Lady Wu was knowledgeable of politics and military matters, two areas of government that women did not hold official titles in. Nevertheless, she was one of the Emperor of Wu’s closest advisers. She was the mother of Sun Ce, Sun Quan, Sun Quan, Sun Yi, Sun Kuang, and Sun Ren Xian. Lady Wu’s parents died when she was young and she lived with her younger brother, Wu Jing. Her personal name was not recorded by history, but her unique accomplishments were. In this time period, matchmakers were used to arrange engagements, and high born women were married off to the man most politically advantageous to the family. Young daughters did not have a say in whom they were to wed, though Lady Wu was not a woman to be resigned to this fate. Initially, the situation between Lady Wu and Sun Jian was not the smoothest of possible engagements.
Sun Jian became interested in Lady Wu when he heard of her beauty and strong character. Beauty was perfectly common grounds to initiate discussion of engagement in this era; it was actually rather unusual for a man to be interested in a woman’s character. Despite this, Lady Wu’s family did not like Sun Jian and felt that he was a young troublemaker. They wanted to reject the proposal, but Lady Wu disagreed. She took up a logical argument with her family and declared, “If this turns out to be a bad marriage, I’ll accept it as my fate.” Though they were still reluctant, her relatives agreed to allow her to marry Sun Jian. She married Sun Jian when he was nineteen by Western reckoning, but twenty by Chinese counting.
Lady Wu’s first son was Sun Ce, who would go on to become a highly successful commander and leader after the death of Sun Jian. Sun Ce began his conquests when he was very young and often turned to his mother for advice. Lady Wu was a wise woman who was familiar with politics and war from growing up alongside her brother, a general, and without parents shielding her from the harsh reality of the time period.
Though Sun Ce was loved as a leader for his passion and inspirational determination, there were times when his ambition made him think rashly. Sun Ce accused a priest of heresy and had him arrested with plans to execute him, but Lady Wu intervened and convinced him to release the priest to avoid becoming unpopular with his followers.
Much as she was there to advise Sun Ce, she also did the same for her younger son, Sun Quan. She was a sensible women often described as shrewd and knowledgeable of politics as well as military affairs. Sun Quan was still very young when he was expected to take care of the affairs of the state. Many leaders put in his position and given great power at a young age would fall apart under the pressure and not manage the country’s affairs well. However, since he was still young and unexperienced, Lady Wu played a significant role in administering the army and the state.
She was greatly helpful to Sun Quan early in his reign, but even as time went on, she was still there to help him make the right decisions for the country. Later on, a conflict arose when the enemy warlord Cao Cao demanded that Sun Quan send one of his sons as a hostage to ensure that Sun Quan would hold to the proposed alliance between the two. However, Sun Quan’s strategist and Lady Wu convinced him not to give in to Cao Cao’s demands.
Sun Quan went on to lead Wu after Sun Ce’s death. When the Three Kingdoms period officially began, Sun Quan became the Emperor of Wu and Lady Wu was posthumously honored as Empress Wulie.