Zhou Chu had a reputation for uprightness and integrity and once indicted the Prince of Liang, Sima Rong (司馬肜). When the Di tribe invaded from the northwest, Zhou Chu was ordered by Sima Rong to fight the 20,000-strong enemy head-on with 5,000 soldiers and no supply. He died in the battles.
Eradicating the Three Scourges
A folk story about Zhou Chu appeared in the 430 book A New Account of the Tales of the World and proved to be very popular. The story claims that Zhou Chu was such a hot-headed bully in his younger days that he was called one of the "Three Scourges" by the villagers in his hometown (in today's Yixing), along with a dragon and a tiger. Upon hearing the term, Zhou Chu went on to kill the tiger and the dragon. After he and the dragon disappeared for 3 days fighting in Lake Tai, the villagers celebrated wildly, just when Zhou Chu returned with the dragon's head. That was when he realized that he was the last scourge that the villagers feared. Determined to mend his old ways, he sought out Eastern Wu generals Lu Ji and Lu Yun, and received encouragement. Eventually he became an accomplished general beloved by his people.
Zhou Chu became Palace Aide to the Censor-in-Chief (御史中丞) and had no fear in indicting and exposing the wrongdoings of other ministers. He thus offended many, including Sima Rong, son of Sima Yi and an uncle of Emperor Wu of Jin. In 296, when Sima Rong was named the Grand General of the Western expedition to quell the Di rebellion, Zhou Chu was named the vanguard general. His fellow general Sun Xiu (孫秀) warned him and suggested him to bid his aging mother a final farewell. Zhou Chu replied, "One cannot fulfill both filial piety and loyalty at the same time. Since I have already chosen to serve my country... I will die for it."
Zhou Chu was ordered to take 5,000 soldiers to attack the 20,000-strong enemy. After the attacks began, Sima Rong also ordered his supply to be cut off completely. Zhou's troops ran out of arrows and the generals assigned to reinforce him did not help. When asked to flee, Zhou Chu replied, "I am a minister of a nation. Isn't it proper to die for one's country?" He fought to his death.
- Minford, John; Lau, Joseph S.M. (2002). An Anthology of Translations: Classical Chinese Literature, Volume I: From Antiquity to the Tang Dynasty. Columbia University Press. p.667-668.
- Wu Fusheng (2008). Panegyric Poetry in Early Medieval China. State University of New York Press. p.67.
- Kleeman, Terry F. (1998). Great Perfection: Religion and Ethnicity in a Chinese Millennial Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press. p.91.