Biography (SGZ): Zong Yu (Deyan)

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Zong Yu (Deyan)
宗預 (德艷)
(AD 187?-263)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Translated by

Zong Yu, styled Deyan, hailed from Anzhong in Nanyang. Sometime during the Jian’an reign, he went into Shu along with Zhang Fei. In the early Jianxing years, the Prime Minister, [Zhuge] Liang made him his chief secretary. He then was promoted to be Army Advisor and General of the Interior of the Right. At the occasion of Zhuge Liang’s death, Wu became worried that Wei would take advantage of the situation and invade Shu, and thus she increased the guard force at Baqiu by ten thousand soldiers – first for saving Shu [if necessary], but also in preparation to carve up the land [should Shu fall]. When Shu heard about it, she increased the defences at Yong’an as well just in case. Zong Yu was sent as an emissary to Wu. Sun Quan asked Yu, “The East and the West are like one family – and yet we heard that the West has increased the forces at Baidi. Why is this so?” Yu answered, “Your servant is of the opinion that the increasing of troops at Baqiu by the East, and the strengthening of the defences at Baidi by the West are both driven by the same circumstances – one need not inquire into it.” Sun Quan broke into guffaws and praised him for his frankness. Sun Quan valued Zong Yu highly, and respected him second to none but Deng Zhi and Fei Yi.

[Zong Yu] was promoted to Honourary Palace Attendant, and then to be Imperial Secretariat. In the 10th year of Yanxi (AD 247), he became Colonel of the Garrison Cavalry. At that time, General of the Chariots and Cavalry, Deng Zhi, returned from Jiangzhou. Upon visiting the capital, he said to Zong Yu, “According to the Rites, ‘one who is sixty does not bear arms’. But sir, you have just been given a military command. How do you explain it?” Yu replied, “Sir, being seventy already, you still have not relinquished your command. Why can’t I, being but sixty, accept one?” (1) Deng Zhi was arrogant by nature, and all from Fei Yi, General-in-Chief, and downward all yielded to him. Zong Yu was the only one who stood up to him.

Once again, Zong Yu was sent to Wu as an ambassador. Sun Quan grabbed his hands, and weeping, bid farewell to him saying, “Sir, you have often been sent to build goodwill between our countries. You are now getting along in years, and I am also a decrepit old man. I fear we will not meet again!” He then presented Yu with a hu A of big pearls (2) before sending him back.

Later, he was promoted to General of the Rear and Controller of Yong’an. He then was made General-in-Chief who Conquers the West and Marquis of the Inner Lands. In the first year of Jingyao (AD 258), he was summoned back to Chengdu on account of his illness. Some time after that, he was made General-in-Chief who Maintains the Army and designated Inspector of Yan Province. Around that time, Chief Commissioner Zhuge Zhan had just taken control of the affairs of the court. Liao Hua went to Zong Yu, and wished to go pay Zhan a respectful visit together with him. Yu said, “We are both over seventy years of age, and all that we desire have passed. Nothing remains but death. Why bother to seek favours from the youngsters by paying calls for trivial things?” Thus he refused to go. C

In the first year of the Yanxi reign (AD 263), Liao Hua and Zong Yu were relocated to Luoyang. They died of illness on the way.

(1) Your servant, Songzhi, is of the opinion that although Deng Zhi’s mocking of Zong Yu’s age was a lack of self-respect, Yu’s reply was also insensitive to what others may consider taboo. The inclusion of this in the historical records is pointless. <return>

(2) In Chronicles of Wu (Wu Li): When Zong Yu was about to leave, he said to Sun Quan, “The land of Shu is small and peripheral. Though we are neighbouring kingdoms, in reality the East and the West depend on each other: Wu cannot be without Shu, and Shu cannot be without Wu. Lords and vassals alike rely on this relationship. My only wish is that Your Majesty may keep this in your kind consideration.” He also said, “I am old and sickly, and I fear that I will not have the opportunity to cast my eyes on your royal visage again.”

Sun Sheng said, “The maintaining of an empire relies on morality and rectitude. Once morality and rectitude are established, even a small country can become great – this is the case of Yan [Shang dynasty] and Zhou [dynasty]. Should one depend on deceit and power, though he may be mighty, he shall fall – this is the case of Qin [dynasty] and Xiang [Yu]. Can they [Shu and Wu], living in peripheral cities, taking refuge behind the strength of mountains and rivers, wishing to build an alliance for the ambition of ten thousand li, count on each other forever? In the past, the Nine States built plans for mutual support, but the Qin eventually took over the world. [Wei] Ao and [Gongsun] Shu maintained the plan of mutual protection,B but Emperor Guangwu ended up annexing the lands of Long and Shu. Despite the strength of the Nine States and the greatness of Long and Han, none of them would help another, and sitting, they watched each other be slaughtered. Why is this so? This is because their foundations for morality and virtues were not stable, and yet the desire for contention could not rest in their hearts. Knowing this, [Zong Yu] said things such as “Wu cannot be without Shu, and Shu cannot be without Wu.” Is that not deceitful!

Translator Notes
(A) A hu is 5 to 10 dou, a unit of dry measure. <return>

(B) In the early Eastern Han, the warlords Wei Ao and Gongsun Shu held the Tianshui area and the Shu area respectively in defiance of Emperor Guangwu’s attempts to reunite the world under the Han banner. Though they had an alliance for helping each other defend against the Han, they were both destroyed by AD 36. <return>

(C) Liao Hua’s biography follows here in Sanguozhi. <return>

Copyright © 2004 -
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s Annotations