He Jin 何進 was a politician who served the Han. Born as the son of a butcher, when his younger half-sister came in favour of Emperor Ling and was made empress, He Jin was made Grand Administrator of Yingchuan commandery in Yu Province, and subsequently rose to the ranks of General of the Household Rapid as a Tiger. Early in 184 he was rewarded for discovering Zhang Jue’s plot and made General-in-Chief (dà jiāngjūn 大將軍). Following a successful campaign against the Yellow Turbans, He Jin came in conflict with the palace eunuchs and ultimately met his death at their hands. He Jin's death allowed Dong Zhuo to seize control over the imperial court which subsequently led to the breakdown of the Han and an age of civil war.
History of the Later Han official biography [translation]
He Jin, style name Suigao, was a man from Nanyang commandery [in Jing Province]. He had a sister, via a stepmother [the Lady Xing 興], and she was selected to enter the imperial harem of the palace, as a concubine for the Emperor. He Jin became a government official, then a military official, and later he further advanced to Grand Administrator of Yingchuan commandery [in Yu Province]. In the second year of Guanghe,[n 1] He Jin’s half-sister was made Empress, and He Jin [as her senior male relative], was appointed Palace Attendant and Court Architect (Bàishì zhōng, jiāngzuò dàjiàng 拜侍中、將作大匠), and then Intendant of Henan commandery (Hénán yǐn 河南尹).
In the first year of Zhongping[n 2] the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out and He Jin was named General-in-Chief (dà jiàngjūn 大將軍). He took command of the guards of the divisions of the Right and of the Left and of the Feathered Forest troops, together with the five regiments [of the Northern Army] and led them to camp at the Capital Hostel.
-  Shen, the county, lay in Runan commandery [in Yu Province].
In the fourth year [of Zhongping],[n 3] month two, several thousand Rongyang rebels were causing havoc in the county and killed the Prefect of Zhongmou county. In the third month, the Intendant of Henan commandery He Miao 何苗 attacked the bandits and defeated them.[n 4] Returning succesfully he received a triumphal welcome. The army was greeted by a government representative in Rongyang, there [He] Miao was brought to the Senior General, and he was appointed as General of Chariots and Cavalry.[n 5]
In the fifth year (188 AD), those who studied the ethers considered that the capital district would have great military affairs, and that the two palaces would flow in blood. The General-in-Chief's Major Xu Liang 許涼 and Acting Major Wu Dang 伍宕 said to [He] Jin, “[according to] Taigong's Six Secret Teachings if the Emperor personally controls the army, everything will be alright.” [He] Jin was pleased with this and then told the Emperor.
A great platform was set up, twelve ceremonial umbrellas were put on top of it, with each umbrella a 30 meters high [100 feet]. Northeast of it there was a smaller platform, again with nine ceremonial umbrellas, each about 27,5 meters high [90 feet]. Several tens of thousands of infantry and cavalry were drawn up, they made defended camps and formed a battle-line. On 22 November the Emperor himself came out to the army and halted below the great umbrellas, while the General-in-Chief took his stand below the smaller umbrellas. The Emperor wore armour and rode a mailed horse, and he was hailed as “General Supreme”. Three times he went about the army, then returned and handed over the soldiers to He Jin.
At this time the Emperor appointed eight colonels. Jian Shi 蹇碩, Junior Attendant at the Yellow Gates, was made Colonel of the First Army. General of the Gentlemen Rapid as Tigers (hǔbēn zhōngláng jiāng 虎賁中郎將) Yuan Shao was made Colonel of the Centre Army. Gentleman Consultant (yìláng 議郎) Cao Cao 曹操 was made Colonel Who Arranges the Army. Zhao Rong was made Colonel of the Left Assisting the Army. Chunyu Qiong 淳于瓊 was appointed as Colonel of the Left. There was also a Colonel of the Right.
The Emperor considered Jian Shi to be a strong, active, warlike person, so he promoted him to Colonel. Even the General-in-Chief was now under his command.
-  Taigong's Six Secret Teachings:
chapter one: Power, Literary Theory;
chapter two: Teacher, Martial Art Theory;
chapter three: The Dragon Secret Strategy, the Lord;
chapter four: The Tiger Secret Strategy, Pianbi;
chapter five: The Leopard Secret Strategy, Captain;
chapter six: The Dog Secret Strategy, sima;
The Dragon Secret Strategy chapter said, “King Wu said, “To be a leader of the armed forces, you have to be close to the generals like parents, be angry hearing the golden sound, be happy hearing the drums, but how?””
-  In original Chinese text, 擐 is pronounced as “huan”. 介 is the same as 甲.
Even though Jian Shi now held much military might, he feared He Jin. He, with all the Regular Attendants, urged the Emperor to send He Jin west to attack Han Sui 韓遂.[n 6] The Emperor agreed and sent out hundreds of soldiers. He Jin learnt privately of the plot and sent a memorial that Yuan Shao should be sent to collect the soldiers of the two provinces Xu and Yan. In this way he delayed action [because Yuan Shao had to come back before he himself went to the west].
Currently, Empress He gave birth to Prince Bian, while the Beauty Wang gave birth to Prince Xie. The officials held a princes’ establishment ceremony. The Emperor thought that the Prince Bian was frivolous and without dignity, but being the Queens pet, he had not yet made a decision.
-  Definition: tiāo “佻” means light
In the sixth year (189 AD) the Emperor became very ill and he entrusted the care of Liu Xie to Jian Shi. When the Emperor died, Jian Shi had plans to kill He Jin and set Liu Xie upon the throne. However, his assistant the Major Pan Yin and He Jin knew each other, and Pan Yin signalled a warning with his eyes. He Jin took fright and galloped straight back to his quarters. He led out his troops to camp at the Commandery Residences[n 7] and from there he announced that he was ill and could not come to the palace. The plot [of Jian Shi] was thus not successful and Prince Bian was installed as the new Emperor. The Empress He was honoured as Empress-Dowager and held court, while Yuan Wei was made Grand Tutor, sharing control of the Imperial Secretariat [with the General-in-Chief He Jin].
-  Guangya[n 8] said: “The character 儳 means being fast.” The pronunciation of the character is chan.
He Jin now held the government of the court. He was angry at Jian Shi for plotting against him, and made secret plans to kill him. Yuan Shao, through He Jin’s trusted client Zhang Jin urged him to kill all the eunuch officials. “The Yellow Gates and Regular Attendants have been usurping power for some time, even the Empress of the Palace of Perpetual Joy sides with them. General, you should cleanse the world, restore order, and end the suffering of the people.” Since the Yuan clan had been honoured for generations, while Yuan Shao and his younger cousin Yuan Shu 袁術, who was General of the Gentlemen of the Household Rapid as a Tiger, were respected by the great families, He Jin trusted them and gave them appointment. He Jin also sought widely for men who were wise and able in planning, and he recruited more than twenty, such as Pang Ji, He Yong, Xun You, and others.
-  Emperor Ling’s mother, the Empress-Dowager Dong, lived in the Palace of Perpetual Joy.
-  Yuan An 袁安 served as Minister over the Masses and Excellency of Works, and his grandson [Yuan] Tang 湯 served as Minister over the Masses and Grand Commandant. [Yuan] Cheng 成, son of Yuan Tang, served as General of the Household for All Purposes. And Yuan Shao was son of Yuan Cheng. That’s why the Yuans have received great grace and nobility for a few generations from the imperial court.
Jian Shi was suspicious and uneasy. He wrote to the Regular Palace Attendants Zhao Zhong 趙忠 and others: “The General-in-Chief and his relatives control the state and try to usurp authority at court. Now with the men of Faction in the empire, they plan to kill the attendants of the late Emperor and destroy our people. The only reason he is delaying is because I control the guard. You must get together, bar the doors of the palace apartments, take him quickly and slay him.” The Regular Palace Attendant Guo Sheng 郭勝, came from the same commandery as He Jin and had been involved in the fortunes and favour of the Empress-Dowager [He] and He Jin, and was loyally close to the He-clan. He joined the discussion with Zhao Zhong and the others. They decided not to join the Junior Attendant of the Yellow Gates’ plan [Jian Shi], and Guo Sheng then showed the letter to He Jin. He Jin sent the Prefect of the Yellow Gates to arrest Jian Shi and execute him, and he took over his troops in camp.
Yuan Shao urged He Jin: “In the past [the General-in-Chief] Dou Wu planned to kill the palace favourites,[n 9] the only reason he came to grief was because he allowed the news to leak out. The men of the five regiments [of the Northern Army] feared the eunuchs and were prepared to obey them, but Dou Wu had counted on those troops, thus he brought misfortune upon himself. Now that you have the authority as the state uncle, and both you and your brother lead powerful troops, and your officers and staff are talented people who are willing to fight, you are in control. Now it is the right timing given by the Heaven. My General, it is the right time for you to eliminate the calamity for the country once and for all, and your name will be remembered by the future generations. Even Shen Bo of Zhou Dynasty would not have such a great glory. The coffin of the late emperor was laid in the Front Hall. My general, you’d better dispatch imperial guarding forces when you are approved by an edict, and you’d better not enter and leave the palace readily. Then He Jin spoke to the Empress-Dowager, asking to dismiss all the Regular Palace Attendants and those of lower rank, and to appoint Gentlemen of the Household to fill their places. The Empress-Dowager would not agree. “Since ancient times,” she said, “it has been a custom of the house of Han that eunuchs control the forbidden apartments. You cannot do away with that. Moreover, when the late Emperor has only just left the world, how can I act so brazenly as to deal with men face to face?” He Jin found it difficult to disregard the Empress-Dowager's feelings, but he still wanted to punish the evil-doers. Yuan Shao argued further that the eunuchs were close to the Emperor, sending out and taking in orders: unless this system was halted completely and immediately, it would certainly cause trouble later. He Miao, however, and the Lady of Wuyang[n 10] who was mother to the Empress-Dowager, had often received bribes and gifts from the eunuchs. They realised that He Jin wanted to kill the attendants, and they spoke several times to the Empress-Dowager so she would give them protection. They also said, “If the General-in-Chief kills eunuchs on his own authority, he will be abusing his power and will weaken the national altars [and the imperial state].” The Empress-Dowager suspected this might be true. He Jin had only lately come to high position, and he had always been in awe of the eunuchs. Though outwardly he seemed to be in pursuit of a great name, inwardly he lacked decision, and so the matter long remained unsettled.
-  Shen Bo is the father of Empress Shen of Zhou court. The Major Ode (‘Daya’ 大雅) in the Classic of Poetry[n 11] said, “Only Shen Bo and Zhong Shanfu are the pillars that support the stability of the Zhou court.”
-  After the demise of the Emperor, if his posthumous title has not been determined, he'll be known as the Late Emperor. The Qian shu yinyi explained, “The word daxing 大行 means the state of being gone forever.”
-  In the Verses of Chu 楚詞 it is said: “Chuchu 楚楚 is an adjective. If something is chuchu, it is bright and of distinctive colours.” The Classic of Poetry[n 12] says, “The clothes are chuchu (bright with distinctive colors).”
Yuan Shao and his fellows advised He Jin to summon as many valiant military officers and men of gallantry as possible and order them all to send troops to the capital to coerce the Empress Dowager. He Jin agreed. Registrar Chen Lin 陳琳 came in with an admonishment, “The Classic of Changes[n 13] says that a hunter could never capture the deer without the assistance of a forester. And as a proverb goes, no one could ever grab a finch with their eyes covered. Even a tiny animal may not be fooled. How can you run major state affairs based on deception? Now that you, my general, are in charge of key military affairs with the endorsement by His Majesty, and everything is up to you for your strength and decisiveness, such a situation is very easy for you as if you just needed to fan the fire of a furnace to burn some hair. This situation may sound contrary to the classics, but it conforms to common sense. Both the Heaven and the people accept it. And you let go of your sharp weapons in search of external support. When legions of troops assemble, only the mightiest will rule. Such a situation is like you hold your dagger-axe backward, only to pass the handle of the weapon onto the hands of others. Your plan will never be achieved for sure, and it leads to turmoil.” Jin was deaf to the advice. He then summoned Dong Zhuo, who was then Frontier General, to have his troops stationed at Shanglinyuan Imperial Garden in Guanzhong. And then he ordered Wang Kuang, an aide of his from Taishan Prefecture, to mobilize the crossbowmen from the prefecture. He also summoned Qiao Mao, Governor of Dongjun Prefecture, to station at Chenggao. And he ordered the Chief Commandant [of Cavalry] Who is Martial and Brave Ding Yuan to set fire to Mengjin. Fire was lit up in the city. Everyone talked about the scheme of eliminating the eunuchs. But the Empress-Dowager still refused the idea.
-  This is the line statement for the 63rd line of the Zhun divinatory symbol. Yu 虞, forester, an official in charge of forests and lakes. Jilu 即鹿 means setting free the prey. Wuyu 无虞 means efforts paid in vain.
-  According to Han shu, Mei Fu submitted a written statement: “It’s like that you hold the Tai’e Sword backword and give the hilt to the enemy of Chu Kingdom.”
-  A man with Martial Valor means someone who is of martial skills and bravery. These nice words are selected as an official title.
[He] Miao said to [He] Jin, “In the beginning, we came here from Nanyang. Impoverished and humble we were, we ascended to nobility and wealth depending on the Imperial House. How difficult the state affairs are! Spilled water cannot be gathered up again. We’d better take consideration with care and maintain good bonds with the Imperial House.” He Jin grew increasingly suspicious. Yuan Shao feared that He Jin might changed his mind, so that Yuan warned him, “Our alliance was formed, and our actions might have left traces. If we procrastinate, mishaps will occur. My general, what are you waiting for? Why not make your decision soon?” Hence He Jin appointed Yuan Shao as Colonel Director of the Retainers, and granted him the right to hold onto the Imperial Staff, so that he was able to assert his decisions for key affairs. He Jin also appointed Wang Yun, Gentleman of the Household, as the Intendant of Henan. Yuan Shao assigned military officers in Luoyang to investigate the eunuchs, and urged Dong Zhuo and his troops to march at speed on courier roads, in an attempt to attack Pingleguan Park. The Empress-Dowager panicked. She dismissed all the junior eunuchs under the Palace Attendants, and ordered them to return to their homes. She allow the ones that He Jin trusted stay to guard the palace. The Attendants and junior eunuchs all visited He Jin in apology to him. They were willing to accept any decision made by him. He Jin said to them, “The entire country turned chaotic in fear of you. Now that Dong Zhuo arrived, why don’t you go back to your hometowns?” Yuan Shao urged He Jin to execute them on the spot again and again, but He Jin refused. Yuan Shao distributed official documents to all prefectures, pretending that it was He Jin’s order to arrest and investigate the kinsfolk of the eunuchs.
He Jin plotted for quite a few days, with much of his plan leaked. Terrified, eunuchs contemplated a plot of a coup. Zhang Rang’s daughter-in-law was the younger sister of the Empress-Dowager. Zhang Rang kowtowed to his daughter-in-law, and said, “Since I am a guilty old man, I am supposed to return to my private home with you, my newly wedded daughter-in-law. However, considering that I have received grace from the Imperial House for many generations, now I shall leave the palace in spite of my reluctance. I wished to be on duty in the palace once again, so that I am able to serve the Empress Dowager and His Majesty for a short while. Then I shall go home, and I may die with no regrets.” The woman told his words to the Lady of Wuyang, who passed the message to the Empress Dowager. An edict was issued to summon all the Attendants to serve on duty in the palace again.
-  Wei 惟 means to think, to consider something.
In the eigth month of that year, He Jin went to the Palace of Perpetual Joy, where he asked the Empress-Dowager to order the killings of all Attendants and select Gentlemen of the Household of three departments in the palace to work in the eunuchs’ offices. The eunuchs said to each other, “The General-in-Chief purported to be ill and did not attend the state funeral and the burial ceremony. And now he came to the palace suddenly. Why? Is it that the event of the Dou’s are to happen again?” Zhang Rang sent someone to eavesdrop the conversation between the pair, and managed to hear all what they said. Seated in the palace, Zhang Rang and his peers asked He Jin in a reproachful tone, “The entire nation is chaotic, but it’s not just our guilt. The late emperor used to be on bad terms with the Empress-Dowager, and he almost deposed her. We cried invindication of her, and donated our possessions in sums of millions to please him. We just wanted to support your family. And now you plotted to wipe our clans, don’t you think you have gone too far? You said that the palace staff was corrupt. And who are the loyal and upright people?” Then Qu Mu 渠穆 a eunuch and Supervisor of the Palace Workshop drew his sword and beheaded He Jin in front of the Hall of Excellent Virtue. Zhang Rang and Duan Gui 段珪 wrote an edict to appoint Fan Ling 樊陵, the former Grand Tutor, as the Colonel Director of the Retainers, and Privy Treasurer Xu Xiang 許相 as the Intendant of Henan. With suspicion when receiving the edict, the Minister of Writing said, “Please ask the General-in-Chief to come for a group discussion.” A eunuch of the Yellow Gates tossed the severed head of He Jin to the Minister of Writing and said, “He Jin plotted a rebellion, and now he has been slain.”
-  The pronunciation of the character 欻 is xū.
-  Shuowen jiezi stated, “Kuì Kuì 愦愦 means a state of chaos.”
-  Lady Wang was Liu Xie’s mother. Liu Xie was the Prince of Chenliu. And she was poisoned to death by Empress He (the Empress-Dowager). The late Emperor was furious and desired to depose the Empress. The eunuchs managed to stop the late Emperor from doing so.
Wu Kuang 吳匡 and Zhang Zhang 張璋, who were commanders of He Jin’s troops, were trusted by the General-in-Chief himself. Outside the palace, when they heard that He Jin was assassinated, they attempted to enter the palace forcibly with the troops. The entrance gate to the palace was closed. Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang kept hacking the gate, and the eunuchs at the Yellow Gates fetched weapons to guard the gate. The sun was about to set, Yuan Shu then set fire to the Gate of Nine Dragons to the South Palace, as well as the East and West Palaces, in an attempt to force out Zhang Rang. Zhang Rang and his peers entered the room of Empress-Dowager and told her that the troops of General-in-Chief started a mutiny, setting fires to the palaces, and that the troops were attacking the Office of the Minister of Writing. The eunuchs abducted the Empress-Dowager, the Emperor and the Prince of Chenliu, as well as the staff in the palace, to flee to the North Palace via the two-storey path (fu dao). A dagger-axe held in his hand, Lu Zhi 盧植, the Minister of Writing, raised his head and rebuked Duan Gui. Duan Gui was afraid and let go of the Empress-Dowager, who jumped off into an attic and survived the abduction.
-  The pronunciation of the character 複 is fú.
Yuan Shao and his uncle Yuan Wei faked an imperial edict to summon Fan Ling and Xu Xiang, executing both of them. He Miao and Yuan Shao then deployed troops under the Gate of Vermilion Bird, where they apprehended Zhao Zhong and other eunuchs, who were put to death. Wu Kuang and his fellows had long bearing a grudge against He Miao for not in unity with He Jin, and they also suspected He Miao of conspiring with the eunuchs. They ordered the soldiers, “It was the General of Chariots and Calvary who murdered the General-in-Chief. Can you take revenge for the victim?” He Jin was a man who treated his soldiers nicely. With tears welling in their eyes, the soldiers said in unison, “We would give our lives for it!” Wu Kuang then led the soldiers to join Chief Commandant of the Imperial Equipage Dong Min 董旻, younger brother of Dong Zhuo, attacked and killed He Miao, and tossed away his corpse in the garden. Yuan Shao then closed the gate to the North Palace, and ordered soldiers to arrest the eunuchs, who were all killed no matter how old they were. Some victims were executed because they had neither moustache nor beard. Some exposed their genitals for survival. Two thousand people were killed. Yuan Shao then ordered his soldiers to search the entire palace. Some soldiers climbed up to the Principal Gate to enter the palace.[n 14]
Trapped, Zhang Rang, Duan Gui and their fellows escorted dozens of people, including the Emperor and Prince of Chenliu, walked out of Gumen Gate, to flee to the Xiaoping crossing. Officials rushed out of Pingleguan Park with no assistants. Only Lu Zhi, the Master of Writing, ran to the river on horseback at night. Wang Yun assigned Min Gong 閔貢, a commander in Zhongbu of Henan District, to assist Lu Zhi. When Min Gong arrived, he wield his sword and slew a few people. The rest villains jumped into the river and drowned themselves. The next day, officials escorted the emperor to return to the palace. Min Gong was appointed a Gentleman of the Household, and ennobled as the Marquis of Duting.
-  Gumen Gate is the central gate in the north of Luoyang.
Dong Zhuo then dethroned the Emperor, and forced the Empress-Dowager to commit suicide. He also slew the Lady of Wuyang. The clan of the Hes were wiped out, and the House of the Han went into decline since then.[n 15]
The conclusion: Dou Wu and He Jin, with their political status as State Uncles, assumed regent power. In the palace, they depended on the authority of the ruling Empress-Dowager. Outside the imperial court, they receive the sweeping momentums of regional factions. Eventually, their plots against the eunuchs failed, and they died without achieving anything. Their losses were lamented by the people. Was it because they had too much power but not enough intelligence? The Commentary of Zuo says, “The Heaven has abandoned Shang for long, and you try to revitalize it.” That’s why the Duke Xiang of Song had his fiasco at Hong River.
-  This is a statement saying that they failed not because they did not have enough intelligence or power, probably their failure was determined by the Heaven itself.
-  According to Commentary of Zuo, Chu waged war against Song, and Duke of Song was ready for battle. Ziyu said, “The Heaven has abandoned Shang for long time, and your highness try to make it thrive. This cannot be done.” The duke refused to accept the advice, and went to war against Chu, and was defeated near Hong River.
Comments [to HHS 69]
Comments: When Dou Wu was born, there was an auspicious sign of a snake. He Jin ascended to power from a butcher’s humble family. Dou Wu’s daughter was the Empress, and He Jin’s sister was the Empress-Dowager. That was why they gained power in the palace. The authorities were muddleheaded and the subordinates were spoiled. Such a situation irritated the people. The correction of evil must be carried out to appease and satisfy the people. If government was diverted from the correct way, there would be more catastrophe.
-  He Jin was a son from a butcher’s family
-  The character dai 代 means ‘more’.
- He Miao
- Huangfu Song
- Lu Zhi
- Ma Yuanyi
- Zhu Jun
- Struggle against The Regular Attendants
- Yellow Turban Rebellion
- GJCM notes: the reign title Guanghe was from 178 to 183. In 184 the reign title was changed to Zhongping.
- GJCM notes: the first year of the reign era Zhongping is the year 184 AD in the west.
- GJCM notes: i.e. the year 187.
- GJCM notes: Rongyang and Zhongmou were both counties in Henan commandery, in Sili Province. Thus He Miao, as its Intendant, went to fight the rebels. In Henan commandery lay also Luoyang, the capital city.
- GJCM notes: The post of General of Chariots and Cavalry ranked second only to that of the General-in-Chief in the military ranks of the empire. Like the office of General-in-Chief, however, the position of General of Chariots and Cavalry was rather one of formal command than of practical military service.
- GJCM notes: In the west the Han dynasty was fighting a battle against the Liang Province rebels, at that time led by Han Sui.
- GJCM notes: the Commandery Residences were lodging houses maintained by the governments of commanderies and kingdoms for their messengers to the capital. It appears to have been grouped together in the eastern part of the walled city of Luoyang.
- GJCM notes: the Guangya ("Extended [Er]ya") was a glossary dictionary by Wei dynasty scholar Zhang Yi 張揖 (Zhirang 稚让). It was meant as an extention of the Erya 爾雅, it's rather shallow predecessor.
- GJCM notes: i.e. Regular Palace Attendants, Junior Attendants at the Yellow Gates and other eunuchs.
- GJCM notes: Wuyang was a county in Yingchuan commandery, by present-day Wuyang in Henan. Lady of Wuyang was the title and enfeoffment granted to Xing, mother of the Empress-Dowager He.
- GJCM notes: The Classic of Poetry was simply called ‘Poetry’ (Shī 詩) during the Han dynasty, and is thus referred to by this name in this text.
- GJCM notes: again simply called ‘Poetry’ (Shī 詩).
- GJCM notes: The Classic of Changes (Yijing or I Ching 易經) is an ancient divanatory text which originates from the Zhou dynasty. Confucianism and Daoism have their common roots from this book.
- GJCM notes: the Principal Gate was an interior gate of the Southern Palace, leading to the main audience halls.
- GJCM notes: the He-clan wasn't entirely wiped out as He Jin still had a surviving son called He Xian 何咸, who in 195 gave birth to He Jin's grandson He Yan 何晏.
- de Crespigny, A Biographical Dictionary, biography of He Jin pages 311-2
- de Crespigny, To Establish Peace, Zhongping 6