Sun Qian

Sun Qian (died c. 214),[1] courtesy name Gongyou, was a Chinese diplomat, military general, and official serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. His talent was noted by the scholar Zheng Xuan. So Liu Bei gave Sun Qian a position on his staff after he took Xu. Along with Jian Yong and Mi Zhu, Sun Qian frequently served as an ambassador for Liu Bei, most notably to Yuan Shao and Liu Biao. After Liu Bei took Yi Province, Sun Qian was promoted and held a rank equal to Jian Yong.

Sun Qian
Sun Qian 2016 Han Zhao Lie Miao.jpg
Statue of Sun Qian in the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple in Chengdu, Sichuan
General Who Upholds Loyalty
In office
Personal details
Shouguang, Shandong
Diedc. 214[1]
OccupationDiplomat, military general, politician
Courtesy nameGongyou (公祐)


Sun Qian was from Beihai Commandery. He was recommended by Zheng Xuan[2] to serve under Liu Bei as an Assistant Officer (從事) when Liu Bei succeeded Tao Qian as the Governor (牧) of Xu Province in 194. He remained as a subordinate of Liu Bei from then on.[3]

In 198, when Liu Bei was planning to break free of Cao Cao's control by leaving the imperial capital Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan), he sent Sun Qian and Mi Zhu to secretly contact Cao's rivals Yuan Shao and Liu Biao and form alliances with them. After Yuan Shao's death in 202, Liu Biao wrote to Yuan Shao's third son and successor, Yuan Shang, and mentioned the rivalry between Yuan Shang and his eldest brother Yuan Tan. Liu Biao wrote: "Whenever I discussed this issue (the rivalry between you and your brother) with General Liu (Liu Bei) and Sun Gongyou, I feel very upset and heartbroken." Both Liu Bei and Liu Biao highly regarded Sun Qian.[4]

In the 210s, after Liu Bei had successfully seized control of Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing) from its governor Liu Zhang and established his new base in Chengdu (Yi Province's capital), he promoted Sun Qian to General Who Upholds Loyalty (秉忠將軍). Liu Bei's treatment towards Sun Qian was second to that of Mi Zhu, but equal to that of Jian Yong. Sun Qian died not long after this promotion.[5] Sun Qian's year of death was not specified, but the Australian Sinologist Rafe de Crespigny estimated that he died around 214.[1]


Chen Shou, who wrote Sun Qian's biography, commented that: "Mi Zhu, Sun Qian, Jian Yong and Yi Ji were refined and cultured persons whose ideas were widely circulated. They were well known for their good observations of the proprieties."[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A biographical dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Brill. p. 767. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
  2. ^ (鄭玄傳云:玄薦乾於州。乾被辟命,玄所舉也。) Pei Songzhi's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 38.
  3. ^ (孫乾字公祐,北海人也。先主領徐州,辟為從事,後隨從周旋。) Sanguozhi vol. 38.
  4. ^ (先主之背曹公,遣乾自結袁紹,將適荊州,乾又與麋笁俱使劉表,皆如意指。後表與袁尚書,說其兄弟分爭之變,曰:「每與劉左將軍、孫公祐共論此事,未甞不痛心入骨,相為悲傷也。」其見重如此。) Sanguozhi vol. 38.
  5. ^ (先主定益州,乾自從事中郎為秉忠將軍,見禮次麋笁,與簡雍同等。頃之,卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 38.
  6. ^ (麋笁、孫乾、簡雍、伊籍,皆雍容風議,見禮於世。) Sanguozhi vol. 38.