Xiahou Xuan

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Xiahou Xuan
Official of Cao Wei
Born 209[1]
Died 254 (aged 45)[1]
Traditional Chinese 夏侯玄
Simplified Chinese 夏侯玄
Pinyin Xiàhóu Xuán
Wade–Giles Hsia-hou Hsüan
Courtesy name Taichu (Chinese: 太初; pinyin: Tàichū; Wade–Giles: T'ai-ch'u)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Xiahou.

Xiahou Xuan (209–254),[1] courtesy name Taichu, was an official of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period.


Xiahou Xuan was the son of Xiahou Shang. His mother was Princess Deyang (德陽鄉主; a sister of Cao Zhen), and thus Xiahou Xuan was close to Cao Shuang's faction. Xiahou Xuan had a sister Xiahou Hui, the wife of Sima Shi. One of Xiahou Xuan's daughters became the wife of He Jiao (和嶠), the grandson of He Qia and the son of He Jiong (和迥).


When he was 20 years old, he became Gentlemen of Scattered Cavalry (散騎侍郎) and Gentlemen of the Yellow Gate (黃門侍郎). One day, in the front of the emperor Cao Rui, he expressed his abhor about sitting together Mao Zeng (毛曾), the brother of Cao Rui's empress, Empress Mao, this incident roused Cao Rui's anger and Xiahou was demoted to a Supervisor of the Feathered Forest Imperial Guard (羽林監).

Xiahou Xuan, Li Sheng (Three Kingdoms), Deng Yang and Zhuge Dan were notable figures of those days, and were called Four Ingenious (四聰) collectively. However Cao Rui hated these four thinking their behaviour was futile and haughty, he expelled them from office.

In 239, the young emperor Cao Fang ascended the throne, Cao Shuang seized power as regent, and Xiahou Xuan was promoted to Attendant of Scattered Cavalry (散騎常侍) and Central Protector of the Army (中護軍). Xiahou Xuan had renown for a scholar, he could be compared to He Yan, another member of Cao Shuang's faction. Also He Yan and Xiahou Xuan were friends with Sima Shi, and Sima Shi and Xiahou Xuan both received high praise from He Yan. When he became the Central Protector of the Army as the replacement for Jiang Ji (蔣濟), bribery was common practice. Though Xiahou Xuan could not stop the bribes, he had insights to select competent people and singled out many people of ability.

One day, in order to seek the advice of Grand Tutor (太傅) Sima Yi, he sent a message to Sima Yi and said that "the law of the nine-rank system is not good. We should restrict the power of the controller (中正官)", as such, from the root we should change rules and laws of provincial regions (地方制度)". For Xiahou Xuan's letter, Sima Yi sent a reply that if there some brilliant person did not come into existence, the request could not be achieved. For this reply, Xiahou Xuan sent a reply saying that Sima Yi's opinion was too passive.

Afterwards he became General Who Attacks the West (征西將軍), and bore the rank of Area Commander (都督) for Yong Province (雍州) and Liang Province (涼州). He selected his friend Li Sheng to the Chief Clerk (長史) of his. Following the advice of Li Sheng, Xiahou Xuan and Cao Shuang began a campaign against Shu Han, however the supply line difficulties resulted in a great disaster, and they suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Xingshi and spoiled their reputations.

In 249, Sima Yi launched a coup d'état, and Cao Shung's members were executed. Xiahou Xuan was called to the capital and he appointed to the office of Minister Herald (大鴻臚), and Minister of Ceremonies (太常) years later. One day Xiahou Ba suggested him to seek refuge in Shu Han, Xiahou Xuan declined his suggestion.

As Xiahou Xuan was oppressed because he was one of Cao Shuang's associates, he lived a depressed and deprived life and did not participate in personnel-related matter. When Sima Yi died in 251, his friend Xu Yun (許允) was delighted as he could feel at ease. For this, Xiahou Xuan said that two sons of Sima Yi, Sima Shi and Sima Zhao would not accept the existence of Xiahou Xuan himself and that the words of Xu Yun was nothing but just a wishful thinking.

Li Feng's scheme and Xiahou Xuan's death[edit]

Although Prefect of the Palace Writers (中書令) Li Feng enjoyed the confidence of General-in-Chief (大將軍) Sima Shi, he esteemed Xiahou Xuan. He devised a plot to assassinate Sima Shi and place Xiahou Xuan in the position of General-in-Chief (大將軍), thereby leading Cao Fang to retake power. To this purpose, Li Feng told his plan to Zhang Ji (張緝), the father of Emperor Cao Fang's Empress Zhang.

However the plot was sensed by Sima Shi, Sima Shi had Xiahou Xuan arrested and sent him to Zhong Yu (鍾毓), the Minister of Justice (廷尉). It is said that in the process of the Zhong Yu's interrogation of Xiahou Xuan, Xiahou Xuan acted as if nothing had happened.

Afterwards, Li Feng and Xiahou Xuan were charged on treason and they were executed.

Guanqiu Jian and Zhuge Dan, who revolted later, were Xiahou Xuan's friends. Xiahou Ben (夏侯本) inherited Xiahou Xuan's family.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Xiahou Xuan's biography in Records of the Three Kingdoms mentioned that he was 46 years old (by East Asian age reckoning) when he was executed in the 6th year of the Jiaping era (249-254) of Cao Fang's reign. (嘉平六年二月, ...玄格量弘濟,臨斬東巿,顏色不變,舉動自若,時年四十六。) By calculation, his birth year should be around 209.