Shi Xie 士燮 was an independant warlord in the southern Han territories in what is now Vietnam who was active from approximately 187 A.D. until his death in 226 A.D. He was frequently invovled in the affairs of Wu and Shu.


Shi Xie was born in 137 A.D. within the family stronghold in Cangwu Commandery. As a young man he was sent to the imperial capital of Luoyang to study and train for an official career. The Records of Three Kingdoms report that he excelled in his studies in the Spring and Autumn Annals and Zuo’s Commentaries under the tutelage of Liu Ziqi. Thanks to family support Shi Xie became Cangwu’s xiaolian (Filially Pious and Incorrupt) candidate for civil office. Because of this he became a Gentleman Cadet of the Masters of Writing, in the Imperial Secretariat. For unknown reasons Shi Xie served out his probationary period as a Gentleman Cadet, but rather than take office in the Secretariat he resigned and returned to Jiao Province.[1]

When Shi Ci died family connections made Shi Xie the Jiao Province maocai (Flourishing Talent) candidate to the Ministry of the Imperial Household. This high level candidacy put Shi Xie into a position to receive high office, which he did on two occasions: First as Prefect of Wu County in Jing Province near present day Wushan, Sichuan and then later through family connections as Grand Administrator of Jiaozhi Commandery in Jiao Province. This was about 187 A.D. according to the official records.[2]

The following year Ding Gong, who was Inspector of Jiao Province and a client of the Shi clan, was promoted to Excellency over the Masses, one of the Three Excellencies. Out of respect to the Shi clan when Ding left he took along Shi Yi, one of Shi Xie’s brothers, with him to Luoyang. In the imperial capital Ding Gong remained in office for only a year before resigning in disgust over the deterioration of the imperial government following the death of Emperor Ling. Shi Yi stayed behind to function as an assistant to the new Excellency over the Masses, Huang Wan. When Dong Zhuo seized power later that same year he and Huang Wan nearly came to blows, and Shi Yi resigned after Dong Zhuo deposed the young Emperor Shao and recreated the title Chancellor of State for himself in 190. [3]

Shi Yi’s return marked an important turning point for Shi Xie. His younger brother’s brief foray north proved to be a gauge of the stability of Han, and it did not bode well. Soon Dong Zhuo sent south a man named Zhu Fu to replace Ding Gong as Inspector of Jiao Province. In 181 the title had been held by Zhu Jun, who may have been the father of Zhu Fu and patron of the Sun clan. However the wider unrest had caused renewed agitation on the part of the Yi people who lived in the area. When Zhu Fu instituted a series of tyrannical laws, the Yi rose up and killed him.[4]

Shi Xie seized the opportunity to take total control of Jiao Province. He invested his brothers Shi Yi, Shi Wei, and Shi Wu as Grand Administrator of the commanderies of Hepu, Jiuzhen, and Nanhai respectively. The remaining three commanderies of Jiao Province, Cangwu, Rinan, and Yulin were either firmly under Shi clan control (Cangwu and Rinan) or simply didn’t care (Yulin). To legitimize this naked power grab Shi Xie sent memorials to the Imperial Court recommending his brothers to their posts, but with the chaos caused by Dong Zhuo’s rise and fall it went unnoticed and it was not until some years later that the Court recognized Shi Xie’s fait accompli as legitimate.[5] Meanwhile in 193 a native chieftain based in the area of present day Hue seized Xianglin County from the Rinan Commandery. This man, named Ou Lian by the Chinese, proclaimed his own independent kingdom called Linyi and is honored today by Vietnam and Cambodia as the forefather of the Kingdom of Champa.

Independence in JiaoEdit

Surprisingly Linyi would become Shi Xie’s only real substantial problem as Jiao’s relative isolation from the rest of the empire afforded him protection from the chaos of the north. This resulted in a massive emigration of scholars and men of learning from the northern provinces to the south. Both Jing Province under Liu Biao and Jiao Province became a refuge for these men, which resulted in a great intellectual flowering in the south. Shi Xie, a gentleman scholar first and foremost, was especially welcoming to this new climate. He moved the capital of Jiao Province from Panyu in Nanhai Commandery to Longbian in Jiaozhi on the delta of the Red River. From this spot the city became a major trading center, situated as it was to take advantage of the trade flowing too and from India and much of Southeast Asia. Longbian soon became a city of splendor and wealth, as well as a center of learning and scholarship. This was further augmented by the relative wealth of Panyu and Cangwu Commandery as trading centers as well as the excellent transportation system afforded by both Chinese civil construction and the natural waterways of the region.[6]

The various non-Chinese people who lived in Jiao Province held the Shi clan in such high regard that they regarded them as their own dynasty independent of the Han, not unlike the similar status afforded to the Zhao clan, which became the Trieu Dynasty. Much like Trieu Da/Zhao Tuo Shi Xie was called Si Nhiep by his subjects, or King Si. But unlike his predecessor, Shi Xie never did break away from the Han, even though his independence was basically an undeniable fact and his popularity was even greater then Zhao.

By the late 190s however Shi Xie had begun to gain attention from his northern neighbors. In 196 the "Little Conqueror" in Yang Province, Sun Ce, launched a punitive expedition to the mouth of the Min River and the counties of Dongye and Houguan.[7] Shi Xie was able to negotiate a favorable agreement with Sun Ce, and trade between the nascent Wu and Shi Xie’s regime began under pleasant circumstances. The interest by the rest of the empire in Jiao took off with the early death of Shi Wu in 200. With his youngest brother dead and his own children too young to accept office Shi Xie was forced to watch the loss of family authority over Nanhai Commandery and the port of Panyu.

In Xuchang, the imperial capital since Cao Cao seized control of the court in 196, this was taken as an opportunity to re-assert control over Jiao Province and the valuable sea trade it controlled. To this end Cao Cao sent the official Zhang Jin south to take control of Jiao Province as Inspector, later promoted up to Governor. But he never assumed the post for on the way south Zhang Jin chose to pick a fight with the Governor of Jing Province, Liu Biao. But before open hostilities could break out Zhang Jin was assassinated in 204 by one of his own staff, a general named Qu Jing. Some months later the Grand Administrator of Cangwu also died a loss of power that hit Shi Xie hard.

The sudden power vacuum seemed to awaken an ambitious side in Liu Biao who sent Lai Gong, the Grand Administrator of Lingling Commandery to take control of Jiao Province as Inspector and the minister Wu Qu to take office in Cangwu. This move alarmed both Shi Xie and Cao Cao, resulting in an alliance and an imperial edict naming Shi Xie General of the Gentlemen of the Household Who Comforts the South and authority over the entirety of Jiao Province, as well as confirmation of his title of Grand Administrator of Jiaozhi. In return Shi Xie began to send regular tribute to Xuchang, an action which resulted in an special edict further honoring Shi Xie as General who Tranquilizes the Outer Regions and enfeoffment as Marquis of Longdu. [8]

Chibi and BeyondEdit

The period from 205 to 208 was a busy one for Shi Xie as he had to balance the administration of Jiao Province with the threat of military confrontation with Lai Gong and Wu Qu.[9] The peace was kept, however unsteady, until death of Liu Biao. Following the governor’s passing and the battle for Jing, climaxing with the dramatic Chi Bi campaign, Wu Qu turned on Lai Gong and drove him back to Ling Ling. Two years later Wu Qu called for aid from the powerful Sun Quan, who had succeeded Sun Ce in 200 and became the most powerful man in the south. Sun Quan responded by dispatching the scholar Bu Zhi, the Grand Administrator of Poyang Commandery, to take up office as Inspector of Jiao Province. The move caught Shi Xie and his brothers’ off-guard but they decided to wait and see. When Bu Zhi acted decisively to execute Wu Qu, force his way through Gaoyao Pass, and take command over Nanhai and Cangwu the Shi clan decided to offer their submission.[10]

For his part Bu Zhi respected Shi Xie for his accomplishments as a scholar and as an independent warlord. He was also enough the realist to know that even weakened Shi Xie could be a powerful enemy in Jiao Province, and decided to leave him alone. A few years later in 215 Yong Kai, an official in Yi Province, killed his superior Zheng Ang, the Grand Administrator of Jianning, and rose in revolt. A letter requesting aid was then sent to Longbian. Amazingly Shi Xie did not take advantage of the letter, but simply forwarded it to Bu Zhi. Two years later he followed up on this by sending his son Shi Xin to Sun Quan as a hostage. Sun was suitably impressed and made Shi Xin the Grand Administrator of the new capital at Wuchang. He also gave all junior members of the Shi clan rank as General of the Gentlemen of the Household.[11]

In 220 the power arrangement in the south was changed. Following the series of events that resulted in the breakdown of the Liu-Sun Alliance over Jing Province Bu Zhi was recalled from his position to take part in the defense against Liu Bei. To replace him Sun Quan appointed his old friend and trusted general Lu Dai.[12] Unlike Bu Zhi before him, Lu Dai was not respectful of the power arrangement in Jiao Province and became confrontational in dealing with Shi Xie.[13] For his part Shi Xie continued to run Jiao Province much as he had before. In 223 following the death of Liu Bei in the aftermath of the battle of Yiling the new Shu Empire sent Zhang Yi (Junsi) south to take post as Grand Administrator of Yizhou Commandery. However Yong Kai took him hostage instead and sent the news to Shi Xie. The old scholar exchanged letters with Yong Kai and convinced him to align himself with Wu. Sun Quan was overjoyed and reconfirmed all honors bestowed on Shi Xie by the now dead Han Court as well giving him a promotion to General of the Guards and title as Marquis of Longbian. Shi Yi was also promoted to Lieutenant General and given title as Marquis of a Chief District.[14]

Sun Quan was much pleased with Shi Xie and continued to honor him despite Lu Dai’s agitations. Part of the reason for this was the yearly embassy that had been arranged by Bu Zhi in 210. In comparison to Jiao Province the lands of Wu were relatively poor, and Sun Quan had come to depend on the great wealth afforded to him by these embassies from the south, as well as the trade agreement arranged by Sun Ce.[15] In 226 Shi Xie died from old age and was honored both in his province and by Wu.


  1. Kongming (SGZ 49, Wu 4, Shi Xie)
  2. Kongming, GotS Ch. 5, pgs. 33-334
  3. Kongming
  4. GotS Ch. 5, pgs. 334-335, fn. 87
  5. Kongming, GotS Ch. 5, pg. 335
  6. Kongming, South China in the Han Period by Prof. de Crespigny
  7. GotS, Ch. 3, pg. 165 and Ch. 5, pg. 337
  8. Kongming, GotS, Ch. 5, pg. 338 and fns. 94 and 95
  9. Kongming, GotS Ch. 5, pgs. 338-339
  10. Kongming (SGZ 52, Wu 7, Bu Zhi), GotS Ch. 5, pg. 339
  11. Kongming
  12. Kongming
  13. GotS Ch. 7, pg. 19
  14. Kongming
  15. GotS Ch. 5, pgs. 340-342