-ke Chan
Courtesy name Siyuan (traditional Chinese: 思遠; simplified Chinese: 思远; pinyin: Sīyuǎn; Wade–Giles: Szu-yüan)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhuge.

Zhuge Zhan (227–263),[1] courtesy name Siyuan, was a politician and military general of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He was a son of Shu Han's chancellor Zhuge Liang.

Early life[edit]

When Zhuge Zhan was 16 years old, the emperor of Shu, Liu Shan, arranged a marriage between his daughter and the adolescent, and made his son-in-law a Captain of the Cavalry, a title slightly lower than that of a general. One year later, the captain was promoted to General of the Household, serving as an imperial guardian. Henceforth, the prince consort constantly received promotions, and served many posts, including both civil and military appointments.

Besides his many official titles, Zhuge Zhan was an artist who was particularly good at painting and calligraphy. Since the people of Shu yearned for the deceased Zhuge Liang, they especially loved Zhuge Zhan's talents.[2] Whenever there was a good policy set up within the state, the citizens would credit Zhuge Zhan with it, even though it actually had nothing to do with him.[3] As Zhuge Liang banned the post of Historian in Shu, it was hard to distinguish which policy was suggested by Zhuge Zhan, and which was not, but Zhuge Zhan's reputation was surely greater than his real accomplishment.[4]

Pinnacle of power[edit]

His frequent promotions had been continuing until the prince consort reached the ceiling of the imperil administrative system — the Imperial Secretariat. At the same time, Zhuge Zhan was appointed the acting commander of imperial defensive forces and acting director of all military generals. Since his ascension to Imperial Secretariat, Zhuge Zhan's power within Shu appeared unrivaled, as veteran generals like Liao Hua, who served as the Right General of Chariot and Cavalry (top ranked military position, only next to Grand General and General of the Elite Cavalry), still had to buy the prince consort off for their political prospect.[5]

While a son of Zhuge Liang, Zhuge Zhan realized the danger of over-extending the military. After Jiang Wei became the paramountcy of the army, Zhuge Zhan attempted to restrain the former from constantly waging wars against Cao-Wei. When Jiang Wei finally suffered a crushing defeat from Deng Ai, Zhuge Zhan memorialized the emperor that Jiang Wei should be stripped off from military command and replaced by Yan Yu, who, although a personal friend of the notorious Huang Hao, was said to be a capable general. Zhuge's memorial to Liu Shan was archived by some respected elders in Shu region even at the time of Jin Dynasty.[6] However, it is not known whether the emperor listened to the Prince consort's suggestion, because Jiang Wei dared not return to Chengdu when he knew his failure had drawn him much resent from the people of Shu. But Zhuge Zhan's proposal of switching from an offensive stance to a defensive stance was somehow compromised by Liu Shan, who had earlier replaced Wei Yan's tried-and-trusted defensive layout with a high-risk-high-reward strategy presented by Jiang Wei.

Previously, Wei Yan invented a defense mechanism to hinder and repel invading forces by setting up "covering camps" on the outskirt and exits of trails leading to Hanzhong territory. Even after Wei Yan's death, Shu had been following his arrangement, successfully driving out Cao-Wei forces every time. However, Jiang Wei argued Wei Yan's design "could only repel the enemy but not reaping big profit." To anticipate a Wei attack, Jiang Wei proposed to abandon the camps set up by Wei Yan and vacate all the passes in the Qin Mountains (Qinling), so the Cao Wei army would slide deeper into Hanzhong, where the weary expedition force would be blocked and vulnerable to a Shu counterattack upon retreat.[7] Jiang Wei claimed his arrangement could achieve a decisive victory previously unimaginable when they had just defended along the Qinling ridges. Since the lobbyist's analysis was of decent logic and merit, Zhuge Zhan did not oppose dismantling Wei Yan's intertwined fortifications.

Futile effort to defend Shu[edit]

In early 263, Jiang Wei requested reinforcement be sent from Chengdu when Wei general, Zhong Hui, received the staff of authority to command the western regions. But Liu Shan made the wrong judgment to believe in Huang Hao's witchcraft theory that destiny dictated Wei would not attack, at the time not informing Zhuge Zhan of Jiang Wei's warnings.[8] However, reinforcements were nevertheless sent before engagement started.[9]

When Cao Wei mobilized in September, Jiang Wei's plan worked — only for its first half that Wei's forces advanced unopposed until they reached the fortresses of Han (汉) and Yue (乐), which served as a bait to wear the enemies out.[10] However, enemy commander, Zhong Hui, simply split out two detachments to besiege the two cities, and swiftly continued to press on. Meantime, Jiang Wei was consecutively defeated by Wang Qi and Yang Yan (杨欣), and was forced to change the entire plan spontaneously into relying on the defense of Jian'ge (剑阁), where the great tower finally blocked Zhong Hui's advance.[11] Knowing Jiang Wei's plan failed and had sown seeds of destruction, Zhuge Zhan later assembled a force and moved to Fu city to await news from the front-lines.

Battles with Deng Ai, and death[edit]

The aforementioned military movements happened within weeks, Zhong Hui's rapid advance was beyond most Shu general's comprehension, as they realized the danger of letting the enemy in, Jiang Wei and his comrades were struck in Jian'ge. Knowing Jian'ge would not easily fall, Zhuge Zhan did not send additional troops there, but kept his position in Fu County. When the Wei general, Deng Ai, suddenly appeared in Jiangyou (江由) though a treacherous trail, the local Grand Administrator was shocked and subsequently surrendered, providing the former a foothold. In Huang Quan's biography in Chen Shou's Records of the Three Kingdoms, it is recorded that Huang Chong, son of the defector Huang Quan, urged Zhuge Zhan on numerous occasions to secure advantageous terrain before Deng Ai would get to a flat plain.[12] Like his father Zhuge Liang, the son was also a chary person, who deemed Huang Chong's plan too ambitious; Zhuge Zhan preferred a "more cautious approach." However, when Huang bawled and repeatedly pushed the commander for an offensive, Zhuge Zhan relented and tentatively attacked the enemy with the van, which was promptly destroyed by Deng Ai. Then, Zhuge Zhan left Fu for a better fortified Mianzhu (绵竹), and planned to have a final showdown with his pursuer.[13]

When Deng Ai tailed the loser to Minzhu, he gave a last chance to Zhuge Zhan and promised to recommend the latter to be "King of Langye." But Zhuge Zhan executed Deng Ai's messenger, moved out from the fortress, and supposedly arranged the famous military formation improved by Zhuge Liang — Eight Trigrams Formation. The array involved the highest-ranked officials present in Minzhu, including grandson of Zhang Fei and Imperial Secretariat, Zhang Zun (張遵), Right Commander of Feathered Imperial Guards, Li Qiu (李球), the aforementioned Huang Chong, Zhuge Zhan, and Zhan's son, Zhuge Shang. After Huang Chong performed a speech in front of the army to boost the morale, Zhuge Zhan asked Deng Ai to attack his position. Deng Ai ordered his son, Deng Zhong, and Major, Shi Zuan (师纂), to flank Zhuge's position. The two generals then moved to the formation's left and right, but were intercepted and beaten by their adversary, only Deng Ai's central army remained intact. Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan returned to Deng Ai, stating the enemy could not be broken, and suggested the commander to order a general retreat. But Deng Ai angrily told the duo that the battle must be won for them to live another day, and even threatened his subordinates with death penalty if the duo were to be defeated again. Thus, Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan dashed back and led a raid that successfully broke the formation.[14] Zhuge Zhan, along with his son, resisted the enemies until the father and son were finally butchered.

In fiction[edit]

The depiction of his ill-fated defense of Shu capital in Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms was quite dramatized. When Liu Shan, the Shu Han emperor, asked Zhuge Zhan to think of a plan to save the state, he thought of a plan by dressing up like his father Zhuge Liang, to scare the enemy off. His ruse shocked Cao Wei army into believing Zhuge Liang indeed returned from the dead. However, under leardership of Deng Ai, the Wei army regrouped and attacked again, sending Zhuge to the underworld in the process.

Zhuge Zhan died defending Mianzhu Pass with his son Zhuge Shang, along with Huang Chong (son of Huang Quan), hopelessly outnumbered.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Zhuge Zhan's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms mentioned that he died in the winter of the 6th year of the Jingyao era (258-263) in Liu Shan's reign. He was 37 years old (by East Asian age reckoning) when he died. ([景耀]六年冬, ... 遂戰,大敗,臨陣死,時年三十七。) By calculation, his birth year should be around 227.
  2. ^ (瞻工書畫,強識念,蜀人追思亮,咸愛其才敏。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 35, Biography of Zhuge Liang.
  3. ^ (每朝廷有一善政佳事,雖非瞻所建倡,百姓皆傳相告曰:「葛侯之所為也:」) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  4. ^ (是以美聲溢譽,有過其實。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  5. ^ (时都护诸葛瞻初统朝事,廖化过预,欲与预共诣瞻许。预曰:“吾等年逾七十,所窃已过,但少一死耳,何求於年少辈而屑屑造门邪?”) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 13, Biography of Zhong Yao.
  6. ^ (維好戰無功,國內疲弊,宜表後主,召還為益州刺史,奪其兵權;蜀長老猶有瞻表以閻宇代維故事。). Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms. See note from commentator.
  7. ^ (先主留魏延鎮漢中,皆實兵諸圍以御外敵。敵若來攻,使不得人。及興勢之役,王平捍拒曹爽,皆承此制。維建議,以為錯守諸圍,雖合《周易》「重門」之義,然適可禦敵,不獲大利。不若使聞敵至,諸圍皆斂兵聚谷,退就漢、樂二城。使敵不得入平,臣重關鎮守以捍之。有事之日,令遊軍並進以伺其虛。敵攻關不克,野無散谷,千里縣糧,自然疲乏。引退之日,然後諸城並出,與遊軍並力搏之,此殄敵之術也。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 44, Biography of Jiang Wei.
  8. ^ (六年,維表後主:「聞鐘會治兵關中,欲規進取,宜並遣張翼、廖化詣督堵軍分護陽安關口、陰平橋頭,以防未然。」皓徵信鬼巫,謂敌終不自致。啟後主寢其事,而群臣不知。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 44, Biography of Jiang Wei.
  9. ^ (及鐘會將向駱谷,鄧艾將入沓中。然後乃遣右車騎廖化詣沓中為維援,左車騎張翼、輔國大將軍董厥等詣陽安關口以為諸圍外助。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 44, Biography of Jiang Wei.
  10. ^ Han (汉) was located in Mianyang (沔阳) (present day Mian (勉) County in Shaanxi), while Yue (乐) was located in Chenggu (城固, present day Chenggu County in Shaanxi).
  11. ^ (欣等追蹑於强川口,大战,维败走...维遂东引,还守剑阁。锺会攻维未能克。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 28, Biography of Deng Ai.
  12. ^ (到涪县,瞻盘桓未进,崇屡劝瞻宜速行据险,无令敌得入平地。瞻犹与未纳,崇至于流涕。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 43, Biography of Huang Quan.
  13. ^ (瞻督諸軍至涪停住,前鋒破,退還,住綿竹。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 35, Biography of Zhuge Liang.
  14. ^ (蜀卫将军诸葛瞻自涪还绵竹,列陈待艾。艾遣子惠唐亭侯忠等出其右,司马师纂等出其左。忠、纂战不利,并退还,曰:“贼未可击。”艾怒曰:“存亡之分,在此一举,何不可之有?”乃叱忠、纂等,将斩之。忠、纂驰还更战,大破之,斩瞻及尚书张遵等首,进军到雒。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 28, Biography of Deng Ai.