Tián Chóu appellation Zǐtài was a Yòuběipíng Wúzhōng man. He enjoyed reading books and was good at sword fencing.
Chūpíng Inaugural Year , righteous troops rose, Dǒng Zhuó moved the Emperor to Cháng’ān. Yōu Province Governor Liú Yú sighed and said: “A rebel minister makes chaos, the Court is scattered and swept away, the Four Seas suddenly disturbed, none have assured will. I am the Imperial Clan’s remnant elder, and cannot personally join the masses. Now I wish to send envoy to enact a subject’s integrity, how can I obtain a serviceman who will not dishonor the command?” The mass of commentators all said: “Tián Chóu though his years are few, many praise his uniqueness.” Chóu’s at the time years were twenty-two. [Liú] Yú then prepared gifts and invited and met with him, was greatly pleased with him, and therefore appointed him as Attending Official, preparing chariots and riders. When about to go, Chóu said: “Now the roads are cut off, bandits freely moving, to be declared a government envoy is to be by the masses pointed out and named. I wish to privately go, and hopefully be able to reach and nothing more.” [Liú] Yú followed this. Chóu then returned home and personally selected from his family retainers the young and brave and wiling to follow of twenty riders to together go. [Liú] Yú personally went out to sacrifice and send them off. (1)
- (1) Xiānxián Xíngzhuàng states: Chóu was about to go, and was invited to with [Liú] Yú secretly consult. Chóu therefore advised [Liú] Yú saying: “Now the Emperor ruler is young and weak, treacherous minister seizes command, to memorialize above one must wait for reply, I fear it will lose opportunity. Moreover Gōngsūn Zàn opposes with troops and can be merciless, to not early plan against him, is to certainly have later regret.” [Liú] Yú did not listen.
When on the road, Chóu then went up Xī pass, went out the passes, following the north, directly reaching Shuòfāng, following the small paths to go, and therefore reached Cháng’ān to deliver command. Imperial Order appointed him Cavalry Commandant. Chóu believed that Heaven’s Son was covered in dust and not yet secure, and he could not wear girdle ornaments of glory and favor, and firmly declined and would not accept. The Court praised his righteousness. The Three Offices all recruited him, all he did not accept. He obtained reply, and hurriedly returned, had not yet arrived, when [Liú] Yú already was by Gōngsūn Zàn harmed.
Chóu arrived, visited and sacrificed at [Liú] Yú’s grave, read out the written reply, wept tears and left. [Gōngsūn] Zàn heard this and was greatly furious, set bounty reward and captured Chóu, and said: “Why did you weep at Liú Yú’s tomb, and not send the written reply to me?” Chóu said: “The Hàn House is declined and fallen, men harbor ulterior hearts, only Excellency Liú did not lose loyal integrity. What the written reply said, had nothing good for you General, and I fear you would not be happy to hear it, therefore I did not advance it. Moreover you General are about to raise a great affair to seek what you wish, have already exterminated a lord without guilt, to also take revenge on a minister holding to righteousness, if you indeed do this thing, then Yān and Zhào’s soldiers and officers will all wade into the eastern sea and die, for how could any bear to follow you General?” [Gōngsūn] Zàn was impressed with this reply, and released and did not execute him. He was restrained below the army, forbidding his old friends so none were able to with him communicate. Someone persuaded [Gōngsūn] Zàn saying: “Tián Chóu is a righteous servicemen, if you are not able to be respectful, and also imprison him, I fear you will lose the masses’ hearts.” [Gōngsūn] Zàn then released and sent Chóu.
Chóu was able to return north, and led his clansmen and other attached followers of several hundred people, to sweep the ground and make oath saying: “If our lord is not avenged, we cannot stand in the world!” Therefore h entered into Xúwú mountain, camping in deep and rugged level open ground and residing, personally plowing to support father and mother. The Hundred Surnames submitted to him, and within several years it reached over five thousand families.
Chóu said to the elders: “You sirs did not believe me unworthy, and from afar came to join me. The numbers are enough for a city, but none are unified in leadership, and I fear it is not the way to long be secure, may you elect one of your worthy elders to be leader.” All said: “Agreed.”
Together they all elected Chóu. Chóu said: “Now it has come to this, I cannot be at ease and nothing more, and will plan for great affairs, and again seek to take revenge. I humbly fear I cannot yet obtain this ambition. Now my coming here, was not to be at ease and nothing more, it was to plot a great affair, to avenge disgrace. I humbly fear I cannot yet obtain this ambition, and frivolous followers will infringe and insult each other, to steal pleasure for a time, without deep calculations and far-reaching considerations. I Chóu have foolish plans, and hope to with you sirs together enact it, is it acceptable?” All said: “Acceptable.”
Chóu then made laws restricting killing or injuring each other, assaulting and robbing, arguing and disputes, the law in severity reached death, the next in levels of punishment were over twenty articles. Also he regulated rituals for marriage, raised the enterprise of schooling and instruction, and in enacting it to the masses, the masses all followed it, so that on the roads they did not steal dropped things. The northern borders complied with and submitted to his authority and faith, the Wūhuán and Xiānbēi together each sent translator envoys to send gifts, Chóu all comforted and accepted, to have them not plunder. Yuán Shào repeatedly sent envoys to recruit him, and also sent a General’s seal, to calm and gather up those he led, Chóu all refused and did not accept. [Yuán] Shào died, his son Shàng again recruited, Chóu to the end did not go.
Chóu always was angered that the Wūhuán in the past frequently robbed and killed his prefecture’s officials, and had the intention to suppress them but his strength was not yet able. Jiàn’ān Twelfth Year , Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] campaigned north against the Wūhuán, had not yet arrived, and first sent envoy to recruit [Tián] Chóu, also ordering Tián Yù to explain and direct. Chóu warned his subordinates to quickly tidy. A follower said: “In the past Excellency Yuán admired you, gifts and orders five times arrived, you righteously did not yield; now Excellency Cáo’s envoy one time comes and you are as if afraid it is not enough, why?” Chóu laughed and answered him saying: “This is not what you can understand.” Therefore he went with the envoy to arrive at the army, was installed as Excellency of Works’ Household Department Official, and called to meet to consult and discuss. The next day the sent out Order said: “Tián Zǐtài is not someone who should be my subordinate official.” At once he was nominated Abundant Talent, appointed as Tiāo Magistrate, did not go to the office, and accompanied the army to Wúzhōng.
At the time it was the summer floods and rain, and the coast was low, muddy and not passable, and the caitiffs also screened defenses on the footpaths and critical points, the army was not able to advance. Tàizǔ worried about this, and asked Chóu. Chóu said: “This road in autumn and summer regularly has flooding, the shallows are not passable by chariots and horses, the deeps not cross able by boats, and has been a difficulty for a long time. The old Běipíng prefecture headquarters was at Pínggāng, the road going out Lúlóng, reaching to Liǔchéng; from Jiànwǔ [25-56] onward, it was broken and cut off, it has been two hundred years, but still there is a small path that can be followed. Now the caitiffs believe the main army must come from Wúzhōng, cannot advance and is withdrawing, will slacken and be without preparations. If we slightly return the army, to from Lúlóng’s mouth cross Báitán’s rugged terrain, setting out empty land, the road is narrow and convenient, can surprise their lack of preparation, and Tàdùn’s head can without battle be taken.” Tàizǔ said: “Excellent.” Therefore they led the army back, and installed a large wooden sign on the water beside the road that said: “Right now it is the heat of summer, the roads are not passable, and one must wait for autumn and winter, and then advance the army.” The caitiff scout cavalry saw it, and truly believed the main army had left.
Tàizǔ ordered Chóu to lead his forces to be guides, went up Xúwú mountain, went out Lúlóng, going through Pínggāng, ascending Báilángduī, from Liǔchéng by over two hundred lǐ, the caitiffs then were alarmed. The Chányú personally overlooked the battle lines, Tàizǔ with them engaged in battle, and therefore greatly beheaded and captured, pursued a defeated enemy, reaching Liǔchéng. The army returned to enter the passes, discussed achievements and enacted enfeoffments, enfeoffing Chóu as a precinct Marquis, fief of five hundred households. (1) Chóu himself believed he had previously resided in difficulty, led forces to flee away, ambition and righteousness were not established, and to instead benefit, was not his original intention, and therefore declined. Tàizǔ understood his devoted heart, and agreed and did not force it. (2)
- (1) Xiānxián Xíngzhuàng records Tàizǔ’s memorial discussing Chóu’s achievement saying: “Civil elegance exceptionally prepared, loyal and martial also made known, harmonious in comforting subordinates, careful in serving superiors, judging times and deciding with reason, advancing and withdrawing in accordance to righteousness. When Yōu province was first disturbed, the Hú and Hàn gathered together, swept away from their residences, without any to depend on. Chóu led his clansmen to flee the troubles to Wúzhōng mountain, to the north resisting Lúlóng, to the south defending critical points, peaceful and quiet in obscurity, plowing and afterward eating, the people were cultivated and followed, all providing for and supporting one another. When Yuán Shào father and sons were powerful in the northern fields, distantly allying with the the Wūhuán, with them forming head and tail, beginning to end they summoned Chóu, to the end he would not be trapped and yield. Later I your servant presented command, the army reached Yì county, Chóu hurried and personally arrived, explained the situation to suppress the Hú, like Guǎng Wǔ’s establishing strategy against Yān and Xuē-gōng’s judging Huáinán. Also he sent his division retainers to wield your servant’s announced declarations, to go out to entice the Hú masses, and of the Hàn people some because of this fled to come, the Wūhuán heard this and were shaken. The ruler’s forces set out the passes, crossing through mountains over nine hundred lǐ, Chóu led troops of five hundred, leading and guiding through the mountains and valleys, and therefore we exterminated the Wūhuán, sweeping away and pacifying beyond the passes. Chóu’s civil and military abilities had effect, his integrity and righteousness is laudable, and truly in answer he should be favored and rewarded, to make manifest his beauty.
- (2) Wèi shū records Tàizǔ’s Order stating: “In the past Bóchéng relinquished state, Xià Hòu did not force it, to wish to have high and lofty servicemen, excellent and worthy rulers, does not stop in one age. Thus listen to Chóu’s wishes.”
Liáodōng beheaded and sent Yuán Shàng’s head, it was ordered: “In the Three Armies those that dare weep for him are beheaded.” Chóu because he once had been by [Yuán] Shàng recruited, then went to give condolence sacrifices. Tàizǔ also did not investigate. (1) Chóu completely led his family dependents and clansmen of over three hundred families to reside at Yè. Tàizǔ bestowed on Chóu chariots and horses and grain and silk, all he gave out to his clan and his old friends. He followed the campaign against Jīng province and returned, Tàizǔ recalled Chóu’s achievements were especially beautiful, regretted that he had previously listened to Chóu’s declining, and said: “It is to achieve one man’s will, but harm the Ruling Law and Great Regulations.” Therefore he then restored the previous noble rank and enfeoffment on Chóu. (2) Chóu sent up memorial explaining his sincerity, to the death himself swearing. Tàizǔ did not listen, wishing to summon and appoint him, it went to four times, to the end he would not accept. Managers impeached Chóu as impetuous and violating principle, negligently establishing trivial integrity, and it was appropriate to dismiss him from office and apply punishment. Tàizǔ reconsidered this matter, was undecided for a long time, and then sent down the successor son [Cáo Pī] and great ministers to extensively discuss, the successor son believed Chóu was the same as Zǐ Wén declining salary and Shēn Xū evading reward, and it was appropriate to not forcefully take away his exceptional integrity. Secretariat Documents Director Xún Yù, Colonel Director of Retainers Zhōng Yáo also believed they could agree. (3) Tàizǔ yet wished to make a marquis of him. Chóu previously was with Xiàhóu Dūn friendly, Tàizǔ said to [Xiàhóu] Dūn: “Go and explain the situation to him, he will follow what you say, do not report my intentions.” [Xiàhóu] Dūn went to Chóu’s residence, and did as Tàizǔ warned. Chóu guessed and new his aims, and did not again speak. [Xiàhóu] Dūn was about to leave, and then patted Chóu’s back and said: “Sir Tián, the lord’s intentions are eagerly attentive, cano you not once look back?” Chóu replied saying: “Such mistaken words! I Chóu am only a man who turned back on righteousness to run away. To receive favor and preserve life, the fortunes are already many. How can I sell Lúlóng pass to exchange for reward and salary? To have the state give selfish gain to me, can I alone be not ashamed in heart? General you always understand me, yet you are again like this, and if it must be against my will, then I ask to serve by death and cut my throat before you.” His words were not yet finished, when his tears were overflowing. [Xiàhóu] Dūn provided this answer to Tàizǔ. Tàizǔ sighed and knew [Tián Chóu] could not submit, and so appointed him as a Consultant Cadet. Aged forty six years he died. His son also early died. Emperor Wén ascended the steps, praised Chóu’s virtue and righteousness, and bestowed on Chóu’s cousin’s grandson [Tián] Xù noble rank as Marquis Within the Passes, to carry on his succession.
- (1) Your Servant Sōngzhī believes Tián Chóu not answering the summons of Yuán Shào father and sons, was because they were not upright. Therefore he exhaustively planned for the Wèi founder, establishing the Lúlóng strategy. It led to Yuán Shàng fleeing away, and losing head at Liáodōng, it all was because of Chóu. It was already clearly that he was a rebel, why did he again give condolence sacrifices to his head? If it was because he was once recruited, and righteousness was in that, then he should not have set plans for another, to cause them to come to this. Chóu in this action, was very much withdrawing and advancing without appropriateness. With Wáng Xiū weeping for Yuán Tán, the appearance was the same but the heart was different.
- (2) Xiānxián Xíngzhuàng records Tàizǔ’s mandate stating: “Tiāo Magistrate Tián Chóu is of utmost integrity and lofty esteem, happened to encounter warfare in his home and chaos in the heartlands, led himself deep into the mountains, thoroughly studying feeling, the Hundred Surnames followed him, to complete a city. The Yuán rebels were flourishing, summoned him and he would not submit. He fervently defended will, as the border’s true master. When I received Imperial Order to campaign and settle the Hé’s north, then reached Yōu capital, about to settle the Hú bandits, at the time I applied courteous mandates. Chóu at once accepted appointment, explained and established how to take the road to attack the Hú, leading all the mountain peoples, the whole time turned to cultivation, opened the passes to guide and escort, providing transport and conscription, the road was near and convenient, causing the caitiffs to be unaware. Beheading Tàdùn at Báiláng, then driving on to Liǔchéng, was Chóu’s strength. When the army entered the passes, the officers charted this achievement, memorialized to enfeoff him as a precinct marquis, fief of five hundred, but Chóu was earnest and sorrowful, beginning to end declining reward. Going out and in for three years, for accumulated years he was not rewarded, this was to achieve one man’s loftiness, extremely in violation of the ruling standards, the faults are many. It is appropriate to follow the memorial to enfeoff, to not prolong my mistake.”
- (3) Wèishū records the successor son’s commentary stating: “In the past Wěi Áo avoided employment, records recorded his beauty, in order to arouse troubled ages, stir the greedy, worthier than the men in sinecures only eating. Therefore what can be gained is yet small, and what cannot be gained is yet ruined. As for Tián Chóu, he is similar to this. To dismiss him from office or apply punishment, by law it is too heavy.”
- Wèilüè records instructions stating: “In the past [Bó] Yí and [Shū] Qí abandoned noble rank and ridiculed King Wǔ, it can be called foolish and ignorant, but Kǒng-zǐ yet believed it ‘seeking benevolence and obtaining benevolence.’ Chóu in maintaining this, though it is not in accord to the way, yet is only to wish to be pure and high. If Heaven’s Under was all like Chóu’s will, it would be the matter of Mò Dí’s universal love and esteeming the same, and the way of Lǎo Dān causing the people to bind rope. Though the outside commentary calls it good, again have the [Secretariat Documents] Director [Xún Yù] and the Director of Retainers [Zhōng Yáo] decide it.”
- Wèishū records Xún Yù’s commentary, believing: “The gentleman’s way, is sometimes going out and sometimes staying, hoping to do good and nothing more. Therefore when an ordinary fellow holds to will, the sagely men each because of it completes it.” Zhōng Yáo believed: “Yuán Sī declined grain, Zhòngní did not agree. Zǐlù refused ox, [Kǒng-zǐ] said it would stop the doing of good. Though it can arouse purity and stir filth, yet the insufficiency is many. Chóu though does not conform to great righteousness, it has benefit in encouraging manners of yielding, it is appropriate to follow the successor son’s commentary.”
- Your Servant Sōngzhī cites Lǚshì Chūnqiū: “In Lǔ state’s law, Lǔ men that were prisoners of other lords, those able to ransom them obtained the gold from government office. Zǐgòng ransomed someone and yet declined and did not take gold, Kǒng-zǐ said: ‘Cì was mistaken in this. From now onward Lǔ people will not ransom.’ Zǐlù rescued someone drowning, the person paid respects with oxen, Zǐlù accepted it. Kǒng-zǐ said: ‘Lǔ men will certainly rescue the drowning.'” Citing this story it does not agree with [Zhōng] Yáo’s example, it is uncertain if Yáo’s story is mistaken, or if the story came from somewhere else.