Fei Yi

Fei Yi
Politician and regent of Shu Han
Born (Unknown)
Died 253
Traditional Chinese 費禕
Simplified Chinese 费祎
Pinyin Fèi Yī
Wade–Giles Fei I
Courtesy name Wenwei (traditional Chinese: 文偉; simplified Chinese: 文伟; pinyin: Wénwěi; Wade–Giles: Wen-wei)
Posthumous name Marquis Jing (Chinese: 敬侯; pinyin: Jìng Hóu; Wade–Giles: Ching Hou)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Fei.

Fei Yi (died 253), courtesy name Wenwei, was a politician and regent of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He succeeded Jiang Wan as the Shu regent and avoided a major expedition against Shu's rival state Cao Wei. Like his two predecessors Zhuge Liang and Jiang Wan, Fei was considered extremely talented, his regency focused more on a prosperous domestic policy and overall defensive foreign policy. It remains dubious if the Wei government did send an assassin to kill Fei Yi, but the latter was indeed murdered by Guo Xun, a former Wei subject. Fei's successor, Jiang Wei was only given control over military affairs, where civil affairs were dominated first by Zhuge Liang's son Zhuge Zhan and then the emperor's favorite eunuch Huang Hao.

Early career

Fei Yi was from Jiangxia Commandery (in present-day eastern Hubei). His father died when he was still young and he was raised by his distant relative Fei Boren (費伯仁), who was a cousin of the warlord Liu Zhang, who controlled Yi Province (present-day Sichuan and Chongqing). Sometime around 211, Liu Zhang sent messengers to escort Fei Boren to his domain, and Fei Yi joined the former as a foreign student in Yi Province.[1] Fei remained in Yi Province after Liu Bei conquered it in 214. He was comparable with Xu Shulong (許叔龍) and Dong Yun, who were his close friends and scholars in Sichuan.

After Liu Bei declared himself emperor in 221 and made Liu Shan crown prince, both Fei and Dong became Liu Shan's servants. When Liu Shan succeeded to the throne in 223, Fei was only made Imperial servant of the Yellow Gate, despite his intimate relation with the new emperor. When regent Zhuge Liang returned from his southern subjugation, many officials offered several tens of li to buy him off; however, Zhuge asked Fei, rather than any of those with higher posts, to take a ride with him. Zhuge's action surprised many, and they changed their opinion of Fei because of it.[2]

During Zhuge Liang's regency

It is not clear how Zhuge Liang got to know Fei Yi's abilities, but by the time the former returned from the south and acquired military supremacy, he had arranged a series of reallocations of resources, and Fei, who was among those Zhuge repeatedly announced "most capable of the officials," was assigned important tasks.

As an ambassador

Following the reestablishment of the Wu-Shu alliance, Fei Yi served as an ambassador to Eastern Wu. It is said in his personal biography, Records of the Three Kingdoms, that Fei did not back down when debating with Wu scholars (the biography does not give details). However, several other biographies point out that Fei was largely ridiculed during his mission. According to Dong Yun's biography, the Wu emperor, Sun Quan, once asked a rude but critical question during a banquet. Said to have been drunk, Sun said," Yang Yi and Wei Yan, although somehow contributed to Shu, were problematic, if Zhuge Liang dies, they'll cause mischief! Are you guys fools not to prepare for the succession?" Fei was not able to answer, and kept looking around for help. Dong Hui then told Fei to answer that Yang and Wei fought against each other due to a personal feud and neither possessed great ambition; in light of the current situation, it would not be wise to not use them. Sun Quan laughed at Fei.[3] In a log from the note in Zhuge Luo's biography, the facetious Sun Quan once made a joke on Fei by telling his Wu officials to continue eating when Fei entered the vestibule. Seeing that, Fei said, "when a lion arrives, a cub will spit its food from its mouth. Now the donkeys are ignorant, so they keep on eating." Zhuge Luo promptly replied from his seat, "we planted mallows to wait for a phoenix to glide upon, but where comes a small bird instead? Why don't we spring him and send him back to where he belongs?" Fei stopped eating the cake in his mouth, and requested a pen (brush), while Zhuge also asked the same. They each wrote a poem, and admired each other's work.[4] Nevertheless, Sun Quan apparently liked this Shu diplomat much; he openly praised Fei's talents on numerous occasions. When Fei finally needed to go back to Shu, Sun gave him his personal sword and said, "you are a pure person, and will be used by Zhuge, I bet you will not be able to come visit me often in the future." Fei sincerely accepted Sun's gift, and encouraged the latter to assist the Han court with him.[5]

As a trusted aide of Zhuge Liang

After Fei's repatriation, he received a promotion and resumed his work in the palace agency. At the recommendation of Zhuge Liang, Fei's power in the palace became influential, as Zhuge asked Liu Shan that Fei and his comrades be consulted on all decisions, large and small.[6] When Zhuge went to Hanzhong and rearranged Wei Yan's area of responsibility, Fei was asked to go to the front-line as Zhuge's Military Adviser to handle conflict between Wei Yan and Yang Yi. It was said that Wei would flash his saber in front of Yang during a debate, and Yang would fearfully weep.[7] Then Fei Yi would come in between and reconcile them. Fei was thus credited for keeping them working together. However, he was ultimately unsuccessful in trying to prevent them from boiling into an open armed conflict after Zhuge's death in 234 (which resulted in Wei's death).

When Zhuge Liang became ill during his final campaign against Cao Wei on Wuzhang Plains, Liu Shan sent messengers to inquire as to who should succeed him. Zhuge recommended Jiang Wan as his successor, and Fei as Jiang Wan's successor. After Zhuge's death later that year, a dispute on whether to abort the campaign followed. Wei Yan, who was assigned area responsibility over Liang Province, assumed his autonomous authority to urge continuing the battle, while the majority agreed with Yang Yi's view to retreat. Fei picked Yang Yi's side and went to Wei Yan's tent to observe the latter. Wei, arguing that the death of one individual should not interfere with their ultimate goal of restoring the Han, forced Fei to help him reorganize the army for the expedition. Fei tricked Wei by saying "I'll go explain the issue to Yang. He is just a civil officer inept at war, and will not defy your order."[8] Wei let Fei go, but regretted on second thought; however, Fei galloped out of his camp and could not be caught. Both Wei and Yang sent letters to the Emperor in accusation against each other, and at the end, Wang Ping and Ma Dai killed Wei Yan, ending the turmoil. After the commotion, Jiang Wan formally succeeded Zhuge as the new regent, and Fei was soon made his chief assistant.

During Jiang Wan's regency

As the chief assistant to the regent Jiang Wan, Fei Yi handled mostly domestic matters. He was described as so quick in his comprehension and decisions that he only needed mornings to carry out his duties, and he spent the afternoons entertaining guests. He was particularly skilful at playing Go. When Dong Yun succeeded him, he tried to follow Fei's schedule, but after several days, the paperwork quickly backlogged, forcing him to work all day. Dong thus became amazed at Fei's amazing abilities.

Jiang Wan was often in ill-health, and in 243 he moved the armies to Fu County from Hanzhong. He consequently transferred his military authority to Fei and civil responsibility to Dong Yun, while remaining regent. In 244, when Cao Wei's regent Cao Shuang attacked the less-guarded Hanzhong, Fei was granted the staff of authority as a commander, and was urged to go the front-line. Lai Min (來敏), visited Fei and invited the latter for a game of Go. Despite the urgency, Fei played the game, and was so engrossed in it that he showed no sign of concern with the military. Lai Min suddenly said, “I was just testing your reaction! You are indeed a trustworthy man and the one who can crush the invaders!” Since Cao Shuang made a serious strategic error, the Wei suffered a major defeat, and retreated as soon as Fei arrived on the field. The victory over Cao-Wei further increased Fei's fame, and after Jiang Wan's death in 245, Fei became regent.


One near-immediate task that Fei faced was finding a chief assistant for himself, as Dong Yun, who had been serving in that role since 243, died soon after Jiang Wan's death. He decided on the general Jiang Wei. However, as both he and Jiang Wei were largely involved with military matters, the domestic matters soon apparently fell into the hands of Huang Hao, a eunuch described as treacherous and corrupt, but who was trusted by Liu Shan. The effective administration that Zhuge Liang had created and Jiang Wan had continued began to deteriorate, although the key effects would not be visible during Fei Yi's regency.

As regent, Fei Yi was not as non-aggressive militarily as Jiang Wan, but he did not resume the full-scale military confrontations that Zhuge Liang had advocated and carried out. He had Jiang Wei harass Cao Wei's borders with periodic attacks, but never authorized an all-out assault. Jiang Wei persistently pushed for a revival of Zhuge's plan and requested more troops, but Fei followed Zhuge's treatment of Wei Yan and only assigned 10,000 men to Jiang. During one intrusion into the territory of Wei in 250, Jiang Wei brought back Guo Xun (郭循), who submitted to Jiang and entered Shu-Han politics. From a note in Jiang Wei's biography in the Records of Three Kingdoms, it is stated that "Jiang Wei possessed a group of assassins in secrecy," but it is not clear if Guo was one of Jiang's assassins.

One major characteristic that Fei Yi was known and admired for was his easy-going nature. That might, however, have caused his death. As he was hosting a feast at his mansion for key officials, one of the guests was the aforementioned Guo Xun, who took the opportunity to assassinate Fei Yi during the meeting. The historian Yu Xi (虞喜) commented, "Fei Yi was so open and honest and so unworried about others, and he was eventually assassinated by Guo Xun, a surrendered man. Is it not that his fault came from his virtues?" Fei Yi was given the posthumous name "Jing" (敬侯, literally, "alert" or "honorable").

Appointments and titles held

See also


  1. (璋遣使迎仁,仁將禕遊學入蜀。) Sanguozhi vol. 44.
  2. (丞相亮南征還,群僚於數十里逢迎,年位多在禕右,而亮特命禕同載,由是眾人莫不易觀。) Sanguozhi vol. 44.
  3. (孫權嘗大醉問禕曰:「楊儀、魏延,牧豎小人也。雖嘗有鳴吠之益於時務,然既已任之,勢不得輕,若一朝無諸葛亮,必為禍亂矣。諸君憒憒,曾不知防慮於此,豈所謂貽厥孫謀乎?」禕愕然四顧視,不能即答。恢目禕曰:「可速言儀、延之不協起於私忿耳,而無黥、韓難御之心也。今方掃除強賊,混一區夏,功以才成,業由才廣,若捨此不任,防其後患,是猶備有風波而逆廢舟楫,非長計也。」權大笑樂。) Sanguozhi vol. 39.
  4. (权尝飨蜀使费祎,先逆群臣曰:‘使至,伏食勿起。’祎至,权为辍食,而群下不起,祎啁之曰:‘凤凰来翔,骐驎吐哺,驴骡无知,伏食如故。’恪答曰:‘爰植梧桐,以待凤凰,有何燕雀,自称来翔?何不弹射,使还故乡!’祎停食饼,索笔作麦赋,恪亦请笔作磨赋,咸称善焉。) Ke Biezhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 64.
  5. (祎别传曰:权乃以手中常所执宝刀赠之,祎答曰:“臣以不才,何以堪明命?然刀所以讨不庭、禁暴乱者也,但愿大王勉建功业,同奖汉室,臣虽闇弱,终不负东顾。”) Yi Biezhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 44.
  6. (宮中府中俱為一體,陟罰臧否,不宜異同。若有作奸犯科及為忠善者,宜付有司論其刑賞,以昭陛下平明之理,不宜偏私,使內外異法也。侍中、侍郎郭攸之、費禕、董允等,此皆良實,志慮忠純,是以先帝簡拔以遺陛下。愚以為宮中之事,事無大小,悉以咨之,然後施行,必能裨補闕漏,有所廣益。) Sanguozhi vol. 35.
  7. (每至並坐爭論,延或舉刀擬儀,儀泣涕橫集。) Sanguozhi vol. 44.
  8. (禕紿延曰:「當為君還解楊長史,長史文吏,稀更軍事,必不違命也。」禕出門馳馬而去,延尋悔,追之已不及矣。) Sanguozhi vol. 44.
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