Biography (SGZ): Li Tong (Wenda)

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Li Tong (Wenda)
李通 (文達)
Lifespan Unknown

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Zhai Rong

Li Tong, styled Wenda, came from Pingchun in Jiangxia. He was famed as a knight-errant in the area between the Changjiang and the Ru. Along with his fellow villager Chen Gong, he raised troops to move upon Langling, with many joining them. At that time, a man named Zhou Zhi, with some 2000 families under his command, was at a disagreement with Chen Gong and Li Tong. Li Tong wished to kill Zhou Zhi, but Chen Gong found such a thing difficult to do. Knowing that the latter would not interfere, Li Tong decided upon a scheme, inviting Zhou Zhi to a meeting and killing him while he was drunk. This caused a great commotion, and Li Tong led Chen Gong in executing the leaders of Zhou Zhi’s faction, then combining the remaining troops with their own. Later, Chen Gong’s wife’s brother Chen He killed him and took possession of his troops. Li Tong defeated Chen He, cutting off his head and placing him as a sacrifice on Chen Gong’s grave. He also captured alive the Yellow Turban commander-in-chief Wu Ba and several of his underlings. That year, there was a great famine. Li Tong used his family fortune to provide food for his soldiers, and as a result many people vied with each other to enter his service. Because of this, bandits dared not rise up and commit crimes.

At the beginning of Rebuild Tranquility, Li Tong led his troops to plead allegiance to Cao Cao. He was granted the rank of General of the Interior who Inspires Awe and was stationed at the western extremity of Runan. Cao Cao was then fighting Zhang Xiu, and Liu Biao dispatched troops to assist the latter, such that Cao Cao failed to gain victory. Li Tong marched his troops through the night to provide assistance, and so Cao Cao returned to the fight. With Li Tong as vanguard, they dealt a massive defeat to Zhang Xiu’s army. He was subsequently granted the rank of Major-General and was enfeoffed as Marquis of Jiangong. Runan was split into two counties, with Li Tong being appointed Chief Commandent of Yangan. At that time, his wife’s uncle broke the law and received a heavy sentence from Zhao Yan, who governed Langling as Chief. The authority to decide between life and death belonged to the governor, so Li Tong’s wife and children all wept and begged for his life to be spared. In response, Li Tong said “We are all doing our utmost to further Cao Cao’s cause. It would be wrong to allow private affairs to override the interests of the public.” Li Tong praised Zhao Yan’s actions in upholding the law, and the two became friends.

Cao Cao and Yuan Shao were both holding out at Guandu. Yuan Shao sent an envoy to make Li Tong General who Subdues the South, while Liu Biao also attempted to recruit him in secret, but Li Tong rejected both offers. His relatives and those in the division under his command begged of him tearfully “Currently, we are forced to face this danger alone, having lost a great deal of assistance. However, death may yet be thwarted if we immediately submit to Yuan Shao.” Li Tong placed his hand on his sword and scolded them, saying “Cao Cao is wise and will conquer all under Heaven. Yuan Shao may wield great power, but he relies solely upon that and trusts to nothing else, and eventually, he will be defeated. I would rather die than submit to him.” He chopped off the head of Yuan Shao’s envoy and sent the seal and tassel to Cao Cao.

He also launched attacks on Qu Gong, Jiang Gong, Chen Cheng and other bandits in the county, routing all under their command and sending their heads to Cao Cao. He settled the entire area between the Huai and the Ru Rivers, subsequently becoming Marquis of a Chief Commune and being appointed Grand Administrator of Runan. The bandit Zhang Chi commanded some 5000 families at Tao Shan, so Li Tong attacked and crushed them.

Liu Bei and Zhou Yu were besieging Cao Ren at Jiangling, with Guan Yu also having been dispatched to make a secret attack from a northern path. Li Tong led his troops into combat, dismounting to destroy the abatis and engage the enemy, and was moreover always fighting at the front. Upon being received by Cao Ren, he was hailed as the most courageous amongst all the generals.

Li Tong died of illness at the age of 42. His fief was posthumously increased by 200 households from 400 households before. When Cao Pi ascended to the throne, an edict granted him the title of “Gang” Marquis (or Firm Marquis). The edict read: “Formerly when Yuan Shao was causing trouble, the people south of Xu and Cai were undecided in their loyalty. Li Tong governed without caring for personal advantage, winning the hearts of those who had been ambivalent, and as a result We were delighted with him. Unfortunately, he died young. His son Li Ji, although having inherited his rank, has is merely mediocre in ability. Li Ji’s elder brother Li Xu is stationed at Fancheng and has achieved merit. In honour of his lifetime of loyal deeds, Li Ji shall be granted the rank of Gentleman General of the Centre who Demonstrates Righteousness and Li Xu shall be granted the rank of Gentleman General of the Centre who Pacifies the Caitiffs. In such a way they shall be favoured.”

Copyright © 2007 Zhai Rong. All Rights Reserved.
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi