Wang Lang

For material regarding the martial artist, see Northern Praying Mantis (martial art). For the Xin dynasty leader, see Wang Lang (Xin Dynasty).
Wang Lang
Politician of Cao Wei
Born (Unknown)
Died 228[1]
Traditional Chinese 王朗
Simplified Chinese 王朗
Pinyin Wáng Lǎng
Wade–Giles Wang Lang
Courtesy name Jingxing (traditional Chinese: 景興; simplified Chinese: 景兴; pinyin: Jǐngxīng; Wade–Giles: Ching-hsing)
Posthumous name Marquis Cheng (Chinese: 成侯; pinyin: Chéng Hóu; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng Hou)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wang.

Wang Lang (died 228),[1][2] courtesy name Jingxing, was a politician and minor warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. He became a politician in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period after the fall of the Han Dynasty. Through his granddaughter's marriage to Sima Zhao, he would become great-grandfather of Sima Yan, who later became the founding emperor of the Jin Dynasty.

Early life and career

Originally from the Donghai commandery of China, Wang was originally named Yan,[3] but he changed his name into Lang, and began his career as a servant to the Chief of Staff due to his academic proficiency. When his teacher, Yang Si (楊賜) died, he left his post and went back to his home county. Later, he served the Xu Province warlord, Tao Qian and advised Tao to form a general alliance with Dong Zhuo, who controlled the Han court. Tao Qian then sent an envoy to Chang'an and was granted the title of General Pacifiying the South, and Wang was also made governor of Kuaiji Commandery by the court.

As a warlord

Wang formed a secret alliance with the Shanyue tribe (Shanyue was a tribe that constantly pillaged the Han citizens for living essentials) during his tenure. When Sun Ce started his Jiangdong campaign, Wang financed the Shanyue leader Yan Baihu to fight Sun, but Yan and other clan leaders were defeated. However, at the time Liu Yao of Moling was defeated by Sun, Yan Baihu had become the head of a loose confederation composed of bandits and local officials including Wang, and he again gathered soldiers numbering tens of thousands. Despite opposition from his adviser, Yu Fan, Wang directly joined Yan in military operations against Sun, and were defeated. He then fled on a boat to Dongye. There, he gained the support from the Chief of Houguan (侯官長) and attempted to rebuild his power.[4] His force was strengthened by Zhang Ya (張雅), who was a rebel leader controlling a rather strong army. They succeed in killing the Commandant of Southern Region (南部都尉), Han Yan (韓晏), who was taking command from Sun, but were ultimately defeated by Sun's vassal, He Qi.

Wang tried to go further south to Jiao Province to recuperate, but was caught up and defeated by Sun.[5] He then conducted a very humble speech to appease Sun, who later accepted Wang's surrender.

Service in Wei

Soon afterward he entered into a self-imposed retirement from public life, but was contacted by Cao Cao's spy and was asked to join Cao in Xuchang. He initially hesitated to go north, but was convinced by a letter sent by his old friend, Kong Rong; thus, he journeyed north via water, and arrived Cao's capital city of Xuchang almost a year later. Cao highly valued Wang's talent and appointed him as his advisor. Wang then served Cao Wei in high positions during the reign of Cao Cao.[6] When Cao Pi succeeded Cao Cao and declared himself Emperor, Wang was even made the Minister of Works and the Marquis of Yueping. During Emperor Cao Pi's reign, Wang had made several suggestions regarding both military and civilian matters, which Emperor Cao Pi partially accepted.

When Cao Rui was on the throne, Wang was promoted to the Marquis of Lanling, and earned tax revenue of 2,000 households of farmer tenants.[7]

Once, Wang went to Ye city to visit the tomb of Empress Wenzhao and saw the populace was short on material; thus, he wrote to ask the young Emperor to reduce the scale of the building of Emperor Cao Rui's extravagant palaces and ancestral temples. While publicly, Emperor Cao Rui applauded Wang's suggestion, Emperor Cao Rui nevertheless transferred Wang to the position of Minister Over the Masses. This way, Wang no longer monitored the construction of Cao Rui's palaces and ancestral temples, but instead was responsible for drafting the government budget, so that Emperor Cao Rui could still indulge himself in the building of his extravagant palaces and ancestral temples. Eventually, though, Cao Rui did reduce the scale of his constructions.

Late life and death

After Wang's opposition of the palace-building project, he became concerned about his political future. When he noticed Cao Rui had a small harem, he thought of a way to appease the emperor: he wrote to Cao Rui stating that an emperor should have more concubines in order to continue the royal bloodline with more offsprings. This time the emperor agreed to Wang wholeheartedly and started his collection of women, as his concubines and ladies in waiting numbered thousands. Wang's hideous advice had a profound influence: Nine years after Wang's death, Cao Rui even ordered beautiful married women all be formally seized unless their husbands were able to ransom them, and that they would be married to soldiers instead—but that the most beautiful among them would become his concubines. Despite some officials' protestations, this decree was apparently carried out, much to the distress of his people.

Wang later focused on academic works and had published several books that were well received at the time. He died in the December 228, and was given the posthumous name of "Marquis Cheng" (成侯), literally meaning Marquis of establishment.[8] He was succeeded by his son Wang Su, who would continue to serve Wei.

In fiction

In Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Wang Lang died at the age of 76 in 228. Despite his age, he led a group of soldiers and set up camp to do battle with Zhuge Liang. According to the story, Cao Zhen was defeated by Zhuge Liang. Cao Zhen called for his subordinates to help, and Wang Lang decided to try and persuade him to surrender (even though Guo Huai was skeptical that it would succeed) and engaged Zhuge Liang in a debate, but was soundly defeated. Zhuge Liang among other things scolded him as a dog and a traitor, from the shock of which he fell off his horse and died on the spot. There is no record of this in history, and instead, it is said that he merely sent a letter to Zhuge Liang recommending that he surrender. The letter was ignored.

See also


  1. 1 2 Wang Lang's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms stated that he died in the 2nd year of the Taihe era (227-233) in Cao Rui's reign. (太和二年薨, ...)
  2. de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 823. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
  3. "魏略曰:朗本名嚴,后改為朗。" Wang's name change was recorded by the Brief history of Wei.
  4. "時王朗奔東冶,侯官長商升為朗起兵。" See SGZ vol. 60.
  5. "(王郎)欲走交州,為兵所逼,遂詣軍降。" The Annal of Emperor Xian states that Wang Lang wanted to go to Jiao after his failure, but was caught by Sun Ce.
  6. "魏國初建,以軍祭酒領魏郡太守,遷少府、奉常、大理。" Within the passage, "upon the establishment of the kingdom of Wei (魏國初建)" refers to Cao Cao's ascension to the King of Wei.
  7. Wang Lang had 1,500 households during Cao Pi's reign, when Cao Rui succeed his father, Wang was given an additional 500 households totaling 2,000 households.
  8. "安民立政曰成。" Who helped establish a regime or gave comforts to the civilians could be given the posthumous name "Cheng." Wang qualified for the first provision as an active politician supporting Cao Cao on his establishment of Wei Kingdom (dukedom). SeeLost book of Zhou. Rules on assigning a posthumous name.
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