Ma Chao (in Chinese: 馬超), nicknamed Ma Chao the Splendid (in Chinese: 錦馬超), is one of the major characters in the 14th-century Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by the late Luo Guanzhong, and its multiple adaptations. He is the son of Xi leader Ma Teng and cousin of fellow Shu officer Ma Dai.
Ma Chao was the son of Ma Teng, one of the generals of Han Dynasty. Ma Teng was assassinated along with Ma Chao's brother, by Cao Cao, at the time the emperor's newly appoint imperial minister of war.
Though by all account still loyal to the Emperor, Cao Cao did not trust any of his political/military rivals, including other members of the Han, and so he exiled and/or slaughtered anyone who could theoretically challenge his position.
After the assassination of his father, Ma Chao held a grudge against Cao Cao and attempts to avenge his father's death in Tong Gate, to no avail.
Battle of Tong Pass
"The Battle of Tong Pass"/"The Battle at Tong Gate", is one of the more significant battles Ma Chao was in. Ma Chao had been forced to go into exile as "a traitor" to the Han and during this time he had dedicated himself to avenging his fallen family members against Cao Cao. Ma Chao allied himself with Han Sui, an old friend of his father's who had inherited the Liang Province.
Ma Chao and Han Sui organized an ambushes at the Tong Pass to destroy Cao Cao's regional army and kill Cao Cao himself. While slaying soldiers, and interrogating Wei officers, at least one of which Ma Chao kills afterwards, Ma Chao gets a steady stream of information that Han Sui is in-fact planning to betray the forces to Cao Cao to be welcomed back into the Han.
Ma Chao strikes at Han Sui for the treachery, however it would turn out the information about talks with Han Sui was planted as part of a fearmongering campaign by Cao Cao, Ma Chao's strike against Han Sui, forces him to cooperate with Cao Cao when he came through. Ma Chao realizes too late he had been manipulated by his own fears and Han Sui turns over Tong Pass to Cao Cao rather than strikes at him.
Ma Chao swore to never let Cao Cao manipulate him again and renewed his vows to one day avenge his father and brother. Ma Chao escaped and allied himself with governor Liu Zhang.
Ma Chao joined Zhang Lu and as Zhang Lu's officer, he led reinforcements to Liu Zhang when the latter was attacked by Liu Bei in Chengdu. Liu Bei was commander of the newly formed Shu empire, made up of those Wei had seized the territories of.
However, Ma Chao and Ma Dai decide to join with Shu because he believes that Liu Bei is on the side of justice and becomes one of the Five Tiger Generals. Ma Chao became one of Liu Bei's main supports and supported him in every move he made against Cao Cao.
Filled with a warrior's pride, Ma Chao is a straightforward man who believes in making his future with his own power. A firm believer of justice and heroics, he is always intent on declaring his intentions for all to hear. Prior to the Battle of Tong, Ma Chao is impetuous and eager for battle.
After he was tricked into driving away his own allies though, Ma Chao becomes more wary of Cao Cao's cunning and his own hot-headed nature. In the Dynasty Warriors game series, Ma Chao is can be found speaking of conflicts as a matter of honor against Wei, with a grudge against Cao Cao in-particular.
- Ma Chao is one of the playable characters in both the Dynasty Warriors and Knights of Valour video game series.
- Around Yiling and his death by illness, Ma Chao took on the role of an encouraging big brother figure for the children of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.
- Though in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Han Sui betrays Ma Chao to Cao Cao, historically, Han Sui's children and grandchildren were held hostage and killed to compromise him, and he died of mysterious circumstances once his troops suspected he had been compromised.
- In real life, historians actually have confirmed Ma Chao was cruel to the point of hated by his own people for the various forms of abuse he unleashed upon his soldiers.