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A Chinese Biographical Dictionary/Chang Liang


88Chang Liang 張良 (T. 子房). Died B.C. 187. A native of the Hana State, in which his immediate ancestors had been Ministers for five generations. He was so chagrined at the destruction of his fatherland by the Ch'ins that he determined upon revenge, and spent the whole of his patrimony in collecting a band of bravoes, with whom he tried to slay the First Emperor by lying in ambush for him in modern Honan. The plot failed, and Chang Liang changed his name, and went into hiding in Kiangsu. There he one day fell in with an old man who had dropped his shoe over the bridge. The old man begged him to go down and fetch it, which he immediately did; and kneeling down, placed it upon the owner's foot. "Ah!" exclaimed the latter, "you are worth teaching." Whereupon he produced a book, and gave it to Chang, saying, "Read this, and you will become the teacher of princes." The book turned out to be the 太公兵法 — whatever that may have been. Subsequently, when Liu Pang attacked Hsia-p'ei, he took Chang Liang into his service; and when Hsiang Liang restored the kingdom of Han under Prince Ch'êng, Chang was prepared to devote himself to the service of his native land; but the murder of Prince Ch'êng by Hsiang Chi caused him to return to Liu Pang, whose trusty counsellor he became, and by whom he was ennobled as Marquis. In B.C. 200, after his accession to the throne, Liu Pang, who gave to Chang Liang, Ch'ên P'ing, and Han Hsin (some substitute Hsiao Ho) the name of the 三傑 Three Heroes, openly declared that his success had been chiefly due to the far-reaching counsels of the first. Among these counsels must be mentioned the treacherous violation of the treaty of Kuang-wu, by which Liu Pang compassed the defeat and death of his great rival Hsiang Chi, and which has been censured by Chinese historians as quite unworthy of the otherwise upright character of Chang Liang. From this date he took no further interest in public affairs. "With my three inches of tongue," he said, "I have risen to be the teacher of princes, and have been ennobled. 'Tis all that a man of the people could expect. I would now renounce the world, and follow in the steps of Ch'ih Sung Tzǔ." He then began to leave off food, according to a system which promised the gradual lightening of the body and the ultimate attainment of immortality. In this, however, he failed; because, it was said, he once yielded to the solicitations of the Empress, and ate a little rice. Canonised as 文成.