Three Ducal Ministers

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The Three Ducal Ministers (Chinese :三公; pinyin :Sāngōng), also translated as the Three Dukes, Three Excellencies, or the Three Lords, was the collective name for the three highest officials in ancient China. These posts were abolished by Cao Cao in 208 AD and replaced with the position of Imperial Chancellor.



Each minister was responsible for different areas of government, but the boundaries were often blurred. Together, the Three Ducal Ministers were the emperor's closest advisors. Toward the end of a dynasty, the positions were often sold to men of wealth to raise state revenue.

Starting in the late Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasty, the top three were:

During the Western Han dynasty, the three positions were: [1]

In the Eastern Han dynasty, the names of the Three Ducal Ministers were changed to:

Because all the three name have the word "司" (), at the Eastern Han, the Three Ducal Ministers were also called "Sansī" (三司). [2]


During the Han dynasty, civil service officials were classified according to twenty grades (reduced to sixteen after 32 BC), expressed by the official's annual salary in terms of number of dàn (石) or Chinese bushels of grain. [note 1] This ranged from the ten-thousand-bushel rank at the top to the one-hundred-bushel at the bottom. Under this system, the Three Ducal Ministers all held the highest rank of ten-thousand-bushel. [3]

See also


  1. probably of wheat, the core of the Chinese Empire at that time being mainly on the North China Plain, above the Yangzi River. Rice came later to the area.

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  1. Wang 1949, p. 150.
  2. "Official Titles of the Han dynasty: A Tentative List Compiled for The Han Dynasty History Project" (PDF). University of Washington. p. 31. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  3. Wang 1949, p. 137.