Chen Qun (Changwen)
Highest Office: Minister of Works
Chen Qun was a man from Yingchuan. He was the son of a man named Chen Ji, who once served as Prefect of the Masters of Writing [shangshu ling]. He was dismissed from his position during the Great Proscription of 166. When Dong Zhuo took control of the Han court in 189, he summoned many officials who had been dismissed during the Proscription, including Chen Ji, who was made General of the Gentlemen of the Household for All Purposes [wuguan zhonglang jiang] and then Minister Herald [da honglu].
Chen Qun was an associate of Kong Rong and initially found service under Liu Bei. Liu Bei offered Chen Qun the position of county magistrate [ling]. However, Chen Qun’s father was serving under Lü Bu, having presumably fled the capital with him in 192. Chen Qun decided to join his father under Lü Bu.
In 198, Cao Cao defeated the warlord Lü Bu and many of Lü Bu’s officials surrendered to Cao Cao. Among these officials were Chen Ji and Chen Qun. Both Chen Ji and Chen Qun were given office by Cao Cao.
Around 200, Chen Qun advised Cao Cao to employ Dai Gan and Chen Qiao. He also warned Cao Cao against hiring Wang Mo and Zhou Kui.  Dai Gan would prove to be a very loyal officer who eventually give his life fighting against Sun Quan. On the other hand, Wang Mo and Zhou Kui later committed serious offenses and were executed.  After 200, Chen Qun served as a magistrate in two different counties. However, he resigned from this position to mourn his father’s death. After spending some time in mourning, Chen Qun re-joined the government as an official of the censorate. 
Chen Qun served as an adviser to Cao Cao for many years. He was known for attempting to enforce “proper” behavior in other officials and experienced particular friction with the adviser Guo Jia over his “rough behavior in court”. He was considered an excellent judge of character and ability and many sought positive evaluations from him. He married the daughter of Xun Yu, one of the most respected officials in Cao Cao’s administration.
In 213, Cao Cao was raised to the rank of Duke. Later that year, Cao Cao appointed a number of officials within his ducal state of Wei. At this time, Chen Qun was made Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk [yushi zhongcheng]. The Palace Assistant Imperial Clerk was the head of the Imperial Censorate, which had wide authority to investigate many aspects of the civil administration and ensure that other officials were performing their duties properly. Chen Qun performed this function within Cao Cao’s state.
In 167 B.C., Emperor Wen of the Former Han abolished certain mutilation punishments that had been common practice until that point. Criminals could face a number of penalties that involved disfiguring the offender. The least severe penalty was tattooing of the face. More severe was amputation of the nose, amputation of the left foot, or of both feet. Typically, these punishments were followed by a flogging and were inflicted while the offender was serving a term of hard labor. Emperor Wen abolished these punishments. Tattooing of the face and amputation of the nose were replaced by flogging. Amputation of the left foot was replaced by 500 strokes of a bamboo pole called a bastinado (and was later reduced to 200 strokes followed by a term of manual labor). Amputation of both feet was replaced by execution and was further reduced to a flogging, following a term of heavy labor while wearing leg-irons.
In 213, Cao Cao summoned his advisers to confer about reestablishing these punishments. Years ago, Chen Ji had argued that the death penalty was kinder and more humane, so Cao Cao asked Chen Qun to clarify that position. Chen Qun argued that while the intention of replacing amputation with flogging was to be kinder to the offenders, the severe floggings actually resulted in more deaths than the mutilations did. He also argued that there were some cases when, because the mutilation punishments were removed, the punishment for a crime was far lighter than the offense. Chen Qun cited the example of killing a man as opposed to maiming him. Murder earned an offender the death sentence, which Chen Qun said was correct. However, someone who crippled or maimed another suffered only a flogging while the victim would never be whole again. Furthermore, because the sentences for these crimes sounded light, Chen Qun thought that it encouraged people to commit crimes. While many criminals might expect to survive a flogging, few would be willing to have a foot removed. So Chen Qun argued that, “If we used the old punishments, sending adulterers to the Silkworm House [for castration] and cutting the feet off robbers, there would be neither immorality nor theft for a long time.” He also argued that there were some punishments that were once punishable by mutilation and were now only punishable by death. Under the old system, if the judging official thought that there were circumstances that in some way mitigated the crime, the offender could be subjected to mutilation instead and allowed to retain his life while still suffering sufficient punishment. Under the current system, there was no such flexibility. Of the many officials who debated the issue, only Zhong Yao agreed with Chen Qun while the opposition was led by Wang Lang. Cao Cao decided not to reinstate the old punishments, concentrating instead on military affairs.
In the ninth month 219, a high official named Wei Feng plotted to throw a coup in Ye, hoping to seize the city. However, the plot was discovered and Cao Pi executed many people who were suspected of being involved in the plot. A man named Liu Yi had a younger brother wh was involved in the plot and he was supposed to be executed. However, Chen Qun interceded on Liu Yi’s behalf and convinced Cao Cao to spare his life since Liu Yi was completely innocent. Afterwards, Liu Yi tries to thank Chen Qun, but Chen Qun said he was only concerned with making sure Cao Cao punished people appropriately.
Later that year, Sun Quan and Cao Cao reconciled their differences in the face of their common enemy, Liu Bei. Sun Quan sent a letter to Cao Cao calling himself Cao Cao’s subject and urging Cao Cao to depose the Han emperor and take the imperial title for himself. Chen Qun was one of several advisers who agreed with Sun Quan’s position and urged Cao Cao to take the throne. Cao Cao declined their advice.
On March 15 of 220, Cao Cao passed away. His son, Cao Pi, succeeded him as King of Wei. Cao Pi enfeoffed Chen Qun as Marquis of Changwu and transferred him to the Imperial Secretariat as a Master of Writing [shangshu].
Later in 220, Chen Qun proposed a new system for evaluation officials that divided them into nine grades. A Rectifier [zhongzheng] was appointed to each province and commandery in order to judge individuals for official appointments.
Under the previous system, commandery officials recommended people as Filial and Incorrupt [xiaolian]. These individuals were generally sent to serve in the court for one year as Gentlemen of the Household [zhonglang], where they served in one of the five “cadet corps” that provided security for the emperor. In theory, during this time, the emperor and other high officials would get to know the candidates and be able to judge them. However, by the end of the Han dynasty, local families were able to use connections with officials to insert their own candidates into office and amass considerable power. This system became a means by which the local powers gathered influence rather than a way to provide competent servants to the government. Furthermore, during the civil war, this system broke down entirely as many local leaders refused to accept the authority of the central government as represented by Cao Cao.
Under Chen Qun’s new system, potential officials were nominated by their home villages. To ensure that this system did not fall prey to the corruption of the previous one (with powerful local families dictating nominations to increase their own influence), Rectifiers [zhongzheng] were appointed to each commandery. Their task was to review the potential candidates and place them into one of nine ranks. Ideally, even if powerful local families put forward their own candidates who were unqualified or easily corrupted, these candidates would be ranked low and would not even be considered for important offices. This removed one of the traditional jobs of a commandery Grand Administrator [taishou] and gave the responsibility to the new Rectifiers. However, while Grand Administrators were specifically required to serve outside of their home commandery, Rectifiers were sent to supervise the nominations of their own native commanderies. Ideally, this would make it easier for them to investigate candidates, as they knew the families involved. Because Rectifiers were appointed by the central government, it was hoped that they would act as agents of the government rather than supporters of local interests.
The Rectifiers assigned each candidate to one of nine categories. Similarly, all of the government’s various officers were divided into nine categories. Candidates of the highest category were eligible for the highest offices. Ideally, this would prevent incompetent individuals from coming into great power.
In December of 220, the Han emperor Liu Xie abdicated the throne in favor of Cao Pi. At that time, Cao Pi wanted to enfeoff his mother’s parents posthumously. Chen Qun argued against this, saying that a woman should not be enfeoffed and that according to the ancient regulations, her ranks should follow those of her husband. While the Qin and Han dynasties ignored those regulations and Chen Qun did not want Wei to follow that example. Cao Pi acceded to Chen Qun’s opinion and ordered that ranks and titles should not be transmitted through a female line. Cao Pi’s decision was likely in consideration of the trouble caused by the in-laws of the imperial family throughout the Han dynasty.
Sometime after this, Chen Qun was promoted to be Prefect of the Masters of Writing [shangshu ling], head of the Imperial Secretariat. He was also made Marquis of Yingxiang.
In 225, Cao Pi prepared for an expedition against Sun Quan. As part of this preparation, he appointed Chen Qun Grand General who Guards the Army [zhenjun da jiangjun] to oversee the various armies on the expedition and to be in charge of the mobile Imperial Secretariat. This expedition never really saw combat. When Cao Pi reached the Jiang river, he found that much of it was frozen and that his ships could not cross, so he withdrew.
On his way home from the campaign, Cao Pi camped in Chenliu. The prefect [ling] of Chenliu was a man named Sun Yong. He went to pay Cao Pi an official visit. However, Sun Yong came through a by-path instead of the proper route, which was both a breach of protocol and a potential danger to Cao Pi. Liu Yao, an officer responsible for military justice, wanted to punish Sun Yong for this. However, his superior, Bao Xun, decided to suppress Liu Yao’s report and not punish Sun Yong. Cao Pi heard that Bao Xun prevented Sun Yong from being punished, so he sent Bao Xun to the Minister of Justice [tingyu] for punishment. The Minister of Justice sentenced Bao Xun to five years of manual labor. However, the Three Excellencies overruled the Minister of Justice and ordered Bao Xun to pay a fine instead. Cao Pi was furious at this and ordered that Bao Xun be put to death. Many of the chief officials, including Chen Qun sent memorials to Cao Pi asking him to pardon Bao Xun because his father, Bao Xin, had been a friend and early supporter of Cao Cao. Cao Pi did not accept this as sufficient justification and had Bao Xun executed.
In summer of 226, Cao Pi fell very ill. On June 28, he summoned Chen Qun, Cao Zhen, and Sima Yi to his presence and instructed them to act as guardians and guides for his son and heir, Cao Rui. Cao Pi died the next day.
When Cao Rui came to the throne, Chen Qun sent a memorial to the throne urging Cao Rui to be an intelligent, discerning, and benevolent ruler.
In the twelfth lunar month of that year (January 6 – February 3 of 227), Cao Rui raised Zhong Yao from the rank of Grand Commandant [taiwei] to Grand Tutor [taifu]. Hua Xin was promoted from Minister Over the Masses [situ] to Grand Commandant, Wang Lang was raised to be the new Minister Over the Masses, and Chen Qun was promoted to fill Wang Lang’s old position as Minister of Works [sikong]. In the military, Cao Zhen and Cao Xiu were raised to the ranks of Grand General [da jiangjun] and Grand Commander [da sima], respectively. Sima Yi was promoted to be Grand General of the Agile Cavalry [biaoji da jiangjun].
In 229, there was a serious push in the Wei court to revise the legal code. Chen Qun led this project, along with Cavalier Attendant-in-Ordinary [sanji changshi] Liu Shao. Their revisions to the legal code were considered far less complicated than the previous laws.
By 230, Wei had been attacked several times by Zhuge Liang of Liu Shan’s state. Cao Zhen requested and obtained permission to invade Yi province, where Liu Shan’s state was situated. Chen Qun, remembering difficulties Cao Cao had experienced while attacking Zhang Lu in Hanzhong many years ago argued against this expedition, fearing that it was doomed to failure. Initially, Cao Rui accepted Chen Qun’s advice, but further edicts from Cao Zhen convinced him that the plan could succeed. Chen Qun continued to object, and Cao Rui sent Chen Qun’s edicts to Cao Zhen so that he could take Chen Qun’s objections into consideration while planning the expedition.
Cao Zhen’s expedition ran into problems from the outset, though not the difficulties Chen Qun had predicted. While Chen Qun feared that the enemy army would ambush Cao Zhen’s and destroy it, no such thing happened. However, it rained steadily for 30 days, flooding the passes through which Cao Zhen would need to advance. At the urging of Hua Xin and Wang Su (son of Wang Lang), Cao Rui ordered Cao Zhen to return.
In 232, Cao Rui’s favorite daughter, Cao Shu, passed away. She was less than a year old. Cao Rui wished to attend her funeral in person. Chen Qun argued that because the ancient rites did not provide for the burial of someone under the age of eight years, it was improper for Cao Rui to attend a funeral for his daughter. Cao Rui ignored Chen Qun’s objections and attended his daughter’s funeral.
In 235, Chen Qun grew concerned about the amount of time, manpower, and money Cao Rui was spending on construction projects and sent a memorial to the throne urging him to be more frugal. Initially, Cao Rui did not want to listen to Chen Qun’s arguments about his construction projects, but Chen Qun’s repeated memorials to the throne swayed Cao Rui’s opinion somewhat and he reduced his plans.
Chen Qun sent many other memorials to the throne admonishing Cao Rui’s behavior about various matters. However, Cao Rui kept most of these memorials to himself, considering them in private. At the time, many thought that Chen Qun was keeping silent about matters and not offering an opinion so that his position would not be in danger. During Cao Fang’s reign, it was ordered that all of the various memorials be compiled into a text called Memorials and Discussions by Famous Officials [mingchen zuoyi]. During this process, many previously unknown memorials by Chen Qun came to light and his reputation grew immensely after his death.
On February 7 of 236, Chen Qun passed away. He was canonized posthumously as the Calm Marquis of Yangyin.
Chen Qun proved himself to be a very intelligent scholar, capable of retaining vast amounts of information. He was widely respected as an insightful judge of character. He rose to become one of the Three Excellencies and helped revise the legal code of Wei and was the mastermind behind the new examination system. Chen Qun always adhered strictly to the ancient rites. While one may admire his conviction, he also showed himself to be inflexible and unreasonable in his standards of “proper” behavior.
Chen Qun’s son, Chen Tai, became one of the most celebrated generals of Wei and made a name for himself fighting against the invasions of Jiang Wei along with Guo Huai and Deng Ai. He inherited Chen Qun’s titles.
 Yanxi 9, Y; Chen Ji’s expulsion from office is mentioned in de Crespigny’s note 87 of Zhongping 6.
 Zhongping 6, II
 Zhongping 6, KK; there were five corps of Gentlemen Cadets [zhonglang] who were theoretically responsible for guarding the emperor. These were men who had been recommended for office [xiaolian]. They were required to serve one year as zhonglang. The General of the Gentlemen of the Household for All Purposes commanded a special corps of these men, those who were over the age of 50. The Minister Herald (sometimes called the Grand Herald) was responsible for overseeing the government’s relationship with various non-Chinese states. While there is some confusion over Chen Ji’s appointment as Minister Herald, he is referred to as such by Cao Cao in Jian’an 18, O.
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 75; Kong Rong was one of the officials who supported Liu Bei as successor to Tao Qian. As a friend of Chen Qun, it seems likely that Kong Rong introduced Chen Qun to Liu Bei when Liu Bei took over Xu in 194. Lü Bu arrived in Xu not long after that and it appears that Chen Qun joined him at this time.
 Jian’an 2, Q
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 75
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 106
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 828
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 75
 Guo Jia’s sanguozhi biography.
 Xun Yu’s sanguozhi biography
 Jian’an 18, C; Under the Han system, there were two ranks of nobility: Kings/Princes [wang] and Marquis [tinghou]. At various times throughout the history of the Han, certain individuals were given the rank of Duke [gong], which ranked above Marquises but below Princes, who were always members of the imperial family (though Cao Cao was later made a King).
 The states [guo] of Princes had an administrative structure that resembled that of the central government in the capital. Because he was now a Duke, Cao Cao had the privilege of appointing certain ministers with titles like those of ministers in the capital.
 Jian’an 18, M
 de Crespigny, “Later Han Civil Administration”
 de Crespigny’s note 39 of Jian’an 18.
 Jian’an 18, O; much of Chen Qun’s argument can be difficult to follow and is clarified in de Crespigny’s notes 39-47 of Jian’an 18.
 Jian’an 24, Q
 de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, p. 75
 Jian’an 24, RR
 Jian’an 24, UU
 Huangchu 1, 1
 Huangchu 1, 10
 Fang’s note 21.1 of Huangchu 1
 Huangchu 1, 21
 The information regarding Chen Qun’s ranking system comes from de Crespigny “The Three Kingdoms and Western Jin: A History of China in the Third Century AD”.
 Huangchu 1, 36
 Huangchu 1, 41
 This analysis comes from de Crespigny, “The Three Kingdoms and Western Jin: A History of China in the Third Century AD”. To clarify by example, the senior-most male relative of the empress was typically made Grand General [da jiangjun] under the Han, with authority over the Three Excellencies, the highest civil officials. The last Grand General who held power this way was He Jin, whose actions contributed heavily to the downfall of the Han dynasty. Another example is Wang Mang, who deposed one of the Han emperors and established the short-lived Xia dynasty (9-23 A.D.). Cao Pi’s policy of not passing power through the female line prevented men like He Jin or Wang Mang from coming to power solely because they were related to the empress.
 Fang’s note 1 of Huangchu 6 gives Chen Qun’s rank as such.
 Huangchu 6, 1
 Huangchu 6, 26
 Huangchu 7, 6
 Huangchu 7, 11
 Huangchu 7, 12; the main text of the ZZTJ includes Cao Xiu in this list, but the biographies of Chen Qun, Cao Zhen, and Sima Yi do not mention Cao Xiu. Furthermore, Cao Xiu’s biography makes no mention of this event.
 Huangchu 7, 13
 Huangchu 7, 17
 Huangchu 7, 27
 I am not entirely sure what this rank implied. Given the changshi designation, it would appear to be an attendant to the emperor.
 Taihe 3, 20
 Taihe 4, 8
 Taihe 4, 9
 Taihe 4, 13
 Taihe 4, 16
 Taihe 6, 3
 Qinglong 3, 6
 This and the previous paragraph are from Qinglong 4, 9
Last edited by capnnerefir
on Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.