Columns Soul of China

For the greater good

In February 466 AD, during the Southern Dynasties period (420-589), Liu Zi Xun (劉子勛), the king of Jin An (晉安王), declared a rebellion against the emperor, Song Ming Di (宋明帝). He proclaimed himself emperor at Xun Yang (尋陽) in Jiangxi (江西) province and gained support from many prefectures.
With only a few prefectures and counties around the capital Jian Kang (建康) – Nanjing (南京) today – left under the control of Song Ming Di, the imperial court was thrown into a state of anxiety.
At this critical movement, Yin Xiao Zu (殷孝祖), the governor of Yanzhou (兖州), led over 2,000 men to assist Jian Kang.
Song Ming Di immediately appointed Yin as commanding general. Unfortunately, Yin was killed in a battle with the rebels led by Tao Liang (陶亮).
Everybody deemed that General Shen You Zhi (沈攸之) should replace the fallen general. Before Yin was killed in action, Shen was already held in high regard by the commanding officers and soldiers because he was good at placating and consoling them.
Yin’s untimely death resulted in a growing feeling of insecurity in the Song army. Shen knew very well they would suffer a further setback if they did not launch a strong offensive the next day.
The king of Jian An (建安王) sent Jiang Fang Xing (江方興) to reinforce the Song army. Jiang was Shen’s equal, and it was feared that he would not follow the latter’s command. But it was clear that unless the orders to the various armies were unified, they faced defeat at the hands of the rebel forces.
With that consideration and concern, Shen gathered the leaders of the various armies and called on Jiang. He pointed out to Jiang how urgent a counter-strike would be in retrieving the overall situation. He then expressed his willingness to endorse Jiang as the front line commander and fight together with one heart to defeat the enemy. Jiang accepted the endorsement.
Shen’s decision disheartened the leaders from the other armies. But he explained: “My original purpose is to save our country from calamity. How can I think of personal position? More so, I can obey Jiang’s command, but he certainly would not obey mine. I cannot haggle over the commanding power and harm the greater cause of our country.”
The following day, under a unified command and through concentrated action, the Song troops led by Jiang won the battle overwhelmingly as expected.
After several months, the war would turn around to Song Ming Di’s favor. In September, with Shen at the helm, his soldiers stormed Xun Yang and finally suppressed the rebellion.