Fan Zhi

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Fan Zhi
1st chancellor of the Song Dynasty
In office
5 March 960 – 26 February 964
Serving with Wang Pu and Wei Renpu
Monarch Emperor Taizu of Song
Succeeded by Zhao Pu
chancellor of Later Zhou
In office
27 July 951[1] – 3 February 960
Monarch Guo Wei
Chai Rong
Chai Zongxun
Personal details
Born 911 or January 912[2]
likely Zongcheng, Later Liang[3] (in today's Wei County, Hebei)
Died 5 November 964(964-11-05) (aged 52–53[3])
Kaifeng, Henan, China
Children Fan Min (范旻), son
Full name Surname: Fàn ()
Given name: Zhì ()
Courtesy name: Wénsù ()
Father Fan Shouyu (范守遇)
Fan Zhi
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Fan Zhi (范質) (c. 911[2] – 5 November 964[4]), formally the Duke of Lu (魯國公), was a civil official who served under 12 emperors of 6 dynasties during imperial China's Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and the subsequent Song Dynasty. He was the Later Zhou chancellor from 951 until 960, and the Song Dynasty chancellor from 960 until 964, not long before his death. A strict adherent to legal guidelines, he had influenced Later Zhou and Song rulers to rely more on civil administration in an age dominated by the military.

Early life[edit]

Growing up, Fan Zhi's father Fan Shouyu (范守遇) was a staff supervisor (判官) serving the Later Liang. Biographer Jack Dull considers Fan Zhi a representative of the rise of "new families" which were gradually replacing the exclusive aristocracy of the Tang Dynasty.[5] At age eight, Fan Zhi was able to write essays, and by 12 he already mastered and began teaching the voluminous classic Book of Documents.[3]

Career under Later Tang[edit]

Later Liang was replaced by the Later Tang in 926, and Fan passed the imperial examination in 933. The chief examination administrator He Ning (和凝) reportedly liked Fan's writing the most that he intentionally assigned Fan 13th place, which was the placing he himself got back in the day. Fan became a prefectural judge (推官) for the Zhongwu Commandery (忠武軍; roughly governing today's central Henan), and was later promoted to the post of subprefect of Fengqiu which he served until Later Tang was overthrown in 936.[3]

Career under Later Jin[edit]

Under the new Later Jin, Fan's essays caught the eyes of chancellor Sang Weihan, who helped Fan become the imperial investigating censor (監察御史), a lowly position at the censorial offices. When Sang was subsequently appointed to other prefectures and eventually back as the chancellor, Fan followed him along the way. In 943, Fan Zhi was promoted to the post of assistant division chief of the Department of Hospitality (主客員外郎) and auxiliary official of the Institute of History (直史館). A year later, he became a Hanlin Academician and division chief (郎中) of the Department of Accounting, Ministry of Finance (比部), as well as special drafting of the Secretariat (知制誥).[3]

Career under the Liao Dynasty[edit]

Career under Later Han[edit]

Career under Later Zhou[edit]

Guo Wei (郭威), a Later Han general, had been impressed by the timeliness and the contents of the imperial orders he received while fighting rebellions away from the capital. Once he asked the messenger who wrote the orders. "Fan Zhi" was the reply, and Guo remarked, "Definitely fitting to be chancellor."[3]

In the winter months of early 951, Guo Wei rebelled against the Later Han emperor Liu Chengyou and his army swiftly conquered the capital Kaifeng. Amidst the chaos after Liu's fleeing from the city, Guo remembered the name Fan Zhi and asked for his whereabouts. When Fan – who was living with other commoners – was located, Guo paid him a personal visit in heavy snow and during the conversation, removed his own robe to put on Fan for warmth. In return to Guo's sincerity, Fan wrote several imperial orders for Guo, helping him transitioning the state as Guo declared himself the emperor of the new Later Zhou.[3]

Career under Song[edit]

One day in 960, Fan was dining in his own residence when general Zhao Kuangyin, who was supposed to be on the way to resist the Liao Dynasty invasion, stormed in. In tears, Zhao explained to Fan that he was forced to become the emperor and return to the capital by his subordinates. Stunned and not sure what to suggest, Fan was confronted by Zhao's attendant Luo Yangui (羅彥瓌), who raised his sword to threaten Fan into accepting the usurpation. When Fan realized that everything was nothing but acting, he came down the stairs and bowed to Zhao, who became the first emperor of the Song Dynasty.[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, ch. 290.
  2. ^ a b From his date and Chinese age at death we can deduct that he was born some time between 2 February 911 and 21 January 912.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Song Shi, ch. 249.
  4. ^ Xu Zizhi Tongjian Changbian, ch. 5.
  5. ^ Dull, p. 310.