Sun Shangxiang

Sun Shangxiang

Lady Sun, or more famously Sun Shangxiang (zh-tsp|t=孫尚香 |s=孙尚香 |p=Sūn Shàngxiāng) as she is called in Chinese opera and in contemporary culture, lived during the Three Kingdoms era of China. She was the only daughter of the warlord, Sun Jian. She had five brothers, the most notable being the two eldest, Sun Ce and Sun Quan, both of whom subsequently became rulers of Eastern Wu. She is often depicted as a tomboy, as she received extensive martial arts training and her maidservants all wielded weapons, which was strange for her time.

She was wed to Liu Bei as his third wife, supposedly to secure the alliance between Sun Quan and Liu Bei. When Liu Bei turned west to attack the land of Sichuan, Sun Quan sent ships to bring her back.


Sister of the founding Emperor of Eastern Wu (Sun Quan), Lady Sun was the only recorded daughter of Sun Jian and Lady Wu. Sun Jian had two other daughters bore by consorts, older than Sun Shangxiang, who were recorded. One daughter was married to Hong Zi and highly respected the abilities of Zhuge Jin. The other was bore by a Lady Chen, who possibly was a concubine, and married Pan Mi.

Although history never recorded the given name of Lady Sun (or any of her sisters), in legends, she is commonly referred by the name Sun Shangxiang. She was a woman of strong personality and this is shown in events throughout her life. The biography of Fa Zheng tells that she had the courage and energy of her brothers.

In 209, she was given to Liu Bei to marry as a part of an alliance between Eastern Wu and Shu Han. At the time, Lady Sun was a little over twenty years of age but because of the marriage, she took general control over his household as well as guardianship over his son and heir Liu Shan. This is because both of Liu Bei’s former wives had already died of natural causes. Because Lady Sun was accompanied by more than a hundred female attendants, all of whom were capable of bearing arms, whenever Liu Bei visited her, he was scared. No children are recorded between them.

Two years later, however, in 211, there was tension within the Wu-Shu Alliance over the affairs of Jingzhou. It was at this time when Sun Shangxiang returned to her brother’s court. According to Zhao Yun’s biography, Lady Sun attempted to take Liu Shan with her but was stopped by Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun himself. Through negotiations by the two generals, Lady Sun surrendered the young heir before she journeyed downriver to Jiangdong. It is through this event that the marriage and alliance effectively ended. She never met Liu Bei again, and presumedly never remarried.

In "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

In the historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", she is named Sun Ren (孫仁), possibly a corruption of her name Sun Renxian (孫仁獻) as recorded in the unofficial history "Hanjin Chunqiu". Her character in the novel is very fiery and determined; however, the footnotes of the novel state that she was considered a handful to deal with and Liu Bei's officers had to keep an eye on her to make sure she wasn't running amok in the capital.

The Eastern Wu ruler, Sun Quan, invited Liu Bei, ruler of Jingzhou at the time, to travel to Wu. Liu Bei was told that the purpose of the visit was to marry Sun Shangxiang and to strengthen their alliance with the deed. However, the marriage proposal turned out to be a nearly lethal trap created by the Eastern Wu strategist, Zhou Yu. The plan was to lure Liu Bei into Wu unarmed, and then hold him against his will. In turn, Wu would demand Jingzhou as a ransoming price. Luckily, Liu Bei got word of the plot early on and fled back to Shu with Sun Shangxiang. But on the way back, the two were stopped by Wu guards that had orders to recapture Liu Bei at all costs. Sun Shangxiang's tearful scolding was what enabled the couple to escape freely. It is believed that Sun Shangxiang fell in love with Liu Bei hereafter.

After the first plan failed, Sun Quan spread fake news that Lady Wu, Sun Shangxiang's mother, was extremely ill and wished to see her daughter and step-grandson, Liu Shan. Sun Quan planned to then capture Liu Shan and hold him captive, once more asking for Jingzhou in return for the boy's freedom. Very distressed, Sun Shangxiang attempted to leave with her stepson. However, Zhao Yun blocked the way and retrieved Liu Shan. Undeterred, Sun Shangxiang travelled on back to Eastern Wu where she would remain for the remainder of her life. Upon learning of Liu Bei's death at the Battle of Yiling, she rode out to a forest and threw herself in a river. There is no historical record of this event.

Modern references

Sun Shangxiang was one of the first female characters to appear in the Koei video game series, "Dynasty Warriors", where she is alternatively named "Sun Shang Xiang" and is armed with a pair of wind and fire wheels (erroneously referred to as chakrams). In "Dynasty Warriors 6" she wields a bow.

Sun Shangxiang is also featured in Koei's "Warriors Orochi". In the game, she starts off working for the enemy because of the capture of her father. She befriends the female archer Inahime, and they both eventually join the Wu cause.

She was played by Vicky Zhao Wei in John Woo's 2008 epic movie about the battle of Chibi, "Red Cliff", where she and her all female armed bodyguards posed as a bait to lure Cao Cao's troops into a trap made by Zhuge Liang.


* Father
** Sun Jian
* Mother
** Lady Wu (吳夫人) (d. 202)
* Brothers
** Sun Ce
** Sun Quan
** Sun Yi
** Sun Kuang
** Sun Lang


* Internet Edition.

ee also

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

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Look at other dictionaries:

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