Sun Xiu (Jin dynasty)

Sun Xiu (died 301), courtesy name Junzhong, was an official of the Jin dynasty (266–420). He was the favoured advisor to the Prince of Zhao, Sima Lun, who guided and supported him with advices in their rise to power. After Sima Lun took over the government in 300, Sun Xiu was essentially in charge of running the state, as Lun delegated all affairs over to him. Sun helped Lun assume the throne in 301, but a coalition against him led by Sima Jiong was formed shortly later. As the coalition approached Luoyang in the middle of 301, Sun was killed in the capital during a coup led by disgruntled officials.

Sun Xiu
Prefect of the Palace Secretariat (中書令)
In office
300 (300)–301 (301)
MonarchEmperor Hui of Jin
Palace Attendant (侍中)
In office
300 (300)–301 (301)
MonarchEmperor Hui of Jin/Sima Lun
General Who Upholds The State (輔國將軍)
In office
300 (300)–301 (301)
MonarchEmperor Hui of Jin
Marshal to the Chancellor of State (相國司馬)
In office
300 (300)–301 (301)
MonarchEmperor Hui of Jin
Chief of the Palace Secretariat (中書監)
In office
301 (301)–301 (301)
MonarchSima Lun
General of Agile Cavalry (票騎將軍)
In office
301 (301)–301 (301)
MonarchSima Lun
Personal details
Linyi, Shandong
Died30 May, 301 AD
RelationsSun En (descendant)
ChildrenSun Hui
Courtesy nameJunzhong (俊忠)

One of Sun's descendant was the prominent Jin dynasty rebel, Sun En, whose rebellion in 399 caused trouble for Eastern Jin.

Early life and careerEdit

Sun Xiu was a native of Langya Commandery. For generations, his family followed the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice, and Sun himself was also a practitioner of this teaching. Sun grew to become a minor official in Langya, but it was said that he displayed poor behaviour. His superior at the time, Pan Yue, despised him because of this and had him flogged on numerous occasions.[1]

Some time after Sima Lun became the Prince of Langya in 266, Sun Xiu managed to win his trust through flattery and became an official under him. Sun would write documents on his behalf, and Lun greatly appreciated his literary talents. When Lun was made Prince of Zhao in 277, Sun Xiu decided to change his family register to Zhao Commandery and was subsequently made an attendant.[2]

After the ascension of Emperor Hui in 290, Sima Lun was given military command over Qinzhou and Yongzhou. During his tenure, Lun's administration caused a series of tribal revolt which peaked in 296. Both Lun and Sun Xiu placed the blame on the Inspector of Yongzhou, Hai Xi (解系), and the two sides sent petitions to the court accusing one another. Lun was eventually recalled to Luoyang to be replaced by Sima Rong (司馬肜). Hai also called for Sun Xiu's execution, believing that it would appeal to the tribes' demands. The minister, Zhang Hua considered it and told Sima Rong to prepare Sun's execution. However, an acquaintance of Sun Xiu, Xin Ran managed to convince Sima Rong not to carry out Zhang's orders.[3]

Usurping the throneEdit

Removing Sima Yu and Empress JiaEdit

While in Luoyang, Sun advised Sima Lun to win the trust of Empress Jia (Jin's paramount leader at the time) as well as her family members Jia Mi and Guo Chang (郭彰). Lun did so and quickly gained favour in the court. Lun was even confident enough to demand both Zhang Hua and Pei Wei's positions, but the two of them strongly refused to give their offices.[4]

In early 300, a group of officials was angered by the Empress Jia's decision to remove the Crown Prince Sima Yu. They wanted to overthrow her, so they looked towards Sima Lun who possessed a strong army to stage a coup. They approached Sun Xiu, and Sun informed their plot to Lun. Lun agreed, and the plot was nearly set in stones. However, Sun advised Lun to wait a while longer until the Empress decides to kill Sima Yu, as he thought that Sima Yu would be detrimental to their future plans if he was to be restored to the throne.[5] Sima Lun agreed and postponed the date of the coup. Sun sent a subordinate to spread a rumour of a plot to remove the empress and restore Sima Yu. Hearing this, Empress Jia sent her servants to eavesdrop around the palace, and her suspicions were soon confirmed. Lun and Sun then told Jia Mi that Sima Yu had to be killed in order to prevent his restoration. The Empress agreed with the idea, and Sima Yu was forced to commit suicide.[6]

Sima Lun launched his coup on the night of the 7th of May. That same day, Sun Xiu invited Zhang Hua to join him in overthrowing the empress, but Zhang refused. The coup was a success, and Empress Jia was placed under arrest. She was later forced to kill herself through poisoning.[7]

Sima Lun's regencyEdit

After the removal of Empress Jia, Sima Lun began making plans with Sun Xiu to take the throne. Their political enemies, including Hai Xi, Zhang Hua and Pei Wei, were all executed. Sima Lun effectively made himself regent and issued a general amnesty. He also granted military and administrative power to his and Sun Xiu's allies. As Sima Lun had very little interest in running the court, he passed over his responsibilities to Sun Xiu by making him Prefect of the Palace Secretariat. All the state's affairs were handled by Sun without needing Lun's consent.[8]

Sima Lun had appointed the Prince of Huainan, Sima Yun (司馬允) to be an acting Protector of the Palace. However, Both Yun and Lun were suspicious of one another. Lun decided to take away Yun's position of Protector by giving him a new position to strip him off his military power, but Yun pretended to be ill to avoid this. Sun Xiu sent the Imperial Secretary Liu Ji (劉機) to force him into accepting his new office. Liu arrested Yun's subordinates and presented an imperial edict as proof that Yun was going against Emperor Hui's orders. However, Yun knew by the writing that it was Sun Xiu who wrote the edict. Yun arrested Liu Ji and rebelled, but Sima Lun managed to quell his revolt and kill him.[9]

After Sima Yun's death, Sun Xiu had more of his political enemies executed, using the failed coup as a pretext. He arrested Shi Chong, Ouyang Jian (歐陽建) and his former superior Pan Yue. Ouyang Jian supported Hai Xi in removing Lun from military command in Qinzhou and Yongzhou in 296. Shi Chong was Ouyang Jian's uncle, and he and Sun Xiu had a dispute over a woman named Lüzhu that Shi had an intimate relation with. All three men were executed along with their family members.[10] Sun Xiu also had Sima Jiong sent away to Xuchang, fearing he would also rebel, as Jiong was not satisfied with his position despite his involvement in Empress Jia's removal.

Aiding Sima Lun in taking the throneEdit

Following the aftermath of Sima Yun's attempted coup, Sun Xiu brought up the subject of granting Sima Lun the nine bestowments to the court. Many were afraid of opposing him, so they agreed, except for one official named Liu Song (劉頌). Sun's ally Zhang Lin (張林) accused Liu of being one of Zhang Hua's partisan. Lin was about to execute him, but Sun stopped him to prevent further enmity between their faction and members of the old court.[11]

An edict was made granting Sima Lun the nine bestowments. Sun Xiu became Palace Attendant, General Who Upholds The State, and Marshal to the Chancellor of State. After that, Sun appointed Sima Rong to the newly-established position of Prime Minister (although Rong refused and never acknowledged his new office) and had his son, Sun Hui (孫會), marry Emperor Hui's daughter, the Princess of Hedong.[12]

In early 301, Sima Lun and Sun Xiu had the general, Zhao Feng (趙奉) write a report which the pair claim was said by the spirit of Lun's father, Sima Yi, stating, "Sima Lun should enter the Western Palace at once." After preparations were made for his day of ascension, Sima Lun entered the Western Palace on an imperial carriage and assumed the throne on February 3rd. After Emperor Hui was abdicated, Sun Xiu was made Palace Attendant, Chief of the Palace Secretariat, and General of Agile Cavalry, with equal ceremonial to the Three Excellencies.

Reign of Sima LunEdit

Consolidating powerEdit

At this point, Sun Xiu had complete control over the court and state. Sun began living in Sima Zhao's residence during Zhao's regency over Cao Wei. Sima Lun would always consult Sun on every matter, and edicts published out by Lun were always edited by Sun to fit his liking, unbeknownst to the emperor. The court was constantly undergoing changes as Sun appointed and removed officials overnight.

Meanwhile, Zhang Lin was not happy with what little he received after Lun's ascension, along with the fact that Sun had complete control over the court. He wrote a letter to Lun's Crown Prince, Sima Fu (司馬荂) to get his father to execute Sun, but Fu instead presented the letter to his father who in turn presented it to Sun. Sun told the emperor to have Zhang Lin killed, and so he did. To further cement his control, Sun had his allies assigned as advisors to the three most powerful princes at the time, Sima Jiong, Sima Ying and Sima Yong.[13]

Anti-Sima Lun CoalitionEdit

Sima Lun's usurpation angered Sima Jiong, who began a coalition to restore the deposed Emperor Hui. He was then joined by Sima Ying and Sima Yong, causing Lun and Sun to panic. The first thing the two did was to forge a petition supposedly from Jiong stating that he is struggling to fight off attacking bandits, insisting that he was weak and incompetent. They then split their armies into two and dispatched them to oppose Sima Jiong and Sima Ying.

Supposedly, Sima Lun and Sun Xiu began praying each day and had shamans predict favourable days to engage in battle. They also had their men travel to Mount Song in feathered clothing along with forging and publishing a letter that they claim was from the sage, Prince Jin of Zhou, which said that Lun was destined for a long reign. When news of Sima Jiong's victory reached Sun, he attempted to hide their defeat to the public by claiming in an edict that Jiong had already been captured and ordering the ministers to congratulate the general, Zhang Hong (張泓).[14]

Death and aftermathEdit

The situation for Sima Lun gradually worsened as Sima Ying won the Battle of Huangqiao and crossed the Yellow River to approach Luoyang. Officials in the capital were also beginning to openly express their frustration over Sima Lun and Sun Xiu, causing Sun to hole himself up in his office out of fear. Sun only moved to the office of the Masters of Writing after the Prince of Yiyang, Sima Wei (司馬威), called him to discuss strategy. They ordered a full conscription of men in Luoyang to follow Sima Lun in battle. However, the conscripts later urged Sima Wei to kill Sun, but Wei refused by secretly fleeing to his residence.

The army from Huangqiao returned, and their generals immediately planned their next move with Sun Xiu. They thoroughly discussed, but could not come to a conclusive agreement. It was around this time when the general of the guards, Wang Yu (王輿), rebelled and stormed the palace. Wang personally led his group to attack Sun Xiu, blocking the southern gates of Sun's office. Sun and the generals attempted to flee, but they were all caught by Zhao Quan (趙泉) and beheaded to be made as examples.[15]

Sima Lun was also arrested by the rebels. He was forced to write an edict stating, "I was misled by Sun Xiu and the others, and so I incurred the anger of the three Princes. I have already put Sun Xiu to death. Now I shall welcome the Retired Emperor back to the throne, and I myself shall live out my life tending a field." Emperor Hui was restored, and despite the last statement of his edict, Sima Lun was forced to commit suicide in the same manner as Empress Jia. Before his death, Sima Lun reportedly lamented that he was misled by Sun Xiu.


  1. ^ (初,孫秀嘗爲小吏,事黃門郎潘岳,岳屢撻之。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 83
  2. ^ (孫秀,字俊忠,琅邪人。初,趙王倫封琅邪,秀給為近職小吏。倫數使秀作書疏,文才稱倫意。倫封趙,秀徒戶為趙人,用為侍郎。) Shishuo Xinyu, Volume 19.17
  3. ^ (大將軍趙王倫信用嬖人琅邪孫秀,與雍州刺史濟南解系爭軍事,更相表奏,歐陽建亦表倫罪惡。朝廷以倫撓亂關右,徵倫爲車騎將軍,以梁王肜爲征西大將軍、都督雍‧涼二州諸軍事。系與其弟御史中丞結,皆表請誅秀以謝氐、羌;張華以告梁王肜,使誅之,肜許諾。秀友人辛冉爲之說肜曰:「氐、羌自反,非秀之罪。」秀由是得免。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 82
  4. ^ (倫至洛陽,用秀計,深交賈、郭,賈后大愛信之,倫因求錄尚書事,又求尚書令;張華、裴頠固執以爲不可,倫、秀由是怨之。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 82
  5. ^ (事將起,而秀知太子聰明,若還東宮,將與賢人圖政,量己必不得志,乃更說倫曰:「太子為人剛猛,不可私請。明公素事賈后,時議皆以公為賈氏之黨。今雖欲建大功于太子,太子含宿怒,必不加賞於明公矣。當謂逼百姓之望,翻覆以免罪耳。此乃所以速禍也。今且緩其事,賈后必害太子,然後廢后,為太子報仇,亦足以立功,豈徒免禍而已。」倫從之。) Book of Jin, Volume 59
  6. ^ (及太子廢黜,趙王倫、孫秀等因眾怨謀欲廢后。后數遣宮婢微服於人間視聽,其謀頗泄。后甚懼,遂害太子,以絕眾望。) Book of Jin, Volume 31
  7. ^ (趙王倫、孫秀將討賈后,告右衞佽飛督閭和,和從之,期以癸巳丙夜一籌,以鼓聲爲應。癸巳,秀使司馬雅告張華曰:「趙王欲與公共匡社稷,爲天下除害,使雅以告。」華拒之。雅怒曰:「刃將在頸,猶爲是言邪!」不顧而出。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 83
  8. ^ (倫素庸下,無智策,復受制於秀,秀之威權振於朝廷,天下皆事秀而無求於倫。) Book of Jin, Volume 59
  9. ^ (淮南王允、齊王冏以倫、秀驕僭,內懷不平。秀等亦深忌焉... 奪允護軍。允發憤,起兵討倫。) Book of Jin, Volume 59
  10. ^ (初,孫秀嘗爲小吏,事黃門郎潘岳,岳屢撻之。衞尉石崇之甥歐陽建素與相國倫有隙,崇有愛妾曰綠珠,孫秀使求之,崇不與。及淮南王允敗,秀因稱石崇、潘岳、歐陽建奉允爲亂,收之。崇歎曰:「奴輩利吾財爾!」收者曰:「知財爲禍,何不早散之!」崇不能答。初,潘岳母常誚責岳曰:「汝當知足,而乾沒不已乎!」及敗,岳謝母曰:「負阿母。」遂與崇、建皆族誅,籍沒崇家。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 83
  11. ^ (孫秀議加相國倫九錫,百官莫敢異議。吏部尚書劉頌曰:「昔漢之錫魏,魏之錫晉,皆一時之用,非可通行。周勃、霍光,其功至大,皆不聞有九鍚之命也。」張林積忿不已,以頌爲張華之黨,將殺之。孫秀曰:「殺張、裴已傷時望,不可復殺頌。」林乃止。以頌爲光祿大夫。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 83
  12. ^ (倫及諸子皆頑鄙無識,秀狡黠貪淫,所與共事者,皆邪佞之士,惟競榮利,無遠謀深略,志趣乖異,互相憎嫉。秀子會爲射聲校尉,形貌短陋,如奴僕之下者,秀使尚帝女河東公主。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 83
  13. ^ (孫秀專執朝政,倫所出詔令,秀輒改更與奪,自書青紙爲詔,或朝行夕改,百官轉易如流。張林素與秀不相能,且怨不得開府,潛與太子荂牋,言:「秀專權不合衆心,而功臣皆小人,撓亂朝廷,可悉誅之。」荂以書白倫,倫以示秀。秀勸倫收林,殺之,夷其三族。秀以齊王冏、成都王穎、河間王顒,各擁強兵,據方面,惡之,乃盡用其親黨爲三王參佐,加冏鎭東大將軍、穎征北大將軍,皆開府儀同三司,以寵安之。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 84
  14. ^ (泓等悉其諸軍濟潁,進攻冏營,冏出兵擊其別率孫髦、司馬譚、孫輔,皆破之,士卒散歸洛陽,泓等收眾還營。秀等知三方日急,詐傳破冏營,執得冏,以誑惑其眾,令百官皆賀。) Book of Jin, Volume 59
  15. ^ (自冏等起兵,百官將士皆欲誅倫、秀,秀懼,不敢出中書省;及聞河北軍敗,憂懣不知所爲。孫會、許超、士猗等至,與秀謀,或欲收餘卒出戰;或欲焚宮室,誅不附己者,挾倫南就孫旂、孟觀;或欲乘船東走入海;計未決。辛酉,左衞將軍王輿與尚書廣陵公漼帥營兵七百餘人自南掖門入宮,三部司馬爲應於內,攻孫秀、許超、士猗於中書省,皆斬之,遂殺孫奇、孫弼及前將軍謝惔等。漼,伷之子也。王輿屯雲龍門,召八坐皆入殿中,使倫爲詔曰:「吾爲孫秀所誤,以怒三王;今已誅秀。其迎太上皇復位,吾歸老于農畝。」傳詔以騶虞幡敕將士解兵。黃門將倫自華林東門出,及太子荂皆還汶陽里第,遣甲士數千迎帝于金墉城。百姓咸稱萬歲。帝自端門入,升殿;羣臣頓首謝罪。詔送倫、荂等赴金墉城。廣平王虔自河北還,至九曲,聞變,棄軍,將數十人歸里第。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 84