Sun Xiu

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Sun Xiu
Emperor of Eastern Wu
Reign 258 – 3 September 264
Predecessor Sun Liang
Successor Sun Hao
Born 235
Died (264-09-03)3 September 264 (aged 29)
Spouse Empress Zhu
  • Sun Wan
  • Sun Gong
  • Sun Mang
  • Sun Bao
Full name
Family name: Sun (孫)
Given name: Xiu (休)
Courtesy name: Zilie (子烈)
Era dates
  • Yong'an (永安): 258–264
Posthumous name
Emperor Jing (景帝)
House House of Sun
Father Sun Quan
Mother Empress Jinghuai

Sun Xiu (235 – 3 September 264),[1] courtesy name Zilie, formally known as Emperor Jing of Wu, was the third emperor of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period.

Early life[edit]

Sun Xiu was born in 235 to the founding emperor of Eastern Wu, Sun Quan, and his concubine Consort Wang. In his youth, he was praised for his studiousness. About 250, Sun Quan had him marry the daughter of his sister Sun Xiaohu (孫小虎) and her husband Zhu Ju.

In 252, just before Sun Quan's death, he was created the Prince of Langye, with his fief at Hulin (虎林, in modern Chizhou, Anhui). Later that year, after his younger brother Sun Liang became emperor under the regency of Zhuge Ke, Zhuge did not want the princes to be based near the important military bases along the Yangtze River, so he moved Sun Xiu to Danyang (丹陽, in modern Xuancheng, Anhui, not the modern locale in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu). Unlike his brother Sun Fen (孫奮), Prince of Qi, who initially resisted, Sun Xiu did not put up any resistance to the move. Once he was at Danyang, however, the governor of Danyang Commandery, Li Heng (李衡), found many excuses to bully the young prince. Sun Xiu could not endure it, and so he petitioned his brother for another move; his brother had him moved to Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing in Zhejiang).

In 255, at the instigation of Sun Xiu's sister Sun Dahu (孫大虎), the regent Sun Jun, who had killed and replaced Zhuge in 253, killed Princess Xiaohu. Sun Xiu became fearful for his own safety, and sent his wife Princess Zhu back to the capital Jianye, effectively offering to divorce her, but Sun Jun declined by sending Princess Zhu back to Sun Xiu.

In 258, after Sun Liang had tried to but failed to remove Sun Chen, Sun Jun's cousin and successor, Sun Chen had Sun Liang removed from the throne. He welcomed Sun Xiu to the capital and had him declared emperor.

Sun Xiu's killing of Sun Chen[edit]

Sun Xiu, in order to appease Sun Chen, added five counties to his march and created his brothers marquesses 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 with Sun Xiu's refusal to dine with him—including a remark that perhaps he should choose another emperor—and Zhang reported Sun Chen's complaints to Sun Xiu. Sun Xiu began to question Sun Chen's loyalty, but continued to outwardly show favor to Sun Chen. Sun Chen became worried about his standing with the emperor and offered to leave Jianye to head up the defense of the secondary capital Wuchang (武昌, in modern Ezhou, Hubei). Sun Xiu approved.

However, Sun Xiu then anticipated that Sun Chen would take over that city and rebel. He conspired with Zhang and the senior general Ding Feng to kill Sun Chen at the Laba (臘八, eighth day of the 12th lunar month of the year) festival. Somehow, the news leaked out, 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 (modern northern Vietnam) or to become a slave, but Sun Xiu declined—stating to Sun Chen that he did not give Teng Yin (滕胤), whom he killed in 256, or Lü Ju (呂據), who committed suicide after Teng's death, those choices. Sun Chen was executed, as were members of his clan.


As emperor, Sun Xiu was known for being tolerant of differing opinions, as well as his studiousness. However, he did not appear to be a particularly capable emperor, either in military or domestic matters, and he entrusted most of the important affairs to Zhang Bu and Puyang Xing (濮陽興), neither of whom was particularly capable either. Both were also moderately corrupt. The government was therefore not efficient or effective. For example, in 260, at Puyang's suggestion, a costly project was started to create an artificial lake known as the Puli Lake (浦里塘, in modern Xuancheng, Anhui) to create a defense against the rival Cao Wei, even though most other officials believed the project to be too costly and futile. Eventually, the project had to be abandoned when it became clear that it could not be completed.

Also in 260, Sun Xiu, who had always been concerned about plots regarding his deposed brother, the former emperor Sun Liang, acted after receiving false reports that Sun Liang had used witchcraft. He had Sun Liang demoted from being the Prince of Kuaiji to the Marquess of Houguan and sent him to his march (in modern Fuzhou, Fujian). Sun Liang died on the way—with the prevalent theory being that he committed suicide, but with some historians believing that Sun Xiu poisoned him.

According to the Eastern Wu ambassador Xue Xu (薛珝), who visited Eastern Wu's ally Shu Han in 261 at the order of Sun Xiu, the status that Shu Han was in at this point was:

The emperor is incompetent and does not know his errors; his subordinates just try to get by without causing trouble for themselves. When I was visiting them, I heard no honest words, and when I visited their countryside, the people looked hungry. I have heard of a story of swallows and sparrows making nests on top of mansions and being content, believing that it was the safest place, not realizing that the haystack and the support beams were on fire and that disaster was about to come. This might be what they are like.

However, historians largely believe that Xue was not just referring to Shu Han, but rather using Shu Han's situation to try to awaken Sun Xiu so that he would realize that Eastern Wu was in a similar situation. Sun Xiu did not appear to realize this, however.

In 262, Sun Xiu created his wife Princess Zhu empress. He also created his oldest son Sun Wan crown prince.

In 263, due to the corruption of the commandery governor Sun Xu (孫諝), the people of the Jiaozhi Commandery (交趾, modern Hanoi, Vietnam) rebelled, and they were joined by people of Jiuzhen (九真, modern thanh Hoa, Vietnam) and Ri'nan (日南, modern Quang Tri, Vietnam) Commanderies, and the rebels sought military assistance from Cao Wei. (The rebellion would in fact eventually receive assistance from Cao Wei and its successor state, Jin, and would not be quelled until 271, long after Sun Xiu's reign.)

Also in 263, Shu Han was targeted by a major Cao Wei attack and sought assistance from Eastern Wu. Sun Xiu sent two separate forces, one attacking Shouchun and one heading toward Hanzhong to try to alleviate pressures on Shu Han, but neither was at all successful, and Shu Han's capital Chengdu and its emperor Liu Shan surrendered later that year without having received major help from Eastern Wu. Sun Xiu then heard that many Shu Han cities were still not decided as to what to do, and he sent a detachment to try to occupy them, but his forces were repelled by the former Shu Han general Luo Xian (羅憲), the governor of Badong Commandery (巴東, now mostly under water as part of the Three Gorges Dam reservoir), who wanted to carry out Liu Shan's orders to surrender to Cao Wei, and was unable to seize any former Shu Han territory.

In summer 264, Sun Xiu fell ill and was unable to speak but still could write, so he wrote an edict summoning Puyang to the palace, where he pointed and entrusted Crown Prince Wan to him. Sun Xiu died soon thereafter. However, Puyang did not follow his wishes. Rather, after consulting with Zhang, they believed that the people were, in light of Shu Han's recent fall, yearning for an older emperor. (It is not known how old Crown Prince Wan was at this point, but Sun Xiu himself died at age 29, so it was unlikely that Crown Prince Wan was even a teenager.) At the recommendation of the general Wan Yu (萬彧), who was friendly with former crown prince Sun He's son Sun Hao the Marquess of Wucheng, Puyang and Zhang declared Sun Hao emperor instead.

A tomb located in Dangtu County in Anhui is assumed to belong to Sun Xiu and Lady Zhu.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 兩千年中西曆轉換
  2. ^ "High-rank tomb of East Wu Dynasty was found in Anhui". The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
Emperor Jing of Eastern Wu
Born: 235 Died: 264
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sun Liang
Emperor of Eastern Wu
Succeeded by
Sun Hao
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Sun Liang
Emperor of China
Reason for succession failure:
Three Kingdoms
Succeeded by
Sun Hao