An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Yu Bing 庾冰

Jun 30, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

Yu Bing 庾冰 (296-344), courtesy name Jijian 季堅, was a high minister of the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420). He hailed from Yanling 鄢陵 (today in Henan) in the commandery of Yingchuan 潁川 and was a younger brother of Yu Liang 庾亮 (289-340) and father of Yu Daolian 庾道憐, consort of the Deposed Emperor 晉廢帝 (r. 365-371), the Duke of Haixi 海西.

His first office was that of assistant in the Palace Library (bishulang 祕書郎). He participated in the fight against Hua Yi 華軼, regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Yangzhou 揚州 and a representative of the local gentry which resisted the influx of refugees from northern China after the Rebellion of the Eight Princes. Yu was rewarded with the title of Township Marquis of Duxiang 都鄉侯.

The Counsellor-in-chief, Wang Dao 王導 (276-339), promoted him to the post of aide of the Minister of Education (situ changshi 司徒長史) and then made him chamberlain (neishi 內史) of the princedom of Wu 吳.

Under the reign of Emperor Cheng 晉成帝 (r. 325-342), Yu Bing participated in the suppression of the rebellions of Su Jun 蘇竣 (d. 328) and Zu Yue 祖約 (d. 330) and was rewarded with the post of Secretarial Supervisor (zhongshu jian 中書監), then with that of regional inspector of Yangzhou, a function giving into his hands the command over the armies of the provinces of Yangzhou, Yuzhou 豫州, and Yanzhou 兗州. He also held the title of General attacking the barbarians (zhenglu jiangjun 征虜將軍).

After Wang Dao's death, Yu Bing took over the function of regent. He was a hard-working person and took his job seriously. Yu was therefore known as the "wise counsellor" (xianxiang 賢相). He also held the title of General to the Left (zuo jiangjun 左將軍), and after Emperor Kang's 晉康帝 (r. 342-344) accession to the throne, that of General of chariots and cavalry (cheji jiangjun 車騎將軍).

Fearing the weight of power lasting on his shoulders, Yu Bing asked to be transferred to a local post outside the capital, and was given his old military command. As regional inspector of the province of Jiangzhou 江州, he resided in Wuchang 武昌 (today's Echeng 鄂城, Hubei), while his younger brother Yu Yi 庾翼 (305-345) commanded a military campaign against the empire of Later Zhao 後趙 (319-350) in the north. Empress Dowager Chu 褚太后 (324-384), reigning for her young son Emperor Mu 晉穆帝 (r. 344-361), tried to call Yu Bing back, but Yu refused on the ground of illness, and died soon. The true reason for his withdrawal from the court was that He Chong 何充 (292-346), Director of the Imperial Secretariat (shangshu ling 尚書令), successfully objected Yu's wish to enthrone Sima Yu 司馬昱, and not Sima Dan 司馬聃 (i.e. Emperor Mu), as He Chong did.

Yu Bing's biography in the official dynastic history Jinshu 晉書 praises him as a person of a truly honest character in office and a modest lifestyle in private matters. When one of his sons bought an office, Yu gave the office back, along with the price of 10 bolts of silk.

He had been educated according to Confucian principles and desired to have them strictly performed at the court, even by Buddhist monks who usually declined to kowtow before the emperor. He Chong wanted to exempt monks from this rule.

Yu Bing left writings with a size of 20 juan, but only a small part of them survives. He was posthumously granted the titles of court attendant (shizhong 侍中) and Minister of Works (sikong 司空). His posthoumous honorific title is Marquis Zhongcheng 忠成侯 "The Loyal-Perfect".

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Xiao Yuan 曉源 (1996). "Yu Bing 庾冰", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 88.
Xiong Tieji 熊鐵基, Yang Youli 楊有禮, ed. (1994). Zhongguo diwang zaixiang cidian 中國帝王宰相辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 572.
Yi Xingguo 衣興國, ed. (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 270.
Zhang Huizhi 張撝之, Shen Qiwei 沈起煒, Liu Dezhong 劉德重, ed. (1999). Zhongguo lidai renming da cidian 中國歷代人名大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 2, 2186.