An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Pang Tong 龐統

Jun 21, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Pang Tong 龐統 (179-214), courtesy name Shiyuan 士元, style Fengchu Xiansheng 鳳雛先生, was a general 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).

Pang hailed from Xiangyang 襄陽 (today's Xiangfan 襄樊, Hubei) and had a good reputation as a judge of human nature. He is often mentioned together with the famous strategist Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234) and Sima Hui 司馬徽 (Sima Decao 司馬德操, d. 208).

He once left north China to flee the turmoils during the rebellion of the Yellow Turbans and resided in the lower Yangtze region, where he served the local warlord Sun Quan 孫權 (182-252). During the famous battle of the Red Cliff (Chibi zhi zhan 赤壁戰) in 208 CE, he developed a plan and feigned defection to the side of Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220), to whom he suggested the strategy of the joined rings (lianhuan ji 連環計), urging Cao to tie together his boats to attack the enemy's fleet. In this way, the fleet of Wu was able to apply a fire attack (huogong 火攻) which led to the conflagration of Cao Cao's whole fleet. Pang Tong escaped from Cao Cao's camp by offering to convince Sun's general Zhou Yu 周瑜 (175-210) to surrender.

After the battle, Sun Quan decided not to use Pang Tong any more, and Lu Su 魯肅 (172-217) therefore wrote a letter of recommendation, urging Pang to offer his services to Liu Bei, who was at the time master of the mid-Yangtze region. Yet Pang his not present the letter, with the consequence that Liu Bei underestimated him and gave him the minor post of district magistrate (xianling 縣令) of Leiyang 耒陽, a function for which Pang proved inadequate. Zhang Fei 張飛 (d. 221) nonetheless recognized the administrative competence of Pang, and Liu Bei decided to make Pang Tong vice commander as leader of court gentlemen (fu jiangshuai zhonglang jiang 副軍師中郎將), as assistant of Zhuge Liang.

As a military adviser, Pang Tong urged Liu Bei to leave the middle Yangtze region (province of Jingzhou 荊州), where he was exposed to the pressure of Cao Cao and Sun Quan, and to move westwards into the territory of Liu Zhang 劉璋 (d. 219), the Sichuan Basin (province of Yizhou 益州), and to occupy this region. While Liu Bang, accompanied by Pang Tong, began the expedition, Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu 關羽 (d. 219) remained in Jingzhou. In 212, military clashes began with the occupation of Guantou 關頭 (Baishui Pass 白水關, close to present-day Guangyuan 廣元, Sichuan). Pang captured the generals Yang Huai 楊懷 (d. 212) and Gao Pei 高沛 (d. 212), and marched towards Chengdu 成都, where Liu Zhang resided. Two years later, Pang died during the battle of Luocheng 雒城 (Guanghan 廣漢, Sichuan).

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