[Chén] Tài appellation Xuánbó. During Qīnglóng [233-237] he was appointed Scattered-Cavalry Attendant-Gentleman. During Zhèngshǐ [240-248] he was transferred to Moving Strike General, appointed Inspector of Bìngzhōu, increased to General Shaking Authority, sent with a Staff of Authority as Protector of the Xiōngnú Palace Gentleman-General, conciliated the foreign peoples, and deeply had authority through kindness. Many of the nobility in the capital sent him precious treasures to enable Tài to purchase servants, but Tài hung all these from the wall and did not even open the seals, and when he was summoned to the Secretariat, he returned all of them.
At the beginning of Jiāpíng [249-254] he succeeded Guō Huái as Inspector of Yōngzhōu and also appointed General Exerting Martiality. Shǔ General-in-Chief Jiāng Wéi led his army to along Qū mountain build two fortresses, sending Ivory Gate General Gōu Ān, Lǐ Xīn, and others to defend them and gather Qiāng and Hú hostages to plunder the borders of the prefectures.
General Attacking the West Guō Huái with Tài made plans on how to resist them, and Tài said: “Though Qū‘s fortresses are firm, they are far from Shǔ and across rugged terrain, and must rely on transported provisions. The Qiāng foreigners resent [Jiāng] Wéi’s conscription of them, and are certainly not yet willing to attach to him. Now if we besiege and take them, we can without bloodshed capture these fortresses. Though they may send rescue, the mountain paths are difficult, and are not land to transport troops.” [Guō] Huái followed Tài’s plan, and sent Tài to lead Protector of the Armies Suppressing Shǔ Xú Zhì, Administrator of Nán’ān Dèng Ài, and others to advance troops to besiege them, cut off their supply lines and surround the fortresses with moat water. [Gōu] Ān and the others challenged battle, but he would not agree. The officers and soldiers were surrounded and hard pressed, and rationed provisions and gathered snow [for water] to last through the days and moons.
[Jiāng] Wéi indeed came to the rescue, setting out from Niútóu “Oxhead” mountain, and with Tài opposed one another. Tài said: “Military Methods esteem to without battle defeat the enemy. Now if we cut off Niútóu, [Jiāng] Wéi will have no return route, and will become our prisoner.” He ordered the various armies to each hold to defenses and not do battle, and sent an envoy to inform [Guō] Huái, wishing to from the south cross the Bái river, follow the river east, while [Guō] Huái moved to Niútóu and cut off their return road, so that they could together capture [Jiāng] Wéi, and not only [Gōu] Ān and the others. [Guō] Huái agreed with this plan, and advanced the various armies to garrison by the Táo river. [Jiāng] Wéi was terrified and fled. [Gōu] Ān and the rest were isolated in the county, and so they all surrendered.
[Guō] Huái died , and Tài succeeded him as General Attacking the West, with Acting Staff of Authority to command Yōng’s and Liáng’s various army affairs. The year after next, Inspector of Yōngzhōu Wáng Jīng reported to Tài, saying that Jiāng Wéi and Xiàhóu Bà wished to take three routes toward Qíshān, Shíyíng, and Jīnchéng, and requested to advance troops to Chì, send the Liángzhōu army to Fūhǎn, and the various Armies Suppressing Shǔ toward Qíshān. Tài judged the rebels’ strength in the end was not enough to be divided in three routes, and moreover that military strength should not be divided and it was not yet suitable for the Liángzhōu [army] to cross the border, and replied to [Wáng] Jīng: “Considering the settlement of this question, we know their intended direction, and must join the strength of the east and west [armies] and only then advance.”
At the time [Jiāng] Wéi and the others commanded several tens of thousands of men to Fūhǎn, focusing on Dídào. Tài ordered [Wáng] Jīng to advance and camp at Dídào, wait for his army to arrive, and then together plan to take them. Tài advanced his army to Chéncāng. It happened that the armies in [Wáng] Jīng’s command in the former Passes with the rebels fought and were unsuccessful, and [Wáng] Jīng at once crossed the Táo. Tài because [Wáng] Jīng was not defending and occupying Dídào knew there was a change, and sent five battalions at the front. Tài led the various armies and followed after them. [Wáng] Jīng had already with [Jiāng] Wéi battled, was greatly defeated, and with over 10,000 men returned to defend Dídào city, while the rest all fled and scattered. [Jiāng] Wéi followed up on the victory by besieging Dídào.
Tài garrisoned Shàngguī, divided troops to defend vital points, and morning and night advanced. Dèng Ài, Hú Fèn, and Wáng Mì also arrived. He at once with [Dèng] Ài, [Wáng] Mì, and the rest divided to form three armies, and advanced to Lǒngxī. [Dèng] Ài and the others believed: “Wáng Jīng‘s elite troops were defeated and bloodied to the west, the rebel army is greatly flourishing. Soldiers following up on victory cannot be withstood, and if you General rely on hidden gathered troops, continue after a defeated army, the officers and soldiers will lose spirit, and the whole region right [west] of Lǒng will be wiped away. The ancients had a saying: ‘When a venomous snake bites the hand, the strong warrior cuts the wrist.’ Sūn-zǐ states: ‘There are troops that cannot be attacked, and ground that cannot be defended.’ This means to sacrifice the small to protect the large. Now the threat to the right [west] of Lǒng is greater than a venomous snake, and the land of Dídào is not said to must be defended. Jiāng Wéi’s troops are a sharp point to be avoided. It is better to hold to rugged terrain and defend, observe the fighting and wait for decline, and only then advance to rescue. This is the plan for success.”
Tài said: “Jiāng Wéi led light troops to penetrate deeply, precisely wishing to with us battle on open fields, and has obtained one battle’s victory. Wáng Jīng originally held to high walls and thick ramparts to obstruct their drive. Now he did battle, falling into the rebels’ plans. They defeated and drove away Wáng Jīng, and surround Dídào. If [Jiāng] Wéi relies on the prestige of his battle victory, advances his troops toward the east, occupies Lìyáng and accumulates grain and seed, sends troops to receive surrenders, recruit Qiāng and Hú, and to the east attack the Passes and Lǒng, spreading across the four prefectures, that would be our worst fear. But [Jiāng] Wéi relies on his troops following up on victory and is obstructed below the city, his dashing soldiers expend strength and lives, so those attacking and those defending can be switched, guest and host exchanged. Military books say: ‘Preparing siege engines require three moons, defending ramparts three moons and afterward.’ This is truly not for light troops penetrating far, and [Jiāng] Wéi’s craftiness and planning are not enough for this. Their army has traveled far, and their provisions and grain cannot keep up. This is the time for us to quickly advance and defeat the rebels, what is called a thunderbolt not yet heard, a natural opportunity. The Táo river region is their border, [Jiāng] Wéi and the rest are within it. Now if we occupy high and strong points, overlooking their positions, without battle they will certainly flee. Bandits cannot be tolerated, and sieges cannot be allowed to last. How can you sirs speak like that?”
Therefore he advanced the army over the Gāochéng mountain range, moving stealthily, in the night arriving atop a high mountain southeast of Dídào, greatly raised fire beacons, beating drums and blowing horns. Inside Dídào city the officers and soldiers saw rescue had arrived, and all gained morale. [Jiāng] Wéi previously said that the government rescue troops would first gather together and then set out, but the soldiers heard they had already come, and he said there was a strange change or secret plan, and high and low were all shaken and afraid. The army set out from Lǒngxī, following rugged mountain roads, and knew the rebels would certainly have prepared an ambush. Tài pretended to take the south road, and [Jiāng] Wéi indeed waited three days in ambush. (1) The army secretly traveled, and the troops set out from their south. [Jiāng] Wéi therefore followed the mountain in pursuit, Tài fought battle with them, and [Jiāng] Wéi retreated back.
- (1) Your Servant Sōngzhī comments: This biography says: “he said that the government rescue troops would first gather together and then set out, but the soldiers heard they had already come, and he said there was a strange change or secret plan, and high and low were all shaken and afraid.” This means rescue came unexpectedly. If he did not know rescue arrived, then why did he set ambushing troops in rugged terrain to wait three days? To prepare ambush to wait is not to be said to be unaware. This speech is all in contradiction.
The Liángzhōu army from Jīnchéng went south to Wògān slope. Tài with [Wáng] Jīng secretly planned a date to together set out toward [Jiāng Wéi’s] return route. [Jiāng] Wéi and the rest heard this, and therefore fled, and the officers and soldiers in the city were saved. [Wáng] Jīng sighed and said: “Our provisions were not enough for ten days. If not for this opportunity, the entire city would have been wiped out and the whole province lost.” Tài gave appreciation to the officers and soldiers, sending them back, and then prepared garrison defenses and repaired city walls, and then returned to Shàngguī.
Previously, when Tài heard [Wáng] Jīng had been besieged, he believed if the provincial army officers and soldiers could be of one heart, they could defend the city, and [Jiāng] Wéi in the end would not be able to overcome them. He memorialized report and also advanced the army morning and night to quickly arrive back. All the commentators believed because [Wáng] Jīng fled north, the city could not defend itself, and if [Jiāng] Wéi could cut off the road to Liángzhōu, gather the people and foreigners of the four prefectures, occupy the rugged terrain of the passes and Lǒng, he would be able to destroy [Wáng] Jīng’s army and wipe out the right [west] of Lǒng, and therefore they must greatly gather troops from all directions and then go to attack. General-in-Chief Sīmǎ [Zhāo] Wén-wáng said: “In the past Zhūgě Liàng always had this ambition, but in the end was unsuccessful. Important matters and planning far ahead is not what [Jiāng] Wéi is capable of. Moreover, the city cannot be so quickly taken, it is only that provisions are few that is the danger. Having the [General] Attacking the West [Chén Tài] quickly going to the rescue is the best plan.”
Tài often when a region had a problem at once falsely made noise to stir up the realm, and afterward clearly and succinctly sent true report up of the matter, and his relay stations were not more than 600 lǐ [apart]. Sīmǎ [Zhāo] Wén-wáng said to Xún Yǐ: “Xuánbó is valorous and decisive, took on a region’s heavy burden, rescued a city about to fall, but did not request more troops, and also clearly and succinctly sent up report of the matter, so he is certainly able to handle the rebels. Commanders and Generals should all be like him!”
Later [Chén] Tài was summoned as Secretariat Right Deputy-Director, with authority over selection and nominations, and also Attendant Internal and Merit Grandee. Wú General-in-Chief Sūn Jùn set out against the Huái and Sì . Tài was appointed General Defending the Army with Acting Staff of Authority to command all military affairs north of the Huái, and Imperial Order that from Xúzhōu Supervisor of the Army below were included in Tài’s jurisdiction. [Sūn] Jùn retreated, the army returned, and he was transferred to Left Deputy-Director.
Zhūgě Dàn rebelled in Shòuchūn . Sīmǎ [Zhāo] Wén-wáng led six armies to garrison Qiūtóu, and Tài managed established the general office [for Secretariat affairs]. Sīmǎ [Shī] Jǐng-wáng and Sīmǎ [Zhāo] Wén-wáng both were close friends with Tài, and Pèi-guó’s Wǔ Gāi also with Tài was friendly. [Sīmǎ Zhāo] Wén-wáng asked [Wǔ] Gāi: “How does [Chén Tài] Xuánbó compare to his father the Excellency of Works [Chén Qún]?” Gāi said: “In elegance and extensiveness and ability to take the duty of educating the realm, he is inferior; in enlightened leadership and establishing achievement and completing affairs, he is superior.”
Tài from beginning to end for his achievements accumulated a fief of 2600 households, and his junior relatives were given fief one was a precinct Marquis and two as Marquis Within the Passes.
Jǐngyuán first year  he died, and was posthumously titled Excellency of Works. Posthumous name Mù-hóu “Solemn Marquis.” (1)
- Gān Bǎo’s Jìnjì states: When the Duke of Gāoguì village was killed, Sīmǎ [Zhāo] Wén-wáng held a meeting with the court ministers to plan their excuse. Minister of Ceremonies Chén Tài would not come, and his maternal uncle Xún Yǐ was sent to summon him. Yǐ arrived, and told him he must. Tài said: “The commentators of this age have always compared me with you. Now you uncle do not match me.” All his junior relatives inside and out together forced him, and shedding tears he entered [Court]. [Sīmǎ Zhāo Wén]-wáng took him to a private room, and said: “Xuánbó, what do you think I should do?” He answered: “Execute Jiǎ Chōng to apologize to the realm.” [Sīmǎ Zhāo] Wén-wáng said: “Think of something less extreme for me.” Tài said: “The only other thing I could say is more extreme than that. I do not know any less extreme.” [Sīmǎ Zhāo] Wén-wáng therefore did not ask again.
- Wèishì Chūnqiū states: The Emperor had ended. Grand Tutor Sīmǎ Fú, Secretariat Right Deputy-Director Chén Tài rested the Emperor’s body on their lap, wailing with utmost mourning. At the time the General-in-Chief [Sīmǎ Zhāo] entered the Forbidden Chambers. Tài saw this and was more mournful, and the General-in-Chief also faced him and wept, saying: “Xuánbó, what do I do?” Tài said: “Only beheading Jiǎ Chōng is the least that can apologize to the realm.” The General-in-Chief after a long time said: “Think of something else.” Tài said: “How can you ask me to speak again?” Therefore he spat blood and died.
- Your Servant Sōngzhī comments: according to the base biography, Tài was not the Minister of Ceremonies. It is unclear how Gān Bǎo became aware of this. Sūn Shèng modified Tài’s speech, though it was a small improvement. However in examining the speeches Shèng modified, all were not because they were differently heard, but to clarify the meaning, and often is inferior to the old. In common records the form of speech is like coming from the mouth. To improve style but violate the truth is assuredly what the superior gentleman would not do, and moreover how could they bear to ever pass on fabrications?
- Ànbówùjì states: Chief of Tàiqiū Chén Shí, Shí’s son Minister Herald [Chén] Jǐ, Jǐ’s son Excellency of Works [Chén] Qún, Qún’s son Tài, four generations, during the Hàn and Wèi, two dynasties, all had great reputation, but their virtue gradually decreased. At the time people made a saying of this: “The Excellency shamed the Minister, the Minister shamed the Chief.”
His son Xún succeeded. Xún died and had no heirs. His younger brother Wēn continued the fief. During Xiánxī [264-265] the Five [Ranks of Nobility] were established, and due to Tài’s services to the previous dynasty, the fief of Wēn was changed to Viscount of Shèn. (2)
- (2) According to the Chén clan registers: Qún’s descendants later declined in reputation and position. Chén’s grandson Zuǒ reached Inspector of Qīngzhōu. Zuǒ’s younger brother Tǎn was Minister of Justice. Zuǒ’s son Zhǔn was Grand Commandant with fief as Duke of Guǎnglíng prefecture. Zhǔn’s younger brothers Dài and Zhǐ and his younger cousin Kān all reached great positions. Zhǔn’s grandson Kuí appellation Líndào had reputation left [east] of the Jiāng, became West Palace Gentleman-General, and was posthumously General of the Guard.
- [Translator’s Note: a descendant of Chén Zhǔn founded the short-lived southern Chén dynasty 557-589]