Well-versed in all chinese classics and Chinese military arts of war, Zhang exceled in command of his army. During the the An Lushan in rebellion in 755 he fought against the rebels. In Feb 756, in order to repel An Lushan's army, he defended Yong Qiu (today's Nan Qi County). He used only 3000 men to resist. Using the combined tactic of "persistent defence" and "surprise attack", he defeated the rebel general Lin Huchao and his army. |
He then defended Nin Ling (today's Henan). In 757 AD, he led the army and defended Huai Yang (today's Shang Qiu) in Henan province with the governor Xu Yuan. Together, they used only 6800 soldiers to defeat An Lushan's general Yi Ziqi's 130,000 troops.
In May, An Lushan's troops laid siege to Huaiyang. Zhang Xun used the tactic of "faking to be tired", and then used 500 cavalry to defeat An's troops. In July, Yi Ziqi used tens of thousands of troops and many siege weapons such as "Cloud Ladder", "Hook Wagon", "Wooden Donkey" to lay siege on Huaiyang. Zhang Xun deployed the tactic of "destroying the siege weaponry" to defeat An's troops. Thereafter Huaiyang was under seige for many months without any food and on October 9 Zhang Xun surrendered and was executed.
The gruesome part of this siege was Zhang's systematic use of canibalism to sustain his troops. He first killed his favorite concubine and then all the women in the town to feed his troops. For this he earned the sobiquet 'Meritorious Cannibal'.