Sima Zhao

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Sima Zhao
A Qing dynasty illustration of Sima Zhao (right)
King of Jin dynasty
Tenure2 May 264 – 6 September 265
SuccessorSima Yan
Duke of Jin (晉公)
Tenure9 December 263[1][2][3][4] – 2 May 264
Regent of Cao Wei
Tenure23 March 255 – 6 September 265
PredecessorSima Shi
SuccessorSima Yan
DiedSeptember 6, 265(265-09-06) (aged 53–54)[5]
Luoyang, Henan
ConsortsEmpress Wenming
IssueEmperor Wu
Sima You
Sima Jian
Sima Ji
Sima Yanzuo
Princess Jingzhao
Family name: Sima (司馬)
Given name: Zhao (昭)
Courtesy name: Zishang (子上)
Posthumous name
Emperor Wen (文帝)
Temple name
Taizu (太祖)
HouseHouse of Sima
FatherSima Yi
MotherEmpress Xuanmu

Sima Zhao (pronunciation) (211 – 6 September 265[6]), courtesy name Zishang, was a Chinese military general, politician, and regent of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China and Emperor of Jin dynasty

Sima Zhao capably maintained control of Wei, which had been seized by his father Sima Yi and previously maintained by his older brother Sima Shi, successfully crushing all internal opposition in the form of dissent and rebellion. In 263, despite opposition, he decided to take advantage of the present weakness in Shu Han to the west and launched an invasion against it, which eventually managed to convince its emperor, Liu Shan, towards formally surrendering, tipping the decades-long established balance of power decisively in Wei's favor. Towards the end of the campaign, he had himself created the Duke of Jin and accepted the Nine bestowments—a step that put him closer to usurpation of the throne—although he never actually ascended the throne, having further styled himself the King of Jin in 264, and then died in 265. His military credit and successful grip on the political scene helped to set up the plot of overthrowing Wei by his son, Sima Yan, who usurped the Wei throne and proclaimed the Jin dynasty with himself as its emperor in 266. After the establishment of Jin, Sima Yan posthumously honoured his father as Emperor Wen of Jin (晉文帝), with the temple name of Taizu (太祖).

A Chinese idiom involving and inspired by Sima Zhao states that "Everyone on the street knows what's in Sima Zhao's mind" (司馬昭之心, 路人皆知), meaning that a person's supposed hidden intention (in this case, usurping the throne) is so well known that it is not really hidden. It came from a quotation by Cao Mao, fourth emperor of Wei, who launched an unsuccessful uprising against Sima Zhao in an attempt to take back imperial power.

Early life[edit]

Sima Zhao was born in 211, as the second-born son of Sima Yi and his wife Zhang Chunhua, younger only to Sima Shi.[7] As his father was an important Wei official, Sima Zhao himself climbed up the ranks of officials fairly rapidly. Due to his father's achievements in destroying the warlord Gongsun Yuan, he was created a Marquess of Xincheng[a] in 238 towards the end of the year. Around 240, he was made the General of the Gentlemen of the Agriculture Colonies (典農中郎將). A year later, around 241, he was appointed as Cavalier Attendant-in-Ordinary (散騎常侍). In March 244, he partook in Cao Shuang's disastrous campaign against Shu, where he managed to drive off a night-raid on his camp led by Shu forces. Despite the ultimate failure of the campaign, he was promoted to the rank of Consultant Gentleman (a position typically regarded as a placeholder, in which he himself was kept for over five years, which was likely bestowed upon him by Cao Shuang and his group so that he would be kept from further political advancement).[8]

Career up to 255[edit]

Incident at Gaoping Tombs[edit]

Sima Zhao's involvement in his father's coup d'état against the regent Cao Shuang in 249 is unclear. According to the Book of Jin, he was not told about the plan, hatched by his father and his older brother, until the last minute—a view disagreed with by other historians, who assert that he was intimately involved in the planning. Regardless, in the aftermath of the successful coup his father became the paramount political authority in Wei, and he himself received an addition of 1,000 households to his fief and became important in status. In 251, when his father suppressed the failed rebellion of Wang Ling, Sima Zhao served as deputy commander, and was rewarded with the addition of 300 households to his fief and a Marquis post for his young son, Sima You. During the next few years, he was involved in commanding forces in repelling invasions by Shu's commander of the armed forces, Jiang Wei.

Battle of Dongxing[edit]

In 253, Wei forces headed by Sima Zhao marched east to confront Wu, who had been overstepping their boundaries by building upon a lake and arming it with men on land which belonged to Wei. The Wei officers, feeling secure in their position and with their superior numbers, grew arrogant and allowed themselves to become drunk, and so were quickly overwhelmed by the Wu forces led by Ding Feng and Lü Ju, forcing the Wei forces to flee and retreat. After the loss at the Battle of Dongxing, Sima Zhao asked his Marshal Wang Yi in private who was responsible for the failure of the battle, to which Wang Yi responded: "Responsibility lies with the army commander." Sima Zhao retorted: "The Marshal means to make me shoulder the blame?" Thereafter he had Wang Yi executed. Sima Shi, the Wei regent and Sima Zhao's older brother, received memorials from ministers asking that Wang Chang, Guanqiu Jian, Hu Zun, and all the others who were a part of the campaign to be demoted for their failure, however, Sima Shi stated that: "It is because I did not listen to Gongxiu [Zhuge Dan] that we have come to this plight. In this I am culpable; how can the generals be at fault?"[9] He therefore promoted the generals who partook in the battle, while demoting Sima Zhao by removing his enfeoffment.[10]

Succeeding Sima Shi[edit]

In 254, while Sima Zhao was at the capital Luoyang, advisors to the Wei emperor, Cao Fang, suggested that the emperor surprise Sima Zhao and kill him to seize his troops, and then use those troops against Sima Shi. Cao Fang, apprehensive, did not act on the suggestion, but the plot was still discovered, and Sima Zhao assisted his brother in deposing the emperor and replacing him with Cao Mao. In the aftermath of the removal of the emperor, the generals Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin rebelled in 255 but were defeated by Sima Shi.

Sima Shi, however, had a serious eye illness that was aggravated by the campaign, and he died less than a month later; on 23 March.[11] At that time, Sima Zhao was with his brother at Xuchang. The 14-year-old emperor Cao Mao made an effort to regain imperial power. He issued an edict which, under the rationale that Sima Shi had just quelled Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's rebellion and that the southeastern empire was still not completely pacified, ordered Sima Zhao to remain at Xuchang and that Sima Shi's assistant Fu Jia return to Luoyang with the main troops. Under Fu Jia and Zhong Hui's advice, however, Sima Zhao returned to Luoyang anyway against edict,[12] and was able to maintain control of the government.[13] Indeed, from that point on, he did not let Cao Mao or Empress Dowager Guo out of his control.

As paramount authority[edit]

Consolidation of authority[edit]

Third Rebellion of Shouchun[edit]

During the next few years, Sima Zhao consolidated his authority further, leaving the emperor and empress dowager with little power. He further built up a series of events that were viewed as precipitations to usurpation of the Wei throne. In 256, he had the emperor grant him the privilege of wearing imperial robes, crowns, and boots. He further tested waters by having his close aides hinting to the generals around the empire as to his intentions. In 257, when he sent Jia Chong to probe Zhuge Dan's intentions, Zhuge rebuked Jia Chong severely[14] —leading Sima Zhao to summon Zhuge Dan back to the capital under the guise of a promotion. Zhuge Dan refused and started a rebellion, submitting himself to Eastern Wu for protection.[15] Sima Zhao advanced quickly on Zhuge Dan's stronghold of Shouchun and surrounded it, eventually capturing the city in 258 after cutting off any hope of an Eastern Wu rescue, killing Zhuge Dan and his family, although he treated many of those involved, such as the common citizens, and most notably the Wu soldiers who had been sent as reinforcements, with great magnanimity, despite being advised to punish the citizens and kill all the soldiers,[16] to which he retorted: "The ancients in using troops, preserving the state is best, so kill the leaders and nothing more. Should the Wú soldiers escape and flee back, then they can report the greatness of the central states." This benevolence managed to cast the Sima family in a more, and much-needed, positive light amongst the populace. After Zhuge Dan's death, there was no one who dared to oppose Sima Zhao further for the next few years. In 258, he would force the emperor to offer him the Nine Bestowments, state chancellorship, and the title of Duke of Jin—a step that put him closer to usurpation—and then publicly declined them nine times.[17]

Death of Cao Mao and complete control of the Wei government[edit]

In c.May 260, Sima Zhao again forced Cao Mao to issue an edict granting Sima Zhao the Nine Bestowments and the promotions, which Sima Zhao declined again,[18] but which drew Cao Mao's ire. He gathered his associates Wang Shen, Wang Jing, and Wang Ye and told them that, while he knew the chances of success were slight, he was going to act against Sima Zhao.[19] He took lead of the imperial guards, armed himself with a sword, and set out toward Sima Zhao's mansion. Sima Zhao's brother Sima Zhou tried to resist, but after Cao Mao's attendants yelled loudly, Sima Zhou's forces deserted. Jia Chong then arrived and intercepted the imperial guards. Cao Mao fought personally, and Jia Chong's troops, not daring to attack the emperor, were also deserting.[20] One of the officers under Jia Chong's command, Cheng Ji (成濟), after asking Jia what to do and was told by Jia to defend the Sima power regardless of the consequences, took a spear and killed Cao Mao with it.[21] This left Sima Zhao thoroughly vexed.[22]

After Cao Mao's death, public sentiments called for Jia Chong's death, but what Sima Zhao did first was to force Empress Dowager Guo to posthumously demote Cao Mao to common citizen status and order that he be buried as such.[23] He also executed Wang Jing and his family. The next day, after pleas from his uncle Sima Fu, Sima Zhao instead had Empress Dowager Guo order that Cao Mao be promoted back to a duke and buried with the ceremonies of an imperial prince.[24] Sima Zhao then summoned Cao Huan, the Duke of Changdao, and a grandson of Cao Cao, to the capital to become the emperor; by now, Empress Dowager Guo was powerless to speak further.[25][b] In the midst of these events, Sima Zhao went on to decline the Nine Bestowments and the promotions towards state chancellorship and the title of Duke of Jin.[26] Some days later, Sima Zhao publicly accused Cheng Ji and his brothers of treason and had them and their family executed to appease public sentiment while sparing Jia Chong.[27] No one dared to act against Sima Zhao even in the aftermaths of the emperor's death, however, for Sima Zhao was effectively the imperial authority by this point. On 27 June, Cao Huan entered Luoyang and became emperor.[28] Two days later, Sima Zhao forced Cao Huan to confer upon him the Nine Bestowments as well as the promotions towards state chancellorship and the title of Duke of Jin, which he earnestly declined,[29] as well as another time in October.[30][31]

Conquest of Shu[edit]

In 262, aggravated by Jiang Wei's incessant border attacks, Sima Zhao considered hiring assassins to murder Jiang Wei, but this plan was opposed by his advisor, Xun Xu.[32] Zhong Hui himself believed that Jiang Wei had worn out his troops and that it would be an appropriate time to try to destroy Shu once and for all.[33] Sima Zhao put Zhong Hui, Zhuge Xu, and Deng Ai in charge of the invasion forces (even though the latter initially opposed the campaign), and they set out in autumn 263.[34]

Zhong Hui, Zhuge Xu, and Deng Ai faced little opposition from Shu's forces, whose strategy was to draw the Wei forces in and then close on them—a strategy that backfired, as the Wei forces, much quicker than expected, leapt past Shu border cities and immediately onto the important Yang'an Pass (陽安關; in present-day Hanzhong, Shaanxi), capturing it. Zhuge Xu was eventually expelled and sent back as a prisoner, though, as Deng Ai wanted to merge his own troops with Zhuge Xu's, whereas Zhuge Xu did not deviate from the original plan; he met up with Zhong Hui, who wanted to monopolize on the military situation, and so sent an edict mentioning the cowardice of Zhuge Xu, after which the latter's troops were merged with Zhong Hui's.[35] Jiang Wei was able to regroup and block off the Wei forces from further advances,[36] until Deng Ai led his troops over a treacherous mountain pass, descending on Jiangyou, defeating Zhuge Zhan[37] and heading directly for the Shu capital, Chengdu. Surprised by Deng Ai's quick advances and believing that Jiang Wei would be unable to return fast enough to defend the capital against Deng Ai, the Shu emperor, Liu Shan, surrendered to Wei.[38] Earlier this year, in the spring of 263, Sima Zhao had again declined the Nine Bestowments and the promotions,[39] but during the campaign, in light of the recent successes, on 9 December 263, the emperor, Cao Huan, bestowed upon Sima Zhao the title of the Duke of Jin, the Nine Bestowments, and the position of Chancellor of the State, which Sima Zhao finally accepted.[40]

Zhong Hui's Rebellion[edit]

Another turmoil quickly came after Shu's destruction, however. Deng Ai, proud of his achievements, became arrogant in his correspondence with Sima Zhao, drawing Sima Zhao's suspicion. Zhong Hui, who had plans to rebel himself, quickly forged letters that further damaged the relations between Sima Zhao and Deng Ai beyond repair,[41] and Sima Zhao ordered Zhong Hui to arrest Deng Ai, although he himself, wary of Zhong Hui, nevertheless arrived with his own forces and stationed at Chang'an.[42] Zhong Hui did so, seizing Deng Ai's troops and merging them with his own, and then, with Jiang Wei as his assistant (but with Jiang Wei's actual intentions being to eventually kill Zhong Hui and restore Shu),[43] declared a rebellion in 264,[44] but his troops rebelled against him and killed both him and Jiang Wei,[45] with Sima Zhao going on to bestow an amnesty upon all in Shu.


After Zhong Hui's rebellion was defeated, Sima Zhao was granted the title of King of Jin on 2 May 264,[46] the penultimate step to usurpation. He set out to revise the laws and the civil service system in accordance with how he would want his own empire to be, such as instating the Five Feudal Ranks of Zhou[47] (a system which had fallen out of use since the Qin dynasty abolished it), and also going on to posthumously enfeoff his father, Sima Yi, and older brother, Sima Shi, as King Xuan of Jin and King Jing of Jin respectively.[48] He further sought peace with Eastern Wu,[49] to prevent further complications for his planned takeover, a gesture that was reciprocated.[50]

Later that year, Sima Zhao considered whom to make his heir. He strongly considered his talented younger son, Sima You, who had been adopted by Sima Shi because Sima Shi did not have sons of his own, under the rationale that because Sima Shi had great achievement in the Simas' obtaining and retaining of power, the succession should go back to his son. The majority of his advisors, however, recommended his oldest son, Sima Yan, instead, and Sima Zhao finally resolved to make Sima Yan his designated heir.[51]

On 6 September 265, Sima Zhao died[52] before he could receive actual imperial authority, although he was buried with imperial honors on 20 October 265. Five months later, however, Sima Yan, who had previously inherited his father's authority,[53] would have the Wei emperor, Cao Huan, abdicate in favour of him, ending Wei and establishing the Jin dynasty. After he did so, he posthumously honoured his father, Sima Zhao, as Emperor Wen of Jin (晉文帝).


Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Wenming, of the Wang clan of Donghai (文明皇后 東海王氏; 217–268), personal name Yuanji (元姬)
    • Princess Jingzhao (京兆公主)
      • Married Zhen De of Xiping (西平 甄德), and had issue (one son)
    • Sima Yan, Emperor Wu (武皇帝 司馬炎; 236–290), first son
    • Sima You, Prince Qixian (齊獻王 司馬攸; 248–283), second son
    • Sima Zhao, Prince Ai of Chengyang (城陽哀王 司馬兆), third son
    • Sima Dingguo, Prince Daohui of Liaodong (遼東悼惠王 司馬定國), fourth son
    • Sima Guangde, Prince Shang of Guanghan (廣漢殤王 司馬廣德), fifth son
  • Xiuhua, of the Li clan (修華 李氏), personal name Yan (琰)
  • Xiurong, of the Wang clan (修容 王氏), personal name Xuan (宣)
  • Xiuyi, of the Xu clan (修儀 徐氏), personal name Yan (琰)
  • Jieyu, of the Wu clan (婕妤 吳氏), personal name Shu (淑)
  • Chonghua , of the Zhao clan (充華 趙氏), personal name Ting (珽)
  • Unknown
    • Sima Jian, Prince Ping of Le'an (樂安平王 司馬鑒; d. 297), sixth son
    • Sima Ji, Prince Yan (燕王 司馬機), seventh son
    • Sima Yongzuo (司馬永祚), eighth son
    • Sima Yanzuo, Prince Leping (樂平王 司馬延祚), ninth son
    • Princess Changshan, married Wang Ji


Sima Liang
Sima Jun (113–197)
Sima Fang (149–219)
Sima Yi (179–251)
Sima Zhao (211–265)
Zhang Wang
Empress Xuanmu (189–247)
Lady Shan of Henei

In popular culture[edit]

Sima Zhao is first introduced as a playable character in the seventh instalment of Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series, in which he is depicted as having a lazy and carefree atmosphere, but underneath it actually being a talented leader and strategist. He is then introduced again as a playable character in Warriors Orochi 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fang’s note 4.5 of Jiaping 5; Xincheng was the site of Sima Yi’s famous victory over the traitorous Meng Da, so this place likely held special significance to the Sima family.
  2. ^ Cao Huang's name, being a homophone of “Huang” (yellow), which must have been frequently used in daily life, had to be altered to some uncommon character.


  1. ^

    Because the campaign against Shu was going well, Sima Zhao was once more offered the position of Chancellor of the State [xiangguo], as well as the title Duke of Jin and the Nine Awards. This time, Sima Zhao accepted these honors.

    Zizhi Tongjian, Sima Guang

  2. ^

    Because the generals attacking Shu had reported their victories in succession, in an edict the Emperor again commanded that the da jiangjun Sima Zhao should have his rank, enfeoffment and gifts advanced, all as in the former edict; Sima Zhao accepted the appointment.

    Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang

  3. ^

    In winter, in the tenth month, on the day jiayin (December 9), the Emperor again commanded in an edict that the da jiangjun should have his rank, enfeoffment, and gifts advanced, all as in the former edict.

    Sanguozhi, Chronicle of the Prince of Chenliu

  4. ^

    In winter, in the tenth month, the Son of Heaven, because the various feudal lords reported their victories in succession, reiterated his former command, saying, '...[the text of the edict]...' Ducal and other ministers, and generals all betook themselves to the headquarters of the da jiangjun to convey the Imperial wishes, but Wendi declined out of modesty. The sigong Zheng Chong at the head of the myriad officials advised him to accept, saying, '...[the text of the petition]...' Thereupon Wendi accepted the appointment.

    Jin Shu, Chronicle of Wendi

  5. ^ Declercq, Dominik (1998). "Chapter 5". Writing Against the State: Political Rhetorics in Third and Fourth Century China. BRILL. p. 176. ISBN 9004103767. Retrieved 2 January 2015. Hardly was this rebellion crushed than Sima Shi died (in March 255); and his brother Sima Zhao took command...
  6. ^ xinmao day of the 8th month of the 2nd year of the Xianxi era. (咸熙二年秋八月辛卯,帝崩于露寝,时年五十五。) Jin Shu, vol.02
  7. ^ Sima Zhao's biography in Book of Jin recorded that he was a younger full-brother of Sima Shi. (文皇帝讳昭,字子上,景帝之母弟也。) Jin Shu vol.02. Of Sima Yi's sons, only Sima Shi (first), Sima Liang (fourth) and Sima Lun (ninth) had their birth orders explicitly recorded in Book of Jin.
  8. ^ Fang’s note 14 of Zhengshi 9;

    the title Gentleman Consultant [yilang] was typically used as a “placeholder”. It indicated that the court intended to grant the Gentleman Consultant an important position as soon as one became available. In the meantime, the Gentleman Consultant could participate in the court’s discussions and provide advice. While this position was often an honor, it could also be used to slow the advancement of one’s political rivals. Given that Sima Zhao remained a Gentleman Consultant for more than five years, this appointment was most likely an attempt by He Yan, Cao Shuang, and their party to curb his advancement.

  9. ^

    Wang Chang and Guanqiu Jian, learning that the eastern army had been defeated, set fire to their respective camps and fled. At Court, it was proposed to demote the generals concerned. The da jiangjun Sima Shi said, "It is because I did not listen to Gongxiu that we have come to this plight. In this I am culpable; how can the generals be at fault?" Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  10. ^

    And he absolved them all. At that time, Sima Shi's younger brother, the andong jiangjun, Sima Zhao was Superintendent of the Army (chien-chun); he only deprived Sima Zhao of his enfeoffment. He appointed Zhuge Dan (zhennan jiangjun) and Commander-in-chief (dudu) of Yuzhou and Guanqiu Jian (zhennan jiangjun) and Commander-in-chief of Yangzhou. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  11. ^

    The wei jiangjun Sima Zhao went from Luoyang to inquire after Sima Shi's health. Sima Shi ordered him to take command of all the forces. On the day xinhai (March 23), Sima Shi died at Xuchang. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  12. ^

    The zhongshu shilang, Zhong Hui, had been in the suite of Sima Shi, taking charge of confidential matters. The Emperor, in a personal edict, commanded the shangshu Fu Jia (傅嘏) that, the southeast having recently been conquered, the wei jiangjun Sima Zhao was to station himself for the time being at Xuchang, to serve as internal and external support, and Fu Jia should return with the various troops. Zhong Hui consulted Fu Jia and had Fu Jia send up a memorial to the throne that they were starting together with Sima Zhao. They returned and encamped south of the Luoshui Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  13. ^

    Second month. On the day tingsi (march 29), the Emperor appointed Sima Zhao to be da jiangjun and lu shangshu shi. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  14. ^

    Jia Chong saw Zhuge Dan and discussed the politics of the day, on which occasion he said, “The worthy gentleman of Luoyang all desire the Emperor to abdicate in favor of a new Ruling House. This is what you yourself are aware of. What is your opinion on this point?” In a raised voice, Zhuge Dan said, “Are you not the son of Jia Kui, the Governor of Yuzhou? For two generations, your family has been receiving favors from the Wei; how is it possible that you wish to have the dynasty turned over to someone else? Should there be any such extraordinary happening in Luoyang, I shall die for the cause.” Jia Chong kept silent. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  15. ^

    On the day jiazi (May 24), the Emperor appointed Zhuge Dan as sigong and summoned him to the capital. Having received the Imperial edict, Zhuge Dan became all the more afraid. Suspecting that the cishi of Yangzhou, Yue Lin, was disloyal to him, he killed Yue Lin (樂綝). He levied the government troops who had been engaged in husbandry in the military agricultural colonies in the various prefectures and districts in Huainan and Huaibei, some ten odd myriads of men, as well as those men in Yangzhou who had recently joined him and were able to bear arms, forty or fifty thousand men; he collected provisions, sufficient for a year, and thus planned to defend his position by closing all the city gates. He sent his changshi Wu Gang with his youngest son Zhuge Jing (諸葛靚) to the Wu to call himself a vassal and request help; he also requested them to make hostages of the sons and younger brothers of his yamen generals. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  16. ^

    Some of Sima Zhao’s advisers suggested that he massacre the people of Huainan because they had rebelled on numerous occasions. Sima Zhao declined this suggestion. Instead, he allowed the Wu soldiers to return home while he relocated many of the people of Huainan to the commanderies near the capital where they could make less trouble. He rewarded those generals who had surrendered and pardoned those who had rebelled. Zizhi Tongjian, Sima Guang.

  17. ^

    Summer fifth month (June 18-July 17). The Emperor appointed Sima Zhao to be xiangguo and enfeoffed him as Duke of Jin with an appanage of eight prefectures, conferring on him the Nine Gifts. Sima Zhao declined these honors nine times in all, after which the Emperor desisted. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  18. ^

    Summer, fourth month (April 28-May 27). The Emperor issued an edict to his officials that his former command should be obeyed: he again advanced the rank of the da jiangjun Sima Zhao to that of xiangguo and enfeoffed him as Duke of Jin, conferring on him the nine gifts. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  19. ^

    Observing that his power was on the wane day after day, the Emperor was unable to bear his vexation. In the fifth month, on the day jichou (June 2), he summoned the shizhong Wang Chen, the shangshu Wang Jing, and the sanji changshi Wang Ye, and spoke to them, “Sima Zhao's design is known to men walking on the street. I cannot sit still and suffer the disgrace of being dethroned by him. Today I intend to go out myself together with you and attack him.” Wang Jing said, “Of old, Duke Zhao of Lu was not able to bear the Ji; he was defeated and fled, thus being deprived of his throne. He became the laughing-stock of the whole world. At present, power has been lying in his House for a long time: within the Court and in the four quarters of the Empire, all are serving him with the utmost loyalty, even unto death, without paying attention to whether he is loyal or disloyal to the throne. This has not been going on for just a single day. Furthermore, the palace guard is depleted, their arms and weapons are few and weak. What does your Majesty rely on that you would act thus all of a sudden? Is it not like aggravating one's ailment, though one is bent on removing it? The disaster cannot be gauged; you ought to be prudent and cautious.” Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  20. ^

    In the end, the Emperor unsheathed his sword, mounted his carriage and, leading the palace guards and menial servants of the palace, came out beating drums and clamoring. Sima Zhao's younger brother, the tunji jiaoyu Sima Zhou, met with the Emperor at the East Zhiche Men (Gate for Stopping Carriages). The attendants yelled at him. Sima Zhou and his men rushed off. The zhonghu jun Jia Chong was entering the palace from the outside; he met the Emperor and fought with him beneath the Southern Tower Gate. The Emperor himself wielded his sword; his horde wanted to retreat. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  21. ^

    The younger brother of the jidu Cheng Cui, the taizi sheren Cheng Ji asked Jia Chong, “The situation is urgent. What shall we do?” Jia Chong said, “His Excellency Sima Zhao has been supporting you people just in anticipation of today. Whatever you do today, you will not be held responsible.” Cheng Ji then drew out his spear and stepped forward to stab the Emperor, who met his death beneath his carriage. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  22. ^

    Hearing of this, Sima Zhao was greatly astonished and threw himself on the ground saying, “What will the world say of me?” The taifu Sima Fu hastened on the scene and, taking the Emperor's leg as a pillow, mourned him sorrowfully, saying, “It is my fault that Your Majesty is dead.” Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  23. ^

    The Empress Dowager issued a command indicting the iniquities of the Duke of Gaoguixiang and degrading him to the rank of a commoner, to be interred with ceremonies befitting the common people; she also ordered the arrest of Wang Jing and the members of his family, who were to be turned over to the tingyu. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  24. ^

    On the day gengyin, the taifu Sima Fu and others memorialized the throne, requesting that the Duke of Gaoguixiang be interred with the ceremonies befitting a feudal prince; the Empress Dowager granted it. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  25. ^

    The Empress Dowager had the zhonghujun Sima Yan fetch the Duke of Changdaoxiang, Cao Huang, a son of the Prince of Yan, Cao Yu, from Ye, to make him an heir to Mingdi. Sima Yan was a son of Sima Zhao. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  26. ^

    On the day guimao (June 16), Sima Zhao earnestly declined to accept the appointment of xiangguo, Duke of Jin, and the bestowal of the Nine Gifts. The Empress Dowager in an edict granted her permission. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  27. ^

    On the day wushen, Sima Zhao sent up a memorial that Cheng Ji and his elder brother Cheng Cui had committed high treason, and that they and the members of their families should be exterminated. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  28. ^

    On the day jiayin (June 27), the Duke of Changdaoxiang entered Luoyang. On this day he ascended the Imperial Throne. He was fifteen years old. A general amnesty was granted and the reign title altered from Ganlu to Jingyuan. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  29. ^

    On the day bingchen (June 29), the Emperor in an edict advanced Sima Zhao's rank and conferred on him the Nine Gifts as before. Sima Zhao earnestly declined to accept the appointment, and so the Emperor desisted. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  30. ^

    Autumn, eighth month. on the day jiayin (October 20), the Emperor again advanced Sima Zhao's enfeoffment and rank, but he declined. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  31. ^

    From SGZ, Chronicle of the Prince of Chenliu, where it reads: “In the eighth month, on the day wuyin (September 14), Cao Gan, the Prince of Zhao, died. On the day jiayin, the Emperor again advanced the enfeoffment of the da jiangjun to that of Duke of Jin and conferred on him the rank of xiangguo, giving him the Nine Gifts, all as in his former edict. But he declined earnestly, whereupon the Emperor desisted.” The day jiayin does not exist in the eighth month of this year; it is the tenth day of the ninth month (October 20). Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  32. ^

    Sima Zhao was vexed because Jiang Wei had been time and time again making incursions into his territory. Lu Yi, a stableman, requested permission to go to Shu as an assassin. The congshi zhonglang Xun Xu said, “As Prime Minister of the Empire, Your Excellency ought to punish the rebels by fair means. But you would employ an assassin to eliminate the rebels; this is not the way to extend your example to the land within the four seas.” Sima Zhao approved. Xun Xu was a great-grandson of Xun Shuang. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  33. ^

    Sima Zhao wanted to send a large force to attack Han; most of the Court Officials disapproved, but the sili jiaoyu Zhong Hui alone advised him to do so. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  34. ^

    The Emperor, by an edict, mobilized the various troops on a large scale to attack Han. He sent the zhengxi jiangjun Deng Ai at the head of more than thirty thousand men to proceed from Didao towards Gansong and Dazhong to engage Jiang Wei. He sent the cishi of Yongzhou, Zhuge Xu, at the head of more than thirty thousand men to proceed from Qishan towards Wujie and Qiaotou to cut off Jiang Wei's retreat, and Zhong Hui at the head of some ten odd myriads of men to proceed from Yegu, Luogu and Ziwugu, towards Hanzhong. He appointed the tingyu Wei Guan to carry the Tally and serve as Superintendent of the troops of Deng Ai and Zhong Hui, acting as chenxi junsi. Wei Guan was a son of Wei Ji. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  35. ^

    Deng Ai advanced to Yinping. He chose picked troops and wanted to proceed, with Zhuge Xu, from Jiangyou to Chengdu. Zhuge Xu thought to himself that the original instructions he had received were to intercept Jiang Wei, and that going westwards was not mentioned in the Imperial edict. He therefore withdrew with his troops to Boshui, where he joined Zhong Hui. Zhong Hui sent the jiangjun Tian Chang and others to march from the west of Jiange towards Jiangyou. Tian Chang had not gone a hundred li when he destroyed three detachments of the Shu lying in ambush. Deng Ai made Tian Chang speed ahead; and so they marched forward, carrying all before them. Zhong Hui and Zhuge Xu moved their troops towards Jiange. Wanting to monopolize the military situation, Zhong Hui secretly memorialized the throne that Zhuge Xu was fainthearted and would not advance; he had him recalled in a cage-cart; his troops all went over to Zhong Hui's command. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  36. ^

    Jiang Wei maneuvered and guarded the defiles. Zhong Hui attacked him, but could not defeat him. As provisions had to be transported from afar and through difficult terrain, and as the army lacked food, he (Zhong Hui) wanted to retreat. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  37. ^

    Deng Ai sent his son Deng Zhong, Lord of Huitangting, with his men to attack Zhuge Zhan's right wing, and the sima Shi Zuan with his men to attack his left wing. Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan did not succeed in the battle. They both returned and said, “The rebels could not be beaten.” In anger, Deng Ai said, “To be or not to be depends on this one stroke. How dare you say they cannot be beaten?” He then ordered that Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan be beheaded. Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan galloped off and fought again, scoring a great victory over him. They killed Zhuge Zhan as well as Huang Chong. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  38. ^

    The Sovereign of Han still wished to enter the southern territory and so hesitated. Qiao Zhou sent up a memorial, “There are some who advise your Majesty that since the northern troops have penetrated far into our territory, you should go southwards. I, a stupid official, disapprove it as unsafe. Why do I think so? The distant barbarian land in the south formerly did not make a practice of bringing any tribute, but often revolted. Since the chengxiang Zhuge Liang pressed them hard with his troops, they in their necessity have been submissive to us. If you go now to the South, they will have to ward off the enemy externally and be responsible for your maintenance internally—their expenditures will be heavy; while there are no other resources to draw upon, the barbarian tribes will have to be drained; it is certain that they will revolt.”. Thereupon, the Sovereign of Han sent the shizhong Zhang Shao and others to carry his Imperial Seal and to surrender to Deng Ai on his behalf. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  39. ^

    In spring, in the second month (February 25-March 26), the Emperor again advanced Sima Zhao's enfeoffment and rank as before, but he again declined. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  40. ^

    From the following two sources. SGZ, Chronicle of the Prince of Chenliu: “In winter, in the tenth month, on the day jiayin (December 9), the Emperor again commanded in an edict that the da jiangjun should have his rank, enfeoffment, and gifts advanced, all as in the former edict.” Jin Shu, Chronicle of Wendi, gives a more detailed account: “In winter, in the tenth month, the Son of Heaven, because the various feudal lords reported their victories in succession, reiterated his former command, saying, '...[the text of the edict]...' Ducal and other ministers, and generals all betook themselves to the headquarters of the da jiangjun to convey the Imperial wishes, but Wendi declined out of modesty. The sigong Zheng Chong at the head of the myriad officials advised him to accept, saying, '...[the text of the petition]...' Thereupon Wendi accepted the appointment.” Thus he finally became xiangguo and Duke of Jin. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  41. ^

    Zhong Hui was a skillful imitator of other persons' calligraphy. When he was at Jiange, he intercepted Deng Ai's memorials and reports; he altered the diction and made his language wantonly arrogant, mostly boastful of his own achievements. He also destroyed the replies of the Duke of Jin; he forged new replies and made Deng Ai doubtful of his position. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  42. ^

    Zhong Hui received this letter with astonishment and addressed his intimates, “As for arresting Deng Ai, the xiangguo knows well that I can manage it singlehanded. Now he comes with an altogether large force; it must be that he has some suspicion of my intention. I must execute my plot speedily; if I succeed I shall obtain the Empire; if I fail, I may retire to Shu-Han, where I can still become another Liu Bei. Since the Huainan rebellion, I have never committed a single mistake in strategy. What else am I going to do with myself?” Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  43. ^

    Jiang Wei wanted Zhong Hui to kill all the generals from the north, planning that he would afterwards kill Zhong Hui and massacre all the Wei troops, thus to restore the throne to the Sovereign of Han. He sent a secret letter to Liu Shan, “I wish that your Majesty would put up with a few days' disgrace. I am planning to restore the fallen dynasty, and make the obscured sun and moon shine again.” Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  44. ^

    On the day dingchou (March 1), Zhong Hui summoned all the hujun, prefects (junshou), yamen and chitu and other higher officials, as well as the former officials of Shu to observe mourning for the Empress Dowager in the palace of Shu. He produced a false posthumous edict of the Empress Dowager ordering Zhong Hui to raise arms and dismiss Sima Zhao. He showed it to all those who were in the assembly and let them discuss it. He wrote down their agreement and gave official appointments; he had those in his confidence replace those who commanded the troops at that time. All the officials he had invited to observe the mourning he interned in the various government buildings of Yizhou. He also closed all the palace gates and city gates, and had troops guard those places strictly. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  45. ^

    Astonished, Zhong Hui said to Jiang Wei, “The troops are coming with some sinister intention. What shall we do?” Jiang Wei said, “There is nothing else to do but strike at them.” Zhong Hui sent his troops to kill the yamen and prefects he had until then held in confinement. Those within, however, piled up desks to blockade the doors. The troops attempted to hew the doors down, but could not break them open. Meanwhile, those outside the city gates scaled the walls with ladders, set fire to the walls and, in disorder, rushed in like a mass of ants. Arrows poured down like raindrops. The yamen and Prefects climbed to the roofs of the houses and came out; they then joined their own troops. Leading his attendants, Jiang Wei fought, killing five or six men by his own hand. The mass of troops grappled Jiang Wei and killed him, then rushed along and killed Zhong Hui. At that time, Zhong Hui was forty years old. Of Zhong Hui's generals and troops, several hundred were killed. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  46. ^

    On the day jimao (May 2), the rank of the Duke of Jin was advanced to that of King of Jin, with an additional ten prefectures as his fief. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  47. ^

    Fifth month. On the day gengshen (June 12), the King of Jin memorialized that the system of five ranks be restored; the jidu and higher officials, more than six hundred men, were enfeoffed. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  48. ^

    On the day guiwei (July 5), the Lord of Wenxuan of Wuyang, Sima Yi, was posthumously enfeoffed as King Xuan of Jin, and the Lord of Zhongwu (of Wuyang), Sima Shi as King Jing of Jin. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  49. ^

    From SGZ, Biography of Sun Hao, under the first year of Yuanxing, where it reads: “In this year, the Wei established the prefecture of Jiaozhi, and the taishou proceeded there to take up his post. Wendi of Jin, in his capacity as xiangguo of Wei, sent the Wu generals who had surrendered at the city of Shouchun, Xu Shao and Sun Yu, with a letter, under his order, to set forth the general situation and interests (of the parties concerned) in order to admonish Sun Hao.” This letter, advising Sun Hao to surrender, is reproduced in the Han Jin Chunqiu. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  50. ^

    SGZ has: “In the third month, Sun Hao sent his envoys in the company of Xu Shao and Sun Yu. The letter of reply to Sima Zhao read: 'I know that you, a man of unsurpassed talents, occupy the position of Prime Minister and are assiduous to the extreme in the guidance of state affairs. I, who am without virtue, have inherited the Imperial line. I consider taking the counsel of the worthy and the good to effect good rule. Since there are obstacles intervening between us, I have not had the opportunity to meet you. Your excellent intention is well displayed in your letter; I think of you affectionately. Now I am sending the guanglu dafu Ji Zhi and the wuguan zhonglangjiang Hong Qiu to convey my innermost thoughts.'” This letter is meant as a reply to Sima Zhao's letter referred to in 264 AD. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  51. ^

    The King of Jin wanted to appoint Sima Yu as Crown Prince. Shan Tao said, “It is against the rules of propriety as well as inauspicious to dismiss the elder and appoint the younger.” Jia Chong said, “The zhongfu jun Sima Yan possesses the virtues of a Sovereign; he should not be replaced.” He Ceng and Pei Xiu said, “The Zhongfu Jun {Sima Yan} is intelligent and far-sighted, and gifted with godlike prowess. People look up to him; thus is his Heaven-endowed appearance. His is certainly not the physiognomy of a subject of a Sovereign.” And so the King of Jin made up his mind. On the day bingwu (November 25), he appointed Sima Yan as Crown Prince. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  52. ^

    SGZ has: “In autumn, in the eighth month, on the day xinmao, the xiangguo, King of Jin, died.” Jin shu, Chronicle of Wendi states: “In autumn, in the eighth month, on the day xinmao, Wendi died in his main hall at the age of fifty-five.” Sima Zhao lived 211-265 AD. Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

  53. ^

    SGZ has: “On the day renchen (September 7), the Crown Prince of Jin, Sima Yan, succeeded to his enfeoffment and inherited his rank; he assumed the Presidency of the myriad officials and had gifts and documents of appointments conferred upon him, all in conformity with ancient institutions.” Jin shu, Chronicle of Wudi states: “In the second year of Xianxi, in the fifth month, Sima Yan was appointed Crown Prince of Jin. In the eighth month, on the day xinmao, Wendi died and the Crown Prince inherited his rank as xiangguo and King of Jin. He issued an order that punishments be eased and pardon be given to prisoners, and that the population be soothed and the corvee stopped, and that all in the land should wear mourning clothes for three days.” Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Achilles Fang.

Emperor Wen of Jin
Born: 211 Died: 6 September 265
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
as Duke of Jin
King of Jin
2 May 264 – 6 September 265
Succeeded by
Sima Yan
later became
Emperor Wu of Jin
Chinese nobility
New title Duke of Jin
9 December 263 – 2 May 264
Succeeded by
as King of Jin