An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Li Ying 李膺

Dec 24, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Li Ying 李膺 (110-168 CE), courtesy name Yuanli 元禮, was one of the leading court officials that opposed the dominance of the eunuchs during the second half of the Later Han dynasty.

He hailed from Yingchuan 潁川 (modern Xuchang 許昌, Henan). Li Ying excelled in the selection of state appointees and rose the ladder of career up to the post of regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of the province of Qingzhou 青州. He was known for his severe style of administration, and when it became known that he was appointed, all officials left their post.

He was later appointed commandant (xiaowei 校尉) overseeing the tribal federation of the Wuhuan 烏桓 in the northeast. He was able to defeat the steppe people of the Xianbei 鮮卑 several times.

Li Ying left soon his post for private reasons and retired to Lunshi 綸氏 (modern Dengfeng 登封, Henan), where he engaged in teaching.

In 156 CE he was appointed general and suppressed a rebellion of the Qiang 羌 tribes in the west. For his success, he was promoted to metropolitan commandant (sili xiaowei 司隸校尉).

At that time rampant corruption was seen among the powerful eunuch clique at the capital. Li Ying decided to fight against the ever-growing dominance of the eunuchs at the court. He looked for allies among the higher officials and found them in Guo Tai 郭泰 and Chen Fan 陳蕃. Yet in 166 he was slandered by the eunuchs and put into prison. When he was released he was forbidden to resume any office during lifetime.

With the accession of Emperor Ling 漢靈帝 (r. 167-189), his faction found high support in the person of general Dou Wu 竇武, brother of the Empress Dowager. Li Ying was appointed Chamberlain for the Palace Revenues (shaofu 少府) of the Changle palace 長樂. Secretly, the men planned to execute the whole eunuch faction, but the plan was reveiled, and Li Ying was incarcerated and killed.

Huang Banghe 黄邦和, Pi Mingxiu 皮明庥, ed. (1987). Zhong-wai lishi renwu cidian 中外歷史人物詞典 (Changsha: Hunan remin chubanshe), 178.