Zhang Sheng: a patriot beyond compare

A fter conquering the Liang (梁) capital, Jian Kang (建康, now Nanjing), Liang’s renegade general Hou Jing (後景) sent an army led by military superintendent Hou Zi Jian (侯子鑒) from the middle army to besiege Wu Xing (吳興) prefecture in September 549.
Wu Xing’s defending army was small, its fighting capacity weak. Its mayor, Zhang Sheng (張嵊), was a man of letters without military knowhow.
Knowing that Wu Xing would not be able to repel Hou Zi Jian’s attacks, some advised Zhang Sheng to just open the city gate and surrender.
But Zhang Shen said: “I also know that we cannot defend Wu Xing, but since I have submitted myself to the state, I should dedicate my life to the service of our country without second thoughts.”
In October, Hou Zi Jian’s army started to attack Wu Xing. Despite Zhang Sheng’s efforts to defend the city, Wu Xing fell.
Zhang Sheng was captured and escorted to Jian Kang. Since Hou Jing admired Zhang Sheng’s loyalty, he thought of sparing Zhang Sheng from execution and letting him serve instead.
Yet, to Hou Jing’s surprise, Zhang Sheng said: “Being a local official of Liang and unable to save the country when it was in danger and crisis, I don’t have the face to live on earth. My only request is to die early.”
Hou Jing then suggested to spare Zhang Sheng’s son, but to his surprise, Zhang Sheng said: “Instead of begging from you, traitor, I would rather let my whole family die.”
Hou Jing got mad and ordered the execution of Zhang Sheng and all his family members.
Zhang Sheng preferred to die for his country along with his family than surrender to a traitor.
What a great martyr. What love and loyalty to one’s country! What patriotism!

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