Chancellor of China

Chancellor of China

The Chancellor (zh-t|t=丞相 or 宰相), variously translated as Prime Minister, Premier or Chief Councillor, was a generic name given to the highest-ranking official in the imperial government in ancient China. The Chancellor can also refer to a specific post in the imperial government, which was first officially instituted in Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) as the "head of all civil service officials". [Li (2007), 74-75.] It should be noted, however, that the term was known by many different names throughout Chinese history, and the exact extent of the powers associated with the position fluctuated greatly even during a particular dynasty.


In the Spring and Autumn Period, Guan Zhong was the first Chancellor in China, [zh [ Guan Zhong Memorial Opened in Linzi] , Xinhuanet September 19, 2004.] who became chancellor under the state of Qi in 685 BC. In Qin during the Warring States Period, the Chancellor was officially established as "the head of all civil service officials". There were sometimes two Chancellors, differentiated as being "of the left" (senior) and "of the right" (junior). After emperor Qin Shi Huang ended the Warring States Period by establishing the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), the Chancellor, together with the Imperial Secretary, and the Grand Commandant, were the most important officials in the imperial government, generally referred as the Three Lords. [Li (2007), 75.]

In 1 BC during the emperor Ai, the title was changed to "da si tu" (大司徒). [Wang (1949), 144.] In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Chancellor post was replaced by the Three Excellencies: Grand Commandant (太尉), Minister over the Masses and Minister of Works (司空). [zh [ Chancellor of China] , ] In 190, Dong Zhuo claimed the title "Chancellor of State" (相國) under the powerless Emperor Xian of Han, [ "Book of the Later Han" Vol.72; "Records of Three Kingdoms" Vol. 6.] placing himself above the Three Excellencies. After Dong Zhuo's death in 192, the post was vacant until Cao Cao restored the position as "Imperial Chancellor" (丞相) and abolished the Three Excellencies in 208. ["Records of Three Kingdoms" Vol. 1.] From then until March 15, 220, the power of Chancellor was greater than that of the emperor. Later this often happened when a dynasty became weak, usually some decades before the fall of a dynasty.

During the Sui Dynasty, the executive officials of the three highest departments of the empire were called "Chancellors" (真宰相) together. [zh [ The History of the Chancellor System in China] .] In the Tang Dynasty, the government was divided into three departments: the Department of State Affairs (尚書省), the Chancellery (門下省) and the Secretariat(中書省) and the head of each department was generally referred to as the "Chancellor". [zh [ Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi] , "Encyclopedia of China".]

In the Song Dynasty, the post of Chancellor was also known as the "Tongpingzhangshi" (同平章事), [zh [< Chancellor in the Song Dynasty] .] in accordance with late-Tang terminology, while the vice-chancellor was known as the "Jijunsi". Some years later, the post of Chancellor was changed to "Prime Minister" (首相 "shou xiang") and the post of vice-Chancellor was changed to "Second Minister" (次相 "ci xiang"). [zh [ The Change of Central Administration in Tang and Song Dynasties] .] In the late Southern Song Dynasty, the system changed back to the Tang naming conventions.

During the Mongol-founded Yuan Dynasty, the Chancellor was not the head of the Secretariat, but the Crown Prince (皇太子) was. After the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, the post became the head of the Secretariat again. The post was abandoned after the execution of the Chancellor of China, Hu Weiyong, who was accused of treason (though his conviction is still strongly disputed in present times because of a lack of evidence to prove his guilt). [zh [ The History of Chancellor of China] , ] Still, appointments of the people who held the highest post in the government were called "Appointment of Prime Minister" (拜相) until 1644.

List of Chancellors of China

List of Chancellors of Qin Dynasty since 251 BC

List of other famous Chancellors and Prime Ministers

*Guan Zhong (died in 645 BC)
*Xiao He (206 BC-193 BC in office)
*Dong Zhuo (189-192 in office)
*Cao Cao (July 9, 208-March 15, 220 in office)
*Zhuge Liang (221-234 of Shu Han)
*Lu Xun (244-245 of Eastern Wu)
*Di Renjie (691-693, 697-700 in office)
*Zhang Jiuling (733-736 in office)
*Yang Guozhong (752-756 in office)
*Wang Wei (758-759 in office)
*Fan Zhongyan (1040-1045 in office)
*Wang Anshi (1070-1075, 1076-1085 in office)
*Sima Guang (1085-1086 in office)
*Zhang Dun (1094-1100 in office)
*Wen Tianxiang (1236-1283)
*Yan Song (1481-1568)
*Zhang Juzheng (1525-1582)

Premiers after 1644/1911

*List of Premiers after 1911

ee also

*List of Chinese people
* Chancellor of Tang Dynasty
*List of famous Premiers of China
*Imperial examination
*Chinese Law



*cite book |last= Li |first= Konghuai |title= History of Administrative Systems in Ancient China|publisher= Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co., Ltd. |year= 2007|language=Chinese |isbn= 978-962-04-2654-4

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