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Persons in Chinese History - Xiao Wangzhi 蕭望之

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Xiao Wangzhi 蕭望之, courtesy name Xiao Changqian 蕭長倩, was a high minister of the late Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). He came from Lanling 蘭陵 (modern Cangshan 蒼山, Shandong) and was a disciple of the Confucian masters Hou Cang 后倉 and Xiahou Sheng 夏侯勝. Expert in the Confucian Classics and their view of a moral and benevolent government, he criticized the growing power of general Huo Guang 霍光, so that he was only given a post as court gentleman (lang 郎). When his brother commited a crime, Xiao Wangzhi was even transferred to a post in the local government. During the reign of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE) he was appointed to the post of aide (cheng 丞) and then rose to receptionist (yezhe 謁者), Grand master of remonstrance (jian dafu 諫大夫) and then lieutenant (sizhi 司直 "rectifier") of the Counsellor-in-chief (chengxiang 丞相). After the family Huo was extirpated, Xiao Wangzhi was made governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Taiyuan 太原, yet he asked to be transferred back to a post in the central government, which was accepted, and he was appointed Chamberlain for the palace revenues (shaofu 少府). Later one he rose to the post of Chamberlain for dependencies (da honglu 大鴻臚), then to Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫), a task he did not fulfil to the satisfaction of the emperor, so that he was appointed Grand Mentor of the Heir Apparent (taizi taifu 太子太傅). Emperor Yuan 漢元帝 (r. 49-33 BCE) highly esteemed Xiao Wangzhi, which gave him the courage to his openly criticise the staff of the Imperial Secretariat (zhongshusheng 中書省) that was staffed with eunuchs and persons of low origin instead of people with an educated background. Yet Hong Gong 弘恭 and Shi Xian 石顯 fought back, had Xiao Wangzhi charged with treason and forced him to commit suicide.

Source: Cang Xiuliang 倉修良 (ed. 1996), Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), p. 1009.

February 21, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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