Three Kingdoms
Zhang Fei, 张飞(A.D.168-221) Shu蜀 Force Military Officer 中文详细
 
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In the Romance of Three Kingdoms, Zhāng Fēi (張飛, c. 168 - 221 AD), styled Yìdé (翼德), was first a butcher, then an officer of the Kingdom of Shu and the second member of the Five Tiger Generals. According to the legend, he was sworn blood brother of Liu Bei and Guan Yu, in an oath made in a Peach Garden.

At the Battle of Chang Ban, having let the exhausted Zhao Yun and the baby he was carrying through and facing an impending army of hundreds of thousands, Zhang rode out alone on the Chang Ban Bridge to hold off the pursuing army of Cao Cao. He glared and pointed his spear, saying, "I am Zhang Fei of Yan, and anyone can come and challenge me to fight to the death," which was so powerful that it was said to have frightened and held off 10,000 troops (it is believed several generals fell off their steeds, and some sources even say the number of soldiers exceeded 100,000, but this is likely an exaggeration). None of the Wei army dared to proceed and even upon the arrival of Cao himself they were still wavering. Cao, fearing an ambush devised by Zhuge Liang, eventually decided not to pursue Zhang.

However, Zhang was later rebuked by Liu Bei for ordering his soldiers to burn Chang Ban Bridge so as to delay the pursuit of Cao's forces. Zhang Fei was unhappy about this, and Liu Bei was later proven right when Cao Cao was to guess correctly that Zhang Fei had burnt the bridge out of fear. Ironically, Zhang Fei had successfully pulled off a ruse against Cao Cao when he commanded his soldiers to attach logs to their horses so as to raise large dust clouds, creating the illusion that Zhang had a large army with him.

Throughout the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhang is shown as exceedingly loyal and known for his strength and skill as a warrior, but also short tempered and a drunkard, which often got him into problems more times than not on the battlefield. Zhang's fierce sense of loyalty (and perhaps impetuousness) was demonstrated when Guan had left Cao to return to Liu - he had taken refuge when Cao under the condition that he would leave upon discovering his elder brother's whereabouts - and Zhang refused to believe that Guan had not defected to Cao already. Zhang fought with Guan in three fierce rounds, but the latter held back throughout, trying to explain to Zhang the truth. Thankfully, it was resolved without any bloodshed. Zhang also had a son Zhang Bao, an equally competent general who served the Shu kingdom dutifully.

The historical Zhang Fei, however, was shown to have been a masterful general rather than simply a warrior. He was not known to have had an obsession with wine, that apparently being an invention of Luo Guanzhong for the novel. He treated his superiors with respect, but had little respect for his underlings.

Zhang Fei was killed by his own men Zhang Da and Fan Qiang while leading troops to attack the rival kingdom of Wu, in response for the death of Guan Yu.

The romanticised Zhang Fei is best portrayed in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. He also appears on the Kunqu stage as a hualian. Particularly famous is the scene "The Swaying Reeds", in which he ambushes, humiliates and sets free Zhou Yu.

The historical Zhang Fei is best portrayed through his description and actions depicted in his Sanguozhi Biography, a work by Chen Shou. Some sources suggest that Zhang Fei was also an excellent painter.


Trivia

  • The night before Zheng Fei was murdered by Zhang Da and Fan Qiang, they found him sleeping with his eyes wide open and were about to abandon their assassination but his snoring revealed that he was actually sleeping. Nowadays when someone sleeps in caution or with half-opened eyes they are referred to as "Zheng Fei eyes".
  • The Zheng Fei enjoyed working in the garden. There are some trees he planted in Cheng Du that exist to this day.
  • His son Zhang Pao personally executed Zhang Da and Fan Qiang when Sun Quan sent them both back to Shu Kingdom as a goodwill gift.