Wang Lang () (died December 228), courtesy name
Jingxing (景興), was a Chinese politician and minor warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty
of China. He served notably in the Han central government as Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery
and in the later state of Cao Wei
during the Three Kingdoms
period. He was also the great-grandfather of Sima Yan, the founding emperor of the Jin dynasty
, through his granddaughter Wang Yuanji's
marriage with Sima Zhao
Early life and career
Wang Lang was from Tan County (), Donghai Commandery
(), which is around present-day Tancheng County
. His original given name was "Yan" () but he changed it to "Lang" () later. He started his career as a Palace Gentleman () due to his academic proficiency, particularly with the Chinese Classics
. When his teacher Yang Ci () died, he left his post and went back to his home county to mourn him. Later, he served Tao Qian
, the Governor of Xu Province
, where he advised Tao Qian and several other warlords to pledge allegiance to Emperor Xian
, citing the Spring and Autumn Annals
. Tao Qian then sent an envoy to the Han central government in Chang'an
to pledge allegiance to the Emperor, and in return received the appointment "General Calming the East". The Han central government also appointed Wang Lang as the Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery
As a warlord
During Wang Lang's tenure as Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery
, Wang Lang banned the worship of Qin Shi Huang
, a widespread custom among locals, believing that he was a ruler without virtue. Wang also formed a secret alliance with the Shanyue
tribes. When the warlord Sun Ce
started his Jiangdong campaign
, Wang Lang financed the Shanyue leader Yan Baihu
to fight Sun Ce, but Yan Baihu and the other Shanyue clan leaders lost to Sun Ce; at the time, Liu Yao
, another warlord in the Jiangdong
region, had also lost to Sun Ce in battle. Yan Baihu had become the head of a loose confederation composed of bandits and local officials, including Wang Lang, and he again gathered soldiers numbering tens of thousands. Despite opposition from his adviser Yu Fan
, Wang Lang directly joined Yan Baihu in military operations against Sun Ce's forces, but they were defeated.
Wang Lang then escaped to Dongye (). There, he gained the support from the Chief of Houguan () and attempted to rebuild his power with support from Zhang Ya (), a rebel leader with a strong army. They succeeded in killing Han Yan (), the Commandant of the Southern Region () appointed by Sun Ce, but were ultimately defeated by He Qi
, a general under Sun Ce.
Wang Lang tried to go further south to Jiao Province
to recuperate, but was caught up and defeated by Sun Ce. He then conducted a very humble speech to appease Sun Ce, who later accepted his surrender.
Service in Wei
Despite surrendering, Wang Lang entered into a self-imposed retirement from public life, refusing Zhang Zhao
's request to serve Sun Ce. Eventually he was contacted by one of Cao Cao
's spies and was asked to join Cao Cao in the new imperial capital, Xuchang
, where the Han central government was based. Although he was initially hesitant, he became convinced after reading a letter from his old friend, Kong Rong
, who praised Cao Cao and urged him to go to Xuchang. Thus, he travelled north and reached Xuchang about a year later. Cao Cao highly valued Wang Lang's talent and appointed him as Critical Grandee, and Advisor to the Army of the Excellency of Works. Wang Lang later served in key appointments in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom of Wei after the latter was enfeoffed as a vassal king by Emperor Xian
, the last emperor of the Han dynasty.
[(魏國初建，以軍祭酒領魏郡太守，遷少府、奉常、大理。) ''Sanguozhi'' vol. 13.]
In 220, after Cao Cao's death, his son Cao Pi
became king, promoting Wang Lang as Censorate Grandee and enfeoffed him as Marquis of Yueping Village. Later that winter, the Emperor abdicated in favor of Cao Pi, who established the state of Cao Wei
to replace the Han dynasty. After becoming the emperor, Cao Pi appointed Wang Lang as the Minister of Works
and enfeoffed him as the Marquis of Anling Precinct. During Cao Pi's reign, Wang Lang made several suggestions regarding both military and civilian matters, such as security and the reduction of the state's employees and expenditures.
In 226, when Cao Rui
came to the throne, he promoted Wang Lang from a district marquis to a county marquis under the title "Marquis of Lanling", increasing his marquisate to 1,700 taxable households, from his previous 1,200.
Wang Lang was later sent to Ye
(in present-day Handan
) to visit the tomb of Empress Wenzhao
, Cao Rui's mother. She had yet to be canonized as Empress at that point, so Wang Lang was given the tally and document that permitted him to do so, as well as the proper sacrificial animals for this. A special tomb was to be built for her as well. During his visit, he saw the populace was short on material; thus, he wrote to advise Cao Rui to be frugal, and to reduce the scale of the building of his extravagant palaces and ancestral temples.
Wang Lang was later promoted to the position of Minister over the Masses
Late life and death
After Wang Lang objected to Cao Rui's palace-building project, he noticed that Cao Rui had a small imperial harem and wrote to Cao Rui stating that an emperor should have more concubines in order to continue the imperial bloodline with more offspring. This time, Cao Rui wholeheartedly agreed with Wang Lang and started expanding the size of his imperial harem. Wang's advice had a profound influence: Nine years after Wang Lang'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 – except that the most beautiful among them would become his concubines. Despite protests from some officials, this decree was apparently carried out, much to the distress of his people.
Wang Lang later focused on academic works and had published several books that were well received at the time. He died in 228 and was given the posthumous title
"Marquis Cheng" (), literally meaning "marquis of establishment". He was succeeded by his son Wang Su
, who continued serving as an official in Wei.
In ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''
In the 14th-century 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
. In the novel, 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 sceptical 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.
A famous story of Wang Lang was recorded in ''A New Account of the Tales of the World
* Lists of people of the Three Kingdoms
* Chen, Shou
(3rd century). ''Records of the Three Kingdoms
* Luo, Guanzhong
(14th century). ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms
'' (''Sanguo Yanyi'').
* Pei, Songzhi
(5th century). ''Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms
'' (''Sanguozhi zhu'').
Category:Year of birth unknown
Category:Cao Wei politicians
Category:Han dynasty politicians from Shandong
Category:Han dynasty warlords
Category:Officials under Cao Cao
Category:Political office-holders in Zhejiang
Category:Politicians from Linyi
Category:Tao Qian and associates