Encyclopedia: Ma Chao

Ma Chao (Mengqi); Ma Ch‘ao (Mêng-ch‘i); 馬超 (孟起)

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You are viewing the profile of Ma Chao (馬超), styled Mengqi (孟起), born in Maoling County, Fufeng Prefecture. “Served Shu after fleeing from the north. Third of the Five Tiger Generals.” Ma Chao was affiliated with Ma Teng, Zhang Lu and the Shu Kingdom. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Ma Chao (Mengqi) 馬超 (孟起)

Lived: AD 176–222


Served: Ma Teng, Ma Chao, Zhang Lu, Shu

Served Shu after fleeing from the north. Third of the Five Tiger Generals.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Ma Ch‘ao (Mêng-ch‘i)
Simplified Chinese: 马超 (孟起)
Pronunciation: Ma3 Chao1 (Meng4qi4Pronunciation
Cantonese (Yale): Ma Chiu (Maang-hei)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Maa Ciu (Maang-hei)
Min-Nan: Ma Tiauw (Beng-ki)

Birthplace: Maoling County, Fufeng Prefecture

Rank and Titles

Subordinate Officer of Sili Xiaowei (Sili Xiaowei Dujun Congshi); Lieutenant-General; General Who Conquers the West (self-proclaimed); General Who Subdues the West and Colonel Consultant of the Army; Marquis of Duting; General of the Left; General of the Agile Cavalry and Provincial Governor of Liang (AD 221); Marquis of Lixiang (AD 221); Marquis of Yuewei (posthumous); One of the “Five Tiger Generals”

Groups and Associations

Five Tiger Generals of Shu ƒ

Family and Relationships

Ma Teng (Father); Ma Xiu, Ma Tie (Brothers); Ma Yunlu ƒ (Sister); Ma Qin, Ma Cheng (Sons); Lady Ma (Daughter); Lady Dong (Secondary Wife); Ma Dai (Cousin); Liu Li married Lady Ma (Son-in-law)

Fact vs. Fiction

Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction

  • Ma Chao probably did not participate in Ma Teng’s attack on Li Jue. If he did fight in this campaign, he did not slay Wang Fang or capture Li Meng.
  • Ma Chao commanded Ma Teng’s troops in the Battle of Fen River (AD 202), a battle that is not mentioned in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
  • Ma Chao did not slay Li Tong around Tong Pass.
  • Contrary to the novel, Ma Teng, Chao’s father, was killed after Ma Chao rebelled against Cao Cao.
  • Ma Chao never fought a large battle with Zhong Yao.
  • Historical sources do not mention Ma Chao dueling with Yu Jin, Cao Hong, Zhang He or Li Tong. Ma Chao also didn’t come close to slaying Cao Cao at Tong.
  • Xu Chu, Cao Cao’s bodyguard, did not strip down and duel with Ma Chao historically.
  • Ma Chao did not historically cut off Han Sui’s left hand.
  • When praising Ma Chao, Yang Fu cited Ying Bu as like Ma Chao, and not Lü Bu.
  • It is not clear if Ma Chao dueled Yang Fu at Licheng. Yang Fu was wounded numerous times in the battle, however.
  • Ma Chao never dueled Zhang Fei at Jiameng Pass or fight with Liu Bei’s army historically.
  • Ma Chao did not guard Xiping or prevent a Xianbei invasion of Shu. In fact, Kebineng, king of the Xianbei, was an enemy of Wei, and never historically warred with Shu.

Literary Appearances

Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 10, 5760, 64, 65, 69, 7074, 77, 79, 81, 8587, 91, 92

Sanguozhi: Shu 2-3, Shu 6, Shu 10, Shu 13, Wei 1, Wei 6, Wei 12-18, Wei 21-25, Wei 8-10, Wei 30, Wu 9

Hou Han shu: 9, 69, 75

Zizhi tongjian: 64-68

Jin Shu: 23, 26

Search Results

Ma Chao, Getting Treated Unfairly by Liu Bei?
Date: 06/13     Replies: 10
Was Ma Chao a Good General for Shu
Date: 11/07     Replies: 63
Ma Chao and Chang’An.
Date: 03/07     Replies: 17
Ma Chao and Zhao Yun
Date: 03/07     Replies: 55
Ma Yunlu (Ma Chao’s Sister; Zhao Yun’s Wife)
Date: 02/07     Replies: 26
Ma Chao’s Loyalty
Date: 12/05     Replies: 8
Did Ma Chao Deserve to Be One of the Five Tigers?
Date: 12/04     Replies: 493
The Qiang Rebellion of 185 and Ma Chao’s Supposed Folly.
Date: 08/04     Replies: 64
Whats the Deal Wit All the Ma Chao Haters?
Date: 02/04     Replies: 144
Ma Chao!
Date: 06/03     Replies: 45
Zhao Yun, Ma Chao, and Lu Bu
Date: 04/03     Replies: 107
Ma Chao’s Invasion of Wei(historical).
Date: 03/03     Replies: 7
If Ma Chao Wins at Tong Pass?
Date: 10/02     Replies: 20
Your Opinion of Ma Chao?
Date: 06/02     Replies: 89


Ma Chao SGYY Biography
Date: 02/04     Replies: 26
Ma Chao’s Comprehensive Officer Biography
Date: 01/04     Replies: 21


Historic (Confirmed)

Ma Chao was born in Maoling and was the son of Ma Teng, a half-Qiang warlord of the West. In the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Ma Chao is featured as one of the 5 Tiger Generals of Shu. Historically, Ma Chao did not do all that much in the service of Liu Bei, but did accomplish a great deal as the chief successor of his own father, Ma Teng.

Ma Chao commanded his father’s forces at the Battle of Fen River (Pingyang) in AD 202. In this fight, the joint armies under Ma Chao’s and Zhong Yao’s command won a victory against Yuan Shang’s general, Guo Yuan.

In AD 210, Cao Cao summoned Ma Teng to the capital of the Han dynasty (at the time), Xuchang. Ma Chao continued to lead Ma Teng’s troops in the West, however. For a time, there was an uneasy peace between Ma Chao and Cao Cao. When Cao Cao’s general Zhong Yao led his army against Zhang Lu, a neighboring warlord, Ma Chao feared that his clan was in danger. Because of this, Ma Chao and several other Western warlords rose in revolt against Cao Cao. In various battles in AD 211, Cao Cao defeated Ma Chao’s coalition. By AD 213, however, Ma Chao had conquered a string of cities and made somewhat of a comeback. Following a grueling siege, he managed to wrest the particular city of Ji from Wei Kang. Though Ma Chao was able to ward off assaults on Ji led by Cao Cao’s officers (most notably Xiahou Yuan), he was eventually forced out of the city by some of Wei Kang’s former retainers. Struggling against these rebels at Li (AD 213), Ma Chao was decisively defeated and forced to take up residence with the lord of Hanzhong, Zhang Lu. He had been shut out of his own city by mutineers.

Ma Chao next persuaded Zhang Lu to give him troops so that he might renew his war with the loyalists of Wei Kang (most notably Zhao Qu, Liang Kun and Yang Fu). When Ma Chao attempted to avenge his losses, though, he was encountered with staunch resistance. At the Battle of Qi Mountains (AD 214), Xiahou Yuan defeated Ma Chao, once more decisively. Henceforth, Ma Chao went to live with a group of Di barbarians. Soon Ma Chao grew tired of non-action, however, and offered his services to Liu Bei. Liu Bei had his hands full with besieging Chengdu, a city belonging to Liu Zhang at the time. Ma Chao helped in the siege.

Once Chengdu surrendered, Ma Chao was offered multiple ranks by Liu Bei. Liu Bei thereafter asked Ma Chao to go to the Qiang people (who Ma Chao was on good terms with) and introduce Han culture to them. Ma Chao died in AD 222, however, and it is unclear whether or not he succeeded in the last mission that Liu Bei gave him.


http://www.anu.edu.au/asianstudies/decrespigny/peace2_part2.pdf mentions the reinforcement of Ma Chao during the Battle of Fen River.

Ma Chao’s Sanguozhi biography (https://kongming.net/novel/sgz/machao – 2.php) mentions his defeat against Cao Cao and subsequent events.

The Liangzhou Rebellion by G. Haloun (https://kongming.net/novel/sgz/machao – 2.php) also provides some insights about both Ma Chao and his father Ma Teng.



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September 22, 2023