Sun Jian 孫堅 was born the son of a merchant, however, after some early military success he was promoted to a post of some importance. He played an active role in the Yellow Turban Campaign where he once again excelled and was promoted to the rank of Marquis. When a campaign was called against the warlord Dong Zhuo, Sun Jian joined the powerful Yuan Shu and was one of the few military officers to score a success against Dong’s forces. After the coalition went their separate ways, Sun Jian stayed as a subordinate of Yuan Shu’s and died in a campaign against the governor Liu Biao. He left behind a wife (Lady Wu), four sons (Sun Ce, Sun Quan, Sun Yi, and Sun Kuang) a legitimate daughter (Lady Sun) and one illegitimate daughter (Lady Sun-better known as Sun Shang Xiang). According to legend he is a descendant of the legendary Sun Tzu, author of ‘The Art of War’.
Sun Jian was born approximately 155 A.D. in the county of Fuchun in Wu commandery in Yang province. Supposedly when his mother was pregnant, she dreamed that her intestines came out of her and wound up at the Chang Gate of Wu. She was unsure if this was a good sign or not.
While it is yet to be proven that his father was a merchant there is folklore to support the theory. Such as the saying ‘Sun Zhong offers melons’ (Sun Zhong being his father). Whether it is true or not is unimportant as he still secured a job as a minor official ‘li’ at the age of 15 or 16.
Sun Jian first came to attention of the higher powers when as a young lad accompanying his father on what was presumably a trading trip he came across the pirate Hu Yu. He took up his sword and ran at the pirates pretending to give orders to an imaginary unit. The pirates scattered and Sun Jian took back the stolen goods. Before he had attacked the pirates his father had said “This is nothing to do with you.” After this he was promoted to temporary Commandant.
In 171 A.D. a rebellion broke out in Kuai Ji lead by Xu Chang and his son. Sun Jian was given the rank of Major and was ordered to wipe out the rebels. He was highly successful catching the eye of Imperial Protector of Yang, Zhang Min who recommended him to the court. This led to his promotion to the rank of Assistant of Yandu County in Guangling Province. Sun Jian continued to serve as Assistant in three different counties, first in Yandu, then at Xuyi and later at Xiapi.
During this time (we think at 19) he married the Lady Wu. Lady Wu came from a highly respected clan and at first her family opposed the marriage. Both her parents were dead so the important figure was her brother Wu Jing. However she managed to persuade him that Jian had a lot of potential. Finally they got married and Wu Jing later served Sun Jian.
Yellow Turban CampaignEdit
- Main article: The Yellow Turban Rebellion
When the call went out to raise men against the threat of the Yellow Turbans, one of the commanders, Zhu Jun 朱儁, recommended Sun Jian to be given the rank of Major. He recruited people from his current position at Xiapi, as well as friends and family from his home region and travelling merchants. In all its recorded in the SGZ Sun Jian gathered 1000 men.
The early part of the campaign went badly for the Imperial forces and Zhu Jun was beaten by Bo Cai 波才 in Yingchuan. However Zhu Jun and another commander Huangfu Song 皇甫嵩 united their armies and destroyed Bo Cai’s forces. Following this was a siege at Wan and the SGZ tells us that Sun Jian commanded one side of the siege and victory followed. This destroyed the Yellow Turbans.
Rebellion to the NorthEdit
However Bian Zhang and Han Sui rebelled with their non Chinese auxiliary troops in the North-West and Huangfu Song was sent to deal with them. Sun Jian was still assigned to this new army and was promoted to Major with independent command. Following several reverses Huangfu Song was replaced by Zhang Wen. Sun Jian was then given a position Zhang Wen’s staff. When Zhang Wen was summoned by Dong Zhuo to Chang'an, Sun Jian, who was an attendance of Zhang Wen urged that Dong Zhuo should be executed due his tyrant behaviour towards his officers.
- See article: Battle of Xiangyang
During an early conflict against Liu Biao 劉表, Sun Jian was sent by Yuan Shu 袁術 to attack Liu Biao. Liu Biao sent his officer Huang Zu to hold position between the county city of Deng and the town of Fan (North of Xiangyang). Sun Jian's forces came up and engaged in battle against Huang Zu's troops. Sun Jian completely defeated Huang Zu's formations and forced Huang Zu to fallback and then surrounded Xiangyang from preventing Huang Zu to take his troops into the city. Some remnants of Huang Zu's forces fled into the hills called Xian Shan. Sun Jian led a small force of light-armed cavalry to search them out, but was killed.
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- Many sources such as Generals of the South, state that Sun Jian was an ancestor Sun Wu.
- Many sources such as Records of the Three Kingdoms, state that he was killed by boulders or shot by arrows. There is no evidence on how Sun Jian really died.
Fact vs. FictionEdit
- Was not killed by Huang Zu's men while sleeping.
- ↑ Rafe de Crespigny, Generals of the South, Chapters on Sun Jian.