Comprehensive Biography for He Yan

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Comprehensive Biography for He Yan

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In the words of the 21st century Jian'an poet DJ Khaled, "Another one". :mrgreen:

He Yan, style Pingshu (???-February 9, 249)

He Yan’s root draw from the He clan of the Eastern Han that saw a great rise in prominence due to Emperor Ling taking in and making Empress the sister of He Jin. This allowed He Jin to enter to political sphere and serve as a very high ranking member of the Han Empire. For details of his life I would highly suggest reading dongzhouo3kingdoms’s analysis of He Jin. He Jin was killed during palace conflicts with the eunuchs of the former Emperor and was killed with much of his family.[1] He Jin had a son who, through his wife Lady Yin, had a son together named He Yan. His father passed away while Yan was still very young, and Lady Yin was later taken in by the local warlord Wu-di of Wei [Cao Cao].[2][2a] Sometime after seizing control of the Han Court and becoming Minister of Works, Wu-di took Lady Yin as a concubine and proceeded to raise the young He Yan, around five or six years old at this point[3], alongside his own children, most notably Wen-di of Wei[Cao Pi]. Around this same time another concubine was taken in along with her famous son, this being Qin Lang. The two seemingly got along, however Yan had issues with Wen-di. He Yan would dress in the finest clothing and adornment which in style were the same as Wen-di’s. Wen-di from this grew to hate He Yan viciously and would never speak of Yan’s name but instead called him the “False Son”.[4] Despite the issues with his adopted brother, Wu-di seemed to cherish Yan quite a bit and would therefor do a questionable act when he had a marriage arranged between Yan and one of his daughters[5], specifically the Princess of Jinxiang, who may have been He Yan’s sister from his mother Lady Yin.[6][7] The charges of marrying his half-sister are certainly false. He was certainly married to his step-sister, who was the daughter of Lady Du, the mother of Qin Lang.[7a] He Yan obtained the noble rank as Marquis as his mother entered the Inner Court later in life due to this marriage.[8]

Early in the life of the young He Yan he was renown for his intelligence. It is even said that he was as “bright and intelligent as a God.”[9] Despite this there were people who found him to be arrogant and dissolute, make-up and other self indulgences.[10] Yan is also accused of having a fondness for drugs. One such drug he is said to have been a particular fan of was known as Five-Mineral Powder. This was a very common substance in scholarly circles. Yan remarked that “Whenever I take five-mineral powder, not only does it heal any illness I might have, but I am also aware of my spirit and intelligence becoming receptive and lucid”[11] He Yan is described as often having a white cosmetic powder on his person at all times, and when he walked he would often look at his shadow.[12] One must always be careful when dealing with sources on Yan, as many of the primary ones were written after through the lens of the government controlled by his enemies. Painting him in a favorable light does not do them any favors. The Shishuo Xinyu itself as a source is one more of cultural value, rather than historical facts. The anecdotes they paint are often speaking from the views of the fifth century, which are said to often line up with that of the third. Some of course may have their historical validity which I will address in a moment.

Firstly I shall address He Yan’s position under the Cao. While Wu-di loved and cherished him I had mentioned earlier that Wen-di despised him, referring to him not by name but simply as “False Son”. I suspect that this could have potentially been carried on to his son, Ming-di of Wei [Cao Rui]. The reason being is that after the passing of Wu-di, He Yan held no position of political prominence under Wen-di and in fact Ming-di saw Yan as a fubua, ‘floating flower’. One who lives for flamboyance and dissipation.[13] He Yan was also among the greatest minds of his age, and his fame was known by all. He exceptional writing, poetry and knowledge of Laozi, Zhuangzhi and many other philosophical minds was extensive.[14] However because of his disposition the more conservative and hard-line Confucians were no fan of his. During the reign of Ming-di, on the advice of Dong Zhao, it was proclaimed that all officials and ministers would go under a harsh examination, and any who failed were to be exiled from court to never hold positions again. Many of his cohorts failed and were dismissed[15]but He Yan himself appears to have passed this examination, however he was stuck with superfluous offices.[16] Despite passing the examination Ming-di still despised He Yan and his ilk, and so they were suppressed all throughout his reign.[17]

So while He Yan was undoubtedly bright and had a grasp on many sophisticated matters, he certainly was not the ideal Confucian gentleman. He Yan’s fortunes did turn in his favor however, as in 239 Ming-di of Wei fell deathly ill and thereupon named the Young Emperor [Cao Fang] as his successor, and said that Cao Shuang would become General-In-Chief to serve as Regent, and Xuan-di of Jin [Sima Yi] would serve as Grand Commandant alongside the General-In-Chief, with the Empress Dowager Ming-Yuan watching over the Young Emperor.[18] He Yan, because of his relation with Cao Shuang and his outstanding ability, was brought into the General-In-Chief’s inner circle and appointed to be Cavalry Attendant Cadet and Attendant Internal Secretariat.[19] He Yan, along with Ding Mi, Li Sheng, Bi Gui and Deng Yang all served as the closest aides to the General-In-Chief.[20] Yan soon became Director of Personnel and was in charge of selections and appointments for office. Many of which he employed included long time friends[21], however he also went about doing something rather unique. He Yan seemed to worship the brilliance of youth, and thus he decided that it should be through uplifting the next generation to a seat of prominence could he immortalize himself in the literary circles.[22] Through a creation of a coalition of well-off families, He Yan employed the likes of Zhong Hui, Pei Xiu, Xun Xu and Wang Bi.[23] These bright youths were brought to Luoyang and given many positions in the palace.[24] This would allow He Yan to discuss with them all day on philosophical matters.

Wang Bi’s relationship with He Yan is one that truly reflects the sort of man He Yan was when one looks past the hostile Weimozhuan. When Wang Bi was still in his youth, at the age of 14, his fame was known even to He Yan. Yan personally sought him out and after meeting with Bi, famously remarked “Confucius already said that young people should be treated with respect, because they might end up very learned. But with this Wang Bi it is possible to talk about problems as deep as the connections between the order of Heaven and that of men.”[25] He Yan would often hold gatherings at his own home and holds debates with man of the brightest minds in the Empire. On one such occasion Wang Bi came. Yan then challenged Wang Bi by laying down a series of arguments that he believed were impossible to refute. Wang Bi, with a coy smile, proceeded to refute every argument to the astonishment of all present, including Yan. Humbling Yan bowed his head in respect, and let Wang Bi lead the debates for the night. Not a single guest was able to beat Wang Bi.[26] On another note of their relationship, He Yan was composing his own commentary on Laozi when he came to visit Wang Bi one day. During the visit Bi explained his view on the Laozi in great detail which left He Yan’s mouth agape. He was stunned and did not dare make his own retort. He proceeded to cease his work and promote Wang Bi’s commentary.[27] He Yan, who had been described as “bright and intelligent as a God”[28], was bested time and time again intellectually by this young man and not a single time was he put off or offended. In a move that was seen as outlandish and self-deprecating, He Yan would step aside in order to cherish the genius in youth. For one is described as vain, self serving and arrogant quite often, this is rather odd.

During the reign of the Young Emperor his majesty had seem to develop bad tendencies. Shirking his duties, relaxing, holding parties and ignoring his studies. These acts were unbeffiting of a sovereign, and so He Yan admonished the Young Emperor publicly in a memorial “From now on, whether Your Majesty presents himself in the Shiqian Hall or relaxes in the rear garden, it would be well to be attended by your ministers. Your parties, accordingly, should be held quietly. At the same time state documents should be inspected, government matters studied, and interpretation of the Classics expounded. This may be made a regulation for ten thousand generations.”[29] He Yan is often the sole one taking the blame when it comes to the Emperor’s poorer qualities, but as seen here this simply isn’t the case. He is often cited as a reason for the decay in the Empire as well for his removal of corrupt persons but the only person I can see that Yan is directly responsible for is Fu Jia and Lu Yu in any suspect manner. Jia once spoke with the General-In-Chief’s brother and slandered He Yan and his cabal, saying “Pingshu [He Yan’s style name] is calm externally but fierce internally. He is sharp and avaricious, not attending to what is fundamental. I am afraid he will first of all delude you and your brothers; good men will keep away and State affairs will be neglected.” News of this got back to He Yan, as one would expect when you slander him to a friend and ally, and thus Yan grew to despise Fu Jia. When Fu Jia committed a minor infraction he would be dismissed from office.[30] When he and the others came into power they divided up Luoyang’s mulberry tree farm fields and demolished it claiming it as their own property. They then called in requests from the provinces and prefectures, but what these were are not specifically stated. The officials did not dare disobey orders. This is certainly an abuse of authority. Because of this He Yan came into conflict with Lu Yu who served as Minister of Justice. Similar to Fu Jia, He Yan took advantage of a small infraction in Lu Yu’s office and had him disgraced and dismissed.[31] Also piled on is that He Yan employed the corrupt, but this is not the truth. There existed a saying in the capital, “For office, trade women to Deng Yang.”[32] Deng Yang accepted bribes in the form of officials wives for positions in court. This matter did not go through He Yan, and it is expressly stated that “He Yan in selections being unable to obtain people was due to Deng Yang being unfair and disloyal.”[33] One such example of this was with Zang Ai, son of the famous Zang Ba. With his father passed away and a desire for office, he traded his fathers concubine and received a prominent role.[34] So He Yan certainly was not perfect and there are legitimate charges of corruption against him, but certainly not the worst man one can imagine.

However in Cao Shuang’s group there was not perfect harmony. Any and all dissension appears to trace back to Ding Mi, whom the General-In-Chief relied upon heavily. Ding Mi thought little of imperial rank and he ignored many people, including that of He Yan. Even going as far as to belittle him and deferring only to Shuang.[35] The General-In-Chief followed every piece of advice given by Ding Mi, and it is said that “In the terrace are three dogs, two dogs with viciousness that cannot be hidden, one dog relying on silence becoming a poison pocket.”[36] The meaning behind this saying is that while there are three dangerous dogs, one of the fiercest of them all. This being Ding Mi. This of course does not paint He Yan is a good light as he is seen as dangerous. Fu Jia once had described He Yan as “with his sharp mouth he overthrows kingdoms.”[37]

Despite this the Zhengshi Period of Wei under General-In-Chief Cao Shuang was prosperous. There was no great uprisings, attacks from Wu and Shu were minimal and while there was a failed invasion by Cao Shuang on Shu, He Yan had no role in this. What he did have a role in was the intellectual enlightenment. This era was seen as a golden age of free thinkers. Men like Wang Bi, Zhong Hui, Pei Xiu, Ji Kang, Ruan Ji and many others became famous in this time for their debates and their intellectual diversity. This time was truly a time of free thinkers. Under Cao Shuang and He Yan, the old Confucian way of suppressing new thoughts and actions was gone. This created new views on the dao that are stil studied today from He Yan, Wang Bi and Zhong Hui. New poems that we hold in our entirety from the Sages. Stories of wonder and magnificence. There was no better time to be an intellectual than now. Social norms and restrictions were out the window. This was all in the image of He Yan. A man so focused on substance and style, a man who hated restrictions. Who lived as he pleased. This was He Yan’s greatest accomplishment. While his own work has truly been immortalized and still celebrated, and readable to this very day, the creation of an era with youths that as well pushed intellectual excitement forwards was exactly what he was after.

It was not just the intellectuals that he sought out that He Yan was proud of, but those he had already been close friends with. Xiahou Xuan and Jing-di of Jin [Sima Shi] were among his closest friends, and he viewed them as pillars of the world. So much so that he made what some would consider a blasphemous role. He Yan in wanting to conform with the “Way of the Sage” created a triumvirate with these two other men. Xiahou Xuan would 'penetrate the hidden impulses of the world’, Jing-di would 'lead the worlds affairs’ while Yan himself may assume the role of Confucious as the Sage, 'Being fast without hurrying, to arrive without going.’[38] This was certainly the interpretation of He Yan’s actions at the time. However an alternative view that came forth is that He Yan thought that individually none of them were the Sage, but in fact the three together could live up to being a Sage. This second view presents a more humble approach to He Yan which has some merit, if you recall his relationship with Wang Bi was founded upon his own humility and propping up the genius of Wang Bi. This sort of thing did earn this faction great scorn from the current gentry and hard-line Confucions, as well as those in the future who, when ancestral central China was lost for the first time ever to Northern Invaders, they traced the fault back to He Yan. They claimed this era of his that promoted intellectual freedom was undermining Confucian law, morality and was worse than even the most tyrannical Emperors.[39] Several other actions as well earned them the scorn of the gentry of their time, including in this was the promotion of Xuan-di of Jin to Grand Tutor which is seen as a “kick upstairs”, however General-In-Chief’s reasoning was that the previous men of Xuan-di’s post had all died in office and so he was seeking to preserve him.[40] Another alleged action was the moving of the Dowager Empress from the Imperial Palace to the Yongning Palace on the council of He Yan and the others. This caused a great falling out between the Cao and Sima. However it is pointed out that this was likely Jin historian propaganda, as the Empress Dowager was already referred to as Yongning Palace prior to this.[41][41a] However there was certainly a falling out in the year 249 as the political climate had become very toxic between Cao and Sima.[42]

In secret Xuan-di had been conspiring against the General-In-Chief to remove him from power, and that way he may assume sole control of the Empire under the guise of a loyal servant. Xuan-di would feign illness and retire from politics all in a ruse to lower the suspicions of the General-In-Chief, and such an action worked very well.[43] Assuming that there were no more inward threats, the General-In-Chief thought to revive a Han tradition that Wu-di, Wen-di and Ming-di had all abolished: The Emperor of Wei would lead the city to respects to the Former Emperor directly at their tomb. Wu-di of Wei abolished this practice for the Han as he felt such a thing should be done at the dynastic temple. Wen-di and Ming-di continued this practice as well.[44] The General-In-Chief abolished this practice and he wished to have the Young Emperor be the first in Wei to pay respect to a previous Emperor, this one being Ming-di, at his tomb, and so on February 5th in the year 249 the Young Emperor traveled to Gaoping tomb with the General-In-Chief and several others.[45] He Yan may have been left in charge of affairs in Luoyang at this time. The three armies of the Sima under Xuan-di, Jing-Di and Wen-di all gathered under the Sima gate. There with an edict from the Empress Dowager justifying their actions the Sima then seized control of Luoyang by closing the gates, guarding the Imperial Palace, capturing the arsenal and controlling a bridge over the Luo river.[46] The edicts held by both Guanqiu Jian and Zhong Hui are both described as forgery. They rose in the name of the Empress Dowager against the Sima, the very same Empress Dowager the Sima claim to hold an edict from. Is this not incredibly suspect? The Sima, who wrote the history, claim their edict is true but those who rebelled were doing it with forgeries. One can only muse that the prospect of an unlawful rebellion against the royal family with a forged edict might put your claims of legitimacy in jeopardy. It is a good thing for them that they control the historical records following this, no?

Xuan-di then had Gao Rou occupy the Genera-In-Chief’s and Cao Xi’s homes.[47] He then memorialized the Young Emperor on the supposed crimes of the General-In-Chief.

“When I returned from Liaodong some time ago, the late Emperor ordered Your Majesty, the Prince of Qin, and myself to mount the imperial couch, and holding my arm he expressed his deep concern in behalf of his successor. I said, ‘Both Cao Cao and Cao Pi entrusted me with their respective successors, as Your Majesty witnessed in person. There shall be no cause for worry: should anything go amiss, I will observe your command though I die.’ [This is something the huang-men-ling Dong Ji (董箕) and the cairen (Accomplished Ladies) who attended the sickbed all heard.] Now, the da jiangjun Cao Shuang has disobeyed the testamentary charge and trampled down the laws of the land. Within his home he emulates the imperial dignity, without he abuses power. He has destroyed the barracks and taken possession of the entire palace bodyguard, appointed his intimates to various important offices and replaced the palace guards with his own men. He has fostered corruption, daily indulging in his wantonness. Thus is his conduct outside the palace. Then, he has appointed as dujiang the huang-men Zhang Dang (張當), who monopolizes important connections. He spies on Your Majesty’s August Person, on the lookout to usurp the throne. He brings estrangement between the two palaces (i.e., the Emperor and the Empress Dowager), wounding the relationships of the blood. The empire is disturbed and the people sense danger. Your Majesty sits on the throne as a mere tolerated guest; how long can you remain in peace? This is not what the late Emperor intended when he ordered Your Majesty and me to mount the imperial couch.

Old and decrepit though I am, I dare not forget his words. Of old, Zhao Gao reveled in his desires and the Qin perished thereby; after the Lu and Huo were extirpated in good time, the lineage of the Han was perpetuated. This is a great warning for Your Majesty, and one which obliges me to act accordingly. The taiyu Jiang Ji, the shang-shu-ling Sima Fu, and others all believe that Cao Shuang has a heart which knows no Sovereign, and that he and his younger brothers therefore should not command the imperial bodyguards. I have memorialized the Yongning Palace, and the Empress Dowager has commanded me to act as I proposed in my memorial. Thereupon I ordered the official in charge, as well as the huang-men-ling, that Cao Shuang, Cao Xi, and Cao Xun are relieved of their command of the troops and are to proceed to their fiefs as Lords, and are not to tarry to detain the imperial carriage; should they detain it or themselves linger, they will be tried and punished in accordance with military regulations. Struggling against my ailments, I have led out the army and stationed it on the pontoon bridge over the Luoshui in anticipation of any eventuality.”[48]

This memorial was intercepted by the General-In-Chief who was distraught over the news. The party camped at the Yi river, cutting down trees to create barricades and manned several thousands soldiers to prepare for an attack by Xuan-di and his rebels.[49] Huan Fan, the Minister of Agriculture, heard the news in Luoyang and with his personal guard he seized weapons and killed the guards at the Pingchang Gate, quickly fleeing south to meet with the Young Emperor and the General-In-Chief.[50] Hearing of this news Jiang Ji said to Xuan-di Xuan-di said to Jiang Ji “The wisdom bag has gone.” Jiang Ji replied back “Though Huan Fan is wise, a weak horse loves its stable, Shuang certainly cannot employ him.”[51][51a] Huan Fan came to the General-In-Chief and advised him to escort the Imperial Carriage to Xuchang, there they may rally troops around the nation and kill the traitors who seized the capital. The General-In-Chief and his brothers were undecided on the matter, and so Huan Fan went to Cao Xi and spoke “Today, if your family sought to be poor and lowly again could you obtain it? Even a common fellow grabs a hostage of one man, yet hoping to live, and now you with Heaven’s Son follow each other, if you give order to the realm Under Heaven, who dares not answer?” However Cao Xi could not agree.[52]

Xu Yun and Chen Tai, perhaps sent by Xuan-di of Jin[53] came to the General-In-Chief and advised him that he should seek out Xuan-di and accept blame for his actions.[54] Jiang Ji had sent a letter conveying Xuan-di’s intentions to General-In-Chief Cao Shuang stating that Xuan-di only wished to dismiss him and not harm him. Furthermore Ji had sent Yin Damu to assure Shuang of this, even making a pledge by the Luo river.[55] From there the General-In-Chief threw down his sword and said to all the officials “I am convinced that the Grand Tutor [Xuan-di] intends no more than to have me and my younger brothers submit to him. I must indeed be rather disliked far and near.”[56][56a] General-In-Chief and his brothers were then dismissed and the Young Emperor was brought back to the Palace in Luoyang. The brothers were made to return to their homes where Xuan-di had drafted soldiers to keep them locked in. They constructed large towers at the four corners of Shuang’s home with men who would report every action Cao Shuang made. When Shuang went to his rear garden with a bow in hand, the men shouted “The former General-In-Chief is going to the southeast!” Distraught and in despair, Cao Shuang did not know what to do anymore.[57]

Prior to being removed from power, the former General-In-Chief took several women from the Imperial Harem with the help of Zhang Dang. Dang had been captured by the Sima and interrogated. Confessing that Cao Shuang, He Yan and the rest were secretly plotting rebellion and mustering soldiers to overthrow the Emperor, and would’ve done so in three days time if not for Xuan-di’s actions.[58] The ministers of Wei all convened, and there it was said that “By the Chunqiu‘s principles: ‘The ruler’s kin are not to be Generals, if Generals then they must be executed.’ Shuǎng is of a cadet branch, for generations was immersed in unique favor, personally received the Former Emperor’s hand posthumous Imperial Order, entrusted with the realm Under Heaven, but harbored disastrous heart, belittling and abandoning the Mandate, and then with He Yan and Deng Yang and Zhang Dang and the rest plotted against the Divine Vessels, Huan Fan was in their faction and also a criminal, and all were in Great Rebellion Without Principle.”[59] He Yan and the rest were all put to death on the 9th of February, 249 along with their families to the third degree.[60][60a]

He Yan is a very controversial figure, but truly not for the reason many think. What his crime is that we can be certain of, corruption, was clearly not damaging to the state. Certainly corruption of any kind is not good but there is no evidence that his actions damaged Wei. No in the slightest in fact. Did he corrupt a youthful Emperor? Not as evidence suggests. He attempted to steer him on the proper path. Was he the one to corrupt Cao Shuang? I don’t believe so as we see, Cao Shuang relied greatly on Ding Mi more than He Yan. He Yan as well is known employing men of great talent and is yet accused of employing the corrupt, however he see this is not the case either. What He Yan is accused of most is destroying the morality of humans. Damaging the Chinese people as a whole. His attitude, the culture he created with his scholarly friends and students, this was a threat to the gentry. When this same gentry sided with the Sima and put He Yan to the sword, who was it that would lose te ancestral river valley of old to northern invaders? Was it He Yan, or was it the very descendants of these zealots? A man who promoted free thought without restraint by ridiculous societal bindings is a threat to no one. What He Yan is may be the simplest thing to answer. He is a fascinating man whose words are still studied to this day. His views on the dao are crucial to ones understanding. To this very day you may go out and get a copy the Analects and it may very will include the writings and teachings and interpretations of this man that zealots said destroyed China! Tread with caution children, for the Monstrous Pingshu may destroy your country too!

[1] Rafe de Crespigny, Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han to Three Kingdoms
[2] Rafe de Crespigny, Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han to Three Kingdoms
[2a] It is unclear if He Yan’s birth came before or after the destruction of He Jin and the He powers in Luoyang. If it came before then either his father and Lady Xin escaped the city together with young Yan, or his father died from some other manner. Regardless of how or when, He Yan absolutely did end up with Cao Cao as a young child. Given that he may have been five or six, and Cao Cao took in the Emperor in 196, He Yan may have been born just on the cusp of He Jin’s death.
[3] Daniel K Gardner, Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects: Canon, Commentary, and the Classical Tradition
[4] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[5] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[6] Daniel K Gardner, Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects
[7] Xuesanguo, Weimaozhuan, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[7a] Your Servant Sōngzhī comments: Wèimòzhuàn says that [Hé] Yàn took his own younger sister of the same mother as wife, this is something gentlemen could not bear to speak of. Even the King of Chǔ taking his sister-in-law as wife, was very inappropriate already. Supposing such words came from old histories, yet none should automatically believe, so all the more for such inferior history books [as Wèimòzhuàn]. According to the biographies of the Kings and Dukes [SGZ 20], the King of Pèi was by lady Dù. [Hé] Yàn’s mother was surnamed Yǐn. If the princess was with the King of Pèi of the same womb, how could it be said she and [Hé] Yàn had the same mother?
[8] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[9] Richard B Mather, Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[10] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[11] Richard B Mather, Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[12] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[13] Daniel K Gardner, Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects
[14] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[15] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[16] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[17] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[18] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[19] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[20] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[21] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[22] Rudolf G. Wagner, The Craft Of a Chinese Commentator Wang Bi on the Laozi
[23] Rudolf G. Wagner, The Craft Of a Chinese Commentator Wang Bi on the Laozi
[24] Howard L. Goodman, Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-century AD China
[25] Rudolf G. Wagner, He Shao, Wang Bi Beizhuan
[26] Richard B Mather, Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[27] Richard B Mather, Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[28] Richard B Mather, Liu Yiqing, Shishuo Xinyu
[29] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Fang’s Sanguozhi biography
[30] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[31] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[32] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[33] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[34] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[35] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[36] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[37] Xuesanguo, Yu Huan, Weilue, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, He Yan’s sub-biography in Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[38] Xuesanguo, Sun Sheng, Wei Shi Chunqiu, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[39] Rudolf G. Wagner, The Craft Of a Chinese Commentator Wang Bi on the Laozi
[39a]Someone once asked Fan Ning,

Once the Yellow Emperor and Emperor Yao receded into the distance, and the highest Way fell into decay; once Hao and Pu stopped singing, and style had no prop to support it anymore, contention for mastery manifested itself with regard to humaneness and righteousness, and what was right and wrong was fixed between the Confucians and the Mohists. He Yan’s spiritual grasp was beyond comparison, Wang Bi’s sophisticated thinking penetrated the most subtle words with effect that they resuscitated the decayed structures of Zhuangzi from a thousand years ago and set into place the structures from the Duke of Zhou and Confucius that had crumbled. They are thus the highest achievers among court officials by restoring the traditions of Duke of Zhou and Confucius, the master craftsmen of the bridge over the Hao river. I have heard, however, that you argue that their crimes are worse than that of Jie and Zhou. How can that be?

Ning replied,

Do you believe indeed, sir, that theirs are words of Sages? Generally speaking it is true that the Sages’ capacity matches that of Yin and Yang, and that they are on top of the Three Powers in their Way, even though the Sage Emperors of old have different appellations, and even though their inner character and outer form had different organization, in their unified control over the world and their completion of governmental duties they kept to the same orientation for endless generations.

Wang Bi and He Yan on the other hand, discarding the classical texts and without respect for the system of ritual, strung words together playfully and argued frivolously, and threw the later born into confusion; they embellished and adorned their words so as to obscure reality, and recklessly dressed up their writings so as to bewitch their contemporaries. As a consequence people in official positions were swept off their feet and changed course, and their intellectual style of Confucius’ tradition who was teaching in Shandong near the Shu and Xiu rivers has long since fallen into oblivion. As a consequence they brought about that humaneness and righteousness went into decline, Confucian learning sank into dust, ritual collapsed and court music went under. In short, it is due to them that the Central Plain was overturned. These two are the kind of fellows people of antiquity referred to when they spoke of those whose words are false but sophisticated, and whose deeds are vicious, but pursued with obstinacy!

When in former times the Master had Shaozheng beheaded in Lu and Taigong had Huashi executed in Qi, was this not a punishment for the same crime in distant times? The brutal repression by Jie and Zhou was truly sufficient to bring disaster upon their persons and topple their dynasty; it was a warning example for later generations and certainly could not avoid being perceived by the Hundred Families! Wang Bi and He Yan enjoyed the frivolous acclaim from all in the empire; they banked on the loud boastings from the wealthy; painting man-eating hobgoblins they considered smart, and getting agitated about reckless behavior they considered vulgar. Truly theirs is a case of the tunes of Zheng bringing chaos to correct music, of sharp-witted tongues toppling a state! I am most decidedly of the opinion that is a lighter offense to bring misfortune to a single generation as JIe and Zhou had done, and a heavier offense to commit crimes against an entire series of generations such as He Yan and Wang Bi had done; that the grievances of bringing about one’s own demise is small with the transgression of leading the multitude into error is great.
[40] Carl Leban, The Accession of Sima Yan, AD 265: Legitimation by Ritual Replication
[40a] “Though Chen Shou at one point suggests an early rift in the joint regency, the general picture is one of regular parity between the two factions, with an almost
exact quid pro quo of appointments for their respective partisans. There seems little evidence that an edict transferring Yi to be Grand Tutor was an attempt to strip him of power by “kicking him upstairs.” In fact, Yi retained control of all the military forces he commanded previously, and in July of 241 in his capacity as Grand Tutor he led those troops to repulse an incursion from the southeastern state of Wu.”
[41] Achilles Fang, Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[41a] 6. The da jiangjun Cao Shuang, following the counsel of He Yan, Deng Yang, and Ding Mi, moved the Empress Dowager to the Yongning Palace. [1] He monopolized the government, he and his younger brothers commanding the palace guards, and enlarged his own faction. He repeatedly altered laws and institutions; the taifu Sima Yi [2] being unable to stop this, he and Cao Shuang were on bad terms.

Fifth month (June 20 – July 19). Sima Yi for the first time pretended illness and did not participate in the government.

6. From Jin shu, Chronicle of Xuandi.

6.1 Hu Sanxing thinks that this is not a fact, but that the Jin historians wrote “moved” to derogate Cao Shuang; after all, the SGZ says that the Empress Dowager was referred to as “the Yongning Palace.”
[42] Rudolf G. Wagner, He Shao, Wang Bi Beizhuan
[43] Achilles Fang, Chronciles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[44] Rafe de Crespigny, Imperial Warlord
[45] Achilles Fang, Chronciles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[46] Achilles Fang, Chronciles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[47] Achilles Fang, Chronciles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[48] Achilles Fang, Chronciles of the Three Kingdoms, Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian
[49] Xuesanguo, Gan Bao, Jinji, Pei Songzhi, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[50] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[51] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[51a] An alternate account reads
On the grounds that Huan Fan was a senior and experienced man of his native district, Cao Shuang used to show him especial honor above the rest of the Nine Minsters, but was not very intimate with him. Having put the army into action, Sima Yi summoned Huan Fan in the name of the Empress Dowager, wishing to have him act as zhongling jun. Huan Fan was willing to accept the appointment, but his son stopped him, saying, “With the Emperor out of the city, it is better for you to go out and proceed to the south.”

Huan Fan remained undecided for some time; his son again urged him. When Huan Fan was about to go, the sinong cheng and subordinate officials under him stopped Huan Fan. Huan Fan did not listen to them.

Huan Fan then left and went to the Ping-chang gate. The gate was already closed. The gate-keeper Si Fan (司蕃) happened to be a former subordinate of Huan Fan. Huan Fan addressed him and raised the tablet in his hand to show it to him. Falsely, he said, “I am summoned by an imperial rescript. Be quick and open the gate for me.”

Si Fan wanted to see the text of the rescript. Huan Fan scolded him and said, “Were you not my subordinate in the past? How dare you act like this?” Thereupon he opened the gate. Once out of the city, Huan Fan turned to Si Fan and said, “The taifu has revolted. You had better go along with me.” Si Fan, who was on foot, could not follow him and finally hid himself on the roadside.
[52] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[53] Guo Song, Wei Jin Shiyu
[54] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[55] Guo Song, Wei Jin Shiyu
[56] Yu Huan, Weilue
[56a] An alternate rendition from a different source reads
“Having disarmed himself, Cao Shuang said, 'I shall not fail to remain a rich man.'”
[57] Yu Huan, Weilue
[58] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[59] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[60] Xuesanguo, Chen Shou, Cao Shuang’s Sanguozhi biography
[60a] The Weishi Chunqiu holds a hilariously false account that I shall include.
Previously, [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng had [Hé] Yàn participate in judging the case against Shuǎng and the rest. [Hé] Yàn harshly judged the group, hoping to obtain pardon. [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng said: “Altogther there are eight clans.” [Hé] Yàn listed Dīng and Dèng and the rest of seven surnames. [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng said: “You are not finished.” [Hé] Yàn was thoroughly anxious, and therefore said: “Are you speaking of me?” [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng: “Yes.” Therefore they arrested [Hé] Yàn.
[60b] The validity of this story has already been smashed previously by Pei Songzhi as mentioned above, however I will include it here in the annotations.
[Hé] Yàn’s wife the princess of Jīnxiāng, was [Hé] Yàn’s younger sister of the same mother. The princess was virtuous, and said to her mother the King of Pèi’s Dowager: “[Hé] Yàn’s wrongs daily increase, how can he protect himself?” Her mother laughed and said: “Isn’t it that you envy [Hé] Yàn?” Very soon [Hé] Yàn died. They had one son, five to six years, and [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng sent someone to seize him. [Hé] Yàn’s mother hid the son in the King’s Palace, to the envoy beat her own cheeks, begging to spare his life. The envoy reported everything to [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng. [Sīmǎ Yì] Xuān-wáng also heard [Hé] Yàn’s wife had made prescient words, and his heart was secretly impressed with them; moreover for the King of Pèi, he specially spared and did not kill.
To refute my principle with one's own principle is like throwing an egg against a boulder. The eggs in the world would be exhausted without doing any harm to the boulder.
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