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Ma Teng
Familiar Name : Ma Shou-ch'eng
Prefect of Hsiliang (Xiliang), General "Corrector of the West", pledged brother to Han Sui, father of the hero Ma Chao.


A character in the early parts of Luo Guan Zhong's epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. The book is based on the Three Kingdoms period of China circa 2nd and 3rd century AD, the character of Ma Teng is based on a historical. Ma Teng was a warlord of western China. He was the son of Ma Su, who had lost his title of magistrate and drifted out to the west of China. Ma Su ended up among the Ch'iang tribe, marrying a woman of that tribe. Of this marriage, Ma Teng was born.

Ma Teng was short of height, but strong, bold and popular. When the Ch'iangs revolted during the reign of Emperor Ling, Ma Tung organized an army and put down the revolt. For this he was granted the title of "Corrector of the West" and the position of prefect. He would later pledge himself as brother to Han Sui the, "Guardian of the West".

Ma Teng joins the Assassination Plot

Because he was far to the west, Ma Teng was very much uninvolved with the Yellow Turban Rebellion and with the fight against Dong Zhuo. He first shows up in the story after Cao Cao gained control of the Han Emperor.

One day all the court nobles, including Liu Bei and Cao Cao and Ma Teng, bring the Emperor on a hunting trip. The Emperor, unable to hit a deer after three tries, gives the imperial "golden" bow to Cao Cao, so that Cao may attempt to shoot the deer. Cao succeeds in one shot and kills the deer. When the nobles spot the golden arrow in the deer and begin to congratulate the Emperor, Cao Cao pushes aside the Emperor to take the congratulations. Also, Cao never gives back the imperial bow, instead slinging it across his own shoulders.

These actions anger many, including the Emperor himself. Realizing that he is but a tool of Cao Cao, the Emperor requests his official Tung Ch'eng to assassinate Cao. Ch'eng gathers together several officials. As these conspirators are discussing their plans, Ma Teng arrives at the house of Ch'eng. The doorman of house tried to turn Teng away at first with the excuse of sickness, but Teng refuses to leave and is admitted to the house.

When he finally meets with Ch'eng, who is obviously not sick, Ma Teng tries to begin a discussion with his host. Ch'eng continues to try to use the sickness excuse, so Teng rises to leave, muttering, "Not one of them is any good: there is no one to save the country" as he begins to leave. The statement intrigues Ch'eng, who asks Ma Teng what he means.

It seems Ma Teng had arrived for the very same reason the nobles in the hidden room where meeting for. Teng was aghast at the Minister Cao Cao's actions and felt that Cao had very little regard for the welfare of the state. After testing Teng for a short while, Ch'eng was sure that the other actually believed this way, and invited him into the meeting.

Once introduced, Teng signed his oath in blood with the others. Unfortunately the group needed ten members for an auspicious number and lacked one. Ma Teng, examining the sheet of court nobles, decided that they must include Liu Bei. Ma Teng had heard a statement made by Liu Bei after the scene between Cao and the Emperor. It seemed Liu Bei was also angry at Cao, so Bei was invited to the conspiracy and agreed to join.

When news came that Liu Bei had taken troops south to fight Yuan Shu for Cao Cao, Ma Teng made excuses to return home immediately. The conspiracy itself did not survive long. One of Tung Ch’eng’s slaves escaped to Cao after hearing of the plan. All the members other than Liu Bei and Ma Teng, who had left the city, where executed. Every single member of the conspirator's households in Xu Chang (Xuchang) were slaughtered, over 700 in all. Cao then executed the Empress, who was the sister of Tung Ch'eng.

Ma Teng leaves for the capitol. Help is found.

For a long time after the failure of the assassination plot, Ma Teng lived quietly in the west. Cao had no chances to attack Teng, though he constantly feared Teng would attack him. Finally Cao's advisors happened upon a plan. They would order Ma Teng to attack Sun Quan in the far southeast. To go there, Ma Teng would be forced to come first to the capitol, also one could not refuse the request of the emperor or his minister. Cao would have his revenge once Ma Teng arrived.

Ma Teng, being FAR from stupid, immediately realized the true goal behind this request. Ma Teng placed his eldest son, Ma Chao, in charge of the Ch'iang troops and, at the head of his forces and with his two youngest sons, headed east. His son Ma Tai was to lead the rear guard.

When news of Teng's arrival reached Cao, the Minister sent one Huang Kuei to meet with Teng. The messenger's goal was to convince Teng to bring very few troops to the capitol, as Cao said he would provide more and to get Teng to come to a personal audience with the Emperor. When the Kuei arrived at Teng's camp and met with Ma Teng himself, he tried to get Teng to admit he planned to kill Cao. After a while, Teng is convinced Kuei actually wishes to help, and so agrees that he hopes to destroy Cao.

Once Kuei received this affirmation, he begins to help Ma Teng plan the assassination. Together they decide to bring all the troops to the west gate of the capitol and to get Cao to review them. There the ambush would be sprung.

Ma Teng fights Cao Cao

The next day Ma Teng brought his troops to the western gate as had been arranged. Seeing the flag of the Minister Cao, Ma Teng knew that the review would in fact be performed by the Minister himself. Suddenly a signal bomb exploded. Men appeared to the front and sides of Ma Teng's troops. Ma Teng fought valiantly, but was hemmed in. One of his sons died and Teng and his other son were captured.

The two where brought to Cao Cao, along with them came the bound Huang Kuei. It seems Kuei had been betrayed by a friend, one Miao-tse. That friend desired Kuei's concubine and had gotten that same concubine to find out if Kuei was plotting anything. Miao-tse then reported his findings to Cao.

When Miao-tse only required Kuei’s concubine in payment for the deed, Cao added a fourth person to the number to be executed, Miao-tse himself. For as Cao said it, what use is someone who will betray a friend and destroy a household for a woman? So it was that Ma Teng, his son, and the two others were executed. Ma Tie was forced to escape disguised as a trader back to Hsiliang, and Ma Chao would succeed his father as prefect of Hsiliang.

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