Pacification commissioners (anfushi 安撫使) were originally high military officials supervising the peace in border regions. Their bureau was called anfushi si 安撫使司. The term was first used in the form anfu dashi 安撫大使 by the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618), as a designation of a high military commander during campaigns. This function was during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) also applied to civilian duties as the supervision of reconstruction measures after natural disasters. In this function, the designation was abbreviated to anfushi (the long version was only used when high officials of rank 2 took over the function), but also known with the name anfu chuzhi shi 安撫處置使 or xuanwei anfu shi 宣慰安撫使. The commissioners had "to pity and support [the people]" (tiliang anfu 體量安撫). Often the function was taken over by the local military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使).
The mixed responsibility for military and civilian matters continued into the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The function (then also called jinglüe anfu shi 經略安撫使) was often taken over by prefects (zhifu 知府, zhizhou 知州) as "commanders" (shuaisi 帥司), in addition to their actual function. From the reign of Emperor Zhenzong 宋真宗 (r. 997-1022) on, pacification commissioners were special and temporary functionaries in administrative circuits (lu 路) for reconstruction, and for military campaigns (in border regions). The Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279) made this office permanent, and in each circuit a pacification commission (anfushi si 安撫使司) was founded. The function was taken over by prefects, and it included everything for the "arrangement of a smooth bureaucracy" (bianyi xingshi 便宜行事), which means that pacification commissioners were in fact the highest officials of a circuit. The military functions were after the reign of Emperor Ningzong 宋寧宗 (r. 1194-1224) given into the hands of supreme commandants (dutongzhi 都統制), so the military function of pacification commissioner was thereafter but ceremonial.
The Liao 遼 (907-1125), Jin 金 (1115-1234) and Yuan 元 (1279-1368) dynasties also used the designation but only for supervisors of border regions. In this function, the office of anfushi survived into the Qing period 清 (1644-1911), with the rank 5B. It was mainly bestowed on native chieftains (tusi 土司) as a hereditary title, and was thus part of the indirect administration of border regions (jimi 羈縻).