Ma Zhan’ao
Painting of Zhong Hui.
Some attributes
First Name: Zhong Hui
Second Position: Cao Wei General
Third Nationality: Chinese
Other attributes
Fourth Allegiance: Cao Wei
Fifth Born: 225
Sixth Died: 264 (aged 39)

Zhong Hui(225–264), style name Shiji, was a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. His father was Zhong Yao, who also served as a politician in Wei.

Zhong Hui played a significant role in the conquest of Wei's rival state, Shu Han. Zhong Hui and Deng Ai were equal in rank in the campaign against Shu, but Zhong always considered himself more skilled than Deng.

He later befriended the Shu general, Jiang Wei, and they plotted to rebel against Deng, starting a rebellion in 264, but the rebellion failed after Zhong Hui and Jiang Wei were discovered planning to execute several officers; the enraged officers revolted and killed Zhong Hui.

Early LifeEdit

Zhong Hui originated from the Yingchuan, Changshe Prefecture (modern Xuchang, Henan). His father was Zhong Yao and his older brother was Zhong Yu. His older sister married the Wei general, Xun Xu. There are no records of him being married and he did not father a child of his own. Advised by his mother to become a modest intellectual, Zhong Hui immersed himself in studies since he was a child. By the time he was four, he was taught and recited the Xiao Jing and was enrolled in advanced studies by the time he was fifteen.

Even when he was five, Jiang Ji praised him as a person of uncommon caliber. His mother was said to have been an intellectual woman but it's unknown if this is actually true. In the Record of Three Kingdoms, he visited her throughout his early career and often heeded her advice. When Zhong Hui chose to continue his studies and political career after her death, there is a slight debate if he did so due to personal interest or to honor his mother's wishes. Like his father, Zhong Hui was also a calligrapher who studied the cursive and clerical scripts. He was said to have written a great deal of compositions throughout his lifetime, which included a poem after his father's death.

The Shìjiè Xīncí (世說新語) claims that although he was wise, he was also rude and unpopular because of his behavior. When he was a child, he stole a sip from his older brother's wine. When his father caught him, Zhong Hui responded that his brother didn't bow or pay respects to him and that stealing his wine was petty by comparison. Another episode describes an incident when he was visiting the scholar Xi Kang. As Xi Kang was enthusiastically speaking to a blacksmith at the time, Zhong Hui approached but was forced to wait for Xi Kang. Growing impatient, he began to leave. When Xi Kang asked why, Zhong Hui replied that while the scholar asked for him to be there, it felt like he was only there to be seen and displayed in public. It is said that Zhong Hui held a grudge against Xi Kang after the incident and later had the scholar accused for a crime.

Rise to PowerEdit

When Zhong Hui was 20, he was called to serve into the court. Although his father had served Cao Cao and Cao Pi as a statesmen, Zhong Hui was skilled in tactics and was highly educated. He was promoted to an important position at in spite of his young age, becoming the Secretary of the State and Minister of the Palace Secretarial Attendant. When Cao Mao ascended the throne, he was named the Marquess of the Internal State. He also became good friends with other ministers of the state, such as Wang Bi and He Yan.

As Sima Shi and Sima Zhao rose to power, Zhong Hui participated in suppressing the rebellion caused by Zhuge Dan, Wen Qin and Guanqiu Jian. During Zhuge Dan's revolt, Zhong Hui presided over the staff of military affairs. His main contribution to the conflict was interrupting the Wu troops for Zhuge Dan's rescue, convincing them to submit to Wei. His master was greatly pleased with his accomplishments and was said to have thought Zhong Hui as "[his] Zifang". He was then appointed the Captain in Charge of Law Enforcement and Public Works. Zhong Hui then made several drastic changes to the reward and punishment system of affairs, distancing himself from the central office. When he was not attending to politics, he was said to be among the many who entertained Cao Mao with literary and poetry sessions.

Since Zhong Hui was proud of his bold changes, he was perceived to be too ambitious by fellow ministers and generals, many voicing that his wit made him a dangerous threat. Even his good friend, Fu Jia (傅嘏), warned him to tone down his boastful behavior and to be more modest. In response to his actions, Wang Yuanji asked her husband to be more stern with Zhong Hui, chiding him to oversee his actions more often in person. The perceptive maiden, Xin Xianying (辛憲英), was said to have taken one glance at Zhong Hui and confided in Yang Hu, "Zhong Hui is a person who does his actions on his own accord and will one day be someone who cannot serve under another." She then told her relative to avoid him. Her advice was said to have panicked Yang Hu.

Campaign against the ShuEdit

In 262, Zhong Hui investigated and accessed the state of the weakened Shu Han. For his services, he was appointed the General who Guards the West and was sent to govern military affairs in Guanzhong. During the winter, he pretended to pose as a threat to Wu as to distract the Shu forces. The following year, he was ordered to assist Deng Ai in the suppression of Shu.

Within weeks, Zhong Hui swiftly arrived at Yang'an. There, Dong Jue and Zhang Yi put up some resistance, but Shu's inferior military mobilization and human resources assisted Zhong in achieving a quick victory over them. Despite gaining large portions of land, the length of Zhong Hui's supply line grew longer as his force was deeper into the enemy territory. If a logistic problem arose, Zhong Hui might be forced to retreat, losing all the territory newly gained. Hence, Zhong Hui sent his vanguard, Hu Lie (胡烈), to take Guancheng, where Shu forces stockpiled their food supply.

Earlier on, the Shu commander of Wuxing, Jiang Shu, had born a furtive grudge against Shu's management when he was demoted and put under Fu Qian. Once Hu Lie arrived at Guankou, Fu Qian and Jiang Shu disagreed in the manner they should defend. Jiang Shu, using the pretext of engaging the Wei force outside the gates, led his original subordinates out of the pass and surrendered to Hu Lie. Furthermore, Jiang Shu opened the gates and let the enemy in when Fu Qian laid his guard down. Fu Qian fiercely resisted the enemy but was killed and Zhong Hui acquired the bulk of supplies stored inside Guancheng. Thus, Zhong Hui's supply problem was temporarily solved. At the time Zhong Hui beached Guankou, Jiang Wei was still lingering on his way to the battlefield. When he knew Guancheng was taken, Jiang Wei spontaneously changed his destination to Jiange (劍閣; present-day Jiange County, Sichuan), where he hoped the great pass could resist the enemies.

Taking a break from the battlefield, Zhong Hui spent some time to visit Zhuge Liang's tomb and personally wrote to Jiang Bin, who was still busy guarding Han fortress, telling the latter that he had already paid his respect to Zhuge Liang at his tomb. Zhong Hui wanted to show he could win this war with ease, so he told Jiang Bin he wanted to pay his respect to Jiang Wan, Jiang Bin's late father, and asked Jiang Bin where Jiang Wan's tomb was. Refusing to concede, Jiang Bin replied politely that his father died in Fu County (涪縣), and Zhong Hui could pay his respect to Jiang Wan on his way west.

Fu County was almost 500 km to the west of Yang'an pass, deep in the heart of Shu, and Jiang Bin's reply was a show of confidence that Wei army could not pass Jiange. Indeed, Jiang Bin successfully held out against Zhong Hui and it was only after the surrender of Liu Shan did he eventually surrender. After Liu Shan's surrender, Zhong Hui gained permission to plunder the state. For his services in the subjugation, he was promoted to Minister over the Masses and his followers became marquises with at least 10,000 households. As he accessed and shared amicable relations with the remaining officers for Shu, he admired and became friends with Jiang Wei.

Rebellion and deathEdit

When Deng Ai started to use his position for selfish gain, Zhong Hui, Hu Lie and Shi Zuan had him indicted. As a result, Deng Ai was deprived of his right over soldiers and arrested. Wanting to fulfill his own ambitions, Zhong Hui organized an army with his own resources and declared independence. With Jiang Wei's help, he revolted against Wei. Jiang Wei felt no loss in the situation as either result of Zhong Hui's revolt would weaken Wei. He hoped to use the rebellion to reestablish Liu Shan to power.

However, as they were in the midst of forming their strategy, one of Zhong Hui's supporters, Hu Yuan, revolted and rallied the men against them. Zhong Hui and his two nephews were killed. He was 39 at the time of his death. His followers were said to have revolted due to lack of reward and caring for their safety. Jiang Wei heard of the failed plot and felt that he was in a life crisis. He held a meeting with his wife and children, killing them before he killed himself.

Although he was betrayed by his vassal, Sima Zhao continued to be amused by Zhong Hui's efforts and remarked that he could have stood a chance at success if the remnants of Shu were united under his leadership. The historian Chen Shou offered the following comments for Zhong Hui: "Though he was an able strategist, he held too great an ambition. He accidentally stumbled on rebellion without thinking and was murdered with his clan."