San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Jack Yuan
Ma Chao had the styled Mengqi and was from Maoling in Youfufeng. His father Ma Teng rose with Bian Zhang and Han Sui in the western province in the last years of Emperor Ling. In the third year of Chuping  Han Sui led their followers to Chang’an. Han Sui was made General who Maintains the West in Peace, and ordered to return to Jincheng. Ma Teng was made General who Subdues the West and ordered to garrison Mei. Later Ma Teng attacked Chang’an, was defeated and retreated to Liangzhou. Zhong You, the Colonel Director of Retainers, in charge of the administration of Guannei, wrote to Han Sui and Ma Teng, explaining to them the consequences of their actions. Ma Teng sent Ma Chao with Zhong You to subdue Guo Yuan ang Gao Gan at Pingyang. Ma Chao’s general Pang De took the head of Guo Yuan himself. Later Ma Teng fell out with Han Sui and requested to return to the capital. Subsequently he was made Commandant of the Guards. Ma Chao was made lieutenant-general and enfeoffed as Marquis of Duting, with the command of Ma Teng’s former forces.
Ma Chao commanded his followers and united with Han Sui, as well as Yang Qui, Liu Kan and Cheng Yi, against Tong Pass. Duke Cao spoke with Han Sui and Ma Chao individually. Ma Chao had great strength and secretly planned to charge on to capture Duke Cao. But Duke Cao’s general Xu Zhu stared at Ma Chao irate and the latter dared not make a move. Duke Cao took Jia Xu’s advice, and sowed distrust amongst Ma Chao and Han Sui, rendering suspicions between them. In this way their army were greatly defeated. Ma Chao fled to the security of the Rong peoples. Duke Cao pursued as far as Anding but due to unrest in the north, led his army back east. Yang Fu advised Duke Cao, saying: “Ma Chao has the courage of Han Xin, Ying Bu and possesses the heart of a Qiang or a Hu. If the great army withdraws and there are not streadfast preparations here, then Longshang will soon cease to be part of the Empire.” Sure enough, Ma Chao led the Rong against the commanderies of Longshang. The various commanderies submitted and Wei Kang, Inspector of Liangzhou, was killed. Ma Chao occupied Yicheng and gained more followers. Ma Chao named himself General who Subdues the West, Governor of Bingzhou, and took over the military affairs of Liangzhou. The former subordinates of Wei Kang; Yang Fu, Jiang Xu, Liang Kuan, Zhao Qu and others, plotted together to attack Ma Chao. Yang Fu and Jiang Xu revolted at Lucheng; Ma Chao besieged it but could not fell it. Liang Kuan and Zhao Qu closed the gates of Yicheng and Ma Chao could not enter. He could neither advance nor retreat, and was forced to flee to Hanzhong to join Zhang Lu. However, he soon surmised that Zhang Lu was not equal to the task of the great cause and hence felt dejected. On hearing that the Former Lord had surrounded Liu Zhang at Chengdu, he sent a secret letter requesting submission.
The Former Lord sent a man to receive Ma Chao and Ma Chao’s troops reached the walls of the city. Those within the city were alarmed and Liu Zhang surrendered immediately. The Former Lord assigned Ma Chao General who Pacifies the West, administering Linju and extended his former enfeoffment as Marquis of Duting. The Former Lord became King of Hanzhong and assigned Ma Chao General of the Left, with insignia bestowed. In the year of Zhangwu , he was promoted to the role of General of Chariots and Cavalry, and Governor of Liangzhou, with enfeoffment as Marquis of Fengxiang. The edict decreed: “We have few virtues to speak of. We have succeeded to the throne and consecrate the imperial clan temples. Cao Cao and his son have committed countless crimes in their time and deserve to come to judgement. For this We are pained with bitter hatred. All within the Seas are angry; they hope to restore legitimacy and return to the basics. Even the Di and Qiang are willing to follow; even the northern barbarians are capable of admiring the great cause. Your trustworthiness is famed throughout the northern lands and your martial prowess is famed throughout this age. Hence the task is bestowed on you and We hope that you can exercise the spirit of a tiger in managing the ten thousand mile lands and caring for the pains of the people. You should propagate the teachings of the Court, maintain in peace the lands far and near, somberly administer rewards and punishment to extend the fortunes of the Han and be worthy of All Under Heaven.”
In the second year , Ma Chao died at the age of forty seven. On his deathbed, he submitted a memorial: “Of the more than two hundred of this subject’s clan, almost all were executed by Mengde [Cao Cao]. The only one left is my cousin Ma Dai, who should be the heir to our frail clan’s honour. Thus I profoundly entrust him to Your Majesty. Other than this there is nothing else to repeat.”
He received the posthumous appellation of ‘Marquis Wei’ and his son succeeded the noble title. Ma Dai reached the position of General who Pacifies the North and was enfeoffed as Marquis of Chencang. Ma Chao’s daughter was married to the King of Anping, Liu Li.
Appraisal: It was said that Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were the match of ten thousand men and tiger generals of their times. Guan Yu repaid Duke Cao and Zhang Fei treated Yan Yan with rectitude; both had the airs of statesmen. However, Guan Yu was headstrong and Zhang Fei crude and heartless. It is the standard moral that they fell due to these weaknesses. Ma Chao relied on the Rong and was conceited in his valiance. For this his entire clan was exterminated, what a ignominy! But to gain peace in such a predicament, is this not some recompense? Huang Zhong and Zhao Yun were firm, courageous and both were of immense service. They were probably the like of Guan Ying and the Lord of Teng [Xiahou Ying].
Copyright © 2002 Jack Yuan
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi
All Rights Reserved