An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhao Ponu 趙破奴

Feb 12, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhao Ponu 趙破奴 was a military commander of the mid-Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from Taiyuan 太原 (modern Taiyuan, Shanxi) and was from the beginning acquainted with the live of the steppe federation of the Xiongnu 匈奴, among which he had lived for some time. He became a commander (sima 司馬) under General Huo Qubing 霍去病 and in 121 participated in the expedition against the Xiongnu. Zhao Ponu was able to capture two Xiongnu chieftains (wang 王) and was therefore rewarded with the title of Marquis Congpiao 從驃侯 "Following the Cavalry [General]".

Yet this title was cashed again in 112 BCE because he was charged with corruption. In 108 he was entrusted as commander of the campaign against the city state of Loulan 樓蘭. The victory over Loulan earned him the title of Marquis of Zhuoye 浞野侯. In 103 he was appointed general and lead 20,000 cavarly troops against the Left Khan (zuo xianwang 左賢王) of the Xiongnu. Yet this campaign ended in a defeat. Zhao Ponu was captured and lived for ten years as a prisoner of war in the land of the Xiongnu.

He only returned in 100 BCE and was unhappily involved in a sorcery affair at the court of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE), was charged guilty and was executed.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 852.