|Died||269 (aged 78)[a]|
Xin Xianying (191–269) was the daughter of Xin Pi, an official of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. The only extant historical source about her life is her biography written by her maternal grandson, Xiahou Zhan (夏侯湛), who was a notable scholar and official of the Jin dynasty. She is best known for giving advice to her family members and relatives during significant events in the history of Cao Wei such as the Incident at Gaoping Tombs and Zhong Hui's Rebellion.
Xin Xianying's ancestral home was in Yangzhai County (陽翟縣), Yingchuan Commandery (潁川郡), which is around present-day Yuzhou, Henan. Her ancestors were actually from Longxi Commandery (隴西郡; around present-day Dingxi, Gansu), but they migrated to Yingchuan Commandery during the Jianwu era (25–56 CE) of the reign of Emperor Guangwu in the early Eastern Han dynasty.
Xin Xianying's father, Xin Pi, served as an official under the warlord Cao Cao, who controlled the central government and the figurehead Emperor Xian in the final decades of the Eastern Han dynasty. After the fall of the Eastern Han, Xin Pi continued serving in the Cao Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period and his highest appointment was Minister of the Guards (衛尉). Xin Xianying had a younger brother, Xin Chang (辛敞), who also served as an official in Wei.
Xin Xianying married Yang Dan (羊耽), the youngest son of the Eastern Han dynasty official Yang Xu (羊續). Yang Dan, who was from Taishan Commandery (泰山郡; around present-day Tai'an, Shandong), served as the Minister of Ceremonies (太常) in the Wei central government.
Reaction towards Cao Pi's joy at becoming crown prince
In 217, after Cao Cao's son Cao Pi won the succession struggle against his younger brother Cao Zhi and became the heir apparent to their father's vassal kingdom, he was so elated that he hugged Xin Pi and said: "Sir, don't you know how happy I am?"
When Xin Pi told his daughter about it, she sighed and said: "A crown prince will succeed a ruler and inherit his kingdom one day. How can he succeed his father without feeling sad? How can he rule a kingdom without feeling intimidated? If he expresses joy instead of sadness and fear, how can his kingdom last long? How can Wei prosper?"
Xin Xianying was essentially implying that Cao Pi should express sadness because his father must die before he can become the next ruler, and that he should feel intimidated by the fact that he would have to shoulder the heavy responsibility of ruling a kingdom. If Cao Pi accepted his role more solemnly, then it was more likely that he would turn out to be a serious and wise ruler.
Advising Xin Chang during the Incident at Gaoping Tombs
Xin Xianying's younger brother Xin Chang served as an adviser to the Wei general Cao Shuang, who served as regent to the third Wei emperor Cao Fang. On 5 February 249, when Cao Shuang accompanied Cao Fang on a visit to the Gaoping Tombs, his co-regent Sima Yi took advantage of his absence to stage a coup d'état and seize control of all the armed forces in the imperial capital Luoyang. Lu Zhi (魯芝), a major under Cao Shuang, prepared to lead his men to fight their way out of Luoyang and regroup with Cao Shuang. When Lu Zhi asked Xin Chang to follow him, a fearful Xin Chang turned to his sister for advice: "The Emperor is away. The Grand Tutor (Sima Yi) has ordered the city gates to be shut. People say that this won't be of any good to the State. What do you think will happen?"
Xin Xianying replied: "We won't know what will happen. However, from what I observe, the Grand Tutor has no choice but to do this. Before Emperor Ming passed away, he held the Grand Tutor close and entrusted him with state affairs. Many officials in the imperial court still remember this. Although Cao Shuang too was entrusted with this responsibility along with the Grand Tutor, he has been monopolising power and acting autocratically. He is disloyal towards the Emperor and therefore doesn't have the moral high ground. The Grand Tutor simply wants to get rid of him."
When Xin Chang asked her if he should follow Lu Zhi, she replied: "How can you not go? It is righteous for one to perform his duty. When others are in trouble, we ought to help them. If you work for someone and you don't do what you need to do, then that isn't a good sign. If you are a close aide (of Cao Shuang), then you should fulfil your loyalty towards him and sacrifice your life for him if you have to. However, in this incident, (you aren’t a close side of Cao Shuang and so) you just need to follow the crowd." Xin Chang heeded her advice and followed Lu Zhi out of Luoyang to join Cao Shuang.
Cao Shuang eventually surrendered to Sima Yi and relinquished his powers as regent. He was subsequently charged with treason and executed along with his extended family, his close aides and their families. Xin Chang was spared. After the incident was over, Xin Chang sighed and said: "If I didn't discuss with my sister, I would have done something unrighteous."
Foreseeing Zhong Hui's downfall
When the Wei general Zhong Hui was appointed as General Who Guards the West (鎮西將軍) in 263, Xin Xianying asked her nephew Yang Hu: "Why is Zhong Shiji going to the west?" Yang Hu replied: "He is leading a campaign to conquer Shu." Xin Xianying then cautioned Yang Hu: "Zhong Hui is wilful and unbridled in his ways. This is a sign that he won't remain subordinate to others for long. I believe that he may rebel in the future."
When Zhong Hui was about to leave for the campaign against Shu, he wrote to the Wei imperial court to seek permission to bring along Yang Xiu (羊琇), Xin Xianying's son, as a military adviser. Xin Xianying lamented: "In the past, I was worried for the State. Today, trouble has come to my family." Yang Xiu appealed to the Wei regent Sima Zhao to not accompany Zhong Hui on the campaign, but Sima Zhao denied his request. Before Yang Xiu left, Xin Xianying advised him: "Always be mindful of your actions. The junzis of ancient times were filial towards their parents at home, and loyal to their states outside home. When you do your job, always think about what your duty is. When you face a question of morality, always think about where you stand. Don't make your parents worry about you. When you are in the army, being benevolent towards others will go a long way to help you."
In March 264, after successfully conquering Shu for Wei, Zhong Hui started a rebellion against Wei. However, the rebellion failed when some of Zhong Hui's men mutinied against him and killed him. Yang Xiu remained unharmed throughout the rebellion.
Relatives and descendants
Xin Xianying and Yang Dan had at least two sons and a daughter. Their first son, Yang Jin (羊瑾), served as the Right Supervisor of the Masters of Writing (尚書右僕射) in the Cao Wei government. Yang Jin's son, Yang Xuanzhi (羊玄之), served as Right Supervisor of the Masters of Writing (尚書右僕射) and a Palace Attendant (侍中) in the government of the Jin dynasty. Yang Xuanzhi was the father of Yang Xianrong, who married Emperor Hui of the Jin dynasty.
Xin Xianying and Yang Dan's second son, Yang Xiu (羊琇), continued serving in the government of the Jin dynasty after the end of the Cao Wei state, and became a Regular Mounted Attendant (散騎常侍) under Emperor Wu, the first Jin emperor.
Xin Xianying and Yang Dan's daughter married Xiahou Zhuang (夏侯莊), a son of Xiahou Wei and grandson of Xiahou Yuan. Xiahou Zhuang and Xin Xianying's daughter had a son, Xiahou Zhan (夏侯湛), who became a notable scholar and official in the Jin dynasty. Xiahou Zhuang also had another son, Xiahou Chun (夏侯淳), who served as a commandery administrator in the Jin dynasty. Xiahou Zhuang's daughter, Xiahou Guangji (夏侯光姬), was the mother of Emperor Yuan of the Jin dynasty.
In popular culture
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- (... 外孫夏侯湛為其傳曰： ...) Shiyu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 25.
- (羊耽妻辛氏，字憲英，隴西人，魏侍中毗之女也。) Jin Shu vol. 96.
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- (憲英曰：「事有不可知，然以吾度之，太傅殆不得不爾。明皇帝臨崩，把太傅臂，屬以後事，此言猶在朝士之耳。且曹爽與太傅俱受寄託之任，而獨專權勢，於王室不忠，於人道不直，此舉不過以誅爽耳。」) Jin Shu vol. 96.
- (敞曰：「然則敞無出乎？」憲英曰：「安可以不出！職守，人之大義也。凡人在難，猶或恤之；為人執鞭而棄其事，不祥也。且為人任，為人死，親昵之職也，汝從眾而已。」敞遂出。) Jin Shu vol. 96.
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- (及會將行，請其子琇為參軍，憲英憂曰：「他日吾為國憂，今日難至吾家矣。」琇固請於文帝，帝不聽。) Jin Shu vol. 96.
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- (元夏侯太妃名光姬，沛國譙人也。祖威，兗州刺史。父莊，字仲容，淮南太守、清明亭侯。) Jin Shu vol. 31.
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