Cui Lin

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Cui Lin
Minister of Cao Wei
Born (Unknown)
Died 244[1]
Traditional Chinese 崔林
Simplified Chinese 崔林
Pinyin Cuī Lín
Wade–Giles Ts'ui Lin
Courtesy name Deru (Chinese: 德儒; pinyin: Dérú; Wade–Giles: Te-ju)
Posthumous name Marquis Xiao (Chinese: 孝侯; pinyin: Xiào Hóu; Wade–Giles: Hsiao Hou)
Not to be confused with Cui Lin, circuit intendant of Shanghai during the Qing dynasty.
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Cui.

Cui Lin (died 244), courtesy name Deru, was a high government official of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period. He was known for his scruples in good governance, judgment of character, and for being the first of the Three Ducal Ministers after the end of the Han dynasty to be enfeoffed as nobility. He was born in Dongwu city, in Qinghe commandery, Ji province (present-day Zhucheng, Weifang, Shandong).[2]

Service under Cao Cao[edit]

Although Cui Lin was a member of the influential Qinghe Cui clan, his extended family was not well-acquainted with him, and only his cousin Cui Yan thought him exceptional. In 200, following Cao Cao's conquest of Ji province, Cui Lin was summoned to be chief of Wu (鄔), in present-day Shanxi. He drew such a pitiful salary from this position that he could not even afford a horse and carriage.[2]

Zhang Zhi (張陟), the inspector of Bing province, recommended Cui Lin to Cao Cao as the village chief whose governance was the most virtuous. As a result, Cui Lin was promoted to higher office in the central administration of Ji province, and shortly thereafter transferred to Cao Cao's chancellary.[2]

In 213, Cao Cao was created Duke of Wei (魏公), and Cui Lin was promoted to Palace Aide to the Censor-in-Chief, a powerful position overseeing correspondence from the provincial inspectors and their subordinates. When Cao Pi established the Wei dynasty in 220, Cui Lin was sent out to be inspector of You province on the northeastern frontier. He held this office for one season, then took the office of administrator of Hejian (河閒). The base text of Records of the Three Kingdoms says Cui Lin voluntarily gave up control of You province to make way for Wu Zhi to unite the northern frontier forces, which Cui Lin considered a better way of dealing with the non-Chinese frontier peoples.[2] However, Pei Songzhi notes a memorial by Xin Pi stating that Huan Jie, at that time holding the post of Director of the Imperial Secretariat, felt Cui Lin was incapable as a provincial inspector and demoted him.[3]

As Minister Herald[edit]

From administrator of Hejian, Cui Lin rose to the position of Minister Herald, in charge of interstate affairs with foreign dependencies. In 222,[4] while Cui Lin occupied this post, the King of Kucha sent a son to study under and be sinicised by the Wei court, which richly rewarded the king for sending his son such a long way. Sensing opportunity, the other border states each sent a prince to study at the Wei court. Cui Lin feared some of the envoys sent to collect their princes' ransoms were unreliable, so he stamped and sealed their rewards and attached to their return missions groups of mercantile border people who guarded the treasure the entire road back.[5]

At Dunhuang, Cui Lin had the imperial decrees promulgated, and engraved important stories from Chinese history to ensure their endurance. In 226, Cao Rui granted Cui Lin the landless title of Adjunct Marquess, and promoted him to Minister of the Household[6] and Director of Retainers, one of the Three Venerables (三獨坐).

Late career[edit]

As Director of Retainers, Cui Lin wielded supervisory power over officials in and around the capital region. In the areas he controlled, he fired all government officials who had engaged in illegal conduct or committed multiple transgressions. He enforced honesty in governance, streamlined process, and protected the body politic, earning him lasting acclaim.[5] A future Director of Retainers under Cao Fang, Wang Jing, was a farmer from the same commandery as Cui Lin, whom Cui Lin plucked from obscurity out of an infantry squad.[7]

In 238, following a strong recommendation from the imperial advisor Meng Kang (孟康), Cui Lin was promoted to Excellency of Works, one of the Three Ducal Ministers, the highest positions in the civil government. He was enfeoffed as Local Marquess of Anyang, with a demesne of six hundred homes.[8] After spending his entire stipend, he was granted the higher-ranking title of Township Marquess, although his fief was later split and part given to a son of Cao Rui.[1] Cui Lin died in 244 and was succeeded by his son Cui Shu (崔述).


  • Cousin: Cui Yan
  • Sons:
    • Cui Shu (崔述), successor
    • Cui Sui (崔隨), Vice Director of the Imperial Secretariat (尚書僕射) under the Eastern Jin dynasty
    • Grandson:
      • Cui Wei (崔瑋), Commandant of the Right for the Guards of the Heir Apparent (太子右衛率)

Titles and appointments held[edit]

  • Chief of Wu (鄔長; in present-day Jiexiu, Jinzhong, Shanxi)
  • Assistant Magistrate of Ji Province (冀州主簿)
  • Palace Aide to the Censor-in-Chief (御史中丞)
  • Imperial Secretary (尚書)
  • Inspector of You Province (幽州刺史)
  • Administrator of Hejian[9] (河閒太守)
  • Minister Herald (大鴻臚)
  • Adjunct Marquess (關內侯), a noble title without fief
  • Minister of the Household (光祿勳)[6]
  • Director of Retainers (司隸校尉)
  • Excellency of Works (司空)
  • Local Marquess of Anyang (安陽亭侯)
  • Township Marquess of Anyang (安陽鄉侯)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.682
  2. ^ a b c d Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.679
  3. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.680 n 2
  4. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, 2.79
  5. ^ a b Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.680
  6. ^ a b At the historical moment it was conferred upon Cui Lin, the title Minister of the Household (光祿勳) was in the process of becoming a purely honorary title. See Hucker, 288, at 3347.
  7. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.682 n 1
  8. ^ Records of the Three Kingdoms, 24.681
  9. ^ Hejian has in different points in its history been classified as a commandery or a state; during the early Wei dynasty it was a commandery, encompassing an area somewhat greater than present-day Hejian city in Cangzhou, Hebei.