|Emperor of Eastern Wu|
|Died||252 (aged 70)|
|Style name||Zhongmou (traditional Chinese:仲謀; simplified Chinese: 仲谋;pinyin: Zhòngmóu; Wade–Giles: Chung-mou)|
|Posthumous name||Emperor Da (Chinese: 大帝;pinyin: Dà Dì; Wade–Giles: Ta Ti)|
Sun Quan (182–252), style name Zhongmou, formally known as Emperor Da of Wu, was the founder of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period. He ruled from 222 to 229 as the "King of Wu" and from 229 to 252 as the "Emperor of Wu".
In his youth, Sun Quan spent time in his home county of Fuchun, in present-day Zhejiang, and after the death of his father Sun Jian in the early 190s, at various cities on the lowerYangtze River. His older brother Sun Ce carved out a warlord state in the region of present-day Zhejiang, based on his own followers and a number of local clan allegiances. When Sun Ce was assassinated by the retainers of Xu Gong in 200, the eighteen-year-old Sun Quan inherited the lands southeast of the Yangtze River from his brother. His administration proved to be relatively stable in those early years. Sun Jian and Sun Ce's most senior officers, such as Zhou Yu, Zhang Zhao, Zhang Hong, and Cheng Pu remained loyal; in fact it was mentioned in Romance of the Three Kingdoms that Sun Ce had at his deathbed reminded Sun Quan that "in internal matters, consult Zhang Zhao, in external matters, consult Zhou Yu." Thus throughout the 200s, Sun Quan, under the tutelage of his able advisors, continued to build up his strength along the Yangtze River. In early 207, his forces finally won complete victory over Huang Zu, a military leader under Liu Biao, who dominated the middle Yangtze.
In winter of that year, the northern warlord Cao Cao led an army of some 830,000 to conquer south to complete the reunification of China. Two distinct factions emerged at his court on how to handle the situation. One, led by Zhang Zhao, urged surrender whilst the other, led by Zhou Yu and Lu Su, opposed capitulation. In the finality, Sun Quan decided to oppose Cao Cao in the middle Yangtze with his superior riverine forces. Allied with Liu Bei and employing the combined strategies of Zhou Yu and Huang Gai, they defeated Cao Cao decisively at the Battle of Red Cliffs.
In 220, Cao Pi, son of Cao Cao, seized the throne and proclaimed himself to be theEmperor of China, ending and succeeding the nominal rule of the Han Dynasty. At first Sun Quan nominally served as a Wei vassal with the Wei-created title of King of Wu, but after Cao Pi demanded that he send his son Sun Deng as a hostage to the Wei capitalLuoyang and he refused, in 222, he declared himself independent by changing his era name. It was not until the year 229 that he formally declared himself emperor.
Because of his skill in gathering important, honourable men to his cause, Sun Quan was able to delegate authority to capable figures. This primary strength served him well in gaining the support of the common people and surrounding himself with capable generals.
After the death of his original crown prince, Sun Deng, two opposing factions supporting different potential successors slowly emerged. When Sun He succeeded Sun Deng as the new crown prince, he was supported by Lu Xun and Zhuge Ke, while his rival Sun Ba was supported by Quan Cong and Bu Zhi and their clans. Over a prolonged internal power struggle, numerous officials were executed, and Sun Quan harshly settled the conflict between the two factions by exiling Sun He and forcing Sun Ba to commit suicide. Sun Quan died in 252 at the age of 70. He enjoyed the longest reign among all the founders of the Three Kingdoms, and was succeeded by his son Sun Liang.
- 2 Succeeding Sun Ce
- 3 Reign as the monarch of Eastern Wu
- 4 Family
- 5 Era names
- 6 Modern references
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Sun Quan was born in 182, while his father Sun Jian was still a general of the Han Dynasty. After his father's death in 191, he became the charge of his brother Sun Ce. As he grew up, he served his brother during the conquests of the region south of the Yangtze River. He was made a county magistrate in 196, at the age of 14, and continued to rise through the ranks as his brother gave him more and more important tasks.
The Records of the Three Kingdoms detail that Sun Jian was a descendant of renowned Warring States period militarist Sun Wu (better known as Sun Tzu). According to later tradition, Sun Quan was born on Sunzhou ("Sun Island", later Wangzhou - "King's Island"), an islet at the intersection of the Fuchun River and one of its tributaries. Local folklore relates a story about how Sun Quan's grandfather, Sun Zhong, was originally a melon farmer on the islet.
Sun Ce was assassinated in 200 during a hunt. On his deathbed, he knew that his son was still too young to be considered a realistic heir, so he entrusted the 18-year-old Sun Quan to his faithful subordinates. Initially, Sun Quan mourned his brother's death so much that he could do nothing, but at Zhang Zhao's behest, he dressed himself in military uniform and set out to visit the commanderies under his brother's control. Many of Sun Ce's subordinates thought that Sun Quan was too young to sustain Sun Ce's domain and wanted to leave, but Zhang Zhao and Zhou Yu saw special qualities in the young man and chose to stay to serve Sun Quan. Zhang Hong, whom Sun Ce had earlier sent as a liaison to the warlord Cao Cao, also returned from Cao's domain to assist Sun Quan. (At Zhang Hong's request, Cao Cao, in the name of Emperor Xian, commissioned Sun Quan as General Who Attacks Barbarians (討虜將軍), a title that he would be known for a long time.) He listened carefully to his mother Lady Wu's encouraging words, and greatly trusted Zhang Zhao and Zhang Hong with regard to civilian affairs and Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu, and Lü Fan with regard to military matters. Sun Quan also sought out talented young men to serve as his personal advisors, and it was around this time that he befriended Lu Su andZhuge Jin, who would later play prominent roles in his administration. Throughout this period and decades to come, Sun Quan's leadership would be characterized by his ability to find men of character and entrust important matters to him, and his ability to react swiftly to events.
For the next several years, Sun Quan was largely interested in first defending his realm against potential enemies, but he gradually sought to harass and weaken Liu Biao's key subordinate, Huang Zu (who controlled the northeastern region of Liu Biao's domain) -- particularly because Huang Zu had killed his father in battle. In 208, he was finally able to defeat and kill Huang Zu in battle. Soon after, Liu Biao died while Cao Cao was preparing a major campaign to subjugate both Liu Biao and Sun Quan under his control, precipitating a major confrontation.Battle of Red Cliffs
After Liu Biao's death, a succession struggle for his domain came into being, between his sons Liu Qi and younger son Liu Cong, whom Liu Biao's second wife Lady Cai favored (because he had married her niece). After Huang Zu's death, Liu Qi was therefore given Huang's post as the governor of Jiangxia Commandery (in present-day Huanggang, Hubei). Liu Cong therefore succeeded Liu Biao after his death, and Liu Qi was displeased and considered, but did not carry out, an attack against his brother. Nevertheless, Liu Cong, in fear of having to fight Cao Cao and his brother on two fronts, surrendered to Cao Cao against the advice of Liu Biao's key ally Liu Bei. Liu Bei, unwilling to submit to Cao Cao, fled south. Cao caught up to him and crushed his forces, but Liu Bei escaped with his life; he fled to Dangyang (當陽, in present-day Yichang, Hubei). Cao Cao took over most of Jing Province, and appeared set on finally unifying the empire.
Sun Quan was well aware of Cao Cao's intentions, and he quickly entered into an alliance with Liu Bei and Liu Qi to prepare for an attack by Cao. Cao Cao wrote Sun Quan with a letter intending to intimidate, and in face of Cao's overwhelming force (estimated to be about 220,000 men, although Cao claimed 800,000, against Sun's 30,000 and the Lius' combined force of 10,000), many of Sun's subordinates, including Zhang Zhao, advocated surrender. Sun Quan refused, under advice from Zhou Yu and Lu Su (that Cao Cao would surely not tolerate him even if he surrendered).
Sun Quan put Zhou Yu in charge of his 30,000 men, largely stationed on naval ships, and Zhou set up in a defense position in conjunction with Liu Bei, whose army was stationed on land. About this time, there was a plague developing in Cao Cao's forces which significantly weakened it. Zhou Yu set up a trap where he pretended to be punishing his subordinate Huang Gai, and Huang pretended to surrender to Cao Cao in fear. Zhou Yu then sent ships under Huang Gai's command to pretend to surrender and, as Huang's ships approached Cao Cao's fleet, they were set aflame to assault Cao's fleet, and Cao's fleet was largely destroyed by fire. Cao Cao led his forces to escape on land, but much of the force was destroyed by Sun Quan and Liu Bei's land forces.Battle of Jiangling (208)
After Liu Bei's conquest of Yi Province, he was able to supply his troops on his own, so Sun Quan sent Lu Su as an emissary to demand for the return of Jing Province, but Liu Bei refused. Sun Quan then sent Lü Meng and Ling Tong to lead 20,000 men to attack southern Jing Province and they succeeded in capturing Changsha, Guiyang, andLingling commanderies. Meantime, Lu Su and Gan Ning advanced to Yiyang (益陽) with 10,000 men (to block Guan Yu) and took over command of the army at Lukou (陸口). Liu Bei personally went to Gong'an and Guan Yu led 30,000 men to Yiyang. When an all-out war was about to break out, the news that Cao Cao planned to attack Hanzhongwas received by Liu Bei, and he requested for a border treaty with Sun Quan as he became worried about Cao Cao seizing Hanzhong. Liu Bei asked Sun Quan to give him back Lingling commandery and create a diversion for Cao Cao by attacking Hefei; in return, Liu Bei ceded Changsha and Guiyang commanderies to Sun Quan, setting the new border along the Xiang River. Sun Quan's attack on Hefei was disastrous - he was nearly captured on a few occasions, if not saved by Ling Tong.Immediately, after Cao Cao withdrew, Sun Quan took over the northern half of Jing Province. Liu Bei marched south and took over the southern half. The Sun-Liu alliance was further cemented by a marriage of Sun Quan's younger sister, Lady Sun, to Liu Bei. Zhou Yu was suspicious of Liu Bei's intentions, however, and suggested to Sun Quan that Liu be seized and put under house arrest (albeit be very well-treated) and his forces be merged into Sun's; Sun Quan, believing that Liu Bei's forces would rebel if he did that, declined. Sun Quan did agree to Zhou Yu's plans to consider attacking Liu Zhang and Zhang Lu (who controlled the modern southern Shaanxi) to try to take over their territories, but after Zhou Yu died in 210, the plans were abandoned. However, Sun Quan was able to persuade the warlords in present-day Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam to submit to him, and they became part of his domain. He then yielded northern Jing Province to Liu Bei as well, agreeing with Liu that the south was insufficient to supply his troops.
In 219, Guan Yu advanced north, attacking Fancheng, scoring a major victory over Cao Ren. While Fancheng did not fall at this time, Guan Yu put it under siege, and the situation was severe enough that Cao Cao considered moving the capital away from Xu. However, Sun Quan, resentful of Guan Yu's prior constant instigation of hostilities (including seizing Sun's food supplies to use for his campaign north), took the opportunity to attack Guan from the rear, and Guan's forces collapsed. Guan Yu was captured by forces under generalLü Meng; Guan Yu was executed, Jing Province came under Sun's control, and the Sun-Liu alliance ended. Sun Quan nominally submitted to Cao Cao and urged him to take the throne but Cao refused.
After Cao Cao's death in 220, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to yield the throne to him, ending the Han Dynasty and establishing the state of Cao Wei. Sun Quan did not immediately submit to Wei or declare independence after Cao Pi's enthronement, but took a wait-and-see attitude; by contrast, in early 221, Liu Bei declared himself emperor, establishing the state of Shu Han. Immediately, Liu Bei planned a campaign against Sun Quan to avenge Guan Yu. After attempting to negotiate peace and receiving no positive response from Liu Bei, fearing attack on both sides, Sun Quan became a vassal of Wei. Cao Pi's strategist Liu Ye suggested that Cao Pi decline — and in fact attack Sun Quan on a second front, effectively partitioning Sun's domain with Shu, and then eventually seek to destroy Shu as well. Cao Pi declined, in a fateful choice that most historians believe doomed his empire to ruling only the northern and central China — and this chance would not come again. Indeed, against Liu Ye's advice, he appointed Sun Quan the King of Wu and granted him thenine bestowments.
In 222, at the Battle of Xiaoting, Sun Quan's general Lu Xun dealt Liu Bei a major defeat, stopping the Shu offensive. Shu would not again pose a threat to Sun Quan from that point on. Later that year, when Cao Pi demanded that Sun Quan send his crown prince Sun Deng to the Wei capital Luoyang as a hostage (to guarantee his loyalty), Sun Quan refused and declared independence (by changingera name), thus establishing Eastern Wu as an independent state. Cao Pi launched a major attack on Wu, but after Wei defeats in early 223, it became clear that Wu was secure. After Liu Bei's death later that year, Zhuge Jin's brother Zhuge Liang, the regent for Liu Bei's son and successor Liu Shan, reestablished the alliance with Sun Quan, and the two states would remain allies until Shu's eventual destruction in 263.
In 224 and 225, Cao Pi again made attacks on Wu, but each time the Wu forces were able to repel Wei's with fair ease — so easily that Cao Pi made the comment, "Heaven created the Yangtze to divide the north and south." However, Sun Quan was himself equally unsuccessful in efforts to make major attacks on Wei. After Cao Pi's death in 226, for example, Sun Quan launched an attack on Wei's Jiangxia Commandery (in present-day Xiaogan, Hubei) but was forced to withdraw as soon as Wei reinforcements arrived. However, later that year, he was able to increase his effective control over Jiao Province (交州, present-day northern Vietnam) when his general Lü Dai was able to defeat the warlord Shi Hui (士徽) and end the effective independence that the Shi clan had. In addition, the several independent kingdoms in modern Cambodia, Laos, and southern Vietnam all became Wu vassals as well.Early in Sun Quan's reign, the Wu administration was known for its efficiency, as Sun showed a knack for listening to correct advice and for delegating authorities to the proper individuals. For example, he correctly trusted the faithful Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin, so much so that he made a duplicate imperial seal and left it with Lu Xun; whenever he would correspond with Shu's emperorLiu Shan or regent Zhuge Liang, he would deliver the letter to Lu Xun first (as Lu's post was near the Shu border), and then if, in Lu's opinion, changes were needed, he would revise the letter and then restamp it with Sun's imperial seal. Further, Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin were authorized to coordinate their actions with Shu without prior imperial approval. Sun Quan treated his high level officials as friends and addressed them accordingly (with style names), and in accordance they dedicated all effort to Wu's preservation. He also knew what were the proper roles for officials that he trusted; for example, in 225, when selecting a chancellor, while the key officials all respected Zhang Zhaogreatly and wanted him to be chancellor, Sun Quan declined, reasoning that while he respected Zhang greatly, a chancellor needed to handle all affairs of state, and Zhang, while capable, had such strong opinions that he would surely be in conflict with Sun Quan and other officials at all times. He also repeatedly promoted his official Lü Fan even though, while he was young, Lü Fan had informed to Sun Ce about his improper spending habits, understanding that Lü did so only out of loyalty to Sun Ce.
The one major victory that Wu would have over Wei during this period came in 228, when, with Sun Quan's approval, his general Zhou Fang pretended to be surrendering to Wei after pretending to have been punished repeatedly by Sun Quan. This tricked the Wei generalCao Xiu, who led a large army south to support Zhou Fang. He walked into the trap set by Zhou Fang and Lu Xun and suffered major losses, but was saved from total annihilation by Jia Kui.
In 229, Sun Quan declared himself emperor, which almost damaged the alliance with Shu, as many Shu officials saw this as a sign of betrayal of the Han Dynasty — to which Shu claimed to be the legitimate successor. However, Zhuge Liang opposed ending the alliance and in fact confirmed it with a formal treaty later that year, in which the two states pledged to support each other and divide Wei equally if they could conquer it. Later that year, he moved his capital from Wuchang (武昌, in present-day Ezhou, Hubei) to Jianye, leaving his crown prince Sun Deng, assisted by Lu Xun, in charge of the western empire.
In 230, however, the first sign of the deterioration of Sun Quan's reign occurred. That year, he sent his generals Wei Wen (衛溫) and Zhuge Zhi (諸葛直) with a navy of 10,000 into the East China Sea to seek the legendary islands of Yizhou (夷洲) and Danzhou (亶洲) to seek to conquer them, despite strenuous opposition of Lu Xun and Quan Cong. The navy was not able to locate Danzhou but located Yizhou, and returned in 231 after capturing several thousand men — but only after 80-90% of the navy had died from illness. Instead of seeing his own fault in this venture, Sun Quan simply executed Wei Wen and Zhuge Zhi. Perhaps concerned about this deterioration in Sun Quan's judgment, Sun Deng left the western empire in Lu Xun's hands in 232 and returned to Jianye, and would remain at Jianye until his own death in 241.
In 232, Sun Quan had another misadventure involving his navy — as he sent his generals Zhou He (周賀) and Pei Qian (裴濳) to the nominal Wei vassal Gongsun Yuan, in control of Liaodong Commandery (present-day central Liaoning), to purchase horses, against the advice of Yu Fan - and indeed, he exiled Yu Fan to the desolate Cangwu Commandery (roughly modern Wuzhou, Guangxi) as punishment. Just as Yu Fan predicted, however, the venture would end in failure — as Zhou He and Pei Qian, on their way back, were intercepted by Wei forces and killed. Regretting his actions, Sun Quan tried to recall Yu Fan back to Jianye, only to learn that Yu had died in exile.
The next year, however, Sun Quan would have yet another misadventure in his dealings with Gongsun Yuan, as Gongsun sent messengers to him, offering to be his subject. Sun Quan was ecstatic, and appointed Gongsun Yuan the Prince of Yan and granted him the nine bestowments, and further sent a detachment of 10,000 men by sea north to assist Gongsun Yuan in his campaign against Wei, against the advice of nearly every single one of his high level officials, particularly Zhang Zhao. Once the army arrived, however, Gongsun Yuan betrayed them, killing Sun Quan's officials Zhang Mi (張彌) and Xu Yan (許晏), whom Sun had sent to grant the bestowments and seized their troops. Once that happened, the enraged Sun Quan wanted to personally head north with a fleet to attack Gongsun Yuan, and initially, not even Lu Xun's opposition was able to stop him, although he eventually calmed down and did not follow through. To his credit, he also personally went to Zhang Zhao's house and apologized to him. Further, despite the deterioration in his previous clear thinking, he was still capable of making proper decisions at times. For example, in 235, when, as a sign of contempt, Wei's emperor Cao Rui offered horses to him in exchange for pearls, jade, and tortoise shells, Sun Quan ignored the implicit insult and made the exchange, reasoning that his empire needed horses much more than pearls, jade, or tortoise shells.
In 234, in coordination with Zhuge Liang's final northern expedition against Wei, Sun Quan personally led a major attack against Wei's border city Hefei, while having Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin attack Xiangyang, with the strategy of trying to attract Wei relief forces and then attacking them. However, Wei generals correctly saw the situation and simply let Sun Quan siege Hefei. Only after Sun Quan's food supplies ran low did Cao Rui personally arrive with reinforcements, and Sun withdrew, as did Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin.
In 238, when Gongsun Yuan was under attack by Wei's general Sima Yi, Sun Quan, despite his prior rage against Gongsun, correctly judged the situation as one where he might be able to take advantage if Sima Yi were initially unsuccessful, did not immediately refuse Gongsun's request for help. However, as Sima Yi was able to conquer Gongsun Yuan quickly, Sun Quan never launched the major attack that he considered if Sima got stuck in a stalemate with Gongsun. That year, he also recognized how his head secretary Lü Yi (呂壹) had been falsely accusing his officials, and had Lü executed; he then further confirmed his trust in the high level officials by personally writing an emotional letter to Zhuge Jin, Bu Zhi, Zhu Ran, and Lü Dai, blaming himself for the recent problems with his administration while urging them to speak out honestly whenever they saw faults in him.
In 241, Sun Quan would launch the last major assault against Wei of his reign, in light of Cao Rui's death in 239, but he rejected a strategy offered by Yin Zha (殷札) to attack Wei in coordinated effort with Shu on four different fronts, and the campaign ended in failure as well.
Later in 241, the crown prince Sun Deng died — an event that left open the issue of succession and appeared to mark the start of a precipitous decline in Sun Quan's mental health. In 242, he appointed his son Sun He, born to Consort Wang, crown prince. However, he also favored another son by Consort Wang, Sun Ba (孫霸) the Prince of Lu, and permitted Sun Ba to have the same staffing level as the crown prince — a move that was objected to by a number of officials as encouraging Sun Ba to compete with Sun He, but Sun Quan did not listen to them. After 245, when Sun He and Sun Ba began to have separate residences, their relationship detriorated further, and Sun Ba began to scheme at how to seize heir status from Sun He. Fanned by gossip from his daughter Sun Dahu (孫大虎), Sun Quan blamed the princes' mother Consort Wang for this — and she died in fear. He also cut off Sun He and Sun Ba's access to the officials who supported them in hopes of receiving future favors, but this could not stop Sun Ba's machinations. Indeed, when Lu Xuntried to intervene to protect Sun He, Sun Ba falsely accused him of many crimes, and Sun Quan became provoked so much that he repeatedly rebuked Lu, causing Lu to die in anger.
In 250, fed up with Sun Ba's constant attacks against Sun He, Sun Quan carried out an inexplicable combination of actions, He forced Sun Ba to commit suicide, while deposing Sun He (who had not been shown to have committed any crimes), and instead creating his youngest son, Sun Liang, crown prince to replace Sun He. This move was opposed by his son-in-law Zhu Ju (the husband of Sun Xiaohu), but Zhu's pleas not only did not help Sun He, but also resulted in his own death, as Sun Quan forced him to commit suicide. Many other officials who also opposed the move, as well as officials who had supported Sun Ba, were executed.
Around this time, Sun Quan also had his generals destroy a number of levees near the border with Wei, creating large areas of flooding, in order to obstruct potential attacks from Wei.
In 251, Sun Quan created the first empress of his reign — Sun Liang's mother Consort Pan. (Previously, he had a succession of wives, but never created any of them empresses, except that his favorite, Lady Bu, was created empress posthumously after her death in 238.) Later that year, however, he realized that Sun He was blameless and wanted to recall him from his exile, but was persuaded not to do so by his daughter Sun Dahu and Sun Jun, who had supported Sun Liang's ascension. He realized that he was getting very old (69 by this point) and, at Sun Jun's recommendation, commissioned Zhuge Jin's son Zhuge Ke as the future regent for Sun Liang, even though he correctly had misgivings about how Zhuge Ke was arrogant and had overly high opinion of his own abilities, because at that time, virtually the entire empire, awed by Zhuge's prior military victories, was convinced that Zhuge would be the correct choice for regent.
In 252, as Sun Quan neared death, Empress Pan was murdered, but how she was murdered remains a controversy. Wu officials claimed that her servants, unable to stand her temper, strangled her while she was asleep, while a number of historians, including Hu Sanxing, the commentator to Sima Guang's Zizhi Tongjian, believed that top Wu officials were complicit, as they feared that she would seize power as empress dowager after Sun Quan's death. Later that year, Sun Quan died at the age of 70, and Sun Liang succeeded him. Sun Quan was buried in a mausoleum at Purple Mountain in present-day Nanjing.
- Huangwu (黃武; Hanyu Pinyin: Huángwǔ; Huang-wu in Wade-Giles spelling) 222–229
- Huanglong (黃龍; Hanyu Pinyin: Huánglóng; Huang-lung in Wade-Giles spelling) 229–231
- Jiahe (嘉禾; Hanyu Pinyin: Jiāhé; Chia-ho in Wade-Giles spelling) 232–238
- Chiwu (赤烏; Hanyu Pinyin: Chìwū; Chih-wu in Wade-Giles spelling) 238–251
- Taiyuan (太元; Hanyu Pinyin: Taìyuán; Tai-yuan in Wade-Giles spelling) 251–252
- Shenfeng (神鳳; Hanyu Pinyin: Shénfèng; Shen-feng in Wade-Giles spelling) 252
In the selection of hero cards in the Chinese card game San Guo Sha (三国杀), there is also a Sun Quan hero that players can select at the beginning of the game.
In the movie The Weird Man by the Shaw Brothers Studio, Sun Quan is shown at the end of the film and Sun Ce names him successor before he died from his injuries sustained by Xu Gong and Yu Ji's spirit.