Cui Yan and Mao Jie Biographies [ZZTJ Compliation]

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Cui Yan and Mao Jie Biographies [ZZTJ Compliation]

Unread postby capnnerefir » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:52 am

I decided to put these two together, since their careers overlapped so much.
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Cui Yan (Jigui)
?-216
Highest Office: Commandant of the Capitol, Master of Writing


Cui Yan was of Qinghe, Ji province.[1] He was said to have an extraordinarily long beard, nearly three feet in length and his physique was so imposing that Cao Cao once had Cui Yan meet with a Xiongnu ambassador in his stead because he feared that his own appearance was not intimidating enough.[2] In his younger years, Cui Yan put his great size to use and learned military skills. However, he found that his heart belonged to scholarship, so he put that aside to study under Zheng Xuan. During the chaos of the 180s, he traveled to many places between the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers. Early in 190, he joined Yuan Shao in Ji province.[3]

In the year 199, Yuan Shao began to plan an attack on Xu city, in hopes of taking Cao Cao’s place as “protector” of Emperor Liu Xie.[4] At this time, Cui Yan served under Yuan Shao as Chief Commandant of the Cavalry [ji duwei]. He strongly objected to this operation on the grounds that Yuan Shao would essentially be attacking the emperor. Yuan Shao ignored his objections.[5] Yuan Shao advanced in the year 200.[6] His army was defeated at Boma,[7] Yan Crossing[8], and Guandu,[9] which forced him to retreat. After Yuan Shao’s death in 202, his forces split between his sons Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang. Cui Yan refused to join either side. [10]

In 204, Cao Cao conquered the city of Ye[11], breaking the spine of the Yuan family’s army.[12] By this time, Cui Yan had come into Cao Cao’s service and he was appointed as Aide-de-Camp [biejia congshi] of Ji province. Cao Cao commented to Cui Yan that Ji had a very large population and speculated that he could recruit a large army from Ji. Cui Yan admonished him to consider the welfare of the people before attempting to recruit them. He advised Cao Cao to learn the local customs and see to their needs instead. Cao Cao thanked him for this advice.[13]

In 208, Cao Cao went to the south, to campaign in Jing province. He left his son Cao Pi in charge of affairs at Ye, ordering him to rely on Cui Yan as his chief adviser.[14] Also in this year, Cao Cao became Chancellor [chengxiang] and conducted an overhaul of the government’s offices.[15] Cui Yan was made Senior Clerk in the Department of the West[16] and held authority over the Department of the East. The Department of the West was responsible for the promotion and recommendation of officials in the central government while the Department of the East dealt with other civil and military positions.[17]

Cui Yan worked closely with Mao Jie to recommend and promote people of talent. They nominated and advanced many scholars of honesty and integrity and suppressed those who, though talented, lacked morals. They prized those who were humble and virtuous and ignored all who were flatters or arrogant. Because of this the court officials all strove to be frugal and humble in hopes of receiving a good recommendation from Cui Yan and Mao Jie. Even favored ministers would wear shabby clothing and ride in run-down carriages in an attempt to display their frugality. Because displays of wealth were frowned upon, bribery and corruption became almost nonexistent within the court. Cao Cao is said to have remarked, “If the men in office are like this, then the people of the empire can govern themselves. What more need I do?”[18]

Nevertheless, some criticism arose regarding the policies of Cui Yan and Mao Jie. The Senior Clerk He Xia warned Cao Cao that it was foolish of Cui Yan and Mao Jie to judge all offfiials by the same standard, saying that while economy and frugality may work well for some, it was unjust to force others into the same pattern. He Xia reported that any court official who took care with his appearance, wearing nice clothing and riding in a good carriage, was accused of corruption while those who were slovenly were assumed to be pure and upright. Within the court, officials felt that they needed to dirty their clothes and hide any expensive possessions, and the highest officials were afraid to eat in public because others might criticize them for any expensive food they may eat. Because of the perceived need to hide any expenses, even incorrupt ministers became secretive and deceptive. He Xia felt that it would be best for Cao Cao to encourage his ministers to seek a more moderate approach that all could follow.[19]

Shortly after his discussion with He Xia, Cao Cao issued a proclamation calling on his officials to recommend people based only on ability, not on moral character. He believed that he could make use of even the most corrupt scoundrel if he had ability.[20]

Two close friends of Cui Yan were named Gongsun Fang and Song Jie. Both of these men died young, leaving children behind. Cui Yan brought these children into his home and treated them like his own family.[21]

Cui Yan advised Cao Cao to employ many talented officials, including Sun Li, Lu Yu, and his cousin Cui Lin. All three of these men eventually held the title Minister of Works [sikong].[22] Cui Yan also recommended Sima Yi, who he praised as a man of clear intelligence and decisiveness, with a keen sense of justice and exceptional bravery. On Cui Yan’s recommendation, Cao Cao sought Sima Yi’s service.[23] Sima Yi proved to be one of the nation’s most talented ministers and generals; the Jin dynasty was built largely on his political and military achievements.

In June of 213, Cao Cao was enfeoffed as Duke [gong][24] of Wei. In winter of that year, Cao Cao established various offices for his administration. Cui Yan became one of the Masters of Writing [shangshu].[25]

In 216, Cao Cao was further advanced to be King [wang] of Wei.[26] Around this time was some debate over who Cao Cao should make his heir: his oldest son Cao Pi or a younger son, Cao Zhi. A small group of official supported Cao Zhi’s claim, including Ding Yi[27], who appears to have succeeded to Cui Yan’s former position as Senior Clerk in the Department of the West.[28] Cao Cao sent letters privately to many of his officials seeking their advice on this matter. Cui Yan decided to make his reply public. He argued that every principal and worthy precedent agreed that the eldest son should be made the heir. Cui Yan also praised Cao Pi as loving, filial, intelligent and wise – he claimed that he would support Cao Pi even to death. This surprised many due to the fact that Cao Zhi was married to Cui Yan’s niece.[29]

In recognition of his good advice, Cui Yan was made Commandant of the Capitol [zhongwei].[30]

Some time ago, Cui Yan had recommended a scholar named Yang Xun for office.[31] It was said that while Yang Xun’s abilities were limited, his conduct was flawless.[32] When Cao Cao became King of Wei, Yang Xun published an essay praising him for his accomplishments and virtues. Some people viewed Yang Xun as nothing but a flatterer and hypocrite and harshly criticized his work. Cui Yan obtained a copy of Yang Xun’s essay for himself. He thought it was excellent work and sent Yang Xun a letter saying, “I have examined your memorial and it is excellent. It is just a matter of time, time! Soon there will be changes."[33]

Cui Yan made an innocent mistake with the wording of his letter. The word he used for “changes” could also mean “rebellion”.[34] All Cui Yan intended to say was that in time, people would praise Yang Xun’s work rather than criticize it. However, Cui Yan had made his share of enemies over the years and they claimed that he was plotting treason. Cui Yan was arrested; his head was shaved and he was sentenced to hard labor. However, his enemies continued to slander him, claiming that he was still unrepentant. Ultimately, Cui Yan’s enemies prevailed and he was executed.[35]

Cui Yan was a man of strict moral character who never compromised his ideals. He sought endlessly for individuals who were of similar integrity and saw to it that they were advanced and that the corrupt were not employed. He always provided unbiased advice, giving his honest opinion with no regard for personal gain. Cui Yan recommended many people for office, including Sima Yi, and their actions would shape the future of the state. It is a shame that such a man was brought down by a poor choice of words and vile slander.
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Mao Jie (Xiaoxian)
?-?
Highest Office: Supervisor of the Masters of Writing


Mao Jie hailed from Chenliu, in Yan province.[36] He became an official in the local administration and was noted for his abilities. Around 190, he fled from local troubles and took refuge in Yuyang. However, when Cao Cao took control of Yan province in 192, Mao Jie returned home to join him.[37]

In 192, Mao Jie was an Attendant Official at Headquarters to Cao Cao, who had recently taken control of Yan province. He advised Cao Cao to send letters to Emperor Liu Xie to gain his support. Meanwhile, Mao Jie also suggested establishing agricultural colonies.[38] These suggestions led to two of Cao Cao’s greatest advantages in the subsequent civil war: possession of Emperor Liu Xie and the food supplies to maintain his army and the loyalty of the populace.[39]

When Cao Cao conducted his reorganization of the government in 208, he made Mao Jie Senior Clerk in the Department of the East,[40]which was responsible for nominating and promoting officials within the military and local government. Though he was the head of that department, Mao Jie appears to have been subordinate to Cui Yan, who was made Senior Clerk in the Department of the West.[41] In Mao Jie’s case, this was more of a change in title than a promotion, as he had already served Cao Cao in this capacity for years. [42] Mao Jie worked closely with Cui Yan and together, they recommended many virtuous people for office. [43]

When Cao Cao was made Duke [gong] in 213, Mao Jie became one of the Masters of Writing [shangshu] along with Cui Yan.[44] Mao Jie succeeded considerably well in his position and became a Supervisor of the Masters of Writing [puyi shangshu].[45]

During the debate over Cao Cao’s heir, Mao Jie also supported Cao Pi. He reminded the court that Yuan Shao had made no distinction between his sons and the fighting between the two of them destroyed their state and made it easy for Cao Cao to conquer all of the north. Mao Jie criticized this debate itself, saying, “It is inappropriate that I should even hear of such a plan.”[46]

Mao Jie believed that Cui Yan had been unjustly accused and unduely punished. Mao Jie’s enemies slandered him as well and falsely accused him of speaking treason like Cui Yan. He was arrested and imprisoned on these grounds.[47] However, Cao Cao did not formally investigate the claims. The Palace Attendants [shizhong] Huan Jie and He Xia[48]both spoke to Cao Cao on Mao Jie’s behalf, urging him to investigate the case fully. Cao Cao explained that he did not investigate because he did not want to have to execute Mao Jie if the claims were true or punish his accusers if the charges were false. Ultimately, Huan Jie and He Xie could not convince Cao Cao to investigate the matter and determine the truth. Cao Cao did release Mao Jie from prison, but he was also dismissed from his position. Sometime later, he passed away at his home.[49]

One Mao Jie’s leading accusers was Ding Yi, who had taken Cui Yan’s former position as Senior Clerk of the Department of the West. He gained a reputation as a slanderous and abusive official, though Cao Cao seemed strangely blind to his faults.[50] Cao Cao had, at one point, considered a marriage between one of his daughters and Ding Yi, but this was prevented by Cao Pi’s intercession. As a result, Ding Yi and Cao Pi were declared enemies and it was likely this enmity that led Ding Yi to support Cao Zhi’s claim as heir.[51]

Given that Cui Yan and Mao Jie spoke strongly in support of Cao Pi instead of Cao Zhi, it is likely that this is what earned then the enmity of Ding Yi. And as Ding Yi was involved in slandering Mao Jie, he was almost certain that he was one of Cui Yan’s main accusers as well.

Cao Pi was made Crown Prince [taizi] in 217.[52] After Cao Cao’s death in 220, Cao Pi became King of Wei.[53] Shortly after this, Cao Pi executed Ding Yi as well as all the male members of his family.[54] In recognition of Mao Jie’s service, one of his sons or grandsons was invited to join Cao Pi’s court.[55]

Mao Jie was a capable man with great foresight. He served Cao Cao well and recommended many talented and virtuous men for office. His convictions never wavered and he stood in defense of his friend Cai Yan even though it cost him all but his life. Ultimately, he was dismissed due to baseless and petty slander. Alas.

Notes
[1] Jian’an 4, K
[2] de Crespigny’s note 5 of Jian’an 21; the length of Cui Yan’s beard is given as 4 [chi], which is approximately 3 feet or 1 meter.
[3] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 102
[4] Jian’an 4, J
[5] Jian’an 4, K
[6] Jian’an 5, E
[7] Jian’an 5, I
[8] Jian’an 5, K
[9] Jian’an 5, AA
[10] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 102
[11] Ye was in Wei commandery, Ji province – it would later be the personal stronghold of the Cao family.
[12] Jian’an 9, F
[13] Jian’an 9, J
[14] Jian’an 11, B; the main text of the ZZTJ says that Cao Pi was left in charge of Ye in 206, when Cao Cao campaigned against Gao Gan in Bing province. However, de Crespigny’s note 2 of Jian’an 11 remarks that Cui Yan’s sanguozhi biography says that Cao Pi was left in charge at Ye in 208, when Cao Cao went to campaign in Jing province. I have decided to accept the sanguozhi account of events.
[15] Jian’an 13, I
[16] Jian’an 13, J
[17] de Crespigny’s note 14 of Jian’an 13; the main text of the ZZTJ says that Mao Jie was Senior Clerk of the Department of the East, but Cui Yan’s sanguozhi claims that he was in charge of both departments.
[18] Jian’an 13, K
[19] Jian’an 14, K
[20] Jian’an 15, A; one might be surprised that Cao Cao did not issue such an order earlier in his reign, given the questionable histories of many of his most trusted generals and ministers.
[21] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 102
[22] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 102
[23] Jian’an 15, L
[24] Under the Han, there were basically two ranks of nobility: Marquis [hou] and Prince [wang]. Princes were always members of the Imperial family (with a handful of exceptions, including Cao Cao). Cao Cao was given the title Duke [gong] to put him above the various Marquis without granting him the title of Prince.
[25] Jian’an 18, M; the Masters of Writing [shangshu] oversaw all of the memorials and edicts to and from the court and were special advisers to the emperor.
[26] As per note 20, the title of Prince/King [wang] was traditionally reserved for members of the Imperial family. The title [wang] can be translated as either Prince or King. In this case, I refer to all members of the Imperial family as Princes and Cao Cao as King because even though they have the same title, Cao Cao was given authority over them.
[27] Jian’an 22, G
[28] Jian’an 21, E gives Ding Yi’s position as such.
[29] Jian’an 22, H
[30] de Crespigny’s note 3 of Jian’an 21; a Commandant of the Capitol [zhongwei] was in charge of the military forces of a state [guo] and was the equivalent of a commandery’s commandant [wei]. From the context of this appointment, Cui yan was in charge of the local military of Wei State, where Cao Cao’s personal seat of power was.
[31] Jian’an 21, B
[32] de Crespigny’s note 3 of Jian’an 21
[33] Jian’an 21, B
[34] de Crespigny’s note 4 of Jian’an 21
[35] Jian’an 21, B
[36] Chuping 3, HH
[37] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 663
[38] Chuping 3, HH
[39] de Crespigny’s note 61 of Chuping 3
[40] Jian’an 13, J
[41] de Crespigny’s note 14 of Jian’an 13; the main text of the ZZTJ says that Mao Jie was Senior Clerk of the Department of the East, but Cui Yan’s sanguozhi claims that he was in charge of both departments.
[42] Jian’an 13, J; Mao Jie had served specifically as Senior Clerk in the Department of the East under the Minister of Works – the Minister of Works [sikong] being Cao Cao’s title until 208. In 208, Cao Cao was made Chancellor [chengxiang], so Mao Jie’s title was changed to Senior Clerk in the Department of the East under the Chancellor. It was merely a change in title, not in function or authority.
[43] Jian’an 13, K
[44] Jian’an 18, M
[45] Jian’an 22, I gives Mao Jie’s rank as such; at the time of his original appointment as Master of Writing [shangshu], this position was held by one Liang Mao
[46] Jian’an 22, I
[47] Jian’an 21, C
[48] He Xia was mentioned before as the official who criticized Cui Yan and Mao Jie for being too strict in their recommendations. Evidently, his opposition to the pair was strictly professional and there was no personal animosity between them.
[49] Jian’an 21, D
[50] Jian’an 21, E
[51] Jian’an 22, G
[52] Jian’an 22, E
[53] Huangchu 1, 9
[54] Huangchu 1, 17
[55] de Crespigny, Rafe, “A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han and Three Kingdoms”, pg. 664
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capnnerefir
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Re: Cui Yan and Mao Jie Biographies [ZZTJ Compliation]

Unread postby Xu Yuan » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:27 am

I've always had a soft spot for Cui Yan and it is great to see that the man was as virtuous and forthright as I had imagined. Mao Jie was only known by name, I had no idea he was Cui Yan's partner and friend who put everything on the line to to speak up for his friend.

In those respects Cao Pi's execution of Ding Yi seemed proper as revenge for losing two of his most able supporters. Though what was so special about Ding Yi that Cao Cao couldn't touch him? This was the only time I'd ever seen Cao Cao relent from a crime fitting the punishment.
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Re: Cui Yan and Mao Jie Biographies [ZZTJ Compliation]

Unread postby capnnerefir » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:47 am

Xu Yuan wrote:Though what was so special about Ding Yi that Cao Cao couldn't touch him? This was the only time I'd ever seen Cao Cao relent from a crime fitting the punishment.

Cao Cao seems to have been unwilling to look into Mao Jie's case because he didn't want to have enough evidence to punish Ding Yi. He Xia urged Cao Cao to investigate the matter fully, but Cao Cao said he didn't want to do it because he wanted to protect Mao Jie as well as his accusers. That is, he didn't want to have to execute Mao Jie if the accusations were true, and he didn't want to dismiss Ding Yi if the accusations were false.

I'll admit it's a really weird thing for Cao Cao to do. He wasn't usually in the habit of avoiding the truth or letting people get away with this sort of thing. Maybe that brain tumor was acting up.
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