Biography (SGZ): Jiang Wan (Gongyan)

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Jiang Wan (Gongyan)
蔣琬 (公琰)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
translated by Chen Qiang

Jiang Wan, styled Gongyan hails from prefecture LingLing, Xiang Xiang county. Together with his cousin, Liu Min from Quan Ling county, Jiang Wan was already quite a renowned person at the age of 20.

He entered Shu together with Liu Bei as a zhou shu zuo and was later promoted to the head of Guang Du county. Liu Bei, on an inspection, suddenly came to Guang Du and saw a drunken Jiang Wan neglecting his official duties. Liu Bei was angered by what he saw and had wanted to convict and punish Jiang Wan severely. However, Zhuge Liang interceded and said, “Jiang Wan is a pillar of our country and his talents should not be restricted to governing a small county. His ideals stresses firmly on a stable and peaceful state for the commoners while never emphasizing on decorated appearances. I hope my Lord further investigates the manner.” Liu Bei had always respected Zhuge Liang and thus decided not to convict Jiang Wan while only stripped away his office in haste.

After this incident, Jiang Wan dreamt of a bull’s head hanging in front of a door, with blood dripping down continually. He detested this dream and summoned Zhao Zhi, a dreams sayer, to find out the underlying message of his dream. Zhao Zhi replied that it was most evident that a bull’s horn with a nose illustrates the word ‘Gong’ (Duke) and the dream was, as a matter of fact, auspicious in nature as he would surely gain promotion.

After a rather short period of time, Jiang Wan was conferred the Governor of Shen Fang county. When Liu Bei became the Prince of Han Zhong, Jiang Wan started to serve as the Shang Shu Lang in the Imperial Court.

In the first year of Jian Xing, Zhuge Liang established the Prime Minister’s Office and announced Jiang Wan as the Dong Cao Yuan. He was later recommended as Mao Cai but insisted that the appointment go to Liu Yi, Yin Hua, Pang Yan and Liao Chun. Zhuge Liang thus advised, “You had left your family and land to serve the people. Hence, all the more you should accept this recommendation as it not only proved that you gained the office by your own merits, it also proved the integrity and seriousness of of the selection process.” Jiang Wan was later promoted to be a Can Jun (advisor).

In the Fifth Year, with Zhuge Liang stationed in Han Zhong, Jiang Wan and Chang Shi Zhang Yi was in charge of affairs in the Prime Minister’s office. In the Eighth Year, Jiang Wan succeeded Zhang Yi’s appointment and was conferred the rank of Fu Jun Jiang Jun In his many expeditions, Jiang Wan was always able to supply sufficient food and soldiers to Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang often said, “Gong Yan who repaid the country with loyalty and integrity shall be the person who would assist me in conquering China.” Indeed, Zhuge Liang petitioned Liu Shan secretly stating, “If anything untoward happen to me, you should entrust the various tasks to him.”

After the death of Zhuge Liang, Liu Shan made him the Shan Shu Ling, increased his rank to Du Hu Jiang Jun and gave him the office of Fu Jie and Yi Zhou Ci Shi. He was later promoted to Da Jiang Jun, continued to record happenings in the Imperial court and was conferred the title of An Yang Ting Hou. At that time, Zhuge Liang had just passed away and many people were feeling dejected. In this period, Jiang Wan’s talents stood out among the many officials as he maintained composure with no sad or happy emotions while carrying out his duties just as the way he did in the past. The various officials gradually respected and admired him for that.

In Yan Xi first year, Liu Shan in an Imperial edict, ordered Jiang Wan to organize the army and position them in Han Zhong to wait for Wu’s actions and react when the time permits for a full scale invasion. This was because the rebellion in Liao Dong was seen as a God’s given chance to rid China of Cao Rui. Liu Shan also ordered Jiang Wan to establish his own administrative office. In the next year, Jiang Wan was duly promoted to the rank of Da Si Ma.

Yang Xi was a man who treated people with few courtesy and at times, in conversations with Jiang Wan, ignored the latter completely. Someone tried to frame Yang Xi and insisted to Jiang Wan Yang Xi’s rudeness in disobeying his superior. Jiang Wan replied, “Man’s characters, just as his appearance, has many variations. We should be wary of those who say approving things in front of you, yet criticize with malice at your back. It was never Yang Xi’s intention to agree with me and if he did not agree with me, he feared that open disapproval would reveal my weakness greatly. Therefore, he chose not to speak to demonstrate his honesty and sincerity.”

In another incident of the similar type, Yang Min once mediocrity Jiang Wan of mediocracy, ignorance and in fact, inferior compared with his predecessors. Someone told this to Jiang Wan and hoped Jiang Wan would investigate and punish Yang Min. Jiang Wan, however, agreed that he was indeed incomparable with the talents of yesteryears and hence, refused to further investigate the matter. The man again appealed that Yang Min had no proof of Jiang Wan being such a person. Jiang Wan however replied that since he was incomparable to the saints, that would mean that what he had done was indeed unreasonable and by being unreasonable, he would be a mediocre leader too. Hence, Jiang Wan felt that there was no need to trial Yang Min. In later years, Yang Min was jailed for committing a crime and everyone was worried that he would surely die. However, Jiang Wan remained impartial and Yang Min was relieved of a heavy sentence. All these proved that Jiang Wan was a man who praised good and hated evil, and was in fact, a most reasonable man.

Jiang Wan always felt that the reasons for Zhuge Liang’s failure was due to the difficulties in navigating the perilous terrain and the problems it posed for the transporting of supplies. Hence, he reasoned that an invasion route east to the river would be easier and built vessels to attempt attacking Wei from Han Shui and Mian Shui toward Wei Xing and Shang Yong. Coincidentally, his illness had a relapse and hence he did not had the time to fully implement this plan. Indeed, the officers had argued that such a route would pose problems for retreat in defeats and hence was not a viable long term plan. The court thus sent Fei Yi and Jiang Wei as representatives to present their arguments.

Jiang Wan accepted the order and replied to Liu Shan, “It was my duty to restore peace and extinguish Cao Wei. In the six years that I stayed in Han Zhong, incompetency coupled with illness and the lack of success in formulating stratagems had made me relatively uneasy. Wei had 9 provinces and its influence growing deep among the people. Eliminating them would be a daunting task. If Wu allied with us, we can at least form the Ox-Horn formation and though this does not guarantee immediate success, we can, at the very least, slowly advance and destroy its supporting border areas. However, Wu was often slow in meeting our dates for common invasion, which resulted in our defeats at times and predicaments upon withdrawals. Indeed, this issue is most worrying and upon discussions with Fei Yi, we agreed that Liang Zhou is an advantageous and strategic land in the Northern territories as it’s easy to advance while attacking, and retreat while defending. This was precisely why Cao Wei also considered the province to be important. Moreover, The Qiang and Hu tribes missed Han rule and their bravery can be seen in Guo Huai’s defeats. Hence, after considering the pros and cons, we concluded that the imperative need is to use Jiang Wei as Liang Zhou Ci Shi. If Jiang Wei attacked and was brought to a halt, I would then command troops to reinforce the rear position and be his reinforcements. With the advanced waterways in the Fu river, transport would be fairly efficient for emergency deployment purposes. If the North have any form of insurgencies, we can then advance with less difficulties.”

Hence, Jiang Wan returned to Fu county to make preparations. However, his health deteriorated and he died in Yan Xi ninth year.

Copyright © 2002 - 2003 Chen Qiang
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi