Encyclopedia: Deng Ai

Deng Ai (Shizai); Têng Ai (Shih-tsai); 鄧艾 (士載)

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You are viewing the profile of Deng Ai (鄧艾), styled Shizai (士載), born in Jiyang county, Yiyang commandery. “Campaigned against Shu with Zhong Hui and brilliantly struck Chengdu.” Deng Ai was affiliated with and the Wei Kingdom. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Deng Ai (Shizai) 鄧艾 (士載)

Lived: AD c.197–264


Served: Wei

Campaigned against Shu with Zhong Hui and brilliantly struck Chengdu.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Têng Ai (Shih-tsai)
Simplified Chinese: 邓艾 (士载)
Pronunciation: Deng1 Ai4 (Shi4zai3Pronunciation
Cantonese (Yale): Dang Ngaai (Si-joi)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Dang Ngaai (Si-zoi)
Min-Nan: Teng Ngay (Su-cay)

Birthplace: Jiyang county, Yiyang commandery

Rank and Titles

Imperial Secretariat Gentleman; Governor of Nan’an; Duke of Guannei; General Who Suppresses Bandits; Governor of Chengyang; Governor of Runan; Governor of Yanzhou; General Who Establishes Prestige; Duke of Fangcheng; Duke of Fangcheng Xiang; Deputy General Who Pacifies the West; Duke of Deng; General Who Suppresses the West; General Who Conquers the West; Grand Commandant

Family and Relationships

Deng Zhong (Son)

Literary Appearances

Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 107, 110118, 119, 120

Sanguozhi: Wei 28

Search Results

Deng Ai vs Zhuge Liang
Date: 01/12     Replies: 74
Deng Ai Question
Date: 09/07     Replies: 15
Deng Ai Overated ?
Date: 08/07     Replies: 20
Deng Ai, a Match for Kongming?
Date: 04/06     Replies: 78
Zhong Hui and Deng Ai
Date: 11/04     Replies: 17
Zhong Hui and Deng Ai’s Numbers
Date: 09/04     Replies: 17
Xiahou Ba’s Comments on Deng Ai
Date: 09/04     Replies: 14
Deng Ai
Date: 02/04     Replies: 19
Who is Better Jiang Wei or Deng Ai
Date: 03/03     Replies: 157
Jiang Wei, Deng Ai, and Lu Kang
Date: 06/02     Replies: 158


Comprehensive Biography for Deng Ai
Date: 05/18     Replies: 13


Historic (Confirmed)

Deng Ai, perhaps the the greatest general of Wei, had an extensive career flush with victories. In the end, he was largely responsible for the defeat of Shu-Han at the hands of Wei. Deng Ai also had a serious stutter which he was made fun of commonly for and nicknamed himself, “Deng-eng-eng Ai.” His career will be outlined below.

-In AD 241, Deng Ai proposed digging canals and creating military agricultural colonies (tuntian) in the Southeast. His plans were approved by the court. Deng Ai’s suggestions were noted to have increased Wei’s store of provisions. (1)

-In AD 249, the Shu-Han general Jiang Wei decided to invade Yongzhou and build two fortresses in the region. Guo Huai, Chen Tai and Deng Ai went on campaign against him. They defeated the generals that Jiang Wei had installed and cut Jiang Wei off from reinforcing his subordinates. Guo Huai and Chen Tai then moved to strike rebellious Qiang tribes to the West. Deng Ai was left behind to fend off Jiang Wei. Jiang Wei sent a small force under Liao Hua to confront Deng Ai. Meanwhile, Jiang Wei and a larger host attacked Taocheng. Deng Ai accurately predicted Jiang Wei’s movements and impeded him from making any progress. Jiang Wei, in the end, retreated. (2)

-In AD 251, Deng Ai proposed that the Wei court confer honors upon lesser chiefs of the Xiongnu. He also proposed that the Xiongnu communities be segregated from the Chinese. He hoped this would increase dissension among the Xiongnu, which were growing in number within Bing province. Sima Shi, who was the dominant regent at the Wei court at the time, adopted his proposals. (3) It is interesting to note that Deng Ai’s suggestions on this matter had, at best, short-term success. The Xiongnu under Liu Yuan and Liu Yao were able to topple the Western Jin dynasty (Xiong xcii). Deng Ai, though, at least had the foresight to acknowledge the Xiongnu as a major threat to internal stability.

-In AD 255, Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin launched an insurrection against Wei from the city of Shouchun. Deng Ai received news of the rebellion and led tens of thousands of troops to aid in its suppression. He joined Sima Shi in helping to successfully crush the forces of Wen Qin. (4) In the same year, the Shu-Han general Jiang Wei won his greatest victory at the battle of Tao River. Wei was shaken by the defeat, but Chen Tai and Deng Ai effectively reinforced the city of Didao and forced Jiang Wei to withdraw. (5)

-In AD 256, Jiang Wei launched another invasion. Deng Ai successfully thwarted Jiang Wei’s initial forays by occupying high ground. He then fought with Jiang Wei at Duan Valley and won a decisive victory. Jiang Wei had counted upon the arrival of reinforcements from Hu Ji, which never came. (6)

-In AD 257, Zhuge Dan launched a rebellion against Wei and Jiang Wei took the opportunity to launch another campaign. Deng Ai and Sima Wang drew up forces to defend against Jiang Wei. Jiang Wei offered battle with Deng Ai and Sima Wang, but the latter refused to fight. Jiang Wei eventually withdrew. (7)

-In AD 262, Deng Ai once again defeated Jiang Wei in a battle at Houhe. (8) Sima Zhao, the dominant regent of Wei at the time, plotted with Zhong Hui to invade Shu-Han. Deng Ai initially opposed invading Shu-Han but eventually acquiesced. (9)

-In AD 263, Deng Ai was selected as one of the top commanders for an invasion of Shu-Han. His troops pressed forward along with other divisions led by Zhong Hui and Zhuge Xu. At Qiangshui, subordinates of Deng Ai won a victory against Jiang Wei, forcing him to retreat. (10) Jiang Wei, however, was able to outmaneuver the Wei forces and join up with other Shu-Han forces led by Liao Hua, Zhang Yi and Dong Jue. The Shu-Han forces proceeded to Jian’ge. Here, Jiang Wei successfully resisted the Wei general Zhong Hui. Zhong Hui’s troops were low on provisions and Zhong Hui seriously contemplated retreating. (11) Deng Ai, however, proposed an ambitious plan of circumventing the troops of Jiang Wei entirely and converging directly upon the Shu-Han capital of Chengdu. He had his troops traverse uninhabited terrain, building roads and bridges where necessary, in order to catch Shu-Han by surprise. As his troops passed through dangerous territory, they faced numerous difficulties and ran low on provisions as well. When Deng Ai reached Jiangyou, however, the Shu-Han general Ma Miao surrendered.

Zhuge Zhan led troops to resist Deng Ai, but Zhan’s vanguard was defeated in an initial engagement. Deng Ai thereafter enticed Zhuge Zhan to surrender, but did not succeed. Seeing that Zhuge Zhan was intractable, Deng Ai dispatched his son, Deng Zhong, along with another general, Shi Zuan, to attack Zhuge Zhan’s right and left flanks. Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan were defeated in an initial skirmish and complained that Zhuge Zhan’s troops were unstoppable. In response, Deng Ai threatened to execute both Shi Zuan and his own son. Their very lives on the line, Shi Zuan and Deng Zhong returned to fight Zhuge Zhan again and this time scored a decisive victory. Zhuge Zhan, his general Huang Chong and Zhuge Zhan’s son Zhuge Shang all died in battle. (12)

Deng Ai had by now achieved the unthinkable. He had marched through inconceivably difficult terrain, outmaneuvered Shu-Han armies, caught several Shu-Han garrisons by surprise and destroyed the last major force Shu-Han had to defend their capital. As Deng Ai’s forces approached the city of Chengdu, the officials of Shu-Han debated about what course they should take. In the end, the Emperor of Shu-Han, Liu Shan, decided to surrender to Deng Ai. (13)

-Deng Ai died the following year, in AD 264. Despite being the conqueror of Shu-Han and one of the greatest heroes of Wei, he was caught in a web of intrigue and executed, probably falsely, as a traitor along with his sons. (14)


1: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 241, Point 10.

2: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms AD 249, Points 27–28

3: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms AD 251, Point 18

4: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms AD 255, Points 16–20

5: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms AD 255, Points 37–40

6: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms AD 256, Points 7–9

7: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 257, Point 17

8: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 262, Point 4

9: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 262, Point 18

10: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 263, Point 10

11: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 263, Points 17–18

12: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 263, Points 19–23

13: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 263, Points 24–25

14: Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, AD 264, Points 14–16

Works Cited:

Sima Guang. Zizhi Tongjian. Trans. Achilles Fang. N.p.: Harvard University Press, 1952. Print.

Xiong, Victor Cunrui., and Victor Cunrui. Xiong. The A to Z of Medieval China. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2010. Print.



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September 22, 2023