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Sima Fang

Sima Fang
司馬防 / 司馬芳
Cavalry Commandant (騎都尉)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Intendant of Jingzhao (京兆尹)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Prefect of Luoyang (洛陽令)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Personal details
Wen County, Henan
Died219 (aged 70)
FatherSima Jun
Courtesy nameJiangong (建公) /
Wenyu (文豫)
Posthumous nameMarquis Cheng of Wuyang

Sima Fang (149–219), courtesy name Jiangong or Wenyu, was an official who lived during the Eastern Han dynasty of China. Through his second son Sima Yi, he was an ancestor of the ruling Sima clan of the Jin dynasty (265–420) of China.


Sima Fang's ancestral home was in Wen County (溫縣), which is present-day Wen County, Henan.[1] He was a son of Sima Jun (司馬儁), who served as the Administrator of Yingchuan Commandery (潁川郡) during the Eastern Han dynasty.[2]

Sima Fang started his career as a minor official in his home commandery, Henei Commandery (河內郡). Later, he rose through the ranks to become the Prefect of Luoyang (洛陽令) and Intendant of Jingzhao (京兆尹) under the Han central government.[3] In his old age, he was reassigned to be a Cavalry Commandant (騎都尉). He enjoyed reading the biographies of notable officials in the Book of Han and could even recite over 100,000 lines from the book.[4] He died at the age of 71 (by East Asian age reckoning) in the year 219.[5]

In the spring of 242 during the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Fang, the third emperor of the Wei state, honoured Sima Fang with the posthumous title "Marquis Cheng of Wuyang" (舞陽成侯) in recognition of the contributions to Wei by Sima Fang's second son, Sima Yi.[6]

Sima Fang was known for being a serious and solemn man throughout his life; he was humourless even in informal settings such as banquets. He maintained a very low profile and avoided interacting with his colleagues outside the workplace. He was also strict and stern towards his sons even after they grew up and became adults. In his presence, they did not dare to move, sit or speak without his permission.[7]

Relationship with Cao Cao

The Cao Man Zhuan (曹瞞傳), an unofficial biography of Cao Cao, claimed that when Sima Fang was serving as an assistant official in the imperial secretariat, he recommended Cao Cao to serve as the Commandant of the North District (北部尉) in Luoyang.[8] However, the Sitishu Shixu (四體書勢序) mentioned that Cao Cao was recommended by Liang Hu (梁鵠).[9] Pei Songzhi, who annotated Cao Cao's biography in the Records of the Three Kingdoms, commented that the Cao Man Zhuan account was correct. This was because, according to the Book of Jin (晉書) by Wang Yin (王隱), during the Jin dynasty, an academician once mentioned Sima Fang recommending Cao Cao to be the Commandant of the North District.[10]

In 216, after Cao Cao was conferred the title of a vassal king – King of Wei (魏王) – by Emperor Xian, he summoned Sima Fang to meet him in Ye (in present-day Handan, Hebei). He joked with Sima Fang: "Do you think the Cao Cao of today can still be a Commandant of the North District?" Sima Fang replied: "When I recommended Your Highness to assume that appointment, I knew you were capable of performing your duties well." Cao Cao laughed.[8]


Historical records traditionally recorded his name as 司馬防 (Sīmǎ Fáng) and courtesy name as 建公 (Jiàngōng). However, in 1952, fragments of a stone tablet detailing Sima Fang's life were discovered along Guangji Street in central Xi'an, Shaanxi, and they indicated his name as 司馬芳 (Sīmǎ Fāng) with the courtesy name 文豫 (Wényù) instead.[11]


Sima Fang was an 11th-generation descendant of Sima Ang. His great-grandfather, Sima Jūn (司馬鈞), whose courtesy name was Shuping (叔平), served as General Who Attacks the West (征西將軍). His grandfather, Sima Liang (司馬量), whose courtesy name was Gongdu (公度), served as the Administrator of Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡; around present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi).[12]

Sima Fang's father, Sima Jùn (司馬儁), whose courtesy name was Yuanyi (元異), served as the Administrator of Yingchuan Commandery (潁川郡; around present-day Xuchang, Henan). Sima Jùn was described as eight chi and three cun tall, with a thick waist. As he had an extraordinary and impressive appearance, the folks in his hometown regarded him highly. He was also well-read and interested in history.[13]

Sima Fang had eight sons: Sima Lang, Sima Yi, Sima Fu, Sima Kui, Sima Xun, Sima Jin, Sima Tong and Sima Min.[14] Among them, the most notable one was Sima Yi, who served as a military general and regent of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period. Sima Fang's great-grandson, Sima Yan, later became the founding emperor of the Jin dynasty (265–420).

See also


  1. ^ (... 河內溫縣孝敬里人,姓司馬氏。) Jin Shu vol. 1.
  2. ^ (司馬彪序傳曰:朗祖父儁,字元異, ... 位至潁川太守。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.
  3. ^ (量生潁川太守儁,字元異。儁生京兆尹防,字建公。) Jin Shu vol. 1.
  4. ^ (雅好漢書名臣列傳,所諷誦者數十萬言。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.
  5. ^ (父防,字建公, ... 少仕州郡,歷官洛陽令、京兆尹,以年老轉拜騎都尉。 ... 年七十一,建安二十四年終。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.
  6. ^ ([魏正始]三年春,天子追封謚皇考京兆尹為舞陽成侯。) Jin Shu vol. 1.
  7. ^ (... 性質直公方,雖閑居宴處,威儀不忒。 ... 養志閭巷,闔門自守。諸子雖冠成人,不命曰進不敢進,不命曰坐不敢坐,不指有所問不敢言,父子之間肅如也。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.
  8. ^ a b (曹瞞傳曰:為尚書右丞司馬建公所舉。及公為王,召建公到鄴,與歡飲,謂建公曰:「孤今日可復作尉否?」建公曰:「昔舉大王時,適可作尉耳。」王大笑。建公名防,司馬宣王之父。) Cao Man Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  9. ^ (四體書勢序曰:梁鵠以公為北部尉。) Sitishu Shi Xu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  10. ^ (臣松之案司馬彪序傳,建公不為右丞,疑此不然,而王隱晉書云趙王篡位,欲尊祖為帝,博士馬平議稱京兆府君昔舉魏武帝為北部尉,賊不犯界,如此則為有徵。) Pei Songzhi's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
  11. ^ Zhao, Liguang (2012). Fragments of Sima Fang's Tablet 司马芳残碑 (in Chinese). Shanghai Rarebooks Publishing House. ISBN 9787532565528.
  12. ^ (楚漢間,司馬卬為趙將,與諸侯伐秦。秦亡,立為殷王,都河內。漢以其地為郡,子孫遂家焉。自卬八世,生征西將軍鈞,字叔平。鈞生豫章太守量,字公度。量生潁川太守儁,字元異。) Jin Shu vol. 1.
  13. ^ (司馬彪序傳曰:朗祖父儁,字元異,博學好古,倜儻有大度。長八尺三寸,腰帶十圍,儀狀魁岸,與衆有異,鄉黨宗族咸景附焉。位至潁川太守。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.
  14. ^ (有子八人,朗最長,次即晉宣皇帝也。) Xu Zhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 15.