Sun Li-jen

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Sun Li-jen
Sun Li-jen.jpg
Sun Li-jen
Nickname(s)"Rommel of the East"
Born(1900-12-08)December 8, 1900
Jinnu, Lujiang, Chaohu, Anhui, Qing dynasty
DiedNovember 19, 1990(1990-11-19) (aged 89)
Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China
AllegianceFlag of the Republic of China.svg  Republic of China
Service/branch Republic of China Army Flag.svg National Revolutionary Army
Years of service1927–1955
Rank General Second Class rank insignia (ROC).jpg General Second Class
Commands held Tax Police Regiment
New 38th Division
200th Division
New First Army
Republic of China Army
Awards Order of the Cloud and Banner 4th.gif Order of the Cloud and Banner with Special Cravat

Order of the British Empire - Military.gif Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire (U.K.)
Us legion of merit officer rib.png Officer, Legion of Merit (U.S.)


Order of Blue Sky and White Sun with Grand Cordon ribbon.png Order of Blue Sky and White Sun
Other work Politician

Sun Li-jen (traditional Chinese :孫立人; simplified Chinese :孙立人; pinyin :Sūn Lìrén) (December 8, 1900 – November 19, 1990) KBE was a Chinese Nationalist (KMT) general, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, best known for his leadership in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. His military achievements earned him the laudatory nickname "Rommel of the East". [1] His New First Army was known as the "Best Army under heaven" and credited with effectively confronting Japanese troops in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai and in the Burma Campaign, 1943–1944.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Simplified Chinese characters Standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China, Malaysia and Singapore.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Perhaps because of his foreign military training, he did not have the full confidence of Chiang Kai-shek. Sun was relieved of battle command in the Chinese Civil War in 1946, and although he was made Commander in Chief in 1950 after the retreat of the Nationalist central government to Taiwan province, he was given only ceremonial roles. He was charged with conspiracy in 1955 and spent his last thirty years under virtual house arrest.

Chiang Kai-shek Chinese politician and military leader

Chiang Kai-shek, also known as Generalissimo Chiang or Chiang Chungcheng and romanized via Mandarin as Chiang Chieh-shih and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death.

Chinese Civil War Series of conflicts within China, 1927 – circa 1950

The Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) lasting intermittently between 1927 and 1949. Although particular attention is paid to the four years of fighting from 1945 to 1949, the war actually started in August 1927, after the KMT-CPC Alliance collapsed during the Northern Expedition. The conflict took place in two stages, the first between 1927 and 1937, and the second from 1946 to 1950; the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945 was an interlude in which the two sides were united against the forces of Japan. The Civil War resulted in a major revolution in China, with the Communists gaining control of mainland China and establishing the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, forcing the Republic of China to retreat to Taiwan. A lasting political and military standoff between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ensued, with the ROC in Taiwan and the PRC in mainland China both officially claiming to be the legitimate government of all China.

He was also known as Sun Chung-neng (孫仲能, Sūn Zhòngnéng) and had the courtesy name Sun Fu-min (孫撫民, Sūn Fǔmín).

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.


Early life

Sun Li-jen was born in Jinnu, Lujiang, Chaohu, Anhui, with ancestry in Shucheng County. During the May Fourth Movement, he was part of the Scouts in the march at Tiananmen Square. In the same year (1919) he married Gong Xitao (龔夕濤) and was admitted in 1920 to Tsinghua University to study civil engineering. Sun played basketball at Tsinghua, becoming a star. He led the Chinese team to a gold medal at the 1921 Far Eastern Championship Games. [2]

Lujiang County County in Anhui, Peoples Republic of China

Lujiang County is a county of Anhui Province, East China, it is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Hefei, the capital of Anhui. It is the southernmost county-level division under the jurisdiction of the provincial capital, Hefei. It has a population of 1,200,000 and an area of 2,352 km2 (908 sq mi). The government of Lujiang County is located in Lucheng Town.

Anhui Province

Anhui is a landlocked province in Eastern China. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is located across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, bordering Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a short section in the north.

Shucheng County County in Anhui, Peoples Republic of China

Shucheng County is a county in the west-central part of Anhui Province, People's Republic of China. It is located in the southeastern corner of the prefecture-level city of Lu'an and is its easternmost county-level division. It has a population of 1,020,000 and an area of 2,092 square kilometres (808 sq mi). The government of Shucheng County is located in Chengguan Town.

With a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship, he transferred to Purdue University in the United States to complete his senior year in 1923, where he graduated in 1924. He briefly interned at Chicago Bridge & Iron Company in Chicago, Illinois. But patriotism motivated him to change career and pursue a military studies instead. China was in the middle of a nationalist drive to unite the divided[ clarification needed ] country and to protect the nation against imperialists. Sun decided that he could better serve his divided nation as a soldier rather than an engineer.

Purdue University Public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, United States

Purdue University is a public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students.

Chicago Bridge & Iron Company

CB&I was a large engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company with its administrative headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas. CB&I specialized in projects for oil and gas companies. CB&I employed more than 32,000 people worldwide. In May 2018 the company merged into McDermott International.

Illinois American State

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois has been noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

He applied to the Virginia Military Institute. He graduated from VMI. In 1927 Sun toured Europe and Japan to see the latest military organization and strategic thinking, then returned to China and became a corporal in the National Revolutionary Army and the Central Political Institute. He was then given command of the National Salt Gabelle Brigade, organized by Finance Minister T. V. Soong, which he made the KMT's best trained and equipped troops. Four of the regiments later became the New 38th Division. His training center was located in Duyun, in Guizhou province. [3]

Virginia Military Institute United States historic place

Founded 11 November 1839 in Lexington, Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is the oldest state-supported military college and the first public Senior Military College in the United States. In keeping with its founding principles and unlike any other Senior Military College in the United States, VMI enrolls cadets only and awards baccalaureate degrees exclusively. VMI offers its students, all of whom are cadets, strict military discipline combined with a physically and academically demanding environment. The Institute grants degrees in 14 disciplines in engineering, the sciences and liberal arts, and all VMI students are required to participate in one of the three ROTC programs.

National Revolutionary Army Nationalist Army of the Republic of China

The National Revolutionary Army, sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命軍) before 1928, and as National Army (國軍) after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947 in the Republic of China. It also became the regular army of the ROC during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928. It was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces after the 1947 Constitution, which instituted civilian control of the military.

T. V. Soong Chinese politician

Soong Tse-ven or Soong Tzu-wen was a prominent businessman and politician in the early-20th-century Republic of China. His father was Charlie Soong and his siblings were the Soong sisters. His Christian name was Paul, but he is generally known in English as T. V. Soong. As brother to the three Soong sisters, Soong's brothers-in-law were Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and financier H. H. Kung.

Sun and Stilwell in Burma Sun Liren n Stilwell 2.jpg
Sun and Stilwell in Burma

Second Sino-Japanese War

Sun Li-jen in India Sun Liren.jpg
Sun Li-jen in India

Sun led his troops fighting the Japanese during the Battle of Shanghai in 1937 and was badly wounded by mine fragments. After recovering, Sun returned to lead his troops at the front. After two years training, Sun's New 38th Division was sent by Chiang Kai-shek into Burma to protect the Burma Road under General Zhang Zhen, commander of the 66th Army, together with General Du Yuming (5th Army) and General Gan Lichu (6th Army) as part of the Chinese Expeditionary Force. Sun led one Chinese regiment through difficult terrain to relieve 7,000 British forces trapped by the numerically superior Japanese in the Battle of Yenangyaung. Although unable to stop the Japanese from cutting the Burma Road, Sun gained the respect of General William Slim, the commander of the British 14th Army. Sun and his division retreated into India, while those of Du, against Sun's advice, retreated back into China and were badly mauled both by nature and by the Japanese. [3]

Early in 1943, after the successful retreat into India, Sun's division was incorporated in the New First Army, and became a part of 'X Force', the Chinese force under the command of Joseph Stilwell, the American commander of all American and Chinese troops in the "China Burma India Theater". The battle discipline of Sun's divisions reaffirmed Stilwell's respect for the Chinese soldier. His troops spearheaded the Burma Campaign, Stilwell's 1943 drive to reconquer North Burma and re-establish the land route to China by the Ledo Road. General Stilwell considered Sun the most capable Chinese field commander in the entire war. In 1945, at the invitation of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sun toured the battlefields of Europe. He returned to China to lead the New First Army to Canton to accept the Japanese surrender. [4]

Chinese Civil War

Sun and Eisenhower in Europe in 1945 1945 Sun Liren and General Eisenhower.jpg
Sun and Eisenhower in Europe in 1945

The end of the war with Japan did not bring peace to China. Sun's New First Army was deployed to Manchuria, where the Soviet armies left the Communist forces in control of strategic areas and the Nationalists could find support only by enlisting local bandits and surrendered Japanese troops. On May 20, 1946, Sun's troops defeated the People's Liberation Army to take a key railroad junction in the Battle of Siping, but only after a month of fighting. General Lin Biao's communist troops had this saying: "As long as we don't have to fight the New 1st Army, we are not afraid of the Central Government's million troops." Sun said that the PLA opposing the Nationalist army was like "flies attacking a tiger," but when the PLA had a growing series of local victories, Chiang Kai-shek's favorite Du Yuming repeatedly accused Sun of insubordination. Chiang sensed that Sun could not get the cooperation of Whampoa educated officers and replaced him with a general whom he considered more loyal. Sun was returned to a command post in Nanjing in July 1947, as the deputy commander-in-chief of the Army and commanding general of the Army Training Command. [4] The American Consul General in Mukden at that time, O. Edmund Clubb, later recalled that because of his American education Sun was regarded as an outsider: "personal loyalty was counted by the Nationalist regime as being more important than competence, and when you establish a standard like that you run into danger." [5]


As the commander of the Army Training Command and deputy commander of the Republic of China Army in 1947, Sun moved one training facility to Taiwan, independent from the ongoing civil war. Sun trained new officers and troops for the Nationalist government, hoping to change the tide of the civil war. The effort was too little, too late in comparison with the massive numbers of troops defeated, but one of the divisions he trained (201 Division of the 80th Army) was sent to Quemoy to help crush off the communist invasion in 1949. It was the front line defense force.

In 1950, Sun was named Commander in Chief of the Republic of China Army, while also serving as commander of the Taiwan Defense Command and of the Army Training Command. Sun was well respected by the Americans, and rumors that the CIA sought a coup to replace Chiang Kai-shek with Sun made Chiang and his son Chiang Ching-kuo eager to remove him from power.

Sun Li-jen with the popular army elephant Lin Wang Lin Wang and Sun.jpg
Sun Li-jen with the popular army elephant Lin Wang

First, Sun was reassigned as the ceremonial chief military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek in June 1954, preventing him from directly controlling any troops. In 1950, Chiang Ching-kuo became director of his father's secret police, a position he held until 1965. [6] Chiang Ching-kuo, educated in the Soviet Union, initiated Soviet style military structure, reorganizing and Sovietizing the officer corps while instituting surveillance. Sun Li-jen, who was educated at the American Virginia Military Institute, opposed this system. [7] On 25 May, one of General Sun's subordinates, Lieutenant-Colonel Kuo Ting-liang, was arrested by Chiang Ching-kuo's associate, internal security chief Mao Jen-feng, and tortured into admitting conspiracy with a communist agent. On August 20, 1955 Sun was officially relieved from his duties and put under house arrest. A nine-person committee under Vice-President Chen Cheng was set up to investigate General Sun's involvement in the alleged spy case. The CIA also allegedly wanted to help Sun take control of Taiwan and declare its independence. [8] [9] Sun, in addition to being under suspicion of collaborating with the CIA, was also accused of negligence in allowing his subordinate to participate in an alleged revolt involving Communist agents. One source suggests that the "plot" may simply have been a plan to present a petition to Generalissimo Chiang to do away with the army system of political commissars. [4]

More than 300 of Sun's close subordinates were placed under arrest and many more were relieved of their duties. Sun remained under house arrest for more than three decades: he was not released until March 20, 1988, shortly after the death of Chiang Ching-kuo. He died in his Taichung home at the age of 89 (91 according to the Chinese calendar). [10] His funeral was conducted with full military honors and with the presence of the Minister of National Defense and top generals.

Sun Li-jen's house in Taichung General Sun Li Ren House.JPG
Sun Li-jen's house in Taichung

In 2001, Sun's reputation was cleared after a government investigation into the purported coup attempt. In January 2011, President Ma Ying-jeou formally apologized to Sun Li-jen's family and Sun's house in Taichung was opened as a memorial hall and museum. [11]


General Sun was survived by his two sons Sun Tien-ping (孫天平) and Sun Ane-pin (孫安平), two daughters Sun Chung-ping (孫中平) and Sun Tai-ping (孫太平), and sister Sun Pi-jen (孫璧人). [12]

See also


  1. VMI: Chinese Alumnus, General Featured – Photo Exhibit Traces Life of Sun Li-Jen, 'Victorious General of World War II'
  2. "Sun Li-Jen". Hoopedia. Archived from the original on 2012-02-14.
  3. 1 2 Boorman (1970), p. 166.
  4. 1 2 3 Boorman (1970), p. 167.
  5. Oral History Interview with O. Edmund Clubb, p. 40. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (June 26, 1974). Accessed May 3, 2015
  6. Peter R. Moody (1977). Opposition and dissent in contemporary China. Hoover Press. p. 302. ISBN   0-8179-6771-0 . Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  7. Jay Taylor (2000). The Generalissimo's son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the revolutions in China and Taiwan. Harvard University Press. p. 195. ISBN   0-674-00287-3 . Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  8. Peter R. Moody (1977). Opposition and dissent in contemporary China. Hoover Press. p. 302. ISBN   0-8179-6771-0 . Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  9. Nançy Bernkopf Tucker (1983). Patterns in the dust: Chinese-American relations and the recognition controversy, 1949-1950. Columbia University Press. p. 181. ISBN   0-231-05362-2 . Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  10. "Sun Li-jen, 91, War Hero in Burma Fighting, Dies". The New York Times . Associated Press. November 21, 1990. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  11. Belated justice for Taiwanese war hero. Jan 23, 2011
  12. Ma visit to war hero's former residence stirs gratitude, regret. The China Post. January 23, 2011

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