An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Qin Mi 秦宓

Jun 24, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Qin Mi 秦宓 (d. 226), courtesy name Zichi 子敕 or Zilai 子勑, was a civilian and military official under Liu Bei 劉備 (161-222), the founder of Shu-Han 蜀漢 (221-263), one of the Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE).

Qin hailed from Mianzhu 綿竹 in the commandery of Guanghan 廣漢 (today's Deyang 德陽, Sichuan) and was, as a young man, famous for his talents, but Qin declined several job offers of the local administration.

When Liu Bei conquered the province of Yizhou 益州 (Sichuan), the local governor Xiahou Zuan 夏侯纂 (d. 215) invited Qin Mi to serve the new regime, but Qin Mi still declined any government function. In the end, he accepted the post of "libationer" (jijiu 祭酒), i.e. head of the educational administration. When Liu Bei planned an eastern campaign to reconquer the middle Yangtze region, Qin Mi objected and was thrown into jail.

In 224, the Counsellor-in-chief Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234) appointed him regional governor (mu 牧) of Yizhou. His career continued with the functions left leader of court gentlemen (zuo zhonglangjiang 左中郎將), commander of the Changshui cavalry (Changshui xiaowei 長水校尉), and finally Chamberlain for the National Treasury (da sinong 大司農).

Quite famous is Qin's discussion with Zhang Wen 張溫 (193-230) from the empire of Wu 吳 on the properties of Heaven. Qin argued, based on quotations from the Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs" that Heaven had a head, ears, feet, and even a family name (Liu 劉, as father of the "Son of Heaven" Liu Bei), just as humans did. In fact, Qin's arguments intended to prove that the true ruler of the world was the sovereign of Shu, and not Sun Quan 孫權 (182-252) in the east.

Qin Mi was known for his refined and beautiful literary style. A few official and private documents written have survived, among others, the poem Yuanyou 遠游.

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