Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

Ling Tong 凌統 was a valiant soldier of Wu. He could often be found charging deep into the enemy ranks with little regard for his own life. He cared deeply for his own men and was distraught when he lost those under his command.


Ling Tong's father, Cao, had joined Sun Ce and then followed Sun Quan after Ce passed away. Ling Tong's father was killed while attacking Huang Zu at Xiakou (夏口), where one of Zu's officers, Gan Ning, shot Cao with an arrow.[1] Although only 15 years of age, people generally thought well of Ling Tong, and compounded with the fact that his father died in service to the state, Sun Quan decided to give Tong his father's soldiers. Additionally, Ling Tong was assigned as a Senior Major and temporarily assigned as Colonel Who Routs Caitiffs (破賊).

The attack on Huang Zu had been largely successful, but Sun Quan was forced to retreat when mountain bandits started making trouble back home, so Ling Tong was quickly engaged in fighting. Sun Quan first captured the camp at Bao (保), then gave 10,000 men to Controller Zhang Yi and Ling Tong to attack the camp at Ma (麻), which fell on the same day they attacked.

Just before the battle, Ling Tong was at a feast raising morale for the soldiers. Controller Chen Qin was drunk and had started abusing his position as Controller by bullying the people at the feast. Ling Tong abhorred his behaviour so he chastised Qin, and so Qin turned on Tong, angrily cursing at him and insulting his late father. Tears streaming down his face, Ling Tong chose to remain silent and ignore Qin's tirade. The feast ended the soldier marched off to battle. However, Qin was not finished with Tong and continued to insult him whilst en route. Ling Tong could not tolerate him any longer and cut him with his knife, Qin died several days later.

As Ling Tong prepared to fighting, he said: "Only death will absolve my guilt." Ling Tong led brave soldiers deep into the fray, and despite the defenders raining stones and arrows on his forces, Ling Tong quickly overcame one side of the bandit's camp. The other generals, empowered by Ling Tong's success, quickly overran the bandit's camp. Having won and still survived, Ling Tong bond himself and presented himself for punishment. Sun Quan was impressed by Ling Tong's determination, and considered Ling Tong's exploits sufficient atonement for his crime.

In 208 A.D., Sun Quan returned to attack Huang Zu. Ling Tong and Dong Xi were assigned to lead the vanguard. Huang Zu blocked the access to the Mian (沔) river with two Armoured Breakers[2][n 1], anchoring them in place with large boulders. And on the cliffs above, were stationed 1,000 crossbowmen. Both Ling Tong and Dong Xi were given command of 100 shock troops[n 2], they rode one large barge right to the blockade. Braving the crossbowmen's bolts, Ling Tong slew Zu's general Zhang Shuo, captured his men, severed the anchors and opened the path for the vanguard forces.[3]

Lü Meng's fleet defeated Huang Zu's and Ling Tong was the first to storm into Xiakou, and the city was soon captured. Ling Tong was promoted to (承烈都尉) Commandant. Ling Tong then fought Cao Cao at Wulin (烏林) with the rest of Wu. Following Cao Cao's defeat, the Wu forces continued to push into Jing province, attacking Cao Ren at Jiangling. To fight Cao Ren, Gan Ning had been given a small force to circumvent Cao Ren's defensive line, and when Cao Ren turned his attention to Ning, messengers soon arrived requesting help. Many generals thought they could not afford to send anyone to help, but Lü Meng said: "Leave Ling Tong at Jiangling. If you and I go we can break the siege and do away with the danger, and it will not take long. I guarantee Tong can hold out for ten days."[4] So Ling Tong was left to ensure Cao Ren did not cut their lines of communication.[5] Ling Tong was promoted to Colonel.

With Gan Ning having joined Sun Quan, he and Ling Tong were now in the same place. Ling Tong held great enmity towards Gan Ning for Gan Ning killed his father, back in 203 A.D. At a feast at Lü Meng's residence, Ling Tong had gotten intoxicated and drew his sword and started performing a knife dance; in response, Gan Ning rose from his seat and said: "I can perform a double-halberd dance." Lü Meng realised they were ready to kill one another[n 3] and interceded, saying: "Although I'm sure you can Ning, you are not as skillful as I." Lü Meng drew his own weapon and put himself between the two men. Sun Quan had previously asked Ling Tong not to pursue his feud but realised Ling Tong would be unable to drop the issue, as a result Gan Ning had been stationed at Banzhou (半州) so they would not cross paths.[6]

In 214 A.D., Ling Tong followed Sun Quan in the attack on Wan (皖) city. He was promoted to General of the Household Who Defeats Rebels and appointed as Chancellor of Pei (沛). He then followed Lü Meng in the Battle for Jing Province against Guan Yu.

In 215 A.D., Sun Quan led an attack against the undermanned fortress at Hefei (合肥) and appointed as Commander of the Right. Due to a devastating attack led by Zhang Liao on the day they arrived, the demoralised Wu forces retreated 10 days laters.[7] Sun Quan commanded the rearguard with Lü Meng, Jiang Qin, Gan Ning, Ling Tong and 1,000 elite troops, while he sent the rest of his forces on ahead.[8]

Zhang Liao attacked Sun Quan again, ambushing his forces just north of the Xiaoyao (逍遙) Crossing. Sun Quan tried to recall the rest of his forces, but they had already travelled too far and could not return in time. Ling Tong had with him 300 Companions[n 4], and he led them deep into the fray to free Sun Quan from the enemy encirclement. Ling Tong freed Sun Quan and escorted him to the crossing so that he could escape before returning to the melee.

Ling Tong fought against the Wei forces until all his forces were dead, and he himself had been wounded numerous times. Having killed dozens of enemies and presuming that Sun Quan had ample time to flee, Ling Tong fled. The bridge at the Xiaoyao Crossing had been destroyed by Zhang Liao, so Ling Tong cast off his armour and jumped into the river. Sun Quan had already boarded his boat by then and was shocked and delighted to see Ling Tong alive and had him brought aboard. Ling Tong was distraught that his entire command had been wiped out, Sun Quan leant down and wiped away his tears and said: "Tong, the dead cannot be brought back. But so long as their lord[n 5] survived, why worry about their sacrifice?"[n 6]

Ling Tong was severely wounded when he was brought aboard, so Sun Quan kept him aboard his boat and changed all his clothes. Thanks to the medicine of the Zhuo (卓) clan, Ling Tong managed to pull through.[9] He was promoted to Lieutenant-General and given 600 men to replace those lost.

Ling Tong thought that among the mountain people there were many strong and fierce men, and that Sun Quan should attempt to entice them to join Wu by impressing on them their prestige and kindness. Sun Quan issued an edict commanding all his cities to give Ling Tong whatever help he asked for. Ling Tong cherished the soldiers under his command, and the soldiers admired him for that. Ling Tong was thus able to use his reputation to recruit 10,000 fine soldiers.


Having successfully recruited many fresh troops, Ling Tong prepared to return to Sun Quan. However, he quickly fell ill and died. The exact date of Ling Tong's death is uncertain, his SGZ says he died when he was 49, but that would mean he died around 239 A.D., yet there is no information regarding him from 220 A.D. onward. The SGZ of Luo Tong has Ling Tong's death occurring prior to the Battle of Yiling in 221 A.D., as Ling Tong's troops are given to Luo Tong (Luo Tong also dies in 228 A.D.).[10]

When Sun Quan heard of Ling Tong's death, he was grief stricken and could not stop crying, and for several days he would eat little. Sun Quan had Zhang Cheng compose a eulogy for him.

Ling Tong's two sons were both very young, so Sun Quan had them brought to his palace and treated them like his own sons. Whenever guests would come to his palace, Sun Quan would point out Ling Tong's sons and say: "These are my tiger cubs." When they reached the age of 8 and 9, he had Ge Guang brought to educate them, and had them practising horse-riding. Because of Ling Tong's meritorious service, his elder son, Lie (烈), was ennobled as a Village Marquis and given Ling Tong's troops. However, Lie was guilty of some crime so he was relieved of rank and it, and the troops, were passed on to his brother.



  • Ling Cao


  • Ling Lie (淩烈) - Adopted by Sun Quan and ennobled as a Village Marquis, but lost his rank after committing some offence.
  • Ling Feng (淩封) - Adopted by Sun Quan, became a Village Marquis.


  1. The term used in the SGZ is mengchong (蒙衝).
  2. The term used is Gansi (敢死), volunteers for highly risky service. They wore armour of double thickness.
  3. The sword dance at a feast as a means of assassination occurs frequently, originating from the Hongmen Banquet
  4. Qinjin (親近) personal bodyguards of a commander.
  5. Ling Tong, not Sun Quan.
  6. I think the translation should actually be "So long as you live, you need not worry about having no men under your command." But this seemed a little callous as many of those lost would have been close to Ling Tong

Fact vs. Fiction[]



  1. SGZ: Biography of Gan Ning.
  2. de Crespigny. Generals of the South, Chapter 4
  3. SGZ: Biography of Dong Xi.
  4. de Crespigny. Chapter 65 in To Establish Peace Vol 2, Jian'an 13, section TT
  5. SGZ: Biography of Lü Meng.
  6. SGZ: Book of Wu quoted in Biography of Gan Ning.
  7. SGZ: Biography of Zhang Liao.
  8. SGZ: Biography of Gan Ning.
  9. SGZ: Book of Wu quoted in Biography of Ling Tong.
  10. SGZ: Biography of Luo Tong.


  • de Crespigny, Rafe. To Establish Peace. Vol. 2. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 1996. 2 vols.