Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China



Recommended Posts

There have been numerous Chinese strategists or generals of honorable mention. Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao, or Yuan Chonghuan are just a few of many examples. But one military strategist has escaped this limelight, 張良

Very few foreigners know of this man who was primarily responsible for catapulting Liu Bang into power. Xiao He also played a pivotal role, but Zhang masterminded the strategies that helped Liu Bang defeat Xiang Yu.

Zhang Liang was from the state of Han. During his young age, he attempted to assassinate Qin Shi Huang by pushing a boulder down a hill towards the First Emperor's procession route. The perpetrators who actually carried out the attempt were caught and executed, but Zhang escaped.

He later assisted an old man crossing a bridge in his middle age. It is not clearly known how Zhang accumulated his military genius. Legend has it that the old man whom Zhang helped gave him a book on military strategies.

Zhang put this knowledge to good use by advising Liu Bang on how to outmaneuver Xiang Yu. As a result, Liu Bang knew when to attack and when to retreat (similar to Mao Zedong's mindset during the civil war with the Nationalists). Liu Bang started out weak, but gradually built up and consolidated strength that eventually defeated Xiang Yu.

The only man who could match Zhang Liang was Fan Zheng. It was Zhang who saved his master from death from an assassination attempt that Fan Zheng devised at the Hong Men Yan banquet. Thanks to Zhang's acute awareness of his surroundings, he subtly motioned Xiang Bo to intervene on his master's behalf.

And Zhang used psychological warfare to demoralize the camp of Chu. Prior to the suicide of Xiang Yu's concubine, Zhang taught the Han camp to sing the songs of Chu to make the Chu troops feel homesick. Chu capitulated to Han shortly afterwards.

Zhang's immediate retirement after the establishment of the Han dynasty may have secured his legacy. He completely disengaged himself from politics. Many of Liu Bang's other advisors or generals who served him in the new dynasty were either purged, or later executed by Empress Lu. Xiao He and Han Xin met this unfortunate fate, while Zhang disappeared from public view and became somewhat a hermit.

Supposedly Zhang Liang's burial place is in Shandong (correct me if I'm wrong). It was reputed that he was of a handsome character.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.


There is a subtle difference between Zhuge Liang/ Cao Cao and Zhang Liang. The formers are 儒將 (scholar general/commander) while the latter is 謀士 (military strategist).

The former could be a prestigious Confucian scholar as well as a commander of 100,000 troops in the battlefield while the latter could not even command a single regiment and needed a boss to take his advice.

If Zhang were a 儒將 like Zhuge Liang, I don't think his life would be spared.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
He later assisted an old man crossing a bridge in his middle age. It is not clearly known how Zhang accumulated his military genius. Legend has it that the old man whom Zhang helped gave him a book on military strategies.

It is really a beautiful essay to me.:)

There is a flaw in it.As far as i know,Zhang got a booklet from that old man not simply by assisting him crossing a bridge.The story goes like this:

The action is set in 下[DICT]邳[/DICT](nowadays in Jiang su province).

One day Zhang walked to a bridge where he met an old man,who intentionally droped one of his shoes out of the bridge in front of Zhang and said to Zhang "Chap,go and pick up the shoe for me".Zhang got surprised and a little bit angry at his politeness,but still fetched the shoe considering his old age. After that,the old man demanded out of all reason,"Wear it on me".Zhang even raged firstly but still did it.Next,the old man offered a meet with Zhang in five days.

Five days later.

Zhang honored the meeting at early morning, ending up being to blame for his late showing up coz the old man made it earlier.The old man left,asking him to come in five days.

Five days past,Zhang got up at dawn[the original description is "鸡刚叫的时候",but i don't know how to translate it..~_~].Well,this time,Zhang embraced the same blame for being late.Yet,the old man made another meeting in five days.

Five days again.Zhang arrived there in the midnight to avoid being late again.This time,he made it.When the old man came,he was delighted at Zhang's early arrival,leaving him a book with only one sentence"You should be so" and then disappeared immediately.

The name of the very booket is "

while Zhang disappeared from public view and became somewhat a hermit.

Yes,Zhang made a strategical choice to get away from politics.But he didn't completely,for after his denial of Liu bang's enfeoffment ,Zhang just accepted a small place called "留" which 留候[Zhang Liang] was name after.

Link to post
Share on other sites

i want to add a little piece for 張良



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...