Ling Tong was the son of Ling Cao, who served passionately as an officer under Sun Ce on his earlier conquests. he was born in 189 and lived until 217, only making to twenty-eight. For his services then and as chief of Yongping, Ling Cao was given the title of colonel. However, he was soon killed in a skirmish at Xiakou, and according to tradition Ling Tong inherited his title and command of his troops.
His earliest mention in history is the incident with a fellow officer named Zhang Yi, who was assigned with him by Sun Quan to attack the Ma garrison. Zhang Yi fought with Ling Tong and insulted him to such a degree that Ling Tong killed him in return. Left alone in the fight in Ma, Ling Tong nevertheless managed to pull off an astounding victory, which earned him forgiveness.
He later notable for participating in the battle against Huang Qu with Lu Meng, managing to defeat the navy and capture the city of Jiangxia, then again with a victory against Cao Ren. Sun Quan, impressed by his many achievements, promoted him to Chief Commandant. This turned out to be fortuitous, as Ling Tong and Lu Meng were out conquering much of Wan when Sun Quan was attacked by Wei generals. Ling Tong managed to reach Sun Quan just in time to personally defend him until his entire unit had died, ensuring the emperor’s safe escape. Sun Quan, deeply grateful for this brave display of loyalty, gave him the title of Lieutenant-General and much honor.
By all accounts a buoyant and loveable character, Ling Tong was much admired. However, he had one notable rivalry with a fellow officer named Gan Ning, who was the one responsible for the death of Ling Tong’s father. In time, however, he forgave Gan Ning and some accounts say they became close friends.
Ling Tong died at the age of 49, to Sun Quan’s extreme distress. His sons were taken in by Sun Quan, and he was forever honored by the emperor as a close friend.