Dong Zhou wrote:"Death does not guarantee a place in history as witnessed by all the people I can't tell you about becuase their name was not recorded whereas Zhao Yun, Zhuge Liang, Jiang Wan, Fei Yi, Chen Shou secured their places in history without dying" might be more accurate, not sure it has the same impact.
Zhang Yi was indeed noted for his long service and skilled career. How many remember his death though? The manner of his fate also does not elevate him above the likes of Zhuge Liang and Zhao Yun who lived to reverberate down the ages
It wasn't the sentiment I was questioning, but rather the framing when you take a minute and think about it.
That last bit is pretty telling too. Fame is a weird thing. It is safe to say we are aficionados regarding the Later Han/Three Kingdoms period. It would be even more correct to describe ourselves as amateur experts, the kind of people who before the days of the internet and the widespread university education might even be considered local authorities on the subject. Some of us may even have obtained a higher education in this field, as Sun Fin seems to be a graduate of SOAS and I wouldn't put that level beyond many of the people's here ability to obtain. Most of us know about Zhang Yi - even those who just played RoTK at least know of him.
Outside of the confines of this space, it gets considerably harder. While in a diaspora community of immigrants from China, the stories, myths, and legends regarding the Three Kingdoms era are famous - that is all it is for the most part. Stories and myths, in a not so dissimilar way the British know of King Henry VIII, William the Conqueror, and maybe Cnut and Alfred the Great. Outside of our traditions, the myths we've internalized growing up through osmosis more or less do not carry. Find a remote enough place and even figures like Jesus, Darwin, and Einstein fall by the way side.
When I was growing up, I had never heard of the Three Kingdoms period, let alone Cao Cao or Zhuge Liang. In Middle School I first encountered it via Dynasty Warriors IV, and was reading the novel in the seventh and eighth grade. It was actually kind of funny, because when it finally came time to study the page or so that covered the entirety of the Qin-Han period in my world history class, I was using old Koei English pronunciations and my teacher corrected me and told me to use the prompts "lyou bong" instead of Lee-u B(ae)ng for Liu Bang.
It was only when I dug deeper that I uncovered most of this, and started getting to know people who shared my interests in the history. I remember bluffing my way through a number of topics, unsure whether or not I was recalling the novel or the SGZ, or even just some other debater. I might have even made up some stuff on the spot without realizing it. As I continued to study, I continued to learn and appreciate things more. And then, I started to mourn everything I couldn't know. Most of that had to do with me not speaking Chinese, but some had to do with even the vast voluminous histories of the old dynasties failing to discuss or mention what I wanted to know more about.
While the novel got me to appreciate the main legends, Chen Shou, Qiao Zhou, Jiang Wan, and even Fei Yi seemed less interesting to me than Diaochan and Zhou Cang. I needed to get into the weeds and lose a few good hours reading in order to lose interest in fictionalized characters and go more into some of the real heroes of the post-Liu Bei era of the Han fragment in Yizhou. In some ways, this is true for every period. If we don't get into a subject academically, we are at first seduced by the allure of fun legends and myths that make the personages of history larger than life. The more we look into it, the more the legends become human, and the more the names of side characters and tertiary characters grow in importance - while entirely new actors enter into the scene.
So I doubt most people remember how Zhang Yi died, or even who he was. Even among academics you might be hard pressed to find a single one who specializes more generally in China who can tell you more than a sentence about Chen Shou or Qiao Zhou - and not a word about Fei Yi or Jiang Wan. You'll find more who know about Zhuge Liang and Zhao Yun, but as a person over in the UK I doubt more than a few thousand outside the diaspora would be able to tell you something real about them. Those names adopt household status, and those people - though long dead - gain renewed meaning to us because we look into them and because there is enough left of them to be remembered.
I'm convinced there are a decent number of people from the Western Jin period we know almost nothing about because our knowledge seems to reach a definitive end with the SGZ and Achilles Fang's ZZTJ translation - at least until we get to all those scholars I practically upended into the English sources section (Xun Xu from Howard Goodman seeming to be the most expansive, and someone is writing something on Wang Dao) - are every bit as expansive and talented (if not more so) than the ones we've mentioned here, especially as we transition into the War of the Eight Princes.
In any case, this is a bit unfair to the point you were trying to make - and a bit long winded too. I guess I just used what you wrote as a base to let my thoughts run a little wild, so you have my apologies if it sounded like I was being overly pedantic.