Biography (SGYY): Sun Hao (Yuanzong)

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Sun Hao (Yuanzong)
孫皓 (元宗)
Lived: C. 242–283

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by SlickSlicer

Sun Hao (Yuanzong)

Sun Hao was the son of Sun He and the grandson of Sun Quan. He was the last Wu Emperor to reign during the Three Kingdoms Period. Though he showed promise as an able and responsible man in his youth, Sun Hao proved to be corrupt and tyrannical as a ruler. He was most famous, or infamous rather, for presiding over 50,000 heavy cavalry, which he called his ‘Imperial Guards.’ With these soldiers, Sun Hao patrolled rigorously and terrorized peasants and noblemen alike in the Wu capital of Wuchang. Under his despotism, Wu lost the support it had from its’ people and was conquered by Jin.

Prior to the destruction of Wu, in the years when Wei was finishing off its’ conquest of the kingdom of Shu, there was turmoil in Wu and its’ court. Succession crisis and even rebellion significantly devasted the Wu state in the years following the death of Sun Hao’s grandfather Sun Quan. Amidst this turmoil, during the short reign of Sun Xiu (1), Sun Hao was appointed to the prestigious position of Lord of Wucheng. When the first Emperor of Jin, Sima Yan, formally rebelled and overthrew the Emperor of Wei, Cao Shuang, the Wu Emperor, Sun Xiu, became stressed and also very ill. He was so sick that on his deathbed he could not even write a formal will or speak his wishes for succession. Instead, when the Prime Minister of Wu, Puyang Xing, and a high-ranking official of Wu named Sun Wan went to ask about who Sun Xiu wished to make his heir, Sun Xiu could only point to his very young son in desperation. Shortly afterwards, he perished and the Wu ministers were left bewildered at Sun Xiu’s final decision.

1: Historically Sun Xiu’s rule lasted for about 5 years, which was more or less how long Sun Liang, the immediate successor to the ‘Great Emperor’ Sun Quan, lasted as ruler. The death of a strong-willed and capable sovereign like Sun Quan weakened the Wu Empire significantly, and rebellion in territories Wu controlled like Jiao did their part to stifle the strength of Wu as well.

Puyang Xing afterwards called a council of officers, and almost everybody within Wu dissented with Sun Xiu’s wish. Wan Yu, the Inspector of the Left, rose and said, “Prince Sun Wan, Sun Xiu’s son, is too young and foolish to rule in such chaotic times. Let us grant the throne to Sun Hao, the Lord of Wucheng.” Despite other support for Sun Hao, the Prime Minister of Wu did not wish to go against the former Wu Emperor’s wishes and decided to consult Sun Xiu’s widow on the matter. After the former Empress refused to comment on the matter, the officials of Wu all voiced their support for Sun Hao, and thus Sun Hao came to be the next and final monarch of Wu. Upon obtaining rulership, Sun Hao almost instantly made the courtiers of the kingdom of Wu regret their decision. He ignored duties of the state and instead spent his time sleeping with his concubines and giving himself over to pleasure, he appointed a corrupt court eunuch named Cen Hun to a high position and he soon put to death loyal Wu ministers like Puyang Xing when they dared to object to imperial mandates. Meanwhile, the people suffered extensively from the burdens of heavy taxation.

After building another lavish Imperial Palace, Sun Hao opted to hear what the fortune would be of his Empire from the soothsayer and mystic Shang Guang. “All bodes well in the Empire and your blue umbrella shall soon enter the capital Luoyang,” informed the fortune teller. Pleased, Sun Hao summoned Hua He, a minister of the Wu state and said, “The former Wu Emperors listened to your wise council and sent generals to various points to defend camps along the Great river. In command of these generals and camps was Ding Feng. Now my desire is to conquer Han and avenge the wrongs of my brother, the Ruler of Shu. What place should first be conquered?” But Hua He disagreed with the idea that Wu should attack Jin entirely, and warned Sun Hao to win the support of the Southlands’ population instead. Sun Hao furiously cried, “I desire to take this opportunity to return to my real heritage. Were it not for your long service to my ancestors, I would cut you down and expose your head as a warning for disobedience!” Because of this incident, Hua He was forced to resign from office. Upon leaving the royal court, Hua He lamented, “It is pitiful that our silky, beautiful country will pass to another such as Jin!”

Against the council of his advisors, Sun Hao thus made preparations for a war with Sima Yan. First Sun Hao appointed Lu Kang to launch an attack on the city of Xiangyang. When Lu Kang delayed in attacking and at length memorialized Sun Hao to call off his campaign, Sun Hao demoted Lu Kang though. Sun Hao then proceeded to behead three important Wu ministers who dared to stand up to such horrible actions. Soon after, Lu Kang and Ding Feng, the Sun family’s greatest generals of the time, fell ill and died, and thus Sun Hao was left with nobody competent enough to quell the armies of Jin. The Emperor of Wu only grew worse and worse in his behavior after this. He continued ignoring all advice and began to hold grand banquets where he would have a group of ‘Imperial Rectors’ eye banquet participants closely and persecute those who were thought to be treasonous. Those who were accused of any offense were duly sent to be tortured in cruel, unspeakable ways.

Hearing the news of Sun Hao’s atrocities, Sima Yan finally decided to start a campaign to destroy Sun Hao. A massive army was dispatched to eliminate Sun Hao, and Sun Hao began to finally worry when spies reported the news of Sima Yan’s invasion. Sun Hao eventually responded to the attack by asking his favorite eunuch, Cen Hun, to give his advice on the matter. Cen Hun said, “I have a plan to smash all of Jin commander Wang Jun’s ships! We will simply string great chains with heavy links across the river that Jin will need to get across to reach Wu. Massive hammers will also be set up to crush any vessels that endeavor to cross, and thus Jin will be defeated and the Empire will be at ease.” Sun Hao always was partial to Cen Hun and very much liked his strategy, so soon these contraptions were set up and multiple regiments were formed to combat Jin’s assault on Wu.

Du Yu, the Jin general who was in charge of the campaign against Wu, meanwhile decided to act fast to destroy his adversaries. When soldiers of Wu under general Sun Xin led land troops to engage Jin’s marines, Du Yu’s soldiers falsely retreated as a ruse. Once Sun Xin went to finish off Du Yu’s forces, multiple Jin armies from all sides caught and surrounded Sun Xin. Then Du Yu turned around and joined in the attack himself. Though Sun Xin managed to retreat from the fight, he didn’t expect to be cut off by more Jin men, led by Zhou Zhi, who had managed to unexpectedly sneak across the river and occupy Sun Xin’s city. “The northern troops had surely flown across the river into the city!” exclaimed Sun Xin in bafflement. Zhou Zhi quickly finished off the battered unit of Sun Xin and then the navies and armies of Jin defeated the rest of the Wu generals one after another. Du Yu occupied nearly all the counties of the state of Wu, and even seized Wuchang, though by then Sun Hao had fled and made Jianye the capital. Soon after, Wang Jun sent war rafts that held men with torches on them. The men burned the chains and hammers that Wu had built, and then the hordes of Jin proceeded forward to annhilate the last real threat to Jin, which happened to be Wu armies led by Zhang Ti and Shen Zong.

Wu officers eventually realized the pointlessness of continuing resistance, and began to surrender to Du Yu. Sun Hao heard of these happenings and turned as pale as a ghost. He asked his remaining ministers what might be done and they, angry at the favoritism shown to Cen Hun, who’s strategy had failed to block the advance of Jin, replied, “The one evil of today is that Eunuch. Slay him, and we ourselves will go out and fight to the death!” Sun Hao hesitated however and inquired, “How can a eunuch harm a state?” The courtiers all recalled how the eunuch Huang Hao had manipulated the former Emperor of Shu, Liu Chan, and helped to bring about the fall of Shu. Angrily, they grabbed weapons, rushed into the palace of Wu’s capital and hacked Cen Hun to pieces. A few of the particularly resentful ones bit pieces off of Cen Hun’s withering flesh in rage in order to further dishonor the eunuch’s corpse. In this state of affairs, Wu was in no condition to continue the battle with Jin. Another Wu general, named Zhang Xiang, offered to betray to Jin and allowed Jin entrance into Wu’s capital city. Sun Hao miserably threatened to commit suicide when he heard that Jin troops were rapidly approaching but his Secretary of State, Hu Zong and an officer of the Palace, Xue Rong remonstrated with their liege and commented, “The former Emperor of Shu, Liu Shan, honorably gave in to Jin when defeat was inevitable, and because of this Jin honored him with the position of ‘Duke of Anle.’ Why not imitate the conduct of Liu Shan of Shu, and turn over yourself to your enemies?”

Helpless to do anything else, Sun Hao went to submit to Jin commander and admiral Wang Jun. He had his remaining loyalists bound him and bring him with his own coffin to the Jin army. Wang Jun loosened the bonds of the former Emperor and burned the coffin Sun Hao sent with him. The old Emperor of Wu was treated honorably and the Wu country’s food stores were freely distributed amongst the distraught people of Wu. In Sun Hao’s harem, Jin soldiers found many thousands of women (2) and examined directly the extravagance and folly of the last Wu Emperor. Meanwhile in Luoyang, the conquest of the land was reported to Sima Yan just before his birthday. Sun Hao and many others were invited to celebrate, and so it came to pass that Shang Guang’s prophecy of the Empire being settled and Sun Hao entering Luoyang came true.

2: It is interesting to note that in actuality Sima Yan was more known than Sun Hao to have indulged himself with numerous women. After Sun Hao’s defeat, Sima Yan had Sun Hao’s concubines added to his own court. Credit to Shogun 2.0 for this information.

As soon as Sun Hao arrived at the palace, he humbled himself by bowing before the feet of the Jin Emperor Sima Yan. For this deed, Sun Hao was given a seat in Jin’s hall of audience. Upon taking his seat, Sun Hao was questioned by Jia Chong. Jia Chong asked, “I hear, Sir, that when you were in the south, they gouged out people’s eyes and flayed their faces. What crimes were so punished?” In response Sun Hao said, “Murders of princes and malicious speech and disloyal conduct were so punished!” This put Jia Chong to silence.

In the year AD 283, the fourth year of the fittingly named ‘Prosperous Peace Era,’ Sun Hao passed away from natural causes. He had been granted the title “Lord of Guiming,” by the Jin dynasty, and his sons and grandsons also received ranks within the Jin court, as did all those who had surrendered to Jin. Within slightly less than two decades, Cao Shuang, the last Wei Emperor, was also dead and prior to Sun Hao’s death, Liu Chan had already passed away. With the demise of the last three kingdoms’ Emperors, a new era was ushered in with Jin at its’ head. The Jin dynasty, conquerors of Wei, Shu and Wu would not last long. A famous saying goes, “That is the world under heaven; after a long period of union, the world tends to divide; after a long period of division, it tends to unite.” This could be no truer in the case of the rise and fall of the glorious empires of Han, Wei, Wu and Shu-Han, as well as the successor dynasty of Jin.

Copyright © 2006 SlickSlicer. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms