An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Fa Zheng 法正

Jun 21, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Fa Zheng 法正 (176-220), courtesy name Xiaozhi 孝直, was a military commander of Liu Bei 劉備 (161-222), the eventual founder of Shu-Han 蜀漢 (221-263), one of the Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE).

He hailed from Meixian 郿縣 in the commandery of Fufeng 扶風 (today in Shaanxi) and was originally an officer serving Liu Zhang 劉璋 (d. 219), who dominated the province of Yizhou 益州 (approx. today's Sichuan), but Liu Zhang never recognized the merits of Fa. He therefore joined with Zhang Song 張松 (d. 212 or 213) and decided to secretly support Liu Bei, who was master of the province of Jingzhou 荊州 (approx. Hubei).

In 211, Zhang Song was fighting in the Hanzhong region 漢中 against the sectarian leader Zhang Lu 張魯 (d. 216 CE) and trying to obstruct Cao Cao's 曹操 (155-220) advance into the region. Zhang Song suggested to Liu Zhang to send out Fa Zheng to the camp of Liu Bei, in order to ask the latter for support against the common enemy. Yet received by Liu Bei, Fa Zheng offered help for the conquest of the Sichuan Basis, which would be a far better place than the mid-Yangtze valley, where Liu was pressed from two sides, namely Cao Cao from the north, and Sun Quan from the east.

Liu Bei agreed and launched his western expedition, which ended with the conquest of Sichuan in 214. Fa Zheng was made governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Shujun 蜀郡, and given the title of "General Arousing Martiality" (yangwu jiangjun 揚武將軍). Fa had a powerful position as chief commander of the capital region and advisor in Liu Bei's "cabinet".

In 217, Cao Cao had internal problems, and Fa Zheng therefore suggested to attack the region of Hanzhong, where the generals Xiahou Yuan 夏侯淵 (d. 219) and Zhang He 張郃 (d. 231) guarded the border between the domains of Cao Cao and Liu Bei. Liu Bei himself commanded the expedition, supported by Fa Zheng, and was able to conquer the region two years later. The occupation inspired him to adopt the title of King of Hanzhong, following the precedent of the old King of Han, Liu Bang 劉邦 (d. 195 BCE), who eventually founded the Han dynasty. Fa Zheng was rewarded with the post of Director of the Imperial Secretariat (shangshu ling 尚書令) and the title of Protector-General (hujun jiangjun 護軍將軍).

Fa Zheng died a year later, much lamented by Zhuge Liang who believed that Fa had never agreed to the military adventure leading to Liu Bei’s defeat against Sun Quan in the battle of Yiling 夷陵 in 222.

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