Biography (SGYY): Ma Zhong

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Ma Zhong
(AD ??–222)

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

Ma Zhong

Ma Zhong was a commander serving the kingdom of Wu.

After the Southland had successfully defeated Guan Yu at Jingzhou in AD 219, Ma Zhong was placed under the command of Pan Zhang with orders to pursue the now fleeing general. Yu retreated to the small town of Mai, which the southern army surrounded immediately. After offers of surrender were refused, Lü Meng ordered Zhong to wait in ambush on the main road to Chengdu. Ma Zhong did so and, true enough to Lü Meng’s prediction, Guan Yu and his son Ping attempted to flee the road shortly after. Zhong attacked the retinue immediately, but because Guan Yu’s forces were few, most of them were overcome and killed, forcing Yu into flight once again. Seeing this, Ma Zhong led his own men onto a place called Breach in the Rocks in preparation for another attack on Guan Yu and Guan Ping. Once the two came into view, Zhong had his men grapple Yu from his horse with hooks and loops and then captured the general himself. Guan Ping suffered a similar fate at the hands of commanders Pan Zhang and Zhu Ran. (1)

1: SGZ (Sanguozhi) records that Ma Zhong captured both Guan Yu and Guan Ping, rather than him only capturing the former.

Following his capture of Guan Yu, Ma Zhong hustled the general into Sun Quan’s command tent who, upon consulting with his advisers, had executed along with his son, Guan Ping. For his accomplishments in the attack, Ma Zhong was presented with Guan Yu’s great steed, Red Hare. However, the horse refused any food offered to it by Zhong and died several days later.

In AD 222, Liu Bei, ruler of the kingdom of Shu, led an army onto the Southland. Their forces were originally met by General Sun Huan, but after Huan suffered defeat, Sun Quan sent another army forward to oppose the westerners with Ma Zhong serving as one of their commanders. As the southerners approached the Shu army’s position, they were met by General Huang Zhong. Pan Zhang went out to meet him but, after several bouts, wheeled about and fled.

“Stand your ground, traitor!” Huang Zhong cried. “Today I will avenge Lord Guan.”

As Huang Zhong pursued Pan Zhang, Ma Zhong and the rest of the southern army attacked the veteran general from his rear. Ma Zhong raced down one of the surrounding hillsides, bow in hand, and let fly a single arrow that hit Huang Zhong in his armpit, almost killing him. Many Riverlands troops were killed in the ensuing melee, but when commanders Guan Xing and Zhang Bao came to the westerners aid, Ma Zhong and the rest of the southern army retired. Due to the injury inflicted upon him by Ma Zhong, Huang Zhong died in camp soon after. (2)

2: Historically, Huang Zhong died before Liu Bei’s campaign against the Southland.

One night, Ma Zhong noticed that his commander, Pan Zhang, was not present in the camps. Worried that something had happened to him, Zhong mounted his horse and organised a retinue of three hundred to search for the general. After searching for some time, Ma Zhong came upon Guan Xing; the son of Guan Yu—from his horse hung the head of Pan Zhang. Overcome with anger and grief, Zhong attacked Xing, but before the winner of the fight could be recognised, a troop of soldiers led by enemy commander Zhang Bao arrived on the scene. Unable to hold up against their forces, Ma Zhong raced back to camp and reported what had happened to commanders Han Dang and Zhou Tai.

Following these events, Ma Zhong gathered his soldiers and posted them at various positions surrounding the Wu encampment. Zhong then ordered commanders Mi Fang and Fu Shiren—who had both surrendered to Wu after Guan Yu’s defeat at Jingzhou—to occupy a split of land in the river. His forces consolidated, Ma Zhong headed for his tent to rest for the night. However, Mi Fang and Fu Shiren entered Zhong’s tent during the third watch of the night and murdered the newly distinguished general in his sleep. (3)

3: Mi Fang and Fu Shiren had hoped to offer Ma Zhong’s head to Liu Bei as an appeal of forgiveness for their betrayal. However, Liu Bei had the two executed for their treachery. There is no historical record of this occurring in SGZ—both Mi Fang and Fu Shiren died whilst in service to Wu, suggesting that Ma Zhong did not die during Liu Bei’s attack on the Southland.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong