Zhang Fei, also seen as Chang Fei
or Ordinary Name
to Liu Bei
) and Guan Yu
A central character throughout Luo Guan Zhong's epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel based on the Three Kingdoms period of China, circa 2nd century A.D.. The character of Zhang Fei is based on a historical figure as almost all of the novel's characters are.
Zhang Fei was a prosperous farmer, wine seller and butcher before the Yellow Turbans' began their revolt. He met Liu Bei in the Cho District of China when the later was looking at notice calling for volunteer troops. Zhang Fei, overhearing Liu Bei sigh as he looked at the notice, asked why Bei sighed but did nothing. This prompted Bei into action. The two would soon meet Guan Yu. Together the three swore themselves as brothers, to serve one another and to live and die together in righteousness. This was the "Peach Tree Oath", and would become a central occurence in the development of the era.
Zhang Fei fought with an eighteen foot spear. Together with Fei's formidable figure and bristling mustache, these made him a noticeable figure on any battlefield. Fei quickly gained a reputation of ferocity and as a skilled commander, able to lead troops through many different circumstances.
Unfortunately Fei was also a heavy drinker, rash, headstrong and prone to brutality to his troops. For much of the early part of the journeys and tribulations with his brothers these qualities made Bei loath to entrust him with any responsibility.
During the Yellow Turbans' revolution and the fights against Dong Zhou (Tung Cho), Fei distinguished himself as an awesome fighter in personal combat. His achievements during this time led to a great reputation.
During Liu Bei's occupation of the former lands of Tao Qian, Lu Bu joined the Liu Bei when Bu sought protection from Cao Cao (Tsao Tsao). When Bu was tricked into revolting against Bei, it was Zhang Fei who, after a night of heavy drinking, lost Bei's capitol city to Lu Bu. This became a common trend for Zhang Fei. He would go long periods, where his acts were the thing of legend, then slip up again, giving into his vices and cause his lord, and brother, Bei no end of trouble.
When Liu Bei was fleeing the million man army of Cao Cao, before the Battle of Red Wall, it was Zhang Fei who, standing on the other side of a small bridge, hopelessly outnumbered, still managed to scare Cao Cao so much that the latter ran in fear and Zhao Yun (Chao Yun) had time to escape with Liu Bei's young son. Unfortunately as is normal of Zhang Fei, he let his emotions take a hold of him, destroying the bridge as soon as Cao's troops where gone. This act served as a bulletin to Cao that the whole thing had been a farce. Fei had not had as many troops as Cao thought and thus might have been defeated had only Cao tried.
It must be noted though, that for a long time Zhang Fei managed to improve upon the control of his vices. When Bei invaded Ichou, it was Fei who, in a great moment of brilliance, showed compassion to the captured Yan Yan (Yen Yen) and released him, even after Yan had shown defiance to Fei. Yan Yan would become invaluable, helping Zhang Fei gain support for Bei on the march west, convincing officer after officer of Liu Zhang's (Liu Chang) to support Bei. This quick conquest of the western ends of Ichou allowed Fei to reach his lord just in time to save him from ambush.
When Liu Bei became the leader of Shu, he stationed Zhang Fei in the Langchung (Langzhong) area. Fei would rule well there and protect the area during the years of peace.
When Guan Yu was killed by Sun Quan's (Sun Ch'uan) forces in the loss of the Chingchou region, Fei overcome with grief began to drink heavily again. He became increasingly violent to his troops. When he received the orders to march with Liu Bei to gain revenge on Wu, Zhang Fei pushed his troops much too hard, angering his soldiers and officers. One night, after Fei had drunk himself to sleep, two assassins, Fan Chiang and Chang Ta, snuck into his tent. Once they had made sure that Fei truly was asleep, they both stabbed him to death. They then decapitated him and fled to Wu with their "proof".
Zhang Fei had died at the hands of his own troops at the age 55. Robbing his lord of the much needed troops and a great leader. Bei would not survive his last brother by long.
Note :: All names in parentheses () are alternate spellings, or in some cases familiar names that are used very often in the novel.