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Wang Ji (Three Kingdoms)

Wang Ji
General Who Attacks the South (征南將軍)
In office
259 (259) – 261 (261)
MonarchCao Mao / Cao Huan
General Who Attacks the East (征東將軍)
In office
258 (258) – 259 (259)
MonarchCao Mao
General Who Guards the East (鎮東將軍)
In office
257 (257) – 258 (258)
MonarchCao Mao
Inspector of Yu Province (豫州刺史)
In office
255 (255) – 257 (257)
MonarchCao Mao
General Who Guards the South (鎮南將軍)
In office
255 (255) – 257 (257)
MonarchCao Mao
General Who Spreads Vehemence
In office
250 (250) – 255 (255)
MonarchCao Fang
Inspector of Jing Province (荊州刺史)
In office
250 (250) – 255 (255)
MonarchCao Fang
General Who Attacks Rebels (討寇將軍)
In office
? (?) – 249 (249)
MonarchCao Fang
Administrator of Anfeng (安豐太守)
In office
? (?) – 249 (249)
MonarchCao Fang
Administrator of Anping (安平太守)
In office
? (?) – ? (?)
MonarchCao Rui
Personal details
Zhaoyuan, Shandong
Died(261-06-09)9 June 261 (aged 71)[a]
Resting placeLuoyang, Henan
  • Wang Hui
  • Wang Can
FatherWang Bao
  • Wang Weng (uncle)
  • Wang Qiao (cousin)
Courtesy nameBoyu (伯輿)
Posthumous nameMarquis Jing (景侯)
PeerageMarquis of Anle District

Wang Ji (190 – 9 June 261),[a] courtesy name Boyu, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China.[1] He started his career as a low-ranking official under Wang Ling, the governor of Qing Province. During this time, he was noted for exemplary performance and was later transferred to the central government in Luoyang. He was subsequently promoted to the position of a commandery administrator, but was briefly removed from office when the Wei regent Sima Yi ousted his co-regent Cao Shuang in a coup d'état in 249. However, he was quickly recalled to government service, promoted to the position of governor of Jing Province and appointed as a military general. From 251 until his death in 261, Wang Ji maintained close but professional working relationships with the Wei regents Sima Shi and Sima Zhao. During this time, he supervised military operations in Jing, Yu and Yang provinces, and defended Wei's eastern and southern borders against attacks by Wei's rival state, Eastern Wu. He also assisted Sima Shi and Sima Zhao in suppressing two of the three Shouchun rebellions in 255 and 257–258 respectively. In 261, in the months just before his death, he correctly pointed out that two Eastern Wu military officers were pretending to defect to Wei, and managed to stop the Wei forces from falling into a trap.

Early life

Wang Ji was from Qucheng County (曲城縣), Donglai Commandery (東萊郡), which is located northwest of present-day Zhaoyuan, Shandong.[2] He was born in 190[a] towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. As he lost his father at a young age, he was raised by his uncle Wang Weng (王翁), who treated him well. In return, Wang Ji was very filial towards his uncle.[3]

When Wang Ji turned 16, the local commandery office recruited him to serve as an assistant official. He quit later after realising that he was not interested in the job. He then went to Langya Commandery (琅邪郡; around present-day Linyi, Shandong) for further studies under the Confucian scholar Zheng Xuan.[4][1]

As Wang Ling's subordinate

Sometime between 220 and 226, the administrative office of Donglai Commandery nominated Wang Ji as a xiaolian (civil service candidate) to the central government of the Cao Wei state. Wang Ji was subsequently appointed him as a Gentleman Cadet (郎中).[5] Around the time, Wang Ling, who had recently assumed office as the Inspector (刺史) of Qing Province, recruited Wang Ji to serve as an attendant officer (別駕) under him. Later, when Wang Ji was summoned to the imperial capital Luoyang to serve as a librarian (秘書郎), Wang Ling successfully sought permission from the central government to let Wang Ji remain in Qing Province.[6]

Wang Lang, the Minister over the Masses, once asked Wang Ling to transfer Wang Ji to his office in Luoyang. When Wang Ling refused,[7] Wang Lang wrote to the imperial court to accuse Wang Ling of holding back talents: "Street-level officials who have performed exceptionally well should be promoted to commandery level. Commandery-level officials who have shown good performance should be recommended to the central government. This practice originated from the ancient custom of nobles presenting local talents to their rulers. I have never heard of any regional official refusing to allow his subordinates to serve in the central government."[8] Despite Wang Lang's accusation, Wang Ling refused to allow Wang Ji to leave. Throughout his tenure in Qing Province, much of Wang Ling's achievements were actually due to Wang Ji's efforts.[9]

Service in the central government

Sometime between 230 and 235,[b] Sima Yi, the General-in-Chief (大將軍) of Wei, summoned Wang Ji to serve under him. Wang Ling had no choice but to let Wang Ji leave. Before Wang Ji reached Sima Yi's office, however, he was quickly reassigned to be a Palace Writer Gentleman (中書侍郎).[10]

During his reign from 226 to 239, the Wei emperor Cao Rui started lavish and extravagant palace-building projects. As these projects were labour intensive, they took a heavy toll on the common people, who were recruited as labourers for the projects.[11] Wang Ji wrote a memorial to Cao Rui to advise him to stop the projects:

"I heard that the ancients used water as an analogy to describe the people: 'While water may keep a boat afloat, it can also sink it.' The wisest of rulers have always heeded this warning. All is well when the people have a happy and peaceful life. If life becomes hard for them, they will think of rebelling. That was why the Previous Emperor advocated frugality and simplicity; he wanted to prevent a popular uprising. Yan Yuan once said that when Dongyezi continued to push the horses beyond exhaustion while driving a carriage, he knew that he was going to fail. Now, the palace-building projects are so costly and heavy that they have caused families to break up and incurred much resentment from the people. I hope that Your Majesty will learn from Dongyezi's mistake, think about the analogy of water and people, give the exhausted horses some time to recover, and reduce the burden on the people. In the early Han dynasty, from Emperor Xiaowen's time onwards, only members of the imperial clan could become nobles. Jia Yi became worried and he said, 'You still think you are safe when you are sleeping on top of a pile of lighted firewood.' As of today, our enemies have yet to be eliminated while our fearsome generals command large armies. It will be even more difficult to deal with them if they join forces against us. In the long term, it will be even harder for this dynasty to last long. If one does not remain vigilant and focus on eliminating threats in an age of prosperity, and his descendants continue to be complacent, then it will not be long before disaster befalls this state. If Jia Yi were to return from the dead and see what is happening now, he would be even more worried."[12]

Wang Su was known for writing commentaries and annotations on Confucian texts, as well as for expressing his opinions on imperial protocol, etiquette and customs. His views deviated largely from those of the Confucian scholar Zheng Xuan. As Wang Ji studied and followed Zheng Xuan's teachings, he often challenged and disagreed with Wang Su.[13]

Wang Ji was subsequently promoted to the position of Administrator (太守) of Anping Commandery (安平郡; around present-day Hengshui, Hebei). He resigned later because of official reasons.[14]

As the Administrator of Anfeng

Sometime between 239 and 249,[c] Cao Shuang, the General-in-Chief (大將軍) of Wei, summoned Wang Ji to serve as an Assistant Gentleman (從事中郎) under him. Wang Ji was later promoted to the position of Administrator (太守) of Anfeng Commandery (安豐郡; around present-day Lu'an, Anhui).[15]

During his tenure, Wang Ji governed his jurisdiction strictly but fairly. He also performed some acts of kindness from time to time to win popular support from the masses. As Anfeng Commandery was located near the border between Wei and its rival state Eastern Wu, Wang Ji also set up and strengthened its defences to deter the enemy. He was subsequently given an additional appointment as General Who Attacks Rebels (討寇將軍).[16]

Sometime between 245 and 252,[d] there were reports of Eastern Wu forces mobilising and gathering at the Wu imperial capital, Jianye (present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu). The Wu forces also publicly revealed that they were preparing to attack Wei territories in Yang Province. Zhuge Dan, the Wei governor of Yang Province, sought Wang Ji's opinion on how to counter a Wu invasion.[17] Wang Ji replied:

"In the past, Sun Quan attacked Hefei and Jiangxia, Quan Cong attacked Lujiang and Zhu Ran attacked Xiangyang, but they all gained nothing from these battles. Now, Lu Xun and the others are already dead; Sun Quan is in his old age and he has neither a wise heir apparent nor a brilliant chief strategist to count on. If Sun Quan personally leads his troops to attack us, he will be more worried about the possibility of internal conflict, stemming from factionalism among his subjects, breaking out while he is away attacking us. If he lets his generals lead his troops to attack us, he has no veteran generals left to rely on, and he does not fully trust his new generals. What he is actually trying to do is to reshuffle his government and place people he trusts into key appointments, so as to ensure the long-term survivability of his regime."[18]

As Wang Ji analysed correctly, Sun Quan did not launch any attack on Wei during this time.[19]

When Cao Shuang was regent of Wei from 239 to 249, he monopolised power and practised cronyism, which resulted in political corruption and cultural decadence. Wang Ji wrote a text, "Shi Yao Lun" (時要論; "Essay on the Needs of the Time"), to express his views on contemporary politics.[20][1] He then resigned from his post as the Administrator of Anfeng Commandery, using poor health as an excuse. He was soon recalled by the Wei government to serve as the Intendant of Henan (河南尹). However, before he assumed office, Cao Shuang was ousted from power in a coup d'état by his co-regent, Sima Yi, and executed along with the rest of his family and associates. As Wang Ji used to be a subordinate of Cao Shuang, he was implicated in the purge and removed from office.[21]

As the Inspector of Jing Province

Within the same year (249) after his removal from office, Wang Ji was summoned back to serve as a Master of Writing (尚書) in the imperial secretariat. In the following year, he was promoted to Inspector (刺史) of Jing Province and appointed as General Who Spreads Vehemence (揚烈將軍). Shortly after he assumed office, the Wei government ordered him to join the Wei general Wang Chang on a campaign against Eastern Wu.[22]

During the battle, Wang Ji led an army to attack Wu forces led by Bu Xie at Yiling County (夷陵縣; in present-day Yichang, Hubei). Bu Xie and his men retreated behind the city walls, shut the gates and refused to engage Wang Ji in battle. Wang Ji then ordered his troops to pretend to prepare to attack the city, while secretly sending them to capture the Wu army's granary at Xiongfu (雄父). They managed to seize over 300,000 hu of grain and capture a Wu general, Tan Zheng (譚正). Thousands of Wu civilians surrendered to the Wei forces; Wang Ji made arrangements for them to be resettled in Yiling County. The Wei government awarded Wang Ji the title of a Secondary Marquis (關內侯) to honour him for his achievements.[23]

Wang Ji wrote to Wang Chang and managed to convince him to relocate his base of operations to Jiangxia Commandery (江夏郡; around present-day Yunmeng County, Hubei), so that it was nearer to the Wei–Wu border at Xiakou (夏口; in present-day Wuhan, Hubei). After that, the Wu forces did not dare to readily cross the river to attack Wei territory as they did before.[24]

During his tenure as the Inspector of Jing Province, Wang Jing governed his jurisdiction justly and fairly, maintained good discipline within the army and agricultural sector, and built many schools to promote education. He earned much praise from the residents of Jing Province.[25]

Around the time, the Wei government wanted to launch a military campaign against Eastern Wu, so they ordered Wang Ji to come up with a strategy.[26] Wang Ji said:

"If we launch a campaign now and fail to conquer Wu, we will not only lose morale but also waste resources. Therefore, we should attack only when we are well-prepared. If we do not build more canals, stockpile more food supplies and construct more warships, even if we station troops north of the river, we will not gain any strategic advantage. Now, Jiangling has thousands of mu of farmland irrigated by the Ju and Zhang rivers. We also have fertile lands around Anlu. We should focus on developing a strong agricultural production base, make sufficient preparations, then send our troops to attack Jiangling and Yiling, and then capture Xiakou and use the Ju and Zhang rivers to transport food supplies. The enemy's morale will fall when they see that we are well-prepared and have made use of the geography to our advantage. By then, more of them will start defecting to our side. We can then ally with the indigenous tribes in Wu and work together with them to bring down the Wu regime. We should then split up our troops to occupy the lands north of Xiakou and capture the Wu territories beyond the Yangtze. In doing so, we will cut off connections between Wu and Shu and block them from sending reinforcements to help each other. When that happens, Wu will become easy prey for us. At the moment, I do not think it is time for us to attack Wu yet."[27]

The campaign was thus aborted.[28] When Sima Shi succeeded his father Sima Yi as the regent of Wei in 251, Wang Ji wrote to him:[29]

"The Empire is vast and large. There are so many important issues to handle. You have to constantly be on your toes and be very diligent. If your ambitions are noble and upright, you will not have any evil thoughts. If you heart is pure and calm, you will not feel disturbed by the many voices around you. If you are thoughtful and careful, you will not find giving direction and orders to be a difficult task. If you make good use of wise, capable and talented people, you will earn the respect of everyone regardless of where they are. Your actions will affect how people perceive you, while your thoughtfulness will determine how well you can maintain internal stability. Xu Yun, Fu Jia, Yuan Kan and Cui Zan are righteous men of good moral character. You can work closely with them on policy matters."[30]

Sima Shi accepted Wang Ji's advice.[31]

In 254, after Sima Shi deposed the Wei emperor Cao Fang and replaced him with Cao Mao, Wang Ji was elevated from the status of a secondary marquis to a village marquis under the title "Marquis of Changle Village" (常樂亭侯).[32]

Suppressing Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's rebellion

In 255,[33] the Wei generals Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin started a rebellion in Shouchun (壽春; around present-day Shou County, Anhui), the capital of Huainan Commandery (淮南郡), which was called the Chu State (楚國) at the time. Wang Ji was appointed as acting Army Supervisor (監軍), granted acting imperial authority, and put in command of the Wei forces stationed in Xuchang. Sima Shi, the Wei regent, led troops from Luoyang, the Wei imperial capital, to suppress the rebellion and met Wang Ji at Xuchang.[34]

When Sima Shi asked him what he thought of Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's actions, Wang Ji replied: "The local officials in Huainan aren't responsible for starting the rebellion. Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin forced them to rebel by threatening to kill them if they didn't. They will collapse when imperial forces show up. It won't be long before we see Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's dead bodies being hung at the gates." Sima Shi agreed.[35]

Sima Shi put Wang Ji in command of the vanguard force. At the time, many Wei officials believed that Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin were powerful and difficult to defeat, so the Wei imperial court ordered Wang Ji to hold his position and refrain from engaging the rebels in battle.[36] Wang Ji disagreed:

"Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin have the chance to launch an attack on us, yet they are not doing so. This means that they are not as united as they seem, and they are trying not to reveal this weakness of theirs. We should use this opportunity to show off our might and show the people we can defeat the rebels. If we do not advance and instead focus on building fortifications, the people will think that we are afraid of the rebels. This is not in line with military doctrine. If the rebels hold the local officials' families hostage to force them to rebel, we will end up losing popular support. Those who are being threatened by Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin know that they are in the wrong, but they do not dare to escape because their families' lives are at stake. This is a place where a motley crowd gathers and where the rebel forces lack combat prowess. However, it is also an opportunity for our enemies to exploit. If Eastern Wu uses this opportunity to attack us, they can conquer many territories in Huainan. If that happens, the lands of Qiao, Pei, Ru and Yu will be in peril. That would be a big mistake. We should quickly occupy Nandun, which has a granary filled with food supplies capable of feeding our troops up to 40 days. By taking Nandun and securing a vital position, we can then show off our might to the rebels. This is an important step towards suppressing the rebellion."[37]

Wang Ji then repeatedly sought permission to attack the rebels. When approval was finally granted, Wang Ji led his troops towards the Yin River (濦水),[38] where he sought permission to attack the rebels:

"An army that moves fast is a powerful one. We should not waste time. Now, we are in a situation where internally we have a rebellion to put down and externally we have powerful enemies to deal with. If we are not decisive now, I cannot imagine what will happen later. Many people have said that I ought to be careful when I am leading an army into battle. Although they are right that I should be careful, I think they are wrong to ask me to refrain from advancing further. Being careful does not mean holding my position and doing nothing. If we attack now, we can win. Now that we have occupied strategic positions and set up strong defences, we should no longer be transporting food supplies to the frontline over long distances while allowing the rebels to continue to have access to food supplies in the area. That would be a big mistake."[39]

Sima Shi wanted to wait until all the mobilised Wei forces had arrived before launching an attack on Shouchun, so he denied Wang Ji permission to attack first. Wang Ji then said: "When a general is out in the field, he doesn't always have to follow his lord's orders. If the rebels occupy territory, they make a gain. If we occupy territory, we make a gain. This is what it means to seize territory. I am referring to Nandun."[40] Sima Shi approved and sent Wang Ji to occupy Nandun (南頓; west of present-day Xiangcheng, Henan). When Guanqiu Jian heard about it, he also led his forces towards Nandun. After travelling about 10 li, he heard that Wang Ji had already beat him to it and occupied Nandun, so he retreated back to Xiang County (項縣; present-day Shenqiu County, Henan).[41]

Around the time, Deng Ai, the Inspector of Yan Province, was stationed with his troops at Yuejia (樂嘉; present-day Xiangcheng, Henan). When Wang Ji learnt that Guanqiu Jian had sent Wen Qin to lead a force to attack Deng Ai at Yuejia, he took advantage of the situation to attack and seize Xiang County from the rebels. After the rebellion was suppressed, Wang Ji was promoted to General Who Guards the South (鎮南將軍) and put in charge of supervising military operations in Yu Province. He was also appointed as acting Inspector of Yu Province and promoted from a village marquis to a district marquis under the title "Marquis of Anle District" (安樂鄉侯).[42] He wrote a memorial to the Wei imperial court, requesting to give away 200 taxable households from his marquisate to his cousin, Wang Qiao (王喬), as an expression of gratitude to his late uncle Wang Weng (王翁; Wang Qiao's father) for raising him when he was young. The imperial court approved his special request and enfeoffed Wang Qiao as a Secondary Marquis (關內侯).[43]

Suppressing Zhuge Dan's rebellion

When the Wei general Zhuge Dan started a rebellion in Shouchun (壽春; around present-day Shou County, Anhui) in 257, Wang Ji was appointed acting General Who Guards the East (鎮東將軍) in addition to his existing appointment as General Who Guards the South (鎮南將軍). He was also put in charge of military operations in Yang and Yu provinces.[44] At the time, the Wei imperial forces stationed at Xiang County (項縣; present-day Shenqiu County, Henan) did not dare to attack the rebels because they knew the rebels were seasoned soldiers. The Wei imperial court ordered Wang Ji to supervise the construction of defences and fortifications, and ignored his requests to attack the rebels.[45]

Wei's rival state, Eastern Wu, sent Zhu Yi to lead Wu forces to Shouchun to support Zhuge Dan. The Wu forces made camp at Ancheng County (安城縣; southwest of present-day Pingyu County, Henan).[46]

Wang Ji followed orders and led his troops to occupy the hills in the north. He told his officers: "The fortifications are already very solid and the troops have assembled here. We only need to maintain our defences and wait for the enemy to show up. If we continue to deploy our troops to guard strategic locations, we will only become even more scattered. When that happens, even the most intelligent people can't think of any solution to the problem."[47] He then wrote a report to the Wei imperial court:

"Given our current situation in a standoff with the enemy, we should hold our position and make no move. If we deploy and spread out our troops to guard strategic locations, we will cause much uncertainty among our troops and destabilise the current situation. All the troops have taken up their positions in their fortresses and forts. Maintaining stability is key to a military commander's ability to lead troops into battle."[48]

The imperial court approved.[49]

Sima Zhao, the General-in-Chief (大將軍) of Wei, led imperial forces to Qiutou (丘頭; southeast of present-day Shenqiu County, Henan) and deployed them around the city to form a defence perimeter.[50] At the time, Wang Ji commanded the 26 units stationed at the southeast of the city. Sima Zhao sent a messenger to meet Wang Ji and order him to hold his position and refrain from engaging the rebels in battle. Before long, the city ran out of supplies while the rebels increased the intensity of their attacks. Wang Ji continued to put up a firm defence and hold his ground. When the opportunity came, he launched a counterattack and defeated the rebels.[51]

After suppressing Zhuge Dan's rebellion, Wang Ji wrote a letter to Sima Zhao:

"Initially, after much discussion, there were many officers who wanted to redeploy the troops. At the time, I was not at the frontline, so I took their word for it. General, you thought through everything carefully, maintained your composure and remained firm, and resisted pressures from the officers to the point where you disobeyed imperial orders. However, in the end, you still succeeded in defeating the rebels. Never before has anything like this happened in history."[52]

Sima Zhao wanted to ask Tang Zi and the Wu defectors to serve as guides in leading Wei forces deep into Wu territory to launch an attack.[53] However, Wang Ji advised him against it:

"A few years ago, Zhuge Ke wanted to capitalise on the momentum of the Wu victory at Dongguan, so he mobilised troops from Jiangdong and led them to attack Xincheng. However, he not only failed to conquer Xincheng, but also suffered heavy losses. Jiang Wei also wanted to capitalise on the momentum of the Shu victory at the Tao River, so he led his troops deep into our territory to attack us. In the end, his supply lines became overly stretched and he suffered a major defeat at Shanggui. Every time after an army scores a victory, there is a tendency for them to underestimate their enemy; when they underestimate the enemy, there is a tendency towards carelessness. Now that the Eastern Wu forces had been recently defeated and that they face internal threats as well, they are more likely to step up their defences and be on guard. Besides, after years of war, the soldiers are getting tired and want to go home. As of now, we have already received the surrender of thousands of rebel soldiers and executed the traitorous Zhuge Dan. Since the battles at the end of the Han dynasty, there has never been one like this where the winning side secures such a complete victory. When Emperor Wu defeated Yuan Shao at the Battle of Guandu, he did not pursue the enemy because he felt that he had already gained much from his victory and that pushing further would only backfire."[54]

Sima Zhao thus called off the attack on Wu.[55]

After pacifying the Huainan region, Wang Ji was reassigned from his position as General Who Guards the South (鎮南將軍) to General Who Attacks the East (征東將軍), and put in charge of military affairs in Yang Province. He was also elevated from the status of a district marquis to a county marquis under the title "Marquis of Dongwu" (東武侯).[56] He wrote a memorial to the imperial court to decline the promotion, and gave the credit for suppressing the rebellion to all his subordinates. Seven chief clerks and army majors under him were thus awarded marquis titles.[57]

When Wang Ji's mother died in 258, the Wei imperial court issued an edict ordering news of her death to be kept secret. The remains of Wang Ji's father, Wang Bao (王豹), were excavated and transferred to Luoyang for reburial together with Wang Ji's mother. The imperial court also posthumously appointed Wang Bao as the Administrator of Beihai Commandery.[58]

As General Who Attacks the South

In 259, Wang Ji was reassigned from his position as General Who Attacks the East (征東將軍) to General Who Attacks the South (征南將軍), and put in charge of supervising military operations in Jing Province.[59] In the following year, the Wei government added 1,000 taxable households to his marquisate, bringing the total number up to 5,700. Two of Wang Ji's sons were enfeoffed as a village marquis and a secondary marquis respectively.[60]

Sometime between 17 April and 16 May 261,[e] Hu Lie (胡烈), the Administrator of Xiangyang, reported that the Eastern Wu military officers Deng You (鄧由) and Li Guang (李光) were planning to lead 18 units to defect to Wei, and had already sent their subordinates Zhang Wu (張吳) and Deng Sheng (鄧生) across the border.[61] Upon receiving the news, Sima Zhao and the Wei imperial court ordered Wang Ji to mobilise the military units in all of Jing Province's commanderies, including Xiangyang, in preparation for a large-scale invasion of Eastern Wu with the aid of the defectors.[62][63]

When Wang Ji heard about it, he suspected that Deng You and Li Guang were pretending to defect to Wei, so he wrote an urgent report to the central government:[64][65] "We should check and confirm first. We should not rush into mobilising troops and sending them deep into enemy territory."[66] He then wrote a follow-up report:

"[...] Since the Jiaping era, we have experienced a number of rebellions and internal conflicts. The most important thing we should do now is to ensure the long-term stability of our state and bring peace to the people. We should not be too eager to attack our rivals and pursue external gains. We might just end up gaining very little and suffering heavy casualties and losses."[67][68]

Sima Zhao also found Deng You and Li Guang suspicious after receiving Wang Ji's two reports within such a short span of time. He immediately ordered the mobilised troops to stop at their current positions and await further orders.[69] Wang Ji wrote again to Sima Zhao:

"In the past, the founding emperor of the Han dynasty wanted to heed Li Sheng's suggestion and recreate the six warring states. He only stopped when Zhang Liang cautioned him. I may not be as wise and intelligent as the Marquis of Liu,[f] but I fear that the Administrator of Xiangyang is on his way to making the same mistake as (Li) Yiji."[70]

Sima Zhao immediately put the troops on high alert. He then wrote a letter to Wang Ji: "Many of those who work with me are simply sycophants hoping to gain my favour through flattery. Only a few dare to speak up and be candid towards me. You are known for your loyalty and love. You have often given me good advice. I shall heed your advice again."[71] As Wang Ji suspected, Deng You and Li Guang were indeed pretending to defect to Wei as they did not show up as promised.[72]


Wang Ji died on 9 June 261 at the age of 72 (by East Asian age reckoning).[a] The Wei government posthumously appointed him as Minister of Works (司空) and awarded him the posthumous title "Marquis Jing" (景侯) along with the peerage "Marquis of Dongwu" (東武侯), which he declined in 258.[74][73]

Fragments of Wang Ji's tombstone were discovered in Luoyang during the Qianlong era (1735–1795) of the Qing dynasty.[75] The inscriptions are recorded in volume 56 of the Quan Sanguo Wen (全三國文) compiled by Yan Kejun (嚴可均) in the 19th century.[73]


Wang Ji's son, Wang Hui (王徽), inherited his father's peerage and became the next Marquis of Dongwu (東武侯), but died early. Sometime between 264 and 265, just before the Jin dynasty (265–420) replaced the Cao Wei state, the Cao Wei regime established a five-rank nobility system and made Wang Yi (王廙), a grandson of Wang Ji, the new Marquis of Dongwu. A new marquisate was created using the excess households from the Dongwu marquisate, and awarded to one of Wang Yi's sons under the title of a secondary marquis.[76]

Wang Ji had a daughter, Wang Can (王粲), whose courtesy name was Nüyi (女儀). She married Sima Rong (司馬肜) in 264, became his princess consort in 266 when he was enfeoffed as the Prince of Liang (梁王) by the Jin dynasty, and died in 284. A tombstone was erected for her in 288 near Suiyang County (睢陽縣; present-day Suiyang District, Shangqiu, Henan).[77]

In 265, after the Jin dynasty replaced the Cao Wei state, the Jin imperial court issued an edict as follows:

"The late Minister of Works Wang Ji displayed virtuous conduct and rendered meritorious service, but he led a humble and frugal life, and did not own any private enterprises. Although he held important appointments for long periods of time, he had no excess wealth at home. His conduct and virtues make him an excellent role model for the masses. His family is hereby awarded two servants."[78]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Wang Ji's tombstone recorded that he died on the xinchou day of the 4th month in the 2nd year of the Jingyuan era of Cao Huan's reign at the age of 72 (by East Asian age reckoning).[73] This date corresponds to 9 June 261 in the Gregorian calendar. By calculation, his year of birth should be 190.
  2. ^ Sima Yi held the position of General-in-Chief from 230 to 235.
  3. ^ Cao Shuang held the position of General-in-Chief from 239 to 249.
  4. ^ Lu Xun died in 245 while Sun Quan died in 252. Based on Wang Ji's response to Zhuge Dan, these events took place between 245 and 252.
  5. ^ Sima Biao's Zhanlue recorded that this took place in the 3rd month of the 2nd year of the Jingyuan era (260–265) of Cao Huan's reign.[61] This month corresponds to 17 April to 16 May 261 in the Gregorian calendar.
  6. ^ The Marquis of Liu (留侯) was the peerage held by Zhang Liang.


  1. ^ a b c de Crespigny (2007), p. 818.
  2. ^ (王基字伯輿,東萊曲城人也。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  3. ^ (少孤,與叔父翁居。翁撫養甚篤,基亦以孝稱。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  4. ^ (年十七,郡召為吏,非其好也,遂去,入琅邪界游學。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  5. ^ (黃初中,察孝廉,除郎中。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  6. ^ (是時青土初定,刺史王凌特表請基為別駕,後召為秘書郎,凌復請還。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  7. ^ (頃之,司徒王朗辟基,淩不遣。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  8. ^ (朗書劾州曰:「凡家臣之良,則升于公輔,公臣之良,則入于王職,是故古者侯伯有貢士之禮。今州取宿衞之臣,留秘閣之吏,所希聞也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  9. ^ (淩猶不遣。淩流稱青土,蓋亦由基恊和之輔也。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  10. ^ (大將軍司馬宣王辟基,未至,擢為中書侍郎。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  11. ^ (明帝盛脩宮室,百姓勞瘁。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  12. ^ (基上疏曰:「臣聞古人以水喻民,曰『水所以載舟,亦所以覆舟』。故在民上者,不可以不戒懼。夫民逸則慮易,苦則思難,是以先王居之以約儉,俾不至於生患。昔顏淵云東野子之御,馬力盡矣而求進不已,是以知其將敗。今事役勞苦,男女離曠,願陛下深察東野之弊,留意舟水之喻,息奔駟於未盡,節力役於未困。昔漢有天下,至孝文時唯有同姓諸侯,而賈誼憂之曰:『置火積薪之下而寢其上,因謂之安也。』今寇賊未殄,猛將擁兵,檢之則無以應敵,乆之則難以遺後,當盛明之世,不務以除患,若子孫不競,社稷之憂也。使賈誼復起,必深切於曩時矣。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  13. ^ (散騎常侍王肅著諸經傳解及論定朝儀,改易鄭玄舊說,而基據持玄義,常與抗衡。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  14. ^ (遷安平太守,公事去官。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  15. ^ (大將軍曹爽請為從事中郎,出為安豐太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  16. ^ (郡接吳寇,為政清嚴有威惠,明設防備,敵不敢犯。加討寇將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  17. ^ (吳嘗大發衆集建業,揚聲欲入攻揚州,刺史諸葛誕使基策之。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  18. ^ (基曰:「昔孫權再至合肥,一至江夏,其後全琮出廬江,朱然寇襄陽,皆無功而還。今陸遜等已死,而權年老,內無賢嗣,中無謀主。權自出則懼內釁卒起,癕疽發潰;遣將則舊將已盡,新將未信。此不過欲補定支黨,還自保護耳。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  19. ^ (後權竟不能出。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  20. ^ (時曹爽專柄,風化陵遲,基著時要論以切世事。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  21. ^ (以疾徵還,起家為河南尹,未拜,爽伏誅,基甞為爽官屬,隨例罷。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  22. ^ (其年為尚書,出為荊州刺史,加揚烈將軍,隨征南王昶擊吳。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  23. ^ (基別襲步恊於夷陵,恊閉門自守。基示以攻形,而實分兵取雄父邸閣,收米三十餘萬斛,虜安北將軍譚正,納降數千口。於是移其降民,置夷陵縣。賜爵關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  24. ^ (基又表城上昶,徙江夏治之,以偪夏口,由是賊不敢輕越江。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  25. ^ (明制度,整軍農,兼脩學校,南方稱之。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  26. ^ (時朝廷議欲伐吳,詔基量進趣之宜。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  27. ^ (基對曰:「夫兵動而無功,則威名折於外,財用窮於內,故必全而後用也。若不資通川聚糧水戰之備,則雖積兵江內,無必渡之勢矣。今江陵有沮、漳二水,溉灌膏腴之田以千數。安陸左右,陂池沃衍。若水陸並農,以實軍資,然後引兵詣江陵、夷陵,分據夏口,順沮、漳,資水浮糓而下。賊知官兵有經乆之勢,則拒天誅者意沮,而向王化者益固。然後率合蠻夷以攻其內,精卒勁兵以討其外,則夏口以上必拔,而江外之郡不守。如此,吳、蜀之交絕,交絕而吳禽矣。不然,兵出之利,未可必矣。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  28. ^ (於是遂止。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  29. ^ (司馬景王新統政,基書戒之曰: ...) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  30. ^ (「天下至廣,萬機至猥,誠不可不矜矜業業,坐而待旦也。夫志正則衆邪不生,心靜則衆事不躁,思慮審定則教令不煩,親用忠良則遠近恊服。故知和遠在身,定衆在心。許允、傅嘏、袁侃、崔贊皆一時正士,有直質而無流心,可與同政事者也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  31. ^ (景王納其言。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  32. ^ (高貴鄉公即尊位,進封常樂亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  33. ^ Sima (1084), vol. 76.
  34. ^ (毌丘儉、文欽作亂,以基為行監軍、假節,統許昌軍,適與景王會於許昌。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  35. ^ (景王曰:「君籌儉等何如?」基曰:「淮南之逆,非吏民思亂也,儉等誑脅迫懼,畏目下之戮,是以尚群聚耳。若大兵臨偪,必土崩瓦解,儉、欽之首,不終朝而縣於軍門矣。」景王曰:「善。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  36. ^ (乃令基居軍前。議者咸以儉、欽慓悍,難與爭鋒。詔基停駐。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  37. ^ (基以為:「儉等舉軍足以深入,而乆不進者,是其詐偽已露,衆心疑沮也。今不張示威形以副民望,而停軍高壘,有似畏懦,非用兵之勢也。若或虜略民人,又州郡兵家為賊所得者,更懷離心;儉等所迫脅者,自顧罪重,不敢復還,此為錯兵無用之地,而成姦宄之源。吳寇因之,則淮南非國家之有,譙、沛、汝、豫危而不安,此計之大失也。軍宜速進據南頓,南頓有大邸閣,計足軍人四十日糧。保堅城,因積穀,先人有奪人之心,此平賊之要也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  38. ^ (基屢請,乃聽進據濦水。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  39. ^ (旣至,復言曰:「兵聞拙速,未覩工遟之乆。方今外有彊寇,內有叛臣,若不時決,則事之深淺未可測也。議者多欲將軍持重。將軍持重是也,停軍不進非也。持重非不行之謂也,進而不可犯耳。今據堅城,保壁壘,以積實資虜,縣運軍糧,甚非計也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  40. ^ (景王欲須諸軍集到,猶尚未許。基曰:「將在軍,君令有所不受。彼得則利,我得亦利,是謂爭城,南頓是也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  41. ^ (遂輙進據南頓,儉等從項亦爭欲往,發十餘里,聞基先到,復還保項。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  42. ^ (時兖州刺史鄧艾屯樂嘉,儉使文欽將兵襲艾。基知其勢分,進兵偪項,儉衆遂敗。欽等已平,遷鎮南將軍,都督豫州諸軍事,領豫州刺史,進封安樂鄉侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  43. ^ (上疏求分戶二百,賜叔父子喬爵關內侯,以報叔父拊育之德。有詔特聽。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  44. ^ (諸葛誕反,基以本官行鎮東將軍,都督揚、豫諸軍事。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  45. ^ (時大軍在項,以賊兵精,詔基斂軍堅壘。基累啟求進討。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  46. ^ (會吳遣朱異來救誕,軍於安城。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  47. ^ (基又被詔引諸軍轉據北山,基謂諸將曰:「今圍壘轉固,兵馬向集,但當精修守備以待越逸,而更移兵守險,使得放縱,雖有智者不能善後矣。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  48. ^ (遂守便宜上疏曰:「今與賊家對敵,當不動如山。若遷移依險,人心搖蕩,於勢大損。諸軍並據深溝高壘,衆心皆定,不可傾動,此御兵之要也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  49. ^ (書奏,報聽。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  50. ^ (大將軍司馬文王進屯丘頭,分部圍守,各有所統。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  51. ^ (基督城東城南二十六軍,文王勑軍吏入鎮南部界,一不得有所遣。城中食盡,晝夜攻壘,基輙拒擊,破之。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  52. ^ (壽春旣拔,文王與基書曰:「初議者云云,求移者甚衆,時未臨履,亦謂宜然。將軍深筭利害,獨秉固志,上違詔命,下拒衆議,終至制敵禽賊,雖古人所述,不是過也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  53. ^ (文王欲遣諸將輕兵深入,招迎唐咨等子弟,因釁有蕩覆吳之勢。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  54. ^ (基諫曰:「昔諸葛恪乘東關之勝,竭江表之兵,以圍新城,城旣不拔,而衆死者太半。姜維因洮上之利,輕兵深入,糧餉不繼,軍覆上邽。夫大捷之後,上下輕敵,輕敵則慮難不深。今賊新敗於外,又內患未弭,是其脩備設慮之時也。且兵出踰年,人有歸志,今俘馘十萬,罪人斯得,自歷代征伐,未有全兵獨克如今之盛者也。武皇帝克袁紹於官渡,自以所獲已多,不復追奔,懼挫威也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  55. ^ (文王乃止。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  56. ^ (以淮南初定,轉基為征東將軍,都督揚州諸軍事,進封東武侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  57. ^ (基上疏固讓,歸功參佐,由是長史司馬等七人皆侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  58. ^ (是歲,基母卒,詔祕其凶問,迎基父豹喪合葬洛陽,追贈豹北海太守。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  59. ^ (甘露四年,轉為征南將軍,都督荊州諸軍事。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  60. ^ (常道鄉公即尊位,增邑千戶,并前五千七百戶。前後封子二人亭侯、關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  61. ^ a b (司馬彪戰畧載基此事,詳於本傳。曰:「景元二年春三月,襄陽太守胡烈表上『吳賊鄧由、李光等,同謀十八屯,欲來歸化,遣將張吳、鄧生,并送質任。克期欲令郡軍臨江迎拔』。) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  62. ^ (景元二年,襄陽太守表吳賊鄧由等欲來歸化,基被詔,當因此震蕩江表。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  63. ^ (大將軍司馬文王啟聞。詔征南將軍王基部分諸軍,使烈督萬人徑造沮水,荊州、義陽南屯宜城,承書夙發。若由等如期到者,便當因此震蕩江表。) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  64. ^ (基疑其詐,馳驛陳狀。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  65. ^ (基疑賊詐降,誘致官兵,馳驛止文王,說由等可疑之狀。) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  66. ^ (『且當清澄,未宜便舉重兵深入應之』。) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  67. ^ (且曰:「嘉平以來,累有內難,當今之務,在於鎮安社稷,綏寧百姓,未宜動衆以求外利。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  68. ^ (又曰:『夷陵東道,當由車御,至赤岸乃得渡坦,西道當出箭谿口,乃趣平土,皆山險狹,竹木叢蔚,卒有要害,弩馬不陳。今者筋角弩弱,水潦方降,廢盛農之務,徼難必之利,此事之危者也。昔子午之役,兵行數百里而值霖雨,橋閣破壞,後糧腐敗,前軍縣乏。姜維深入,不待輜重,士衆飢餓,覆軍上邽。文欽、唐咨,舉吳重兵,昧利壽春,身歿不反。此皆近事之鑒戒也。嘉平以來,累有內難。當今之宜,當鎮安社稷,撫寧上下,力農務本,懷柔百姓,未宜動衆以求外利也。得之未足為多,失之傷損威重。』) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  69. ^ (文王累得基書,意疑。尋勑諸軍已上道者,且權停住所在,須後節度。) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  70. ^ (基又言於文王曰:『昔漢祖納酈生之說,欲封六國,寤張良之謀,而趣銷印。基謀慮淺短,誠不及留侯,亦懼襄陽有食其之謬。』) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  71. ^ (文王報書曰:「凡處事者,多曲相從順,鮮能確然共盡理實。誠感忠愛,每見規示,輙敬依來指。」後由等竟不降。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  72. ^ (文王於是遂罷軍嚴,後由等果不降。」) Sima Biao's Zhanlue annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  73. ^ a b c (... 年七十二,景元二年四月辛丑薨。) Quan Sanguo Wen vol. 56.
  74. ^ (是歲基薨,追贈司空,謚曰景侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  75. ^ Yeh (1985), pp. 400–403.
  76. ^ (子徽嗣,早卒。咸熈中,開建五等,以基著勳前朝,改封基孫廙,而以東武餘邑賜一子爵關內侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
  77. ^ (蠡臺直東,又有一臺,世謂之雀臺也。城內東西道北,有晉梁王妃王氏陵表,竝列二碑,碑云:妃諱粲,字女儀,東萊曲城人也。齊北海府君之孫,司空東武景侯之季女,咸熙元年嬪於司馬氏,泰始二年妃於國,太康五年薨,營陵於新蒙之,太康九年立碑。) Shui Jing Zhu vol. 24.
  78. ^ (晉室踐阼,下詔曰:「故司空王基旣著德立勳,又治身清素,不營產業,乆在重任,家無私積,可謂身沒行顯,足用勵俗者也。其以奴婢二人賜其家。」) Sanguozhi vol. 27.
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