Biography (COB): Cheng Pu (Demou)

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Cheng Pu (Demou)Cheng Pu (Demou)
程普 (德謀)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Tuying, You Bei Ping (Presently Fengrun in Hebei Province)
Life Span: AD 154 – 213 (59 Years)
Titles: Chief Commandant, Grand Administrator of Jiangxia, General of the Gentleman of the Household Who Eliminates Bandits, Commander of the Imperial Corps
Family: Cheng Zi (son), several daughters

Cheng Pu was known as a man of wits and skill, able to handle different situations with a wide range of knowledge. Cheng Pu was a handsome figure and probably had his own following of retainers. It is likely that Cheng Pu first met Sun Jian when the latter was in Xu Province.

The first historical records of Cheng Pu date from the time of the Yellow Turban rebellion. Cheng Pu was appointed at the vanguard of Sun Jian’s army and followed his lord in battles against the Yellow Turbans at Wan and Deng City. After the Yellow Turban rebellion was over, Sun Jian was appointed as Grand Administrator of Chang Sha, and Cheng Pu followed him there. When Dong Zhuo took Luo Yang, the Han Capital, Sun Jian, under command of Yuan Shu, was sent to fight Dong Zhuo as part of the alliance (1). Cheng Pu defeated Dong Zhuo at Yangren, and it was said that his body was covered in scars after the battle.

After the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Sun Jian regrouped his forces and now attacked Liu Biao in Jing Province. The initial attack on Liu Biao’s general Huang Zu was a complete succes for Sun Jian and his men. However, Sun Jian was killed in a surprise attack at night (2).

Sun Jian’s family at this time was in Lujiang Commandery, teritory of Yuan Shu. The remnants of Sun Jian’s army were brought back under control of Yuan Shu, and Sun Jian’s family continued to serve Yuan Shu. Cheng Pu however did not hold rank under Yuan Shu, and was probably not interested in such a deal either way. Cheng Pu, Huang Gai and Han Dang aided Sun Ce, Sun Jian’s first son instead. Under Sun Ce’s command, Cheng Pu played a major role in the consolidation of the counties south of the Yangzi river. He was appointed Chief Commandant of Wu Commandery, and guarded Qiantang (3). Sometime later, Cheng Pu was transferred Danyang instead.

Cheng Pu was given command of two thousand footsoldiers and 50 cavalry troops, and continued to destroy rebels and caitiffs in the regions of Wu, Kuai Ji and Danyang. During a battle against a certain Zu Lang, Sun Ce was surrounded by troops and his life was in danger. Cheng Pu galloped towards the enemy on his horse and killed the rebels with his spear; saving his young master’s life. Sun Ce memorialised Cheng Pu’s accomplishments in the attacks on Liu Xun and Huang Zu in his letter to Cao Cao in the fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility, in which he appointed Cheng Pu Grand Administrator of Lingling, Commander of the Imperial Corps, and General of the Gentleman of the Household Who Eliminates Bandits (4).

Sun Ce was assasinated in AD 200 and the command of the Sun family clan was transferred to Sun Quan, second son of Sun Jian. Zhang Zhao and Zhang Hong helped Sun Quan in matters of the state, whereas Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu took care of the military order. Cheng Pu personaly investigated and prosecuted any officers who were disloyal to the new leader of the Sun clan, and lead his army through the three commanderies of Wu, Danyang, and Kuai Ji, slaying rebels to display the might of the new administration.

Sun Quan renewed the attack into the west, and Cheng Pu was sent to attack Jiangxia. After the commandery was captured, Sun Quan appointed Cheng Pu as the new Grand Administrator. The expansion continued and Zhou Yu destroyed Huang Zu in Xiakou, however a new threat in the form of Cao Cao appeared in Northen Jing Province. After Lu Su’s inspection of Jing Province, Zhou Yu suggested to oppose Cao Cao’s army with their own elite navy. Cheng Pu was appointed as the Commander for the campaign, with three other detachments lead by Sun Quan, Lu Su and Zhou Yu (5).

Around november or december of the western year AD 208, Sun Quan sent his fleet up the Yangzi, and met with Cao Cao’s fleet at present day Huarong. Although Cheng Pu was in command of the operation, we can asume that Zhou Yu, the main director of the campaign, was giving the actual orders. The attack was success and Cao Cao’s fleet was forced to retreat. Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu followed up the attack and headed towards Jiangling, now under control of Cao Cao’s cousin Cao Ren.

While Zhou Yu, Gan Ning and Lü Meng were in charge of the attack on Jiangling, it is probable that Cheng Pu stayed south of the Yangzi and directed affairs from there (6). Zhou Yu drove out Cao Ren, took Jiangling, and was appointed as Grand Administrator of Nan Commandery. In AD 210, Zhou Yu died and Cheng Pu took over his position as Grand Administrator of Nan Commandery.

Around AD 211, Sun Quan allowed Liu Bei to borrow Nan Commandery on the advise of Lu Su, and Cheng Pu went back to his old commandery of Jiangxia. Cheng Pu fell ill after a campaign against bandits in his own region, and died in the year AD 213.

Cheng Pu was a respected and senior officer of Wu, who always received merit in his campaigns. He showed unswerving loyalty towards Sun Jian and his sons, and his death left a void of experience in the Wu ranks. Though originally from the north, Cheng Pu excelled at land combat and also had suffient experience with naval affairs. When Sun Quan ascended to the throne of Emperor, Cheng Pu’s son Cheng Zi was awarded the Marquisate of a village in Wu.

(1) The “Alliance” against Dong Zhuo was more of political show than an actual military alliance. The only forces that really fought against Dong Zhuo were the forces of Sun Jian, under Yuan Shu’s banner, and Wang Kuang, under Yuan Shao’s command. It is said that Wang Kuang had no substantial victories over Dong Zhuo, but that Sun Jian was able to drive back, and continuously defeat Dong Zhuo’s army. Therefore, I find it fitting that the credit for the defeat of Dong Zhuo at Luo Yang go to the forces of Sun Jian and Wang Kuang. Sanguo yanyi Chapters five and six, present a false and biased version of the alliance and their attack on Dong Zhuo. <return>

(2) Sanguo yanyi and Sanguozhi have different versions of the attack on Liu Biao. In SGZ, Sun Jian was ordered by Yuan Shu to attack Liu Biao, before he would threaten Yuan Shu’s position. In Sanguo yanyi, the campaign revolves around Sun Jian stealing the Imperial Jade Seal, and Liu Biao, as a scion of the Imperial family, wanted to stop him from returning to Chang Sha. This account leaves much to be desired as Sun Jian had already handed over the seal to Yuan Shu. Moreover, Sun Jian had no personal authority in Jing Province, since he had relinquished his position as Grand Administrator of Chang Sha (長沙太守) when he went to fight Dong Zhuo. In the fictional account of the campaign, Cheng Pu is said to have beaten Cai Mao, a senior general of Liu Biao, in a personal duel, and then proceeded to defeat Huang Zu’s army. <return>

(3) Wu Commandery was the home of Sun Jian, and the city Qiantang was the home of Sun Jian’s wife the Lady Wu, as well as her whole family. <return>

(4) For more details on the campaigns against Zu Lang, Liu Xun and Huang Zu, see the biographies of Sun Ce and Zhou Yu. <return>

(5) The recommendation of Cheng Pu was recorded in Jiangbiao Zhuan, quoted by Pei Songzhi. [Zhou Yu said] “It will be difficult to collect fifty thousand men right away, but I have already chosen thirty thousand, and their ships and supplies and equipment are all ready. You [Sun Quan] and Zijing [Lu Su], and Lord Cheng [Pu] go forward as the vanguard.“ It is interesting that Zhou Yu mentioned Lu Su by his familiar name, and that he refers to Cheng Pu as Lord Cheng. It indicates the position of authority and the respect that Cheng Pu had at time. <return>

(6) Neither Cheng Pu’s or Zhou Yu’s biography mention anything of the actual activities of Cheng Pu. As Grand Administrator of Jiangxia, his headquarters might have been at Xiakou, the former headquarters of Huang Zu. It could be that he was south of the Yangzi, helping the other troops across the Yangzi and establishing the trade there. The only record of his activities are found in an anecdote found in the Sanguo Zhi biography of Lü Meng. Sun Quan wanted to split command of his forces between Lü Meng and his own cousin Sun Liao, so Lü Meng said, “Once in the past, Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu were in command of the divisions of the left and right and they attacked Jiangling together. The final decisions were taken by Zhou Yu, but Cheng Pu relied on his long experience and thus shared in the command. Though there was no specific disagreement, they almost wrecked the affairs of the state. This should serve as a warning.” The parallel account of the battle of Jiangling is found in the biography of Cao Ren. However his biography only mentions Zhou Yu and not Cheng Pu. I think that Lü Meng was exaggerating in his plea to Sun Quan, and I doubt that Cheng Pu was actively involved in the attack on Jiangling. Though his biography in Sanguo Zhi says that he drove out Cao Ren, the biography of Zhou Yu has a more detailed account of the entire campaign. It is possible that Cheng Pu commanded a relief force, or he was part of the defensive team. Either way, it remains unclear as to what Cheng Pu’s actual involvement was. For more about Cheng Pu and Zhou Yu’s relationship see Zhou Yu’s biography, note 17, quoting Jiangbiao Zhuan. <return>

Copyright © 2002 – 2003
A Kongming’s Archives Exclusive Production
Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu – Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)
annotations from Wu Jianxiang dachen nianbiao and Wu Li
Generals of the South – Rafe de Crespigny