Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
The Political World on the Eve of the Wei-Chin (魏晉) Dynasty Revolution : The government of Tsao-Shuang (曹爽) and the reformation of the Chung Cheng (中正) system
Kensuke Yoshimori
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1986 Volume 95 Issue 1 Pages 38-61,142-144


This paper suggests that the government of Tsao-Shuang, the last one of the Tsao dynasty, can be seen as a transitional stage leading from the nepotistic rule of the Han (漢) dynasty to the aristocracy of the Wei-Chin Nan-Pei (魏晉南北) dynasties. However, due to the Tsao-Shuang government's radical policy of centralization, opposition from local powers arose resulting in its overthrow by Ssu ma-I (司馬懿). Consequently, Ssu ma-I, recognizing the reason's for the failure of the Tsao-Shuang, government, implemented a revision of the Chung Cheng system, which respected local power. In A.D. 249 the imperial government of the Wei (魏) State at Loyang (洛陽) was overthrown by Ssu ma-I, a general under the Tsao dynasty. This incident would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Western Chin (西晉) dynasty in A.D. 265. At the time of Ssu ma-I's revolt, de facto political power was held by Tsao-Shuang, an imperial prince who was adviser to the young emperor Tsao-Fang (曹芳). This arrangement, which was in accordance with the last wishes of the previous Emperor Tsao-Jui (曹叡), involved a situation in which political power was shared by royalty according to kinship ties and co-provincial (common birthplace) ties with the Emperor. A pattern of nepotistic rule was also apparent during the reign of the Han dynasty ruler Weich'i (外戚). Another aspect of political power under Tsao-Shuang concerns the careers of those in the upper echelons of the political structure. Most were noted literati, famed for their literary works and general scholastic ability. They had gained positions of great influence by cultivating ties with the scions of distinguished families in the court of Emperor Tsao-Jui. The Emperor, suspecting these literati of stirring public opinion against Confucianism, instituted various represive measures to counteract their allegedly destructive influence. The literati found the young nobles to be sympathetic to their plight and, following the Emperor's demise, were able to use their connections to attain prominent positions under the new ruler, Tsao-Shuang. Later, He-An (何晏), a head of the Lipu (吏部), the government office, placed members of the literati and the notables in positions of power in an attempt to establish an effective political base. It is believed that the Wei-Chin Nan-Pei dynastic Period was characterized by a largely aristocratic polity consisting of the notables and literati. Scholars believe that the notables and literati had great influence on public opinion and their status was recognized in return by the general public. If this point of view is accepted, the government of Tsao-Shuang, can be seen as a transitional stage leading from the nepotistic rule, which characterized the Han dynasty, to the aristocracy of the Wei-Chin Nan-Pei dynasties, despite the fact that the overly centralized power wielded by the government of Tsao-Shuang was effectively counteracted by local public opinion. Ssu ma-I overthrew the government of Tsao-Shuang with the backing of local public opinion and attempted to reform the aristocratic basis of government by instituting the Chiu P'in Chung Cheng (九品中正) system, whereby public officials were assigned on the basis of public opinion. The Chou Ta Chung Cheng (州大中正) system was later established to expand the Chung Cheng system by instituting the Chou Ta Chung Cheng, which was positioned above the existing Ch'un Chung Cheng (郡中正) and insured local rights in governmental personnel affairs. Prior to Ssu ma-I's revolt this policy had not been implemented due to the opposition of these close to Tsao-Shuang, who had established the right of the Lipu to handle civil service personnel affairs. The implementation of the Chou Ta Chung Cheng system is usually regarded as an instance of centralization of administiative power. However, in view of the historical trend described in this paper, it is seen more as an

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© 1986 The Historical Society of Japan
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