Biography (COB): He Qi (Gongmiao)

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He Qi (Gongmiao)He Qi (Gongmiao)
賀齊 (公苗)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Lifespan: AD ?–227
Birthplace: Shanyin, capital of Kuaji Commandery
Titles: Chief of Yan County; Chief Commandant of Kuaiji (AD 196); General of the Gentlemen of the Household Who is Majestic and Firm (AD 208); Grand Administrator; General Who Exerts Himself Martially (AD 213)
Relations: He Fu (father); He Jing, He Da (sons); He Shao, He Zhi (grandsons); He Chun (uncle); He Xun (great-grandson)

He Qi, styled Gongmiao, hailed from Shanyin in Kuaiji and was the son of He Fu, who was earlier Chief of Yongning county. Growing up in Shanyin, He Qi was first locally appointed junior rank through his family’s powerful status, but he was later promoted to Chief of Yan County when he killed one Si Cong for breaking the law. Qi went on to rally the locals peoples of Shanyin to attack the rest of the Si clan’s followers and, through victory in battle, brought them to justice. Qi was thus well respected in Kuaiji and held a high reputation amongst its people.

When Sun Ce came to Kuaiji in AD 196, He Qi volunteered his services to the young commander and received rank in his expanding army. In the same year, Qi was appointed by Ce as Chief Commandant of Kuaiji with orders to subdue the Chief of Houguan county, Shang Sheng. News of He Qi’s appointment so intimidated Sheng that he immediately offered his surrender, but he was killed by his subordinates before his defection was received by He Qi, and the local people of Houguan continued to offer resistance. Observing that there was division within the county’s leadership, He Qi took advantage of their disagreements and, after some time, was able to attack and defeat Houguan’s army, bringing it under his control.

For several years thereafter, He Qi continued his administration of Kuaiji and expanded the Sun family’s influence throughout the far southeast of China. During this time, Sun Ce died and his brother Quan succeeded his rulership of the Southland. He Qi accepted Sun Quan’s accession and went on to carve out a region of pacified territory among the Yue people, forcefully extending Chinese culture in the south and securing Sun Quan’s control over the territory.

In AD 203, He Qi moved his headquarters to Jian’an and continued his administrative work in the southeast from there. By 205, Qi held administrative authority over eight counties and had recruited an army of ten thousand through campaigning against rebels in the north. In the same year, He Qi attacked and defeated the local people of Shangrao county, establishing a new county called Jianping in the south.

In AD 208, He Qi was promoted to General of the Gentleman of the Household Who is Majestic and Firm, with orders to attack the counties of Yi and She in southern Danyang. Before he began his attack on the two counties, He Qi recommended Sun Quan establish a new county, Shixin, to the east of She. (1) Quan agreed and once Shixin was established, He Qi mustered his army and armed them lightly. Qi then led his men to climb the surrounding cliffs and walls of She and Yi’s defending camps, surmising that they were their main means of defence. He Qi had his men use their arrows as pitons in the cracks of the rock to gain foothold for the climb, and through these means, He Qi was able to attack She and Yi’s army. In the ensuing battle between He Qi and the settlers of She and Yi, a sorcerer in the service of the mountain rebels cast a spell that made the swords of Qi’s troops lose their edge, and the arrows his archers fired turn back against them in mid-flight. Deliberating to himself regarding the matter, He Qi remarked, “I have heard that a cutting edge of metal can be ‘prevented’ and the poison from a snake can be ‘prevented’. However, a thing which has no edge, and a snake which is not poisonous, cannot be affected by these spells. So the magic which is now working against us will become useless if our weapons have no edges.”

He Qi then had his men cut down trees to make cudgels and sent a storming party, armed with the new weapons, against the enemy. The defensive magic was thus rendered useless, and He Qi dealt the hills people a stunning defeat. (2) The leaders of the rebels were captured and executed, and He Qi led the bulk of his army back to home territory once the campaign was over. Qi recommended to Sun Quan that a further three counties should be established and for his accomplishments, He Qi was appointed Grand Administrator.

1: Both She and Yi counties were on the upper reaches of Xin’an Jiang. Because of this, they were both largely isolated from the primary territory of Danyang, and clans and bandit group were thus easily able to take control of the counties. He Qi most likely made his recommendation based on these reasons.
2: This story is taken from the book of Ge Hong and is, of course, quite fictitious. Historically, He Qi was able to defeat the leaders of She and Yi as soon as he attacked their camp. Qi most likely attracted such folklore based on his notable achievements, just as in the same fashion that other officers of the era, like Sun Ce, Guan Yu and Zhuge Liang, did.

In AD 213, an uprising began in Yuzhang commentary, but He Qi was able to attack the rebels and swiftly pacified them. Qi executed the leaders of the uprising and convinced many of their best men to join the Southland, while he settled the weaker ones by households among the counties. For his success in the campaign, He Qi was promoted to General Who Exerts Himself Martially.

In AD 215, He Qi was chosen by Sun Quan to join him in an attack on Hefei city. Quan personally took command of the southern army, but he was defeated by Hefei’s defending commanders and forced to retreat. Hearing of his flight, He Qi led three thousand men to meet up with Sun Quan and gave Quan cover as he retreated back to his headquarters. Quan later summoned He Qi and the rest of the southern officers to a banquet, at which Qi said on behalf of all the commanders ,”Your honour is a ruler of men, and you should always be most carefully guarded. In the action today, when you almost suffered misfortune, your servants were frightened and afraid as if Heaven and Earth might fall to ruin. We beg that you take this as the warning for a lifetime.”

Sun Quan reassured He Qi, “I am grateful and ashamed. I have now engraved caution upon my heart, and it is not just a note on my girdle.”

Sun Quan then ordered a retreat back to southern territory, and He Qi returned to Kuaiji.

In AD 216, You Tu of Poyang rose in rebellion, (3) leading a band of local people that gained support both inside his own territory and in part of Danyang. He Qi, together with commander Lu Xun, attacked and defeated You Tu and recruited eight thousand of his soldiers into the southern army.

3: Cao Cao had sent You Tu a seal and ribbon to encourage him to rebel against the Southland. Had he not, the uprising most likely wouldn’t have occurred.

Growing up, He Qi had always been fascinated by military affairs, and through his career in the Southland, he developed a very extravagant way of dressing. His weapons and armour were always of the highest standard, and whenever he held command over a naval force, he would have the ships engraved with red chasing among other such lavish decorations, while the green hides which covered the ships would look as mountains from afar.

In AD 223, He Qi attacked an outpost of Wei in Qichun. (4) In the ensuing battle, Qi was able to defeat the northerners and eliminated the outpost, as well as capturing its defending commander, Jin Zong. Four years after the campaign, in AD 227, He Qi died of natural causes and his son Da, as well as his brother Jing, received his rank.

4: Although not mentioned in his SGZ biography, the attack on Qichun was one of the few campaigns Mi Fang participated in whilst serving Wu. Fang served as a subordinate to He Qi in the expedition, but whether he achieved any outstanding merit or not is unknown.

One would naturally observe that it is quite odd that He Qi, who was a leading military figure in the Southland, should be completely excluded from mention in Luo Guanzhong’s Sanguo yanyi. The reasons for such could be based around Wu’s more passive role in the novel, but on a larger scale, and in direct relation to that, it is most likely due to the nature of He Qi’s achievements. Though impressive, Qi’s accomplishments often centred around expansion of territory and the control of independent peoples outside the effective control of the Han dynasty and, in extension, that of Shu and Wei. Few of He Qi’s accomplishments truly relate to the struggle between the three kingdoms, and those that do are so minor, at least on a larger scale, that they warrant little attention in the style Luo Guanzhong writes SGYY. Despite this, He Qi was a leading figure in the Southland’s expansion in the southeast, more so than any other officer in Wu, and for these reason, Qi was revered as one of the south’s most capable commanders.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest. All Rights Reserved.
Primary Sources: Rafe de Crespigny’s Generals of the South Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s Commenary The Book of Ge Hong