The conflict between Sun Quan and Zhang Zhao

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Re: The conflict between Sun Quan and Zhang Zhao

Unread postby Zhou Chie » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:44 pm

As fond of Sun Quan as I am (a fondness born simply from the length of his rule, and how he reminds me of Augustus Caesar, another fascinating personage of ancient history), I must agree that his treatment of a man of such great note as Zhang Zhao was horrible.

Yeah, okay so he nitpicked a little, but that's his job, it simply means he's sincere about things and thus is a man to be trusted, especially if Sun Ce & Zhou Yu recommended him.
I would just like to ask one question; why was their relationship so rocky? Is it stated anywhere (beyond the little note about him disagreeing with Lu Su & Zhou Yu)? I mean, the man truly seems to have given it his all, and was truly a trustworthy person, a man of refinement and great intellect yet Sun Quan seemed intent on treating the man like dirt at times (no pun intended).
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Re: The conflict between Sun Quan and Zhang Zhao

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:06 pm

Posted this on tumblr on this subject

Re-read Zhang Zhao’s SGZ, a week ago, I just love the complex, volatile relationship between him and his master Sun Quan. Sometimes treasured and close with tears and a senior adviser to his lord, sometimes it descended into rows, strikes, swords and fire. I have been wondering at the factors that led to the angry splits so a few musings as to potential reasons why.

1) Chibi.

This is the usual one reason for why Sun Quan disliked him and given alleged Sun Quan’s put down on becoming Emperor, this may well have played it’s part. Zhang Zhao was a loyal, well meaning man and his advice to surrender made sense but given Wu forces performed an upset, that looked worse in hindsight. Few rulers are going to love you for, due to advising surrender, the unsaid suggestion your not quite good enough and going to lose.

Add Sun Quan’s nature and that would have stung that loss of faith, even if one doesn’t believe the annotation about Sun Quan’s put down, this likely was a cloud over their relationship that, when things were bad, added to Quan’s irritation.

2) Nature.

Going beyond Sun Quan is a jerk (Sun Quan did have a nasty side), the two were perhaps not the men you would pick for most likely to get along in the Wu court yearbook. Both were men of pride and authority, willing to stand their ground. Zhang Zhao was a moral, strict man (though not without flexibility), a man who could intimidate and acted as restraint, he was not a man who put others at ease. Sun Quan was a man who loved to hunt, loved to drink, enjoyed the thrill of danger, who by nature and practicality did not use strictness, the master of the banquet, who could be overly bold. One was not always going to appreciate attempts to restrain and the other was not going to appreciate being ignored.

3) Fame.

Rulers tend to be touchy about their authority unsurprisingly but will use and tolerate, even got on with, strong-willed and famous men though this sometimes did result in death of the subject. Zhang Zhao offered a Sun clan of not glamorous lineage some clout as if they had Zhang Zhao, they were clearly worthy men who could use talent, he could create rituals and give it legitimacy.

Zhang Zhao was extremely famous, from outside he got so many letters that it caused him awkwardness for Zhang Zhao, he was a man used to protect Wu authority against rival envoys like Xing Zhao. If Zhang Zhao had ever wished to leave, other warlords would have been desperate to hire him and offering whatever they could short of their own wives. From inside Wu, as well as the senior minister who had been chief civil officer during Sun Quan’s youth, he was someone Sun Quan bemoaned people bowed to, his status was such that Sun Quan had to explain why Zhang Zhao was not Chancellor.

Sun Quan could and did use famed men but I think there were other issues were Zhang Zhao’s fame perhaps added to the sores.

4) Old memories.

When Sun Quan became ruler, he was young and inexperienced, it was some time that Sun Quan became the confident and skilled ruler who had complete rule of his lands. Lady Wu’s chief civil advisers Zhang Hong and Zhang Zhao were major influences during those years but it also led to some resentment, Zhang Hong had to use diplomacy to win back favour and Sun Quan was careful to ensure his authority was asserted over his old teacher.

Zhang Zhao cited Lady Wu a few times during disagreements, to explain his thinking and his loyalty, he had been the one to get the mourning Sun Quan mounted to show his face. Zhang Zhao had helped run the administration. Zhang Zhao seems to have accepted the loss of power but it may have hard avoiding the trap of seeing Sun Quan as that callow youth. For Sun Quan, Zhang Zhao was a reminder of when his mother had… a high degree of control, of perhaps mistakes made, when his chief officers had a lot of power and some part of him may have resented it.

That shifting balance, the memories of what once was and trying not to let that influence the situations they faced and their relations afterwards may have rather difficult.

5) Authority

During dispute over Gongsun Yuan, Sun Quan mentioned that the elite of Wu bowed to Zhang Zhao outside the palace and while he indicated that, since Quan venerated Zhang Zhao, wasn’t the issue he felt Zhang Zhao was raising the masses against him. Zhang Zhao had, as scholar, statesman, in effective former regent commanded a lot of respect and Sun Quan’s comment would suggest he was worried that in a clash of authority, Sun Quan could lose or at least be damaged, that Sun Quan’s plans would be frustrated. That is a worry that Sun Quan was not going to be appreciate having or that he couldn’t be guaranteed to command his own court, that in some ways Zhang Zhao was a threat.

I have no one answer as to why, it may be a mixture of ego, conflicting personality, adjusting status, old wounds and hurt. That doesn’t excuse setting his door on fire (as funny as that whole episode is) but by their nature, by the evolving relations, perhaps some friction was always likely.
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