Chen Tai

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Chen Tai
General of Cao Wei
Born (Unknown)
Died 260[a]
Traditional Chinese 陳泰
Simplified Chinese 陈泰
Pinyin Chén Tài
Wade–Giles Ch'en T'ai
Courtesy name Xuanbo (Chinese: 玄伯; pinyin: Xuánbó; Wade–Giles: Hsüan-po)
Posthumous name Marquis Mu (Chinese: 穆侯; pinyin: Mù Hóu; Wade–Giles: Mu Hou)

Chen Tai (died 260),[1] courtesy name Xuanbo, was a military general and politician of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He was the son of Chen Qun and a maternal grandson of Xun Yu.[b] Chen Tai was very knowledgeable in the art of war, and so led his men as if they were his own children. When the regent Sima Shi began abusing his power, and the emperor Cao Mao died under very suspicious circumstances, Chen Tai expressed his deep loyalty to Wei by honouring their deaths through wearing a mourning dress to the court. Chen Tai was also the minister of letters of Wei.

Early life[edit]

Being a scion of two of Wei's most powerful families(the Chen and the Xun clan) Chen Tai grow up with kids of other great families such as the Sima clan. He was a good friend of both Sima Shi and Sima Zhao as a child. Known as a fine scholar growing up, he was made the Inspector of Bing in 244. There he fought off raids from the Xianbei tribes and became known as a skilled tactician. At some point during all of this, some officials attempted to bribe him to buy slaves from the tribes, but Chen Tai refused and returned their money. When he came back to Luoyang in 249, Sima Yi was just taking over the city in a effect to remove Cao Shuang. Chen Tai was one of several officials who sent letters to Cao Shuang to get him to surrender, which he did. He was then killed by Sima Yi along with others in his group.

Going west and battles with Shu[edit]

With Cao Shuang gone the Sima clan become more powerful in Wei to where it had almost full rule in the nation. Chen Tai liked this at first as Sima Yi was far more able then Cao Shuang had been. However, after some time the growing power of the Sima family worried Chen Tai, who could not choose between his loyalty to the Sima and to the Cao clan. In order to avoid conflict, he asked to be transferred to the western border to fight Shu, so he was made Inspector of Yong. Almost right after in autumn of 249, Jiang Wei invaded Wei. Seeing that Jiang Wei had constructed a fortress at Mount Chu and incited several Qiang tribes to rebel in the neighboring counties, Chen Tai asks the general in change, Guo Huai to lead a attack on the fort to cut them off from Jiang Wei's main army. He pointed out that although the fortress at Mount Chu was strong, it was also far from Shu and it would be easy to cut off the supply route so Guo Huai led Chen Tai and Deng Ai to besiege Mount Chu. They cut off the supply route without difficulty and, also on Chen Tai’s advice, Guo Huai led his army to occupy Mount Niutou, blocking Jiang Wei’s line of retreat and cutting him off from Shu - and supplies. Jiang Wei fled, abandoning the soldiers at Mount Chu, who quickly surrendered. Deng Ai later held off a attack Jiang Wei lead on Tao, winning the whole campaign for Wei.

Later Jiang Wei marched out in the fourth month of 253 and besieged Didao. At the same time, Zhuge Ke of Wu led a massive campaign against Wei in the east, and Jiang Wei hoped that this would weaken Wei’s defenses in the west. However Guo Huai and Chen Tai arrived and broke the siege, so Jiang Wei withdrew.

After Guo Huai passed away in 255, Chen Tai was promoted to take over affairs in the northwest. Jiang Wei attacked soon after, once more to take Didao. Chen Tai ordered Yong’s Inspector, Wang Jing, to garrison Didao and wait there for reinforcements. However, Wang Jing wanted to win glory for himself, so he marched out of the city and met Jiang Wei in battle at Gu Pass. Jiang Wei defeated Wang Jing, who fled back to Didao with only 10,000 men.He then focused on defending the city as he had been ordered to and held Jiang Wei off. On hearing this news Chen Tai moved to aid Wang Jing as fast as he could. He feared that Jiang Wei would seize a major supply depot at Liyang, to the east, and thus have the necessary provisions for his army. He further feared that Jiang Wei would recruit from the surrendered and defeated soldiers as well as rally the Qiang and amass a considerable force. This would have made him a serious threat. However, Jiang Wei advanced and besieged Didao instead. Deng Ai, Wang Bi, and Hu Fen moved to join Chen Tai's force while Jiang Wei was aware that Wei reinforcements would come, so he stationed soldiers in ambush to attack them upon arrival, but because of the route he took, moving through the mountains and arriving at a mountain southeast of Didao, Chen Tai avoided these troops entirely. Jiang Wei attacked Chen Tai’s forces on the mountain, but because the terrain was to Chen Tai’s advantage, Jiang Wei’s army was easily driven off. All the while, more Wei reinforcements drew nearer and Jiang Wei saw that he would become surrounded, so he fled to Zhongti in the ninth month.

Late lift and death[edit]

Chen Tai was summoned back to Luoyang in 256, leaving Deng Ai in charge of the west. There he became a supervisor of the Imperial Secretariat and worked to help establish Sima Zhao’s administration. During Zhuge Dan’s rebellion in 257, he played a supervisory role, taking command of Zhao’s central headquarters and coordinating the efforts of the various generals to ensure none of them got out of line or made any rash moves in the campaign. When Cao Mao tried to assassinate Sima Zhao, Chen Tai rushed to the scene to diffuse the situation, but by the time he arrived, Cao Mao had already been killed. He wept upon seeing the emperor’s corpse and at first refused to attend court, though he was eventually persuaded to return to work by Sima Fu. Jia Chong took the blame for the emperor's death and Chen Tai continuously urged for his execution, but Sima Zhao would not agree. He died not long afterwards due to stress-induced illness.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chen Tai's biography in the Sanguozhi mentioned that he died in the 1st year of the Jingyuan era (260-264) in Cao Huan's reign.[1]
  2. ^ Xun Yi's biography in the Jin Shu mentioned that Xun Yi was a younger brother-in-law of Chen Qun[2] and the Jin Ji (晉紀) by Gan Bao mentioned that Chen Tai was Xun Yi's maternal nephew.[3] Chen Tai was Chen Qun's son. By deductive reasoning, Chen Qun must have married a daughter of Xun Yu and their son was Chen Tai.


  1. ^ a b (景元元年薨,追贈司空。謚曰穆侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 22.
  2. ^ (荀顗,字景倩,潁川人,魏太尉彧之第六子也。幼為姊婿陳群所賞。) Jin Shu vol. 39.
  3. ^ (干寶晉紀曰:高貴鄉公之殺,司馬文王會朝臣謀其故。太常陳泰不至,使其舅荀顗召之。) Jin Ji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 22.