Sun Chen

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Sun Chen
Regent of Eastern Wu
Born 231
Died 258 (aged 27)[1]
Traditional Chinese 孫綝
Simplified Chinese 孙綝
Pinyin Sūn Chēn
Wade–Giles Sun Chen
Courtesy name Zitong (Chinese: 子通; pinyin: Zǐtōng; Wade–Giles: Tzu-tung)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Sun.

Sun Chen (231–258), courtesy name Zitong, was a regent of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period. He ruled as regent during the reigns of the emperors Sun Liang and Sun Xiu. His conflict with Sun Liang eventually led him to depose the emperor in favour of Sun Xiu. However, he was subsequently killed by Sun Xiu in a coup.

As a regent[edit]

Sun Chen and his predecessor Sun Jun were cousins; both were great-grandsons of the founding emperor Sun Quan's uncle Sun Jing. Very little is known about his career up to Sun Jun's sudden illness in 256, when the latter chose to transfer his power to Sun Chen. Sun Jun died soon thereafter, and Sun Chen became regent. The general Lü Ju was angry at the development (as Sun Jun was already resented for his dictatorial style and lack of accomplishments), and, in conjunction with the minister Teng Yin, he attempted to overthrow Sun Chen. Sun Chen struck back militarily, and his forces defeated Teng Yin and Lü Ju. Teng Yin and his clan were executed while Lü Ju committed suicide. In the light of his defeat of Teng Yin and Lü Ju, Sun Chen began to become extremely arrogant.[2]

In 257, at the age of 14, Sun Liang began to personally handle some important matters of state. He established a personal guard corps, consistent of young men and officers with age similar to his, stating that he intended to grow up with them. He also sometimes questioned Sun Chen's decisions. Sun Chen began to be somewhat apprehensive of the young emperor.[3]

Third Rebellion in Shouchun[edit]

Further information: Third Rebellion in Shouchun

Later that year, Cao Wei's general Zhuge Dan, believing that the Wei regent Sima Zhao was about to usurp the throne, declared a rebellion and requested Wu assistance. A small Wu detachment, led by Wen Qin, himself a former Wei general who had defected to Wu, quickly arrived to assist him, but Sun Chen led the main forces and chose to camp a long distance away from Shouchun, where Zhuge Dan was being besieged by Sima Zhao, and did nothing. When Sun Chen instead ordered the general Zhu Yi to try to relieve Shouchun with tired and unfed troops, Zhu refused — and Sun Chen executed him, bringing anger from the people, who had admired Zhu's military skills and integrity. With Sun Chen unable to do anything, Zhuge Dan's rebellion failed in 258, and Wen Qin's troops became captives of Wei.[4]

Sun Chen knew that the people and the young emperor were both angry at him, and chose not to return to Jianye, but instead sent his confidants to be in charge of the capital's defences. Sun Liang became angrier, and plotted with his sister Sun Luban, the general Liu Cheng (劉丞), his father-in-law Quan Shang (全尚), and his brother-in-law Quan Ji (全記), to have Sun Chen overthrown. However, Quan Shang did not keep the plot secret from his wife, who was Sun Chen's cousin, and she told Sun Chen. Sun Chen quickly captured Quan Shang and killed Liu Cheng, and then surrounded the palace and forced the other officials to agree to depose Sun Liang — falsely declaring to the people that Sun Liang had suffered psychosis. Sun Liang was demoted to the status of a prince, "Prince of Kuaiji".[5]

Downfall and death[edit]

Sun Chen then chose Sun Liang's elder brother Sun Xiu, the Prince of Langye, as the new emperor. Sun Xiu, in order to appease Sun Chen, added five counties to his fief and created his brothers marquises as well. However, Sun Chen soon had a fallout with the new emperor over a relatively small incident — Sun Chen had brought beef and wine to the palace, intending to feast with the emperor, but Sun Xiu refused the offering, and so Sun Chen took the food and wine to the house of the general Zhang Bu (張布). He expressed to Zhang his disappointment at Sun Xiu's refusal — including a remark that perhaps he should choose another emperor — and Zhang reported Sun Chen's complaints to Sun Xiu. Sun Xiu became concerned about Sun Chen, but continued to outwardly show favour to Sun Chen. Sun Chen became concerned about his standing with the emperor and offered to leave the capital Jianye (present-day Nanjing) to head up the defence of the secondary capital Wuchang (in present-day Ezhou, Hubei). Sun Xiu approved.[6]

However, Sun Xiu then became concerned that Sun Chen would take over that city and rebel. He conspired with Zhang and the senior general Ding Feng to kill Sun Chen during the Laba Festival. Somehow, the news leaked, but Sun Chen, even though apprehensive, showed up at the festival anyway and was seized by Ding and Zhang's soldiers. Sun Chen begged Sun Xiu for his life, offering to be exiled to Jiao Province (present-day northern Vietnam) or to become a slave, but Sun Xiu declined — stating to Sun Chen that he did not give Teng or Lü those choices. Sun Chen was executed, along with members of his clan. Furthermore, Sun Xiu felt so shameful to share the clan of Sun Jun and Sun Chen that he had them posthumously banished from the Sun family, referring them as Gu Jun (故峻) and Gu Chen (故綝) instead.[7]

Titles and appointments held[edit]

  • Deputy General (偏將軍)
  • Palace Attendant(侍中)
  • Martial General(武衛將軍)
  • General-in-Chief (大將軍)
  • Marquess of Yongning (永寧侯)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sanguozhi, ch. 64, p. 1451
  2. ^ Sanguozhi, ch. 64, p. 1446
  3. ^ Sanguozhi, p. 1448
  4. ^ Sanguozhi, p. 1447
  5. ^ Sanguozhi, p. 1448
  6. ^ Sanguozhi, p. 1450
  7. ^ Sanguozhi, p. 1451