Zhong Yao
Portrait of Zhong Yao in the Sancai Tuhui
Grand Tutor (太傅)
In office
January or February 227 (January or February 227) – April or May 230 (April or May 230)
MonarchCao Pi
Succeeded bySima Yi
Grand Commandant (太尉)
In office
23 September 223 (23 September 223) – January or February 227 (January or February 227)
MonarchCao Pi
Minister of Justice (廷尉)
In office
220 (220) – 23 September 223 (23 September 223)
MonarchCao Pi
Chancellor of State (相國)
(in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom)
In office
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Succeeded byHua Xin
Grand Judge (大理)
(in Cao Cao's vassal kingdom)
In office
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
ChancellorCao Cao
Personal details
Changge, Henan
DiedApril or May 230 (aged 79)[a]
Luoyang, Henan
  • Zhong Di (father)
OccupationCalligrapher, politician
Courtesy nameYuanchang (元常)
Posthumous nameMarquis Cheng (成侯)
PeerageMarquis of Dingling

Zhong Yao (鍾繇, 151 – April or May 230),[a][2] also referred to as Zhong You,[b] courtesy name Yuanchang (元常), was a Chinese calligrapher and politician who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China. He served in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. His calligraphy was highly regarded as he was known as one of the Four Worthies of Calligraphy (書中四賢) in the history of Chinese calligraphy.[3]


Following Cao Pi's death and Cao Rui taking the throne, Zhong Yao was appointed as the Grand Tutor (太傅) of Wei in 226. As a student of Cai Yong,[4] a famous calligrapher, he also contributed to the development of standard script (kaishu), and is known as the "father of standard script". His famous works include the Xuanshi Biao (宣示表; Xuānshì Biǎo), Jianjizhi Biao (荐季直表; 薦季直表; Jiànjìzhí Biǎo), and Liming Biao (力命表; Lìmìng Biǎo), which survive through handwritten copies, including by Wang Xizhi. Qiu Xigui (2000, p. 143) describes the script in Zhong's Xuanshi Biao as:

"... clearly emerging from the womb of early period semi-cursive script. If one were to write the tidily written variety of early period semi-cursive script in a more dignified fashion and were to use consistently the pause technique (dùn 頓; used to reinforce the beginning or ending of a stroke) when ending horizontal strokes, a practice which already appears in early period semi-cursive script, and further were to make use of right-falling strokes with thick feet, the result would be a style of calligraphy like that in the "Xuanshi Biao"".


Zhong Yao's grandfather, Zhong Hao (鍾皓), was a prominent scholar in the Eastern Han dynasty. Zhong Yao's father, Zhong Di (鍾迪), refused to enter politics because of the Disasters of Partisan Prohibitions. Zhong Yao had two known siblings: a brother, Zhong Yan (鍾演), who received a marquis title; a sister, who was the mother of Guo Yuan.

Zhong Yao had at least three spouses. The first, Lady Sun (孫氏), was known for being jealous of his other concubines and for seeking to harm them or make them fall out of his favour. Zhong Yao divorced her after he discovered that she tried to poison Zhang Changpu, a then-pregnant concubine. The royal family of Cao Wei tried to intervene the divorce but failed as Zhong Yao attempted to harm himself as an action of protest. He married Lady Jia (賈氏), the second spouse, as his formal wife after he divorced Lady Sun. Zhang Changpu maintained her status as a concubine up to her death. [5]

Zhong Yao had at least two sons. The elder one, Zhong Yu (鍾毓), served as the Minister of Justice (廷尉) and General of Chariots and Cavalry (車騎將軍) in the Wei government. The younger one, Zhong Hui, was born to Zhang Changpu. He also served as a general in the Wei government and is best known for his role in the Wei conquest of Shu Han, one of Wei's rival states, in 263. However, he launched a rebellion in 264 against the Wei regent, Sima Zhao, but failed and was killed by his soldiers, who started a mutiny against him.

Zhong Yu had four sons: Zhong Jun (鍾峻), Zhong Yong (鍾邕), Zhong Yi (鍾毅) and Zhong Chan (鍾辿). Zhong Yi was raised as Zhong Hui's adoptive son because Zhong Hui was single and had no children. Zhong Yong was killed along with his uncle Zhong Hui during the mutiny and his family members were executed. In the aftermath of Zhong Hui's failed rebellion, Zhong Jun, Zhong Yi and Zhong Chan were implicated, arrested and placed on death row for their relations to Zhong Hui. However, Sima Zhao took into consideration that Zhong Yao and Zhong Yu had rendered meritorious service to Wei, hence he decided to let them preserve their posterity. He made the Wei emperor Cao Huan issue an imperial decree, which pardoned Zhong Jun and Zhong Chan and restored them to their original official positions and titles. Zhong Yi, however, was executed[6] because he was Zhong Hui's adoptive son and was hence not eligible for the pardon.

See also


  1. ^ a b Cao Rui's biography in the Sanguozhi recorded that Zhong Yao died in the 4th month of the 4th year of the Taihe era of Cao Rui's reign.[1] This month corresponds to 30 April to 29 May 230 in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ The name is also rendered Zhōng Yóu in pinyin, because the second character has two common pronunciations. In the Norman & Mattos translation of Qiu Xigui (2000), for instance, Zhōng Yóu is given. However, according to the Hanyu Da Zidian's entry on the character (p. 1436), it is pronounced yáo when used as a name.


  1. ^ ([太和四年]夏四月,太傅鍾繇薨。) Sanguozhi vol. 3.
  2. ^ de Crespigny (2007), p. 1134.
  3. ^ "A Narrative on Calligraphy". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  4. ^ Poon, KS Vincent. "Models of Exemplary Masterpieces by Zhong Yao 臨鍾繇諸法帖". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 2021-06-18.
  5. ^ (貴妾孫氏,攝嫡專家,心害其賢,數讒毀无所不至。孫氏辨博有智巧,言足以飾非成過,然竟不能傷也。及姙娠,愈更嫉妬,乃置藥食中,夫人中食,覺而吐之,瞑眩者數日。或曰:『何不向公言之?』荅曰:『嫡庶相害,破家危國,古今以為鑒誡。假如公信我,衆誰能明其事?彼以心度我,謂我必言,固將先我;事由彼發,顧不快耶!』遂稱疾不見。孫氏果謂成侯曰:『妾欲其得男,故飲以得男之藥,反謂毒之!』成侯曰:『得男藥佳事,闇於食中與人,非人情也。』遂訊侍者具服,孫氏由是得罪出。成侯問夫人何能不言,夫人言其故,成侯大驚,益以此賢之。黃初六年,生會,恩寵愈隆。成侯旣出孫氏,更納正嫡賈氏。」...魏氏春秋曰:會母見寵於繇,繇為之出其夫人。卞太后以為言,文帝詔繇復之。繇恚憤,將引鴆,弗獲,餐椒致噤,帝乃止。) Annotation about Zhong Hui's mother in Sanguozhi vol. 28.
  6. ^ (會兄毓,以四年冬薨,會竟未知問。會兄子邕,隨會與俱死,會所養兄子毅及峻、辿。等下獄,當伏誅。司馬文王表天子下詔曰:「峻等祖父繇,三祖之世,極位台司,佐命立勳,饗食廟庭。父毓,歷職內外,幹事有績。昔楚思子文之治,不滅鬪氏之祀。晉錄成宣之忠,用存趙氏之後。以會、邕之罪,而絕繇、毓之類,吾有愍然!峻、辿兄弟特原,有官爵者如故。惟毅及邕息伏法。」) Sanguozhi vol. 28.