Sun Ben tends to get overlooked, and as I haven't been able to find a translation of his SGZ anywhere (only Sun Fu, for some reason. What's that about?), I figured I'd make one of my own. As usual, it consists mostly of passages compiled from the Zizhi Tongjian. I've also made extensive use of Rafe de Crespigny's Generals of the South.
Any additional information and/or feedback is appreciated.
Sun Ben (Boyang)
Sun Ben was the son of Sun Qiang, the elder twin brother of Sun Jian, who died while Sun Ben and his brother, Sun Fu, were still young.1 While still in his mid-to-late teens, Sun Ben held local office in Wu commandery.2
In 190, Dong Zhuo usurped the authority of the emperor and ruled the land as a tyrant. As a result, leaders from across the land raised troops, professing that they intended to attack Dong Zhuo.3 Sun Jian, then Grand Administrator of Changsha, answered this call to arms and led his soldiers north to join with Yuan Shu at Luyang.4 Yuan Shu made Sun Jian Inspector of Yu province. Sun Ben joined Sun Jian during his march north, bringing a small contingent of soldiers from their home county.5 Sun Ben followed Sun Jian on his campaign against Dong Zhuo, which is recounted here.
In 191, Sun Jian marched towards Luoyang but was defeated in battle in the east of Liang county. He regathered his army and made camp at Yangren. An army led by Hu Zun (Grand Administrator of Dong) and Lü Bu attacked Sun Jian, but Sun Jian defeated them, killing Chief Controller [dudu] Hua Xiong.6 Dong Zhuo sent his officer Li Jue to make peace with Sun Jian, but Sun Jian rejected the offer. Hearing of this, Yuan Shu feared that Sun Jian might turn against him, so he cut off Sun Jian's food supply. Sun Jian was able to meet with Yuan Shu and convince him to resume sending the caravans before any harm was done.7 Sun Jian then advanced to Dagu Pass8, where he fought with Dong Zhuo personally. Dong Zhuo was defeated and fled. Sun Jian then advanced to Luoyang, where he again fought with and defeated Lü Bu. In Luoyang, Sun Jian found the Imperial Seal, which had been lost during the earlier chaos.9 Dong Zhuo had previously relocated the capital to Chang'an10 and he placed his troops between Luoyang and Chang'an, at Mianchi. Sun Jian sent troops to Xian'an to threaten dong Zhuo. After repairing the imperial temples, Sun Jian retreated to Luyang.11 Though various stories exist surrounding the Imperial Seal, the most reliable accounts state that Sun Jian presented it to Yuan Shu when he returned to Luyang.12
Sun Jian was still Inspector of Yu under Yuan Shu. Yuan Shao appointed an official from the Zhou family13 as his own Inspector of Yu. Inspector Zhou attacked Sun Jian's camp at Yangcheng (in Yingchuan commandery, on the border between the territories of Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu). After some initial difficulties, Sun Jian gained the upper hand and drove Inspector Zhou away.14
In retaliation for this offense, Yuan Shu sent Sun Jian to attack Liu Biao, who was allied with Yuan Shao. Sun Jian fought Liu Biao's general Huang Zu and defeated him, driving Huang Zu back to Liu Biao's capital of Xiangyang. There are several different accounts of the following events, but they all agree that Sun Jian found himself isolated from the majority of his army and was killed in battle with Huang Zu's forces.15 Sun Ben gathered what remained of Sun Jian's army and returned to Yuan Shu, upon which time Sun Ben was given Sun Jian's position as Inspector of Yu.16
It appears that Sun Ben gave up his post as Inspector of Yu shortly after receiving it and instead accompanied Sun Jian's family to his funeral in Qu'a.17 In 193, after a series of defeats at the hands of Cao Cao, Yuan Shu moved to Shouchun in Jiujiang (Yang province), where Sun Ben rejoined him. After establishing himself in Shouchun, Yuan Shu sent Sun Ben – along with Sun Jian's brother-in-law Wu Jing – to Danyang commandery.18 Wu Jing served as the Grand Administrator while Sun Ben was given the position of Chief Commandant [duwei]19. Because Zhou Xin20 was in command of the commandery, Sun Ben and Wu Jing attacked, driving him out and securing Danyang for Yuan Shu.21
In 194, Liu Yao was appointed as Inspector of Yang province.22 Because the capital of Yang was Shouchun, Liu Yao requested permission to establish his office in Qu'a so as not to conflict with Yuan Shu. Sun Ben and Wu Jing received Liu Yao and allowed him to establish himself in Qu'a. By the end of the year, Liu Yao had gathered much local support and turned against Sun Ben and Wu Jing, driving them out of Danyang. They reestablished themselves at Liyang county in Jiujiang. Yuan Shu named his client Hei Qu as Inspector of Yang23 and Zhou Shang as Grand Administrator of Danyang.24 Rafe de Crespigny theorizes that Sun Ben and Wu Jing were attempting to establish a position independent of Yuan Shu, which was why they previously welcomed Liu Yao. However, Sun Jian's son, Sun Ce, proved to be a problem. Sun Ce served Yuan Shu in hopes of securing his father's soldiers and officers. As a result, Liu Yao believed that Wu Jing and Sun Ben were loyal to Yuan Shu, so he attacked them. Their retreat to Jiujiang put them firmly under Yuan Shu's thumb once again.25
Sun Ben and company engaged Liu Yao's forces without major success for around a year In 195, Yuan Shu sent the young Sun Ce to assist them. Sun Ben happily ceded command to his younger cousin and under Sun Ce's leadership they achieved great success over Liu Yao's forces, taking almost complete control over Danyang. Zhu Zhi – formally one of Sun Jian's officers – had been made Commandant of Wu commandery, giving him control over the military there. He threw a coup against the Grand Administrator Xu Gong, driving Xu out. He then served as Grand Administrator of Wu under Sun Ce.26
With most of Danyang and all of Wu in his control, Sun Ce set his sights on Kuaiji commandery, under the authority of Wang Lang. In 196, Sun Ce attacked and defeated Wang Lang, quickly securing his surrender.27 Sun Ce named himself Grand Administrator of Kuaiji. He appointed Sun Ben as Grand Administrator of Yuzhang.28 This appointment was indicative of Sun Ce's intention to claim that commandery.29 Wu Jing was renamed Grand Administrator of Danyang and Zhu Zhi was confirmed as Grand Administrator of Wu.
Near the end of 196, Sun Ben and Wu Jing returned to Yuan Shu to report on Sun Ce's doings. Yuan Shu was, at the time, attempting to wrest control of Xu Province from Liu Bei. As such, he ignored Sun Ce's appointments and instead named Wu Jing as Grand Administrator of Guangling (in Xu). Sun Ben was given command of soldiers in Shouchun.30
In 197, Yuan Shu declared himself the first emperor of the Zhong dynasty.31 Sun Ce invited anyone in the service of Yuan Shu to join him in Yang province to oppose the false emperor. In response, Wu Jing and Sun Ben returned to Sun Ce's service.32
In 199, Yuan Shu passed away and his cousin, Yuan Yin, led his followers to seek refuge with Liu Xun, who Yuan Shu had made Grand Administrator of Lujiang in 194.33 Liu Xun did not have the resources to maintain his new population and demanded food from the leaders of Shangliao, a county in Yuzhang that had become effectively independent following the death of Liu Yao in 198. Sun Ce had several reasons to dislike Liu Xun. Firstly, it was Sun Ce who conquered Lujiang for Yuan Shu in 194, but Yuan Shu made Liu Xun Grand Administrator instead. Secondly, Liu Xun was an open supporter of Yuan Shu, who had become Sun Ce's enemy.
Nevertheless, Sun Ce sent letters of friendship to Liu Xun. He urged Liu Xun to attack Shangliao and promised to support him. When Liu Xun marched out to invade Shangliao, Sun Ce divided his forces. Personally leading an army to Huan city – the capital of Lujiang – he sent Sun Ben with a second army to block Liu Xun's path of return. Sun Ben camped in Pengze. Hearing that Huan city was under attack, Liu Xun attempted to return to Lujian but was intercepted and defeated by Sun Ben's army.34
With Liu Xun and Huang Zu neutralized, Sun Ce was able to convince the leader of Yuzhang commandery, Hua Xin, to surrender.35 This allowed Sun Ben to take up his appointment as Grand Administrator of Yuzhang.36
Meanwhile, in the north, the warlord Cao Cao was coming to grips with his rival, Yuan Shao. Cao Cao controlled the imperial court and did not want to face a powerful enemy to the south. Sun Ce, meanwhile, desired to increase his standing with the Han court, so he sent Zhang Hong with tribute to the court. Cao Cao arranged for one of his relatives to marry Sun Ce's younger brother, Sun Kuang. Meanwhile, his son Cao Zhang married Sun Ben's daughter.37 ZZTJ places these events in 19738 but that takes the date from the jiangbiao zhuan, which disagrees with the SGZ on the subject. As such, I have chosen to follow the SGZ, which is generally more reliable and puts these events in 199.
In 200, shortly after these events, Sun Ce was killed by retainers of Xu Gong, a local warlord who he had recently killed. Sun Ben, serving as Grand Administrator of Yuzhang, was unable to attend the funeral.39 Sun Ce's position was assumed by his younger brother, Sun Quan.
By 208, the relationship between Cao Cao and Sun Quan. Having conquered most of northern China, Cao Cao marched south and received the surrender of Liu Zhong, who formally controlled most of Jing province. Pursuing his old enemy Liu Bei, Cao Cao turned his army towards Sun Quan's territory. Sun Quan refused to surrender to Cao Cao and agreed to fight against him.
This place many officers in the uncomfortable position of choosing between Cao Cao – who represented the legitimate authority of the Han court – and Sun Quan, to whom they were personally loyal. Sun Ben's younger brother, Sun Fu, appears to have chosen Cao Cao, as he sent letters welcoming Cao Cao when the latter's army neared the Sun territories. For this, Sun Fu was imprisoned and many of his associates were killed.40
Sun Ben appears to have been interested in maintaining peace with Cao Cao. He supported surrendering to Cao Cao and sending hostages to ensure peace between the two factions. This was likely because his daughter was married to Cao Cao's son. However, though he advocated peace, Sun Ben did nothing to oppose Sun Quan's decision.41
It would appear that, after becoming Grand Administrator of Yuzhang, Sun Ben devoted the remainder of his life to administrative tasks, leaving military affairs in the hands of competent commanders like Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu, and many others. He died several years after 208 and was succeeded by his son, Sun Lin.
Sun Ben led a complex life. It appears that his uncle, Sun Jian, took Sun Ben under his wing following the death of his father. Sun Ben fought by Sun Jian's side against Dong Zhuo and was evidently very well-respected by the soldiers, as they followed him immediately after Sun Jian's death. He achieved some success under Yuan Shu and was an essential contributor to Sun Ce's early conquests – and, by extension, to the establishment of the kingdom of Wu.
In spite of his contributions, Sun Ben is often ignored by historians and is completely removed in fiction. The reason for this is because in popular tales (most common Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms and related material) his place is taken by Sun Ce. It is not difficult to see why. Sun Ce was a famous commander in his own time, and it easy to understand why writers would prefer the idea of Sun Ce fighting beside his father against Dong Zhuo, and later leading the soldiers from Xiangyang after Sun Jian's death. And it is certainly more dramatically convenient to use Sun Ce in place of Sun Ben. The unfortunate result is that Sun Ben, in spite of his contributions to the eventual state of Wu, is nonexistent in fiction.
There is one more interesting thing to note about Sun Ben. Cao Fang was the third Emperor of Wei (following Cao Pi and Cao Rui). He was adopted by Cao Rui and his true father is unknown. Sun Sheng suggested that it is Cao Kai, who was the son of Cao Zhang. This would make Cao Kai the grandson of Sun Ben. If this is true, it would mean that Sun Ben's great-grandson was the Emperor of Wei. This would make Sun Ben a blood-relative of the rulers of two different empires.
1 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 2, note 6, drawing from the SGZ biography of Sun Ben.
2 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 2
3 ZZTJ Chuping 1, A
4 ZZTJ Chuping 1, N
5 Generals of the South, Chapter 2
6 While later, under Cao Cao, the rank of Chief Controller [dudu] indicated a significant military appointment, often commanding the forces of multiple provinces, it was initially a low-ranking post responsible primarily for disciplining the army. Rafe de Crespigny comments in note 10 of Chuping 2 that this was likely the case regarding Hua Xiong.
7 ZZTJ Chuping 2, D presents the order of these events differently, with Yuan Shu first refusing supplies and then Li Jue meeting with Sun Jian. Rafe de Crespigny theorizes that this order is reversed – that Sun Jian's meeting with Li Jue provoked Yuan Shu's suspicions. Though it is a minor point, I have chosen to follow de Crespigny's version of events.
8 Sometimes, the name of this pass is transliterated as Taigu
9 ZZTJ Chuping 2, D
10 ZZTJ Chuping 1, F
11 ZZTJ Chuping 2, G
12 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 2
13 ZZTJ Chuping 2, X gives the name of this official as Zhou Ang. In note 50 o Chuping 2, Rafe de Crespigny notes that various sources disagree on this. There were three Zhou brothers who joined Yuan Shao, Zhou Ang, Zhou Xin, and Zhou Yu. de Crespigny believes the official was Zhou Yu and states that Zhou Ang was made Grand Administrator of Jiujiang. As it is a minor point of history, I have elected not to specify which of the brothers Zhou served as Inspector of Yu.
14 ZZTJ Chuping 2, X
15 ZZTJ Chuping 2, DD
16 ZZTJ Chuping 2, FF
17 According to de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3
18 ZZTJ Xinping 1, BB
19 A Chief Commandant [duwei] was a military official subordinate to the Grand Administrator who commanded the military forces of an entire commandery, or multiple commanderies. - from de Crespigny, Later Han Military Organization
20 Zhou Xin is the eldest of the three brothers Zhou who served Yuan Shao as Inspector of Yu and Grand Administrator of Jiujiang. As such, there was some history between this family and the Sun group.
21 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3
22 Yang was the province in which Danyang and Jiujiang commanderies were located, making much of it Yuan Shu's territory.
23 ZZTJ Xinping 1, CC
24 Zhou Shang was not related to the three Zhou brothers mentioned previously. Rather, he was the uncle of the more famous Zhou Yu, who later serve the Sun group as a top military commander.
25 This analysis is presented in de Crespigny's note 56 of Xinping 1.
26 ZZTJ Xinping 2, FF
27 ZZTJ Jian'an 1, S
28 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3
29 Yuzhang commandery, though in Yang Province, was not under Sun Ce's control and was, in fact, the final stronghold of Liu Yao. Thus, Sun Ben was not yet able to take his office.
30 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3
31 ZZTJ Jian'an 2, G
32 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3; this is somewhat mirrored in ZZTJ Jian'an 2, X which refers to Zhou Yu and Lu Su defecting to Sun Ce's army.
33 ZZTJ Jian'an 4, G
34 ZZTJ Jian'an 4, S
35 ZZTJ Jian'an 4, T
36 ZZTJ Jian'an 4 V
37 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 3
38 ZZTJ Jian'an 2, W
39 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 4
40 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 4
41 de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapter 4, drawing from the SGZ biography of Zhu Zhi.
Last edited by capnnerefir
on Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.