An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhang Yi 張儀

Dec 5, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhang Yi 張儀 (d. 310 BCE) was a political advisor of the state of Yan 燕 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). He is counted among the group of coalition advisors or diplomatists (zonghengjia 縱橫家).

Zhang Yi hailed from Wei and entered the service of the duke of Qin 秦, who is known as King Huiwei 秦惠文王 (r. 337-311) with the post of chief minister for visitors (keqing 客卿). In 328, Zhang Yi and Prince Hua 華 led the army of Qin against the state of Wei 魏. The victorious campaign was enough reason for Zhang Yi's ascension to the post of Counsellor-in-Chief.

In 325, when the duke adopted the title of king, Zhang Yi met with the highest ministers of the states of Qi 齊, Chu 楚 and Wei at an interstate conference in Niesang 齧桑. Afterwards he left Qin and became Counsellor-in-chief of Wei.

In 317, he returned to Qin, only to leave it four years later to become Chief minister of Chu. He returned to Qi, but in 310 he again left Qin because he was at odds with the new ruler, King Wu 秦武王 (r. 310-307). He died in the same year in Wei.

The historical sources in the Zhanguoce 戰國策 and Shiji 史記 are not correct in respect to the relationship between Zhang Yi and the other eminent coalition strategist, Su Qin 蘇秦.

Zhang Yi was the older of the two and, for a long time, the more famous persons. Only later Su Qin overshadowed Zhang Yi, and his lifetime was projected back, making him a contemporary of Zhang. Zhang Yi is mentioned together with other famous persons, like Gongsun Yan 公孫衍, Hui Shi 惠施, or Chen Zhen 陳軫.

The imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 lists a book Zhangzi 張子 "Master Zhang", in ten chapters. It is unfortunately lost.

On a bronze halberd from that time, an inscription is preserved which says that the weapon was made by "counsellor" (xiangbang 相邦, i.e. xiangguo 相國) Yi (Shisan nian xiangbang Yi zhi zao 十三年相邦儀之造).

Li Shuping 李淑萍 (2000). "Zhang Yi 張儀", in Zhonghua Qin Wenhua cidian bianweihui 中華秦文化辭典》編委會, ed. Zhonghua Qin wenhua cidian 中華秦文化辭典 (Xi'an: Xibei daxue chubanshe), 142.
Li Yaming 李亞明 (1996). "Zhang Yi 張儀", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 31.
Wu Rongceng 吳榮曾 (1992). "Zhang Yi 張儀", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, 1508-1509.
Zhang Ke 張克, Huang Kangbai 黃康白, Huang Fangdong 黃方東, ed. (1991). Shiji renwu cidian 史記人物辭典 (Nanning: Guangxi renmin chubanshe), 179.