Sun file photo [1012]

Sun Li-jen

Given NameLi-jen
Born8 Dec 1900
Died19 Nov 1990


ww2dbaseSun Li-jen (Pinyin romanization: Sun Liren; Wade-Giles romanization: Sun Li-jen) was a general of Chiang Kaishek's Nationalist Army. He was born in Jinnu Town, Lujiang County, Anhui Province, with ancestry in the Shucheng County. He was a civil engineering student at Qinghua University who later transferred to Purdue University in the United States. After graduating in 1925, Sun Yatsen recommended the already militarily-inspired Sun a career in the military to better serve his home country, and thus Sun enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute. It is interesting to note that Sun lied about his age, making him four years younger on his papers so that he would come under the maximum age for enrollment. He would graduate in 1927 and return to China to serve under Chiang Kaishek.

ww2dbaseSun's experience in VMI was not a pleasant one. He recalled a chapter of his VMI student life:

"One day, a few seniors gave me a pile of dirty uniforms and a note saying 'Laundry-man, wash and iron these'. I felt humiliated, not because of what they do to me personally, but the note was an insult to all Chinese or the Chinese People. At that time, Chinese immigrants either open laundries or restaurants. The note implies that we are incapable of doing anything else. I tolerate it in order to learn military sciences to bring us out of the pit. The note left a deep scar in my soul."

ww2dbaseUpon returning to China, Sun was commissioned a general in the Nationalist Army. He served in the Northern Expedition against Chinese warlords when these warlords divided and ruled most of China proper. During the prologue to WW2 in China, he led troops against the Japanese in Shanghai, and was wounded seriously. After he recovered, he led a number of successful campaigns against the Japanese with his newly formed 38th Division. He was known as a general who consistently achieved victories, defeating Japanese units of equal size at a time when it took many Chinese casualties to cause one among the Japanese. One of Sun's proudest achievements took place 17-18 Apr 1942 at the Yenangyaung Rescue Mission when he led the 113th Regiment to Burma. His 1,300 strong force killed nearly 1,000 and captured 500 Japanese, rescuing two beseiged British brigades from destruction. During this mission, he also commanded a small group from the British Second Royal Tanks, the Essex Yeomentry, and remnants of Yorkshires, making him the first time a Chinese officer to command British troops. For his gallantry at Yenangyaung, King George VI honored Sun with the Commander of the British Empire (Order of the British Empire) medal.

ww2dbaseAfter WW2, when Mao's Communist Army took control of mainland China, Sun escaped to Taiwan with Chiang's government, and remained in the military in various roles, including the Chief of Staff of Armed Forces.

ww2dbaseDuring the late 1940s, the United States lost faith in Chiang's leadership and alledgedly approached Sun to overthrow Chiang. Sun, who lacked personal ambition, was said to have declined the American offer. In 1955, Chiang learned of this rumor and placed Sun under house arrest. He remained under arrest until 20 Mar 1988, shortly after President Chiang Chingkuo's death.

ww2dbaseSun passed away in Taiwan in 1990. Ten years later, the Control Yuan of the Republic of China posthumously cleared him of all charges.

Nathan Prefer, Vinegar Joe's War

Last Major Revision: Oct 2005

Sun Li-jen Interactive Map


Portrait of Sun Li-jen, mid-1920s; note Virginia Military Institute lapel decorationChinese Army General Sun Li-jen in winter gear, circa 1930sPortrait of Sun Li-jen, circa 1940sSun Li-jen and his concubine Zhang Meiying, China, 5 Jun 1940
See all 35 photographs of Sun Li-jen

Sun Li-jen Timeline

19 Nov 1899 Liren Sun was born.
17 Jul 1942 Chinese 38th Division under Sun Liren arrived at Ramgarh Training Center, India.
5 Oct 1943 Joseph Stilwell ordered Sun Liren to launch an offensive in northern Burma, but Sun hesitated.
12 Jun 1945 Sun Liren inspected Canadian troops and captured German weapons at General Harry Crerar's headquarters in the Netherlands.
19 Nov 1990 Liren Sun passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. todd cleave says:
9 Oct 2005 04:23:20 PM

This man much admired, trusted by Stilwell, Dorn.
2. Anonymous says:
30 Nov 2005 10:13:10 PM

He served in the Northern Expedition against Chinese warlords when these warlords divided and ruled most of China proper.

Sun did not return to China till 1928, i.e., after the northern campaign. Sun was always outside of Whampoa cadet lineage after a short stay in Central Academy. He trained troops under finance ministry twice, first time for deployment in Shanghai battles in 1937 and the second time in Burma campaigns in 1942-44. His only fault was not from Whampoa. He was also too strict, at one time disarming all KMT troops which retreated to Taiwan from mainland. Chiang tolerated Sun for sake of obtaining American aid. After Korean war, Chiang did not need a reson for US to send aid to Taiwan, and hence Sun Lirens downfall from power.
3. Anonymous says:
30 Nov 2005 10:16:20 PM

Dont you mention Stilwell. His diaries are all craps like CHOW, MOVIEW ... Sun Liren and Chinese knew nothing about Stilwell who never ever fired a shot in WWI. Dorn was a crony who wrote a memoirs recalling that STilwell had at one time ordered Dorn to carry out an assaissination of Chiang Kai-shek in 1942-43. Now you know what the craps Stilwell and Dorn were.
4. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
14 Jan 2008 03:26:53 AM

"For his gallantry at Yenangyaung, King George VI honored Sun with the Commander of the British Empire (Order of the British Empire) medal." Actually what really happened was that Sun wanted to place his 38th Division under Slim's command, but Winterton convinced Alexander to place the Chinese under Stilwell. To save Suns face Alexander took the decision to give Sun a medal, and with a pair of scissors cut off his own CBE to present to the Chinese General. A gesture that would later earn Alex. a stiff rebuke from Buckingham Palace.
5. Anonymous says:
19 Oct 2011 07:45:20 PM

A true warlord i.e. hero of his day
6. says:
26 Nov 2011 09:37:16 AM

7. Ben (吴静远) says:
21 Jun 2012 07:21:04 AM

8. Michael Cha says:
22 Nov 2013 01:25:37 PM

He was truly a gifted general. My father received ROC Army Reserve Officer Training under General Sun. He tells me that he learned not to be affraid of the enemy. Make sure enemy are in your site and range, then fire your weapons to do maximum damage to the enemy. These very words were used by front line troops in Jinmin and Matsu. Lead to victorious famed "Aug 23" battle. Repelled Chinese Communist's "Blood Washing Taiwan" Campaign. Another famous general died in Aug 23 Battle was Ji Xin Wen , hero at Marco Polo Bridge Incudent in Beiping.
9. Anonymous says:
1 Nov 2014 09:34:29 PM

Sun Liren is the Yue Fei of the 20th Century -- he is living proof that people like Yue Fei really existed in China.
10. Anonymous says:
1 Nov 2014 09:49:47 PM

this article is a joke. it is an insult to the general and left out a whole lot of details. Sun Liren decimated more than 10k japanese in that battle to open the Burma Road, and rescued 7500 british soldiers, with only 800 chinese troops. he used small units (platoons) against small units (platoons) of japanese army (shows their disdain for chinese army capability) and scored victories after victories until eventually he pushed the japnese back. he also used subterfuge to masquerade the real numbers of chinese soldiers he had.

Check out links on this thread:
11. CA Assmblymember Kansen Chu says:
12 Mar 2015 06:09:21 PM

I am so proud to say he is my Grand Uncle (my Mom's uncle). We love him and respect him dearly.
12. Richard Han says:
17 Apr 2017 02:00:31 PM

It seems we are related, then, Kansen Chu. He is also my great (great?) uncle. That's pretty neat
13. Jane says:
21 Jul 2019 09:27:10 AM

Yes, this article is filled with so much error data, that twists the facts. It insulted to out great general!
Yes, Sun Lin-Jen decimated more than 10K Japanese in that battle to open the Burma road, and rescue 7500 British soldiers with only 800 his Chinese troop....
The people work on writing any history stories and the data for this website need better education to study and do research harder to ensure all information/data correctly before publish to earn your credits ....
14. Michael Xie says:
16 Mar 2023 08:16:21 PM

A great hero

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More on Sun Li-jen
Event(s) Participated:
» First Battle of Shanghai
» Invasion of Burma
» Battle of Myitkyina

Sun Li-jen Photo Gallery
Portrait of Sun Li-jen, mid-1920s; note Virginia Military Institute lapel decoration
See all 35 photographs of Sun Li-jen

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