Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

Zhang Liang 張梁 was the younger brother of Zhang Jue 張角 and Zhang Bao 張寶. Together with his two brothers he instigated a religious movement called the 'Way of Great Peace' (Taiping Dao 太平道). When rebellion followed he titled himself Lord of Man General (réngōng jiāngjūn 人公將軍) and proved to be the most skilled military leader among his brothers.


Zhang Liang was a man from Julu commandery in Ji Province. It is assumed he was the youngest of his three brothers,[1] though there are some sources who disagree and say Zhang Bao was actually the youngest.[3] This is partially based on the fact that not Zhang Bao, but Zhang Liang more or less succeeded Zhang Jue after the latter was taken ill.

The Way of Great Peace[]

main article: Way of Great Peace

Zhang Jue has since his youth been a devoted follower of the way of Huang-Lao (Huang-Lao Dao 黃老道), a religious cult sect concerning the Yellow Emperor and Laozi. He became an adept and in the early 170’s he founded his own religious sect, named the 'Way of Great Peace'. He did this together with Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang.[4] Zhang Jue became their movements’ 'Great Virtuous Teacher' and Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang called themselves 'Great Healers' (dàyī 大醫).[5]

Gaining Popularity[]

Popularity of the movement rose rather quickly and in the early 180’s the Zhang brothers had gathered over 360.000 followers from the eight provinces of Qing, Xu, You, Ji, Jing, Yan and Yu, which were then divided over thirty-six Divisions (fāng 方), each with its own leader.[6]

To gain and keep their followers a series of omens were introduced as concrete evidence that Heaven had withdrawn its mandate to rule from Emperor Ling[7]. Furthermore they spread the story that:

"the azure sky is dead and a Yellow Heaven will take its place. When the year is jiazi great fortune will come to the world."[2]

The rise of popularity worried the Minister over the Masses Yang Ci 禓賜 and around 178 AD he wrote a memorial to the Emperor Ling 靈 to express his concerns, but the matter was pigeon-holed. In 183 A.D. his colleague Liu Tao 劉陶 again tried to warn the Emperor but the matter was again not taken seriously.[8]


main aricle: Yellow Turban Rebellion

A couple of months later, in the spring of 184 AD, a follower of Zhang Jue, a man named Tang Zhou 唐周, betrayed his master by informing the Emperor about the plot. All Yellow Turban sympathizers in Luoyang were arrested or killed and orders were sent to Ji province that Zhang Jue and his men should be arrested. Zhang Jue, meanwhile, had already received word that his plan was betrayed and he sent a messenger, riding all day and night to all Divisions to tell their leaders to rise together.

In the second month the brothers gave themselves titles. Zhang Jue became Lord of Heaven General, Zhang Bao became Lord of Earth General and Zhang Liang became Lord of Man General.[2]

When the rebellion started the Yellow Turbans scored some quick successes. Commanderies were burned and plundered, Han officials were killed and some generals were defeated. During summer the tides changed to the Han’s favour. Many Division leaders were killed and Zhang Jue was fighting a losing battle against the General of the Gentleman of the Household of the North Lu Zhi 盧植. He had lost over 10.000 men to the general and was driven back to take refuge in Guangzong city 廣宗 in Julu. It appears that Zhang Jue was taken ill at this time and Lu Zhi was taken back to Luoyang and sentenced to death commuted by one degree after eunuch Zuo Feng 左豐 slandered him.[2]

The respected and talented Dong Zhuo 董卓, who held the title of General of the Gentlemen of the Household of the East at that time, was sent to replace Lu Zhi and attempted to follow up on Lu Zhi’s success. Morale of his troops, however, must’ve been low due to the harsh and unfair treatment Lu Zhi was given. Meanwhile, Zhang Liang had taken command of his brothers troops and now concentrated themselves within a stronghold. Dong Zhuo failed to gain any success and was condemned for his failure.[2] He was replaced by Huangfu Song 皇甫嵩 in the 9th month of that year.[9]

note: According to Carl Leban, Dong Zhuo did not attack Guangzong, but went to the city of Xiaquyang 下曲陽 instead. There he fought Zhang Bao with help from Guo Dian, but he failed to gain any success and retreated.[10]


In that 9th month, Huangfu Song’s forces clashed with Zhang Liang’s forces at Guangzong city. Zhang Liang’s forces, having possibly gained a morale boost after their victory of Dong Zhuo, fought courageous and were well-trained and for some time Huangfu Song could make no headway.[1] In the 10th month, Huangfu Song kept the gates of his camp closed, gave his soldiers a rest and waited to see what would happen. He realized the enemy would now be less keyed-up and ready for him, so during the night he prepared his men for a sortie. At cock-crow they charged the enemy lines and fought from the morning until the afternoon and completely defeated the rebels. In the fighting Zhang Liang was killed. His head was cut off. Many rebels were killed while many others had fled to the Yellow River and drowned there.[2]

The Han forces then dug op Zhang Jue’s grave, desecrated it and sent his head to Luoyang.[2]


See also[]


  • Zhang Liang was not a relative of Zhang Daoling 張道陵 and the Yellow Turbans were not affiliated with the Five Pecks of Rice Rebels.
  • Zhang Liang’s title ‘Lord of Man General’ has also been seen translated as ‘Lord of Humanity General’ and ‘Lord of Man’ and ‘General’.

Fact vs. Fiction[]


  • ...Zhang Liang did not summon a rock attack against the Han forces.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 de Crespigny, A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms, biography of Zhang Liang, pages 1062-63 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "dC300" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 de Crespigny,Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling, Zhongping 1.
  3. de Crespigny, 'Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling', footnotes to Zhongping 1
  4. Twitchett and Fairbank, Cambridge History of China, chapter 'Way of Great Peace and the Yellow Turbans'
  5. Yuan Hong, Hou Han ji, Annals of Emperor Xiao-Ling of the Latter Han, the 24th Chapter of the Middle Scroll
  6. Michaud, The Yellow Turbans, pages 100-104
  7. Levy, Yellow Turban Religion and Rebellion, page 214
  8. Michaud, The Yellow Turbans, page 96
  9. de Crespigny, A Biographical Dictionary, biography of Huangfu Song; HHS 71/61:2299-2307*, XC 4:11b-12a; deC 84:150-159
  10. Leban, Ts'ao Ts'ao and the Rise of Wei, page 116