Chi Jian

Chi Jian (269-339), courtesy name Daohui, was a military general of the Jin dynasty (266–420). During the time of the Disaster of Yongjia, he led the refugees from his hometown to Yanzhou in 312 to escape the chaos in the north. They later fled to the south as Later Zhao were close to conquering the province. Under the Eastern Jin dynasty, Chi Jian becaame an important leading figure, standing with the likes of Wen Jiao and Tao Kan who greatly contributed to the dynasty's survival during the rebellions of Wang Dun and Su Jun. His name can be rendered as Xi Jian.

Chi Jian
Grand Commandant (太尉)
In office
338 (338) – 339 (339)
MonarchEmperor Cheng of Jin
Personal details
RelationsChi Chao (grandson)
Chi Lü (great-grandfather)
ChildrenChi Tan
Chi Yin
Chi Yong
FatherLiu Fan
Courtesy nameDaohui (道徽)
Posthumous nameWencheng (文成)

Early careerEdit

Chi Jian was from Gaoping County (高平縣; northwest of present-day Weishan County, Shandong) and was very poor in his youth. His great-grandfather was Chi Lü, a rival of the Han dynasty scholar Kong Rong and a minister of Cao Cao. Chi Jian was determined to better his livelihood, so he began reading the scriptures and whenever he farmed, he would chant what he had learnt.[1] Eventually, he landed an office serving under the Prince of Zhao, Sima Lun. However, he disliked the prince's growing imperial ambition and soon resigned. When Sima Lun usurped the throne in 301, Chi Jian refused to return to his service despite the lofty titles he was handing out. The same year, Sima Lun would be killed, and Chi Jian returned to the government to serve Liu Shi (劉寔).

Prince of Donghai and the emperor's regent, Sima Yue, appreciated Chi Jian's talents and wanted him as his Registrar but he refused. He also turned down an offer from Sima Yue's powerful general Gou Xi, who wanted him as Assistant Officer of the Household. Chi Jian did not wish to join any of them as he knew about the rift between the two men and that war could break out at any moment. Because of this, he decided to retire from the government.[2]

Disaster of Yongjia and as Inspector of YanzhouEdit

In 311, the barbarian forces of Han Zhao took over Luoyang and captured the emperor. Meanwhile, Chi Jian was captured by Chen Wu (陳午) of the Qihuo, a group of loyalists to Sima Yue who continued to exist even after his death. Chen Wu wanted to employ Chi Jian and make him their leader but Chi managed to escaped. After Chen Wu was defeated, Chi Jian decided to return to his hometown. The people of Gaoping all wished to escape the chaos in the north, and Chi Jian agreed to lead them to safety. Chi Jian and his followers fled to Mount Yi in 313, where they defended themselves from enemies.[3]

Sima Rui came into contact with Chi Jian, who he appointed as Inspector of Yanzhou although Chi Jian was effectively an independent warlord. He survived constant raids against Shi Le and Xu Kan but with no aid from the capital and a famine in his region, his people were beginning to feel overwhelmed. To make matters worse, his people only grew in numbers rather than diminish, giving him more mouths to feed. He eventually retreated to Hefei with his followers in 322 as Later Zhao forces engulfed the region. Despite his failings, Chi Jian was praised for his virtuous character, and was appointed a Master of Writing in the government.[4]

Wang Dun's RebellionEdit

By the time Chi Jian reached Hefei, Sima Rui (who ascended the throne in 318 as Emperor Yuan of Jin) had just been defeated by his advisor Wang Dun. He grew ill from this and died the following year, leaving the throne to his son Emperor Ming of Jin. Emperor Ming wanted someone to counter Wang Dun from the outside, so he made Chi Jian as Inspector of Yanzhou and Commander of military affairs north of the Yangzi. However, Wang Dun suspected this and instead petitioned to have made Prefect of the Masters of Writing instead. Later that year, Emperor Ming summoned Chi Jian to the capital.

On the way, Chi Jian visited Wang Dun's base, where they discussed about the old Western Jin dynasty in the north. Wang Dun criticised the minister Yue Guang for his lack of talent while praising his counterpart Man Fen (滿奮). Chi Jian defended Yue Guang, saying that he had been a loyal man who tried to protect the Crown Prince Sima Yu while Man Fen betrayed him to Sima Lun. Wang Dun responded to him that Man Fen only did so under pressure, and Chi Jian replied that a real man remains true to himself in both life and death. Wang Dun was offended by his implied insult, and apprehended Chi Jian in his house for some time. He eventually released him to continue his way to Jiankang, despite his advisors' urge to kill him. When Chi Jian reached Jiankang, he began making plans with the emperor.[5]

In 324, Emperor Ming was ready to campaign against Wang Dun. He appointed Chi Jian as Guard General and Commander of military affairs in the imperial train but he declined them. Instead, he advise him to call Su Jun and Liu Xia (劉遐) to join his war against Wang Dun. Emperor Ming defeated Wang Dun's forces the same year, although Wang Dun died from natural causes before his rebellion ended. Chi Jian told Emperor Ming that Wang Dun's remains should be given back to his family members to display himself as righteous.[6] Later, Chi Jian would advocate in punishing Wang Dun's partisans against Wen Jiao and Wang Dao, but both times Emperor Ming found himself in support of forgiving them.

Su Jun's RebellionEdit

Emperor Ming died at a young age in 325. He was succeeded by his still young child, Emperor Cheng of Jin guided by his brother-in-law Yu Liang. Months prior his death, he appointed Chi Jian as General of Chariots and Cavalry, Commander of military affairs in the three provinces of Xuzhou, Yanzhou, and Qingzhou, and Inspector of Yanzhou.[7] After his death, Chi Jian held a series of important appointments for the next two years.

In 327, a rebellion broke out led by Su Jun and Zu Yue. Chi Jian offered to send reinforcements from Xuzhou to the capital but Yu Liang turned him down. The capital was lost to rebel forces the following year and Su Jun became the de facto head of state.[8] Yu Liang slipped away to Xunyang (尋陽, in present-day Huangmei County, Hubei) where he met Wen Jiao and conspired with him to reclaim the capital. He also got Chi Jian to join them, making him Minister of Works.

Chi Jian proposed a strategy to Wen Jiao. There was a rumour that Su Jun was intending to bring the emperor east to Kuaiji. He tells him that the loyalists should occupy strategic locations around the area and fortify them while scorching the fields. That way, when Su Jun arrives, it would be difficult for him to attack and there would be no rations for his army. Chi Jian led the eastern army over to Daye (大業, in present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu), Qu'a (曲阿縣; present-day Danyang, Jiangsu), and Chengting (庱亭, in present-day Wujin County, Jiangsu) where they set up barricades to weaken Su Jun's assaults.[9]

Surely enough, Su Jun arrived at Daye, where he besieged the commander Guo Mo. However, disaster struck for the loyalists as Guo Mo secretly abandoned his men to fend off Su Jun for themselves. Chi Jian's generals panicked and his advisor Cao Na (曹納) suggested to him that they fall back to Guangling. Chi Jian was determined to stand his ground and scolded Cao Na for recommending him a retreat.[10] Fortunately, loyalist forces led by Tao Kan, Wen Jiao, Yu Liang and Zhao Yin (趙胤) led their troops to Su Jun's base in Shitou. Su Jun lifted the siege in Daye and faced Tao Kan, and he was finally killed in battle.

That would not be the end of the rebellion as Su Jun's brother, Su Yi (蘇逸), was chosen by the rebels as their new leader. The rebellion continued on into next year. Su Yi would be killed while fleeing from Shitou as the loyalist army approached it. Chi Jian provided the final blow to the rebellion as he sent his general Li Hong (李閎) to annihilate Han Huang and the remaining rebels at Mount Pingling (平陵山, in present-day Liyang, Jiangsu), thus ending the rebellion.[11] For his efforts, Chi Jian was made Palace Attendant, Minister of Works, and Duke of Nanchang County by Emperor Cheng.

After Su Jun's RebellionEdit

Chi Jian lived for another decade serving the Jin dynasty diligently. In the beginning 331, Chi Jian repelled a Later Zhao invasion in Lou County (婁縣; in present-day Kunshan, Jiangsu) led by Liu Zheng. Later in 335, he sent his general Chen Guang (陳光) to defend Jiankang from a Later Zhao invasion although the invasion proved to be a false flag.[12] In 338, he would receive his highest position yet as Grand Commandant.[13]

That year and the following, Chi Jian would find himself opposing Yu Liang's decision to take extreme measures in the court. Yu Liang wanted to lead armies against Wang Dao as he believed that he was harbouring corruption in the government. Yu Liang invited Chi Jian to join him but he sternly rejected it, so Yu Liang called off his plans.[14] The next year, Yu Liang wanted to campaign against Later Zhao, even getting the approval of Wang Dao and the emperor but Chi Jian warned them that Jin should conserving their resources until they were prepared enough to march north, and once again Yu Liang's plans were thwarted.[15]

Chi Jian grew deathly ill that same year. He wrote a memorial of resignation to Liu Xia (劉遐), demanding that Cai Mo be the one to succeed his offices. Chi Jian soon died and was posthumously named as Wencheng ('文成', 'the Cultured and Accomplished').[16]


  1. ^ (郗鑒,字道徽,高平金鄉人,漢御史大夫慮之玄孫也。少孤貧,博覽經籍,躬耕隴畝,吟詠不倦。) Book of Jin, Volume 67
  2. ^ (趙王倫辟為掾,知倫有不臣之跡,稱疾去職。及倫篡,其黨皆至大官,而鑒閉門自守,不染逆節。惠帝反正,參司空軍事,累遷太子中舍人、中書侍郎。東海王越辟為主簿,舉賢良,不行。征東大將軍苟晞檄為從事中郎。晞與越方以力爭,鑒不應其召。從兄旭,晞之別駕,恐禍及己,勸之赴召,鑒終不回,晞亦不之逼也。) Book of Jin, Volume 67
  3. ^ (午以鑒有名於世,將逼為主,鑒逃而獲免。午尋潰散,鑒得歸鄉里。于時所在饑荒,州中之士素有感其恩義者,相與資贍。鑒復分所得,以恤宗族及鄉曲孤老,賴而全濟者甚多,咸相謂曰:「今天子播越,中原無伯,當歸依仁德,可以後亡。」遂共推鑒為主,舉千餘家俱避難于魯之嶧山。) Book of Jin, Volume 67
  4. ^ (元帝初鎮江左,承制假鑒龍驤將軍、兗州刺史,鎮鄒山。時荀籓用李述,劉琨用兄子演,並為兗州,各屯一郡,以力相傾,闔州編戶,莫知所適。又徐龕、石勒左右交侵,日尋干戈,外無救援,百姓饑饉,或掘野鼠蟄燕而食之,終無叛者。三年間,眾至數萬。帝就加輔國將軍、都督兗州諸軍事。) Book of Jin, Volume 67
  5. ^ (永昌初,徵拜領軍將軍,既至,轉尚書,以疾不拜。時明帝初即位,王敦專制,內外危逼,謀杖鑒為外援,由是拜安西將軍、兗州刺史、都督揚州江西諸軍、假節,鎮合肥。敦忌之,表為尚書令,征還。道經姑孰,與敦相見,敦謂曰:「樂彥輔短才耳。後生流宕,言違名檢,考之以實,豈勝滿武秋邪?」鑒曰:「擬人必於其倫。彥輔道韻平淡,體識沖粹,處傾危之朝,不可得而親疏。及湣懷太子之廢,可謂柔而有正。武秋失節之士,何可同日而言!」敦曰:「湣懷廢徙之際,交有危機之急,人何能以死守之乎!以此相方,其不減明矣。」鑒曰:「丈夫既潔身北面,義同在三,豈可偷生屈節,靦顏天壤邪!苟道數終極,固當存亡以之耳。」敦素懷無君之心,聞鑒言,大忿之,遂不復相見,拘留不遣。敦之黨與譖毀日至,鑒舉止自若,初無懼心。敦謂錢鳳曰:「郗道徽儒雅之士,名位既重,何得害之!」乃放還台。鑒遂與帝謀滅敦。) Book of Jin, Volume 67
  6. ^ (有司議曰:「王敦滔天作逆,有無君之心,宜依崔杼、王浚故事,剖棺戮屍,以彰元惡。」於是發瘞出屍,焚其衣冠,跽而刑之。敦、充首同日懸于南桁,觀者莫不稱慶。敦首既懸,莫敢收葬者。尚書令郗鑒言於帝曰:「昔王莽漆頭以輗車,董卓然腹以照市,王淩儭土,徐馥焚首。前朝誅楊駿等,皆先極官刑,後聽私殯。然《春秋》許齊襄之葬紀侯,魏武義王修之哭袁譚。由斯言之,王誅加於上,私義行於下。臣以為可聽私葬,於義為弘。」昭許之,於是敦家收葬焉。) Book of Jin, Volume 98
  7. ^ (秋,七月,辛未,以尚書令郗鑒爲車騎將軍、都督徐‧兗‧青三州諸軍事、兗州刺史,鎭廣陵。) Zizhi Tongjian, Book 93
  8. ^ (徐州刺史郗鑒欲帥所領赴難,詔以北寇,不許。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 94
  9. ^ (郗鑒在廣陵,城孤糧少,逼近胡寇,人無固志。得詔書,卽流涕誓衆,入赴國難,將士爭奮。遣將軍夏侯長等間行謂溫嶠曰:「或聞賊欲挾天子東入會稽,當先立營壘,屯據要害,旣防其越逸,又斷賊糧運,然後清野堅壁以待賊。賊攻城不拔,野無所掠,東道旣斷,糧運自絕,必自潰矣。」嶠深以爲然。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 94
  10. ^ (張健、韓晃等急攻大業;壘中乏水,人飲糞汁。郭默懼,潛突圍出外,留兵守之;郗鑒在京口,軍士聞之皆失色。參軍曹納曰:「大業,京口之扞蔽也,一旦不守,則賊兵徑至,不可當也。請還廣陵,以俟後舉。」鑒大會僚佐,責納曰:「吾受先帝顧託之重,正復捐軀九泉,不足報塞。今強寇在近,衆心危逼,君腹心之佐,而生長異端,當何以帥先義衆,鎭壹三軍邪!」將斬之,久乃得釋。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 94
  11. ^ (張健疑弘徽等貳於己,皆殺之;帥舟師自延陵將入吳興,乙未,揚烈將軍王允之與戰,大破之,獲男女萬餘口。健復與韓晃、馬雄等西趨故鄣,郗鑒遣參軍李閎追之,及於平陵山,皆斬之。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 94
  12. ^ (司空郗鑒使廣陵相陳光帥衆衛京師,賊退向襄陽。) Book of Jin, Volume 7
  13. ^ (乙未,以司徒導為太傅,都督中外諸軍事;郗鑒為太尉,庾亮為司空。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 96
  14. ^ (導性寬厚,委任諸將趙胤、賈寧等,多不奉法,大臣患之。庾亮與郗鑒箋曰:「主上自八九歲以及成人,入則在宮人之手,出則唯武官、小人,讀書無從受音句,顧問未嘗遇君子。秦政欲愚其黔首,天下猶知不可,況欲愚其主哉!人主春秋既盛,宜復子明辟。不稽首歸政,甫居師傅之尊,多養無賴之士;公與下官並荷托付之重,大奸不掃,何以見先帝於地下乎!」欲共起兵廢導,鑒不聽。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 96
  15. ^ (庾亮上疏言:「蜀甚弱而胡尚強,欲帥大眾十萬移鎮石城,遣諸軍羅布江、沔為伐趙之規。」帝下其議。丞相導請許之。大尉鑒議,以為:「資用未備,不可大舉。」) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 96
  16. ^ (辛酉,太尉、南昌公郗鑒薨。) Book of Jin, Volume 7