Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by
Place of Birth: Fuchun County, Wu Prefecture (Presently Fuyang in Zhejiang Province)
Lifespan: AD 175 – 200 (25 Years)
Titles: General Who Punishes Renegades, General Who Glorifies the Han, Grand Administrator of Kuai Ji, Marquis of Wucheng, King of Chang Sha
Family: Sun Jian (father), Lady Wu (mother), Sun Quan, Sun Yi, Sun Kuang (brothers), Sun Lang (half brother), Sun Shang Xiang (sister), Liu Bei (brother-in-law), Da Qiao (wife), daughter married to Lu Xun, Sun Qian, Sun Jing (uncles), Sun Ben, Sun Fu, Sun Hao, Sun Yu, Sun Jiao, Sun Huan, Sun Qian (cousins), Sun Deng, Sun Lü, Sun he, Sun Ba, Sun Fen, Sun Xiu, Sun Liang (nephews), Zhou Yu (brother-in-law)
Sun Ce was Sun Jian’s eldest son and the older brother of Sun Quan, the first Wu Emperor. Sun Ce was only seventeen years old when his father was killed in battle against Liu Biao. (1) Sun Ce stayed in the south and gathered a large following of people. These men included Huang Gai, Cheng Pu, Han Dang, and others that served under Sun Jian. Sun Ce also attracted many new talents such as Lü Fan, Zhang Zhao and Zhang Hong. At this time, Yuan Shu was still the major authorithy in the south, and Sun Ce went to see him in Shouchun to offer his services. (2)
Sun Bofu was able to impress and win the loyalty of all that surrounded him by displaying great bravery and skill in battle. (3) He was also very proficient in the management of civil officials and allocation of resources. Yuan Shu often boasted about his new officer’s prowess but attributed all of Bofu’s victories to himself, which greatly annoyed Sun Ce and his men. Yuan Shu however did not feel like giving Sun Ce a command of his own. Instead, he appointed Sun Ce as Colonel Who Cherishes Righteousness and allowed him to fight rebels and barbarians in Danyang.
In the year AD 195, Liu Yao started to threaten Yuan Shu’s power in the south and took Qua and Danyang from Sun Ce’s uncle Wu Jing. Sun Ce again went to see Yuan Shu in Shouchun and asked him if he could take troops from the main army and help his uncle to take back the lost teritory. (4) Yuan Shu figured that Sun Ce would not have much succes and only gave him fifteen hundred troops to command. By the time he arrived in Liyang, Yuan Shu’s Headquarters in the south, Sun Ce had increased his following to almost six thousand men. When Sun Ce arrived at Hengjiang, he immediately took over the command of the army from his uncle. On the advise of his aunt (Sun Jian’s younger sister and mother of Xu Kun), Sun Ce attacked Liu Yao’s depot at Niuzhu (牛箸) and took all the grain and weapons. (5)
Sun Ce then turned north and defeated more of Liu Yao’s forces. During a battle against Zhai Rong Sun Ce was injured in his leg and retreated from the field of battle. Zhai Rong thought that Sun Ce had died and pursued his army. Sun Ce ambushed his troops and turned around to attack Zhai Rong again. However Zhai Rong increased his defenses and kept Sun Ce’s men outside. So he turned his forces around and occupied Qua where he set up his headquarters. Sun Ce took this opportunity to set up his forces and consolidate the region. (6) After occupying the city Qua, Sun Ce went to the hills to pray to his ancestors, along the way however he ran into an officer of Liu Yong, Taishi Ci, who wanted to arrest him. The two duelled but neither man could get the advantage. Eventually, Sun Ce’s generals arrived and Taishi Ci was forced to give up the fight.
Sun Ce’s family was brought back to Qua, and his younger brother Sun Quan was appointed as chief of Yangxian County in Wu Commandery. Sun Ce now moved his forces against Xu Gong, the Grand Administrator of Wu Commandery. His father’s old friend Zhu Zhi was in command of Xu Gong’s army, and once he heard about Sun Ce’s return to Wu, he betrayed Xu Gong and chased him out of the Commandery. Sun Ce was reunited with his uncle Sun Jing in Wu, and then started his campaign against Kuai Ji Commandery and its Grand Administrator Wang Lang. (7) Wang Lang had his forces in Guling, just across the river, and thusfar Sun Ce was unsuccesful in his attacks. At one point, Sun Jing and his men went south towards a river crossing. At night, Sun Ce made sure that the usual amount of campfires were lit, to prevent the enemy from realising that some of his troops were missing. This strategy was a great succes and Wang Lang was completely surprised by Sun Jing’s attack in the rear. Sun Ce pursued Wang Lang to Dongye and killed Wang Lang’s ally Zhou Xin along the way. (8) Wang Lang’s forces surrendered and Sun Ce stabilized the area by putting down other disturbances. Sun Ce took the post as Grand Administrator of Kuai Ji and appointed his relatives and friends as authorities in the region.
In the meantime, Yuan Shu abused the Hereditary Seal that he received from Sun Jian to proclaim himself Emperor of a new Dynasty. (9) Sun Ce wanted nothing to do with it and rebelled against Yuan Shu. Sun Ce guarded the roads to Yuan Shu’s Headquarters at Shouchun, and also invited all of his old friends that served Yuan Shu to join his cause instead. Wu Jing, Sun Ben and Zhou Yu officially joined him, and Zhou Yu also brought Lu Su, a man from Dong Cheng county and future successor to Zhou Yu’s position. (10)
In AD 197, Sun Ce received an Imperial Edict through the hands of Wang Pu. It commanded Sun Ce to join in the attack against the rebel Yuan Shu, in return, the Emperor confirmed Sun Ce’s title as Grand Administrator of Kuai Ji and granted him the Marquisiate of Wucheng. In addition he was appointed as General Who Glorifies the Han. (11) However the Emperor also assigned a certain Chen Yu as the new Grand Administrator of Wu Commandery. Sun Ce was aware of the posibility that Chen Yu and Yan Baihu (a small–time warlord in the south) would threaten Sun Ce’s position. While Lü Fan led a surprise attack on Chen Yu, Sun Ce himself lead a decisive attack on Yan Baihu.
Sun Ce took care of his immediate enemies and further strengthened his forces. But there were others in the south west that needed to be dealt with, a local band of barbarians led by Zu Lang, and the rogue forces of Taishi Ci, a former General under Liu Yao. Sun Ce took care of both threats without much difficulty, and both Zu Lang and Taishi Ci surrendered and served under Sun Ce from then on. (12)
In AD 198, Liu Yao died and Hua Xin took over his forces. Huang Zu, the murderer of Sun Ce’s father, took advantage of Liu Yao’s death and extended his power towards Danyang, which was under the control of Zhou Yu at that time. The following year, Yuan Shu died in Shouchun and Liu Xun took over control. With three enemies on the north, west and south side of his teritory, Sun Ce had to think and plan carefully if he wanted to stay in control. Liu Xun had little food and was not receiving help from anyone, hence Sun Ce faked several attempts to becomes in order to lure Liu Xun into a false sense of security. Liu Xun fell for the trick, and led his troops against a wealthy county to procure food, while leaving his capital city, Huan in Lujiang, open to Sun Ce. The capital was easily captured by Sun Ce and Zhou Yu, and Liu Xun’s exploits against the County of Haihun were unsuccesful due to Sun Ce’s secret warnings. Another force, led by his cousins Sun Ben and Sun Fu, cut off Liu Xun’s army at Pengze. Liu Xun fled west and asked Huang Zu for help. Huang She, Huang Zu’s eldest son, led a fleet against Sun Ce. These armies however, were no match for Sun Ce and Zhou Yu, and Huang She was forced to retreat, leaving behind many men and ships. Sun Ce wrote a memorial to the Emperor regarding his victory over Liu Biao and Huang Zu. (13) Yuan Shu’s family members in Lujiang Commandery were taken into protection by Sun Ce. Yuan Shu’s son Yuan Yao later held a position in Sun Quan’s court, and his daugther married Sun Quan’s son Sun Fen. Yuan Shu’s daughter was later married to Sun Quan.
With Liu Xun out of the way, Sun Ce turned his attention to Hua Xin in Yuzhang Commandery. He sent Yu Fan to negotiate a surrender, and the mission was a success. Liu Yao’s sons, who were in Yuzhang at that time, all served the Sun family when they were older. Sun Ce also sent Zhou Yu and his cousin Sun Fu to attack Tong Zhi, the Grand Administrator of Luling. After a month. Luling Commandery was taken by Zhou Yu’s forces and Sun Fu was appointed as the new Grand Administrator.
In the north, Cao Cao was successful in his war against Yuan Shao, and the recent victories of Sun Ce made him uneasy. In an attempt to make peace with the Sun clan, Cao Cao offered one of his brother’s daughters as wife to Sun Kuang, and his own son Cao Zhang married the daughter of Sun Ben. At this point, Sun Ce was faced with another rebellion lead by his old enemies Xu Gong and Yan Baihu in Wu Commandery. Sun Ce put down the rebellion and had Xu Gong strangled to death. Sun Ce wanted to wait for supplies for a few days and decided to go out hunting. However, as he was hunting, some of Xu Gong’s followers ambushes him. One of them shot an arrow into his jaw and Sun Ce was almost killed on the spot. His attendants soon came, killed the attackers and brought the wounded Sun Ce back to his camp. When Sun Ce saw his mutilated face, he became very upset and his wounds were torn open in agony. That night, on May fifth in the fifth year of Rebuilt Tranquility, at the age of twenty-five. (14)
Sun Ce, an accomplished military strategist, laid the foundation of the early Kingdom of Wu, and paved the way for his younger brother Quan, who eventually became the first Emperor of their country. Sun Ce was admired and loved by his officers and attendants, and in many ways he carried the spirit of his father Sun Jian with him through his work. After Sun Quan ascended the throne as Emperor of Wu, Sun Ce was posthumously titled King of Changsha.
(1) Sun Jian died in AD 191, his body was brought to Qua where it was buried. Sun Ce and his mother went to Qua, and after the mourning period they moved to Jiangdu County in Guangling Commandery. <return>
(2) Jiangbiao Zhuan records the first visit of Sun Ce to be in AD 193. he adressed Yuan Shu and his court, but was not given any substantial command at that time. <return>
(3) When Sun Ce was in Shu County, he was the guest of the Zhou (周) family. He became good friends with Zhou Yu, who later joined his campaign as advisor and leader. Zhou Yu was greatly impressed with Sun Ce and they were like brothers. In SGZ, Sun Ce’s mother said that she considered Zhou Yu to be her own son. <return>
(4) From Generals of the South, quoting Jiangbiao Zhuan (江表傳), Sun Ce said to Yuan Shu: “In the past, my family was well regarded among the people of the east. I wish to help my uncle attack Hengjiang. When Hengjiang is taken, I would go to my own distict and call up soldiers, and I could get thirty thousand men to help you give aid to the house of Han.” <return>
(5) From Xu Kun’s SGZ biography, his mother said: “I am afraid Liu Yao’s people may bring a fleet of their own to attack us, and this would be dangerous. How can we afford to wait any longer? We should cut rushes and reeds to make rafts, and those will supplement the ships we already have to ferry the army across.” <return>
(6) According to Jiangbiao Zhuan (江表傳): “Sun Ce was still young, and although he had his rank and had become well known, all the soldiers and people called him “Young Gentleman Sun”. When men heard that Young Gentleman Sun was coming, they quite lost spirits, and the local magistrates and other officials would abandon the cities and run away to hide and open country. Then he would arrive, and the men of his command respected order, and they did not dare to rob or plunder: not even chickens or dogs or vegetables were stolen. And so the people were extremely pleased, and they would all come to bring cattle and wine as a welcome to the army.” <return>
(7) Wang Lang was no ordinary man. He was a noted scholar of the Confucian texts and was well liked by men such as Zhang Zhao and Hua Xin. Later on, when Cao Pi ascended to the seat of Wei Emperor, Wang Lang held a high position in the bureaucracy. The biography of Wang Lang in the SGZ chapter 13. <return>
(9) After his battles against Dong Zhuo, Sun Jian found the Imperial Jade Seal of the Han in the abandonned city of Luo Yang. There are several anecdotes and stories about what happened to the seal, the most logical of al these stories is that Sun Jian simply gave the seal to Yuan Shu. As Sun Jian’s superior, Yuan Shu would expect to be given any spoils of war. I have accepted this version of the story. <return>
(10) Wu Jing was the brother of Sun Jian’s wife the Lady Wu, and thus Sun Ce’s uncle. Sun Ben was the son of Sun Jian’s brother Sun Qiang and Sun Ce’s cousin. Zhou Yu, like we discussed earlier in note 3, was a man from Lujiang and childhood friend of Sun Ce. <return>
(11) These appointments were not as spectacular as it may sound. Sun Ce had already earned his position as Grand Administrator, and being Sun Jian’s first child, he would except to be given the Marquisate of Wucheng. Originally, Wang Pu was would appoint Sun Ce as Chief Commander of Cavalry, but Sun Ce felt he deserved a higher appointment. <return>
(12) From SGZ, Sun Ce released Taishi Ci’s bounds after he was captured and said. “Do you remember when we met at Shenting? What would you have done, if you had captured me then?” Taishi Ci replied, “I cannot imagine.”. Sun Ce laughed and said, “Everything I have now, I will share with you.” <return>
(13) Upon reading the memorial, Cao Cao exclaimed: “That Wolf–cub! He will be difficult to deal with.” (SGZ Wu, quoting Wu Li) <return>
(14) There is a score of different folk tales relating to the death of Sun Ce and the taoist Gan Ji. However, since none of these sources have solid factual evidence, I have accepted the story of his death as described in Wu Li. <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