|Official of Cao Wei|
|Courtesy name||Xiaoren (Chinese: 孝仁; pinyin: Xiàorén; Wade–Giles: Hsiao-jen)|
Cang Ci was born in the late Eastern Han dynasty and was from Huainan (淮南; covering roughly present-day Anhui). He started his career as a minor official in a commandery. During the mid Jian'an era (196–220) in the reign of Emperor Xian, Cang Ci was appointed by the chancellor, Cao Cao, as a "Commandant of Pacification and Collection" (綏集都尉) to oversee the tuntian system in Huainan.
After the end of the Han dynasty in 220, Cang Ci served as an official in the state of Cao Wei, which was founded by Cao Cao's son and successor Cao Pi. He served as the "Prefect of Chang'an" (長安令) in the final years of Cao Pi's reign (220–226) and was known for being fair and just. He was respected and admired by other officials and the common people.
Governorship of Dunhuang
During the Taihe era (227–233) in the reign of Cao Pi's successor Cao Rui, Cang Ci was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Dunhuang Commandery, which was located in the remote regions in western China. Owing to the tremendous disturbances in the core areas of China during that period, Dunhuang had been in a semi-anarchic state for about 20 years – it had no Administrator and its local government was weak, while influential landlords abused their power to oppress the peasantry. The previous Administrators such as Yin Feng (尹奉) and others had allowed Dunhuang to remain in its sorry state and had not made any improvements.
When Cang Ci arrived in Dunhuang, he sought to reform the local government, clamp down on the power of the landlords, and help the poor. He initiated a vigorous programme of land redistribution by seizing excess plots of land from the landlords and giving them to peasants who had no land. He saw that many criminal cases had piled up over the years because the magistrates were unable to pass any judgement and that the prisons were packed. Cang Ci personally handled the cases which had not been reviewed for years. In order to spare petty criminals from being subjected to indefinite detention, he meted out flogging as a punishment to criminals who committed non-capital crimes and released them. His efforts revealed that less than ten crimes a year actually warranted the death penalty in Dunhuang.
As Dunhuang was located near foreign lands, many traders often travelled from the west to China through the Silk Road to pay tribute or to trade. However, many wealthy locals in Dunhuang objected to trading and had even cheated foreign traders, resulting in much unhappiness among foreigners. When Cang Ci heard about this, he personally went to reassure the foreign traders and opened up special routes leading to Luoyang exclusively for those traders, while ordering his men to protect and escort the traders as they passed through. The foreigners were very grateful to Cang Ci.
Cang Ci died in office after serving for many years in Dunhuang. The people in Dunhuang deeply mourned his death as if they had lost one of their loved ones, and they even drew portraits of Cang Ci to commemorate him. When the foreign traders learnt of Cang Ci's death, they gathered outside government offices to mourn him, while some even offered blood sacrifices. Temples and shrines were also built to commemorate him.
Chen Shou, who wrote Cang Ci's biography in the Sanguozhi, commented on Cang Ci as follows: "Zheng Hun and Cang Ci are capable governors. They are among the most famous governors in Wei at the time!"
- (倉慈字孝仁，淮南人也。始為郡吏。建安中，太祖開募屯田於淮南，以慈為綏集都尉。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (黃初末，為長安令，清約有方，吏民畏而愛之。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (太和中，遷敦煌太守。郡在西陲，以喪亂隔絕，曠無太守二十歲，大姓雄張，遂以為俗。前太守尹奉等，循故而已，無所匡革。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (慈到，抑挫權右，撫恤貧羸，甚得其理。舊大族田地有餘，而小民無立錐之土；慈皆隨口割賦，稍稍使畢其本直。先是屬城獄訟眾猥，縣不能決，多集治下；慈躬往省閱，料簡輕重，自非殊死，但鞭杖遣之，一歲決刑曾不滿十人。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (又常日西域雜胡欲來貢獻，而諸豪族多逆斷絕；既與貿遷，欺詐侮易，多不得分明。胡常怨望，慈皆勞之。欲詣洛者，為封過所，欲從郡還者，官為平取，輒以府見物與共交市，使吏民護送道路，由是民夷翕然稱其德惠。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (數年卒官，吏民悲感如喪親戚，圖畫其形，思其遺像。及西域諸胡聞慈死，悉共會聚於戊己校尉及長吏治下發哀，或有以刀畫面，以明血誠，又為立祠，遙共祠之。) Sanguozhi vol. 16.
- (鄭渾、倉慈，恤理有方。抑皆魏代之名守乎！) Sanguozhi vol. 16.