Meng Guang (fl. 190s – third century), courtesy name Xiaoyu, was an official and scholar of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period of China.

Meng Guang
孟光
Minister of Finance (大司農)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Steward of the Changle Palace (長樂少府)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Colonel of the Garrison Cavalry
(屯騎校尉)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Prefect of Insignia and Credentials
(符節令)
In office
223 (223)–? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Consultant (議郎)
In office
214 (214)–? (?)
Personal details
BornUnknown
Luoyang, Henan
DiedUnknown
Relations
  • Meng Yu (relative)
  • Meng Ben (relative)
OccupationOfficial, scholar
Courtesy nameXiaoyu (孝裕)

LifeEdit

Meng Guang was from Luoyang, Henan. He was born sometime in the Eastern Han dynasty. His relative, Meng Yu (孟郁), served as the Grand Commandant (太尉) in the Han imperial court.[1][2] Meng Yu's elder brother, Meng Ben (孟賁), was a eunuch who served as a Central Regular Attendant (中常侍).[3][4] Meng Guang started his career as a minor official in one of the departments of the central government towards the end of the reign of Emperor Ling (r.  168–189).[5]

In 190,[6] after the warlord Dong Zhuo seized control of the Han central government and forced Emperor Xian (r.  189–220) to move the imperial capital to Chang'an, Meng Guang escaped and fled to Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing). Liu Yan, the Governor of Yi Province, treated Meng Guang like a guest. After Liu Yan died in 194, his son and successor, Liu Zhang, accorded Meng Guang the same treatment.[7] Meng Guang was known for being knowledgeable and well-read; he was particularly interested in the Records of the Grand Historian, Book of the Later Han and Dongguan Han Ji (東觀漢記). He also frequently debated with Lai Min, another guest scholar living in Yi Province, over the Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu) as each of them preferred a different commentary on the Chunqiu: Meng Guang and Lai Min specialised in the Gongyang Zhuan and Zuo Zhuan respectively. Meng Guang was notorious for being loud and annoying during his debates with Lai Min.[8]

In 214,[9] after the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Yi Province from Liu Zhang, he appointed Meng Guang as a Consultant (議郎) and put him and Xu Ci in charge of institutional matters. Following the end of the Eastern Han dynasty in 220, Meng Guang served in the state of Shu Han, founded by Liu Bei in 221, during the Three Kingdoms period. Liu Shan, Liu Bei's son, became the new emperor of Shu when his father died in 223.[10] During his reign, Liu Shan appointed Meng Guang to various positions, including Prefect of Insignia and Credentials (符節令), Colonel of the Garrison Cavalry (屯騎校尉), Steward of the Changle Palace (長樂少府),[11] and Minister of Finance (大司農).[12]

In the autumn of 246, when the Shu government proclaimed a general amnesty, Meng Guang stepped up and scolded Fei Yi, the head of the central government, in front of the entire imperial court. He argued that a general amnesty, as a policy, should only be implemented under extraordinary circumstances (e.g., as a political move to gain popular support especially in times of instability) and as a last resort. In his opinion, as Shu was rather peaceful and stable at the time, a general amnesty would benefit criminals instead of improving the government's public image. Fei Yi apologised to Meng Guang in a polite but awkward manner.[13]

Throughout his career in the Shu government, Meng Guang was notorious for making public outbursts on numerous occasions and for being very unbridled in his speech. As a result, his colleagues generally disliked or detested him. There were also instances where he carelessly divulged state secrets (probably due to a slip of the tongue) and discussed politics in inappropriate settings. However, he got off lightly because he held much prestige among the literati for his status as a learned Confucian scholar.[14] Meng Guang's behaviour had a huge negative impact on his career: he never made it to higher positions – his highest appointment was Minister of Finance (大司農) – and never received any honours/privileges (e.g., a marquis title). Two of his colleagues, Minister of Ceremonies Xin Cheng (鐔承)[a] and Minister of the Household Pei Jun (裴儁),[b] were younger and less experienced than him, yet they made it to positions higher than his.[17]

Xi Zheng, then an assistant official in the palace library, often visited Meng Guang to consult him. When Meng Guang asked him what the crown prince, Liu Xuan, had been learning and reading and what he was interested in, Xi Zheng replied, "He treats the people around him respectfully. He is very diligent and hardworking. He has the style of a crown prince of ancient times. When he meets people, he shows sincerity, kindness and generosity in everything he says and does."[18] Meng Guang then said, "This is what is expected of every other person. What I really want to know is his level of political wisdom and how good his political skills are."[19] Xi Zheng replied, "The Crown Prince's approach towards life is to focus on winning people's hearts and favour. He won't do what he shouldn't do. He doesn't openly reveal his wisdom. Besides, political skills can only be used under certain circumstances; they cannot be cultivated and learnt in advance."[20] Meng Guang knew that Xi Zheng was trying to careful with his words, so he said, "I like to speak my mind as freely as possible. Every time I openly make criticisms, people will ridicule or hate me for that. Although I sense that you don't like to hear what I say, my words make sense. The Empire is not unified yet. Political skills are crucial in this time and age. While one's mastery of political skills depends on his intellectual abilities, political skills can be learnt and mastered through diligence. This has to do with the Crown Prince's education. He should be striving to enrich himself with as much knowledge as possible so that he can be like a consultant. He should also sit for written and oral tests like academics and gain some titles. This is a top priority for him." Xi Zheng strongly agreed with him.[21]

Meng Guang was later removed from office for committing offences. He died in an unknown year in his 90s.[22]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Xin Cheng (鐔承) was from Guanghan Commandery (廣漢郡; around present-day Guanghan, Sichuan) and his courtesy name was Gongwen (公文). Before rising to the position of Minister of Ceremonies (太常), he served as Minister Steward (少府) and as the administrator of various commanderies.[15]
  2. ^ Pei Jun (裴儁) was from Hedong Commandery (河東郡) and his courtesy name was Fengxian (奉先). His elder brother, Pei Qian, served as Prefect of the Masters of Writing (尚書令) in Wei, Shu's rival state. When Pei Jun was still a teenager, he went to Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) to live with his brother-in-law, who served as a Chief Clerk (長史) there. He could not return to Hedong Commandery because of the chaos which broke out towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. He remained in Yi Province and eventually became a government official in Shu. His son, Pei Yue (裴越), had the courtesy name Lingxu (令緒). Like his father, Pei Yue also served in Shu as a military officer. After the fall of Shu in 263, Pei Yue moved to the Wei imperial capital Luoyang and served as a Consultant (議郎) in the Wei government.[16]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ (孟光字孝裕,河南洛陽人,漢太尉孟郁之族。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  2. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 670.
  3. ^ (續漢書曰:郁,中常侍孟賁之弟。) Xu Han Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  4. ^ de Crespigny (2007), pp. 665–666.
  5. ^ (靈帝末為講部吏。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  6. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vol. 59.
  7. ^ (獻帝遷都長安,遂逃入蜀,劉焉父子待以客禮。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  8. ^ (博物識古,無書不覽,尤銳意三史,長於漢家舊典。好公羊春秋而譏呵左氏,每與來敏爭此二義,光常譊譊讙咋。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  9. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vol. 67.
  10. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vols. 69–70.
  11. ^ de Crespigny, Rafe. A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. p. 1236.
  12. ^ (先主定益州,拜為議郎,與許慈等並掌制度。後主踐阼,為符節令、屯騎校尉、長樂少府,遷大司農。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  13. ^ (延熈九年秋,大赦,光於衆中責大將軍費禕曰:「夫赦者,偏枯之物,非明世所宜有也。衰弊窮極,必不得已,然後乃可權而行之耳。今主上仁賢,百僚稱職,有何旦夕之危,倒懸之急,而數施非常之恩,以惠姦宄之惡乎?又鷹隼始擊,而更原宥有罪,上犯天時,下違人理。老夫耄朽,不達治體,竊謂斯法難以經乆,豈具瞻之高美,所望於明德哉!」禕但顧謝踧踖而已。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  14. ^ (時孟光亦以樞機不慎,議論干時,然猶愈於敏,俱以其耆宿學士見禮於世。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  15. ^ (華陽國志曰:承字公文,歷郡守少府。) Huayang Guo Zhi annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  16. ^ (傅暢裴氏家記曰:儁字奉先,魏尚書令潛弟也。儁姊夫為蜀中長史,儁送之,時年十餘歲,遂遭漢末大亂,不復得還。旣長知名,為蜀所推重也。子越,字令緒,為蜀督軍。蜀破,遷還洛陽,拜議郎。) Fu Chang's Pei Shi Jia Ji annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  17. ^ (光之指摘痛癢,多如是類,故執政重臣,心不能恱,爵位不登;每直言無所囬避,為代所嫌。太常廣漢鐔承、光祿勳河東裴儁等,年資皆在光後,而登據上列,處光之右,蓋以此也。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  18. ^ (後進文士祕書郎郤正數從光諮訪,光問正太子所習讀并其情性好尚,正荅曰:「奉親虔恭,夙夜匪懈,有古世子之風;接待羣僚,舉動出於仁恕。」) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  19. ^ (光曰:「如君所道,皆家戶所有耳;吾今所問,欲知其權略智調何如也。」) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  20. ^ (正曰:「世子之道,在於承志竭歡,旣不得妄有所施為,且智調藏於胷懷,權略應時而發,此之有無,焉可豫設也?」) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  21. ^ (光解正慎宜,不為放談,乃曰:「吾好直言,無所回避,每彈射利病,為世人所譏嫌疑;省君意亦不甚好吾言,然語有次。今天下未定,智意為先,智意雖有自然,然不可力彊致也。此儲君讀書,寧當傚吾等竭力博識以待訪問,如傅士探策講試以求爵位邪!當務其急者。」正深謂光言為然。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  22. ^ (後光坐事免官,年九十餘卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.