Sun Fin wrote:I really know little of this era of Wu's history but I wondered if Ding Feng came close to that kind of authority late on in his career?
He did have a lot of authority, by the time Zhuge Ke became grand Tutor (the most high ranking civil officer), Ding Feng became Senior General (the most high ranking military officer). In terms of authority (as you know), the civil staff have the last word, so Ding Feng was "the second in command" to Zhuge Ke, but he was concerned only with military matters, so he was out of political struggles. When Zhuge Ke was killed, Sun Jun took over and (while held the state's true power) didn't concern about the military staff, so Ding Feng position remained intact. The point is that Sun Jun (even through was a tyrant), was a longstanding officer who was a close advisor to Sun Quan, so he did have some kind of "legitimacy" to rule in place of a child emperor.
However, Sun Jun died and appointed to his place Sun Chen (who was also a relative to the Sun family, but didn't have the kind of respect that his antecessor had), his career was obscure up to the point of his "sudden ascension" to regent. Lu Ju (a general) and Teng Yin (a minster) rebelled against Sun Chen (who was unfit to such high position), but they lost and Sun Chen became extremely arrogant (from this rebellion we can see that even through Sun Chen had the true power, a lot of people were displeased with him).
When Sun Liang started to think for himself, he did try to have his "regent" removed, but that also failed and Sun Chen deposed the young emperor for his brother Sun Xiu. At this point, Ding Feng come back "from the shadows", as a new coup is planned and this time, the conspirators decided to call the old Ding to action. Even though Ding Feng used to care only about military matters, this time was an order from the emperor himself, so he had no choice but to agree. The plot succeded, Sun Chen (or Gu Chen
) was killed and Ding Feng was promoted to General in Chief and Left and Right Protectors of the Capital (we could say that in fact he was the highest military officer in the state). By the time Shu was about to fall, Sun Xiu ordered Ding Feng to lead an attack in Shou Chun (as a relief to Shu), but even so, Shu fell and Ding Feng retreated.
As Sun Xiu died, Ding Feng was among the officer who supported the ascencion of the older Sun Hao and as he ascended, had Ding Feng appointed Right Grand Marshal and Left Military Advisor. He and Zhuge Jing led an attack against He fei in 268 and failed. In 269, he led an attack at Guyang and also failed, Sun Hao was furious and executed the guide of Ding Feng's army.
He died in 271 (cause unrecorded), in his later years, he became arrogant of his acomplishments (I would say, with reason, since he likely kept the kingdom together) and some ministers tried to slander his memory and even Sun Hao still recognised Ding Feng for his meritorious service
, so he just exiled his family.
For a man, to be recognised even by the monster, the insane, one of the worst emperor in history, Sun Hao, we could say that the old Ding Feng was the man!