Sun Quan – the founding emperor of Wu State

sun quan

Sun Quan (孙权) (182–252), born in Fuchun County, Wu Commandery (present-day Fuyang District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang), was a pivotal figure during the Three Kingdoms period, serving as the founding emperor of the Wu state. He was not only a skilled military strategist but also a astute political leader.

The groundwork for Sun Quan’s rise to power was laid by his father, Sun Jian, and his elder brother, Sun Ce, who established a foundation in the Jiangdong region during the tumultuous later years of the Eastern Han Dynasty. In the year 200, Sun Ce was assassinated, and Sun Quan took over the reins of power. Seeking amicable relations, he submitted to Cao Cao and was appointed as General Who Subdues the Barbarians and Inspector of Yuzhang. With the wise counsel of advisors such as Zhang Zhao and Zhou Yu, Sun Quan actively recruited talent, organized his forces, pacified the local tribes, and suppressed rebellious factions.

In the thirteenth year of the Jian’an era (208), when Cao Cao marched south to seize control of Jingzhou, many urged Sun Quan to surrender, but the steadfast opposition of Zhou Yu and Lu Su prevailed. Sun Quan allied with Liu Bei, culminating in the decisive victory at the Battle of Red Cliffs, where they defeated Cao Cao’s forces.

In the twenty-fourth year of the Jian’an era (219), Sun Quan expanded his territories significantly by sending Lu Meng to capture Jingzhou. In 221, he declared allegiance to Cao Wei and was bestowed the title of King of Wu. His military successes continued with the triumph at the Battle of Yiling in 222 against Liu Bei. In 229, Sun Quan formally declared himself emperor, establishing the state of Wu and moving the capital to Jianye (modern-day Nanjing). After ascending to the throne, he implemented agricultural reforms, established local governance, and continued to pacify the local tribes, contributing to the economic development of the Jiangnan region.

Sun Quan’s rule, lasting over fifty years in Jiangdong, witnessed the expansion of his influence from Jiangdong to present-day Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, and other regions. This consolidation effectively ended the fragmentation of the Han Dynasty’s final years, promoting social and economic recovery and development in the territories under his control.

In his later years, Sun Quan faced challenges in determining his successor, leading to the Two Palaces conflict and turmoil within the court. On the twenty-first day of the fourth month in the first year of the Shenfeng era (May 21, 252), Sun Quan passed away at the age of seventy-one after a reign of twenty-four years. He was posthumously honored as the Grand Emperor, with the temple name Taizu, and was laid to rest in Jiangling. Sun Quan’s legacy endures as a skilled statesman and military strategist who played a pivotal role in unifying and stabilizing the Jiangnan region during the tumultuous Three Kingdoms era.

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