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He Jin

He Jin
Regent of Eastern Han Dynasty
Born (Unknown)
Died 189
Traditional Chinese 何進
Simplified Chinese 何进
Pinyin Hé Jìn
Wade–Giles Ho Chin
Courtesy name Suigao (遂高)

He Jin (died 189), courtesy name Suigao, was the elder half-brother of Empress He, consort to Emperor Ling of the late Eastern Han Dynasty in China. He shared power with his sister as regents in 189, following the death of Emperor Ling. In the ensuing struggle with the influential eunuch faction for power, He Jin was assassinated. His death allowed Dong Zhuo to seize military control over the capital Luoyang and take control of the imperial court. The subsequent breakdown of central command brought forth the beginning of massive civil wars which led to the formation of the era known as the Three Kingdoms.


He Jin was born into a family of butchers in Nanyang, hometown of the dynastic founder Emperor Guangwu. During the reign of Emperor Ling his younger half-sister entered the palace and soon became one of the emperor's favourites. In 180, she was made empress and He Jin henceforth began a speedy escalation up the bureaucratic ladder.

When the Yellow Turban Rebellion erupted in 184, He Jin was made General-in-Chief (大將軍). He manned the imperial armory, secured strategic forts around the capital and moved quickly to crush the uprising at Luoyang led by Ma Yuanyi, a follower of the Yellow Turban leader, Zhang Jue. The campaign was deemed a success and He Jin was enfeoffed as "Marquis Shen" (慎侯), literally meaning the cautious marquis. After the rebellion was quelled, He Jin continued in the role of Commander-in-chief, technically with control over all the imperial armies. During this time, other members of his family, such as his younger half-brother He Miao (何苗), were also elevated to positions of importance.

In 188, perhaps as a counterweight to the power of the He clan, Emperor Ling created the Army of the Western Garden. The emperor ostentatiously paraded in front of the army and had himself named "Supreme General" (無上將軍). The emperor also had the army placed under the command of Jian Shuo, a trusted eunuch. By commanding the Army of the Western Garden, the emperor could put He Jin under his own command.

When Emperor Ling died in the early months of 189 AD, and the stage was set for a showdown between He Jin and the eunuch faction. Jian Shuo plotted to assassinate He Jin and summoned He Jin to enter the Palace. When He Jin entered, Pan Yin (潘隱) signaled He Jin by winking. Astonished, He Jin returned to his region and escaped Jian Shuo's scheme. Afterwards, He Jin had Jian Shuo arrested and executed. He also seized the troops previously under Jian Shuo's command.

With the support of the Yuan clan, particularly Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu, the succession dispute was resolved in favour of Liu Bian, the son of Empress He, who ascended the throne in the fifth month of that year. He Jin and his sister, now the Empress Dowager, jointly took on the role of regent.

During the summer months, He Jin maneuvered, sometimes hesitantly, with Yuan Shao against the eunuch faction. The eunuchs, now without a military power base of their own, relied on the support of Empress Dowager He and He Miao. Upon the urging of Yuan Shao, He Jin summoned the frontier general Dong Zhuo to the outskirts of Luoyang, in an attempt to force the Empress Dowager to back down. Finally, in the ninth month of that year He Jin entered the palace to request the Empress Dowager to agree to the execution of the eunuchs. The conversation was overheard and relayed to Zhang Rang, the eunuch placed in charge after the death of Jian Shuo. The desperate eunuchs then had He Jin surrounded and beheaded in the palace garden.

The situation soon spun out of control. Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu, both with significant control of military forces within the capital, stormed the palace and massacred the eunuchs. The resulting power vacuum allowed Dong Zhuo to seize control of the imperial court. As soon as he held supremacy over the capital, Dong Zhuo deposed the emperor in favor of the Prince of Chenliu, who came to be known as Emperor Xian. The deposition as well as Dong Zhuo's subsequent atrocities incurred the wrath of many. In 190, warlords from the eastern provinces formed a coalition to oust Dong Zhuo, which kicked off a series of civil wars that were to last for nearly a century.

Relatives and descendants

  • Empress He and He Jin have different fathers.
  • Empress He and He Miao (何苗) have different mothers.
  • Therefore He Jin and He Miao have no blood relationship.
  • Zhang Rang's daughter-in-law was a sister of Empress He.
  • Although He Jin's family suffered great losses at the revolt of the Ten Attendants, He Jin's son, He
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