Encyclopedia: Zhang Yu

Zhang Yu (Nanhe); Chang Yü (Nan-ho); 張裕 (南和)

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You are viewing the profile of Zhang Yu (張裕), styled Nanhe (南和), born in Shu. “Divined Liu Bei’s death nine years after taking Yizhou. Executed by Liu Bei.” Zhang Yu was affiliated with Liu Zhang and the Shu Kingdom. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Zhang Yu (Nanhe) 張裕 (南和)

Lived: Unlisted

None Available

Served: Liu Zhang, Shu

Divined Liu Bei’s death nine years after taking Yizhou. Executed by Liu Bei.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Chang Yü (Nan-ho)
Simplified Chinese: 张裕 (南和)
Pronunciation: Zhang1 Yu4 (Nan2he2)
Cantonese (Yale): Jeung Yu (Naam-wo)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Zoeng Jyu (Naam-wo)

Birthplace: Shu

Rank and Titles

Assistant Officer

Literary Appearances

Sanguozhi: Shu 12

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Historic (Confirmed)

Zhang Yu, styled Nanhe, was a scholar of Ba Shu who first served under Liu Zhang and later Liu Bei. When Liu Bei met Liu Zhang at Fu Zhang Yu was serving as Liu Zhang’s secretary, and took part in the meeting. Liu Bei, observing Zhang Yu’s great beard, decided to slander him. He said, “Back when I was living in Zhuo county there were many with the surname Mao. From east to west, north to south, there were Maos living everywhere. The magistrate would exclaim, ‘All the Maos living around Zhuo!’” (1)

(1): The word for ‘all’, 諸, sounds like the word for ‘pig’ (豬 zhu); the surname 毛 Mao is also the word for ‘hair’. The word for ‘beak’ (like bird’s beak) is also pronounced ‘zhuo’. So Liu Bei’s pun meant: “Pig bristles all around your beak.”

To this, Zhang Yu replied, “Once there was a mayor of Lu in Shangdang who was promoted to be the magistrate of Zhuo. After while he retired adn went back home. When he wrote letters he would miss the fact that he served in Zhuo if he only signed himself as Lu, and if he signed himself as Zhuo people might not know he worked in Lu. And so, he would sign ‘Master Lu-Zhuo’.” (2) Because Liu Bei had no beard Zhang Yu used that as a come-back, and thus Liu Bei always bore a grudge against him.

(2): Lu sounds the same as the word meaning ‘bare’, 露. Since ‘Zhuo’ is homophonous with ‘beak’, Zhang Yu’s pun reads: “Master Bare-beak.”

Now Zhang Yu was also a skilled diviner. Some time later, having advised against Liu Bei campaigning in Hanzhong, he predicted and would tell people, “When the year reaches Geng-zi the realm will change hands. The reign of the Liu house will be over. Although our lord will gain Yizhou he will lose it nine years later during the Yin-Mao time.” Somebody reported this to Liu Bei.

Liu Bei, still resentful, had Zhang Yu arrested and thrown in prison. When Zhuge Liang heard of this he wrote Liu Bei asking what crimes Zhang Yu had committed. Liu Bei responded, “Pretentious weeds growing outside one’s door must be eliminated,” and had Zhang Yu executed in the marketplace.

Afterward Wei was established and Liu Bei died, all according to Zhang Yu’s predictions. Zhang Yu was also trained in physiognomy. Whenever he saw his own face in a mirror he knew he would die by execution and he would throw the mirror onto the floor. (3)

(3): Thanked to Lady Wu for these translations. SGZ Shu 12



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April 10, 2023