Ancient China Battles

In ancient China, military conflicts happened almost all the time. In early history, Chinese states often fought each other.

Later, the unified imperial army fought neighboring nomadic tribes and confederations and protected the borders.

Here is the list of battles (in alphabetical order) that took place in ancient China.

Battle of Handan

Pre-Warring and Warring States

  • The Battle of An was a fight between the states of Qi and Jin that happened in 589 BCE at Hua Hill (the present-day city of Jinan, Shandong).The state of Jin won, and after that, the two states became allies.
  • The Battle of Handan lasted for two years (259-257 BCE). The garrison of Handan (Zhao), together with the joint forces of Wei and Chu, crushed Qin.
  • The Battle of Mount Li (771 BCE, near Fenghao – the area between the twin cities of Haojing and Fengjing) was a critical battle between the army of Zhou Youwang and the armies of Shen and Zeng states that joined the infamous Quanrong barbarians.The Zhou dynasty suffered defeat and, as a result of it, it got weakened and fragmented.
  • The Battle of Yanling (575 BCE) was fought between the states of Chu and Jin (pre-warring states) and the JIn won.
  • Battle of Yique (293 BCE) was between King Zhaoxiang of Qin against the coalition of Wei and Han.The coalition army was twice as large as the one of general Bai Qi of Qin, but the Qin won nevertheless, causing massive casualties on the opposite side and capturing their cities.
  • The Battle of Bi (597 BCE) occurred between the pre-warring states of Chu and Jin.The Chu won and its king Zhuang became the leader among the Zhou Dynasty states.
  • The Battle of Boju (506 BCE) was a major clash between major pre-warring states Wu and Chu. The Wu army was probably under the command of Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War.The Wu won, and their army invaded and demolished the Chu capital Ying.
  • The Battle of Changping (260 BCE) occurred during the Warring States period in ancient China between the State of Qin and the State of Zhao. The Qin won.
  • The Battle of Chengpu (632 BCE) occurred between the State of Jin and the State of Chu, and the Jin won.
  • The Battle of Guìlíng (354 BCE) was an interesting fight between the states of Qi and Wei that happened during the Warring States period.First, the Wei army besieged the Zhao capital, Handan. Then Zhao turned to Qi for help, and this alliance laid siege on the Wei capital, Daliang.The Wei forces then gave up their attempt to invade Handan and returned to Daliang. The famous Chinese proverb “Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao” was created after this battle.
  • The Battle of Jinyang (434 BCE) between the State of Jin, the house of Zhao and the house of Zhi meant the beginning of the warring states period.As a result, the three states – Wei, Han, and Zhao – were formed by the Jin elite families.
  • The Battle of Maling (342 BCE) was a combat between the State of Qi, an ally of the State of Han, on one side, and the State of Wei on the other.This battle has become famous for the tactics known as the “Tactic of Missing Stoves.” The Qi created an impression of soldiers running away from the battlefield.As a result, the Wei underestimated their enemy and fell into its trap.
  • The Battle of Muye or Mu (c. 1046 BCE) was one of the first battles recorded in the history of ancient China. The Zhou triumphed over the Shang.
  • The Battle of Xuge (707 BCE) was combat in which the State of Zheng defeated the Zhou Dynasty.This battle is important because it is one of the first examples of a pincer movement (a military maneuver also known as double envelopment) being used against an enemy.

Battle of Boju

The Chu-Han Contention

  • The Battle of Anyi was between the Kingdom of Han and the Kingdom of Wei. The Wei rebellion was suppressed just to make way for the Kingdom of Dai to invade their land during another battle – the Battle of Jingxing (205 BCE).
  • The Battle of Julu (207 BCE) was between the Qin dynasty forces and the mutinous state of Chu. The Chu army was smaller, but they won.
  • The Battle of Gaixia (202 BCE) is the one in which the forces of Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu. As a result, Liu Bang became Emperor of China and the founder of the Han Dynasty.
  • The Battle of Pengcheng (205 BCE) resulted in the victory of the kingdom of Western Chu over the Han.

The Han Dynasty

  • The Battle of Baideng (200 BCE) was a fight between the Han Dynasty of China and the people of Xiongnu.The Chinese forces tried to subjugate the Xiongnu territory, but without lasting success.
  • The Battle of Baxi (215 CE) was a conflict between two generals, named Liu Bei and Cao Cao.It was just before the Three Kingdoms period began. Liu Bei’s army won.
  • The Battle of Cangting happened just after the warlord Cao Cao won the Battle of Guandu (200 CE) against his rival Yuan Shao.
  • The Battle of Guandu (200 CE) was a decisive fight between the generals Cao Cao and Yuan Shao in the late Eastern Han dynasty.Cao Cao’s army was smaller but it won. As a result, the state of Cao Wei was established.
  • The Battle of Han River (219 CE) brought Liu Bei another victory over Cao Cao.
  • The Battle of Jieqiao or the Battle of Jie Bridge (191 CE) was a conflict between the generals Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan in the late Eastern Han dynasty.
  • The Battle of Jushi (67 BCE) was a military operation in which the Han Dynasty took control of the people of Jushi in the Turpan, which was previously under the protection of the Xiongnu.
  • The Battle of Kunyang (23 CE) was the decisive battle that resulted in the fall of the Xin Dynasty.
  • The Battle of Lucheng (213 CE) was part of a mutiny led by Yang Fu against the general Ma Chao, who previously took charge of Liang province by force.
  • The Battle of Liyang (202-203 CE) lasted for several months during which General Cao Cao led the invasion against his rival’s Yuan Shao’s sons, Yuan Shang and Yuan Tan.
  • The Battle of Loulan (108 BCE) was part of the earliest Chinese military action of conquering Central Asia. This venture increased the power and influence of the Han Empire.
  • The Battle of Mobei (119 BCE) was one of the important victories for the Han dynasty over the nomadic Xiongnu people.
  • The Battle of Nanpi (205 CE) was a huge victory of Cao Cao over one of the sons of Yuan Shao, Yuan Tan. After this battle, Cao Cao gained total control of the North China Plain.
  • The Battle of Red Cliffs or the Battle of Chibi (208-209 CE) was a decisive battle in which joint forces of the southern generals Sun Quan and Liu Bei defeated the numerically superior army of the northern general Cao Cao.
  • The Battle of Tong Pass or the Battle of Weinan (211 CE) brought Cao Cao a key victory oner the Guanxi alliance and the control of the Guanzhong region.
  • The Battle of White Wolf Mountain (207 CE) was one in which general Cao Cao devastated the nomadic Wuhuan tribes, who supported Yuan Shang and Yuan Xi.
  • The Battle of Xiakou (203 CE) was an indecisive fight between the generals Sun Quan and Liu Biao over Jiangxia Commandery.
  • The Battle of Xiangyang (191 CE) was one in which Liu Biao crushed Sun Jian’s forces.
  • The Battle of Xiapi (198-199) was one in which Cao Cao and Liu Bei jointly defeated the army of Lü Bu.
  • The Battle of Yan Province was an indecisive battle between Cao Cao and Lü Bu.
  • The Battle of Ye or Battle of Yecheng (204 CE) was one between Cao Cao and Yuan Shao’s son, Yuan Shang.Cao Cao supported Yuan Shang’s brother Yuan Tan, who fought his brother over succession. Because of it, Cao Cao laid siege to the city of Ye.He would later use that city as a key base of his military power.
  • The Battle of Yiwulu (73 CE) was part of a large expedition of the Han dynasty against the Xiongnu. The Han army captured the whole Yiwulu area as a result.

Battle of Oroi-Jalatu


Who won the Battle of Mount Li in 771 BCE?

The armies of Shen and Zeng states and the Quanrong barbarians won the battle against the Zhou dynasty.

Which ancient China battle brought as the proverb “Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao”?

It was the Battle of Guìlíng (354 BCE).

When was a pincer movement recorded for the first time in Chinese history?

In the Battle of Xuge (707 BCE)

What was the “Tactic of Missing Stoves?”

This tactic was used during the Battle of Maling (342 BCE). The Qi created an impression of soldiers running away from the battlefield, confused the enemy, and won the battle.