Biography (SGYY): Fu Qian

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Fu Qian
(AD ?—263)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Fu Qian

Fu Qian was the son of Fu Tong and served the kingdom of Shu during the Second Emperor, Liu Shan’s, reign. Jiang Wei, the General-in-Chief of Shu, considered Fu Qian as a brave leader and valued him greatly.

After Jiang Wei’s fourth failed invasion of the northern kingdom of Wei, Fu Qian was chosen to train the Shu army in Hanzhong. It was during this time that Zhuge Dan of Huainan and Sun Chen of the Southland raised an army against Sima Zhao, who in turn had mobilized both capitals to repel the invasion. Because of this, Jiang Wei was granted permission by the Second Emperor to undertake a fifth invasion of the kingdom of Wei. When the Riverlands forces were ready to march, Jiang Wei asked Fu Qian, “Where do you think we should sortie?”

“All Wei’s grain and provender are stored at Longwall,” Fu Qian answered. “We should go straight through Luogu Gorge and across the Shen Range, direct to Longwall. We’ll first burn out their supplies, then capture Qinchuan. That will put the north within reach.”

“Your plan tallies nicely with mine,” Jiang Wei replied, and thus Fu Qian’s plan was put into action.

Upon reaching Longwall’s fortifications 20 li from the city, the Riverlands army was met by its defender, Sima Wang. Jiang Wei pointed at Wang and shouted, “Sima Zhao has moved the ruler of Wei into his army camp. He must be intending to do what Li Jue and Guo Si did. (1) But I hold a mandate from the court to make you answer for your crime. Surrender now!”

1: Li Jue and Guo Si had moved the Han Emperor, Xian, to Chang’An in AD 195.

Sima Wang answered, “None of your impudence! You have violated our greater kingdom time and again. Withdraw now or be wiped out to the last man.”

As Sima Wang spoke, his first commander, Wang Zhen, emerged from behind the enemy lines. Fu Qian went forth to meet him. After fighting 10 bouts, Qian feinted, causing Wang Zheng to thrust his weapon hard. As he did, Qian swerved and hauled Wang Zheng onto his mount and began riding back to his own line. Li Peng, another commander under Sima Wang, began riding after Qian in an attempt to save his captured comrade. Fu Qian allowed Li Peng to draw close and then tossed Wang Zheng to the ground, surreptitiously grasping a four-pronged iron bar. As Li Peng neared, Qian hurled the bar at his forehead, piercing his eye and killing him The Riverlands army then moved up in force and speared Wang Zheng where he lay. Sima Wang and his forces, seriously demoralized from seeing Fu Qian defeat both of their top commanders, abandoned their fortifications and sealed themselves in Longwall.

The Riverlands army nearly succeeded in taking Longwall after firing incendiary arrows and missiles over the top, setting the town ablaze and causing the Wei soldiers to break ranks, but Deng Ai arrived with reinforcements before the city could be occupied. After rearranging his ranks to meet this new force, Jiang Wei and the Riverlands force fought to a standoff with Deng Ai and the two armies retired; Deng Ai made camp against the River Wei, Jiang Wei across two hills. Jiang Wei issued challenges for battle every day for almost a week, which Deng Ai accepted each time only to never appear in the field. Suspecting something was amiss, Fu Qian said to Jiang Wei, “They are up to something. We must be on guard.”

Jiang Wei replied, “They are holding back until their troops from within the passes get here, then they will be able to attack on three sides. I am going to have a letter carried to Sun Chen in the Southland to persuade him to support our attack.” But after learning that all the Southern troops had surrendered to Wei and Zhuge Dan killed, Jiang Wei and Fu Qian decided to retreat. Fearing ambush, Deng Ai did not pursue.

Fu Qian aided in the sixth northern campaign in AD 258-59, but the expedition ended when Liu Shan, suspecting that Jiang Wei would defect to Wei, called back the Riverlands army. (2) When Sima Zhao murdered Cao Mao and instated Cao Huan on the thrown of Wei, Jiang Wei again successfully petitioned for an expedition against Wei. Fu Qian was selected to join the campaign and the Riverlands forces, split into three, headed for the Qishan hills. Upon reaching Ye Gorge, Wang Guan, a Wei commander, offered to submit to Jiang Wei along with five thousand soldiers. Jiang Wei ordered Wang Guan to take three thousand of his five thousand soldiers to the Riverlands border to transport several thousand loaded grain carts to the Qishan Hills; Fu Qian was put in command of the remaining two thousand. Wang Guan’s surrender, however, was false, and within ten days of his departure, a courier sent from Guan to Deng Ai was caught and questioned, revealing Guan’s intention to transport the grain to the Wei camp via Yunshan Gorge. The courier was thereupon killed and the date altered on the document to the fifteenth of the month; the letter was sent back to Deng Ai by a different courier disguised as a Wei soldier. Several hundred grain carts were then unloaded and repacked with kindling, straw, and fuses and covered over with black cloth. Fu Qian was put in charge of these carts along with the 2000 surrendered Wei soldiers and set out under the ensign of the transport corps to Yunshan Gorge (2): Deng Ai, seeing he would be unable to drive back the Riverlands army, had sent an envoy to Chengdu to spread false rumours of Jiang Wei’s intention to defect to Wei, causing Liu Shan to call back the Riverlands army.

2: When Fu Qian reached Yunshan Gorge, he had his forces hide behind a stand of trees in preparation for Deng Ai’s arrival. Ai reached the gorge shortly after, leading his men forward to aid who he thought was Wang Guan. As he did, Fu Qian charged out, crying, “Deng Ai, low-down rat, you have fallen into our commander’s trap. Dismount and prepare to die!”

The carts Fu Qian were transporting then went up in flames, signalling the rest of the Riverlands army to attack. Deng Ai, unable to control his soldiers before Fu Qian and the rest of the Riverlanders onslaught, was forced to retreat, barely escaping with his life. The Shu army later returned to Hanzhong when Wang Guan led a desperate attack on the region. After Wang Guan’s attack had been thwarted and Guan killed, Fu Qian resumed training Hangzhong’s forces in preparation for the next northern campaign.

In the fifth year of Jing Yao, AD 263, Jiang Wei was granted permission from the Second Emperor to undertake an eighth northern campaign. Fu Qian was again selected to join the expedition. Jiang Wei chose to lead his army of three hundred thousand on to Taoyang, thinking it to be lightly defended. However, the Riverlands army was met with fierce opposition from Deng Ai and consequently forced back 20 li from the field. Jiang Wei came to the conclusion that the Qishan hills were lightly guarded and sent Zhang Yi to attack them. Jiang Wei later learned that Deng Ai had led a contingent of his men back to the Qishan hills to oppose Zhang Yi, and so he left for the Qishan hills himself. Fu Qian was left in charge of the forces camped near Taoyang and successfully defended the camp from every attack made. Thus, Jiang Wei and Zhang Yi were able to defeat Deng Ai at the Qishan hills and no further losses were suffered at Taoyang. However, Huang Hao, an eunuch, petitioned the Second Emperor to call the Riverlands forces back on the pretext that they had accomplished too little, and so the Second Emperor sent an envoy recalling the Riverlands army. Once again, Deng Ai did not pursue.

When prime minister of Wei, Sima Zhao, began his expedition against the Riverlands in AD 263, Zhong Hui was put in charge of the capture of Hanzhong. Fu Qian was in charge of the defence at Yang’an Pass, and so Zhong Hui himself led the main army to capture it. Fu Qian’s lieutenant commander was Jiang Shu, who said, “We cannot hold off so many northerners. A stout defence is our best course.”

“I don’t agree”, Fu Qian replied. “Coming so far, the Wei troops—however numerous—will surely be too tired to pose a threat. We must go down from the pass and fight, or both Yuecheng and Hancheng will be lost.” (3)

3: Yuecheng and Hancheng were another two passes that Fu Qian was in charge of defending.

Jiang Shu sat silent and made no reply. Shortly after, Fu Qian was informed of the approach of a large contingent of Wei troops. Qian, along with Jiang Shu, went to survey the enemy. Zhong Hui, raising his whip, shouted up, “I have in my command a force of ten thousand. Submit promptly, and you will be promoted and employed according to rank and station. Remain obstinate, and the good will die with the bad when we destroy your position.”

Fu Qian was outraged and refused to submit. He ordered Jiang Shu to hold the pass whilst he led three thousand men down to meet Zhong Hui. Fu Qian charged directly into Hui’s ranks and successfully routed his army. Qian gave chase, but the Wei soldiers were able to regroup and forced Fu Qian back to Yang’an Pass. However, upon arriving, Fu Qian found that the pass was already flying the colours of Wei. Jiang Shu shouted down to Qian, “I have surrendered to Wei!”

Fu Qian denounced Jiang Shu, “Faithless, treasonous ingrate! How can you face the world again?” Qian then wheeled his horse around and charged the northern line, thrusting left and right. The northern army continued to encircle Fu Qian, but he, nor his followers, would give up the fight. After every nine of ten Riverlanders had fallen, Fu Qian raised his eyes to the heavens and said with a sigh, “I have lived as a servant of the Riverlands, and so shall I die.”

Laying on his whip, Fu Qian charged into the northern line one last time—his surcoat and armour became drenched with blood, and he suffered many wounds. When the horse he was riding toppled over, Fu Qian slit his throat. A poet of later times has left these lines in Fu Qian’s praise:

The final day he vented righteous rage,
And we forevermore hold his name.
Who, to save himself, would play Jiang Shu
When he could die in glory like Fu Qian?

Copyright © 2004 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong