He Jin (About this soundpronunciation ) (died 22 September 189), courtesy name Suigao, was the military Grand marshal and regent of the late Eastern Han dynasty of China.[1] He was an elder half-brother of Empress He, the empress consort of Emperor Ling, and a maternal uncle of Emperor Shao. In 189, he and his sister shared power as regents when the young Emperor Shao was put on the throne following Emperor Ling's death. During the time, the conflict between He Jin and the influential eunuch faction intensified. The eunuch faction lured He Jin into a trap in the imperial palace and assassinated him. While He Jin's subordinates slaughtered the eunuch faction in revenge, the warlord Dong Zhuo took advantage of the power vacuum to enter the imperial capital Luoyang and seize control of the Han central government. The subsequent breakdown of central command brought forth the beginning of massive civil wars which led to the end of the Han dynasty and the start of the Three Kingdoms period.

He Jin
He Jin Qing illustration.jpg
General-in-Chief (大將軍)
In office
184 (184) – 22 September 189 (22 September 189)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han / Emperor Shao of Han
Intendant of Henan (河南尹)
In office
180 (180) – 184 (184)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Court Architect (將作大匠)
In office
180 (180) – 184 (184)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Palace Attendant (侍中)
In office
180 (180) – 184 (184)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Administrator of Yingchuan (潁川太守)
In office
? (?) – 180 (180)
MonarchEmperor Ling of Han
Personal details
Nanyang, Henan
Died(189-09-22)22 September 189[1]
Luoyang, Henan
FatherHe Zhen
OccupationGeneral, regent
Courtesy nameSuigao (遂高)
PeerageMarquis of Shen (慎侯)


He Jin was born into a family of butchers in Nanyang, hometown of the dynastic founder Emperor Guangwu. During the reign of Emperor Ling his younger half-sister entered the palace and soon became one of the emperor's favourites. In 180, she was made empress and He Jin henceforth began a speedy escalation up the bureaucratic ladder.

When the Yellow Turban Rebellion erupted in 184, He Jin was appointed General-in-Chief (大將軍). He manned the imperial armory, secured strategic forts around the capital and moved quickly to crush the uprising at Luoyang led by Ma Yuanyi (馬元義), a follower of the rebel leader, Zhang Jue. The campaign was deemed a success and He Jin was enfeoffed as the Marquis of Shen (慎侯). After the rebellion was quelled, He Jin continued in the role of General-in-Chief, technically with control over all the imperial armies. During this time, other members of his family, such as his younger half-brother He Miao (何苗), were also elevated to positions of importance.

In 188, perhaps as a counterweight to the power of the He family, Emperor Ling created the Army of the Western Garden. The emperor ostentatiously paraded in front of the army and had himself named "Supreme General" (無上將軍). The emperor also had the army placed under the command of Jian Shuo, a trusted eunuch. By commanding the Army of the Western Garden, the emperor could put He Jin under his own command.

When Emperor Ling died in the early months of 189, and the stage was set for a showdown between He Jin and the eunuch faction. Jian Shuo plotted to lure He Jin into a trap in the imperial palace and assassinate him. When He Jin entered, a minor official Pan Yin (潘隱) subtly warned He Jin about Jian Shuo's plot. Astonished, He Jin returned to his camp and evaded the assassination attempt. Afterwards, He Jin had Jian Shuo arrested and executed. He also seized command of the troops previously under Jian Shuo's command.

With the support of the elite Yuan family, particularly Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu, the succession dispute was resolved in favour of Liu Bian, the son of Empress He, who ascended the throne in the fifth month of that year. He Jin and his sister, now the Empress Dowager, jointly took on the role of regent.

During the summer months, He Jin and his subordinates engaged the eunuch faction in court politics. The eunuchs, now without a military power base of their own, relied on the support of Empress Dowager He and He Miao. At the urging of Yuan Shao, He Jin summoned the general Dong Zhuo to the outskirts of Luoyang, in an attempt to force the Empress Dowager to back down. In the ninth month of that year, He Jin entered the palace to request the Empress Dowager to agree to the execution of the eunuchs. Zhang Rang, the leader of the eunuch faction, found out about He Jin's plan to kill them through a spy who overheard the conversation between He Jin and the Empress Dowager. The eunuchs then lured He Jin into the imperial palace by pretending to summon him in the name of the Empress Dowager. He Jin entered the palace unsuspectingly, without his subordinates and bodyguards to escort him, and met his end at the hands of the eunuchs.

The situation soon spun out of control. Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu, both with significant control of military forces within the capital, stormed the palace and massacred the eunuchs. The resulting power vacuum allowed Dong Zhuo to seize control of the imperial court. As soon as he held supremacy over the capital, Dong Zhuo deposed the emperor in favour of the Prince of Chenliu, who came to be known as Emperor Xian. The deposition as well as Dong Zhuo's subsequent atrocities incurred the wrath of many. In 190, warlords from the eastern provinces formed a coalition to oust Dong Zhuo, which kicked off a series of civil wars that were to last for nearly a century.


He Jin had at least three half-siblings:

  • Empress He, the empress consort of Emperor Ling and mother of Emperor Shao
  • Lady He, full sister of Empress He, married the adopted son of the eunuch Zhang Rang
  • He Miao (何苗), courtesy name Shuda (叔達), born Zhu Miao (朱苗), an elder half-brother of Empress He born by the same mother thus actually not blood-related to He Jin. He served as General of Chariots and Cavalry (車騎將軍), killed by He Jin's subordinate Wu Kuang (吳匡) in 189 for sympathizing with the eunuch faction who assassinated He Jin

According to historical sources it is widely believed that He Jin had at least one son, He Xian (何咸), who survived the downfall of the He family in 189, and that He Xian had a son, He Yan (c. 196–249). As He Xian died early, his wife Lady Yin (尹夫人) remarried and became a concubine of the warlord Cao Cao, who adopted He Yan as a son. However, He Yan was buried at Lujiang when one's place of burial was customarily supposed to be his ancestral home, which contradicted the fact that He Jin was from Nanyang; so He Yan was probably a grandson of He Miao, as what Weilue suggested, while it was recorded that there had actually been several families of Zhu clan, which might be the clan that He Miao was from, at Lujiang during Eastern Han.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b de Crespigny (2007), p. 312.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
  • Fan, Ye (5th century). Book of the Later Han (Houhanshu).
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).