Ling Tong

Ling Tong


Ling Tong (189 - 237), courtesy name Gongji (公績), was a military general who served Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms era of China.


Early life

Ling Tong was born in Yuhang, Wu Prefecture (Zhejiang Province). His father, Ling Cao, was a daring man given to errantry. When Sun Ce first came to power, Ling Cao followed his banner in his conquests, and would always fight in the van, charging ahead of all the men. He was then garrisoned as Chief of Yongping to subdue the Shanyue. During his tenure, evildoers dared not violate the law, and for that Ling Cao was promoted as Colonel who Routs the Caitiffs. When Sun Quan took command, Ling Cao participated in the expedition against Jiangxia. Upon reaching Xiakou by boat, Ling Cao landed first, and routed the enemy’s vanguard. He then sailed ahead in a light vessel but was killed by an arrow shot by enemy general, Gan Ning.

Ling Tong was 15 years old at that time and was spoken of favourably by many around. Considering that Ling Cao had given his life to the state, Sun Quan appointed Ling Tong Major of a Separate Command and acting Colonel who Routs the Caitiffs, and had him take over his father’s command. Once, he fought under Sun Quan against the hill bandits. Sun Quan left after defeating the garrison at Bao, leaving ten thousand men led by Ling Tong, Controller Zhang Yi, and others to lay siege to the Ma garrison. Prior to the date set for the attack, Ling Tong and Controller Chen Qin attended a banquet together. Chen Qin was of a fiery temper; and because he was in charge of keeping order at the banquet, he abused his powers and bullied everyone there, punishing people not according to the rules. Ling Tong, upset at his insolence, confronted him. Chen Qin angrily affronted Ling Tong and insulted even his father Ling Cao. Ling Tong, though in tears, did not respond to the insult. Everyone then left the gathering. Emboldened in his inebriation, Chen Qin insulted Ling Tong again on the road. Ling Tong, not being able to bear it any more, pulled out his sabre and struck Chen Qin. Chen Qin died in a few days. When the designated day of the attack came, Ling Tong said, “Only by death can I wipe out my transgression!” Thereupon, he rallied his men, and charged ahead of them braving arrows and rocks. The side of the garrison which he attacked was overcome immediately, and the other generals, roused by his success, dealt the enemy a complete defeat. Upon the army’s return, Ling Tong had himself bound and submitted to the discipline officer. Sun Quan, impressed with his determination, pardoned him on the account of his achievement.

In later times, Sun Quan went again to campaign against Jiangxia, and Ling Tong served as the leader of the van. He rode in the same boat with tens of his closest fighters, and would often sail ahead of the main force by tens of "li". They sailed into the western part of the river, and beheaded Huang Zu’s general Zhang Shuo, and captured all his mariners. He returned to report to Sun Quan, and at that they regrouped their men and marched forth, marines and infantrymen together. In time, Lü Meng defeated Huang Zu’s navy, and Ling Tong was first to take the city. Therefore they won a great victory. Sun Quan made Ling Tong Chief Commandant who Brings Forth Prowess, and had him repel Lord Cao at Wulin along with Zhou Yu and others. Following that, Ling Tong defeated Cao Ren, and was promoted to be a colonel. Although Ling Tong was engaged in military affairs, he befriended virtuous men and received men of talent. In viewing his wealth lightly and upholding the ways of friendship and correct conduct, he showed himself to be a core minister of the state.

Battle of Hefei

Ling Tong fought under Sun Quan in the conquest of Wan, and was made General of the Interior who Terrifies Criminals and designated Chancellor of Pei. After conquering the three commanderies in the west along with Lü Meng, he returned to Yiyang and from there went on to Hefei in the position of Controller of the Right Division. After Sun Quan decided the retreat and the van had already left, Zhang Liao and other Wei generals stormed to the north of the ford. Sun Quan sent someone to recall the van, but the troops had gone too far and were unable to come to the rescue. Ling Tong, leading three hundred of his personal troops, charged into the encirclement and protected Sun Quan until he was out of the melee. By that time, the enemy had already broken the bridge, and only a plank was left on either side. Sun Quan spurred his horse on and leaped over it. Ling Tong turned back to do battle, until all his men were dead, and he himself was wounded all over. Having killed a few score of enemy troops, he figured that Sun Quan had got away to safety, and so he returned. The bridge was gone and the roads were blocked, so Ling Tong waded out into the river in his armor. Sun Quan, having boarded a boat by then, was overjoyed when he caught sight of him. Ling Tong, saddened by the loss of every one of his closest men, was overtaken by a fit of grief and wept uncontrollably. Sun Quan wiped his face with a corner of his sleeve, and said to him, “Gongji, let those who have died go. As long as you are alive, should you worry about not having men under you?” Thus he appointed him Lieutenant-General, and granted him a command that was double the number of his previous one.

Ling Tong was heavily wounded, so Sun Quan kept him in his boat and changed all his clothes. It was only due to good medicine that Ling Tong did not die of his wounds. Around that time, there was someone who recommended Sheng Xian (盛暹) to Sun Quan, saying that he was more upright and virtuous than Ling Tong. Sun Quan said, “It is sufficient for him to be as Ling Tong.” Afterwards, he summoned Sheng Xian to see him at night. Ling Tong was in bed already when Sheng Xian arrived, but on hearing his arrival, he put on his clothes, went out, and led Sheng Xian in holding his hand. This was how kind he was towards others, not bearing ill thoughts toward them.


Ling Tong proposed that the people of the hills, being strong and brave of nature, could be lured into their service by impressing them with military might and potential rewards. Sun Quan thus ordered him to go east and carry out the plan to take over the hill people. He sent ahead a decree to the city that all of Ling Tong’s requests should be fulfilled first and reported to him later. Since Ling Tong had been known to treat men well, men wished to join him. He obtained some ten thousand elite troops. When he passed by his home prefect, he walked into the local office there, and seeing the chief clerks carrying registry records (见长吏怀三版), he treated them with utmost humility and respect. He also showed much love for all his relatives and old friends. After he concluded his affairs there, he left, but on the way he died of illness. He was 49. When Sun Quan found out about it, he sat up from his couch clenching at it, and wept uncontrollably. He fasted in mourning for several days, and tears would cover his face whenever Ling Tong was mentioned. Sun Quan then had Zhang Cheng write a eulogy for Ling Tong.

His two sons, Ling Lie and Ling Feng were both only a few years of age. Sun Quan took them in into the inner palace, and took care of them as if they were his own sons. When visitors came to pay respect to him, he would call them out and show them off [to the guests] , saying, “These are my tiger cubs!” When they got to the age of eight or nine, he had Ge Guang teach them to read, and every ten days he would have them practice horsemanship. Considering Ling Tong’s former merits, Sun Quan bestowed the Marquis title upon his son, Ling Lie, and assigned Ling Tong’s former troops back to the sons. In later times, Ling Lie was dismissed due to some fault, and Ling Feng in turn inherited the Marquis title and military command.

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

In the historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" by Luo Guanzhong, Ling Tong bore a grudge against Gan Ning for killing his father. Bravely following his late father’s footsteps, Ling Tong served Sun Quan and took up the post as Auxiliary Corps Commanding Officer, and then the post of Deputy Commander, in order to manage his father’s troops.

Later, during Sun Quan’s third attack on Huang Zu, Ling Tong took the vanguard of the army and scored a complete victory. He was then promoted to the Commander Who Upholds Justice.

During the famous Battle of Red Cliffs, Ling Tong held the rank of Commandant. When the kingdoms of Wu and Wei engaged at Hefei, Ling Tong was appointed Premier of Pei Country, Commander of the Right and Imperial Corps Commander Who Destroys the Rebels.

Ling Tong wanted to avenge the death of his father, but after Gan Ning joined Wu he couldn't kill him, although he did attack Gan Ning and fought with him repeatedly. Ling Tong was approached by Lü Meng and Sun Quan who told him they understood how he felt but had to stop the quarrel with Gan Ning, Ling Tong tried and finally became friends with Gan Ning after he saved Ling Tong's life. From then on, they stayed good friends and competed to become better warriors than each other.

Modern references

*Ling Tong is a playable character in "Dynasty Warriors 5", by Koei in its "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"-based video game series. In Dynasty Warriors 6, Ling Tong looks similar to his appearance in Dynasty Warriors 5. However, he now wields an enormous halberd instead of nunchaku. He wears a streamline outfit, outlining his slim build with several rings of jade around his hip and on top of his hands. In "Dynasty Warriors 6: Special" he now wields a samjiegun and has a story mode.

*He appears in "Warriors Orochi", a crossover between "Dynasty Warriors" and "Samurai Warriors". He unexpectedly comes to Oda Nobunaga's aid during the Battle of Guan Du. He becomes a playable character when the player completes that battle.

* Ling Tong also appears in all the 11 games of Romance of The Three Kingdoms. He has average statistics.


*cite book|author=Chen Shou|title=San Guo Zhi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=2002|id=ISBN 7-80665-198-5
*cite book|author=Luo Guanzhong|title=San Guo Yan Yi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=1986|id=ISBN 7-80520-013-0
*cite book|author=Lo Kuan-chung; tr. C.H. Brewitt-Taylor|title=Romance of the Three Kingdoms|publisher=Tuttle Publishing|year=2002|id=ISBN 0-8048-3467-9

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*"Records of Three Kingdoms"
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

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