Zhang Changpu
Died257 (aged 58)[1]
SpouseZhong Yao
ChildrenZhong Hui

Zhang Changpu (199–257)[1] was a concubine of Zhong Yao, a high minister of the state of Wei in the Three Kingdoms period of China. She was also the mother of Zhong Hui, a Wei general who played a significant role in the conquest of Wei's rival state, Shu, in 263. Her given name was not recorded in history; "Changpu" was actually her courtesy name.[2] According to her biography written by Zhong Hui, she was a strict mother to Zhong Hui and played a significant role in his early education. She was also known for her virtuous conduct and wisdom.


The only extant source on Zhang Changpu's life is a biography of her written by her son, Zhong Hui. In the fifth century, Pei Songzhi incorporated parts of her biography as annotations to her son's biography in the historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi), which was written by Chen Shou in the third century.[citation needed]

Zhang Changpu was from Zishi County (茲氏縣), Taiyuan Commandery (太原郡), which is around present-day Fenyang, Shanxi. Her ancestors served as officials under the government of the Han dynasty and had an income of about 2,000 dan (石) of grain. She lost her parents at a young age and was married to Zhong Yao as one of his concubines. She earned praise from the Zhong household for her observance of the proprieties in her behaviour and excellent moral conduct.[2]

Conflict with Lady Sun

Zhong Yao had another concubine, Lady Sun (孫氏), who was very jealous of her husband's other spouses and constantly sought to harm them or make them fall out of her husband's favour. When Zhang Changpu was pregnant with Zhong Hui, Lady Sun attempted to harm her and her unborn child by poisoning her food. However, Zhang Changpu was alert and she vomited out the food when she sensed that there was something wrong with it. Nevertheless, the effects of the poison still caused her to become unconscious for a few days. When she recovered, a servant advised her to tell Zhong Yao about the incident,[3] but she replied:

"Conflict between family members will cause the family to break up. There have been many of such cases in the past. Even if my husband believes me, who else can bear witness to the incident? She (Lady Sun) expects me to tell my husband about the incident, so she will definitely try to preempt me by letting my husband know before I tell him. In doing so, she will end up breaking the news to my husband first. Wouldn't this turn the situation to my advantage?"[4]

She then claimed that she was ill and remained indoors.[5]

As Zhang Changpu predicted, Lady Sun told Zhong Yao: "I wanted her (Zhang Changpu) to have a male child, so I gave her a drug that would increase her chances of becoming pregnant with a male child, yet she accused me of poisoning her!" Zhong Yao said: "It doesn't make sense for you to secretly put into someone's food a drug that would increase a woman's chances of becoming pregnant with a male child" He then summoned the servants, questioned them, and found out the truth. He then asked Zhang Changpu why she did not let him know about Lady Sun's deed, and her reply was the same as her earlier response to the servant. Zhong Yao was greatly surprised and very impressed with Zhang Changpu's virtuous behaviour. Zhang Changpu gave birth to Zhong Hui in 225 and became even more favoured by her husband. Zhong Yao also divorced Lady Sun and made another of his concubines, Lady Jia (賈氏), his formal spouse.[6] Pei Songzhi remarked that Zhong Yao's decision to designate one of his concubines as his formal spouse (even though he was already very old) was in accordance with Confucius's teachings in the Book of Rites.[7] The Wei Shi Chunqiu mentioned that there was a rumour that Zhong Yao divorced Lady Sun because he favoured Zhang Changpu. Empress Dowager Bian heard the rumour and wanted to know if it was true, so the Wei emperor, Cao Pi, summoned Zhong Yao to ask him. Zhong Yao turned furious and tried to commit suicide by consuming poison but failed, so he consumed spices until his teeth started chattering. Cao Pi then stopped asking him about it.[8]

Educating Zhong Hui

Zhang Changpu was known for being a strict mother to Zhong Hui. She made him read extensively since he was a child and ensured that he was already well versed in the Confucian classics and other books by the time he grew up. When he was four, she made him read the Classic of Filial Piety. When he was seven, she made him read the Analects. When he was eight, she made him read the Classic of Poetry. When he was ten, she made him read the Book of Documents. When he was 11, she made him read the Yijing. When he was 12, she made him read the Spring and Autumn Annals, Zuo Zhuan and Guoyu. When he was 13, she made him read the Book of Rites and Rites of Zhou. When he was 14, she made him read the Yiji (易記) written by his father. When he was 15, she sent him to the Imperial Academy (太學) to learn from a wider range of sources. She once told Zhong Hui: "When you read too much, you become tired of reading. When you become tired of reading, you become lazy. I was worried that you would become lazy, so I decided to make you read in a progressive manner. Now you are able to learn independently." Zhang Changpu herself was also known for being well read, and she was particularly interested in the Yijing and Daodejing. She liked to quote Confucius's teachings and use them to educate her son and make him memorise them until he became so familiar with them.[9]

Reaction towards the Incident at Gaoping Tombs

See also: Incident at Gaoping Tombs

In 247, when Zhong Hui was appointed as a Gentleman of Writing (尚書郎), Zhang Changpu held her son's hand and cautioned him against self-indulgence. Around the time, the regent Cao Shuang, who dominated the scene in the Wei imperial court, spent his time indulging in alcohol and lavish banquets. When Zhong Hui's elder half-brother, Zhong Yu (鍾毓), returned from one of Cao Shuang's banquets, he told Zhong Hui and Zhang Changpu about what he saw. Zhang Changpu remarked that Cao Shuang would bring about his own downfall eventually because of his extravagant lifestyle.[10]

In 249, Zhong Hui accompanied the Wei emperor Cao Fang on a visit to the Gaoping Tombs (高平陵), where the previous emperors were buried. Around this time, Cao Shuang's co-regent, Sima Yi, used the opportunity to launch a coup to seize power from Cao Shuang. Zhang Changpu remained calm and composed after receiving news about the coup, while others started panicking. The officials Liu Fang (劉放), Wei Guan, Xiahou He and others were puzzled about Zhang Changpu's reaction, so they asked her: "Lady, your son is in danger. Why aren't you worried?" Zhang Changpu replied: "The General-in-Chief (Cao Shuang) has been leading an extravagant life, and I have long suspected that he won't have peace. The Grand Tutor (Sima Yi) will overcome the General-in-Chief with his righteous actions that don't endanger the Empire. My son is with the Emperor, so what is there to worry about? I also heard that this coup doesn't involve heavily armed troops, so I guess it won't last long." The situation turned out to be as she expected. Sima Yi successfully seized power from Cao Shuang and eliminated him later, while Zhong Hui was not harmed in the coup.[11]

Advice to Zhong Hui

Zhong Hui became a skilled practitioner of power politics and strategy after more than ten years of service in the Wei imperial court. One day, Zhang Changpu told her son:[12]

"In the past, Fan Xuanzi's youngest son helped Zhao Jianzi design a strategy to conquer the Zhu state. The plan succeeded and the people were happy. Fan Xuanzi's son was praised for his contribution. However, his mother felt that the use of cunning and deceitful means is nothing to be proud of, and the use of such means won't last in the long term. She was highly perceptive and had very keen foresight. I really admire her. As long as your heart is morally right, I won't blame you for what you do. People often say there's a need to change the moral culture of our time to emulate that of the past, but no one is able to actually live up to such standards. You may use cunning and deceitful means, but you should also honour your word. The key idea is to strike a good balance between achieving these two (conflicting) goals and know when to do what."[13]

Zhong Hui then asked his mother: "Isn't this what a xiaoren should do?"[14] She replied:

"A junzi's great deeds are the results of the accumulation of small good deeds. If you do small good deeds for the sake of doing them and without the aim of fulfilling a greater purpose, you're doing what a xiaoren would do. If you can follow in the footsteps of great men, I can't be more happy."[15]

Zhang Changping's teaching of Confucian values to her son probably had a strong influence on him in his daily life. He led a simple and frugal lifestyle, wore clothes made of plain dark blue cloth, personally did household chores, and declined to accept large sums of money or precious gifts. He did not keep for himself the rewards, in the form of gold, silver, silk, etc., he received from the imperial court for his contributions, and instead stored them in his family's shared treasury.[16]


Zhang Changpu died of illness at the age of 59 (by East Asian age reckoning) in 257. The Wei emperor Cao Mao issued an imperial decree ordering the regent Sima Zhao to arrange for her funeral and pay for all the expenses.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c (年五十有九,甘露二年二月暴疾薨。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  2. ^ a b (會為其母傳曰:「夫人張氏,字昌蒲,太原茲氏人,太傅定陵成侯之命婦也。世長吏二千石。夫人少喪父母,充成侯家,脩身正行,非禮不動,為上下所稱述。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  3. ^ (貴妾孫氏,攝嫡專家,心害其賢,數讒毀无所不至。孫氏辨博有智巧,言足以飾非成過,然竟不能傷也。及姙娠,愈更嫉妬,乃置藥食中,夫人中食,覺而吐之,瞑眩者數日。或曰:『何不向公言之?』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  4. ^ (荅曰:『嫡庶相害,破家危國,古今以為鑒誡。假如公信我,衆誰能明其事?彼以心度我,謂我必言,固將先我;事由彼發,顧不快耶!』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  5. ^ (遂稱疾不見。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  6. ^ (孫氏果謂成侯曰:『妾欲其得男,故飲以得男之藥,反謂毒之!』成侯曰:『得男藥佳事,闇於食中與人,非人情也。』遂訊侍者具服,孫氏由是得罪出。成侯問夫人何能不言,夫人言其故,成侯大驚,益以此賢之。黃初六年,生會,恩寵愈隆。成侯旣出孫氏,更納正嫡賈氏。」) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  7. ^ (臣松之案:鍾繇于時老矣,而方納正室。蓋禮所云宗子雖七十无无主婦之義也。) Pei Songzhi's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  8. ^ (魏氏春秋曰:會母見寵於繇,繇為之出其夫人。卞太后以為言,文帝詔繇復之。繇恚憤,將引鴆,弗獲,餐椒致噤,帝乃止。) Wei Shi Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  9. ^ (其母傳曰:「夫人性矜嚴,明於教訓,會雖童稚,勤見規誨。年四歲授孝經,七歲誦論語,八歲誦詩,十歲誦尚書,十一誦易,十二誦春秋左氏傳、國語,十三誦周禮、禮記,十四誦成侯易記,十五使入太學問四方奇文異訓。謂會曰:『學猥則倦,倦則意怠;吾懼汝之意怠,故以漸訓汝,今可以獨學矣。』雅好書籍,涉歷衆書,特好易、老子,每讀易孔子說鳴鶴在陰、勞謙君子、藉用白茅、不出戶庭之義,每使會反覆讀之,曰:『易三百餘爻,仲尼特說此者,以謙恭慎密,樞機之發,行己至要,榮身所由故也,順斯術已往,足為君子矣。』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  10. ^ (正始八年,會為尚書郎,夫人執會手而誨之曰:『汝弱冠見叙,人情不能不自足,則損在其中矣,勉思其戒!』是時大將軍曹爽專朝政,日縱酒沈醉,會兄侍中毓宴還,言其事。夫人曰:『樂則樂矣,然難乆也。居上不驕,制節謹度,然後乃無危溢之患。今奢僭若此,非長守富貴之道。』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  11. ^ (嘉平元年,車駕朝高平陵,會為中書郎,從行。相國宣文侯始舉兵,衆人恐懼,而夫人自若。中書令劉放、侍郎衞瓘、夏侯和等家皆怪問:『夫人一子在危難之中,何能無憂?』荅曰:『大將軍奢僭無度,吾常疑其不安。太傅義不危國,必為大將軍舉耳。吾兒在帝側何憂?聞且出兵無他重器,其勢必不乆戰。』果如其言,一時稱明。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  12. ^ (會歷機密十餘年,頗豫政謀。夫人謂曰: ...) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  13. ^ (... 『昔范氏少子為趙簡子設伐邾之計,事從民恱,可謂功矣。然其母以為乘偽作詐,末業鄙事,必不能乆。其識本深遠,非近人所言,吾常樂其為人。汝居心正,吾能免矣。但當脩所志以輔益時化,不忝先人耳。常言人誰能皆體自然,但力行不倦,抑亦其次。雖接鄙賤,必以言信。取與之間,分畫分明。』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  14. ^ (或問:『此無乃小乎?』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  15. ^ (荅曰:『君子之行,皆積小以致高大,若以小善為無益而弗為,此乃小人之事耳。希通慕大者,吾所不好。』) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  16. ^ (會自幼少,衣不過青紺,親營家事,自知恭儉。然見得思義,臨財必讓。會前後賜錢帛數百萬計,悉送供公家之用,一無所取。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  17. ^ (年五十有九,甘露二年二月暴疾薨。比葬,天子有手詔,命大將軍高都侯厚加賵贈,喪事無巨細,一皆供給。議者以為公侯有夫人,有世婦,有妻,有妾,所謂外命婦也。依春秋成風、定姒之義,宜崇典禮,不得緫稱妾名,於是稱成侯命婦。殯葬之事,有取於古制,禮也。」) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.