Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

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Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

Unread postby Pirao » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:49 pm

Hi, everyone. I hope you can help me with varios questions I have about the titles of officials of the era.

So, reading the various biographies I noticed that at Cao Wei there was at the same time a "Grand Commandant", a "Grand Marshal" and a "General-in-chief" (Hua Xin, Cao Xiu, and Cao Zhen respectively). Now, as far as I know Hua Xin was just a civil officer so I imagine Grand Commandant was still the highest of the 3 excellencies and nominal head of the civil administration and not a military officer, just like during Later Han. But, what was the difference between Grand Marshal and General-in-Chief? All I can gather is that Grand Marshal was a higher rank since Cao Zhen was promoted to it after Cao Xiu's death.

Also, secondary marquises are mentioned at various times. Are they the same as marquises within the passes (receive income from the state but have no fief like full marquises) or something else?

And finally, in the books Bureaucracy of Han times and The Goevrnment of the Qin and Han empires, it mentions the various titles of generals that were commonly used (Chariots and Cavalry, Agile Cavalry, Front, Left, Right, Rear and a few others), and says that they ranked "above the Nine Ministers". What I'm unsure of, is if every general title gives a higher rank than the Nine Ministers, or only the ones mentioned above. Do Major-generals and Lieutenant-generals (which seem to be among the lowest ranking general titles) rank above the Nine Ministers, too? It seems .at the very least. they rank above "generals of the household" which were equivalent to 2000 shi, since Lu Meng and Ling Tong were promoted from general of the household to Lieutenant-general. Xu Huang was promoted from cavalry commandant (also equivalent to 2000 shi) to Major-general.
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Re: Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:32 pm

Theres a better answer from our better members :

What i gather at least from the novel and the bios is something Mao commented, Shu replicated Han Institutions, Wei made their own.

Its logical that that Cao Zhen, Cao Xiu and Sima Yi had more or less equivalent powers. I believe Hua Xin was just a civil officer.

Its equally logical that the military structure eventually subverted the Civil Structure, separation of powers is hard to pin down.

One thing was clear though, the Emperor Cao Rui still maintained a significant amount of independent power and the Cao clan held the functions of the power much as since Cao Cao took over as Han Prime Minister had been carefully set up. Therefore the actions against Sima Yi when Zhuge Liang made up false rumors about him on the 1st Northern Campaign taken by Cao Zhen and Cao Xiu.

Essentially one could see this as rule by Clan, positions simply gave them formal legitimacy bureaucratically and formally within the state in the minds of the people.

When the Sima Clan takes over, it steals the power positions from the Cao Clan.
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Re: Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:01 pm

Quotes are taken from Yang Zhengyuan's THE HUNDRED OFFICES OF WEI AND JIN:

Marshal-in-Chief (da sima) 大 司 馬 was formally in charge of military affairs. The etymology is explained as si means manage, ma (horse) means warfare. During Wei, the Marshal-in-Chief was a military rank separate from Excellency Commandant. In 222, Cao Ren was first appointed Marshal-inChief.

General-in-Chief (da jiangjun) 大 將 軍 was the highest ranking General. In the ideals of Zhou, Heaven’s Son maintained Six Armies, large states Three, the next Two, and small states One; the commander (jiang) of an army (jun) was a General (jiangjun), hence the name. During Eastern Han, the General-in-Chief came to be ranked above the Three Excellencies. During Wei, Sima Yi was promoted from General-in-Chief to Excellency Commandant in 235, indicating rank order had reversed. Later the rank order reversed again. When Sima Shi was General-in-Chief and his uncle Sima Fu was Excellency Commandant, he memorialized to reverse the rank order so as to not outrank his uncle; later the rank order reversed again.


The Three Generals, Elite Cavalry, Chariots of Cavalry, and Guard, were ranked after the Three Excellencies.


The General Campaigning East 征東將軍, South 南, West 西, and North 北 were the Four Campaign Generals. According to Yu Huan, these were ranked at 2000 dan salary level, during Huangchu (220 – 226) were ranked after the Three Excellencies, and during Han were ranked among the Miscellaneous Generals.39 The Generals Defending East, South, West, and North were the Four Defense 鎮 Generals, comparable to the Four Campaign Generals. The General of the Central Army 中軍將軍, General Defending the Army 鎮軍將軍, and General Supporting the Army 撫軍將軍 were comparable to the Four Defense Generals.40 During Wei, Chen Qun41 was General Defending the Army, and Sima Yi was General Supporting the Army. These two evidently had comparable rank, as the Emperor Wen Cao Pi made special note of them in an Imperial Order, having Chen Qun accompany him on campaign while Sima Yi remained at the capital.42 Wei also appointed the Four Securing 安 and Four Pacifying 平 Generals, also associated with the four cardinal directions. The General of the Left 左將軍, Right 右, Front 前, and Rear 後 were originally Zhou positions, and continued through Qin, Han, and Wei.43 Miscellaneous Generals 雜號將軍 The Miscellaneous Generals were lower ranked and identified by a specific campaign or a stylistic motto. During Han and Wei, there were forty Miscellaneous titles, irregularly appointed,44 and not listed here.


Hope that answers your question! I'm sorry it took me so long to reply, I knew I had a helpful source somewhere, I just couldn't recall where I'd stored it.
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Re: Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

Unread postby Pirao » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:34 pm

Sun Fin wrote:Quotes are taken from Yang Zhengyuan's THE HUNDRED OFFICES OF WEI AND JIN:

Marshal-in-Chief (da sima) 大 司 馬 was formally in charge of military affairs. The etymology is explained as si means manage, ma (horse) means warfare. During Wei, the Marshal-in-Chief was a military rank separate from Excellency Commandant. In 222, Cao Ren was first appointed Marshal-inChief.

General-in-Chief (da jiangjun) 大 將 軍 was the highest ranking General. In the ideals of Zhou, Heaven’s Son maintained Six Armies, large states Three, the next Two, and small states One; the commander (jiang) of an army (jun) was a General (jiangjun), hence the name. During Eastern Han, the General-in-Chief came to be ranked above the Three Excellencies. During Wei, Sima Yi was promoted from General-in-Chief to Excellency Commandant in 235, indicating rank order had reversed. Later the rank order reversed again. When Sima Shi was General-in-Chief and his uncle Sima Fu was Excellency Commandant, he memorialized to reverse the rank order so as to not outrank his uncle; later the rank order reversed again.


The Three Generals, Elite Cavalry, Chariots of Cavalry, and Guard, were ranked after the Three Excellencies.


The General Campaigning East 征東將軍, South 南, West 西, and North 北 were the Four Campaign Generals. According to Yu Huan, these were ranked at 2000 dan salary level, during Huangchu (220 – 226) were ranked after the Three Excellencies, and during Han were ranked among the Miscellaneous Generals.39 The Generals Defending East, South, West, and North were the Four Defense 鎮 Generals, comparable to the Four Campaign Generals. The General of the Central Army 中軍將軍, General Defending the Army 鎮軍將軍, and General Supporting the Army 撫軍將軍 were comparable to the Four Defense Generals.40 During Wei, Chen Qun41 was General Defending the Army, and Sima Yi was General Supporting the Army. These two evidently had comparable rank, as the Emperor Wen Cao Pi made special note of them in an Imperial Order, having Chen Qun accompany him on campaign while Sima Yi remained at the capital.42 Wei also appointed the Four Securing 安 and Four Pacifying 平 Generals, also associated with the four cardinal directions. The General of the Left 左將軍, Right 右, Front 前, and Rear 後 were originally Zhou positions, and continued through Qin, Han, and Wei.43 Miscellaneous Generals 雜號將軍 The Miscellaneous Generals were lower ranked and identified by a specific campaign or a stylistic motto. During Han and Wei, there were forty Miscellaneous titles, irregularly appointed,44 and not listed here.


Hope that answers your question! I'm sorry it took me so long to reply, I knew I had a helpful source somewhere, I just couldn't recall where I'd stored it.


Thanks for this information, Sun Fin. I imagine major and lieutenant generals are inlcuded among "miscellanous generals"? The generals of the left, right, front and rear are explicitly mentioned as being above the nine ministers by Loewe and Bielenstein, I guess the others were all below, somewhere between 2000 and equivalent to 2000 shi officers.
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Re: Later Han and Three Kingdoms titles question

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Feb 09, 2020 4:05 pm

I can find no reference to Lieutenant or Major generals in the source, so I agree that they are likely to fall under the miscellaneous bracket. Sorry I can't confirm one way or the other.
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