Zhang Liao

Translated Description:

General of the Front


Twin Dao Swords




Lu Bu's Army (Formerly)

Wei Army

First Appearance:

Chaos of the Three Kingdoms

First Playable:

Chaos of the Three Kingdoms

Zhang Liao is a character that first appeared on the first Chaos of the Three Kingdoms game. He is an honorable and devoted general that served and fought alongside with Lu Bu at the Battle of Hu Lao Gate and the Battle of Xia Pi Castle. He eventually joined the Wei army after Lu Bu's death and became the leader of the five generals of Wei.


Zhang Liao is an fierce and honorable warrior that has a never say die attitude. He accompanied Lu Bu during the battle of Hu Lao Gate against the Anti-Dong Zhuo Coalition to test his might and skills in battle. After Dong Zhuo was betrayed and killed by Lu Bu, he continued to accompany him and participated in capturing Pu Yang Castle in Yu Province. However, Lu Bu was routed by dark lord Cao Cao's forces when the Tian family turned against him and locked him out of Pu Yang Castle. Zhang Liao then assisted Lu Bu at the Battle of Xia Pi Castle to fend off the combined forces of dark lord Cao Cao and Liu Bei after the latter stole the castle away from Liu Bei, kicking him out process. Lu Bu's forces pressed the attack against the Wei army but they were ultimately wiped out when a devastating flood attack destroyed the gates of Xia Pi, sealing the fate of Lu Bu's army. After Lu Bu was executed by dark lord Cao Cao, Zhang Liao joins the Wei army and became the leader of the five generals of Wei, continuing his part in the dark lord's cause by participating in many battles such as the Battle of He Fei.

Historical InformationEdit

Early life

Zhang Liao was a native of Mayi (馬邑; present-day Shuocheng District, Shuozhou, Shanxi) near Yanmenguan. He was a descendant of Nie Yi (聶壹; also known as Nie Wengyi (聶翁壹)), but he changed his surname from "Nie" to "Zhang" to avoid any association with his ancestor's disgrace.¹ He served as a minor official in the local commandery office in his younger days. Towards the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Zhang Liao was recruited by Ding Yuan, the Inspector (刺史) of Bing Province, because Ding favoured Zhang's martial skills. Zhang Liao became an Assistant Officer (從事) under Ding Yuan.

In 189, Ding Yuan and his trusted aide Lü Bu led their troops to the capital Luoyang to assist General-in-Chief He Jin in eliminating the Ten Attendants, a group of influential eunuchs in the imperial court. However, He Jin was soon assassinated by the eunuchs and the capital fell into chaos. Dong Zhuo, a warlord from Liang Province (凉州), in the ensuing tussle for power, intended to install a puppet emperor on the throne. This move deteriorated the relationship between Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo and induced the latter to plot against the former. After Lü Bu was persuaded to defect to Dong Zhuo's side and kill Ding Yuan, Zhang Liao followed him to serve under Dong, who had become the de facto head of government. Soon, several regional warlords formed a coalition and launched campaign against Dong Zhuo. Dong Zhuo's forces suffered some defeats in battles against the coalition, and Dong decided to move the capital west to Chang'an.

¹Nie Yi (聶壹) was a trader/smuggler from Mayi who played a significant role in the Battle of Mayi in 133 BC during the reign of Emperor Wu in the Western Han Dynasty. He attempted to lure Xiongnu forces into an ambush set up by Han forces under the command of the minister Wang Hui (王恢), but the plan failed and both sides retreated without suffering losses. Wang Hui was imprisoned for his failure and he committed suicide in prison. Nie Yi was also disgraced for his role in the incident and that shame was passed on to his descendants, even until some 300 years later in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Zhang Liao changed his surname to avoid any association with his ancestor.

[edit] Service under Lü Bu and surrender to Cao CaoEdit

Lü Bu had a secret affair with one of Dong Zhuo's concubines, so he became more apprehensive toward his adopted father. He eventually betrayed and killed Dong Zhuo. Zhang Liao assisted Lü Bu and Wang Yun in an attempt to stabilise the capital and rebuild imperial authority. However, the new government was destroyed by Dong Zhuo's former subjects Li Jue and Guo Si when they breached the gates of Chang'an. Zhang Liao fled with Lü Bu, and joined Yuan Shao temporarily. During their short stay in Yuan Shao's camp, they helped perform raids on the Heishan Bandits' camp, and dealt major damage to the latter.

Zhang Liao and other warriors formerly from Bing Province followed Lü Bu as he wandered around until he was finally given a chance to gain a foothold. In 194, Lü Bu was welcomed in Yan Province by Chen Gong, who had betrayed his lord Cao Cao when the latter was away on a campaign against Tao Qian in Xu Province. Cao Cao later turned back to retake Yan Province, leading to a series of battles between him and Lü Bu for over a year. Lü Bu was able to defeat Cao Cao initially but the latter managed to gradually regain control over the province. After a famine outbreak, Lü Bu was finally ousted from the area to Xiaopei. There, Lü Bu joined Liu Bei, who had succeeded Tao Qian as Governor of Xu Province, but Lü Bu later betrayed Liu Bei and seized the province for himself. Zhang Liao was appointed Chancellor (相) of the Lu state (魯國), a commandery in Xu Province.

In 198, the allied forces of Cao Cao and Liu Bei defeated Lü Bu at the Battle of Xiapi, and most of Lü's men either defected or surrendered. Lü Bu was executed and Zhang Liao agreed to submit to Cao Cao. Cao Cao appointed Zhang Liao as a General of the Household (中郎將) and granted him the title of "Marquis of Guannei" (關內侯).[4] Since then, Zhang Liao had participated in many of Cao Cao's military exploits, including the decisive Battle of Guandu and the subsequent northern expeditions against Yuan Tan, Yuan Shang, and the Wuhuan tribes.

[edit] Battle of Xiaoyao FordEdit

Main article: Battle of Xiaoyao FordAfter Cao Cao lost the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208, he placed Zhang Liao, Yue Jin and Li Dian at Hefei fortress with 7,000 men to guard against advances of the southern warlord Sun Quan. Around 214, Sun Quan led a much larger force upon Hefei. Under instructions from Cao Cao, Zhang Liao and Li Dian recruited 800 vanguard troops to deter the enemy outside the city.

As dawn broke, the force moved out with Zhang Liao in the forefront. Zhang Liao galloped into the enemy ranks and single-handedly killed tens of enemy soldiers. Proclaiming his own name, Zhang Liao then went straight for Sun Quan, who sought refuge on top of a knoll. At least three of Sun Quan's generals tried to intercept him, but all failed.[5] After seeing Zhang Liao had much fewer men on a slope, Sun Quan calmed down and ordered his troops to surround the enemy.

However, Zhang Liao fought fiercely and succeeded in breaking out of the encirclement. When his remaining men who were still trapped inside shouted, "Has our general abandoned us?"[6] Zhang Liao turned back and punched through layers of enemy soldiers to save his men, eventually succeeding in bringing them out. Sun Quan's men were stunned by Zhang Liao's valour and did not dare to stand in his way.

After returning to Hefei, Zhang Liao supervised the reinforcement of the fortress's fortifications. After two weeks of siege, Sun Quan could not take Hefei and had to turn back because of a plague had broken out within his army. At Xiaoyao Ford (逍遙津), Sun Quan's main army retreated first while Sun Quan and only about 1,000 men stayed behind.[7] Knowing that Sun Quan had made such an arrangement, Zhang Liao immediately led several thousands of elite cavalry to capitalise on his foe's fatal blunder. On a number of occasions, they almost captured Sun Quan if not resisted desperately by Sun's general Ling Tong. Upon hearing Zhang Liao had accomplished this nearly impossible deed, Cao Cao was stunned and he visited Hefei, where he observed the battlefield for a long time.[8] Zhang Liao was promoted to the rank of General Who Conquers the East (征東將軍) for his achievement in the Battle of Xiaoyao Ford.

[edit] Later lifeEdit

Cao Cao died in 220 and was succeeded by his son Cao Pi, who ended the Eastern Han Dynasty and established the state of Cao Wei, marking the start of the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Pi promoted Zhang Liao to General of the Vanguard (前將軍) and deployed him to Hefei to defend the area from advances by Sun Quan's forces. In 221, Zhang Liao traveled to Luoyang for an audience with Cao Pi, who compared him to Shao Hu (召虎)¹.

Zhang Liao fell sick during the Battle of Dongkou in 222 against Sun Quan's forces. Sun Quan reminded his men, "Even though Zhang Liao is ill, we should not underestimate him. Be careful!" Zhang Liao and other Wei generals defeated the Wu general Lü Fan in that battle. However, Zhang Liao's condition worsened and he died later that year in Jiangdu (江都; present-day Jiangdu District, Yangzhou, Jiangsu).

Cao Pi deeply mourned Zhang Liao's death, and he granted Zhang the posthumous title of "Marquis Gang" (剛侯), which literally means "resolute marquis". In 225, Cao Pi issued an imperial edict to commemorate Zhang Liao and Li Dian for their contributions at the Battle of Xiaoyao Ford in 214-215.

¹Duke Mu of Shao (召穆公), personal name Shao Hu (召虎), was a noble who lived in the Western Zhou Dynasty during the reigns of King Li and King Xuan. He was known for assisting King Xuan in governing the state, and once led troops to defeat barbarian forces in the Huai River area.

[edit] DescendantsEdit

Zhang Liao's titles were inherited by his son Zhang Hu, who served as a Lieutenant General (偏將軍) in the state of Cao Wei. After Zhang Hu died, his titles were inherited by his son Zhang Tong (張統).

[edit] In fictionEdit

Zhang Liao is featured as a character in Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which dramatises the events leading to, and during the Three Kingdoms period. In the novel, Zhang Liao was depicted as a loyal and upright general. While this might be true, such portrayal was likely the result of artistic simplification.

[edit] Serving Lü Bu and surrender to Cao CaoEdit

In chapter 18, when Zhang Liao was still serving under Lü Bu, his lord tasked him with attacking Liu Bei at Xiaopei (小沛; present-day Pei County, Jiangsu). Zhang Liao led his men to attack the west gate, where he encountered Guan Yu, who called out to him from the top of the wall, "You don't seem like an ordinary person. Why do you serve a villain?" Zhang Liao lowered his head and did not respond. Guan Yu knew that Zhang Liao was a loyal and righteous man, so he refrained from hurling insults and did not go out to fight Zhang.[9]

In the following chapters (18-19), Lü Bu was defeated at the Battle of Xiapi by Cao Cao and Liu Bei, and he was tied up and brought before the victors. Lü Bu attempted to persuade Cao Cao to spare him but Cao refused after Liu Bei hinted that Lü was untrustworthy. As Lü Bu was being taken away to be executed, he hurled abuse at Liu Bei. At the same time, Zhang Liao was being brought before Cao Cao, and he scorned Lü Bu for the latter's cowardly behaviour. Zhang Liao showed no fear and even remarked that Cao Cao was lucky to have survived the blaze at Puyang (referring to an earlier battle). The furious Cao Cao drew his sword and wanted to kill Zhang Liao, but the latter stuck out his neck and waited for his fate. Just then, Guan Yu and Liu Bei stopped Cao Cao and pleaded with him to spare Zhang Liao, and Guan even knelt down. Cao Cao then laughed, sheathed his sword, and said, "I also know that Wenyuan (Zhang Liao's style name) is a loyal and righteous man. I was just testing him." He then personally untied Zhang Liao, offered him a change of clothes and a seat. Zhang Liao was moved by Cao Cao's sincerity so he agreed to surrender and serve Cao.


Emperor's Sabbath

  • First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
  • Description: Zhang Liao fires a sphere of light from his dao blades that will stun enemy soldiers, can follow up to 3 or 5 projectiles to do extra damage. Light Elemental.

Confucius Who Guides The East

  • First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
  • Description: Zhang Liao performs an upward slash towards enemy soldiers with both dao blades imbued with holy energy. Light Elemental.

Warrior Blessed By The Infinity

  • First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
  • Description: Zhang Liao rushes forward and unleashes a powerful 13 hit combo towards the enemy soldiers and finishes them off by flying forward with a spinning drill attack imbued in holy energy. Light Elemental.

Valor Attack: Rage of the Heavens

  • First Appearance: Chaos of the Three Kingdoms
  • Description: Zhang Liao engulfs both of his dao swords in white flames, he then charges forward and overwhelms enemy troops with a 25 hit hack and slash combo before unleashing a massive beam of pure light to finish them off on the spot. Light Elemental.