Zhāng Liáo appellation Wényuǎn was a Yànmén Mǎyì man. He was a descendant of Niè Yī but to avoid resentment [of Niè Yī] he changed his surname. In his youth he was a prefecture official. At the end of Hàn, Inspector of Bīng Province Dīng Yuán, because Liáo’s martial ability surpassed other men, summoned him as an Advisor, and send him to lead troops to visit the capital. Hé Jìn sent him to visit the north of the [Yellow] River to recruit troops, and he obtained over a thousand men. When he returned, [Hé] Jìn had been destroyed , and so his troops became subordinate to Dǒng Zhuó. Zhuó was destroyed , and so his troops became subordinate to Lǚ Bù, and he was promoted to Cavalry Commandant. [Lǚ] Bù was defeated by Lǐ Jué, and he followed [Lǚ] Bù in fleeing east to Xúzhōu. He was given office as Chancellor of Lǔ, at the time aged twenty-eight years.
Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] destroyed Lǚ Bù at Xiàpī. Liáo then led his army to surrender, and was appointed Internal Cadet-General and given title as Marquis Within the Passes. He repeatedly had outstanding military achievements, and was promoted to Associate-General.
When Yuán Shào was destroyed, Liáo was sent separately to pacify the counties of Lǔ state. Along with Xiàhóu Yuān he besieged Chāng Xī at Dōnghǎi. After several months the provisions were exhausted, and they discussed leading the army back. Liáo said to [Xiàhóu] Yuān: “In the past few days, every time I pass by the siege lines, [Chāng] Xī at once stares at me. Also, the arrows they shoot at us have become sparse. This is certainly because [Chāng] Xī is uncertain in his plans, and so does not exert his strength in battle. I wish to invite him to talk, and can perhaps entice him [to surrender].”
Therefore he sent an envoy to tell Xī: “His Excellency [Cáo] has orders, and has sent me to pass it [to you].” [Chāng] Xī indeed went down to talk with Liáo, and Liáo persuaded him: “Tàizǔ [retroactive change here to avoid using Cáo Cāo’s name] has divine military ability, and will soon with virtue envelop the Four Corners of the world. Those who first join him will receive great reward.” [Chāng] Xī therefore agreed to surrender.
Liáo then went alone up the Sāngōng mountain, entered [Chāng] Xī’s house, and paid respects to his wife and children. [Chāng] Xī was very pleased, and therefore went to visit Tàizǔ. Tàizǔ sent [Chāng] Xī back [to his former post], and scolded Liáo: “This was not the way of a commanding officer.” Liáo apologized and said: “With your enlightened excellency’s authority and faith known across the Four Seas, I presented a sagely command. [Chāng] Xī certainly did not dare harm me because of this.”
He followed in attacking Yuán Tán and Yuán Shàng at Líyáng , had achievements, and became Acting Central Resolute General. He followed in attacking [Yuán] Shàng at Yè, and Shàng firmly defended and would not go down. Tàizǔ returned to Xǔ, and sent Liáo with Yuè Jìn to capture Yīn’ān and move its people to Hénán.
He again followed in attacking Yè , Yè was captured, and Liáo led separate campaigns in Zhào state and Chángshān, receiving the surrenders of all the bandits of Yuán mountain and Black Mountain [bandit] Sūn Qīng and others. He followed in attacking Yuán Tán, Tán was destroyed, and he led a separate campaign along the coast, destroying the Liáodōng pirates Liǔ Yì and others. He returned to Yè, and Tàizǔ personally went out to welcome Liáo, traveled together with him, and appointed Liáo General Sweeping Away Bandits. He again led separate attacks on Jīng Province, settled the counties of Jiāngxià, returned to camp at Línyǐng, and was given fief as Marquis of a capital precinct.
He followed in the campaign against Yuán Shàng at Liǔchéng . At the end when they encountered the caitiffs, Liáo urged Tàizǔ to do battle, his spirit was very fierce. Tàizǔ commended him, and personally handed the signal flag to Liáo. Therefore he attacked, and greatly defeated them, beheading the Shànyú Tàdùn. (1)
- (1) Fùzǐ states: Tàizǔ was about to campaign against Liǔchéng, but Liáo admonished him: “Xǔ is where Heaven’s Son is found. Now while Heaven’s Son is at Xǔ and you Lord goes far north on campaign, if Liú Biǎo sends Liú Bèi to attack Xǔ and occupy what is used to command the Four Corners of the realm, you Lord will lose power.” Tàizǔ planned that Biǎo would certainly not appoint Bèi, and therefore went.
At the time Jīng Province was not yet settled, he Liáo was again sent to camp at Chángshè. When they were about to set out, within the army there were those plotting rebellion, who in the night set an alarm and a fire, and the entire army was in complete disorder. Liáo said to those around him: “Do not move. This is not even one whole camp rebelling. Certainly it is only someone causing disorder, wishing to cause people unrest and that is all.” Therefore he ordered in the army that all who were not rebelling to calmly sit. Liáo then led his personal troops several tens of men through the lines and established themselves. Immediately things were settled, and they captured the lead rebels and killed them.
Chén Lán and Méi Chéng led the Dī of six counties to rebel. Tàizǔ sent Yú Jīn, Zāng Bà, and others to suppress [Méi] Chéng, and Liáo with command of Zhāng Hé, Niú Gài, and others to suppress [Chén] Lán.
[Méi] Chéng feigned surrender to [Yú] Jīn and [Yú] Jīn returned. Chéng then led his army to join [Chén] Lán, moving to Qián mountains. Among the Qián [moutains] was Tiānzhù mountain, over twenty lǐ high and steep, the roads were rugged and narrow, foot holds had to be cut out, and [Chén] Lán and the others built fortifications at the top.
Liáo wished to advance, but his officers said: “Our troops are few and the roads are rugged, it is difficult to penetrate through.” Liáo said: “This is what called ‘one for one.’ The valorous can go forward and that is all.”
Therefore he advanced to the bottom of the mountain and set up camp, attacked them, beheaded [Chén] Lán and [Méi] Chéng, and captured all the caitiffs of their army. Tàizǔ commented on the achievement to the officers: “Ascending Tiān mountain and treading a high and rugged path to capture [Chén] Lán and [Méi] Chéng is the achievement of the [General] Sweeping Away Bandits.” His fief was increased, and he was given a Acting Staff of Authority.
When Tàizǔ had campaigned against Sūn Quán and returned, he sent Liáo with Yuè Jìn, Lǐ Diǎn, and others to command over 7000 men to camp at Héféi. Tàizǔ went on campaign against Zhāng Lǔ , and left instructions with Protector of the Army Xuē Tì, on the envelope of which was written: “If rebels come then open.” Soon afterward [Sūn] Quán led an army of 100,000 to besiege Héféi, and so they together opened the instructions. The instructions said: “If Sūn Quán comes, Generals Zhāng and Lǐ go out to battle, General Yuè defends, the Protector of the Army [Xuē Tì] does not battle.”
All the officers were doubtful. Liáo said: “The Lord is away on a distant campaign. By the time rescue arrives, they will certainly have destroyed us. Therefore these instructions are to before they are gathered strike and attack them, to break their flourishing strength, and calm the hearts of our army, so that afterward we can defend. The decision between victory and defeat is in this one battle. How can you sirs be doubtful?” Lǐ Diǎn also agreed with Liáo. Therefore that night Liáo recruited soldiers who dared follow him, and obtained 800 men, slaughtered oxen to feast the officers and troops before the next day’s great battle.
At dawn, Liáo donned his armor and grasped his halberd, and led the charge into the enemy lines, killing several tens of men, beheading two Generals, loudly shouting his name, breaking through the [enemy camp] barricades, arriving below [Sūn] Quán’s own banner. [Sūn] Quán was greatly alarmed and his army did not know what was happening, so he fled up a high hill, defending himself with a long halberd. Liáo shouted at [Sūn] Quán to come down to do battle, but [Sūn] Quán did not dare move. He looked out and saw that the army Liáo commanded was small, and so [had his army] gather to surround Liáo with several lines [of troops] thick. Liáo and his attendants and banners were surrounded, and pushed forward to attack, the encirclement opened, and Liáo led several tens of his men under his banner to escape. The rest of the army shouted: “Does the General abandon us?” Liáo turned back and broke the encirclement, and rescued the rest of his army. [Sūn] Quán’s men and horses were all routed, and none dared resist. From dawn the battle lasted to noon, and the Wú men lost their spirits, and returned to build fortifications. The hearts of the army were therefore settled, and all the officers admired [Zhāng Liáo].
[Sūn] Quán kept guard at Héféi for over ten days, but the city could not be taken, so he therefore retreated. Liáo led all the armies to pursue and attack, and almost even captured [Sūn] Quán. Tàizǔ was greatly impressed with Liáo’s strength, and appointed him General Campaigning East. (1)
- (1) Sūn Shèng states: Warfare is undoubtedly a path of deception. The strange and the standard support one another. If one is about to command an excursion attack, one must push appearances of lacking strength, or else depend on a sudden and surprising appearance, or else rely on the power of delaying. If the commanders do not get along, then it is to abandon the way of the commander. As for the defense of Héféi, the county was weak and without support. To appoint the brave would lead to love of battle and create suffering, and to appoint the timid would lead to fearful hearts and difficulty in defense. Moreover, the enemy were many and we few, and so would certainly harbor degeneracy. To use troops ready to die to attack degenerate soldiers is to be certainly victorious. After victory and then defending, then the defense is certain to be strong. Therefore Wèi Wǔ [Cáo Cāo] selected them out as they had the same unusual thinking, and wrote it in the secret instructions, to announce its use. When the matter arrived and it was used, it was indeed as written. How exceptional!
Jiàn’ān twenty-first year , Tàizǔ returned to campaign against Sūn Quán. He arrived at Héféi, toured where Liáo had battled, and sighed for a long while. Then he increased Liáo’s troops, increased the garrison armies, and moved camp to Jūcháo.
Guān Yǔ besieged Cáo Rén at Fán . It happened that [Sūn] Quán had declared himself vassal [to Hàn], so Liáo and all the armies were summoned to return to rescue [Cáo] Rén. Before Liáo had arrived, Xú Huǎng had already defeated Guān Yǔ, and the siege of [Cáo] Rén had been resolved. Liáo met Tàizǔ at Móbēi. When Liáo’s army arrived, Tàizǔ rode his out in royal chariot to show appreciation, and he returned to camp at Chén prefecture. When Wén-dì ascended as King , he was promoted to General of the Front. (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: The King bestowed on Liáo 1000 pǐ of silk and 10,000 hú of grain.
His fief was divided to confer on his elder brother Fàn and one son as full Marquis.
Sūn Quán again rebelled, and Liáo was sent to camp at Héféi, and Liáo’s fief was advanced to Marquis of Dūxiāng. Liáo’s mother was bestowed with a chariot, and troops and horses were sent to escort Liáo’s family to visit his camp. It was ordered that when Liáo’s mother arrived, all was to go out to welcome her. The officers and officials of all the armies all lined up to bow to her on the roadside, and all who observed saw how they were honored.
When Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] ascended , he was given fief as Marquis of Jìnyáng, his fief was increased by 1000 households, adding to the previous to a total of 2600 households.
Huángchū second year , Liáo came to Court at Luòyáng Palace, and Wén-dì summoned Liáo to meet at Jiànshǐ Palace, and personally asked him about how he had defeated Wú. The Emperor sighed and said to those around him: “He is another Shào Hǔ of old.” He built for [Zhāng Liáo] a mansion, and specially built for Liáo’s mother a Palace Hall, and all the volunteer troops that had followed Liáo in defeating the Wú army were all appointed to the Tiger Elite.
Sūn Quán again called himself a vassal. Liáo returned to camp at Yōngqiū, and fell ill. The Emperor sent Internal Attendant Liú Yè to lead the Grand Physicians to diagnose the illness. The Tiger Elite asked for news the whole journey. The illness had not recovered, and the Emperor invited Liáo to join him, rode the Imperial Carriage to personally meet, grasped his hand, and bestowed on him Imperial Robes and had the Imperial Palace daily send Imperial food. The illness slightly recovered, and he returned to camp.
Sūn Quán again rebelled, and the Emperor sent Liáo to travel by ship with Cáo Xiū to Hǎilíng, overlooking the Jiāng. [Sūn] Quán was deeply afraid, and sent orders to his officers: “Though Zhāng Liáo is ill, he cannot be opposed. Be careful of him!” That year, Liáo and the Generals defeated Quán’s General Lǚ Fàn.
Liáo’s illness became critical, and he then died at Jiāngdū. The Emperor wept for him. His posthumous title was Gāng-hóu “Tough Marquis.” His son Hǔ succeeded.
Sixth year , the Emperor in memorial of the achievement of [Zhāng] Liáo and [Lǐ] Diǎn at Héféi sent an Imperial Order: “In the Héféi campaign, Liáo and Diǎn with 800 infantry defeated 100,000 rebels. From ancient times in the use of troops there has never been anything like it. This has caused the rebels even to now to have lost spirit, and he can be said to be the state’s claws and teeth. Thus we divide from Liáo’s and Diǎn’s fiefs each 100 households to bestow on a son as Marquis Within the Passes.” Hǔ became Assistant-General, died, and his son Tǒng succeeded.