An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sima Zhi 司馬芝

Feb 25, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Sima Zhi 司馬芝 (d. c. 233 CE), courtesy name Zihua 子華, was a high judicial official of the state of Wei 曹魏 (220-265), one of the Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE).

He hailed from Wen 溫 in the commandery of Henei 河內 (modern Wenxian 溫縣, Henan) and served as magistrate 令 of Guangping 廣平, then as governor (taishou 太守) of Ganling 甘陵, Pei 沛, and Yangping 陽平, and then as supervisor of law enforcement (dali zheng 大理正) and metropolitan magistrate (yin 尹) of Henan 河南 (i.e., Luoyang 洛陽). He was famous for his strict law enforcement and his fearlessness towards powerful persons.

The chief clerk of a commandery, Liu Jie 劉節, once concealed among his retainers persons liable for military corvée. Sima Zhi thereupon ordered Liu Jie to serve in the army. General Liu Xun 劉勳, a minion of the ruler and known for his arrogance, likewise concealed several perpetrators, but also in this case, Sima Zhi did not shy away from bringing them to justice.

During the reign of Emperor Ming 魏明帝, he put great stress on the persecution of obscure religious rituals. Sima Zhi's campaign also involved the foster-mother of Cao Hong 曹洪 (d. 232), a cousin of the dynastic founder Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220) and an attendant of Princes Linfen 臨汾公主 who had burned incense in worshipping the spirit of Mount Wujian 武澗山. Sima Zhi arrested them and brought them to justice. When Empress Dowager Bian 卞太后 learnt of this, she immediately sent some of her eunuchs to Sima Zhi and demanded their immediate release. Sima Zhi ignored the request, and had them executed. Emperor Ming of Wei supported Sima Zhi's strict obedience to the decree of late Cao Cao.

In 227, he was appointed Chamberlain for the National Treasury (da sinong 大司農) and invested as Marquis within the Passes (guanneihou 關內侯).

Sima Zhi lived such an austere life and was so incorrupt that he did not left any money and assets to his heirs.

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