Chén Qún appellation Chángwén was a Yǐngchuān Xǔchāng man. His grandfather Shí, father Jǐ, and father’s younger brother Chén each had famous reputation. (1) When Qún was a child, Shí was always very impressed with him, and said to his clansmen and elders: “This child will certainly cause our clan to thrive.”
- (1) Shí appellation Zhònggōng, Jǐ appellation Yuánfāng, Chén appellation Jìfāng.
- Wèishū states: Shí’s virtue dominated at that time. Jǐ and Chén both had important reputations at the time. Shí was Chief of Tàiqiū, suffered the Partisan Proscription, lived in seclusion at Jīng mountain, and far and near took him as an exemplar and teacher. Líng-dì ended , Hé Jìn controlled the government, sought to employ all the famous scholars of the realm Under Heaven, and summoned Shí, wising to appoint him a Military Advisor, but he plead age and illness and so did not violate his integrity. Chén served in the office of the Excellency of Works, and died young. Jǐ served as Chancellor of Píngyuán, Palace Attendant, Minister Herald. He compiled books of several tens of scrolls, and at the time he was called Chén-zǐ. When Shí died, Excellency of Works Xún Shuǎng and Minister Charioteer Director Hán Róng both wore [mourning clothes of] linen and hemp and followed the [mourning] rites expected off one’s descendants. From all four directions arrived several thousand chariots as escort, and from Guō Tài of Tàiyuán and others there were none who did not go to their gates.
- Fùzǐ states: Shí died, the realm Under Heaven lamented, and those gathered at his tomb were 30,000 men, and those wearing mourning garments of hemp were in the hundreds.
- Xiānxián Xíngzhuàng states: General-in-Chief Hé Jìn sent retainers to present lamentations and sacrifices at the shrine, giving posthumous name as Wén-Fàn Xiānsheng “Civil and Exemplary Mister.” At the time, Shí’s and Jǐ’s renown was both widespread, and Chén was also joined with them, so that at the time they were called the Three Gentlemen. Every time the central office summoned them summoned them for orders, they came at the same time, lambs and goose gathered, and officials interacted. The people of Yùzhōu all made portraits of Shí, Jǐ, and Chén.
Kǒng Róng of Lǔ-guó had high talent but arrogance, and his age was between Jǐ and Qún. First he befriended Jǐ, but later befriended Qún and thereafter bowed to Jǐ, and for this he gained reputation. Liú Bèi oversaw Yùzhōu, and recruited Qún as his Camp Aide. At the time Táo Qiān died of illness , Xúzhōu welcomed [Liú] Bèi, and [Liú] Bèi wished to go. Qún advised [Liú] Bèi: “Yuán Shù grows stronger. Now if you go east he will certainly fight with you. If Lǚ Bù attacks your rear General, then though you General may obtain Xúzhōu, your affairs will certainly be unsuccessful.” [Liú] Bèi then went east and fought with Yuán Shù. [Lǚ] Bù indeed attacked Xiàpī and sent troops to assist [Yuán] Shù, greatly defeated [Liú] Bèi’s army, and [Liú] Bèi regretted not using Qún’s words.
He was nominated as Abundant Talent, sent out as Magistrate of Zhè, could not go, and so he followed Jǐ in taking refuge in Xúzhōu. When Lǚ Bù was destroyed , Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] summoned Qún to be the Excellency of Work’s Left Department Official. At the time Wáng Mó of Lè’ān and Zhōu Kuí of Xiàpī were recommended, and Tàizǔ recruited them. Qún protested, believing [Wáng] Mó and [Zhōu] Kuí were of inferior virtue and in the end would certainly fail, but Tàizǔ did not listen. Later [Wáng] Mó and [Zhōu] Kuí both turned traitor and were executed, and Tàizǔ for this apologized to Qún.
Qún recommended Chén Jiǎo of Guǎnglíng and Dài Qián of Dānyáng, and Tàizǔ employed them. Later the Wú people rebelled, and [Dài] Qián loyally died in the trouble. [Chén] Jiǎo later became an important minister. At the time Qún was said to understand people. He was sent out as Magistrate of Xiāo, Zàn, and Chángpíng. His father died and he resigned his position. Later he was by an official [in the department of the] Excellency over the Masses recommended as High Ranking and became a Censorate Attendant Managing Documents, and was transferred to Advisor to the Army of the Chancellor.
When Wèi state was founded  he was promoted to Censorate Internal Deputy.
At the time Tàizǔ discussed restoring mutilation penalties. The order said: “How can one obtain a superior gentleman who understands reason from ancient times to now, and employ them to judge this matter? In the past Minister Herald Chén [Jǐ] believed that death penalties could contribute to benevolence and kindness, and so argued thus. Can the Censorate Internal Deputy [Chén Qún] explain his father’s argument?”
Qún answered: “I your servant’s father Jǐ believed that Hàn abolished mutilation punishments and increased whipping, originally to increase benevolence and sympathy but instead the dead increased in number, what is called ‘naming as light but is in fact heavy.’ ‘Naming as light’ then makes it easy to violate [law], ‘is in fact heavy’ then is harming the people. The Shū states: “Only observe the Five Punishments, to achieve the Three Virtues.” The Yì writes of laws of cutting off nose, amputating feet, destroying toes, so as to assist government and aid teaching, to punish evil but stop killing. Moreover killing a man as recompense for death, is in accord with ancient standards; as for harming a man, to destroy their body and yet be reduced to cutting of hair, this is not reasonable. If using ancient standards, to send the depraved to be sent down to the silkworm room [for castration], the thieves to amputate their foot, then forever there will be no depravity released or thieves breaking through walls. Those matters of three thousand [years ago, the Five Punishments], though they cannot be all restored, if a few of these, are timely for concerns, it is appropriate to first implement them. Those crimes that Hàn laws killed for, were what benevolence could not reach, the rest below death can be given [mutilation] punishments. In this way, then those punished can still with the living interact. Now the laws of whipping to death instead of using [mutilation] punishments that do not kill, is to make heavy men’s limbs but light of men’s lives.”
At the time Zhōng Yáo and Qún made the same argument, Wáng Lǎng and most other commentators believed it was not feasible. Tàizǔ greatly liked Yáo’s and Qún’s argument, but as military affairs had not ceased, in consideration of the majority opinion the matter was postponed.
Qún was transferred to Internal Attendant, designate Chancellor’s East and West Department Official. At Court he was without fixed standards, elegant and with reputation, and did not against principle deceive people. Wén-dì [Cáo Pī] was at the East Palace, deeply venerated and respected him, treating him with the courtesy of interacting with friends, always sighing and saying: “From since I gained [my own Yán] Huí, the gate men daily become closer.”
When he succeeded the King’s throne, he gave fief on Qún as Marquis of Chāngwǔ precinct, moved him to Secretariat. The method of the Regulation of Nine Ranks Official Men, was by Qún established. Reaching to the ascension of the Imperial Throne, he was promoted to Secretariat Deputy Director, added Internal Attendant, moved to Secretariat Director, advanced in noble rank to Marquis of Yǐng village. The Emperor campaigned against Sūn Quán, reached Guǎnglíng, sending Qún as Designate Central Manager of the Army. The Emperor returned, gave Acting Staff of Authority, as Regional Commander of the Navy. Returned to Xǔchāng, appointing Qún as General-in-Chief Defending the Army, Designate Central Protector of the Army, managing Secretariat affairs. The Emperor was lying ill, Qún with Cáo Zhēn, Sīmǎ Xuān-wáng, and others together received Legacy Imperial Order to assist the government.
Míng-dì succeeded the throne, advanced in fief to Marquis of Yǐngyīn, increased fief by five hundred, adding with the previous to 1300 households, with General-in-Chief Campaigning East Cáo Xiū, General-in-Chief of the Central Army Cáo Zhēn, General-in-Chief Assisting the Army Sīmǎ Xuān-wáng together opening office. Shortly afterward he became Excellency of Works, again managing Secretariat affairs.
At the time, the Emperor first administered the government. Qún sent up a memorial: “The Shī says: ‘Ceremony and punishments like Wén-wáng, all countries have faith.’ It also states: ‘Punishments to wife, reaching to brothers, to govern to family and country.’ The way from the near begins, and then transforms and accords through the realm Under Heaven. From since the tragic chaos onward, shields and spears are not yet stored, the common people do not know the foundation of the ruler’s teachings, and fear of decline is already severe. Your Majesty faces flourishing Wèi’s greatness, carrying on the Two Founders’ enterprise, the realm Under Heaven wishes and hopes for attaining governance, only by lofty virtue spreading and transforming, kindness and sympathy for the common masses, then the masses of people enjoy fortune. Ministers sounding alike, right and wrong mutually confused, are the state’s great misfortune. If not in harmony then there are enemy factions, if there are enemy factions then there is slander and acclaim without reason, slander and acclaim without reason then true and false are not known, it cannot be not deeply guarded against, to cut it off at its source.”
During Tàihé, Cáo Zhēn memorialized wishing to by several paths campaign against Shǔ, following Xié valley to enter. Qún believed: “Tàizǔ in the past arrived at Yángpíng to attack Zhāng Lǔ, greatly collecting beans and wheat to increase army provisions, [Zhāng] Lǔ was not yet taken but the food was already exhausted. Now there is no reason, and moreover Xié valley is obstructed and rugged, difficult to advance or retreat, transport is certain to meet with raiding and cutting off, increasing remaining troops to defend the important, then decreases battle troops, this cannot be not carefully considered.” The Emperor followed Qún’s comments. [Cáo] Zhēn again memorialized to follow Zǐwǔ road. Qún again explained its inconveniences, together with words on calculations of military expenses. Imperial Order with Qún’s comments was sent down to [Cáo] Zhēn, [Cáo] Zhēn according to it then went. It happened that it continuously rained for accumulated days, Qún also believed it was appropriate to send Imperial Order for [Cáo] Zhēn to return, and the Emperor followed this.
Later the Imperial daughter [Cáo] Shū died, and posthumous title was bestowed as Yì-gōngzhǔ “Admirable Princess” of Píngyuán.
Qún sent up a memorial: “[Whether life is] long or short is fate, [whether one] survives or perishes is decided. Therefore sagely men regulated the Rites, both to repress and to convey [emotion], in order to reach balance. Fáng’s tombs had limits no not working [for mourning], and Yíng and Bó had souls that did not return. A great man moves together with Heaven and Earth, passes down without end, and great virtue does not remain idle, and is in action a paragon of learning as a result. For early death below eight years, the Rites does does not make preparations, and moreover it was not yet even the phase of a moon, and yet is with the Rites of mature person sent off, and additionally it is ordered to establish mourning, causing the Court to wear mourning white clothes, from mourning to night weeping and looking, and since from ancient times there has never been anything like this. And further you yourself go to look upon the tomb, and in person convey [mourning]. One hopes Your Majesty will restrain this without benefit and even harmful matter, only have the various ministers send off the burial, and beg the Imperial Chariot to not go, and this is the utmost hope of all states. One hears the Imperial Chariot wishes to visit Móbēi, but in reality has arrived at Xǔchāng. The Two Palaces from top to bottom all without exception goes east, raising up the Court from big to small, and none are not surprised and astonished. Some say it is a wish to avoid decline, some say it is a wish to change location and move the palace residence, and some do not know the reason. I your Servant believe good and bad fortune is fate, disaster and happiness is due to men, and so to move residence to seek security is then also without benefit. If one must move to avoid, mend and repair Jīnyōng city’s West Palace, and Mèngjīn’s Separate Palace, and both could be used for a temporary time to stop. Why must you expose the entire palace in the wilderness? Furthermore, the people of the rebel regions, when they hear of this, will consider that there is an imperial mourning. The expenditures, public and private, will be beyond calculation. Furthermore, excellent gentlemen and worthy men do not without proper justification change the site of their abodes, so that men of their district may rest easy and feel no fear. Should then the Sovereign over the myriad states, whose rest puts the empire at ease and whose movement causes disturbances throughout the empire, be frivolous in his going and stopping, movement and rest?”
The Emperor did not listen.
During Qīnglóng [233-237] there was great toil in repairing Palaces, and the common people lost time for agriculture. Qún sent up a memorial that said: “Yǔ carried on Táng and Yú’s flourishing, yet humbled palaces and residences and had inferior clothes, so all the more now after tragic chaos, the people are few, comparable to the times of Hàn’s Wén and Jǐng, no more than one large prefecture. (1) Also the borders have situations, officers and soldiers toil bitterly, if there is suffering of flood or drought, the state will be in deep worry. Moreover Wú and Shǔ are not yet destroyed, the State Altars not secure. It is appropriate to not yet move, discuss warfare and support agriculture, to by this deal with them. Now to give up this urgency and first have palaces and residences, I your servant fear the common people will then be destitute, and then how can one answer the enemy? In the past Liú Bèi from Chéngdū reached Báishuǐ, greatly building relay stations, increasing expenses and people’s conscription labor, and Tàizǔ knew this wearied the people. Now the central states’ exhausting its strength, is also what Wú and Shǔ hopes for. This is the critical point between safety and danger, may Your Majesty consider this.”
- (1) Your Servant Sōngzhī comments: Hànshū‘s Dìlǐ zhì “Geography Treatise” says: Yuánshǐ Second Year , the realm Under Heaven’s population was at its most flourishing, Rǔnán prefecture was a large prefecture, having over 300,000 households. Then in Wén and Jǐng’s time could not be more than this. Acccording to Jìn’s Tàikāng Third Year  land records, Jìn’s households were 3,7170,000. Wú’s and Shǔ’s households could not make up half of it. By this discussing it, although Wèi began from tragic chaos, from Jìn it also could not have large difference. Chángwén’s speech, therefore is excessive.
The Emperor answered: “The ruler’s palaces and residences, also should be simultaneously enacted [as destroying Wú and Shǔ]. After destroying the rebels, then there should be ceasing of guarding and that is all; how can there again be raising of conscription labor? This then is your duty [as Excellency of Works], and Xiāo Hé’s great reasoning.”
Qún also said: “In the past Hàn [Gāo]zǔ only with Xiàng Yǔ contended for the realm Under Heaven, after [Xiàng] Yǔ was destroyed, palaces and residences were burned, and therefore Xiāo Hé established Military Storage and Grand Granary, both for important urgencies, however yet they were not magnificent. Now the two rebels are not yet pacified, truly it is not appropriate to with the ancients act the same. (2) What men desire for, none do not refuse, all the more then for the Heavenly Ruler, none dare disobey. Previously wishing to dismantle Military Storage, saying it could not be not dismantled, later wishing to install it, saying it cannot be not installed. If it must be built, surely it is not what the words of subordinates can refuse. If there is some carefulness, and returning of intentions, also it is not what subordinates can match. Hàn Míng-dì wished to raise Déyáng Palace Hall, Zhōnglí Yì remonstrated, and so he used his words, but later then again built it. The hall was completed, and he said to his various ministers: ‘If Secretariat Zhōnglí was here, one could not complete this hall.’ How can a ruler fear one minister? It is for the common people. Now I your servant already cannot a little be heard by your sageliness, and my not reaching [Zhōnglí] Yì is very far.”
The Emperor because of this decreased expenditures.
- (2) Sūn Shèng states: By Zhōu’s Ritual, the Palace of Heaven’s Son, has chopping and grinding regulation. However decoration of ornamentation, with the times have developments. Hàn carried on Zhōu’s and Qín’s detriments, and should transform by simplification, but how they increased decoration of palaces and residences, to show extravagance to later posterity. This then was Wǔ-dì’s thousand families and ten thousand households to greatly increase, how can there be no talk of again increasing? All the more then for the Wèi dynasty facing the troubles of Wú and Shǔ, the hardships of the four seas in suffering and distress, and yet speaking of Xiāo Hé’s mistaken comments, believing it proper course, how can it not be confusing great principle and failing to distinguish gains and losses? To have a ruler of a hundred ages, dazzling between extravagance and frugality, what is the cause. The Shī says: ‘This speech of flaw, canot be.’ This then is what it speaks of!
Previously, in the time of Tàizǔ, Liú Yì because his younger brother had with Wèi Fěng plotted rebellion was about to be executed. Qún spoke of this to Tàizǔ, and Tàizǔ said: “Yì is an important official. I also wish to pardon him.” Therefore [Liú Yì] was restored to his position. Yì deeply thanked Qún, but Qún said: “One discusses punishments for the state, not for personal reasons. Moreover it was the intention of an enlightened ruler. What would I know?” His liberal nature and lack of pride was all of this sort.
Qīnglóng fourth year  he died, posthumous name Jìng-hóu “Tranquil Marquis.” His son Tài succeeded. The Emperor [Cáo Ruì] in memorial of Qún’s achievements and virtues divided Qún’s fief to give fief to one son as a full Marquis. (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: Qún from beginning to end repeatedly secretly explained gains and losses, every time sending up letter of matters, then at once cut his drafts, at the time of the people and his junior relatives none were able to know. Of commentators some ridiculed Qún as occupying seat saluting in silence. During Zhèngshǐ Imperial Order compiled the various ministers’ sent up memorials, into Míngchén Zòuyì, the Court ministers then saw Qún’s remonstrance matters, and all sighed.
- Yuán-zǐ states:
- Someone said: “Would former Minister Treasurer Yáng Fù not be a loyal minister? Seeing the ruler of men’s wrongs, then agitated and angry he would deal with it, with men speaking not once without principle, would it not be what is called: ‘Ruler’s minister speaks boldly, not bending to it!'”
- The answer said: “Yet it could be called upright minister, loyalty then I do not know. The benevolent love men. Showing it to a ruler it is called loyalty, showing it to parents it is called filial piety. Loyalty and filial piety, is of one foundation. Therefore the utmost of benevolence and love, if the ruler or parent has mistake, remonstrating but not entering, beseeching them repeatedly, is to have no choice but to speak, to not bear to announce. Now to be a servant of men, seeing the ruler of men lose the way, to straightforwardly slander his wrongs and broadly raise his evils, can be called an upright minister, but cannot be called a loyal minister. Therefore Excellency of Works Chén Qún when not in agreement, in his discussions all day long, never once did he speak of the ruler of men’s wrongs; letters of several tens were sent up and yet outsiders did not know. The superior gentleman says that Qún therefore was superior.”