In his youth Sun Quan spent time in his home county of Fuchun, and after his father's death in the early 190s, at various cities on the Lower Yangtze River. His elder brother Sun Ce carved out a warlord state in the region, based on his own followers and a number of local clan allegiances. When Sun Ce was assassinated by the retainers of Xu Gong, whom Sun Ce had killed in battle several years prior, in 200, the eighteen-year-old Sun Quan inherited the lands southeast of the Yangtze River from his brother. His administration proved to be relatively stable in those early years. Sun Jian and Sun Ce's most senior officers, such as Zhou Yu, Zhang Zhao, Zhang Hong, and Cheng Pu remained loyal; in fact it was mentioned in Romance of the Three Kingdoms that Sun Ce had at his deathbed reminded Sun Quan that "in internal matters, consult Zhang Zhao, in external matters, consult Zhou Yu." Thus throughout the 200s Sun Quan under the tutelage of his able advisors continued to build up his strength along the Yangtze River. In early 207, his forces finally won complete victory over Huang Zu, a military leader under Liu Biao, who dominated the Middle Yangtze.
In winter of that year, the northern warlord Cao Cao led an army of some 200,000 to conquer south to complete the reunification of China. Two distinct factions emerged at his court on how to handle the situation. One, led by Zhang Zhao, urged surrender whilst the other, led by Zhou Yu and the young diplomat Lu Su, opposed capitulation. In the finality, Sun Quan decided to oppose Cao Cao in the Middle Yangtze with his superior riverine forces. Allied with the refugee warlord Liu Bei and employing the combined strategies of Zhou Yu and Huang Gai, they defeated Cao Cao decisively at the Battle of Red Cliffs.
In 220, Cao Pi, son of Cao Cao, seized the throne and proclaimed himself to be the Emperor of China, ending the nominal rule of the Han Dynasty. At first Sun Quan nominally served as a Cao Wei vassal with the Cao Wei-created title of Prince of Wu, but after Cao Pi demanded that he send his son Sun Deng as a hostage to the Cao Wei capital Luoyang and he refused, in 222, he declared himself independent by changing era name. It was not until the year 229 that he formally declared himself to be emperor.
Because of his skill in gathering important, honourable men to his cause, Sun Quan was able to delegate authority to capable figures. This primary strength served him well in gaining the support of the common people and surrounding himself with capable generals.
Sun Quan died in 252 at the age of 70. He enjoyed the longest reign among all the founders of the Three Kingdoms. He was succeeded as Emperor of Eastern Wu by his son Sun Liang.
Sun Quan was born in 182, while his father Sun Jian was still an general. After his father's death in 191, he became the charge of his brother Sun Ce. Sun has greenish-blue eyes and redish hair. As he grew up, he became an officer under his brother during his brother's conquest of the region south of the Yangtze River. He was made a county magistrate in 196, at age 14, and continued to rise through the ranks as his brother gave him more and more important tasks.
The ''Sanguo Zhi'' records that Sun Quan's father Sun Jian was a descendant of Sun Tzu, the great military strategist of the Warring States period. According to later tradition, Sun Quan was born on Sunzhou , an islet at the intersection of the Fuchun River and one of its tributaries. Local folklore relates a story about how Sun Quan's grandfather Sun Zhong was originally a melon farmer on the islet.
As warlord after Sun Ce's death
Prior to the Battle of Red Cliffs
Sun Ce was assassinated in 200 during a hunt. On his deathbed, he knew that his son was still too young to be considered a realistic heir, so he entrusted the 18-year-old Sun Quan to his faithful subordinates. Initially, Sun Quan mourned so greatly that he could do nothing, but at Zhang Zhao's behest, he changed into a general's clothing and set out to visit the commanderies under his brother's control. Many of Sun Ce's subordinates thought that Sun Quan was too young to sustain Sun Ce's domain and wanted to leave, but Zhang and Zhou Yu saw special qualities in the young man and chose to stay to serve Sun Quan. Zhang Hong, whom Sun Ce had earlier sent as a liaison to the paramount warlord Cao Cao, also returned from Cao's domain to assist Sun Quan. He listened carefully to his mother Lady Wu's encouraging words, and greatly trusted Zhang Zhao and Zhang Hong with regard to civilian affairs and Zhou, Cheng Pu, and Lü Fan with regard to military matters. He also sought out talented young men to serve as his personal advisors, and it was around this time that he befriended Lu Su and Zhuge Jin, who would later play prominent roles in his administration. Throughout this period and decades to come, Sun Quan's leadership would be characterized by his ability to find men of character and entrust important matters to him, and his ability to react swiftly to events.
For the next several years, Sun Quan was largely interested in first defending his realm against potential enemies, but he gradually sought to harass and weaken Liu Biao's key subordinate, Huang Zu -- particularly because Huang had killed his father Sun Jian in battle. In 208, he was finally able to defeat Huang Zu and kill him in battle. Soon after, Liu Biao himself died while Cao Cao was preparing a major campaign to subjugate both Liu Biao and Sun Quan under his control, precipitating a major confrontation.
Battle of Red Cliffs
After Liu Biao's death, a succession struggle for his domain came into being, between his sons Liu Qi and younger son , whom Liu Biao's second wife Lady Cai favored . After Huang's death, Liu Qi was therefore given Huang's post as the governor of Jiangxia Commandery . Liu Cong therefore succeeded Liu Biao after his death, and Liu Qi was displeased and considered, but did not carry out, an attack against his brother. Nevertheless, Liu Cong, in fear of having to fight Cao Cao and his brother on two fronts, surrendered to Cao Cao against the advice of Liu Biao's key ally Liu Bei. Liu Bei, unwilling to submit to Cao Cao, fled south. Cao Cao caught up to him and crushed his forces, but Liu Bei escaped with his life; he fled to Dangyang . Cao Cao took over most of Jing Province, and appeared set on finally unifying the empire.
Sun Quan was well aware of Cao's intentions, and he quickly entered into an alliance with Liu Bei and Liu Qi to prepare for a Cao assault. Cao Cao wrote Sun with a letter intending to intimidate, and in face of Cao Cao's overwhelming force , many of Sun Quan subordinates, even including the highly capable Zhang Zhao, advocated surrender. Sun Quan refused, under advice from Zhou Yu and Lu Su .
Sun put Zhou in charge of his 30,000 men, largely stationed on naval ships, and Zhou set up in a defense position in conjunction with Liu Bei, whose army was stationed on land. About this time, there was a plague developing in Cao's forces which significantly weakened it. Zhou set up a trap where he pretended to be punishing his subordinate Huang Gai, and Huang Gai pretended to be in such fear that he was willing to surrender to Cao. Zhou then sent ships under Huang's command to pretend to surrender and, as Huang's ships approached Cao's fleet, they were lit on fire to assault Cao's fleet, and Cao's fleet was largely destroyed by fire. Cao led his forces to escape on land, but much of the force was destroyed by Sun Quan and Liu Bei's land forces. The death rate was said to be over 50%.
Uneasy alliance with Liu Bei
Immediately, after Cao Cao withdrew, Sun Quan took over the northern half of Jing Province. Liu Bei marched south and took over the southern half. The Sun-Liu alliance was further cemented by a marriage of Sun Quan's sister to Liu Bei. Zhou was suspicious of Liu Bei intentions, however, and suggested to Sun Quan that Liu Bei be seized and put under house arrest and his forces be merged into Sun Quan's; Sun Quan, believing that Liu Bei's forces would rebel if he did that, declined. Sun Quan did agree to Zhou Yu's plans to consider attacking Liu Zhang and Zhang Lu to try to take over their territories, but after Zhou Yu died in 210, the plans were abandoned. However, Sun Quan was able to persuade the warlords in modern Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam to submit to him, and they became part of his domain. He then yielded northern Jing to Liu Bei as well, agreeing with Liu Bei that southern Jing was insufficient to supply his troops.
In 215, the Sun-Liu alliance appeared on the verge of break-up, because Sun Quan demanded that Liu Bei return Jing Province and Liu refused. Sun Quan made an initial attack against Liu Bei's general Guan Yu, who was left in charge of Jing Province by Liu Bei, and most of the eastern Jing Province quickly surrendered. However, after a face-to-face summit between Guan Yu and Lu, the sides renewed their alliance, dividing Jing Province at the Xiang.
Breaking of alliance with Liu Bei
In 219, Guan Yu advanced north, attacking Fancheng, scoring a major victory over Cao's nephew Cao Ren. While Fancheng did not fall at this time, Guan put it under siege, and the situation was severe enough that Cao Cao considered moving the capital away from Xu. However, Sun, resentful of Guan's prior constant instigation of hostilities , took the opportunity to attack Guan from the rear, and Guan's forces collapsed. Guan was captured by Sun's general Lü Meng; once captured, Sun Quan executed Guan Yu, Jing Province became Sun's once more, and the Sun-Liu alliance was over. Sun instead nominally submitted to Cao and, indeed, urged him to take the throne. Cao declined, but prepared for his son Cao Pi to do so.
After Cao Cao's death in 220, Cao Pi did indeed force Emperor Xian to yield the throne to him, ending the Han Dynasty and establishing Cao Wei. Sun did not immediately declare himself a Cao Wei subject or declare independence after Cao Pi's enthronement, but took a wait-and-see attitude; by contrast, in early 221, Liu Bei declared himself emperor, establishing Shu Han. Immediately, Liu planned a campaign against Sun to avenge Guan. After attempting to negotiate peace and receiving no positive response from Liu, fearing attack on both sides, Sun declared himself a Cao Wei subject. Cao Pi's strategist Liu Ye suggested that Cao decline -- and in fact attack Sun on a second front, effectively partitioning Sun's domain with Shu Han, and then eventually seek to destroy Shu Han as well. Cao declined, in a fateful choice that most historians believe doomed his empire to ruling only the northern and central China -- and this chance would not come again. Indeed, against Liu Ye's advice, he created Sun the Prince of Wu and granted him the nine bestowments.
In 222, at the Battle of Xiaoting, Sun's general dealt Liu a major defeat, stopping the Shu Han offensive. Shu Han would not again pose a threat to Sun from that point on. Later that year, when Cao Pi demanded that Sun send his crown prince Sun Deng to the Cao Wei capital Luoyang as a hostage , Sun refused and declared independence , thus establishing Eastern Wu as an independent state. Cao Pi therefore launched a major attack on Eastern Wu, but after Cao Wei defeats in early 223, it became clear that Eastern Wu was secure. After Liu Bei's death later that year, Zhuge Jin's brother Zhuge Liang, the regent for Liu Bei's son and successor Liu Shan, reestablished the alliance with Sun Quan, and the two states would remain allies until Shu Han's eventual destruction in 263.
Reign as the monarch of Eastern Wu
Early in Sun Quan's reign, the Eastern Wu administration was known for its efficiency, as Sun showed a knack for listening to correct advice and for delegating authorities to the proper individuals. For example, he correctly trusted the faithful Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin, so much so that he made a duplicate imperial seal and left it with Lu; whenever he would correspond with Shu Han's emperor Liu Shan or regent Zhuge Liang, he would deliver the letter to Lu first , and then if, in Lu's opinion, changes were needed, he would revise the letter and then restamp it with Sun's imperial seal. Further, Lu and Zhuge Jin were authorized to coordinate their actions with Shu Han without prior imperial approval. Sun treated his high level officials as friends and addressed them accordingly , and in accordance they dedicated all effort to Eastern Wu's preservation. He also knew what were the proper roles for officials that he trusted; for example, in 225, when selecting a prime minister, while the key officials all respected Zhang Zhao greatly and wanted him to be prime minister, Sun declined -- reasoning that while he respected Zhang greatly, a prime minister needed to handle all affairs of state, and Zhang, while capable, had such strong opinions that he would surely be in conflict with Sun and other officials at all times. He also repeatedly promoted his official Lü Fan even though, while he was young, Lü had informed to Sun Ce about his improper spending habits, understanding that Lü did so only out of loyalty to Sun Ce.
In 224 and 225, Cao Pi again made attacks on Eastern Wu, but each time the Eastern Wu forces were able to repel Cao Wei's with fair ease -- so easily that Cao made the comment, "Heaven created the Yangtze to divide the north and south." However, Sun was himself equally unsuccessful in efforts to make major attacks on Cao Wei. After Cao Pi's death in 226, for example, Sun launched an attack on Cao Wei's Jiangxia Commandery but was forced to withdraw as soon as Cao Wei relief forces arrived despite Cao Pi's recent death. However, later that year, he was able to increase his effective control over Jiao Province when his general Lü Dai was able to defeat the warlord Shi Hui and end the effective independence that the Shi clan had. In addition, the several independent kingdoms in modern Cambodia, Laos, and southern Vietnam all became Eastern Wu vassals as well.
The one major victory that Eastern Wu would have over Cao Wei during this period came in 228, when, with Sun's approval, his general pretended to be surrendering to Cao Wei after pretending to have been punished repeatedly by Sun. This tricked the Cao Wei general Cao Xiu, who led a large army south to support Zhou. He walked into the trap set by Zhou and Lu Xun and suffered major losses, but was saved from total annihilation by Jia Kui.
In 229, Sun declared himself emperor, which almost damaged the alliance with Shu Han, as many Shu Han officials saw this as a sign of betrayal of the Han Dynasty -- which Shu Han claimed to be the legitimate successor to. However, Zhuge Liang opposed ending the alliance and in fact confirmed it with a formal treaty later that year, in which the two states pledged to support each other and divide Cao Wei equally if they could conquer it. Later that year, he moved his capital from Wuchang to Jianye, leaving his crown prince Sun Deng, assisted by Lu Xun, in charge of the western empire.
In 230, however, the first sign of the deterioration of Sun Quan's reign occurred. That year, he sent his generals Wei Wen and Zhuge Zhi with a navy of 10,000 into the East China Sea to seek the legendary islands of Yizhou and Danzhou to seek to conquer them, despite strenuous opposition of Lu Xun and Quan Cong. The navy was not able to locate Danzhou but located Yizhou, and returned in 231 after capturing several thousand men -- but only after 80-90% of the navy had died of illnesses. Instead of seeing his own fault in this venture, Sun simply executed Wei Wen and Zhuge Zhi. Perhaps concerned about this deterioration in Sun Quan's judgment, Sun Deng left the western empire in Lu's hands in 232 and returned in Jianye, and would remain at Jianye until his own death in 241.
In 232, Sun had another misadventure involving his navy -- as he sent his generals Zhou He and Pei Qian to the nominal Cao Wei vassal Gongsun Yuan, in control of Liaodong Commandery , to purchase horses, against the advice of Yu Fan -- and indeed, he exiled Yu to the desolate Cangwu Commandery as punishment. Just as Yu predicted, however, the venture would end in failure -- as Zhou and Pei, on their way back, were intercepted by Cao Wei forces and killed. Regretting his actions, Sun tried to recall Yu back to Jianye, only to learn that Yu had died in exile.
The next year, however, Sun would have yet another misadventure in his dealings with Gongsun, as Gongsun sent messengers to him, offering to be his subject. Sun was ecstatic, and created Gongsun the Prince of Yan and granted him the nine bestowments, and further sent a detachment of 10,000 men by sea north to assist Gongsun in his campaign against Cao Wei, against the advice of nearly every single one of his high level officials, particularly Zhang Zhao. Once the army arrived, however, Gongsun betrayed them, killing Sun's officials Zhang Mi and Xu Yan , whom Sun had sent to grant the bestowments and seized their troops. Once that happened, the enraged Sun wanted to personally head north with a fleet to attack Gongsun, and initially, not even Lu's opposition was able to stop him, although he eventually calmed down and did not follow through. To his credit, he also personally went to Zhang's house and apologized to Zhang. Further, despite the deterioration in his previous clear thinking, he was still capable of making proper decisions at times. For example, in 235, when, as a sign of contempt, Cao Wei's emperor Cao Rui offered horses to him in exchange for pearls, jade, and tortoise shells, Sun ignored the implicit insult and made the exchange, reasoning that his empire needed horses much more than pearls, jade, or tortoise shells.
In 234, in coordination with Zhuge Liang's final against Cao Wei, Sun personally led a major attack against Cao Wei's border city Hefei, while having Lu and Zhuge Jin attack Xiangyang, with the strategy of trying to attract Cao Wei relief forces and then attacking them. However, Cao Wei's generals correctly saw the situation and simply let Sun siege Hefei. Only after Sun's food supplies ran low did Cao Rui personally arrive with relief forces, and Sun withdrew, as did Lu and Zhuge.
In 238, when Gongsun was under attack by Cao Wei's general Sima Yi, Sun, despite his prior rage against Gongsun, correctly judged the situation as one where he might be able to take advantage if Sima were initially unsuccessful, did not immediately refuse Gongsun's request for help. However, as Sima was able to conquer Gongsun quickly, Sun never launched the major attack that he considered if Sima got stuck in a stalemate with Gongsun. That year, he also recognized how his head secretary Lü Yi had been falsely accusing his officials, and had Lü executed; he then further confirmed his trust in the high level officials by personally writing an emotional letter to Zhuge Jin, Bu Zhi, Zhu Ran, and Lü Dai, blaming himself for the recent problems with his administration while urging them to speak out honestly whenever they saw faults in him.
In 241, Sun would launch the last major assault against Cao Wei of his reign, in light of Cao Rui's death in 239, but he rejected a strategy offered by Yin Zha to attack Cao Wei in coordinated effort with Shu Han on four different fronts, and the campaign ended in failure as well.
Later in 241, Crown Prince Deng died -- an event that left open the issue of succession and appeared to mark the start of a precipitous decline in Sun Quan's mental health. In 242, he created his son Sun He, by Consort Wang, crown prince. However, he also favored another son by Consort Wang, Sun Ba the Prince of Lu, and permitted Sun Ba to have the same staffing level as the crown prince -- a move that was objected to by a number of officials as encouraging Prince Ba to compete with Prince He, but Sun Quan did not listen to them. After 245, when Crown Prince He and Prince Ba began to have separate residences, their relationship detriorated further, and Prince Ba began to scheme at how to seize heir status from Prince He. Fanned by gossip from his daughter Sun Dahu , Sun Quan blamed the princes' mother Consort Wang for this -- and she died in fear. He also cut off Crown Prince He and Prince Ba's access to the officials who supported them in hopes of receiving future favors, but this could not stop Prince Ba's machinations. Indeed, when Lu Xun tried to intervene to protect Crown Prince He, Prince Ba falsely accused him of many crimes, and Sun Quan became provoked so much that he repeatedly rebuked Lu -- causing Lu to die in anger.
In 250, fed up with Prince Ba's constant attacks against Crown Prince He, Sun Quan carried out an inexplicable combination of actions -- he forced Prince Ba to commit suicide, while deposing Crown Prince He , and instead creating his youngest son, Sun Liang, crown prince to replace Prince He. This move was opposed by his son-in-law Zhu Ju , but Zhu's pleas not only did not help Prince He, but also resulted in his own death, as Sun forced him to commit suicide. Many other officials who also opposed the move, as well as officials who had supported Prince Ba, were executed.
Around this time, Sun also had his generals destroy a number of levees near the border with Cao Wei, creating large areas of flooding, in order to obstruct potential attacks from Cao Wei.
In 251, Sun created the first empress of his reign -- Crown Prince Liang's mother . Later that year, however, he realized that Prince He was blameless and wanted to recall him from his exile, but was persuaded not to do so by his daughter Princess Dahu and Sun Jun, who had supported Crown Prince Liang's ascension. He realized that he was getting very old and, at Sun Jun's recommendation, commissioned Zhuge Jin's son Zhuge Ke as the future regent for Crown Prince Liang -- even though he correctly had misgivings about how Zhuge Ke was arrogant and had overly high opinion of his own abilities -- because at that time, virtually the entire empire, awed by Zhuge's prior military victories, was convinced that Zhuge would be the correct choice for regent.
In 252, as Sun Quan neared death, Empress Pan was murdered -- but how she was murdered remains a controversy. Eastern Wu officials claimed that her servants, unable to stand her temper, strangled her while she was asleep, while a number of historians, including Hu Sansheng, the commentator to Sima Guang's ''Zizhi Tongjian'', believed that top Eastern Wu officials were complicit, as they feared that she would seize power as empress dowager after Sun's death. Later that year, Sun died at the age of 70, and Crown Prince Liang succeeded him. Sun Quan was buried in a mausoleum at Purple Mountain in present-day Nanjing.
Sun Quan is a playable character in the Koei video game series, ''Dynasty Warriors''. He is portrayed as a stolid man with an intensely serious personality, which is in stark contrast to his brother, Sun Ce, who is informal and care-free.
Sun Quan was portrayed by Chang Chen in the 2008 movie ''Red Cliff'', directed by John Woo.
* ''Huangwu'' 222-229
* ''Huanglong'' 229-231
* ''Jiahe'' 232-238
* ''Chiwu'' 238-251
* ''Taiyuan'' 251-252
* ''Shenfeng'' 252
** Sun Jian
** Lady Wu
** Sun Ce
** Sun Kuang
** Sun Yi
** Sun Lang
** Sun Shang Xiang
** Lady Xie
** Lady Xu, adoptive mother of Crown Prince Deng
** Lady Bu , posthumously honored as empress
** , mother of Crown Prince Liang
* Major Concubines
** Consort Wang, mother of Crown Prince He and Prince Ba and grandmother of Sun Hao, posthumously honored as Empress Dayi
** Consort Wang, mother of Sun Xiu , posthumously honored as Empress Jinghuai
** Consort Zhong, mother of Prince Fen
** Consort Yuan, daughter of Yuan Shu
** Sun Deng , the Crown Prince
** Sun Lü , the Marquess of Jianchang
** Sun He , initially the Crown Prince , later the Prince of Nanyang
** Sun Ba , the Prince of Lu
** Sun Fen , the Prince of Qi , later the Marquess of Zhang'an
** Sun Xiu , the Prince of Langye , later Emperor Jing
** Sun Liang , the Crown Prince , later emperor
** Sun Dahu , also known as Princess Quan
** Sun Xiaohu , also known as Princess Zhu