Comprehensive Biography for Xun Xu

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Comprehensive Biography for Xun Xu

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Wed May 30, 2018 6:43 am

Xun Xu, style Gongzeng (~220-289)

Xun Xu was born sometime in the early to mid 220s. His father was Xun Xi, son of Xun Fei and the cousin of the famous Xun Yu. [1] Xun Xu’s mother was the daughter of Zhong Yao, thus making Xun Xu his grandson. Xun Xi, however, died when Xun Xu was very young and he was raised by his grandfather, as well as his uncle Zhong Yu. It’s also likely he was raised by Xun Yi as well, given that Xu had an extreme talent for music, which was something Xun Yi was very well known for. [2]

Much like many members of the Zhong and Xun clan, Xu was a prodigal child and often received comparisons to Xun Yu and You. When he was only 9 years old it was said that he could fully compose texts. Zhong Yao said that Xun Xu is a match for Xun Shuang, who was the Minister of Works (one of the Three Excellencies) during the Later Han Dynasty. [3]

Xun Xu and Zhong Hui studied under He Yan while serving as minor figures under the regency of Cao Shuang sometime during their late teens to early twenties. [4] Xuanxue was on the rise at this time, and many prominent brilliant individuals rose from this group; Xun Xu, Zhong Hui, Pei Xiu, Wang Bi, Zhuge Dan just to name a few. [5] Rafe de Crespigny notes that this time in Wei is considered the height of academic achievement and literary debate. [6]

However Wei was soon shaken to the core as a coup struck the state in 249. While Cao Shuang, his group and the Emperor were visiting Ming-di’s tomb at Gaoping, Sima Yi and his supporters seized the capital city of Luoyang. Cao Shuang eventually turned himself over, and Sima Yi executed him as well as thousands of his supporters. [7] None of Cao Shuang’s former supporters dare step forward to attend his funeral. They all feared that if they did they would incur Sima Yi’s wrath. All but one. That one was Xun Xu, who stepped forward and everyone would come to follow his lead. [8]

Despite this, or perhaps even because of this show of respect for his former master, Xun Xu was appointed to the Prefect of Anyang, a small town south of Yingchuan, his home prefecture. While he was there he proved to be very effective and kind man. The people adored him so much they built a temple there in his honor. [9] Relatives of both the Zhong and Xun clans were rising to very distinct ranks in the Sima regime by this time. Zhong Yu rose to Minister of Justice [10] and eventually General of the Rear [11], while Xun Xu served directly beneath him at one time. [12] Along with Zhong Hui who would rise all the way to Minister over the Masses in 264. [13]

After Sima Zhao took over matters of the state following Sima Shi’s death, Xun Xu seemingly became one of Sima Zhao’s military advisers along with Zhong Hui. [14] It’s unclear what battles he followed Sima Zhao to, but if are to look at the time between 255 and 263, Zhuge Dan’s Rebellion certainly falls into that time frame.

Xun Xu achieved a position in the court in the 260s and became rather famous for his ability to get right into Sima Zhao’s face, and tell him when he is wrong. [15] He urged kindness when dealing with many people. In fact during Cao Mao’s attempt to restore power to the Emperor and kill Sima Zhao, a relative of Sima Zhao’s attempted to get into the palace to kill the Emperor, however he was turned away by force of arms. Sima Zhao wanted to slaughter the man’s entire family for getting int the way, but Xun Xu was able to calm Sima Zhao down and simply demote him. It would assert Sima Zhao’s supreme power, but also show his compassion and reflect well in the eyes of the people. [16]

In 262 Sima Zhao had grown furious of the constant invasion by Jiang Wei and a stableman named Lu Yi requested permission to head to Shu and assassinate Jiang Wei. Xun Xu heard of this and he rushed to the scene and spoke

“As Prime Minister of the Empire, Your Excellency ought to punish the rebels by fair means. But you would employ an assassin to eliminate the rebels; this is not the way to extend your example to the land within the four seas.” [17]

Xun Xu basically says that assassinations are cowardly, and it would be wise to deal with the threat head on, rather than with cloak and dagger means. Sima Zhao agreed with this and decided not to go through with it.

However several years after this Sima Zhao had eyes on conquering Shu, but many in the court spoke out against this action. They cited Shu’s natural defenses, the difficulty transporting supplies; it was all around logistically infeasible. However there was one that spoke out in favor of this. Zhong Hui, Xun Xu’s maternal uncle, though the two were roughly the same age. Zhong Hui, both publicly and privately, spoke to the ministers of the court until all were in agreement that this invasion was the proper course of action. [18]

Sima Zhao named Zhong Hui General who Guards the West and put 100,000 soldiers at his back. [19] Over the years many people had spoken out about giving Zhong Hui too much power. Now was Xun Xu’s time to do the same. He warned that by sending Zhong Hui off, rebellion was imminent. More-so Sima Zhao did not trust Deng AI entirely either, so Xun Xu’s solution was to send the Minister of Justice, Wei Guan, as the Inspector of the Army to keep everyone in line. [20] It is important to remember, Zhong Hui and Xun Xu were related. At this time, Sima Zhao kept Xun Xu very close because of this very relationship.

Many officials argued that Xun Xu should be banished, but Sima Zhao effectively held him hostage as a way to secure Zhong Hui’s loyalty. Xun Xu rode in Sima Zhao’s carriage with him and was always present with a group. [21] It does not take much to read between the lines. Xun Xu, and every one else under the son’s warnings proved true, and Zhong Hui attempted to revolt after Shu was conquered, however he was killed by Hu Yuan. [22]

During their youth Xun Xu had come into possession of a prized sword that he cherished very much. Zhong Hui would steal this object from his older nephew which prompted Xun Xu to go to Hui's home and paint a very realistic image of Hui's recently deceased father. The cap, clothing, hair; everything was picture perfect. Zhong Hui felt great shame and returned the sword. [23]

Shortly after this Sima Zhao became the King of Jin and Xun Xu was promoted to Palace Attendant, while also being enfeoffed as the Marquis of Anyang, the village he was in charge of earlier. [24] When Sima Yan succeeded and became the first Emperor of Jin, he attempted to make Xun Xu and Yang Hu both Dukes, however they declined. [25]

Sima Yan re-implemented the Five Noble ranks of Zhou and instructed Jia Chong to lead a team to rewrite the laws. Jia Chong hired men like Xun Yi, Zhang Hua and Du Yu, but also Xun Xu. This went on from 266 till 268. [26] Pei Xiu led bureaucratic reform and Xun Yi dealt with compiling reforms as well. At this time Xun Xu and Zhang Hua worked closely together with one another. Though that didn’t last long. Jia Chong began to form a faction within the court consisting of the Grand Commandant, Xun Yi, Xun Xu and Feng Dan. [27] It’s said that the other members of the court, and even those in the countryside hated them. [28]

The main opponents of this faction were Ren Kai, nephew of Cao Rui, and Yu Chun. The Jin court turned into a power struggle to see which faction would overcome the other. Jia Chong initially had Sima Yan make Ren Kai the lesser tutor to the Crown Prince, Sima Zhong, which would restrict his powers. However Sima Yan allowed him to remain involved in court affairs. [29] There was one possibility for each faction to overcome the other though: Tufa Shujineng.

The Tufa Xianbei under Shujineng were across Jin’s territories. Even the famous Hu Lie was killed in battle. Nearly every army thrown against them met with failure aside from Wen Yang. [30] Sima Yan was greatly concerned over this and Ren Kai jumped at the opportunity, and said that only a person with great influence could defeat the tribe. Vast intellect was needed. When Sima Yan asked who, Ren Kai and Yu Chan named Jia Chong. Sima Yan named Jia Chong the Commander of Qinzhou and Liangzhou, and charged him with defeating the Xianbei. [31]

Jia Chong was, understandably, terrified at the notion of being sent against the Tufa. He held a banquet before leaving, however he met in secret with Xun Xu. Xun Xu said that even though Jia Chong is the chief minister of the state, he is allowing another to control him. Since he has not left the capital, it’s impossible to say whether or not he will defeat Tufa Shujineng. However Xun Xu then said there is an even more pressing matter; the situation of the Crown Prince’s marriage. Xun Xu went and spoke with Feng Dan, and he told him that their court influence relies on Jia Chong’s presence. The issue of the marriage hasn’t been addressed. In order to secure everything, it would be best to wed Sima Zhong to Jia Nanfeng. Feng Dan agreed. [32]

Sima Yan was intent on marrying Sima Zhong to Lady Wei, daughter of Wei Guan. [33] However Jia Chong’s wife, Guo Huai (NOT THAT ONE!!!!), was able to actually bribe Empress Yang. She spoke with Sima Yan, and Sima Yan gave a 5 point speech. [34] These are apparently very popular in Three Kingdoms literature.

“Lord Wei’s daughter has the Five Merits, while Lord Jia’s daughter has the Five Demerits. Lady Wei has a worthy personality and is fertile, beautiful, tall, and fair. Lady Jia has a jealous personality and is infertile, ugly, short, and dark." [35]

However Empress Yang continued to argue. Xun Yi, Xu and Feng Dan all voiced their concerns and said Jia Nanfeng was the most beautiful woman in the land, virtuous, and talented. Sima Yan finally agreed and because of this, Jia Chong would remain at his post and not fight the Tufa Xianbei. [36]

Yang Hu eventually sent a petition to the court, stating that Wu was weakened and after constant victories the Jin army was at an all time high. However the court disagreed, particularly Jia Chong’s faction with Xun Xu being very vocal about his opinion on the campaign. [37] The campaign did not go through at this time despite Sima Yan truly desiring it himself.

However several years passed and Du Yu, Yang Hu’s successor against Wu, petitioned the court twice and with the words of Zhang Hua, the invasion of Wu was going to happen. [38] Yet again Jia Chong, Feng Dan and Xun Xu objected constantly. Whether it was in public or private, they slandered everyone in favor of it and stated how terrible of an idea it was. Their primary concern was that of the logistical travesty that would be a campaign of such a size. Sima Yan was furious with him, and Jia Chong begged for forgiveness. [39]

While the campaign was under way it was a resounding success for quite sometime, however progress had seemed to slow down and the faction under Jia Chong would use this as their opportunity. Both Jia Chong and Xun Xu memorialized the court that Zhang Hua be cut in half as a way to appease the realm for advising, what they thought, was a failed campaign. [40] Sima Yan, luckily for Zhang Hua and the nation, didn’t listen to them as not long after news reached them of Sun Hao’s surrendered. [41]

Zhang Hua rose greatly in power because of this, though the Jia faction certainly wasn’t weak. Xun Xu in particularly seemed to despise Zhang Hua. Since Xun Xu had the Emperor’s ear, he was always trying to slander Zhang Hua and get him shipped off to a boarder post. [42]

Sima Zhong, the crown prince and heir to Sima Yan and to Jin, suffered from some kind of mental disability. Being a partisan of the Jia clan, Xun Xu was close with Princess Jia Nanfeng, and the two of them worked together in order to hide Sima Zhong’s disability from his father. Often going so far as to forge letters from him to show that Zhong’s education was coming along very well. [43] Xun Xu was a key figure in the rise of the Jia clan in power, and he eventually became the Director of the Secretariat, and often advised who would be the best person for the Three Excellencies. [44] He eventually passed away in 289 and was appointed as posthumous Minister of the Masses, the very same post his great grandfather Xun Shuang held. [45] It is very fitting that Zhong Yao once compared the two and Xun Xu would eventually hold the very same post as his great grandfather, even if it was in death.

While Xun Xu was not an ideal person, he was certainly a genius. His ability was respected, but his conduct was not. He created a school in which people can learn calligraphy in the style of his grandfather, Zhong Yao. He had an incredible ear for music, and during the early years of the Jin Dynasty he even had a hand in the way it was composed. Much like Jia Chong, he was a petty but extremely loyal man of the state. From being the first person to openly grieve for Cao Shuang, rising all the way to one of Jin’s most prominent ministers; Xun Xu was a man of many talents. While his fore-bearers would not be proud of his conduct, his ability may make them smile. Jin was far better off with Xun Xu around.

[1] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[2] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[3] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[4] Chen Shou, Zhong Hui's Sanguozhi Biography and Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[5] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[6] Rafe de Crespigny, Imperial Warlord
[7] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[8] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[9] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[10] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[11] Empire Divided "Ranks of Wei" chart states that Zhong Yu held the position during this time span, and since he passed away in 263 he would have died in office.
[12] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[13] Chen Shou, Zhong Hui's Sanguozhi Biography
[14] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[15] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[16] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[17] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[18] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[19] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[20] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[21] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[22] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[23] Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[24] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[25] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[26] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[27] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[28] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[29] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[30] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[31] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[32] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[33] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[34] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[35] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[36] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[37] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[38] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[39] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[40] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[41] Taishi Ci 2.0, Zizhi Tongjian: Western Jin (Book 79-93), Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[42] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[43] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[44] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[45] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
Last edited by DaoLunOfShiji on Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Comprehensive Biography for Xun Xu

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:05 am

I know game talk is irrelevant on this sub-forum, but thank you for doing these translations of some of the figures we have fewer details on. After reading through Xun Xu and Zhong Yu's bios, I cracked open XIII and gave them both improvements; Xun Xu in particular got a decent enhancement out of it.
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