Sun Hao

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Sun Hao
Marquis Guiming (歸命侯)
Sun Hao Qing portrait.jpg
A Qing dynasty illustration of Sun Hao
Emperor of Eastern Wu
Reign3 September 264 – 1 May 280 [lower-alpha 1]
Predecessor Sun Xiu
Marquis of Wucheng (烏程侯)
Tenure10 December 258 – 3 September 264
BornSun Pengzu (孫彭祖)
Haozong (皓宗) (courtesy name)
243 [lower-alpha 2]
DiedJanuary or February 284 (aged 41) [lower-alpha 2]
(among others)
  • Sun Jin
  • Sun Qian
  • Prince of Qi
  • Prince of Chenliu
  • Prince of Zhangling
  • Prince of Chengji
  • Prince of Xuanwei
  • Prince of Zhongshan
  • Prince of Dai
  • Sun Chong
  • Sun Fan
Full name
Family name: Sun (孫)
Given name: Hao (皓)
Courtesy name : Yuanzong (元宗)
Era dates
  • Yuanxing (元興): 264–265
  • Wufeng (甘露): 265–266
  • Baoding (寶鼎): 266–269
  • Jianheng (建衡): 269–271
  • Fenghuang (鳳凰): 272–274
  • Tiance (天冊): 275–276
  • Tianxi (天璽): 276
  • Tianji (天紀): 277–280
House House of Sun
Father Sun He
Mother Lady He

Sun Hao (243 – January or February 284), [lower-alpha 2] courtesy name Yuanzong, originally named Sun Pengzu with the courtesy name Haozong, was the fourth and last emperor of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the son of Sun He, a one-time heir apparent of the founding emperor Sun Quan. He ascended the throne in 264 after the death of his uncle, Sun Xiu (Emperor Jing), in light of the desire of the people to have an older emperor, considering the recent destruction of Wu's ally state Shu Han. However, he turned out to be a most unfortunate choice, as his cruelty, extravagance and inability to handle domestic matters doomed Wu, which was eventually conquered by the Jin dynasty in 280, ending the Three Kingdoms period.

Courtesy name name bestowed in adulthood in East Asian cultures

A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Eastern Wu former country

Wu (222–280), commonly known as Dong Wu or Sun Wu, was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). It previously existed from 220–222 as a vassal kingdom nominally under Cao Wei, its rival state, but declared independence from Wei and became a sovereign state in 222. It became an empire in 229 after its founding ruler, Sun Quan, declared himself emperor. Its name was derived from the place it was based in — the Jiangnan region, which was also historically known as "Wu". It was referred to as "Dong Wu" or "Sun Wu" by historians to distinguish it from other Chinese historical states with similar names which were also located in that region, such as the Wu state in the Spring and Autumn period and the Wuyue kingdom in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It was called "Eastern Wu" because it occupied most of eastern China in the Three Kingdoms period, and "Sun Wu" because the family name of its rulers was "Sun". During its existence, Wu's capital was at Jianye, but at times it was also at Wuchang.

Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history (220–280 CE), where much of China was divided into the Wei, Shu-Han, and Wu kingdoms

The Three Kingdoms was the tripartite division of China among the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu. It started with the end of the Han dynasty and was followed by the Jin dynasty. The term "Three Kingdoms" is something of a misnomer, since each state was eventually headed not by a king, but by an emperor who claimed suzerainty over all China. Nevertheless, the term "Three Kingdoms" has become standard among English-speaking sinologists. To distinguish the three states from other historical Chinese states of the same names, historians have added a relevant character to the state's original name: the state that called itself Wei (魏) is also known as Cao Wei (曹魏), the state that called itself Han (漢) is also known as Shu Han (蜀漢) or just Shu (蜀), and the state that called itself Wu (吳) is also known as Eastern Wu or Sun Wu (孫吳).


Sun Hao is also known by other titles: Marquis of Wucheng (烏程侯), which he held before he became emperor; Marquis Guiming (歸命侯; literally "the Marquis who resigns to his fate"), the title given to him by the Jin dynasty after his surrender; Later Lord of Wu (吳後主) and Last Emperor of Wu (吳末帝), which were used by historians to refer to him.

Early life

Sun Hao was born in 243 as Sun He's eldest son. Sun He was named crown prince either shortly before or after the death of Sun Quan's eldest son and first crown prince, Sun Deng, in 241. Sun Hao's mother, Consort He, was a concubine of Sun He.

Sun He (224–253), courtesy name Zixiao, was an imperial prince of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the third son of Sun Quan, the founding emperor of Wu. In 242, he became the crown prince after the death of his brother Sun Deng, the eldest son and first heir apparent of Sun Quan. In the 240s, a power struggle broke out between Sun He and his fourth brother, Sun Ba, over the succession to their father's throne. The conflict ended in 250 when Sun Quan forced Sun Ba to commit suicide, deposed Sun He and replaced him with Sun Liang. In 253, during Sun Liang's reign, the regent Sun Jun reduced Sun He to commoner status and forced him to commit suicide. In 264, one of Sun He's sons, Sun Hao, became the fourth emperor of Eastern Wu. After his coronation, Sun Hao honoured his father with the posthumous title Emperor Wen.

Crown prince heir to the throne

A crown prince is the male heir apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. Its female form is crown princess, which may refer either to an heir apparent or, especially in earlier times, the wife of the person styled crown prince.

Sun Quan Eastern Wu emperor

Sun Quan, courtesy name Zhongmou, formally known as Emperor Da of Wu, was the founder of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period. He inherited control of the warlord regime established by his elder brother, Sun Ce, in 200. He declared formal independence and ruled from 222 to 229 as the King of Wu and from 229 to 252 as the Emperor of Wu. Unlike his rivals Cao Cao and Liu Bei, Sun Quan was much younger than they were and governed his state mostly separate of politics and ideology. He is sometimes portrayed as neutral considering he adopted a flexible foreign policy between his two rivals with the goal of pursuing the greatest interests for the country.

In 250, after Sun Quan grew tired of the constant disputes between his sons Sun He and Sun Ba, he forced Sun Ba to commit suicide and exiled Sun He to Guzhang (故鄣; in present-day Huzhou, Zhejiang), presumably along with his family and reduced to commoner status. Sun Hao went from the status of eventual presumed heir to being the son of a commoner, albeit the grandson of the emperor.

Sun Ba, courtesy name Ziwei, was an imperial prince of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the fourth son of Sun Quan, the founding emperor of Eastern Wu.

Huzhou Prefecture-level city in Zhejiang, Peoples Republic of China

Huzhou  is a prefecture-level city in northern Zhejiang province, China. Lying south of the Lake Tai, it borders Jiaxing to the east, Hangzhou to the south, and the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu to the west and north respectively. At the 2010 census, its population was 2,893,542 inhabitants, of whom 757,165 lived in the built-up area made of Wuxing District as Nanxun District is not being conurbated yet.

Zhejiang Province in China

Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of China. Zhejiang is bordered by Jiangsu and Shanghai to the north, Anhui to the northwest, Jiangxi to the west, and Fujian to the south. To the east is the East China Sea, beyond which lie the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

In 252, Sun He's status was elevated from commoner status as Sun Quan just before his death that year instated Sun He as the Prince of Nanyang and a princedom at Changsha. Indeed, there were rumours, even after Sun He's younger brother Sun Liang took the throne after Sun Quan's death that the regent Zhuge Ke, an uncle of Sun He's wife Princess Zhang, was interested in restoring Sun He and making Sun He emperor instead. After Zhuge Ke's assassination and replacement by Sun Jun in 253, Sun He fell into danger as Sun Jun had been instrumental in having Sun He deposed in the first place and wanted to eliminate any chance of a Sun He comeback. Sun Jun used the rumours as an excuse to have Sun He demoted back to commoner status and exiled to Xindu (新都; in present-day Hangzhou, Zhejiang), and then sent messengers to force Sun He to commit suicide. Princess Zhang also committed suicide. When offered the chance to also commit suicide, Consort He refused stating that if she died as well no one would be left to care for Sun He's sons, thus she raised Sun Hao and his three brothers born to other consorts — Sun De (孫德), Sun Qian (孫謙), and Sun Jun (孫俊, not the same person as the regent).

Changsha Prefecture-level city in Hunan, Peoples Republic of China

Changsha is the capital and most populous city of Hunan province in the south central part of the People's Republic of China. It covers 11,819 km2 (4,563 sq mi) and is bordered by Yueyang and Yiyang to the north, Loudi to the west, Xiangtan and Zhuzhou to the south, Yichun and Pingxiang of Jiangxi province to the east. According to 2010 Census, Changsha has 7,044,118 residents, constituting 10.72% of the province's population. It is part of the Chang-Zhu-Tan city cluster or megalopolis.

Sun Liang (243–260), courtesy name Ziming, was the second emperor of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the youngest son and heir of Sun Quan, the founding emperor of Wu. He is also known as the Prince of Kuaiji or Marquis of Houguan (候官侯), which were his successive titles after he was deposed in 258 by the regent Sun Chen. He was succeeded by his brother Sun Xiu, who managed to oust Sun Chen from power and kill him. Two years after Sun Liang's dethronement, he was falsely accused of treason and demoted from a prince to a marquis, after which he committed suicide.

Zhuge Ke Eastern Wu regent

Zhuge Ke, courtesy name Yuanxun, was a military general and regent of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the eldest son of Zhuge Jin, a military general who served under Wu's founding emperor, Sun Quan. After Sun Quan's death in 252, Zhuge Ke served as regent for Sun Quan's son and successor, Sun Liang, but the regency proved to be militarily disastrous due to Zhuge Ke's aggressive foreign policy towards Wu's rival state, Cao Wei. In 253, he was ousted from power in a coup d'état and killed along with his family.

After Sun Liang was deposed by Sun Jun's cousin and successor Sun Chen in 258, Sun Xiu, another son of Sun Quan, became emperor and that year Sun Xiu created Sun Hao and his brothers, Sun De and Sun Qian, marquises. Sun Hao's title was the Marquis of Wucheng and he was sent to his marquisate in present-day Huzhou, Zhejiang. At some point, he befriended a magistrate of Wucheng County, Wan Yu, who appraised him as intelligent and studious.

Sun Chen, courtesy name Zitong, was a military general and regent of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. 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 favour of Sun Xiu. However, he was subsequently killed by Sun Xiu in a coup.

Wan Yu was an official of the state of Eastern Wu during the late Three Kingdoms period (220–280) of China.

In summer 264, Sun Xiu fell ill and was unable to speak but still could write so he wrote an edict summoning the chancellor Puyang Xing to the palace, where he pointed and entrusted his son, crown prince Sun Wan, to Puyang Xing. Sun Xiu died soon thereafter. However, Puyang Xing did not follow Sun Xiu's wishes. Rather, after consulting with general Zhang Bu, they believed that the people were, in light of the recent fall of their ally state Shu Han in 263, yearning for a mature emperor. (It is not known how old Sun Wan was at this point, but Sun Xiu himself died at age 29, so it was unlikely that Sun Wan was even a teenager.) At the recommendation of Wan Yu, who was by this point a general, Puyang Xing and Zhang Bu enthroned Sun Hao instead.

Puyang Xing, courtesy name Ziyuan, was an official of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was the eighth Imperial Chancellor of Eastern Wu.

Zhang Bu was a military general of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of China. In 258, he and another general, Ding Feng, overthrew the regent Sun Chen in a coup and restored power to the emperor Sun Liang. In 264, after the death of Sun Liang's successor Sun Xiu, he supported Sun Hao to be the new emperor. However, shortly after Sun Hao's enthronement, Zhang Bu was exiled by the emperor for criticising his brutality. Sun Hao later sent his men to murder Zhang Bu while he was on his way to exile in Guangzhou.

The Conquest of Shu by Wei was a military campaign launched by the state of Cao Wei ("Wei") against its rival Shu Han ("Shu") in late 263 during the Three Kingdoms period of China. The campaign culminated in the fall of Shu and the tripartite equilibrium maintained in China for over 40 years since the end of the Eastern Han dynasty in 220. The conquest signified the beginning of a reunified China under the Jin dynasty (265–420).

Early reign

At first, the people of Wu were impressed with the new emperor as he reduced taxes, gave relief to the poor, and released a large number of ladies in waiting from the palace to let them marry. However, soon that hopefulness was shattered as Sun Hao started to be cruel in his punishments, superstitious, and indulging himself in wine and women. He also demoted Sun Xiu's widow, Empress Dowager Zhu, to the title of "Empress Jing." He honoured his mother Consort He as the empress dowager instead, while posthumously honouring his father Sun He with the title "Emperor Wen". Puyang Xing and Zhang Bu were shocked and disappointed; their disappointment was reported to the emperor who had them arrested and executed along with their clans in late 264. In 264, he also instated his wife Lady Teng as the empress.

In 265, Sun Hao forced the former Empress Dowager Zhu to commit suicide and exiled Sun Xiu's four sons. He soon executed the two eldest, Sun Wan (the former crown prince) and Sun Gong. He then also, believing in a prophecy that the imperial aura had moved from Yang Province (covering present-day Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and southern Jiangsu and Anhui) to Jing Province (covering present-day Hubei and Hunan) and that Jing Province forces would defeat Yang Province forces, undertook a costly move of the capital from Jianye to Wuchang (武昌; present-day Ezhou, Hubei). He also started executing officials who showed disapproval of his wasteful ways regularly. The only major official who was able to speak freely without consequences was Lu Kai, a nephew of Lu Xun and one of the chancellors serving in tandem with Wan Yu, because of the great respect the people had for Lu Kai.

In 266, the Jin dynasty, which newly established itself as the successor to Wu's rival state Cao Wei, after its first emperor, Sima Yan, usurped the Wei throne, sought to establish peace with Wu. Sun Hao instead considered attacking the Jin dynasty, but while he did not do so at that moment, he also did not make peace with the Jin dynasty.

In 266, commoners in present-day Zhejiang unable to withstand Sun Hao's heavy levies (to support his luxuries) rebelled and kidnapped Sun Hao's brother, Sun Qian, as figurehead. They reached Jianye but were eventually defeated by Ding Gu (丁固) and Zhuge Jing (諸葛靚), who were responsible for Jianye's defences. Although there was no evidence that Sun Qian was actually involved in the rebellion, Sun Hao not only had Sun Qian but also mother and younger brother, Sun Jun, by the same mother, executed. Sun Hao believed this was a fulfillment of the prophecy that prompted his move of the capital to Wuchang; and later that year, he moved the capital back to Jianye.

In 268, Sun Hao began a policy of periodically attacking Jin border regions; he had his general Zhu Ji (朱繼) attack Jiangxia (江夏; around present-day Xiaogan, Hubei) and Wan Yu attack Xiangyang, while he himself postured to attack Hefei. This attack was repelled by Jin forces, as were several later attacks.

In 269, Lu Kai died and soon there was no one left in the administration who dared to speak out anymore. After Lu Kai's death, Sun Hao exiled Lu Kai's clan to Jian'an (建安; around present-day Nanping, Fujian). Lu Xun's son Lu Kang, a general who was in charge of defending Wu's western borders, did periodically submit petitions requesting reforms, but Sun Hao generally ignored them, although he did not punish Lu Kang.

Late reign

In early 271, in the middle of winter, Sun Hao personally launched a major attack against the Jin dynasty and he brought his mother Empress Dowager He, his wife Empress Teng, and thousands of women in his harem along which necessitated heavy labour – from soldiers to drag their wagons – causing the soldiers to murmur about possible defection. Only after Sun Hao heard this possibility did he make the decision to withdraw and return to Jianye. Wan Yu and the senior generals Ding Feng and Liu Ping (留平) had already considered returning to Jianye themselves before Sun Hao chose to withdraw and when Sun Hao heard about this he bore grudges against them as generals who might leave him.

Later that year, Wu forces finally recovered Jiao Province (交州; parts of present-day northern Vietnam) from rebels paying allegiance to the Jin dynasty, who had held out ever since 264 (during Sun Xiu's reign). This gave Sun Hao encouragement and he continued to plan military actions against the Jin dynasty in earnest — although, to his credit, he put his general Tao Huang (陶璜) in charge of Jiao Province and Tao Huang managed the province effectively; the province would not rebel again for the duration of Sun Hao's reign.

In 272, Wang Jun, the Jin governor of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing), with Sima Yan's support began building a massive fleet with the plan to eventually use the fleet in conquering Wu. As the wood shavings from the building project floated down the Yangtze River, the Wu general Wu Yan (吾彥) realised what was happening and requested that the northwestern border be fortified, but Sun Hao refused.

Later in 272, Sun Hao would carry out an action that would lead to a major rebellion — summoning Bu Chan, the general in charge of Xiling (in present-day Yichang, Hubei), back to the capital back to Jianye. Fearful that he was about to be punished somehow, Bu Chan rebelled and defected to the Jin dynasty. While Lu Kang was eventually able to defeat Bu Chan and recover Xiling for Wu, the distrust the Wu generals had for their emperor had been thoroughly exposed and Jin generals became emboldened in proposing plans of conquest to their emperor.

In the same year, Sun Hao, still holding grudges against Wan Yu and Liu Ping for their plan to abandon him and return to Jianye on their own, tried to poison the two of them. Neither died, but when they found out that Sun Hao was behind the poisoning they knew they could not do anything about it; Wan Yu committed suicide while Liu Ping died in distress.

Lu Kang died in 274. In his final petition, he requested Sun Hao to strengthen the defences on Wu's western border, but Sun Hao did not do so. Further, he divided Lu Kang's forces into six different commands, although each was led by one of Lu Kang's sons.

In 275, the senior Wu minister He Shao (賀邵) suffered a stroke and was paralysed. Sun Hao suspected that he was pretending and had him arrested and tortured by whipping and by subjecting him to saws and fires. He died under torture and his clan was exiled.

For the next several years, people wishing to flatter Sun Hao often offered him miraculous items (real or manufactured) that purportedly suggest that he would eventually destroy the Jin dynasty and unite China. Sun Hao's superstitious nature became even more aroused and he spent all of his efforts on plans to conquer the Jin dynasty.

Fall of Eastern Wu

In 279, after Sima Yan accepted the advice of Wang Jun and Du Yu, the Jin dynasty finally launched a major attack aiming to conquer Eastern Wu. The attack was in six prongs: with the forces led by Sima Yan's uncle, Sima Zhou; Wang Hun (王渾); Wang Rong; Hu Fen (胡奮); Du; and Wang Jun, with the largest forces under Wang Hun and Wang Jun's command. Each of the Jin forces advanced quickly and captured the border cities that they were targeting with Wang Jun's fleet heading east down the Yangtze and clearing the river of Wu fleets. The Wu imperial chancellor Zhang Ti made a last-ditch attempt to defeat Wang Hun's force, but was defeated and killed. Wang Hun, Wang Jun, and Sima Zhou each headed for Jianye. Sun Hao was forced to surrender in the spring of 280.

Sun Hao and his clan were escorted to the Jin capital Luoyang. Sun Hao, now a captive, humiliated himself by covering himself with mud and having himself bound behind his back. Sima Yan had Sun Hao unbound and had him seated next to him at the next imperial gathering. He remarked, "I have set this seat for you for a long time." Sun Hao responded, "I also had a seat for your imperial majesty in Jianye." When the Jin official Jia Chong, seeking to humiliate Sun Hao, asked, "I heard that you had such cruel punishments as poking out people's eyes and peeling the facial skin off people. What kind of punishment is this?" Sun Hao replied, "If a subordinate planned to murder his emperor or was treacherous, I would use those punishments on him." Jia Chong, who was instrumental in the Wei emperor Cao Mao's death, felt humiliated and did not respond.

Sima Yan pardoned Sun Hao and further granted the latter the title "Marquis Guiming" (literally "the marquis who resigns to his fate"). Sun Hao's sons were made junior officials in the Jin government. Sun Hao died in 284.


See also


  1. Sun Hao's biography in the Sanguozhi recorded that Sun Hao surrendered on the renshen day of the 3rd month of the 4th year of the Tianji era of his reign. [1] This is an error as there was no renshen day in that month. The Zizhi Tongjian recorded that it was the renyin day of the 3rd month of the 1st year of the Taikang era of Sima Yan's reign. [2] This date corresponds to 1 May 280 in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. 1 2 3 4 The Wu Lu recorded that Sun Hao died in the 12th month of the 4th year of the Taikang era of Sima Yan's reign, and that he was 42 (by East Asian age reckoning) when he died. He was buried in Henan County (present-day Luoyang, Henan). [3] The 12th month of the 4th year of Taikang corresponds to 5 January to 3 February 284 in the Gregorian calendar. Since he was 41 when he died in 284, by calculation he was born in 243.

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  1. ([天紀四年三月]壬申,王濬最先到,於是受皓之降,解縛焚櫬,延請相見。) Sanguozhi vol. 48.
  2. Sima (1084), vol. 81.
  3. (吳錄曰:皓以[太康]四年十二月死,時年四十二,葬河南縣界。) Wu Lu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 48.
Emperor Yuanzong of Eastern Wu
Born: 243 Died: 284
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sun Xiu
Emperor of Eastern Wu
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Sun Xiu
Emperor of China
Reason for succession failure:
Conquest of Wu by Jin
Succeeded by
Sima Yan