Biography (COB): He Jin (Suigao)

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He Jin (Suigao)He Jin (Suigao)
何進 (逐高)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Wan City, Nanyang Commandery
Lifespan: AD 135 – 189 (54 Years)
Titles: Grand Administrator, Commander-in-Chief
Family: Empress He, He Miao

He Jin was the son of a butcher in Wan City and entered service of the Emperor Ling when his sister became the Head Concubine in his court (1). When his sister became the Empress He, Suigao was appointed as Grand Administrator of Yingchuan Commandery. When the Yellow Scarves rebellion began in the first year of Central Stability (AD 184), He Jin was appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Forces. Though it can be said that He Jin was reasonably competent, he owed his appointment as Commander-in-Chief to his sister the Empress. He Jin’s campaign against the Yellow Scarves was a success, but even though the rebels were put down, the Empire was beyond repair (2). On May 13th of the year AD 189, the Emperor Ling died and the fight for succession to the throne began. Emperor Ling already has several children, but all of them had died at an early age.

(1) Empress He was actually He Jin’s half-sister. They had the same father; the Marquis of Wuyang, but He Jin was born off a different mother. Possibly a concubine or an earlier wife.
(2) The victory over the Yellow Scarves cannot be attributed solely to He Jin. Zhu Jun, Huang Fu Song, Sun Jian, Cao Cao and even Dong Zhuo all led their personal armies against the rebel forces.

The Empress He had a son, Liu Bian, but the Consort Wang also bore Emperor Ling a son; the younger Liu Xie. During his youth, Liu Bian was sent to live with a taoist named Shi Zimiao in an effort to protect him from death at an early age. Jian Shi, a eunuch in the palace, held a grudge against He Jin, and plotted to kill him. Therefore he summoned He Jin to the palace, however, Pan Yin, a major under Jian Shi and a friend of He Jin, rode out to warn him. He Jin turned back and sent a notice saying he was ill and could not come to the palace. He Jin then appointed capable men to high positions in the government. This made Jian Shi uneasy, so he attempted to solicite the support of other eunuchs. They however, did not join his plot to kill He Jin, and a close friend of the He family, Guo Sheng, showed He Jin the letter that Jian Shi had sent out. He Jin was enraged, and ordered the Prefect of the Yellow Gates to arrest and execute Jian Shi.

At this time, there was a discord between Empress-Dowager Dong, the late wife of Emperor Huan, mother of Emperor Ling, and the Empress-Dowager He, the mother of the current Emperor and wife of the late Emperor Ling. Empress-Dowager Dong was angry at He Jin’s use of his authority, and threatened to have the General of Agile Cavalry Dong Zhong kill him. Empress-Dowager He reported this to her brother, who subsequently drafted an imperial request to have Empress-Dowager Dong relocated to her home country, on account of procuring government funds for her own use. The request was granted, and again the He family gained ground in the Capital.

On June 7th of the sixth year of Central Stability (Zhong Ping) AD 189, He Jin and his troops surrounded the office of Dong Zhong. He Jin then stripped him of his rank, after which Dong Zhong commited suicide. On July 7th of that same year, Empress-Dowager Dong died of grief. Support for the He family went down drastically. On July 17th, the Filial Emperor Ling was burried at Wenling, however He Jin again pretended to be ill, and did not attend the ceremonies.

At this time, Yuan Shao advised He Jin to remove all the eunuchs from the palace without letting anyone know (3). Before he went on with the plan however, He Jin went to see Empress-Dowager He about it. The Lady of Wuyang, the mother of the Empress-Dowager, as well as He Miao, He Jin’s brother, had often received bribes from the eunuchs when Emperor Ling was still alive. When He Jin asked his sister to dismiss the eunuchs from office, she defended their posistion, and again He Jin did not do anything about the situation. Yuan Shao, whose family was well respected, again approached He Jin (4). This time, he suggested that He Jin would gather generals and soldiers from across the country to prove the Empress-Dowager that his authority was absolure. Yuan Shao’s Master of Records, Chen Lin, openly disapproved of this course of action, and said that the country cannot be ruled efficiently with trickery, however He Jin would not listen.

(3) Yuan Shao compared the situation of He Jin to that of Dou Wu in the past. Dou Wu was the father of one the concubines of Emperor Huan. She was later made Empress, and after Emperor Huan passed away, Dou Wu supported the ascension of Emperor Ling. Empress Dowager Dou took care of all the palace matters, while Dou Wu took over the administration as Commander-in-Chief. Later, a faction of eunuchs came to power, so Dou Wu plotted to kill them. His plans became known, and thus he comitted suicide.
(4) Yuan Shao’s uncle Yuan Wei was the Grand Tutor of the current Emperor, and his cousin Yuan Shu held the rank of General of the Gentleman of the Household Rapid as Tigers.

The Colonel Who Arranges the Army, Cao Cao, laughed when he heard of Yuan Shao’s arguements, and told them their plan would sure fail. Dong Zhuo was stationed in Hedong at this time, so He Jin summonned him and his army to come to the capital district. The Attendant Imperial Clerk Zheng Tai and the Master of Writing Lu Zhi both protested against this course of action, on account that Dong Zhuo was honourless and cruel, and bringing his army to the capital would surely bring doom. Again, He Jin did not listen, upon this, Zheng Tai immediately resigned his comission. He Jin also sent out orders to his Senior Clerk Wang Kuang and Chief Commandant of Cavalry Bao Xin, for them to go back to their districts and raise troops. Aditionally, he sent the Chief Commandant Who is Marshall and Brave, Ding Yuan, to ravage Henei and burn Mengjin. When Dong Zhuo received his orders, he sent a memorial to Empress-Dowager He to request permission to arrest Zhang Rang and the other eunuchs. The Empress refused, and He Miao tried to convince his brother to stop his witch hunt against the eunuchs, because in the past, they had helped their family gain importance. He Jin was getting worried, on one side, his family was defending the eunuchs, but he had already sent out orders, and Dong Zhuo was already advancing towards the capital. He thus sent Cong Shao with an Imperial Edict to stop the army from advancing. Suspicious of the sudden change in policy, Dong Zhuo initially refused the order, but when accused of disloyalty by Cong Shao, retreated to Xiyang village.

Fearing that He Jin might fail again, Yuan Shao urged him to give command to the troops to arrest the eunuchs. He Jin would not agree, instead he made Yuan Shao Colonel Director of Retainers and gave him the staff of power so he could decide on things himself. The Empress-Dowager He became worried, and ordered all of the eunuchs, both the regular attendants and the junior officials, to return to their homes, only a few remained in the Imperial residence. Yuan Shao thus sent orders to regional Commanders, stating that He Jin had given permission to arrest all the eunuchs in their homes. The plans leaked out, and the eunuchs had caught wind of Yuan Shao’s plot, thus they went to the Empress-Dowager to beg for her favour. Thereafter, the Empress reinstated all of the eunuchs. On September 22nd of that year, He Jin went to see his sister again, and asked her permission to execute all of the eunuchs. Zhang Rang and Duan Gui immediately grew suspicious of He Jin’s presence, since he had claimed to be sick and could not come to the late Emperor Ling’s funeral, and thus they sent spies to overhear the conversation. Enraged at He Jin’s request, the eunuchs secretly hid troops in the palace and sent a false edict to He Jin to return to the palace. He Jin came and waited by the door, the ambush party appeared, and He Jin was beheaded by the eunuch Qu Mu. His brother He Miao was killed by He Jin’s former Lieutenants and Empress-Dowager He and the Young Emperor were later killed by Dong Zhuo.

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Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)