Zhou Cang 周倉 is a fictional character, originating from Sanguo zhi pinghua, and later appeared in the novels The Story of Hua Guan Suo and Romance of the Three Kingdoms and various Three Kingdoms-themed games by Koei.
In all three stories he is an officer in Liu Bei or Shu-Han's army, but his role in each story differs. In his first appearance, in Sanguo zhi pinghua (1321-1323) and it's predecessor Sanfen shilüe (1294), he is a commander in Zhuge Liang's army during the Northern Expeditions against Wei. In his latter appearances he didn't live to fight in the Northern Expeditions. He dies about 219 AD, about the time of the battle of Fancheng and Sun Quan's takeover of Jing province. In both The Story of Hua Guan Suo and Romance of the Three Kingdoms he appears to have a lot of respect for Guan Yu.
Sanguo zhi pinghua (1321-1323)Edit
Zhou Cang appears in the third part of the Sanguo zhi pinghua. During the Northern Expeditions Sima Yi was marching about three li away from his camp when he suddenly saw the Shu-Han general Zhou Cang transporting grains with wooden oxen and flowing horses. At Sima Yi's orders the general Deng Ai captured about ten of these wooden oxen and flowing horses, but when the Wei forces tried to reproduce them, they didn't work nearly as well as the ones Zhou Cang had with him, only moving a few hundred paces after they were hit.
Some time later Zhou Cang arrived at Sima Yi's camp and shouted Zhuge Liang had a challenge for him. Sima Yi ordered his servants to get some wine for Zhou Cang, and Zhou Cang drank until he was drunk. Sima Yi then tried to persuade Zhou to tell him the secret on how to properly operate the wooden oxen and flowing horses so they would move as well as they did when Zhou controlled them. Zhou responded with a smile: “when the men raise their mallets they all recite the Wooden Oxen Flowing Horses Sutra.” And he promised Sima Yi a copy of it. In return Sima Yi promised indescribable riches and glory.
Three days later Zhou Cang returned with the text and gave it to Sima Yi. When Zhou Cang left, Sima Yi read the text. He was flabbergasted. It was written in Zhuge Liang's handwriting and said:
- “Of all generals since ancient times not even five have been able to construct wooden oxen and flowing horses. How can future generations not laugh at you, a famous general of Wei, wanting to learn the Wooden Oxen Flowing Horses Sutra from me.”
Sima Yi tore the text to shreds. Zhou Cang is not mentioned again after this.
The Story of Hua Guan Suo (mid 14th century)Edit
Zhou Cang first appears in chapter 3 as a commander in the army of Liu Zhang 劉璋, during Liu Bei's takeover of Liu Zhang's territory. Liu Bei's army, led by Jiang Wei 姜維, had marched to Liu Zhang's capital city Chengdu and shouted they will attack the city gate. A junior officer up on the castle walls heard this and informed Zhou Cang about it. Zhou Cang quickly geared up and his men led out and prepared his horse for him. Zhou Cang's armour was a big plate, head-to-toe armour, and he wore a brocade battle robe of princely cut. He had a dragon-scaled horse and behind the pommel the saddle was carved with a sun and moon design. The horse is further described as “a river-churning, sea-roiling horse.” His weapons were arrows of which the end was made of phoenix feathers, and a peak-rending, mountain-splitting sword.
Zhou Cang rode out to battle Jiang Wei's forces. Jiang Wei proposed him to surrender, but Zhou Cang refused and instead went to fight Jiang Wei directly. Zhou Cang beat Jiang Wei, who then fled back to report to Zhuge Liang. When Zhuge Liang asked his forces if there was anyone who thought he could capture Zhou Cang, Guan Suo 關索 said he could do it. Guan Suo immediatly rode to capture Zhou Cang. A duel ensued, and Zhou Cang appeared to be the much better fighter. After a long fight though Guan Suo managed to capture Zhou Cang who then then submitted to Shu-Han.
Later, in chapter 4, when Guan Yu 關羽 was being chased by Wu forces he grew hungry. Zhou Cang went hunting but couldn't find any animals. He cut some flesh from his own leg and grilled it, then returned and gave it to Guan Yu. He repeated this a second time. He never ate anything himself. Shortly after he died, because of the wounds, but most of all out of hunger.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (mid 14th century)Edit
Romance of the Three Kingdoms was probably the third story he appeared in, shortly after appearing in The Story of Hua Guan Suo. In Romance Zhou Cang was a Yellow Turban rebel and general under Yellow Turban leader Zhang Bao 張寶, though he does not appear in the chapters covering the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
Zhou Cang is first introduced in chapter 28. His comrade and fellow former Yellow Turban rebel Pei Yuanshao 裴元紹 encounters Guan Yu and recognizes him. When Guan Yu asks how he knows he is Guan Yu, Pei Yuanshao answers Zhou Cang told him a lot of Guan Yu:
- “Not far from here is a mountain called the Sleeping Bull, where lives a certain Zhou Cang, a very powerful man who came from the west. He has a stiff curly beard and looks very handsome. He also was a commander in the rebel army, who took to the forest when his leader perished. He has told me a lot about you, but I have never had the happiness of seeing you."
As they were talking a troop of horsemen led by Zhou Cang appeared in the distance. Zhou Cang immediatly recognized Guan Yu and expressed his desires of wanting to join him since the days of the Yellow Turban Rebellion:
- “I was one of the Yellow Turbans, and I saw you then. My one regret was that I could not join you. Now that my good fortune has brought me here, I hope you will not reject me. Let me be one of your foot soldiers to be always near you to carry your whip and run by your stirrup. I will cheerfully die for you.”
Guan Yu accepted his service and Zhou Cang would follow him until his death. He even had the responsibility of carrying Guan Yu's famous Green Dragon Saber.
Zhou Cang makes several small appearances in chapter 31, chapter 49, chapter 63, chapter 65, and chapter 66. In chapter 31 he, together with others, defeated Zhang He 張郃 during the battle of Guandu. In chapter 49 Zhou Cang is mentioned as being with Guan Yu to guard Huarang Pass, during the battle of Chibi. In chapter 63 Zhou Cang is again mentioned as being in Guan Yu's army, this time when Guan Yu is tasked to guard Jing province while Liu Bei's main force attempts to take Yi province. In chapter 65 Zhou Cang receives promotions and rewards following a succesful takeover of Yi province. In chapter 66 Zhou Cang accompanies Guan Yu to a banquet in Wu territory.
Zhou Cang again appears more prominently in the chapters 74 and 77, which tell of the battle of Fancheng and Lü Meng's invasion of Jing province. In chapter 74 it is Zhou Cang who managed to capture the Wei general Pang De 龐德. In chapter 77 Guan Yu and Zhou Cang part ways. Guan Yu attempts to head west to escape from the invading Wu forces and get help from Yi province, while Zhou Cang and Wang Fu 王甫 remain in Jing province to guard Maicheng. Guan Yu was eventually caught up with and died. Wang Fu said to his colleague Zhou Cang:
- “I have had a terrible dream in which I saw our lord all dripping with gore. I would question him, but I was overcome with dread. May it augur no evil tidings!”
Just as he said that, Wu soldiers came up to the city wall and displayed the heads of Guan Yu and Guan Ping. Wang Fu and Zhou Cang went to see if the dread tokens were real There was no doubt. Wang Fu with a despairing cry threw himself over the wall and died. Zhou Cang, like his lord, died by his own hand.
- Pei Yuanshao
- List of fictional people in Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- List of fictional people in Sanguo zhi pinghua
- Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI describes Zhou Cang as follows:
- General under Zhang Bao and former Yellow Turban. Later turned to banditry on Mt. Woniu. Finally became a trusted servant of Guan Yu, whom he idolized. An excellent swimmer.
- Luo Guanzhong 羅貫中. Sanguo yanyi 三國演義 “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Trans. C. H. Brewitt-Taylor. New York: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
- King, Gail Oman. The Story of Hua Guan Suo. Arizona State University Center for Asian Studies, 1989.
- Koei. Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI. Koei Co., Ltd. 2006.
- Sanguo zhi pinghua 三國志平話 “A storytelling of the Records of the Three Kingdoms”. 1321-1323.