Zhong Yao (Yuanchang)
Between the years of 189 and 196, the Han court was in utter chaos. Dong Zhuo, followed by a cabal of his subordinates, usurped the imperial authority. As a result, warlords east of the mountain passes established independent authority. Many officials within the central government were drawn into affairs that they otherwise would have been happy to avoid.
In 192, the warlord Cao Cao had established a base of operations. As part of his political strategy, he sent an envoy to the capital to ask for instructions. At the time, the government was in the hands of a cabal led by Li Jue and Guo Si. While they could not find anything openly objectionable about Cao Cao's letter, they feared some sort of trick and considered keeping it from the emperor. At this time, Zhong Yao was an Attendant at the Yellow Gates [huangmen shilang ]. He spoke to Li Jue and Guo Si, explaining that Cao Cao was the only leader who even pretended to remain loyal to the government (and thus to the cabal). If they rejected him, no one would be willing to submit to their authority in the future. On Zhong Yao's advice, Li Jue and Guo Si sent the envoy forward. This was the beginning of the connection between Cao Cao and the Han court that would eventually prove crucial in his rise to power.
By 196, this cabal had disintegrated and the emperor fled to Cao Cao's protection. While warlords contended for dominion in the east of China, the land west of the mountain passes was a chaotic mess of petty local leaders with no overall authority. Cao Cao feared that these many warlords would cause trouble. His adviser, Xun Yu, suggested treating the two strongest ones – Ma Teng and Han Sui – with courtesy and using them to keep the others in line. While this arrangement was sure to fail eventually, it would hold long enough for Cao Cao to secure his position in the east. By this point, Zhong Yao had been promoted to Palace Attendant and Supervisor of the Masters of Writing. Xun Yu suggested sending him to keep the myriad lords of the west in line. Zhong Yao was promoted to Colonel Director of Retainers [sili xiaowei] and gave him the Staff of Authority and command of all armies of the west (though the ability to make effective claim on that authority was doubtful). He was given the authority to act completely independently, an to take whatever measures he saw fit to control the situation. Zhong Yao established his headquarters at Chang'an and sent letters of friendship to Ma Teng and Han Sui, keeping them under control.
In 199, Cao Cao sent a trusted attendant, Wei Ji, to observe the situation within the passes (that is, in the area around the former capitals of Luoyang and Chang'an). Wei Ji noted that while many who had fled the area wished to return home, when they arrived they were pressed into service by one local warlord or another, so that the warlords grew stronger while the civil officials grew weaker. Wei Ji suggested establishing salt monopolies and using that money to buy farming tools and livestock so that these could be given to those who returned home. This would allow the farmers to reassert themselves and would weaken the warlords. Zhong Yao, as Colonel Director of Retainers, moved his office to Hongnong City (in Hongnong commandery, Sili province) because there was a lake in Hongnong that was the source of much salt. This allowed Zhong Yao to exercise control over the region's most important resource, giving him great control over the area.
Cao Cao's situation changed quickly after that. In 200, he fought and defeated the powerful warlord Yuan Shao and began to claim Yuan's territory in the north. The majority of Yuan Shao's authority was assumed by his youngest son, Yuan Shang. In 202, Yuan Shang appointed his general Guo Yuan as Grand Administrator of Hedong, which was just north of Zhong Yao's base in Hongnong. Guo Yuan joined forces with the Shanyu of the southern Xiongnu, Huchuquan and attacked Hedong. Guo Yuan sent secret messages to Ma Teng and other strong leaders within the passes, who gave him quiet support.
Huchuquan had revolted before Guo Yuan's assault on Sili, and Zhong Yao had already been besieging him at Pingyang (in Henei, Sili). Unfortunately for Zhong Yao, Guo Yuan arrived to reinforce Pingyang before Zhong Yao could claim it. To reinforce his own army, Zhong Yao sent the magistrate of Pingyi as an ambassador to Ma Teng, who was the strongest of the warlords within the passes. After some initial uncertainty, Ma Teng agreed to send support to Zhong Yao. When the bulk of Guo Yuan's army arrived, Zhong Yao attacked him as he was crossing the Fen River. In the battle, Guo Yuan was decapitated by Ma Teng's officer, Pang De. After the destruction of Guo Yuan's army, Huchuquan also surrendered. Though diplomacy and military strategy, Zhong Yao managed to defend the land within the passes.
It is also worth noting that Guo Yuan was not just an enemy general, he was also Zhong Yao's nephew. One would imagine that some elements of Cao Cao's army doubted Zhong Yao's loyalty. Given the autonomy with which he ruled within the passes and his relation to the enemy general, it seems likely that there would be those who doubted his loyalty. Zhong Yao clearly demonstrated his commitment for all to see.
Six years later, in 208, Cao Cao was planning to march south to subdue Liu Biao in Jing province, now that he had consolidated his power in northern China. As part of the preparation for this, he sought to reduce the risk of rebellion within the passes. For this purpose, he sent Zhong Yao and Wei Duan (Inspector of Liang) to make peace between Ma Teng and Han Sui, who had been fighting for several years, with Ma Teng suffering most of the loses. Zhong Yao brokered peace between the two of them and Ma Teng was persuaded to come to court. Technically, he was made Commandant of the Guards [weiwei], one of the Nine Ministers, but he was mostly kept as a hostage. Most of Ma Teng's family was sent to Ye (Cao Cao's personal base of power) and command of Ma Teng's soldiers was given to his oldest son, Ma Chao.
Later in 208, Cao Cao had an issue with an official named Tian Chou. Tian had proved an invaluable help during Cao Cao's campaign against the Wuhuan tribes several years earlier but had refused rewards for his service. Cao Cao repeatedly attempted to reward him, but Tian Chou always refused. Zhong Yao, along with Xun Yu and Cao Pi, agreed that Cao Cao should let the matter drop and respect Tian Chou's feelings. Eventually, Cao Cao desisted.
Though the military progress Cao Cao had been making since 200 was stalled by losses in the south in 208, his campaigns did not come to a halt. In 211, Cao Cao ordered Zhong Yao to lead an army against Zhang Lu, who had revolted in Hanzhong years ago and created a theocratic state that did not recognize the Han government. Along with the famous general Xiahou Yuan, Zhong Yao set out west, to attack Zhang Lu. At this time, a coalition of warlords from within the passes, led by Han Sui, gathered together in rebellion. They feared that Zhong Yao was mobilizing soldiers against them and retaliated by taking up arms against him. It is suggested that Cao Cao anticipated – perhaps even planned – this rebellion, using it as an excuse to dispose of a number of warlords who might otherwise have caused difficulties for him when invading Hanzhong and potentially the rest of Yi province. The rebels garrisoned at Tong pass, making it impossible for Zhong Yao to advance. Cao Cao sent Cao Ren to lead the battle against the rebels, ordering him to take a defensive stance. Four months later, Cao Cao personally arrived and led the campaign against the rebels. Cao Cao proved himself a far superior commander and easily destroyed the coalition.
Zhong Yao's mobilization against Hanzhong had far-reaching consequences. The Governor of Yi province, Liu Zhang, feared that Cao Cao would proceed through Hanzhong and attack Yi. As a result, he called for help from the warlord Liu Bei, who had seized most of Jing province, to the east of Yi. Liu Zhang was subsequently betrayed by Liu Bei, who took control of Yi province.
In 213, Zhong Yao was promoted to Minister of Justice (also called Grand Judge) of Cao Cao's ducal state of Wei.. In this year, there was a debate over whether or not to reintroduce certain punishments that had been in practice during the earlier years of the Han dynasty. Zhong Yao and Chen Qun agreed that these harsh punishments should be reintroduced, but the majority of officials were opposed, so Cao Cao did not adopt their policy.
Zhong Yao saw himself further promoted in 216, when he became Chancellor of Wei
In spite of his great success in the past, Zhong Yao's career hit a speed bump in 219. He appointed a man named Wei Feng as Senior Clerk in the Department of the West. Wei Fang proved to be a deceitful man. He plotted with a man named Chen Yi – who was Commandant of the Guards at the palace where Cao Cao's wife, Queen Bian, resided. The two planned to throw a coup at Ye (the capital of Cao Cao's state of Wei). Chen Yi panicked and warned Cao Pi, who executed Wei Feng and other conspirators. Because Zhong Yao had given Wei Feng such a high position, he was demoted from Chancellor to Grand Judge.
However, it would appear that Zhong Yao eventually recovered from this setback. In 220, Cao Cao passed away and the Han emperor abdicated the throne to Cao Pi, who created the dynasty of Wei. When Cao Pi ascended the throne, Zhong Yao was reinstalled as [dali]. During this time, he revived his proposal of 213, urging for a resurrection of the corporal punishments of antiquity. Cao Pi ordered the high officials to discuss the matter, but before they could reach a conclusion, Cao Pi turned his attention to military matters and a decision was never reached.
Sometime between 220 and 223, Zhong Yao was promoted from [dali] to Grand Judge [tingwei], the rank he held before the Wei Feng incident.
On September 23, 223, Zhong Yao was promoted from Grand Judge to Grand Commandant [taiwei].
In 226, Cao Pi returned from an unsuccessful campaign against Sun Quan and camped in Chenliu on his way back to the hospital. At that time, the magistrate of the county was Sun Yong, and he went to pay Cao Pi a formal visit while he was in the area. However, he came by a bypath instead of the proper route. Liu Yao, an officer responsible for military discipline, wanted to indict Sun Yong but his superior, Bao Xun kept the issue quiet. When Cao Pi learned that Bao Xun was covering up the faults of his inferiors, he was very angry and sent Bao Xun to the Grand Judge, Gao Rou, for judgment. According to the law, Bao Xun’s offense meant that he should be sentenced to five years of servitude. However, because Bao Xun’s father, Bao Xin, had been a friend and early supporter of Cao Cao, Zhong Yao and the other high officials canceled this sentence and instead ordered Bao Xun to pay a fine. This greatly angered Cao Pi, who the ordered Bao Xun to be executed.
In June of 226, Cao Pi died and was succeeded by his son, Cao Rui. Subsequently, many officials received promotions. Zhong Yao was promoted from Grand Commandant to Grand Tutor [taifu].
In 227, Zhong Yao yet again proposed that the corporal punishments be revived. This time, the opposition was led by Minister Over the Masses [situ] Wang Lang. Many officials participated in the debate, and most were against Zhong Yao. Cao Rui eventually decided to put off the decision, concentrating on military matters.
Zhong Yao seems to disappear from the records after his debate in 227. The date of his death is not recorded in the ZZTJ.
Zhong Yao had at least two sons. His oldest son, Zhong Yu, rose to become a high minister during the reign of Cao Mao, following in his father’s footsteps to serve as Grand Judge. His second son, Zhong Hui, became a respected adviser, philosopher, writer, and general, but he was disgraced when he rebelled against Wei after the conquest of Yi province in 263.
Zhong Yao's contributions to the state of Wei are often forgotten because his victories were not in dramatic battles or famous debates. But for fifteen years, he prevented the chaos in the lands within the passes from spilling into the east. This allowed Cao Cao to focus on his many enemies there (Tao Qian, Yuan Shu, Lü Bu, Yuan Shao, Liu Biao, Zhang Xiu, Sun Quan, Liu Bei, and many others) and ignore the dozens of petty warlords who might otherwise have distracted him. Zhong Yao's work was essential for the reestablishment of peace and order, and to the rise of the Wei dynasty. He pursued his idea of restoring corporal punishment ardently, advocating the position to every sovereign he served. This shows that Zhong Yao was not the sort to give up. Though disgraced by the Wei Feng incident, he recovered from disaster and rose to become the highest minister of the state.
 Chuping 3, JJ
 Jian'an 2, E
 Colonel Director of Retainers is the title of the official who supervised Sili province, where the old Han capital was located. In any other province, this title would be Governor or Inspector.
 This symbolized Zhong Yao's authority to, among other things, execute officials without prior government approval. It allowed him to act independently to control the region without the need to seek approval from Cao Cao or the court.
 Jian'an 2, F
 Jian'an 4, Q; supplemented with de Crespigny's notes 27, 28, and 29 of that year.
 Huchuquan is given as the name as the Shanyu of the southern Xiongnu in de Crespigny's note 12 of Jian'an 7.
 Jian'an 7, D
 ZZTJ gives a slightly different order of events in which Huchuquan is not under siege until allying with Guo Yuan, but this contradicts accounts in the sanguozhi.
 Jian'an 7, F
 Jian'an 7, G
 This is stated in Jian'an 7, G and repeated in the sanguozhi biography of Pang De.
 Jian'an 13, O
 Jian'an 13, YY
 The names of these learders are given in the SGZ: Cheng Yi, Cheng Yin, Han Sui, Hou Xuan, Li Kan, Liang Xing, Ma Chao, Ma Wan, Yang Qiu, and Zhang Heng.
 This suggestion comes from de Crespigny's note 2 of Jian'an 16
 Jian'an 16, B
 The exact account of this campaign encompasses many passages of the ZZTJ and is best described in Cao Cao's sanguozhi biography. As the specifics of it are not relevant to the life of Zhong Yao, I have chosen not to recount it.
 Jian'an 16, K
 Jian'an 18, M; members of the imperial family were given estates and a portion of the tax revenue of a commandery. These relatives were called kings (or princes) and their commanderies were called kingdoms (or states). Cao Cao's appointment as duke put him just below the imperial family, and his later promotion to king would put him above all of the imperial relatives. Kingdoms or states had an administrative structure that mirrored that in the capital. Princes had Grand Tutors, high ministers, etc. Here, Zhong Yao is being made Minister of Justice for Cao Cao's state – this is not the same as serving as Minister of Justice for all of the empire.
 Jian'an 19, O
 Jian'an 21, J; while commanderies were normally governed by Grand Administrators, states/kingdoms differed slightly. The Grand Administrator of a state was called a Chancellor, to mirror the situation in the capital. So here, Zhong Yao is being promoted to being the one in charge of Cao Cao's personal territory. Ordinarily, princes had no control over their states and all officials were appointed by the central government. However, because Cao Cao also held control over the central government, he was able to dictate affairs in his state easily.
 According to de Crespigny's note 14 of Jian'an 13 (originally regarding Cui Yan), the Department of the West, of which the Senior Clerk was the head, was responsible for the recommendation and promotion of officials in the central government. So this was a very important job to give Wei Feng.
 I am uncertain what the rank of dali means.
 Fang’s note 12.1 of Taihe 1
 Huangchu 4, 25 gives Zhong Yao’s rank as tingwei (Grand Judge/Minister of Justice). Fang’s note 12.1 of Taihe 1 reads, “After [Cao Pi] ascended the throne, Zhong Yao was reinstated as dali.” Dali and tingwei appear to be different ranks. Cao Pi ascended the throne in 220, and Zhong Yao was tingwei by 223, prior to his promotion to taiwei. So he must have been promoted from dali to tingwei some time during that span.
 Huangchu 4, 25
 Huangchu 7, 6
 Huangchu 7, 27
 Taihe 1, 12
Last edited by capnnerefir
on Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.