Biography (SGZ): Sun Ce (Bofu)

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Sun Ce (Bofu)
孫策 (伯符)
(AD 174-200)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Jack Yuan

Sanguozhi Scroll 46 Wu 1
<— Sun Jian | Sun Ce

Sun Ce had the style Bofu. When Sun Jian had initially raised righteous troops, Sun Ce escorted his mother to reside in Shu. He became friends with Zhou Yu, and associated with the leading men of the area. The people in the land between the Huai River and the Jiang looked to him. After Sun Jian’s death his body was brought back to Qu’a for burial. After this Sun Ce subsequently crossed the Jiang to live in Jiangdu.

The Governor of Xuzhou Tao Qian possessed a deep enmity against Sun Ce. Sun Ce’s uncle Wu Jing was at the time the Grand Administrator of Danyang. So Sun Ce escorted his mother to Qu’a whilst he himself went to join Wu Jing with Lü Fan and Sun He. He took the opportunity to recruit several hundred men. In the first year of Xingping [194] he joined Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu admired Sun Ce’s bearing and talents and returned Sun Jian’s former division to his son. Following the command of the Imperial Court, the Grand Tutor Ma Ridi safeguarded the land east of the passes. He showed courtesy to Sun Ce at Shouchun and on his recommendation, Sun Ce was appointed Colonel Who Cherishes Righteousness. Yuan Shu’s great generals Qiao Rui and Zhang Xun both respected Sun Ce and Yuan Shu often sighed: “If Yuan Shu could have a son as Gentleman Sun, then there would be no regrets in death!” One of Sun Ce’s horseman committed a crime and fled into Yuan Shu’s encampment, hiding in the camp stables. Sun Ce sent a man to behead him and then apologised to Yuan Shu personally. Yuan Shu said: “The soldiers love to mutiny, we should act with loathing; what need is there to apologise?” From this moment on all in the army feared Sun Ce even more. Yuan Shu initially agreed to assign Sun Ce as Grand Administrator of Jiujiang but then changed his mind and employed Chen Ji of Danyang. Later Yuan Shu wanted to besiege Xuzhou and requested thirty thousand xie of rice from the Grand Administrator of Lujiang Lu Kang. Lu Kang refused and Yuan Shu was enraged. Sun Ce had paid a visit to Lu Kang but Lu Kang refused to see him, instead ordering a Master of Records to entertain him. For this, Sun Ce had an enmity for the man. Yuan Shu sent Sun Ce to besiege Lu Kang, saying: “Last time I incorrectly chose Chen Ji and now I frequently regret that my decision was not practical. If you can capture Lu Kang this time, then Lujiang will be yours.” Subsequently Sun Ce besieged Lu Kang and took Lujiang commandery, yet Yuan Shu assigned his long-standing subordinate Zhang Xun as Grand Administrator. Sun Ce was even more disappointed. Before this, Liu Yao was Inspector of Yangzhou and Shouchun was the seat of provincial authority.

Shouchun was occupied by Yuan Shu; Liu Yao then crossed the Jiang and established office at Qu’a. At the time Wu Jing was still at Danyang and Sun Ce’s cousin Sun Ben was also Chief Commandant of Danyang. When Liu Yao reached Qu’a, he forced them all away. Wu Jing and Sun Ben withdrew to Liyang. Liu Yao sent Fan Neng and Yu Mi to occupy Jiang Ford and Zhang Ying to obstruct Likou, so as to counter Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu himself appointed his long-standing follower Hui Qu of Langya Inspector of Yangzhou and Wu Jing as General of the Gentlemen of the Household. Wu Jing and Sun Ben together attacked Zhang Ying and the others, but no victory was gained in the year. So Sun Ce persuaded Yuan Shu to allow him to aid Wu Jing and the others to pacify the land of Jiangdong. Yuan Shu appointed Sun Ce Colonel who Breaks the Enemy Lines and acting General who Destroys the Criminals with more than a thousand soldiers and several tens of horses. His retainers and followers numbered several hundred. By the time he reached Liyang, his host was some five or six thousand. Sun Ce’s mother had already travelled from Qu’a to Liyang and Sun Ce then transferred her to Fuling. He then crossed the Jiang to fight; and all places he travelled fell to him. None dared to oppose his vanguard. His army was highly disciplined, and military laws stern. The commoners were very impressed.

Personally, Sun Ce was handsome and loved to converse and joke. He was broad-minded, could listen to the opinions of others and possessed leadership qualities. Hence when the officers and commoners saw him, none were unwilling to do their utmost and sacrifice themselves for him. When Liu Yong abandoned his troops and fled, the grand administrators of the various commanderies deserted their cities and fled too. Yan Baihu of Wujun and others assembled more than ten thousand followers and encamped far and wide. Wu Jing and others planned to defeat Yan Baihu his confederates first and then to march on Huiqi. Sun Ce said: “Yan Baihu and his confederates are a band of bandits and have no great aspiration. This time I will surely capture him.” Subsequently he led his troops across the Zhe River, occupied Huiqi, took Dongye and then defeated Yan Baihu and the others. All changed to corresponding offices; Sun Ce made himself Grand Administrator of Huiqi, then made Wu Jing Grand Administrator of Danyang, assigned Sun Ben as Grand Administrator of Yuzhang. He partitioned Yuzhang to form Luling commandery and assigned Sun Ben’s brother Sun Fu Grand Administrator of Luling, and Zhu Zhi of Danyang as Grand Administrator of Wujun. Zhang Shao of Pengcheng, Zhang Hong of Guangling, Qin Song, Chen Rui and others, become the chief advisors.

At that time Yuan Shu usurped Imperial sovereignty and Sun Ce wrote to break off relations with him. Duke Cao recommended Sun Ce as General who Exterminates the Rebels, with enfeoffment as Marquis of Wu. Later Yuan Shu died, and the Chief Clerk Yang Hong and great general Zhang Xun were planned to join Sun Ce with their followers. Liu Xun, the Grand Administrator of Lujiang, attacked them, took them captive and looted their possessions. Sun Ce heard this and pretended to befriend him. As Liu Xun gained Yuan Shu’s followers, more than ten thousand clansmen from Shangliao in Yuzhang moved to Jiangdong. Sun Ce convinced Liu Xun to take them captive. After Liu Xun left, Sun Ce’s shock troops travelled by day and by night to assault and seize Lujiang. Liu Xun’s followers all surrendered except several hundred, who submitted with Liu Xun, to Duke Cao. At that time Yuan Shao was powerful whilst Sun Ce forced the borders from Jiangdong. Duke Cao’s power was limited and wanted to placate Sun Ce for a while. Hence he arranged for the marriage of his younger brother’s daughter to Sun Ce’s young brother Sun Kuang and also the daughter of Sun Ben to Cao Zhang. Concurrently he gave public notice to employ Sun Ce’s younger brother Sun Quan and Sun Yi for civil service, and ordered the Yan Xiang, Inspector of Yangzhou, to recommend Sun Quan as an ‘Accomplished Talent’.

In the fifth year of Jian’an [200] Duke Cao confronted Yuan Shao at Guandu and Sun Ce contrived to attack Xu and take charge of the Han emperor. He began to conduct military exercises in secret and give assignments to his generals. Before completion, unexpectedly Sun Ce was killed by the retainers of the former Grand Administrator of Wujun, Xu Gong. Earlier Sun Ce had killed Xu Gong and Xu Gong’s young son and retainers hid by the Jiang. When Sun Ce rode out alone, he suddenly encountered Xu Gong’s retainers, who attacked and wounded him. Sun Ce’s wounds were very serious and he summoned Zhang Zhao among others and said to them: “The Middle Kingdom is in disorder. Sustained by the host of Wu and Yue and the barrier of the three rivers, we can observe who triumphs and falls. Various lords, please assist my brother.” He then summoned Sun Quan and bestowed his seal and insignia, saying to him: “In mobilising the people of Jiangdong, attacking opportunely in the confrontation of armies and contesting victory with All Under Heaven, you are not equal to me. In promoting the virtuous and employing the able, leading them to accomplish all they can to protect Jiangdong, I am not equal to you.” That night he died at the age of twenty-five.

When Sun Quan took imperial title he gave Sun Ce the posthumous appellation: King Huan of Changsha; and enfeoffed his son Sun Shao as the Marquis of Wu, later promoted to Marquis of Shangyu. After Sun Shao’s death, his son Sun Feng succeeded. In the time of Sun Hao, some said that Sun Feng should take the throne and so he was put to death.

Appraisal: Sun Jian was courageous and resolute, rising from humble origins to make his fortune. In advising Zhang Wen to execute Dong Zhuo and repairing the desecrated tombs, he provided loyal and heroic service. Sun Ce possessed peerless heroic spirit, unparalleled courage, could defeat his opponents by a surprise move, and had ambition to pacify the Empire. Nevertheless, they were frivolous, stubborn and impetuous; consequently they would lose their lives in defeat. In any case, they occupied Jiangdong and Sun Ce secured the foundations of the future state of Wu. Yet Sun Quan did not show suitable respect to his inheritance, enfeoffing Sun Ce’s son only as a marquis; surely not a righteous end.

Copyright © 2002 Jack Yuan
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi
All Rights Reserved