Encyclopedia: Wang Xiang

Wang Xiang (Xiuzheng); Wang Hsiang (Hsiu-chêng); 王祥 (休徵)

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You are viewing the profile of Wang Xiang (王祥), styled Xiuzheng (休徵), born in Langya (modern-day Linyi in Shandong). “Convinced Sima Zhao to name Sima Yan heir, along with Jia Chong, Pei Xiu and others.” Wang Xiang was affiliated with the Wei Kingdom and the Jin Dynasty. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Wang Xiang (Xiuzheng) 王祥 (休徵)

Lived: AD 185–269

None Available

Served: Wei, Jin

Convinced Sima Zhao to name Sima Yan heir, along with Jia Chong, Pei Xiu and others.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Wang Hsiang (Hsiu-chêng)
Simplified Chinese: 王祥 (休征)
Pronunciation: Wang2 Xiang2 (Xiu1zheng1)

Birthplace: Langya
(modern-day Linyi in Shandong)

Rank and Titles

Xu Province Aide-de-Camp, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of the Household, Colonel Director of Retainers, Minister of Ceremonies, Minister of Works, Grand Commandant, Palace Attendant, Grand Guardian, Guannei Marquis, Marqis of Wangsu, Marquis of Suling, Duke of Suiling, Duke Yuan

Family and Relationships

Wang Rong (Father); Wang Lan (Half Brother); Wang Zhao, Wang Xia, Wang Fu, Wang Lie, Wang Fen (Sons); Zhu Shi (Step-Mother); Wang Jun, Wang Rong, Wang Gen (Grandsons)

Literary Appearances

Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 116, 119

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Wang Xiang, stylename Xiuzheng, was from Langya (modern-day Linyi in Shandong), served in the Eastern Han, Wei, and Jin dynasties. He reached the ranks of Minister of Works [sikong 司空] and Grand Commandant [taiwei 太尉] in Wei, and reached Grand Guardian [taibao 太保] in Jin. He was widely known for his filial piety, and was known as one of the 24 paragons of Filial Piety. He is best remembered for an incident where he lied down on ice to get fresh carp for his step-mother. He was also known for his calligraphy, being the ancestor of Wang Xizhi, and the stepbrother of Wang Lan.

As chaos continued in the final years of the Han, Wang Xiang brought his stepmother Zhu Shi and his sibling Wang Lan to Lujiang to avoid the chaos, and lived in seclusion for over 20 years, not responding to nominations for office. Later, the Cao Wei provisional governor Lü Qian traveled to Wang Xiang to appoint him Aide-de-Camp [biejia 別駕], Wang Xiang initially refused, but Wang Lan advised him to accept, and prepared an ox cart, to which Wang Xiang agreed. Lü Qian wanted Wang Xiang to handle Xu Province civil cases. At that time there were robbers within the borders, so Wang Xiang convinced the troops to repeatedly patrol to deal with the robbers, and brought peace to the region, while at the same time easily carrying out his policy. The local people all praised Wang Xiang.

He later selected scholars to be the Wenxian magistrates, and was later appointed Grand Minister of Agriculture [da sinong 大司農]. In 254, the noble Cao Mao took the throne, and because he participated in Sima Shi’s efforts to establish Cao Mao as emperor, he was made a Marquis Within the Passes [Guannei Marquis] as well as appointed Minister of the Household [guangluxun 光祿勳]. Later he became Colonel Director of Retainers [silixiaowei 司隸校尉]. The next year, Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin rebelled in Shouchun and Wang Xiang followed Sima Shi to suppress them. After the war he was granted the tax revenue of 400 households and was made Marquis of Wansui. He was also promoted to be Minister of Ceremonies [taichang太常]. Later as the emperor Cao Mao began his studies at the imperial college, Wang Xiang would be appointed one of the three aged, become the Emperor’s teacher, and instruct him in how to rule.

In 259, Cao Mao tried to overthrow Sima Zhao, but was killed by Jia Chong and Cheng Ji. The counselors all grieved over his death, with Wang Xiang’s face full of tears, bawling “Insolent Servant” and made everyone feel embarrassed. In 260, he was promoted to be Minister of Works [sikong 司空]. In 264 he was promoted to the rank of Grand Commandant [taiwei 太尉] as well as being a Palace Attendant [shizhong 事中]. The same year, Sima Zhao would establish 5 ranks of nobility and Wang Xiang was made Marquis of Suiling, with the tax revenue of 1,600 households.

The next year, Sima Yan founded the Jin Empire, Wang Xiang was made Grand Guardian [taibao 太保], was bestowed the Duke of Suiling, as well as adding seven offices. Wang Xiang with He Zeng and Zheng Chong, rarely attended the court to meet with the Emperor due to their ages. Sima Yan as a result sent Ren Kaui to their houses to get their opinions on policy matters. Wang Xiang pleaded many times to resign, but it was always rejected. The Palace Assistant Secretary [yushizhongcheng 禦史中丞] Hou Shiguang requested they be dismissed from their posts due to illness and age, but Sima Yan praised them, saying he still relied on and appreciated them. Additionally, he begged to retire many times, and that it was improper of the person in charge of the Yushitai to discuss such matters. Wang Xiang requested to retire again, so Sima Yan ordered him to stay at his official residence and retain his position, and bestowed upon him many articles as well as making him the [zhangzi wangzhao] to serve in this position.

In 269, Wang Xiang died at the age of 85, and was postumously named Duke Yuan of Suiling.

Wang Xiang was viewed as one of the 24 paragons of Filial Piety, since most people praised him for his filial piety. His birth mother died when he was young, and his step-mother Zhu Shi treated him poorly, to the point of always slandering Wang Xiang when talking to his father Wang Rong. But even if asked to clean up cow poop, he would still be respectful, and when his father grew ill he would still change his clothes out of respect and cook his medicine. When the red apple trees would bloom, his mother would ask him to guard the trees. Wang Xiang would every day, no matter the weather, would approach the apple tree, hug it, and weep, as he was scared the apples would be blown down. Wang Xiang acted this way toward his step-mother for over 30 years. When she died, Wang Xiang made funeral arrangements for her and grieved to the point he was sickly thin, to the point of needing to use a cane to stand up. It is clearly seen that he was extremely filial pious, and that he was not bothered by his step-mother’s extreme treatment.

Wang Xiang received people’s respect, mostly due to his noble virtues. Even when he would show respect to the newly crowned King of Jin Sima Zhao, while Xun Yi would bow before Sima Zhao, Wang Xiang would merely clasp his hands. This is because although Sima Zhao was the honorable King of Jin, and Chancellor, Wang Xiang was still one of the Three Excellencies, with there being little difference in rank, and felt he couldn’t abandon decorum at a whim. This would harm the prestige of Wei, as well as the virtues of Jin. On his death, not only did court officials of Jin pay him respect, but also relatives as well as former officials, with no one holding negative feelings, with his grandson Wang Rong exclaiming “The Grand Guardian could communicate so clearly.”

The story most familiar to people would be the story of him laying on ice to catch carp. In the middle of winter his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish, and Wang Xiang without hesitation went to the freezing lake, stripped off his clothes, and tried to use his body-temperature to melt the ice. As Wang Xiang laid there, the lake suddenly split open, and two carp jumped out so Wang Xiang coud please his step-mother. The people of the time thought it was because his actions moved the heavens. However, the book of Jin says that Wang Xiang merely broke open the ice, and that he didn’t lie on it.

Wang Xiang’s stepmother one time said she wanted to eat cooked Yellow Sparrow, and not long after 10 Yellow Sparrows flew into the house, so he could give his mother food. The neighbors said Wang Xiang’s filial piety moved the heavens.

Wang Xiang got along well with his brother Wang Lan, with Wang Xiang being whipped numerous times by his mother, while Wang Lan would try to hold his mother back begging her to stop. A while later, he would advise his mother not to mistreat Wang Xiang, and Zhu Shi would show some restraint. Later, when Zhu Shi had a difficult task for Wang Xiang, Wang Lan would immediately go to help his brother; This extended to that if Zhu Shi gave a difficult task to Wang Xiang’s wife and kids, Wang Lan’s wife and kids would help as well. At this point Zhu Shi stopped with the tasks. As Wang Xiang’s reputation grew, Zhu Shi hated him more and more, and planned to poison Wang Xiang’s wine to kill him. Wang Lan knew of this and had the same drink as Wang Xiang, which made Zhu Shi scared that she’d poison Wang Lan, abandoning her plan. Later, when Zhu Shi would cook food for Wang Xiang, Wang Lan would always taste it first, so Zhu Shi would be afraid of poisoning Wang Lan, and would abandon the idea of poisoning Wang Xiang to death.

The Shishuoxinyu, chapter on Morality and Conduct, said that Zhu Shi once in the middle of the night tried to behead Wang Xiang, but Wang Xiang was not in his bed and she only cut the air. When Wang Xiang discovered this, he kneeled before her and asked her to kill him, which finally moved Zhu Shi to at long last look upon Wang Xiang as her own son.



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April 10, 2023