Biography (SGZ): Wu Can (Kongxiu)

Home | Forum | SimRTK | History | Games | Graphics | Writing | Products | Links | Site Map

Wu Can (Kongxiu)
吾粲 (孔休)
Lifespan: Unknown

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by

Wu Can, styled Kongxiu, was from Wucheng in Wu commandery (1). When Sun He (I) was the prefect there, Wu Can served as a minor official, but Sun He became amazed at Wu’s ability. When Sun He became a general later and was allowed to choose his own officers (II), he petitioned for Wu Can to be deputy prefect of Qu’e, and then promoted him to be the chief clerk. Wu Can’s good administration earned him a good name. Though he was of a humble background, he became equals in fame with Lu Xu and Bu Jing from his home commandery. When Sun Quan became General of the Cavalry and Chariots, he summoned Wu Can to be his secretary, and later sent him out to be Prefect of Shanling. When he returned, Wu Can was made Colonel Army-Advisor.

(I) This Sun He is Sun Shao’s uncle, who was originally from the Yu family but granted the Sun surname by Sun Jian.
(II) Sun He was granted the prefects of Qu’e and Dantu as fief, and was given the power to pick officers to fill the offices of those two prefectures. See Sun Shao’s biography (SGZ: Wu 6).
(1) Records of Wu: When Wu Can was a few years old, an old woman from Gucheng saw him and said to his mother, “This child has the bones of one who becomes a high minister.”

In the first year of Huangwu (AD 222), Wu Can along with Lü Fan and He Qi led a navy to Dongkou to repel the attack of the Wei general Cao Xiu. They came upon a blustery day, and all the boats broke from their mooring and started drifting to the shore, where some were taken by the Wei army, and some capsized and sunk. There were a few bigger boats that were still afloat, and the men who fell into the water but who were still alive grabbed onto the sides of those boats and cried for help. The officers on the boats, though, fearing that the boats would be overloaded and sink, refused to let the men on, hitting them with their spears. Wu Can and Huang Yuan were the only ones who ordered the crew on their boats to save the overboard men. Their aides held that the boats would definitely sink because of the weight, but Wu Can said, “If the boats should sink, then we will die together. Those men are in a desperate situation, and how can I bear to abandon them?” There were more than a hundred who were saved by Wu Can and Huang Yuan.

Upon his return, he was promoted to be Grand Administrator of Kuiji. He summoned the hermit Xie Tan to work in the department of merit, but Tan declined, pleading illness. Wu Can admonished him, saying, “A dragon is considered mystical when it can bend and extend itself for its goals, and a phoenix is considered precious when it makes beautiful cries. Why must one conceal his form beyond the heavens, or hide himself in the depths of the waters?” Wu Can gathered many men to himself, and was made General of the Interior of Shining Virtues. Together with Lü Dai he pacified the Shanyue, after which he was summoned to the court to be Colonel of the Garrisoned Cavalry and Privy Treasurer. Later he was made Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince.

During the fiasco of the two princes (III), Wu Can spoke out vociferously for justice be done and the rules of primogeniture upheld. He also proposed to make the Prince of Lu leave the capital to garrison at Xiakou, and to forbid Yang Zhu (IV) from staying in the capital. He also pass the news on to Lu Xun, who was then in stationed in Wuchang; Lu Xun then wrote memorial after memorial petitioning [Sun Quan to support the crown prince]. Because of this, Sun Ba and Yang Zhu slandered against Wu Can, and Wu Can was imprisoned and then executed.

(III) This refers to the rivalry between Sun Ba, Prince of Lu, and Sun He, the then Crown Prince.
(IV) One of the chief supporters of Sun Ba.

Copyright © 2004
Translated from Chen Shou’s Records of the Three Kingdoms annoted by Pei Songzhi