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Zhang Lu (Han dynasty)

Zhang Lu
Warlord of Han Dynasty
Born (Unknown)
Died 216
Traditional Chinese 張魯
Simplified Chinese 张鲁
Pinyin Zhāng Lǔ
Wade–Giles Chang Lu
Courtesy name Gongqi (Chinese: 公祺; pinyin: Gōngqí; Wade–Giles: Kung-chi)

Zhang Lu (died 216), courtesy name Gongqi, was a warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He was also the third leader of the Celestial Masters, a Taoist religious group. He controlled a state in the Hanzhong region, which he had named Han'ning (漢寧) until 215, when he surrendered to Cao Cao, who he would serve until his death one year later.

Warlord of Hanzhong

Upon the death of his father, Zhang Heng, Zhang Lu inherited control of the Celestial Masters religious group, and therefore became its third leader (the first was Zhang Daoling). The religion enjoyed its greatest popularity in Yi Province (present day Sichuan), but when Zhang Lu took control of the group, it was being challenged in the area by a shamanistic religion led by Zhang Xiu (張脩, no family relation to Zhang Lu).

Against this background, both Zhang Lu and Zhang Xiu were abruptly ordered by Liu Yan to go together to attack the forces of the official Han governor of Hanzhong, Su Gu (蘇固) and take over his territory. However, having his own designs, Zhang Lu killed Zhang Xiu and absorbed his armies and religious followers into his own group before he went off for the campaign against Hanzhong. He successfully managed to defeat Su Gu, and upon taking control of Hanzhong, renamed the region Han'ning (漢寧), ruling it by the principles of his religion. It is worth noting that although he nominally followed the orders of Liu Yan, when Liu Zhang succeeded him many years later, Zhang Lu refused to follow Liu Zhang's orders. As a result, Zhang Lu's mother, younger brothers, and many other family members were executed by Liu Zhang.

It is said that Zhang Lu's rulership over his territory was for its time very humane and civilized. Roads were built throughout the territory with rest stops and foods provided free of charge. The taxes and donations taken from the people were not to be used for amusement, but instead for the support of the common people. In addition, under his leadership was a powerful army and strong defences such that neither Cao Cao nor Li Jue could easily defeat him. His authority was recognized by the Han court, who granted him generalship (鎮民中郎將) and named him official Grand Administrator of Han'ning (漢寧太守). According to the Records of Three Kingdoms, he was then presented with a jeweled seal by the common people of his realm, which was a sign from Heaven that he was to become a king. Many of his subordinates urged him to declare himself a king, but his advisor Yan Pu warned that to do so would bring disaster. Zhang Lu heeded his advice.

Surrender to Cao Cao

In the year 211, Zhong Yao, an advisor of Cao Cao, suggested an invasion of Zhang Lu's territory. However, Ma Chao and Han Sui, whose territory was between Cao Cao's and Zhang Lu's, interpreted the massing of forces as an attempt to invade their own lands. They rebelled against Cao Cao, and after much fighting, Cao Cao's forces were victorious. However, they were in no shape to continue the invasion to Hanzhong. Ma Chao retreated to Hanzhong and pledged allegiance to Zhang Lu, who considered marrying his daughter to him. However, a servant of Zhang Lu's, Yang Bo (楊柏), said, "A man like that, who has no love for even his parents (referring to the execution of Ma Teng caused by Ma Chao's rebellion), cannot love another." and the marriage proposal was scrapped. Ma Chao then borrowed soldiers from Zhang Lu and attempted to regain some of his lost territory from Cao Cao, but was ultimately unsuccessful. His failures caused the relationship between the two to sour. When Liu Bei's forces had surrounded Liu Zhang, Ma Chao chose this time to take his leave of Hanzhong, and with his personal army he joined Liu Bei. Ma Chao's subordinate Pang De, however, remained in Zhang Lu's service.

In 215, Cao Cao again launched a campaign to conquer Hanzhong. Initially, Zhang Lu had no hope of standing against Cao Cao's armies, and planned to surrender. His younger brother Zhang Wei, however, insisted on fighting and lead his army against the invading forces. He was soon killed in battle, and again Zhang Lu considered surrendering. His advisor Yan Pu, told him that surrendering so easily, they would have no position to negotiate from. Instead, Zhang Lu retreated to his fortress at Bazhong (巴中). When leaving his capital, he did not destroy his wealth and treasures, nor attempt to take them with him, instead leaving them behind saying "These things belong to the country, not to me." Cao Cao was greatly impressed by this, and sent a messenger to Zhang Lu asking him to surrender. Yan Pu's plan was successful, as Zhang Lu and his forces were warmly welcomed by Cao Cao. He was given the title General who Suppresses the South (鎮南將軍) and his five sons were granted the rank of marquis. He married his daughter to the son of Cao Cao, Cao Yu (曹宇). As further proof of the bad blood between Zhang Lu and Ma Chao, when Cao Cao turned Ma Chao's son Ma Qiu over to Zhang Lu, he immediately executed him.

When Zhang Lu died, not long after surrendering to Cao Cao, he was created a marquis (原侯). The Five Pecks of Rice religion was continued by his sons, later to evolve into the Taoist religion known as Zhengyi Dao.


  • Father: Zhang Heng (張衡)
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