- “Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself.”
- —Zhang Rang
Zhang Rang 張讓 was the head of a faction consisting of Regular Palace Attendants. He served Emperor Huan and became influential when Emperor Ling ascended the throne. After Ling's passing he engaged in a political struggle against General-in-Chief He Jin. When He Jin was slayn by an ally of Zhang Rang, the capital of Luoyang subsequently fell into chaos and eunuchs were massacred. Zhang Rang died during the slaughter.
History of the Later Han official biography
Zhang Rang was a man from Yingchuan. He was a young man when he entered Emperor Huan's service and didn't start very well.
Early Years as an Attendant
165 A.D. Zhang Rang was Junior Attendant of the Yellow Gates. Zhang Shuo, Zhang Rang's younger brother was prefect of Yewang. He was greedy and cruel and completely immoral and he feared the strict authority of Yi Ling, a man who had recently been appointed as Colonel Director of Retainers. Zhang Shuo fled back to the capital and there he hid in a secret chamber of Zhang Rang's house. Li Ying found out about this and went with his men to the house, break it down and seize Zhang Shu. He was thrown in prison and was executed when all evidence had been gathered.
Zhang Rang complained about this to the Emperor. Li Ying was summoned and asked for an explanation. Li Ying admitted he was wrong in not asking permission, but on the other hand Zhang Shuo was a proven criminal. He expected death as his punishment but asked to wait five more days so he could eliminate the roots of evil. The Emperor made no further reply to this, but instead turned to Zhang Rang and said:
""Your brother was a criminal. What did the Director of Retainers do that was wrong?"
Then he sent Zhang Rang away.
As a result of this incident, all the officials of the Yellow Gates and the Regular Attendants were cowed and quiet, and they did not dare go outside the palace precincts except on official business. When the Emperor asked them the reason, they would kowtow and say: "We are afraid of Colonel Li."
In 169 A.D. Zhang Rang's father died and Zhang Rang went back to Yingchuan for the funeral. People from all over the commandery came to the funeral, however, Zhang Rang noticed the absense of the well-known scholars. Zhang Rang became extremely resentful. The one person of that gentry class that did turn up and paid his respects was Chen Shi, who received Zhang Rang's protection from the other eunuchs for this. Later, when the men of Faction were executed, Zhang Rang recalled Chen Shi's courtesy, and on his account there were many who were protected by him and pardoned
In the year 170 A.D., Zhang Rang had a slave supervisor, who was responsible for all the affairs of his household and, as a result, had great influence and power. An extremely wealth man named Meng Tuo became a close friend of this slave and he showered him and his fellows with presents. The slaves were very grateful and wished to do something in return. Meng Tuo replied: "I would be pleased if you would all just bow to me."
There was always a queue of hundreds and thousands of carriages outside Zhang Rang's gate, bringing clients who sought to call upon him. When Meng Tuo went to visit Zhang Rang, he arrived late and could not get through. But then the supervising slave came, leading a group of the other slaves. They bowed to him in welcome on the road, and then, all together, they led his carriage forward into the gate.
The clients were amazed and thought Meng Tuo's relationship with Zhang Rang had to be extremely well. They competed in offering him valuable presents to gain his favour. Meng Tuo gave a share of these to Zhang Rang and Zhang Rang was extremely pleased. As a result of this, Meng Tuo was made Inspector of Liang province.
During The Reign of Emperor Ling
Much more is not known about Zhang Rang. He was member of, and eventually some sort of head, of a group of eunuchs and only really starts to emerge openly in history books as a power in 184 A.D. when Emperor Ling said he considered Zhang Rang as a father though people had known of Zhang Rang's influence long before. One of the men who tried to stop Zhang Rang was General-in-Chief He Jin 何進 who gathered warlords from all over Northern China, such as Yuan Shao Yuan Shu 袁術 and Ding Yuan 丁原to do something about Zhang Rang and his eunuchs.
In 189 A.D., He Jin was overheard by a Zhang Rang follower, when he asked Empress He 何 to let the eunuchs get executed. Zhang Rang set up a trap. When He Jin left the audience, the eunuchs pretended to have orders from the Empress-Dowager to call him back, so he went in and waited by the doors. Zhang Rang said to him:
- "If the empire is troubled, it is not our fault alone. When the late Emperor was angry with the Empress-Dowager and she was on the brink of destruction, it was we who wept and managed to save her, and each of us gave thousands and tens of thousands from our private fortunes to make the Emperor contented again. All we sought was the patronage of your house. Now you want to destroy us and our families, this is surely too much!"
Then, Qu Mu 渠穆 who worked with the eunuchs, drew his sword and beheaded He Jin.
When the news of He Jin's death at the hands of the eunuchs spread, He Jin's officers launched an attack and managed to drive out Zhang Rang and his eunuchs. They all gathered at the Yellow River and, when faced against Min Gong, Zhang Rang spoke: "Now we must die! May Our Majesty maintain himself!" after which all remaining eunuchs jumped in the river and drowned.
- Zhang Shuo
- Historically, Zhang Rang did not drown himself in a well in Luoyang. He and the other eunuchs drowned themselves in the Yellow River to avoid being killed by Ming Gong.
- HHS 78/68, 2534-36 (19a-20a), the Biography of Zhang Rang and of Zhao Zhong in the Chapter on the Eunuchs.
- de Crespigny, Rafe. Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1989.