Comprehensive Biography for Chen Tai

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Comprehensive Biography for Chen Tai

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:27 pm

Chen Tai, styled Xuanbo (???-260)

Chen Tai was from Yingchuan born the son of Chen Qun[1] and Lady Xun, the sister of Xun Yu.[2] Chen Qun, Tai's father, was a well respected minister serving Liu Bei, Lu Bu and Wu-di, Cao Cao.[3] His career spanned over 20 years under the Cao and rose to the position of Excellency of Works.[4]

Chen Tai's youth was wonderful. Being from a high family both on his father and mother's side, he was awarded an excellent education.[5] He was well versed in scholarly and military matters.[6]

Chen Tai's first foray into the government life in the Qinglong era under Ming-di, Cao Rui, here he was appointed to Scattered-Cavalry Attendant-Gentleman.[7] He would've been appointed this rank either just before, or after his father passed away in 236.[8] In the Zhengshi era, the regime of Cao Shuang, Chen Tai was appointed to the Inspector of Bingzhou and given further authority.[9] During his time in the north he cultivated loyalty and authority among the border tribes through kindness.[10]

It seems that there were those possibly attempting to bribe him, by sending him precious treasures from the capital. This would allow him to by servants, however Chen Tai simply kept it all and when upon being summoned to court he returned everything that was gifted to him.[11]

In the year 249 the Emperor of Wei, Cao Fang, as well as Cao Shuang and his cabal left the capital of Luoyang with the intention of revitalizing the Han tradition of visiting the graves of ancestors.[12] They left on February 5th to Gaoping Tomb, the burial site of Ming-di.[13] When they left the city, the Grand Tutor, Sima Yi, revolted and captured the city in the name of the Empress Dowager Ming-Yuan. The city gates were closed, soldiers captured the Arsenal and soldiers took up positions over the Luoshui.[14] Sima Yi memorialized the Emperor about Cao Shuang on his supposed crimes, though Cao Shuang intercepted it.[15] No word came from the Emperor's camp and so Sima Yi sent Xu Yun and Chen Tai to persuade Cao Shuang to plead guilty. Cao Shuang did eventually relent and give in, and not more than a week later he, along with several thousand others, were executed.[16]

It seems likely that due to his participation in the rise of the Sima regime, Chen Tai would succeed Guo Huai in his position as Inspector of Yongzhou.[17] He also was appointed to General Exerting Martiality. It's worth noting that Chen Tai was very close to Sima Shi and Zhao in their youth.[18]

Later in that year the rebel Jiang Wei of Shu launched an invasion of Yongzhou in the west. At chu-shan he constructed two fortresses and ordered the Ivory Gate General Guo An and Li Xin to guard them.[19] The rebels also provoke the Qiang tribe into rising up under Zhi Ren to attack nearby prefectures. Guo Huai and Chen Tai came to fight them, and Chen Tai advised Guo Huai on the situation, "The forts are indeed strong, but they are too far from Shu and the roads are steep; yet provisions have to be transported to it. The Qiang barbarians are suffering from the labors imposed on them by Jiang Wei; they are certain not to work loyally for him. If we besiege and capture it now, we can take it without bloodying our swords. Reinforcements may come, but the mountain paths are steep and are not suitable ground for troop marches."[20] This plan of Chen Tai truly exemplifies the kind of mind he has with war. He preferred to win through the supreme art of war, with as little fighting as possible. This is a famous theme for Chen Tai that truly sets him above many of the most lauded commanders and generals of the day.

Guo Huai admired this plan and put Chen Tai in charge of Xu Zhi and Deng Ai, sending them to besiege one of the forts named Chucheng.[21] They cut off the supply lines of the Shu rebels and corded off the moat water. The rebels under Guo An tried to engage the Wei army, however Chen Tai refused to engage with him and continued to surround them. The rebels in the fort were forced to use snow for water in order to hold out.[22] Jiang Wei soon came with reinforcements and challenged Chen Tai, but again Chen Tai refused to engage. He cites the Art of War placing value on victory without combat, and so he advises Guo Huai to hasten to Niutoushan in order to give Jiang Wei no place to retreat, thus forcing him to surrender. Guo Huai agreed to this plan and once Jiang Wei realized what was happening he fled in panic. Guo An and the others all surrendered.[23] Yet again Chen Tai proved his mastery over war, winning through the least amount of lives lost. A supreme talent is what he is.

At the start of 253 Chen Tai requested that the army in Bingzhou work in tandem with him in order to suppress the Hu tribe. Sima Shi, who succeeded his father several years early, complied with this. However the Hu tribe heard of this and in Yanman and Xinxing they revolted. Sima Shi apologized greatly to everyone for this plan leaking and loss of the two prefectures, stating the error was on him and not Chen Tai.[24]

Later in that year the rebel states of Shu and Wu both launched a joint attack under Jiang Wei and Zhuge Ke respectively. Sima Shi spoke with Yu Song about this, and Yu Song advised Shi to make haste to the west to deal with Jiang Wei for several reasons. Jiang Wei is isolated and only advanced to cooperate with Zhuge Ke. He has no provisions of his own and seeks to rely on raiding Wei towns and granary. He holds no real merit and is thus the weaker of the two. He further states that Jiang Wei believes their armies were entirely focused on the east dealing with Wu.[25] Sima Shi agreed with this plan and sent Guo Huai, along with Chen Tai, to mobilize the entire army of Guanzhong and head to Didao. When Chen Tai attacked the Shu army at Nan'an and defeated them greatly, Jiang Wei retreated and the west was safe.[26] Zhuge Ke was defeated in his invasion at Xincheng thanks to Zhang Te and eventually killed.[27]

Guo Huai passed away in 255 and Chen Tai was the one to succeed him as General Attacking the West, with complete authority over Yongzhou and Liangzhou's affairs and military.[28] Later that very same year the rebel Jiang Wei marched north with his eyes set upon Didao.[29] The Inspector of Yongzhou Wang Jing reported this to Chen Tai, though he stated that Jiang Wei and Xiahou Ba would be advancing toward Qishan, Shiying and Jincheng. Chen Tai ordered Wang Jing, who wished to engage them, to remain at his current position until Tai arrives to unite their armies. Wang Jing did not listen however, and he marched his army to Gupass on the Tao river and met Zhang Yi of Shu in battle. The Imperial forces were dealt a great defeat and thousands drown in the river.[30] Wang Jing and his forces quickly fled back to defend Didao.[31] Chen Tai came to the conclusion that Wang Jing was not sticking to the plan, and so he lead his army from Chencang to aid Wang Jing.[32] Zhang Yi spoke with Jiang Wei, stating that advancing any further would not help them. They are overextended and lacking supplies, however Jiang Wei, in his supreme ignorance, became furious with Zhang Yi and proceeded to attack Didao despite this correct advice.[33] I feel bad for Zhang Yi... Jiang Wei is often viewed as a pitiable figure thanks to fiction, but this coming battle proves how greatly this propaganda covers just how much of an abysmal failure he was, and how superior Zhang Yi was in seeing the coming failure.

Deng Ai and Sima Fu were sent to reinforce Chen Tai in the west after Wang Jing's great defeat, and so Chen Tai marched the army to Longxi.[34] The generals all advised Chen Tai that he is headed right into the grasps of a victorious Shu army. However Chen Tai counters and states that Jiang Wei and his lightly armored soldiers have come deep into Imperial Lands, and he does not seek to fight Chen Tai but in fact wants to capture Didao and succeed with one battle. He further states that if Jiang Wei's army head east to Liyang and seize the granary, once more the Qiang would rise up, capture many and put four prefectures in great danger. However if they force him to fight at Didao, his soldiers would become exhausted and their lack of supplies would truly be a detriment. He further states Jiang Wei is isolated and not victorious, and all that needs to be done is to apply pressure for victory.[35] Chen Tai thereupon marched his army in secret over night, scaling the mountains to the southeast of Didao. He set up a large number of becon flares, drums and horns, creating a loud commotion which inspired Wang Jing's soldiers in Didao.[36] Jiang Wei was surprised by this and quickly turned his army around to attack Chen Tai, however he was defeated and pulled back.[37] Knowing Jiang Wei was mere moments from defeat, Chen Tai did what he did best: Excelled without fighting. He moved soldiers southwards and leaked a plan that he would intercept and surround Jiang Wei. When Jiang Wei heard of this plan he was greatly afraid and fled on November 11th.[38] Wang Jing came from Didao and apologized greatly for his error, saying these reinforcements from Chen Tai were the only reason he would still be alive. Chen Tai merely soothed and thanked everyone involved and sent them home. He proceeded to draft new soldiers and repaired the walls.[39]

Sima Zhao was greatly impressed by Chen Tai's genius, stating "Xuanbo is sober and brave, with a resolute mind. Charged with the heavy duty of a regional commander and about to save a city to the point of capitulation, he did not seek for more troops; and furthermore he seldom sends dispatches. This is so because he is certain he can manage the rebels. Should not Commanders-In-Chief and Grand Generals be like this"?[40] Though Sima Zhao had praise for the victory, the Emperor of Wei, Cao Mao, greatly lamented the loss of life. He released an Imperial Edict, saying this "As I have little virtue, and cannot restrain the plunderers and evildoers, as a result the Shu rebels reach the Liang frontiers, and the Battle of Taoxi came to defeat, officers and soldiers died, numbering in the thousands. Some lost their lives on the battlefield, becoming unavenged ghosts who cannot return. Some were captured by the hands of the enemy, becoming exiles in a strange land. I am deeply grieved, and for each I lament in my heart. So it is ordered that in the commanderies in the two armies managing agriculture or resisting foreigners, all great officials in each division are to send condolences to each family, and on an individual basis is to be endowed with exemption from conscription for one year. All those who fought and died in battle are each to receive commendations, with none overlooked."[41] I believe this comments on the morality of both men. Where Sima Zhao only see's a victory, Cao Mao see's the great number of lives lost. He mourns them greatly, yet Sima Zhao thinks not of them.

At an unspecified time Chen Tai would later be recalled to serve in the capital. He was to be Secretariat Right Servant-Shooter, Palace Attendant and Grandee Official.[42] Sun Jun of Wu attempted to invade the Imperial Lands the next year in 256, and so Chen Tai was given supreme authority over Huai and Xuzhou. Upon hearing this, Sun Jun retreated and no battle was fought.[43] This speaks to Chen Tai's reputation, comparable to that of Zhang He or Sima Yi. His presence alone is enough to cause a retreat.

The very next year Zhuge Dan would lead his own rebellion in Shouchun, and Sima Zhao marched an army against him. Chen Tai was responsible to managing the Secretariat Affairs at this time.[44] The campaign ended in a great victory for the Sima faction and Zhuge Dan was killed by Hu Fen.[45]

Chen Tai's accomplishments and deeds were lauded by all in the realm. Wu Gai once remarked that Chen Tai was superior to his father in leadership, achievements and handling of affairs.[46] His younger relatives were all rewarded and Chen Tai's own fief was increased by nearly 3,000 households.[47]

In the year 260 the Emperor of Wei, Cao Mao, had grown increasingly angery over the fact that he had become a mere puppet for Sima Zhao. His own Imperial Majesty faded by the day and he knew one day that the Sima would depose of him. Cao Mao, however, was not one to simply sit idly by as he did not fear death.[48] He spoke with Wang Jing, Chen and Ye on the matter, stating he intended to kill Sima Zhao. The three begged of him not to go as he would only meet death. The Emperor refused to listen and so Wang Ye and Chen quickly fled to tell Sima Zhao of this. They tried to convince Wang Jing to follow, he would not.[49] Though Wang Jing's military ability is lackluster as exemplified at Didao and Gupass, he was a loyal man. That is commendable.

The Emperor of Wei mounted his chariot and lead the palace guards through the streets of Luoyang, beat the trumps and chanting. Sima Zhou, brother to Zhao, attempted to resist however they quickly dispersed as they refused to harm the Emperor.[50] Jia Chong, however, an intimate adviser to Sima Zhao and son of famous Wei minister Jia Kui, fought with the Emperor below the Southern Tower Gate. He then ordered Cheng Ji to kill the Emperor, who proceeded to walk forward with his speed and stab the Emperor in the chest, killing him.[51] Another reflection on the kind of man Sima Zhao is comes at this moment, as he conveniently arrives after the death of the Emperor and threw himself on the ground, crying "What will the world think of me?"[52] His uncle, a loyal man of Wei, held the Emperor and blamed himself for the death of Cao Mao as he cried.[53]

Sima Zhao summoned all the officials to the palace shortly after with the intention of discussion succession. All but one came: Chen Tai.[54] Sima Zhao ordered Xun Yi, a relative of Chen Tai and his uncle, to go and speak with him. Chen Tai saw his uncle and spoke, "The critics of this world compare me with my uncle, but my uncle has proved himself not as good as I". He refused to leave, however his sons all cried and begged for him to go.[55] Chen Tai relented and finally went to the palace. Upon arriving he broke into tears, and Sima Zhao conveniently did the same. Zhao asks "What are you going to do with me?" and Chen Tai immediately stated, "There is nothing else to do but kill Jia Chong, by which means you may apologize somewhat to the world."[56] Sima Zhao, however, had no intentions of meeting these demands and said "Think of something less severe."[57] Chen Tai proceeded to say "I can only speak of something more severe than this, not less." Sima Zhao did not say anymore.[58] The implication here that the only other punishment available being the death of Sima Zhao, and this brought Sima Zhao to silence. That very same year Chen Tai passed away, and he was posthumously eneoffed as the Excellency of Works and the Solemn Marquis.[59]

And thus ends the story of Chen Tai. Without a doubt in my mind he was the brightest star of Late Wei. His methods in defeating the Shu invaders multiple times were more impressive than a dozen Hefei's or Yongan's. The Art of War says that victory without battle is supreme, and Chen Tai embodied this. His mind even proved to surpass that of Deng Ai which is no small feat. I think it is very easy to call Chen Tai one of, if not the best talents in the entire Three Kingdoms period. He turned a man who is supposed to be some sort of prodigal genius into a mere child on multiple occasions. A disastrous loss of life at Gupass was turned into a supreme victory all thanks to Chen Tai. Sadly however good things do not last and his loyalty to the Cao and friendship to the Sima saw him in the middle of the worst moment in Wei. His Emperor died and someone he thought was a friend was nothing more than a selfish regecide. One can't help but feel for Chen Tai, but one must also remember that his life and career before this was exemplary. You would be hard press to find anyone that would match his supreme ability.

[1] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[2] Fornandon, Fan Xuanling, Xun Yu Jinshu biography
[3] Rafe de Crespigny, Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han to Three Kingdoms
[4] Rafe de Crespigny, Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han to Three Kingdoms
[5] Battleroyale, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[6] Battleroyale, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[7] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[8] Rafe de Crespigny, Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han to Three Kingdoms
[9] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography

[10] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[11] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[12] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[13] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[14] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[15] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[16] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[17] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[18] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[19] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[20] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[21] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[22] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[23] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[24] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[25] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[26] Shu-Han Zhao Lie Di, Empress Zhang, Achilles Fang, Chen Shou, Jiang Wei's Sanguozhi bioraphy
[27] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[28] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[29] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[30] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[31] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[32] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[33] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[34] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[35] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[36] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[37] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[38] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[39] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[40] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[41] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Mao's Sanguozhi biography
[42] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai 's Sanguozhi biography
[43] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[44] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
[45] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[46] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai 's Sanguozhi biography
[47] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai 's Sanguozhi biography
[48] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[49] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[50] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[51] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[52] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[53] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[54] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[55] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[56] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[57] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[58] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[59] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Chen Tai's Sanguozhi biography
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