Three Ducal Ministers

Last updated

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 and Imperial China. These posts were abolished by Cao Cao in 208 AD and replaced with the position of Grand Chancellor. When Cao Cao's son Cao Pi became King of Wei after his father's death, he reinstated the three positions. Hua Xin was made Chancellor, Jia Xu was made Grand Commandant and Wang Lang was made Grand Secretary. When Cao Pi declared himself emperor in late 220, Hua Xin was made Cao Wei's first Minister of the Masses, Jia Xu remained as Grand Commandant, and Wang Lang was made the first Minister of Works.



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 three titles contain the word "司" (pinyin :; lit. 'management') at the time of 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.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liu Biao</span> Chinese military general and warlord (142-208)

Liu Biao, courtesy name Jingsheng, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He is best known for serving as the Governor of Jing Province from 192 until his death in 208. He was also a member of the extended family of the Han emperors through his ancestor Liu Yu, the fifth son of Emperor Jing. Liu Biao was described as a handsome man and was over eight chi tall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Emperor Wu of Jin</span> Emperor of the Jin Dynasty from 266 to 290

Emperor Wu of Jin, personal name Sima Yan, courtesy name Anshi (安世), was a grandson of Sima Yi, nephew of Sima Shi and son of Sima Zhao. He became the first emperor of the Jin dynasty after forcing Cao Huan, last emperor of the state of Cao Wei, to abdicate to him. He reigned from 266 to 290, and after conquering the state of Eastern Wu in 280, was the emperor of a reunified China. Emperor Wu was also known for his extravagance and sensuality, especially after the unification of China; legends boasted of his incredible potency among ten thousand concubines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jia Xu</span> Cao Wei politician and official (147-223)

Jia Xu, courtesy name Wenhe, was an official of the state of Cao Wei during the early Three Kingdoms period of China. He started his career in the late Eastern Han dynasty as a minor official. In 189, when the warlord Dong Zhuo took control of the Han central government, he assigned Jia Xu to the unit led by Niu Fu, his son-in-law. In May 192, after Dong Zhuo was assassinated by Lü Bu, Jia Xu advised Li Jue, Guo Si and Dong Zhuo's loyalists to fight back and seize control of the imperial capital, Chang'an, from a new central government headed by Lü Bu and Wang Yun. After Li Jue and the others defeated Lü Bu and occupied Chang'an, Jia Xu served under the central government led by them. During this time, he ensured the safety of the figurehead Han emperor, Emperor Xian, who was being held hostage by Li Jue. He also attempted to prevent internal conflict between Li Jue and Guo Si, but with limited success. After Emperor Xian escaped from Chang'an, Jia Xu left Li Jue and briefly joined the general Duan Wei before becoming a strategist of the warlord Zhang Xiu. While serving under Zhang Xiu, he advised his lord on how to counter invasions by the warlord Cao Cao, who had received Emperor Xian in 196 and taken control of the central government. In 200, during the Battle of Guandu between Cao Cao and his rival Yuan Shao, Jia Xu urged Zhang Xiu to reject Yuan Shao's offer to form an alliance and instead surrender to Cao Cao. Zhang Xiu heeded his advice. Jia Xu then became one of Cao Cao's strategists.

The Grand Chancellor, also translated as counselor-in-chief, chancellor, chief councillor, chief minister, imperial chancellor, lieutenant chancellor and prime minister, was the highest-ranking executive official in the imperial Chinese government. The term was known by many different names throughout Chinese history, and the exact extent of the powers associated with the position fluctuated greatly, even during a particular dynasty. During the Six Dynasties period, the term denoted a number of power-holders serving as chief administrators, including zhongshun jian, zhongshu ling, shizhong, shangshu ling and puye.

Zhang Hua, courtesy name Maoxian, was a Chinese poet and politician of the Western Jin dynasty and the preceding state of Cao Wei. An accomplished poet, Zhang also authored the Bowuzhi, a compendium of entries about natural wonders and supernatural phenomena. His political career reached its zenith from 291 to 300, when he served as a leading minister during the de facto regency of Empress Jia Nanfeng. Zhang was considered an effective minister and, in conjunction with his colleague Pei Wei, helped ensure a period of relative stability within the Jin court. As the court fell into factional disputes from 299 to 300, Zhang rebuffed the rebellious overtures of the imperial relative Sima Lun and was executed when the latter seized power from the empress.

Wang Lang, courtesy name Jingxing (景興), was a Chinese politician and minor warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He served notably in the Han central government as Administrator of Kuaiji Commandery and in the later state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He was also a maternal great-grandfather of Sima Yan, the founding emperor of the Jin dynasty, through his granddaughter Wang Yuanji's marriage with Sima Zhao.

Cao Song, courtesy name Jugao, was an official who lived during the Eastern Han dynasty of China. He was the foster son of the eunuch Cao Teng and the father of the warlord Cao Cao, who rose to prominence in the final years of Eastern Han and laid the foundation of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Song was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Tai" by his grandson Cao Pi in 220 when the latter ended the Han dynasty and founded the Cao Wei regime.

Hua Xin, courtesy name Ziyu, was a Chinese politician who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China. He initially served directly under the central government of the Eastern Han dynasty. Later, he served under the warlord Sun Ce and then under the warlord Cao Cao. He continued to serve in the Cao Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period.

Xu Jing, courtesy name Wenxiu, was a Chinese politician of the state of Shu Han in the early Three Kingdoms period of China. After Liu Zhang announced his submission to Liu Bei, Xu Jing swore his allegiance to Liu Bei. Like his cousin Xu Shao, Xu Jing was famous for being a good character evaluator. However, the cousins could not get along with each other. Before falling out with each other, they would give comments on certain persons or topics on the first day of every month.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wang Xiang</span> Chinese senior official (185–269)

Wang Xiang, courtesy name Xiuzheng, was a Chinese politician who lived through the late Eastern Han dynasty (25–220), the Three Kingdoms period (220–280), and the early Western Jin dynasty (266–316) of China. He served among the highest positions in the government, including Minister of Works (司空) and Grand Commandant (太尉) in the Cao Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period, and Grand Protector (太保) during the Western Jin dynasty. He was also one of The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Government of the Han dynasty</span> Governance during the Chinese Han dynasty (202 BC–220 AD)

The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, following the Qin dynasty. It was divided into the periods of Western (Former) Han and Eastern (Later) Han, briefly interrupted by the Xin dynasty of Wang Mang. The capital of Western Han was Chang'an, and the capital of Eastern Han was Luoyang. The emperor headed the government, promulgating all written laws, serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and presiding as the chief executive official. He appointed all government officials who earned a salary of 600 bushels of grain or more with the help of advisors who reviewed each nominee. The empress dowager could either be the emperor's actual or symbolic mother, and was in practice more respected than the emperor, as she could override his decisions. The emperor's executive powers could also be practiced by any official upon whom he bestowed the Staff of Authority. These powers included the right to execute criminals without the imperial court's permission.

The Nine Ministers or Nine Chamberlains was the collective name for nine high officials in the imperial government of the Han dynasty, who each headed one of the Nine Courts and were subordinates to the Three Councillors of State.

The Three Lords and Nine Ministers system was a central administrative system adopted in ancient China that was officially instituted in the Qin dynasty and was replaced by the Three Departments and Six Ministries system since the Sui dynasty.

<i>Three Kingdoms</i> (TV series) 2010 Chinese historical series

Three Kingdoms is a 2010 Chinese television series based on the events in the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period. The plot is adapted from the 14th century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and other stories about the Three Kingdoms period. Directed by Gao Xixi, the series had a budget of over 160 million RMB and took five years of pre-production work. Shooting of the series commenced in October 2008, and it was released in China in May 2010.

<i>The Story of Han Dynasty</i> Chinese TV series or program

The Story of Han Dynasty is a Chinese television series based on the events in the Chu–Han Contention, an interregnum between the fall of the Qin dynasty and the founding of the Han dynasty in Chinese history. The series was first broadcast on CCTV in China in 2003. Directed by Wei Handao, the series starred Hu Jun, Xiao Rongsheng, Jacklyn Wu, Kristy Yang, Wang Gang and Li Li-chun.

Sima Fang (149–219), courtesy name Jiangong or Wenyu, was an official who lived during the Eastern Han dynasty of China. Through his second son Sima Yi, he was an ancestor of the ruling Sima clan of the Jin dynasty (266–420) of China.

Sima is an official post from ancient China that first appears in texts dating from the Western Zhou dynasty and continued to be used during the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period. Translated literally, it means "administrator of the horses." Owing to the fact that the power and responsibilities associated with the office changed somewhat throughout Chinese history, a variety of English translations for the term have been suggested. The textually closest equivalent is Master of the Horse. Other English terms such as 'marshal' and 'major' have also been suggested, and may be appropriate in different contexts: for example 'marshal' may be appropriate in the Western Han dynasty, when "Grand Sima" was a title granted to high generals, while 'major' may be appropriate as the translation for the lower military position also called "Sima" from the Wei dynasty to the Song dynasty.

Cui Lin, courtesy name Deru, was a Chinese politician of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was known for his scruples in good governance, judgment of character, and for being the first of the Three Ducal Ministers after the end of the Eastern Han dynasty to be enfeoffed as a marquis. He was from Dongwu County, Qinghe Commandery, Ji Province, which is in present-day Zhucheng, Shandong.

The Ministry of Ceremonies was one of the nine ministries of the Chinese Han dynasty. The Minister of Ceremonies, also known as Grand Master of Ceremonies, was the chief official in charge of religious rites, rituals, prayers, and the maintenance of ancestral temples and altars. The role's title was changed to Upholder of Ceremonies from 195 to 144 BC before reverting to the original title. Although his main concern was to link the emperor with the supernatural world and Heaven, he was also given the task of setting educational standards for the Imperial University and the academic chairs who specialized in the Five Classics, the canon of Confucianism.

Han Ji, courtesy name Gongzhi, was a Chinese politician who served in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He previously served under the warlords Liu Biao and Cao Cao during the late Eastern Han dynasty.



  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.