Chen Lin (Han dynasty)
|Libationer and Military Adviser
(under Cao Cao)
c. 204 – ?
|Monarch||Emperor Xian of Han|
(under He Jin)
? – c. 189
|Monarch||Emperor Ling of Han|
Baoying County, Jiangsu
|Occupation||Official, scholar, poet|
|Courtesy name||Kongzhang (孔璋)|
Chen Lin was from Sheyang County (射陽縣), Guangling Commandery (廣陵郡), which is located east of present-day Baoying County, Jiangsu. He started his career during the reign of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189) as a Registrar (主簿) under He Jin, the General-in-Chief. In 189, when He Jin wanted to summon military forces from outside the imperial capital Luoyang to pressure Empress Dowager He into agreeing to exterminate the eunuch faction, Chen Lin strongly objected to this idea and argued that "to act in this manner is no difference from lighting a furnace to burn a strand of hair". He Jin did not listen to him and ended up being assassinated by the eunuch faction, while the warlord Dong Zhuo took advantage of the power vacuum to enter Luoyang and seize control of the central government.
Chen Lin escaped from Luoyang and travelled to Ji Province, where he became a subordinate of the warlord Yuan Shao, who became the Governor of Ji Province in 191. He served as a secretary under Yuan Shao and helped him write official documents. Around 199 or 200, Yuan Shao ordered Chen Lin to write a "declaration of war" against his rival, Cao Cao, who then controlled the Han central government and the figurehead Emperor Xian (r. 189–220). The piece of writing, called "Proclamation to Yu Province on Behalf of Yuan Shao" (為袁紹檄豫州), contained, among other things, a list of Cao Cao's "crimes", insults directed at Cao Cao's ancestors, and calls for the people in Yu Province[a] to rise up against Cao Cao. In 200, Cao Cao defeated Yuan Shao at the decisive Battle of Guandu.
After Yuan Shao's death in 202, internal conflict broke out between his sons Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang over control of their father's territories in northern China. Cui Yan, whom both Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang wanted on their side, refused to help either of them and was thrown into prison. Chen Lin and Yin Kui (陰夔) saved Cui Yan. In 204, during the Battle of Ye between Cao Cao and Yuan Shang, Cao Cao sent a messenger to meet Chen Lin and ask him to surrender, but Chen Lin refused and was taken prisoner after Ye city fell to Cao Cao.
Many people feared for Chen Lin as they thought that Cao Cao would execute him for writing the "Proclamation to Yu Province on Behalf of Yuan Shao". However, Cao Cao not only spared Chen Lin because he appreciated his literary talent, but also recruited him to serve as a Libationer and Military Adviser (軍謀祭酒) under the Minister of Works (司空).[b] Chen Lin served under Cao Cao since then and helped him write official documents. He died in a great plague which rampaged through China in 217.
Chen Lin is survived by some of his writings, including literary yuefu written in imitation of current folk ballads, and he is considered one of the major exponents of this typical Jian'an poetry style, along with Cao Cao and others. Cao Cao's son and successor, Cao Pi, ranked Chen Lin as what he termed the "Seven Scholars (子; zi) of Jian'an".[c] The other six members of the "Seven Scholars of Jian'an" were Wang Can, Ruan Yu (阮瑀), Liu Zhen (劉楨), Xu Gan, Ying Chang (應瑒) and Kong Rong. In 218, the year following the plague, Cao Pi wrote a letter to a friend lamenting that Chen Lin and three other members of the "Seven Scholars of Jian'an" had died in the previous year.
- Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
- Watson, Burton (1971). Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03464-4.
- Yip, Wai-lim (1997). Chinese Poetry: An Anthology of Major Modes and Genres'. Durham and London: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.