BiographyMa Teng was born in Xi Liang Prefecture, Liang Province, in China. He was a descendant of Ma Yuan, who crushed the Nanman and Trung Trac and Trung Ni's rebellion in the early 1st century AD. His sons were Ma Chao, Ma Xie, and Ma Xiu. He married a Qiang woman, who bore him these children. As a warlord, he had great power in the lands that he was raised in (Liang Province), and in 182 AD, he joined a Qiang and Tajik rebellion against the Han, hoping to drive the brutal governor Dong Zhuo out of Liang Province. He succeeded in defeating Dong Zhuo, but failed to conquer additional lands.
In 194 AD, Ma Teng redeemed himself for these travesties by taking part in an attack on Chang'an, the Imperial capital, which was occupied by Li Jue, a former general of the now-deceased Dong Zhuo and the de facto Prime Minister. His son Ma Chao, who had proven his worth in the Liang Rebellion, slew enemy general Wang Fang in the battle, but when the conspirators in the city were beheaded, Ma Teng and Han Sui withdrew.
In 197 AD, hoping to expand his territory in the north, Ma Teng allied with Cao Cao against Yuan Shao and at the Battle of Hedong in 202 AD, his general Pang De beheaded Yuan Shang's general Guo Yuan in battle, upsetting his uncle Zhong Yao, who was on the side of Cao Cao. After a string of victories in the north, he became an enemy of Han Sui, his old ally, and in 208 AD, Cao Cao invited him to work in the palace at Chang'an, virtually turning him into a hostage.
Ma Teng became Commandant of the Palace Guard in Chang'an, leaving his son in charge of the clan when he defected to Cao Cao. Ma Chao despised Cao Cao and rebelled against Cao Cao's rule along with Han Sui, and in revenge, Cao Cao had Ma Teng and his other sons killed. In 211 AD, Ma Chao was decisively defeated at Tong Gate.