Sima Shi (Ziyuan)
Sima Shi was the son of the great minister of Wei, Sima Yi. In spite of his family connections, Sima Shi began his career without extraordinary rank. Between the years of 237 and 239, he was made Cavalier Attendant-in-Ordinary [sanji changshi] and General Who Protects the Palace Forces [zhong hujun].
In 238, Emperor Cao Rui of Wei fell ill. At that time, he appointed the Lady Guo to be his Empress, and to serve as Empress Dowager after his death. In the event that the Emperor passed away and his heir was too young to manage government affairs, the Empress Dowager could assume authority in the court. Under the Later Han, she was advised by her oldest male relative, who held the position of Grand General [da jiangjun], but that position had become divorced from the Empress’s family under Cao Pi.  Under certain circumstances, the Empress Dowager had the authority to depose the current emperor and install a new one of her choice, taken from the males of the imperial clan. None of the ministers of the court were entitled to give any input on her decision. Also at that time, Cao Rui appointed Cao Shuang, a distant relative of his, to be Grand General, and told him to act as a guide and guard for the future emperor along with Sima Yi. Cao Rui passed away shortly thereafter, and his adopted son Cao Fang took the throne at age 8.
Initially, Sima Yi and Cao Shuang worked together harmoniously, with Cao Shuang consulting Sima Yi on all decisions. However, Cao Shuang began to take advice from a cabal led by the scholar He Yan, who advised him to monopolize power and control the government. Cao Shuang’s party occupied most of the high positions in government, and they abused their power to exclude their personal enemies from the government. By the end of 248, Sima Yi, who had left the court in 247 was plotting to take power back from Cao Shuang’s party. On this matter, he trusted no one but Sima Shi.
On February 5 of 249, Cao Shuang and Emperor Cao Fang were outside of Luoyang, visiting Cao Rui’s tomb. With an edict granting him authority from Empress Dowager Guo, Sima Yi sealed the gates of Luoyang and led the city’s soldiers to take up positions on the pontoon bridge over the Luo River. He then sent a memorial to the emperor demanding that Cao Shuang relinquish his position. Cao Shuang did so and was put under house arrest. On February 9, a man named Zhang Dang was arrested on charges of corruption. He confessed to plotting with Cao Shuang and his party to overthrow Emperor Cao Fang. Cao Shuang and his confederates were subsequently executed along with their families.
Sometime after Sima Yi’s return to power, Sima Shi was made General of the Guards [wei jiangjun].
On September 7 of 251, Sima Yi passed away. Sima Shi was promoted to Grand General Who Comforts the Army [fujun da jiangjun]. He was also made Director of the Affairs of the Masters of Writing [lu shangshu shi].
Later in 251, Deng Ai, the Grand Administrator [taishou] of Chengyang submitted a memorial to the court, warning them that the Xiongnu under Liu Bao were growing dangerously strong. He proposed giving titles and awards to those Xiongnu under Liu Bao to divide and weaken them. He further urged that they be relocated to settlements away from the Chinese subjects and reeducated to adhere to Chinese cultural traditions. Sima Shi approved of this proposal.
In the first month of 252, Sima Shi was further elevated to be Grand General.
Years before, the leader of the southern state of Wu, Sun Quan, attempted to build a dam at Lake Chao, in Dongxing, but he was driven away before the dam was completed. In 252, the Grand Tutor [taifu] and Grand General of Wu, Zhuge Ke, returned to Dongxing and rebuilt the dam. At this time, three famous generals offered Sima Shi plans for attacking Wu. These generals were the Grand General Who Conquers the South [zhengnan da jiangjun] Wang Chang, the General Who Conquers the East [zhengdong jiangjun] Hu Zun, and the General Who Conquers the South [zhengnan jiangjun] Guanqiu Jian. Sima Shi consulted with his adviser, Fu Jia, about these plans. Fu Jia suggested a policy of gradual expansion, but Sima Shi did not agree with him. Instead, he ordered these generals to attack Wu via three different routes. Wang Chang was sent to attack Nanjun, Guanqiu Jian was sent to Wuchang, and Hu Zun was sent to Dongxing. All of these forces were placed under the command of Sima Shi’s younger brother, the General Who Tranquilizes the East [andong jiangjun] and Marshal [dudu] of Yang, Sima Zhao.
Hu Zun experienced initial success at Dongxing. However, he became complacent with his early achievements. Hu Zun’s forces suffered from a devastating raid by the Wu General of the Champions [guanjun jiangjun] Ding Feng, and were subsequently crushed by the arrival of Zhuge Ke’s main force. It appears that Guanqiu Jian and Wang Chang retreated after hearing of Hu Zun’s defeat. Because Sima Zhao was the overall commander of the effort against Wu, Sima Shi held him responsible for the defeat at Dongxing and stripped him of his enfeoffment as Marquis of Xincheng.
In 253, Zhuge Ke gathered 200,000 soldiers for an attack on Wei. Zhuge Ke attacked Huainan and captured many people there. He then turned his army to attack the fortress at Xincheng. Sima Shi sent his uncle, the Grand Commandant [taiwei] Sima Fu with 200,000 Wei soldiers to resist Zhuge Ke. Zhuge Ke attacked Xincheng for two months without success. During that time, a plague broke out among his soldiers and he quarreled with some of his top officers. He subsequently retreated from Xincheng, abandoning his sick and wounded soldiers.
Sima Shi was on good terms with a man named Li Feng. However, Li Feng was sympathetic to an official named Xiahou Xuan, who was one of the few surviving members of Cao Shuang’s faction. In 254, Li Feng and Xiahou Xuan conspired with Zhang Ji, who was the father of Cao Fang’s wife, Empress Zhang. They planned to have Li Yi, who was Inspector [cishi] of Yan province and Li Feng’s brother, to come to court. Once there, he would bring his soldiers into the palace and kill Sima Shi. Xiahou Xuan was then to be installed as Grand General in Sima Shi’s place. However, Li Yi was not granted permission to come to court and could not execute the plan. Sima Shi suspected that there was some plot against him and summoned Li Feng for interrogation. Li Feng died during the questioning, but he revealed the names of his other conspirators. Xiahou Xuan, Zhang Ji, and the others were subsequently arrested and executed. Most of their relatives were killed as well.
On October 17 of 254, on the authority of Empress Dowager Guo, Sima Shi gathered the high officials in an assembly. There, he accused Emperor Cao Fang of extreme sexual immorality and conduct that was fundamentally unacceptable from the emperor. Sima Shi sent a memorial to the Empress Dowager, signed by various officials, requesting that she demote Emperor Cao Fang to be Prince of Qi and select a new emperor. Subsequently, the Empress Dowager issued a command that read:
“The emperor [Cao Fang] is now of age, yet he does not personally take charge of the myriad affairs of State. Instead he is sunken deep with his women, captivated by female charm. Daily he associates with his singing-girls and gives free reign to their obscene dalliance. He invites the female relatives of his ladies to the palace and detains them in his inner apartments. He has destroyed the regulation of human relationships and disturbed the distinction between man and woman; his reverence and filial piety have warped day by day, and his unruliness and disorder have increased more and more. He is not worthy to carry on the celestial line and serve the Ancestral Temple. Hereupon shall Gao Rou, acting concurrently as Grand Commandant [taiyu], take the Proclamation, and by means of the [yiyuan dawu] report to the Ancestral Temple. Cao Fang shall be sent back to Qi as a vassal prince, abdicating the throne.”
According to the History of Wei [weilue] by Yu Huan, Sima Shi had the palace surrounded by his soldiers during these proceedings. This is a detail that is not recorded in any other version of events and is most likely a dramatic embellishment by Yu Huan.
As was her right, Empress Dowager Guo selected a new heir for Cao Rui and thus the new emperor. She chose a fourteen-year-old boy named Cao Mao. He was the son of Cao Lin, who was Cao Rui’s half-brother. Cao Mao took the throne on November 2 of that same year.
Around this time, Sima Shi suffered from some medical difficulty, which included swelling in his eyes. Subsequently, he had a tumor removed from his eye.
In the first month of 255, in Shouchun, the General Who Conquers the East [zhengdong jiangjun] Guanqiu Jian revolted against Sima Shi’s authority along with the General of the Front [qian jiangjun] and Inspector [cishi] of Yang, Wen Qin. They did so, saying that Empress Dowager Guo commanded them to do so. They accused Sima Shi of a number of faults, including feigning illness, not conquering the states of Wu and Shu, being defeated at Dongxing, not rewarding those who defended Xincheng from Zhuge Ke, killing Li Feng without due process, deposing Cao Fang, executing Zhang Ji, not appearing in court to pay homage to Cao Mao, killing an official named Xu Yun, not properly defending key territories along the border, and obstructing government operations. They gathered 50 or 60,000 soldiers and moved south of the Huai river, to Xiang city.
Because of his recent medical difficulty, Sima Shi was uncertain whether he should lead the campaign against the rebels personally. On the advice of Fu Jia, Wang Su, and Zhong Hui he decided to lead the campaign himself. This was the first time Sima Shi actually led a campaign in person. Sima Shi appointed Sima Zhao as General of the Capital Forces [zhongling jun], summoned soldiers from the various provinces, and led the army to attack the rebels.
The Minister of the Household [guanluxun] Zheng Mao suggested that Sima Shi adopt a defensive posture, and Sima Shi agreed. On the advice of the accomplished general Wang Ji, he advanced the army to the Yin River, halting at Yinqiao. While Sima Shi was there, Shi Zhao and Li Xu, both of whom were generals under Guanqiu Jian, fled from Xiang and surrendered to Sima Shi. Wang Ji asked for permission to occupy the supply depot at Nandun. Sima Shi denied him permission, but Wang Ji advanced anyway, capturing the supplies before Guanqiu Jian’s army could do so.
Sima Shi reasoned that Guanqiu Jian retained control over his forces by deception and threat of violence. Given this, he believed that if Guanqiu Jian’s officers and soldiers were left to their own devices, they would realize their error and lay down their arms. However, he believed that if his army attacked swiftly, it would only bind the rebels more tightly together. In light of these assumptions, Sima Shi determined that the best way to quell the rebellion was to isolate Guanqiu Jian’s army and let it tear itself apart. Therefore, he sent the General Who Guards the South [zhennan jiangjun] Zhuge Dan to occupy Shouchun, which Guanqiu Jian had previously abandoned in favor of Xiang. He also sent Hu Zun, the General Who Conquers the East [zhengdong jiangjun], to occupy Qiao and Song counties, which were south of Xiang and would prevent Guanqiu Jian from receiving reinforcements from Wu. Sima Shi himself advanced to Ruyang. He ordered all of his forces to build up their defensive fortifications and not give battle to the rebels.
Sima Shi’s predictions proved to be flawless. Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin challenged various commanders to battle but could not advance to attack anyone. Their soldiers and officers grew disillusioned and nearly all of them defected to Sima Shi. Guanqiu Jian conscripted the farmers of the region to fill his ranks. In short order, the rebel forces were rendered nearly harmless without Sima Shi fighting a single battle.
The rebel forces finally found the battle they sought when Deng Ai arrived from Yan to occupy Luojia with 10,000 soldiers. Sima Shi secretly led troops from Ruyang to reinforce Deng Ai. Wen Qin took a force to strike at Deng Ai, thinking to take him by surprise. However, Wen Qin himself fell into a trap and was caught off guard by Sima Shi’s arrival. His son, Wen Yang, led soldiers against Luojia and the pair attacked the city three times in a single day. However, they were defeated each time. Sima Shi correctly predicted that Wen Qin would flee instead of attack again and sent Sima Ban and Yue Chen with an elite force to pursue. They caught Wen Qin at Shayang and utterly crushed his remaining army. Wen Qin fled to Wu. Upon learning of Wen Qin’s defeat, Guanqiu Jian abandoned his army and fled from Xiang. He went into hiding in Shenxian. There, he was discovered by a man named Zhang Shu, who shot and killed him. Sima Shi executed every member of Guanqiu Jian’s family that he could find.
Around this time, Sima Shi fell badly ill and went to Xuchang, leaving control of the army in the hands of Jia Chong. Sima Zhao went to Xuchang to visit his brother. Sima Shi ordered Sima Zhao to take command of the army.
On March 23, Sima Shi passed away at the age of 48. He was canonized as the Loyal and Martial Marquis of Wuyang.
Sima Shi was married three times throughout his life. His first wife passed away, and he married the daughter of Wu Zhi, the General Who Guards the North [zhenbei jiangjun]. Sima Shi later divorced her and married Yang Huiyu. The two of them did not have a son, he adopted Sima Zhao’s second son, Sima You, as his heir.
Sima Zhao continued to control the Wei court until the end of his life, during which time he presided over the destruction of the state of Shu. His son, Sima Yan, received the throne from the final Wei emperor, Cao Huan, and founded the Jin dynasty, which unified China by conquering the state of Wu in 280. Sima Shi was canonized as Emperor Jing of Jin and given the temple name Shizhong.
Sima Shi proved himself to be a politician of fantastic skill. He helped to orchestrate his father’s rise to ultimate power and ensured that his family remained in control of government affairs even after his father’s passing. He defeated all of his rivals within the state and ruled with unequaled power. Sima Shi also proved himself to be a great military commander, reading the hearts and minds of Guanqiu Jian’s soldiers perfectly. He defended when doing so was wise and struck at the perfect time, crushing the rebels in a single battle. His willingness to lead the soldiers personally in spite of his poor health demonstrated great bravery. However, Sima Shi was a faithless minister. He monopolized power within the government and was absolutely ruthless when removing his enemies, killing their families and slaughtering the innocent along with the guilty. Because of this, he is remembered as a cruel tyrant. This should by no means diminish his reputation as a leader of incredible skill.Notes A Cavalier Attendant-in-Ordinary appears to have been an attendant and adviser to the emperor.
 Fang’s note 14 of Zhengshi 9
 Jingchu 2, 37
 Jingchu 2, 38
 de Cespigny’s “Later Han Civil Administration”
 de Crespigny’s “Ladies of the Court of Emperor Huan of Han”
 Jingchu 2, 47
 Jingchu 3, 1
 Jingchu 3, 2
 Jingchu 3, 5
 Jingchu 3, 6
 Jingchu 3, 8
 Jingchu 3, passages 10 and 12 mention the specific positions to which Cao Shuang’s partisans appointed themselves and the ministers they displaced.
 Jingchu 3, passages 13, 15, and 16 give specific examples.
 Zhengshi 8, 6
 Zhengshi 9, 14; the main text of the ZZTJ says that Sima Shi’s younger brother, Sima Zhao, was also consulted, but Sima Shi’s biography in the Book of Jin [jinshu] specifies that Sima Zhao was only told their plans the day that the operation took place. It is possible that Sima Zhao knew that his relatives were plotting against Cao Shuang but was not privy to the details.
 Jiaping 1, 1
 Jiaping 1, 2; it is impossible to know whether or not this edict was truly from Empress Dowager Guo. While it is possible that Sima Yi forged the edict to justify his actions, it is just as likely that the Empress Dowager also wanted to remove Cao Shuang’s party and allied with Sima Yi to do so. Because she was a woman, chinese historians typically view the Empress Dowager Guo as a passive figurehead in the struggles that gripped the Wei dynasty, but some modern historians believe that she was an active participant in these events.
 Jiaping 1, 4
 Jiaping 1, 9
 Jiaping 1, 10
 Jiaping 1, 11; many historians claim that the charges against Cao Shuang and his party were fabricated by Sima Yi as an excuse to execute them. While that is certainly possible, such a claim lacks any evidence to support it.
 Jiaping 3, 17 gives Sima Shi’s rank as such prior to his subsequent elevation.
 Jiaping 3, 17; under the Later Han, the General of the Guards [wei jiangjun] ranked higher than the Grand General Who Comforts the Army [fujun da jiangjun]; evidently, this changed during the Wei dynasty, or else the records of Sima Shi’s titles are in error. The Director of the Affairs of the Masters of Writing [lu shangshu shi] had the authority to supervise all of the memorials and edicts to and from the throne.
 Jiaping 3, 18
 Jiaping 4, 1
 Jiaping 4, 12
 Jiaping 4, 14
 Jiaping 4, 15
 Jiaping 4, 16
 Fang’s note 4.5 of Jiaping 5 indicates that Sima Zhao was the overall commander of this expedition. Although his title as General Who Tranquilizes the East [andong jiangjun] was inferior to the titles of Wang Chang, Guanqiu Jian, and Hu Zun, his position as Marshal [dudu] put him in control of all military affairs in his designated area, giving him the authority to command officers of higher rank.
 Jiaping 4, 17
 Jiaping 4, 19
 Fang’s note 4.5 of Jiaping 5
 Jiaping 5, 8
 Jiaping 5, 11
 Jiaping 5, 12
 Jiaping 5, 16
 Fang’s note 5 of Zhengyuan 1, drawing from the sanguozhi.
 Zhengyuan 1, 1
 Zhengyuan 1, 8; there are versions of the Li Feng incident that give more detail, mostly from from the Chronicles of Han and Jin [han jin chunqiu] and the History of Wei [weilue], both of which are prone to exaggeration and embellishment. As such, I have presented only the most basic version of events, using passages derived from the far more reliable sanguozhi. Passages 1 – 12 of Zhengyuan tell the story with all embellishments attached.
 Zhengyuan 1, 22
 Fang’s note 22 of Zhengyuan 1; Achilles Fang claims that Empress Dowager Guo was coerced into issuing this command. While that is possible, there is simply no way to prove such a claim. Given that this allowed Empress Dowager Guo to replace Cao Fang with a young emperor of her choosing, this incident certainly benefited her.
 Zhengyuan 1, 23
 Fang’s note 23.16 of Zhengyuan 1
 Zhengyuan 1, 25
 The memorial quoted in Fang’s note 2 of Zhengyuan 2 mentions this.
 Zhengyuan 2, 5
 Zhengyuan 2, 1; the sanguozhi says that the order of the Empress Dowager was counterfeited by the rebels, but there are a number of reasons to question such a statement and it is most responsible to leave the authenticity of the document ambiguous.
 Fang’s note 2 of Zhengyuan 2
 Zhengyuan 2, 3
 Zhengyuan 2, 5
 Zhengyuan 2, 7
 Zhengyuan 2, 8
 Zhengyuan 2, 9
 Zhengyuan 2, 10
 Zhengyuan 2, 11
 Zhengyuan 2, 14
 Zhengyuan 2, 15
 Zhengyuan 2, 16
 Fang’s note 17.1 of Zhengyuan 2
 Zhengyuan 2, 18
 Fang’s note 20.1 of Zhengyuan 2
 Zhengyuan 2, 22
 Zhengyuan 2, 24
 Fang’s note 26.1 of Zhengyuan 2
 Zhengyuan 2, 28
 Zhengyuan 2, 29
 Zhengyuan 2, 29
 Fang’s note 29 of Zhengyuan 2
 Zhengyuan 2, 28
 Yang Hu's biography, page 17; Sima Shi’s first wife was Xiahou Hui, sister of Xiahou Xuan. While popular lore accuses Sima Shi of murdering her, this is highly unlikely. Xiahou Hui died in 234. At that time, there was no conflict between Xiahou Xuan and the Sima family – that conflict did not begin until Cao Shuang’s rise to power in 239. Furthermore, Xiahou Xuan was spared from the purge that destroyed Cao Shuang’s party in 249 and was not killed until 253, nearly twenty years after Xiahou Hui’s death. Given all of this, there is no logical or historical basis to claim that Sima Shi was in any way responsible for her death.
 Yang Hu's biography, page 5.