Sun Chen

Sun Chen (231–258), style name Zitong (子通), was a regent of Eastern Wu during the three kingdoms period of Chinese history. He ruled as regent during the reigns of the emperors Sun Liang and Sun Xiu. His conflict with Sun Liang eventually led him to depose the emperor in favor of Sun Xiu. However, he was subsequently killed by Sun Xiu in a coup.

As a regent

Sun Chen and his predecessor Sun Jun were cousins; both were great-grandsons of the founding emperor Sun Quan's uncle Sun Jing. Very little is known about his career up to Sun Jun's sudden illness in 256, when the latter chose to transfer his power to Sun Chen. Sun Jun died soon thereafter, and Sun Chen became regent. The general Lü Ju was angry at the development (as Sun Jun was already resented for his dictatorial style and lack of accomplishments), and, in conjunction with the prime minister Teng Yin, he attempted to overthrow Sun Chen. Sun Chen struck back militarily, and his forces defeated Teng's and Lü's. Teng and his clan were executed, while Lü committed suicide. In light of his defeat of Teng and Lü, Sun Chen began to become extremely arrogant.

In 257, at the age of 14, Sun Liang began to personally handle some important matters of state. He established a personal guard corps, consistent of young men and officers with age similar to his, stating that he intended to grow up with them. He also sometimes questioned Sun Chen's decisions. Sun Chen began to be somewhat apprehensive of the young emperor

Battle of Shouchun

Later that year, cao wei's general Zhuge Dan, believing that the cao wei regent Sima Zhao was about to usurp the throne, declared a rebellion and requested Eastern Wu assistance. A small Eastern Wu detachment, led by Wen Qin, himself a former cao wei general who had defected to Eastern Wu, quickly arrived to assist him, but Sun Chen led the main forces and chose to camp a long distance away from Shouchun, where Zhuge was being sieged by Sima, and did nothing. When Sun Chen instead ordered the general Zhu Yi to try to relieve Shouchun with tired and unfed troops, Zhu refused—and Sun Chen executed him, bringing anger from the people, who had admired Zhu's military skills and integrity. With Sun Chen unable to do anything, Zhuge's rebellion failed in 258, and Wen's troops became captives of cao wei

Sun Chen knew that the people and the young emperor were both angry at him, and chose not to return to Jianye, but instead sent his confidants to be in charge of the capital's defenses. Sun Liang became angrier, and plotted with his sister Princess Dahu, the general Liu Cheng (劉丞), his father-in-law Quan Shang (全尚), and his brother-in-law Quan Ji (全記), to have Sun Chen overthrown. However, Quan Shang did not keep the plot secret from his wife, who was Sun Chen's cousin, and she told Sun Chen. Sun Chen quickly captured Quan Shang and killed Liu, and then surrounded the palace and forced the other officials to agree to depose Sun Liang—falsely declaring to the people that Sun Liang had suffered psychosis. Sun Liang was demoted to the title of the Prince of Kuaiji.

Downfall, and death

Sun Chen then chose Sun Liang's older brother Sun Xiu, the Prince of Langye, as the new emperor. Sun Xiu, in order to appease Sun Chen, added five counties to his march and created his brothers marquesses as well. However, Sun Chen soon had a fallout with the new emperor over a relatively small incident—Sun Chen had brought beef and wine to the palace, intending to feast with the emperor, but Sun Xiu refused the offering, and so Sun Chen took the food and wine to the house of the general Zhang Bu (張布). He expressed to Zhang his disappointment at Sun Xiu's refusal—including a remark that perhaps he should choose another emperor—and Zhang reported Sun Chen's complaints to Sun Xiu. Sun Xiu became concerned about Sun Chen, but continued to outwardly show favor to Sun Chen. Sun Chen became concerned about his standing with the emperor and offered to leave the capital Jianye (present-day Nanjing) to head up the defense of the secondary capital Wuchang (in present-day Ezhou, Hubei ). Sun Xiu approved

However, Sun Xiu then became concerned that Sun Chen would take over that city and rebel. He conspired with Zhang and the senior general Ding Feng to kill Sun Chen during the Laba Festival. Somehow, the news leaked, but Sun Chen, even though apprehensive, showed up at the festival anyway and was seized by Ding and Zhang's soldiers. Sun Chen begged Sun Xiu for his life, offering to be exiled to Jiao Province (present-day northern Vietnam) or to become a slave, but Sun Xiu declined — stating to Sun Chen that he did not give Teng or Lü those choices. Sun Chen was executed, along with members of his clan

Personal information


Sun Chuo (孫綽), Commandant of Civil Pacification


Sun Hao (孫暠)


Sun Jing (孫靜)


Sun Ju (孫據), younger brother, Imperial Counsellor and General of the Guards

Sun En (孫恩), younger brother, General of the Right

Sun Gan (孫幹), younger brother, General Without Portfolio

Sun Kai (孫闓), younger brother, Colonel of Changshui

Last update 02-06-2012

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