Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by
Place of Birth: Wen County, Henei Prefecture (Presently Wen County
in Henan Province)
Lifespan: AD 179 – 251 (73 Years)
Titles: Great Commander-in-Chief Who Pacifies the West, Grand Preceptor, Prime Minister, King Wen
Family: Sima Fang (father), Sima Juan (grandfather), Sima Fu, Sima Lang (brothers), Sima Shi, Sima Zhao (sons), Sima Yan, Sima You (grandsons), Sima Wang (nephew) (1)
Sima Yi began his career as Secretary of Literature under Lord Cao after the pacification of the north. Zhongda’s first military assigned was against Zhang Lu in Hanzhong. Sima Yi’s strategies were a success and Lord Cao was greatly impressed. Sima Yi advised Lord Cao to press the attack further into Yi Zhou before giving time to Liu Bei establish himself, however Lord Cao wanted to rest the troops and did not advance.
Cao Pi had a great trust in Sima Yi, appointed him Chief of the Secretariat and titled him Lord of Hejin Precinct. Later in his career, Zhongda was appointed as Senior Assistant to the Prime Minister (2).
In the last year or Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 220), after the death of Lord Cao, his son Cao Pi took his place and wanted to force Emperor Xian to abdicate the throne. When the letter of Emperor Xian regarding the abdication came, Zhongda advised Cao Pi to reject the first offer to silence the murmurings of the people. Cao Pi took this advice and rejected the seal of rule three times before becoming the Wei Emperor.
When Cao Pi’s son Cao Rui succeeded the throne, Sima Yi was appointed as Great General of the Flying Cavalry, and was in charge of defending Xiliang district. By a plot of Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi was later dismissed from his office.
Without Sima Yi however, Cao Rui and Cao Zhen suffered many losses against Zhuge Liang and his officers. Thus Cao Rui appointed Sima Yi as Great Commander-in-Chief Who Pacifies the West.
Zhongda’s talents as military strategist and his able leadership prevented Zhuge Liang from gaining the upper hand in the battles between Wei and Shu. In the second year of Beginning Prospects (AD 238), Zhongda put down the rebellion of Gongsun Yuan and was promoted to Grand Commandant.
When Cao Fang succeeded the throne, Sima Yi was appointed as Grand Preceptor; however he lost the control of the military to the regent of the Emperor, Cao Shuang, the son of Cao Zhen.
In the first year of Joyous Stability (AD 249), Sima Yi decided that the reign of the weak Wei Emperors needed to stop and pulled off a Coup d’etat. In the process, Cao Shuang and his sympathizers were put to death.
Henceforth, Sima Yi was appointed as Prime Minister and received the Nine Dignities from Cao Fang. Sima Yi placed his sons Zhao and Shi in high positions and took away power or killed anyone who still supported the Cao Family.
In the third year of Joyous Stability (AD 251), Zhongda eradicated Wang Ling who usurped against his authority. In the same year, Sima Yi died of natural causes at the age of seventy-two. When his grandson Sima Yan united the land and established the Jin Dynasty, Sima Yi was posthumously titled King Wen.
Copyright © 2002 – 2003
A Kongming’s Archives Exclusive Production
Major Sources: Beifangshi - Han/Ming Professor E.Lin (1982 Beijing)