An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Deng Ai 鄧艾

Jun 6, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Deng Ai 鄧艾 (197-264), courtesy name Shidai 士載, was a high official of the state of Wei 曹魏 (220-265) during the Three Kingdoms period 三國 (220-280).

He hailed from Jiyang 棘陽 in the commandery of Yiyang 義陽 (today Xinyang 信陽, Henan) and was orphaned, but had the chance to learn reading and writing. In very humble beginnings he was able to survive the turbulent times, and then had the chance to become a clerk (yuan 掾) of Defender-in-chef (taiwei 太尉) Sima Yi 司馬懿. Deng Ai then was appointed secretarial court gentleman (shangshu lang 尚書郎) and then governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Nan'an 南安, afterwards of Runan 汝南, and finally of Chengyang 城陽. His highest office in the local administration was regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of the province of Yanzhou 兖州. In all these offices he took greatest care to reconstruct the irrigation works and to open new arable land. His experience was laid down in a book called Jihelun 濟河論, which is unfortunately lost. Deng had created the Guangcao Canal 廣漕渠 linking River Huai 淮水 with River Bian 汴水 (see Grand Canal).

He also suggested to create military agro-colonies (tuntian 屯田) in the Liang-Huai 兩淮 region (approx. northern Anhui and Jiangsu) to raise the agricultural output as basis for supplying the own troops in the southeast, and for defending the region against raids by the armies of the empire of Wu 吳 (222-280). All these efforts were highly admired by his protector Sima Yi. Emperor Cao Mao 曹髦 (r. 254-260 CE) therefore made him Township Marquis of Fangcheng 方城亭侯.

Deng Ai participated in the suppression of the rebellion of Guanqiu Jian 毌丘儉 and Wen Qin 文欽. He defeated Sun Jun 孫峻, a general of the state of Wu, and pushed back Jiang Wei 姜維, a military leader of the state of Shu 蜀漢 (221-263). These victories earned him various titles, like Commandant (xiaowei 校尉) of Changshui 長水, General Pacifying the West (anxi jiangjun 安西將軍), General Conquering the West (zhengxi jiangjun 征西將軍) and General Suppressing the West (zhenxi jiangjun 鎮西將軍), and a promotion to Township Marquis of Fangcheng 方城鄉侯, then Marquis of Deng 鄧侯. For long years, Deng Ai was the highest military commander in the western regions of the Wei empire, and successfully defended it against attacks from Shu.

In 263 he, Zhong Hui 鍾會, and Zhuge Xu 諸葛緒 launched an invasion of Shu and brought down its government. The territory was incorporated into that of the empire of Wei. The victory brought Deng Ai the honorific title of Defender-in-chief. Because the Sichuan Basin was far away from the capital Luoyang 洛陽, Deng Ai decided to arrange all matters for taking control over the former territory of Shu by himself for the time being. In some instances he even ignored orders of General-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍) Sima Zhao 司馬昭. Zhong Hui therefore accused him of high treason, and Deng Ai was executed. He was exonerated a year later.

Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽, ed. (1992). Sanguozhi cidian 三國志辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 624.
Zhu Zongmin 祝總斌 (1992). "Deng Ai 鄧艾", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 161.