Biography (SGZ): Bu Zhi (Zishan)

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Bu Zhi (Zishan)
步騭 (子山)
Lived: ?–248

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Lady Wu

Bu Zhi, styled Zishan, hails from Huaiyin in Linhuai (1). When the world was overcome with calamities, he sought refuge in the Southlands. Being all alone and broke, he befriended Wei Jing of Guangling, who was of the same age as him. Together they made a living by growing melons. In the daytime they laboured; at night they studied the classics (2).

1: History of Wu: In the state of Jin [of the Spring and Autumn Period] there was a high officer, Yang Shi, who was given a fief at Bu. Afterwards, there was one Bu Shu, who was one of Confucius’ seventy students. One of his descendents was a general during the Qin and Han times, and was made Marquis of Huaiyin for his achievements. Bu Zhi was his descendent.
2: History of Wu: Bu Zhi studied all the arts in depth, and there was nothing in which he was not well-versed. By character he was kind, eloquent, and reserved; he was able to humble himself in order to survive in an adverse situation.

There was one Jiao Zhengqiang in Kuaiji, who headed a powerful clan in the commandery (3). His retainers were unrestrained in their conduct. Bu Zhi and Wei Jing, who were farming on Jiao’s lands, feared that they would be attacked by those retainers. So they brought a cover letter and a gift of melons to Zhengqiang, only to find him napping inside. Bu Zhi and Wei Jing waited by the door for a long time, and Wei Jing was ready to leave. Bu Zhi stopped him, saying, “The original reason for us coming here was because we fear his power. If we leave now out of pride, we would cause animosity.” After a long while, Zhengqiang finally opened his window and saw them. While still leaning on a low table behind a gauze screen, he had mats brought for Bu Zhi and Wei Jing to sit on the ground outside. Wei Jing became more and more contemptuous of him, while Bu Zhi remained calm in his words and his facial expression. Zhengqiang then had food brought. He himself enjoyed a large tray of fine foods, meats and grains, while Bu Zhi and Wei Jing were given just a small bowl of rice and some vegetables. Wei Jing could not bring himself to eating. Bu Zhi, on the other hand, enjoyed the meal thoroughly before bidding farewell. After they left, Wei Jing said to Bu Zhi angrily, “How can you tolerate this?” Bu Zhi said, “We are only poor people. The host thus treated us as poor people. This is just how things go; why should we feel that we were shamed?” (4)

3: Zhengqiang’s personal name was Qiao. He had once served as Prefect of Zhengqiang.
4: Wei Jing, styled Ziqi, eventually served as an Imperial Secretary.

When Sun Quan became General who Attacks the Caitiffs, he summoned Bu Zhi to him to serve as a secretary (5). Later, Bu Zhi was sent out to be Chief of Haiyan, and after a while he was recalled to the capital to be Chief Officer of the Eastern Department of the General of the Chariots and Cavalry (6). In the 15th year of Jian’an [AD 210], he was sent out again to be designated Grand Administrator of Poyang. In the middle of the year, he was reassigned to be Inspector of Jiaozhou and General of the Interior who Establishes Might. He led a thousand archers and officers and took the road south. In the following year, he was further granted the shichijie privileges (I) and the title of General of the Interior who Conquers the South. At that time, Liu Biao’s appointed Grand Administrator fo Cangwu, Wu Ju, harboured seditious thoughts, and though he appeared cooperative on the outside he was secretly planning trouble. And so Bu Zhi condescended and befriended him, and invited him to a meeting. At the meeting, he beheaded Wu Ju in front of all, and as a result Bu Zhi’s name struck awe in the hearts of all. Shi Xie and his brothers led their men to proclaim fealty [to the Wu court]. This marks the beginning of the submission of the south. Yong Kai, from a powerful clan in Yizhou, and others killed the Shu-appointed Grand Administrator Zheng Ang, and coordinated with Shi Xie in order to defect [to Wu]. Bu Zhi thus followed the appropriate customs and sent envoys to proclaim amnesty and welcome. For that, he was given the additional title of General who Pacifies the Barbarians, and granted the title of Marquis of Guangxin.

5: History of Wu: After a year or so, Bu Zhi quit the position due to illness. He then went with Zhuge Jin of Langya and Yan Jun of Pengcheng to travel around the Wu areas. Together they made a good name for themselves, and were considered among the most talented men of the times.
6: History of Wu: When Sun Quan was Governor of Xuzhou, he made Bu Zhi Assistant to the Provincial Governor, and recommended him as a “Flourishing Talent”.
I: Shichijie: An officer (usually ranked at Provincial Inspector and up) granted shichijie is allowed to execute officers below the 2’000 shi rank (middle to lower rank officers; a shi is a measurement of salary) without approval from the throne.

In the first year of the Yankang reign [AD 220], Sun Quan sent Lü Dai to replace Bu Zhi, and Bu Zhi took ten thousand volunteer troops from Jiaozhou with him and left, going through Changsha. Right then, Liu Bei was marching eastward, and the barbarians of Wuling were rising in rebellion. Sun Quan thus ordered Bu Zhi to go towards Yiyang. After Liu Bei’s defeat, the commanderies around Lingling and Guiyang were all in turmoil, setting up blockades against [the Wu troops] everywhere. Bu Zhi thus went around to quell the uprisings. In the second year of the Huangwu reign [AD 244], Bu Zhi was transferred to be the Left Protector of the Army of the General of the Right, and made Marquis of Linxiang. In the 5th year [AD 226], Bu Zhi was granted jiajie (II) and transferred to be stationed at Oukou.

II: jiajie: An officer granted jiajie is allowed to execute violators of military law, without prior approval from the throne.

When Sun Quan declared himself emperor, he made Bu Zhi General of the Elite Cavalry and designated Governor of Jizhou. In the same year, Bu Zhi served as Chief Controller of Xiling, and pacified the area in Lu Xun’s stead. Later on, Jizhou was given to be Shu’s part of the realm (III), so Bu Zhi was relieved of his position as Governor there. Around that time, the Crown Prince Sun Deng was stationed at Wuchang; he was kind to people and loved goodness. He wrote to Bu Zhi, “Men of wisdom and good character are needed to promote and illustrate the great virtues, and to assist in the administration of the kingdom. Unfortunately, I am dim and ignorant, and do not understand the ways of the world. Though I do sincerely wish to exert myself in the propagation of the proper ways and in honouring the wise, I do not know the details about the scholars of the realm—who should I associate with first? Who should I meet last? I worry that my understanding is too far away from reality. The classics say, ‘If you love him, can you not make him labour? If you are loyal to him, can you not admonish him?’ The meaning of that illustrates my hope to get to know the true gentlemen!” And so Bu Zhi listed the names of eleven people who were serving in the Jingzhou area at that time—Zhuge Jin, Lu Xun, Zhu Ran, Cheng Pu, Pan Jun, Pei Xuan, Xiahou Cheng, Wei Jing, Li Su (7), Zhou Tiu, and Shi Gan—and evaluated each man’s achievements. He sent that along with a petition admonishing [Sun Deng] saying, “Your servant has heard that a ruler of men does not concern himself with minor matters, but trust his ministers and relevant offices to perform their tasks. In the past, King Shun employed the nine wise men [to rule the realm], and so he did not have to trouble himself with anything but was able to play his five-stringed zither and sing the Nanfeng song. He did not need to leave his halls and yet the realm was well-governed. When Duke Huan of Qi employed Guan Zhong, he himself was able to travel around in a carriage enjoying himself, while at the same time the state of Qi was orderly and respected by all other states. In more recent times, the High Progenitor of Han (IV) attracted the three heroes (V) to himself and thus was able to build an empire, while the King of West Chu (VI) lost talented supporters and thus success eluded him. When Ji An (VII) served in the court, the Prince of Huainan ceased his seditious thoughts; when Zhi Du (VIII) guarded the borders, the Xiongnu dared not show their face. Therefore, wherever there is one wise man present, enemies within ten thousand li bow down in submission. Truly they are the chief tools of the kingdom and the basis of its rise and fall. As of this time, the majesty of our kingdom has still not been announced to the lands north of the Han River; seditious and treacherous men still roam at large by the banks of theYellow River and the Luo River. This is truly the time to bring heroic men to yourself and to promote talented and virtuous people. I beseech Your Highness to take this seriously in order to gladden the hearts of your subjects.”

III: See Chen Zhen’s SGZ biography for the details of the Shu-Wu agreement in the dividing up of China.
7: History of Wu: Li Su, styled Weigong, was a man from Nanyang. In his youth he was famous for his talents. He was also talented at evaluating people, and was accurate in his accessments of people’s qualities. He would identify those of uncommon talents and make note of them in order to recommend them [to office]. He made his lists according to particular virtues, and all the items he listed them by were organized properly. Because of this, everyone acknowledged his accessments. Sun Quan recruited him to be Chief Secretary of the Human Resources Department, and each of Li Su’s nominees were said to be true talents acquired [for the state]. He requested to serve as an external officer, and so he was sent to be Grand Administrator of Guiyang. Officer and commoner alike held him in high honour. Later he was summoned back to the court as an advisor. When he died, both those who knew him personal and those who didn’t mourned for him greatly.
IV: The High Progenitor of Han is Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han.
V: That is, the strategist Zhang Liang, the commander Han Xin, and the statesman Xiao He.
VI: The King of West Chu is Xiang Yu, Liu Bang’s archenemy.
VII: Ji An: an upright minister in the court of Emperor Wu of Han. Chapter 120 of the Shiji [Records of the Grand Historian] says, “When the Prince of Huainan planned a rebellion, he was fearful of Ji An, and said of him, ‘He is direct and outspoken in his admonishments, and would fight to his death for justice and righteousness. It is difficult to sidetrack him by falsehoods.’”
VIII: Zhi Du: A minister under Emperor Jing of the Western Han. Famous for his ability to stand up to corrupt officers and maintaining discipline, he was feared by the Xiongnu when he was stationed in the north. The Xiongnu thus spread rumours against him, and so the Empress Dou, who had borne a grudge against Zhi Du, had him executed. Soon after Zhi’s death, the Xiongnu launched a major attack towards the Han heartland.

Some time after that, Lü Yi, Interior Secretary, was in charge of processing documents and petitions, and he incriminated many [officers]. Bu Zhi submitted a memorial, saying, “Your humble servant has heard that the censors have been unduly nitpicky and going out of their way to find fault with others, making cases sound more serious than they are and defaming people. They are constantly incriminating others for the purpose of securing their own power. Men innocent of all crimes or blemishes are severely punished without reason, causing the commoners who try hard to eke out a living between heaven and earth to tremble in fear. In the past, officers are chosen to manage judicial affairs based on their wisdom. When Gao Yao (IX) served as judicial officer, or when Lü Hou codified fining (X), or when Zhang and Yu were Commandants of Justice (XI), no innocent man was convicted. The reigns in which these ministers served prospered because of their actions. In comparison, those petty men in government office these days behave not as the ancients: taking bribes and framing innocent people, they regard human life lightly. Furthermore, they blame the consequences on their superiors and cause the populace to resent the court. As it is, one man’s words can destroy the foundation of proper government. Is this not most despicable?

“Illustrating the good virtues and taking care in giving out punishments, employing only men of wisdom to administer the law—these are the things praised in historical records. At this time, Your Majesty should consult Gu Yong for the cases in the capital, and Lu Xun and Pan Jun for the cases in Wuchang for the investigation of the truth behind those implicated; do it calmly and fairly, with a dedicated mind, focussing on nothing but on finding out the truth. Since I am saying these words honest to the gods above, I would not regret even should I be incriminated for saying this.”

IX: Gao Yao was put in charge of all judicial affairs under the Sage King Shun’s reign.
X: Lü Hou: Chief Judge under King Mu of the Western Zhou, who was commissioned to compile a new code of laws for saving the failing dynasty. “Lü’s Code” was the first to allow fining to replace other punishments, such as corporal punishment, exile, or execution.
XI: Zhang Shizhi served as Commandant of Justice during Emperor Wen of Han’s reign, and Yu Dingguo held the same position during the reigns of Emperors Zhao and Xuan. Commandant of Justice was the highest rank in the judicial branch of the Western Han government. Both men were praised by the people for their complete fairness and their ability to discern the innocent from the guilty.

He also wrote, “The Son of Heaven has Heaven as his father and the Earth as his mother, and so those he employs in the palace and the courts are linked to the constellations of the sky. When [the Son of Heaven] issues edicts that are in harmony with the natural seasons, and employ the right people in office, then yin and yang would be in balance and the seven planets follow their natural course. However, in rececnt times, there are many faults in the offices, and even though there are trustworthy ministers, they are not trusted. How, then, can the natural environment not fall into chaos? This is the reason why we have had droughts for year after year—a result of an excess of the yang. Also, there were earthquakes on the fourteenth day of the fifth month of the sixth year in the Jiahe reign [June 24th, AD 237] and on the first and twenty-seventh days of the first month in the second year of the Chiwu reign [February 21st and March 19th, AD 238]. The Earth is associated with yin, and is the representation of ministers. When there is an excess of yin energy, the earth shakes. This is due to the fact that ministers are over-asserting their power in the court. Natural phenomena are warnings to he who rules over men, and must not be considered lightly!”

He then wrote, “Prime Minister Gu Yong, Commander-in-Chief Lu Xun, and Grand Master of Ceremonies Pan Jun have great foresight, and are grave, responsible people. Their only aspiration is to exert themselves in loyalty. They worry [about the kingdom] all night long, and find no peace in sleep or meals—all because their minds are always on bringing order to the realm and benefiting the people, and on drawing up long-term plans for our nation. These men can be said to be the trusted performers of your will and the ministers on whom the nation relies. It is advisable to let them perform their tasks without having other officers censoring their offices, criticizing their efficiency, or evaluating their accomplishments or failures. Even if these three ministers perchance neglect certain things, they would never dare to abuse their power to try to cheat their emperor.”

He then wrote, “If we advertise reward to acknowledge the good, establish punishments for the wicked, employ the wise to use their abilities, and carry out justice according to the laws—then how could there be any task where we will not succeed, or any affair that we cannot put in order? Would there then be anything that we will not hear when we listen, or perceive when we look? If each commandery of a hundred square li can employ the right people to support each order in upholding the good government of the kingdom, would it even be possible for the administration to be poorly run? I have heard that currently, each prefectural office has its own appointed staff [in addition to the regular staff]. This causes an excess of bureaucrats, which is a nuisance to the commoners. The customs of the land are corrupted by this. Furthermore, petty men, granted with imperial powers, seek not to serve the country but only to abuse their power. Not only do they hinder you from hearing and seeing the truth, they are furthermore an evil to the populace. My humble opinion is that they should all be removed from power.” Sun Quan then understood [the severity of the situation], and had Lü Yi executed. All through this affair, Bu Zhi made many recommendations to rehabilitate those affected, and to save those who were victimized. He submitted scores of letters to Sun Quan. Though Sun Quan did not listen to all his recommendations, he did accept his advice at times, and many people were saved by Bu Zhi (8).

8: Records of Wu: Bu Zhi had once submitted a petition saying, “Wang Qian and other defectors from the north said that the northern troops were planning to attack eastward. They were making many cloth bags in order to fill them with sand, dam up the River, and send a mighty force towards Jingzhou. If we don’t prepare against that now, we wouldn’t be able to deal with them should their plan is carried out. We ought to be on our guard.” Sun Quan said, “This Cao in power [Cao Rui] is weak and degenerate. How can he have such designs? I bet that he would not dare to come. If I am wrong, I will have a thousand bullocks slaughtered and throw a feast in your name.” In later times, he told Lü Fan and Zhuge Ke about what Bu Zhi had said, “Everytime I read Bu Zhi’s petition, I couldn’t stop laughing. This River has existed ever since the beginning of time—how can anyone fill it up with sandbags?”

In the 9th year of Chiwu [AD 246], he took Lu Xun’s place as Prime Minister. He still took in students, and was never found without a book in his hands. His attire and household decorations were those of a scholar’s. However, in his inner halls, his wives and concubines were dressed lavishly, and he was ridiculed quite a bit for that. He was stationed in Xiling for twenty years, during which time the neighbouring enemies grew to respect his character. By nature Bu Zhi was generous and kind, and able to win people’s hearts. He hid his emotions under a calm exterior, but carried himself with a serious and respectful air whatever he was doing.

He died in the 11th year [AD 248], and his son Bu Xie was heir. Xie resumed his father’s military command, and was promoted to General who Consoles the Army. After Bu Xie’s death, Bu Ji, his son, inherited his marquisate. Bu Xie’s younger brother Bu Chan continued as Controller of Xiling, and was promoted to General who Manifests Might and given the noble title of Marquis of Xiting. In the first year of the Fenghuang reign [AD 272], he was summoned back to the court to be Controller of the Imperial Guard. Since Bu Chan’s family had lived in Xiling for generations, he feared that this sudden recall implied that he had not performed his duties well. Fearing as well that he would be slandered against, he surrendered his city to Jin. He then sent Bu Ji and his younger brother Bu Xuan to report to Luoyang. The Jin court had Bu Chan control all military affairs of Xiling, and made him General of the Guards, and allowed him the honours of the Three Lords. He was also made an Honorary Palace Attendant, given the jiajie privileges to be designated Governor of Jiaozhou, and granted the noble title of Duke of Yidu. Bu Ji was to inspect all military affairs of Jiangling, and was made General of the Left, Attendant of the Imperial Entourage, and designated Grand Administrator of Luling. He was transferred to be Marquis of Jiangling. Bu Xuan was made a Secretary of the Imperial Offices, General who Illustrates Majesty, and was granted the title of Marquis of Duxiang. The Jin court then ordered Yang Hu, General of the Chariots and Cavalry, and Yang Zhao, Inspector of Jingzhou, to go to Bu Chan’s aid. Sun Hao had Lu Kang march west [to engage them]. Yang Hu and his company retreated, and Lu Kang was able to take the city and behead Bu Chan and his familiy. The line of the Bu’s was thus destroyed; only Bu Xuan’s line remained.

Copyright © 2004 Lady Wu. All Rights Reserved.
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s Commentary