Chen Biao

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Chen Biao
General and politician of Eastern Wu
Born (Unknown)
Died (Unknown)[a]
Traditional Chinese 陳表
Simplified Chinese 陈表
Pinyin Chén Biǎo
Wade–Giles Ch'en Piao
Courtesy name Wen'ao (Chinese: 文奧; pinyin: Wén'ào; Wade–Giles: Wen-ao)

Chen Biao (birth and death dates unknown),[1] courtesy name Wen'ao, was a military general and politician of the state of Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period.

Family background[edit]

Chen Biao was a son of Chen Wu, a general who served under the warlord Sun Quan in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He was born to Chen Wu's concubine and was a younger half-brother of Chen Xiu (陳脩), who was born to Chen Wu's official spouse.[2] Chen Wu was killed in action in 215 at the Battle of Xiaoyao Ford,[3] while Chen Xiu died in 229,[4] shortly after Sun Quan proclaimed himself emperor and established the state of Eastern Wu.

Service in Eastern Wu[edit]

Early career[edit]

Chen Biao was already famous in his youth. He was selected to be an aide to the crown prince Sun Deng (Sun Quan's eldest son), together with Zhuge Ke, Gu Tan and Zhang Xiu. Chen Biao was a close friend of Ji Yan (曁豔), a Master of Writing (尚書). When Ji Yan was accused of negligence in his duties, the other officials shunned him for fear of being implicated, but Chen Biao spoke up for Ji and earned the respect of many ministers. Chen Biao was later appointed as a Crown Prince's Tutor (太子中庶子) and a Commandant of Central Flank (翼正都尉).[5]

Incident with Shi Ming[edit]

Chen Biao requested to serve in the military just like his father before him, and was placed in command of 500 troops. He was eager to win the hearts of his soldiers so he treated them well and they were willing to die for him. Once, there was an incident of grand theft and the suspect was Shi Ming (施明), a soldier from the Wunan (無難) camp. Shi Ming had been arrested and interrogated, but he remained fierce, refused to reveal the truth, and even expressed his willingness to die. The Minister of Justice (廷尉) was unable to do anything to him. Sun Quan heard that Chen Biao understood a soldier's mentality well so he ordered Chen to take up Shi Ming's case. Chen Biao had Shi Ming released from his shackles and allowed him to take a bath and have a change of clothes, and treated him to a feast. Shi Ming was so touched by Chen Biao's generous treatment that he confessed to the crime and named his accomplices. Sun Quan was very surprised and impressed with Chen Biao, so he granted a special pardon to Shi Ming to protect Chen's reputation – because Chen would be labelled as a hypocrite if Shi were to be executed after confessing under Chen's kind treatment. Shi Ming's accomplices, on the other hand, were not so lucky as they were all executed.[6] Shi Ming mended his ways and gradually rose through the ranks to become a general in Eastern Wu.[7]

Mid career[edit]

Chen Biao was later promoted to be the Right Commander (右部督) of the Wunan camp and he received the title of a Marquis of a Chief Village (都亭侯). However, he rejected the marquis title and requested to have it transferred to Chen Xiu's son, Chen Yan (陳延), but Sun Quan refused.[8]

In 234, Zhuge Ke was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Danyang (丹楊) and was sent to suppress a revolt by the Shanyue tribes. Sun Quan appointed Chen Biao as the Commandant (都尉) of Xin'an (新安) and ordered him to be Zhuge Ke's advisor. Earlier on, Sun Quan had granted 200 taxable households to Chen Biao's family in recognition of Chen Wu's contributions, and those families were all based in Xin'an. Chen Biao saw that the men from those households were able-bodied and capable of serving in the military, so he requested permission from Sun Quan to recruit those men. Sun Quan asked him, "Your late father rendered meritorious service to the state, and the state has granted your family these taxable households to honour his contributions. Why do you not want them?" Chen Biao replied, "I pledged to eliminate all the enemies of the state and avenge my father. It is not my wish to have these men – who are capable of military service – as my slaves." He insisted on recruiting those men so Sun Quan agreed and praised him. Sun Quan then selected some households from other areas to replace those in Chen Biao's marquisate who had been conscripted.[9]

Later career[edit]

Throughout his three years in office, Chen Biao made developments in his jurisdiction and managed to recruit over 10,000 troops. At the time, Wu Qu (吳遽) had started a rebellion in Poyang (鄱陽) and had conquered cities, causing much fear and panic in the surrounding counties. Chen Biao led his forces to suppress the revolt and succeeded in forcing Wu Qu to surrender. On Lu Xun's recommendation, Chen Biao was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant-General (偏將軍) and his marquis rank was increased from a village marquis to a district marquis. He moved to Zhangkeng (章阬) and garrisoned there.[10]


Chen Biao died at the age of 34 (by East Asian age reckoning) in an unknown year. He had dedicated all his family income to military expenses so his family was very poor when he died. The crown prince Sun Deng had a house built for Chen Biao's family.[11]


When Chen Biao's elder half-brother Chen Xiu died, Chen Biao's mother refused to submit to Chen Xiu's mother, who had a higher status in the family because she was Chen Wu's official spouse. Chen Biao told his mother, "It's unfortunate that my brother died early. Now, I'm the head of the family so I should pay respect to my stepmother. Mother, I hope you can accept my stepmother and maintain harmonious relations with her. If you can't, I'll leave and stay elsewhere." Chen Biao said so out of graciousness and filial piety. His mother agreed and got along well with his stepmother.[12]


When Chen Biao's son, Chen Ao (陳敖), reached the age of 16, he was commissioned as a Major of Separate Command (別部司馬) and placed in charge of 400 troops. After Chen Ao died, his cousin Chen Yan (陳延) inherited his military appointment.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Sanguozhi only mentioned that Chen Biao died at the age of 34 (by East Asian age reckoning).[1] The year was not mentioned.


  1. ^ a b (年三十四卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  2. ^ (弟表,字文奧,武庶子也, ...) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  3. ^ (建安二十年,從擊合肥,奮命戰死。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  4. ^ (黃龍元年卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  5. ^ (... 少知名,與諸葛恪、顧譚、張休等並侍東宮,皆共親友。尚書曁豔亦與表善,後豔遇罪,時人咸自營護,信厚言薄,表獨不然,士以此重之。徙太子中庶子,拜翼正都尉。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  6. ^ (表以父死敵場,求用為將,領兵五百人。表欲得戰士之力,傾意接待,士皆愛附,樂為用命。時有盜官物者,疑無難士施明。明素壯悍,收考極毒,惟死無辭,廷尉以聞。權以表能得健兒之心,詔以明付表,使自以意求其情實。表便破械沐浴,易其衣服,厚設酒食,歡以誘之。明乃首服,具列支黨。表以狀聞。權奇之,欲全其名,特為赦明,誅戮其黨。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  7. ^ (始施明感表,自變行為善,遂成健將,致位將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  8. ^ (遷表為無難右部督,封都亭侯,以繼舊爵。表皆陳讓,乞以傳脩子延,權不許。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  9. ^ (嘉禾三年,諸葛恪領丹楊太守,討平山越,以表領新安都尉,與恪參勢。初,表所受賜復人得二百家,在會稽新安縣。表簡視其人,皆堪好兵,乃上疏陳讓,乞以還官,充足精銳。詔曰:「先將軍有功於國,國家以此報之,卿何得辭焉?」表乃稱曰:「今除國賊,報父之仇,以人為本。空枉此勁銳以為僮僕,非表志也。」皆輒料取以充部伍。所在以聞,權甚嘉之。下郡縣,料正戶羸民以補其處。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  10. ^ (表在官三年,廣開降納,得兵萬餘人。事捷當出,會鄱陽民吳遽等為亂,攻沒城郭,屬縣搖動,表便越界赴討,遽以破敗,遂降。陸遜拜表偏將軍,進封都鄉侯,北屯章阬。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  11. ^ (年三十四卒。家財盡於養士,死之日,妻子露立,太子登為起屋宅。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  12. ^ (兄脩亡後,表母不肯事脩母,表謂其母曰:「兄不幸早亡,表統家事,當奉嫡母。母若能為表屈情,承順嫡母者,是至願也;若母不能,直當出別居耳。」表於大義公正如此。由是二母感寤雍穆。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
  13. ^ (子敖年十七,拜別部司馬,授兵四百人。敖卒,脩子延復為司馬代敖。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.