An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wen Jiao 溫嶠

Jul 1, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

Wen Jiao 溫嶠 (288-329), courtesy name Taizhen 太真, was a high minister and writer of the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420). He hailed from Qi 祁 in the commandery of Taiyuan 太原 (today's Qixian 祁縣, Shanxi), where he held administrative posts in the local government. He was an advisor of Liu Kun 劉琨 (270-318), a general who is known for his successful campaigns against the "barbarian" leaders Liu Cong 劉聰 (ruler of Former Zhao 309-317) and Shi Le 石勒 (ruler of Later Zhao 319-333). In 317, when one of the northern tribes forced the Jin dynasty to flee to the south, Wen Jiao accompanied Prince Sima Rui 司馬睿 (the eventual Emperor Yuan 晉元帝, r. 317-322) and was made aide (changshi 長史) and palace cadet in the household of the Heir Apparent (taizi zhongshuzi 太子中庶子), then Cavalier attendant-in-ordinary (sanji changshi 散騎侍郎).

During the reign of Emperor Ming 晉明帝 (r. 322-325), Wen was promoted to the position of palace attendant (shizhong 侍中), and then made Director of the Palace Secretariat (zhongshu ling 中書令), and therefore took an active role in the central government. During the rebellion of Wang Dun 王敦 (266-324), Wen Jiao belonged to the supporters of Yu Liang 庾亮 (289-340), who decided to crush the rebel. For his military achievements, he was invested as "State-Founding Duke" (kaiguogong 開國公) of Jianning District 建寧縣 and given the title of General of the Front Division (qian jiangjun 前將軍).

Yu Liang acted as regent when Emperor Cheng 晉成帝 succeeded to the throne. He made Wen Jiao regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of the province of Jiangzhou 江州, residing in Wuchang 武昌 (today in Hebei). Wen Jiao thus had a large army under his command which he used to participate in the liberation of the capital Jiankang 建康 (Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu) from the hands of the rebels Su Jun 蘇峻 (d. 328) and Zu Yue 祖約 (d. 330). Wen was rewarded with the rank of General of Cavalry (piaoji jiangjun 驃騎將軍), given the title of General Appeasing the South (pingnan jiangjun 平南將軍) and the honorific designation of Commander Unequalled in Honour (kaifu yitong sansi 開府儀同三司), and was ennobled as Commandery Duke of Shi'an 始安郡公.

He died shortly afterwards and was posthumously granted the title of General-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍). His posthumous title is Duke Zhongwu 始安忠武公.

The literary critic Liu Xie 劉勰, author of the book Wenxin diaolong, rates Wen Jiao's writings as "regular and clear" (xunli er qingtong 循理而清通), and generally "good work" (liang gong 良工). The collected works of Wen are lost, and only a few writings exist, like Yigao sifang zhengzhen 移告四方征鎮, the letter Yu Tao Kan shu 與陶侃書, and the "Rhapsody of the cicada" Chanfu 蟬賦.

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