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Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong

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Title: Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong  
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Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong

Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong
Part of the wars at the end of the Han dynasty
Date 194–199 CE
Location Jiangnan region, China
Result Sun Ce victory; foundation laid for the state of Eastern Wu
Sun Ce Various warlords,
Commanders and leaders
Sun Ce
Zhou Yu
Wu Jing
Sun Ben
Sun Fu
Liu Yao
Yan Baihu
Xu Gong
Wang Lang
Lu Kang
Liu Xun
Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong
Traditional Chinese 孫策平江東之戰
Simplified Chinese 孙策平江东之战
Literal meaning Sun Ce's war of pacification in Jiangdong

Sun Ce's conquests in Jiangdong were a series of military campaigns led by the warlord Sun Ce to conquer territories in the Jiangdong and Wu regions from 194 to 199 during the final years of the Eastern Han dynasty. The campaign concluded with victory for Sun Ce, and the conquered lands served as a foundation for the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms era.


Sun Ce was the eldest son of Sun Jian, who was killed in action during the Battle of Xiangyang in 191 against Liu Biao, the Governor of Jing Province. Although Sun Ce was 17 when his father died, he was already well-known and was acquainted with many reputable men.

In 194, Sun Ce went to meet Yuan Shu, the warlord whom his father was subordinate to. Yuan Shu was surprised, but he refused to return the command of Sun Jian's troops to Sun Ce. At that time, Sun Ce's maternal uncle Wu Jing, the Administrator of Danyang, was also under Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu then ordered Sun Ce to travel to Danyang and rally his own troops there. Although he managed to muster about a few hundred men, Sun Ce came under attack by Zu Lang, a bandit leader in Jing County, and almost lost his life. Sun Ce went to meet Yuan Shu again, with Yuan this time agreeing to return about 1,000 of Sun Jian's troops to Sun Ce. Yuan Shu also initially promised to let Sun Ce be the Administrator of Jiujiang, but he went back on his word and appointed Chen Ji instead.

Subsequently, Yuan Shu planned to attack Xu Province and requested 30,000 hu (斛) of rice from Lu Kang, the Administrator of Lujiang, but Lu refused and Yuan was enraged. Sun Ce bore a grudge against Lu Kang, because there was once when he visited Lu, Lu refused to meet him and sent a registrar to entertain him instead. Yuan Shu sent Sun Ce to attack Lu Kang, promising Sun, "It was my mistake to appoint Chen Ji, and now I often regret not abiding by my original decision. If you defeat Lu Kang, Lujiang will truly be yours."[1] However, Yuan Shu reneged his promise again when Sun Ce conquered Lujiang, appointing Liu Xun as the administrator instead. Sun Ce became disappointed with Yuan Shu. Concurrently, Sun Ce gained the support of Wu territory residents such as Ling Cao and his kinsman, and pirates such as Zhou Tai and his gang.

At that time, the territories in Yang Province in southeastern China were under the jurisdiction of Liu Yao, who was appointed Inspector of the province. However, Liu Yao only controlled the four commanderies of Danyang, Wu, Kuaiji, and Yuzhang, with Jiujiang and Lujiang (both located north of the Yangtze River) not under him. Shouchun was initially the capital of Yang Province, but as it was occupied by Yuan Shu, Liu Yao moved his capital to Qu'e, Danyang. Liu Yao drove away Wu Jing, Yuan Shu's appointed Administrator of Danyang. Wu Jing and Sun Ben (the former Commandant of Danyang, and a cousin of Sun Ce) retreated to Liyang. As a defensive measure against Wu Jing, Liu Yao ordered Fan Neng and Yu Mi to garrison at Hengjiang Ford (southeast of present-day He County, Anhui), Zhang Ying to defend Danglikou (east of present-day He County, Anhui). Yuan Shu appointed his follower Hui Qu (惠衢) as Inspector of Yang Province, Wu Jing as Military Inspector-General of the Household, sending them along with Sun Ben to attack Liu Yao's forces.

The conquests

Campaign against Liu Yao

In 195, Sun Ce requested permission from Yuan Shu to assist Wu Jing in fighting Liu Yao. Yuan Shu agreed and appointed Sun Ce as "Colonel Who Breaks and Charges" (折衝校尉) and acting-"General Who Exterminates Bandits" (殄寇將軍). Sun Ce initially had about 1,000 troops, tens of warhorses, and hundreds of followers. When he reached Liyang (present-day He County, Anhui), he had rallied about 5,000 to 6,000 men. Sun Ce's army then crossed the Yangtze River and attacked Liu Yao's base at Niuzhu, obtaining much weapons and provisions. Some time earlier, Xue Li, the Chancellor of Pengcheng, and Ze Rong, the Chancellor of Xiapi, both led troops southward and supported Liu Yao as their leader. Xue Li garrisoned at Moling while Ze Rong fortified his base at south of Moling. Sun Ce attacked Ze Rong first, defeating him and killing more than 500 of Ze's men. Ze Rong retreated to Moling and remained in the city.

Sun Ce then turned his attention towards attacking Xue Li but Xue escaped. At this time, Fan Neng and Yu Mi combined forces to seize back Niuzhu. When Sun Ce heard of that, he returned to retake Niuzhu, defeating Fan Neng and Yu Mi, bringing thousands of civilians under his control with his victory. Sun Ce advanced back to attack Ze Rong, but was wounded by a straw arrow during the battle and was unable to ride on his horse, so he stayed in Niuzhu camp. To lure Ze Rong out of Moling, Sun Ce ordered his soldiers to spread false rumours that he had died of his wounds. Ze Rong fell for the ruse and sent his general Yu Zi (于茲) to attack Sun Ce. Sun Ce sent a few hundred men to engage Yu Zi and lure him into an ambush, where Yu suffered a crushing defeat. Sun Ce then went to Ze Rong's camp, ordering his men to shout, "How is Sun Ce ultimately?" Yu Zi was terrified and escaped at night.

When Ze Rong learnt that Sun Ce was still alive, he immediately strengthened his defences by ordering deeper trenches to be dug and higher ramparts built. As Ze Rong was in a strategic defensive position, Sun Ce abandoned the assault. Sun Ce defeated Liu Yao's forces at Hailing, conquered Hushu and Jiangcheng, and appeared outside Qu'e, the capital of Liu Yao's territories. Around this time, Taishi Ci arrived from Donglai to assist Liu Yao. Although his subordinates advised him to make good use of Taishi Ci in resisting Sun Ce, Liu Yao was suspicious of Taishi and did not dare to let Taishi take up important roles.

Once, when Taishi Ci was scouting outside Qu'e, he encountered Sun Ce at Shenting. Sun Ce was accompanied by 13 riders of good fighting capabilities, including Han Dang, Huang Gai and Song Qian. Taishi Ci knew that the lead rider was Sun Ce so he rode forth to challenge Sun to a duel. During the fight, Sun Ce managed to grab one of Taishi Ci's jis but he also lost his helmet to his opponent. By then, reinforcements from both sides had arrived so Sun Ce and Taishi Ci retreated to their respective bases.

Not long later, Liu Yao was defeated in battle by Sun Ce and his troops abandoned the city and fled. After occupying Qu'e, Sun Ce rewarded his men and issued an order to the people: "Those who previously served Liu Yao and Ze Rong will not be subject to questioning if they surrender. For those who wish to join the army, one man from each household is sufficient; those who are unwilling will not be compelled." Within one day, Sun Ce succeeded in rallying more than 200,000 troops and 1,000 warhorses.

Meanwhile, Liu Yao and Ze Rong retreated to Yuzhang. Ze Rong used a scheme to kill the Administrator Zhu Hao (朱皓) and take over Yuzhang. Liu Yao led an army from Pengze (present-day Hukou County, Jiangxi) to attack Ze Rong. Ze Rong was defeated and retreated to the hills, where he was killed by the natives. Hua Xin was appointed by the Han central government as the Administrator of Yuzhang.

Concurrently, Zhu Zhi defeated Xu Gong and conquered Wu Commandery, handing it over to Sun Ce when he arrived. Xu Gong escaped to join the bandit leader Yan Baihu.

Campaign against Wang Lang

In 196, Sun Ce's subordinates advised him to attack Yan Baihu, but Sun said, "Yan Baihu and his bandits do not have great aspirations. I will capture them later eventually."[2] Sun Ce then led his troops on a detour, bypassing Yan Baihu's forces south of Wu Commandery, and proceeded to attack Wang Lang, the Administrator of Kuaiji along the southern shore of Hangzhou Bay. Yu Fan, an Officer of Merit (功曹) under Wang Lang, advised his lord to avoid Sun Ce since they were weaker in military strength than Sun. As Sun Ce advanced, Wang Lang moved to defend his territory on the line of the Qiantang estuary at the head of Hangzhou Bay. During his march through Wu Commandery, Sun Ce used the opportunity to rally support from his connections in the region. Sun Ce's uncle, Sun Jing, responded and joined him at Qiantang.

Wang Lang's army was stationed at Guling, where Sun Ce attempted several times to force his way through but failed. Sun Ce then heeded Sun Jing's suggestion, arranging for his uncle to lead a detachment south to a river crossing at Zhadu (southwest of present-day Xiaoshan District, Zhejiang), and from there Sun Jing would head back to attack Wang Lang's forces at Gaoqian (northwest of present-day Shaoxing, Zhejiang). That night, Sun Ce then ordered his remaining troops to light the usual number of campfires even though they had less men now, so as to create an illusion that his army's strength was still the same. Wang Lang was taken by surprise and Sun Ce's forces were established across the river.

Initially, Wang Lang attempted to organise a retreat and regroup his troops, so he sent his appointed Administrator of Danyang, Zhou Xin, to hold the line against Sun Ce's attack. Sun Ce defeated and killed Zhou Xin, causing Wang Lang to abandon his territories and escape south to Dongye by sailing along the coast. Wang Lang later surrendered to Sun Ce, and was summoned back to the imperial court two years later.

Sun Ce appointed himself Administrator of Kuaiji, reinstated Yu Fan as an Officer of Merit and treated him like a friend. By 197, Sun Ce had already established a strong foothold in Jiangdong, so he broke ties with his former ally Yuan Shu, and planned to expand his territory. In 198, Sun Ce was promoted by the imperial court to the rank of "General Who Attacks Rebels" (討逆將軍) and received the title of "Marquis of Wu" (吳侯). In addition, Sun Ce's younger brother Sun Kuang married Cao Cao's niece while Cao Cao's son Cao Zhang married the daughter of Sun Ben (Sun Ce's cousin).

Campaign against Yan Baihu, bandits and the Shanyue

When Sun Ce defeated Wang Lang, the bandit leader Chen Yu (陳瑀) from Haixi (southeast of present-day Guannan County, Jiangsu) proclaimed himself Administrator of Wu Commandery. Chen Yu led his men secretly across the river, planning to ally with Yan Baihu to attack Sun Ce. However, Sun Ce sent two armies to attack Chen Yu and Yan Baihu at the same time and defeated them.

In 198, Yuan Shu sent a messenger to Zu Lang, a bandit leader in Danyang, promising to grant him an official post if he would oppose Sun Ce. Previously, after Liu Yao's defeat, Taishi Ci escaped to the hills around present-day Wuhu City. He declared himself Administrator of Danyang and moved to Jing County, where he amassed a large number of Shanyue followers.

After pacifying eastern Danyang, Sun Ce led his troops to attack Zu Lang at Lingyang (west of present-day Taiping County, Anhui) and captured him. Although Sun Ce almost lost his life in an earlier battle against Zu Lang before he started his conquests, he spared Zu and allowed Zu to be an officer under him. Subsequently, Sun Ce defeated Taishi Ci at Yongli (in present-day Jing County, Anhui) and captured him. Sun Ce freed Taishi Ci and succeeded in persuading Taishi to serve him as a general. When Sun Ce's army marched back in triumph, both Taishi Ci and Zu Lang were in the lead. With his victory, Sun Ce pacified the six counties west of Jing (涇) and controlled three commanderies in Jiangdong.

Around that time, Liu Yao had died of illness in Yuzhang and he left behind more than 10,000 followers. Sun Ce sent Taishi Ci to recruit them, saying that it was voluntary for Liu Yao's men to join him. Sun then asked Taishi how many men he wanted to bring along with him, and Taishi replied that he needed about ten men only. Sun Ce's aides felt that Taishi Ci would not return but Sun said that if Taishi deserted him, he would have no one else to turn to. Sun Ce personally saw Taishi Ci off, held his hand and asked him when he would come back, and Taishi replied that he would return in less than 60 days. As promised, Taishi Ci did return on time, bringing along with him several of Liu Yao's former followers.

Sun Ce breaking relations with Yuan Shu

While Sun Ce was attacking the warlords of Jiangdong, Yuan Shu was making plans to become emperor. Despite having been in Huainan for years, Yuan Shu did not make any great achievements. Instead, he oppressed the people and caused agricultural production to be disrupted. On the battlefield, he had also been experiencing defeats, but he still insisted on becoming emperor against the advice of his followers.

When Sun Ce heard that Yuan Shu was about to declare himself emperor, he wrote a letter reprimanding Yuan, reasoning the potential harms of committing treason. Yuan Shu ignored Sun Ce and hurriedly declared himself "Son of Heaven" around late 196 or early 197, starting his new Zhong (仲) dynasty in Huainan. Yuan Shu's action provoked hostility from other warlords and caused Sun Ce to break ties with him. The Han imperial court, which was actually under Cao Cao's control, issued edicts to Lü Bu and Sun Ce, urging them to exterminate Yuan Shu's regime.

Conquest of Lujiang

In the winter of 199, Yuan Shu's regime was crushed by Han forces and Yuan himself died not long after his defeat. Yuan Shu's former subordinates Yang Hong and Zhang Xun planned to surrender to Sun Ce, along with their followers and Yuan Shu's family. However, Liu Xun, the Administrator of Lujiang, attacked them, took them captive and looted their possessions. When Sun Ce heard about the incident, he pretended to ally with Liu Xun by sending Liu expensive gifts and showering him with praises.

Sun Ce feigned inferiority and urged Liu Xun to help him attack Shangliao (present-day Yongxiu County, Jiangxi), a region in Jiangdong that Liu already had been eyeing. Liu Xun's subordinate Liu Ye attempted to dissuade him from invading Shangliao, but Liu Xun ignored him. After Liu Xun's army left, Sun Ce split his army into two groups to attack Lujiang: Sun Ben and Sun Fu led a contingent to Pengze to cut off Liu Xun's return route; Sun Ce and Zhou Yu personally led 20,000 troops to assault Lujiang's capital, Huancheng (皖城; present-day Qianshan County, Anhui), and conquered it swiftly, capturing Liu Xun's family and men and retrieving Yuan Shu's family. After that, Sun Ce brought the majority of Lujiang's population back to his territories across the Yangtze River, while leaving his general Li Shu (李術) behind with a garrison to guard Lujiang. He then returned to join his cousins at Pengze.

Liu Xun attempted to take Haihun by surprise but the people were forewarned about his attack and he was unsuccessful. When Liu Xun learnt of Sun Ce's attack on Wan, he sought to return, but was cut off by Sun Ben's army at Pengze and driven west up the Yangtze River. Liu Xun then halted to fortify defensive positions near Mount Xisai, where he requested reinforcements from Liu Biao and Huang Zu. Huang Zu's son, Huang Ye (黃射), led 5,000 men and a fleet of ships from Jiangxia (west of present-day Xinzhou District, Wuhan, Hubei) to support Liu Xun. Sun Ce defeated the combined forces, capturing more than 2,000 enemy troops and 1,000 ships, while Liu Xun fled north to join Cao Cao.

Conquest of Yuzhang

Following his victory, Sun Ce moved west to attack Jiangxia, defeating Huang Zu's army at Shaxian (in present-day Wuhan, Hubei), in which many enemy soldiers were either killed or drowned, and Sun Ce captured Huang Zu's family and obtained 6,000 vessels. Sun Ce then turned south to attack Yuzhang (present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi). He sent Yu Fan to persuade Yuzhang's Administrator Hua Xin to surrender, which Hua agreed. Sun Ce treated the elderly Hua Xin, who commanded much respect, like an honoured guest.


In the summer of 200, Sun Ce led his army west to attack Huang Zu again. Chen Deng, the Administrator of Guangling, allied with Yan Baihu's remnants and attempted to launch a sneak attack on Sun Ce's Wu Commandery. However, Sun Ce defeated Huang Zu and returned to deal with Chen Deng, but his army temporarily halted at Dantu on the way back to await for supplies to arrive. In the meantime, Sun Ce went on a hunting trip with a few men, but the men fell behind as Sun Ce's horse was faster than theirs. When Sun Ce was alone, he was ambushed by three former servants of Xu Gong, the Administrator of Wu Commandery, whom he killed earlier. He was hit in the cheek by an arrow fired by one of them before his men arrived and killed the assassins. Sun Ce eventually died from his wound days later.

Sun Ce's younger brother, Sun Quan, inherited and expanded his legacy based on the conquered territories in Jiangdong. Sun Quan later became the founding emperor of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms era.

Order of battle

Modern references

The campaign is featured as a playable stage in Koei's video game series Dynasty Warriors, in which it is also known as the Battle of Jiangdong. In Dynasty Warriors 3, by defeating Liu Yao before the other two warlords (Wang Lang and Yan Baihu), the player can force Taishi Ci to surrender. In Dynasty Warriors 5, Liu Yao retreats and Taishi Ci becomes the enemy commander. He joins Sun Ce's side after the player defeats him. In addition, a special event is included, in which Sun Quan is trapped inside one of the enemy forts and the player needs to save him. If the player is playing as Zhou Tai, a cutscene will be triggered, showing a conversation between Zhou Tai and a grateful Sun Quan.


  1. ^ (前錯用陳紀,每恨本意不遂。今若得康,廬江真卿有也。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 46, Biography of Sun Ce.
  2. ^ (虎等群盜,非有大志,此成禽耳。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 46, Biography of Sun Ce.


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