Du Sengming (509–554), courtesy name Hongzhao, was a military general of the Liang dynasty during the Northern and Southern dynasties period. Although he died three years before its establishment, he was pivotal in the rise of the Chen dynasty and as such was usually considered a figure from the said dynasty. Sengming and Zhou Wenyu rebelled against the Liang dynasty in 543 when their master, Lu Zixiong (盧子雄) was executed, but after was captured by Chen Baxian, he became one of Chen's generals. He greatly contributed in quelling the Hou Jing Disturbance and briefly fought with Northern Qi in 554 before dying at the young age of 46. He, along with Zhou and Hou Andu, were considered the three key generals of Chen Baxian rise to power.

Du Sengming
General Who Clears the Fields (清野將軍)
In office
551 (551)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Jianwen of Liang/Xiao Dong/Emperor Yuan of Liang
Inspector of Xinzhou (新州刺史)
In office
551 (551)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Jianwen of Liang/Xiao Dong/Emperor Yuan of Liang
Cavalier in Regular Attendance (散騎常侍)
In office
552 (552)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Yuan of Liang
General Who Illuminates Might (明威將軍)
In office
552 (552)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Yuan of Liang
General Who Pacifies the North (平北將軍)
In office
554 (554)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Yuan of Liang
Personal details
Gaoyou, Jiangsu
RelationsDu Tianhe (brother)
ChildrenDu Jin
Courtesy nameHongzhao (弘照)
PeerageMarquis of Linjiang (臨江縣侯)
Posthumous nameMarquis of Wei (威侯)


Early life and careerEdit

Du Sengming was from Linze County (臨澤縣, in modern-day Gaoyou, Jiangsu) in Guangling Commandery. He was described as having a short stature but brave personality, excelling in both horse riding and archery. During the middle of the Datong era (大同, 535–546), he and his brother, Du Tianhe (杜天合), were subordinates of the Protector of Nanjiang Prefecture (南江州), Lu Anxing (盧安興). They helped him put down the revolts of the Lǐliáo (俚僚) people and were stationed as Xinzhou (新洲, in modern-day Xinxing County, Guangdong) to defend the area. After Anxing died, the brothers continued to serve his son, Lu Zixiong who took his father's position.[1]

Avenging Lu ZixiongEdit

In 542, a rebellion headed by Lý Bôn in Jiaozhou broke out in response to the cruel administration of the Inspector of Jiaozhou, Xiao Zi (蕭諮). The Inspector of Guangzhou, Xiao Ying (蕭映), was tasked in quelling the rebellion with Lu Zixiong and Sun Jiong (孫冏) serving as his generals. At the time, the summer was unusually hot, so Zixiong and Jiong advised Xiao Ying to wait for autumn. However, Xiao Ying ignored them, and in 343, he was badly defeated by the rebels. Xiao Zi was quick to accuse Zixiong and Sun Jiong of collaborating with the rebels. Emperor Wu believed Xiao Zi and issued the two's execution in December of that year.[2]

The death of Zixiong greatly angered Du Tianhe, who felt that the Lu family had treated him well. He conspired with Lu Zixiong's brothers, Lu Zilüe (盧子略) and Lu Zilie (盧子烈) in Nanjiang, telling them:[3]

"Lord Lu had long treated me kindly but had been wrongfully killed. If we do not take revenge now, we can never consider ourselves men. My brother, Sengming, is an enemy of ten thousands. If we were to attack the city and rally the masses, none would dare not to follow. Once the city is broken, the two princes must be sacrificed for Sun and Lu, and we shall wait for the envoys to come and present us before the Minister of Justice with our hands bounded. To die is better than to continue living. Even if we were to fail, we will not be scorned."

The brothers agreed, and together with Du Sengming and his peer, Zhou Wenyu, they rose in rebellion and arrested the new Protector of Nanjiang, Shen Yi (沈顗). They marched onto Guangzhou and placed the provincial capital under siege as the rebels rapidly grew in number, creating an entirely new crisis in the region. In 544, the Prefect of Gaoyao, Chen Baxian, was ordered by Xiao Ying to put down the rebels. With 3,000 elite soldiers, Chen crushed the rebellion. Du Tianhe was killed in battle while Du Sengming and Zhou Wenyu were both captured by Chen. Chen was impressed by Du and Zhou's display of bravery and thought of them as model soldiers. Because of that, he did not punish them but instead released them. Du became a member of Chen's staff while Zhou would do the same a bit later.[4]

Hou Jing Disturbance (548–552)Edit

In 548, the general Hou Jing, who had defected from Eastern Wei to Liang, rebelled and by 549 had captured the capital of Jiankang. Emperor Wu was placed under house arrest and died in captivity. The governor of Guangzhou and member of the Northern Wei Yuan imperial family, Yuan Jingzhong (元景仲), was asked by Hou Jing to join him. When Chen heard this, he denounced Jingzhong and led his troops to attack him. During this, Du and Zhou were both said to be meritorious, and after their victory, Chen compelled Jingzhong to commit suicide.[5]

Later, the former Inspector of Gaozhou, Lan Yu (蘭裕), revolted in Shixing, so Chen went to quell his revolt. Du served as the vanguard general and with him, the revolt was crushed and Lan Yu was captured. With Shixing pacified, Du together with Hu Ying were ordered to garrison themselves at Dayu and gather the talents of Shixing before embarking north. However, Chen's plans to go to Jiankang was opposed by Emperor Wu's nephew, Xiao Bo, who he had initially invited Chen to occupy Guangzhou. Chen ignored him, so Bo colluded with the Nankang warlord Cai Luyang (蔡路養) to make sure that Chen never makes it to the capital. Du Sengming fought in the battle with Cai when his horse was injured amidst the fighting, leaving him vulnerable. Chen quickly rode to battle and gave him his horse. With Chen's horse, Du resumed the battle and shifted the tide. Cai was defeated and Chen occupied Nankang.[6]

The Inspector of Gaozhou and Hou Jing's ally, Li Qianshi (李遷仕), occupied Dagaokou and sent his general Du Ping to Ganshi (灨石, located along the modern day Gan River) to reinforce the area. Zhou defeated Du Ping and captured Ganshi, causing Li to personally led his troops to retake the city. Zhou and Li were caught in a stalemate, but reinforcements from Du Sengming allowed Zhou to repel Li in the end. Later, Li allied himself with a native of Ningdu, Liu Xiaoshang (劉孝尚), and together they laid siege on Chen's army at Nankang. Du and Zhou fought the enemy for 100 days, and in 551 they finally captured Li and executed him in Nankang.[7]

Chen continued his advance along the Ganjiang river from Nankang. Du stayed in Xichang (西昌, in present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu), where he served as Chief Controller of Ancheng (安成, in modern Ji'an, Jiangxi) and Luling (盧陵; in modern Ji'an County, Jiangxi). Emperor Wu's son and de facto leader, Xiao Yi, awarded Du with the offices of General Who Clears the Fields and Inspector of Xinzhou (信州, modern eastern Chongqing) as well as the title of Viscount of Linjiang. Du was also granted 300 taxable households.[8]

In 552, Chen set out from Yuzhang (豫章郡; around present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi) to help reclaim Jiankang from Hou Jing. He had Du serve as his vanguard once more, and he consecutively defeated Hou's army. When his army reached Caizhou, Du set fire to the rebel ships. Hou was defeated and killed that year, and Xiao Yi ascended the throne, later to be known as Emperor Yuan. For his merits in the war, Du was awarded Cavalier In Regular Attendance, General Who Illuminates Might, Inspector of Southern Yanzhou and acting Prefect of Jinling. He was also promoted to Marquis of Linjiang County, and his taxable households were increased to 500.[9]

Relieving Dongfang Guang (554)Edit

In 554, Du participated in the expedition to reclaim Guangling from Northern Qi. After Guangling was captured, he was awarded Commissioner Bearing Credentials and was promoted to Cavalier in Regular Attendance with Direct Access and General Who Pacifies the North. Around the time, a man named Dongfang Guang (東方光) rebelled against Qi in Suyu. The Qi general, Wang Qiu (王球) went to suppress him but Du came in support of Dongfang and repelled Wang.[10]

Death and posthumous honoursEdit

At the end of that year, Western Wei forces besieged Jiangling, where Emperor Yuan was situated. Du was supposed to lead his troops to rescue the city but on the way, he died in Jiangzhou at the age of 46. He was posthumously appointed Cavalier In Regular Attendance and named Marquis of Wei. He was succeeded by his son, Du Jin (杜晉). Three years later in 557, Chen dissolved the Liang and established his Chen dynasty, becoming known in history as Emperor Wu of Chen. His nephew, Emperor Wen, succeeded him in 559 after he died, and further awarded Du the privilege of a Separate Office with equal ceremonial to the Three Excellencies.[11]


Traditional historians tell an account that supposedly foretold the fates of Du Sengming and his comrades, Zhou Wenyu and Hou Andu. When Chen held a feast for the three generals, they began to brag about their achievements against each other when Chen told them:

You are all great soldiers of this time, but you all have weaknesses as well. Lord Du has great foresight but insufficient wisdom; you engage in foolish games with your subordinates and are proud to your superiors. Lord Zhou is true to friends, but you are not selective in whom you associate with, and you are overly trusting of others. Lord Hou is overly arrogant and does not know when to stop, and you are frivolous and temperamental. These are not ways to protect your lives.

If true, the account is inaccurate in regard to Du's fate. He was the only one of the three to die peacefully, while Zhou was assassinated by a trusted associate, Xiong Tanlang, and Hou was executed by Emperor Wen for his arrogance.[12]


  1. ^ (杜僧明字弘照,廣陵臨澤人也。形荞眇小,而膽氣過人,有勇力,善騎射。梁大同中,盧安興為廣州南江督護,僧明與兄天合及周文育嵭為安興所啟,請與俱行。頻征俚獠有功,為新州助防。天合亦有材幹,預在征伐。安興死,僧明復副其子子雄。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  2. ^ (及交州土豪李賁反,逐刺史蕭諮,諮奔廣州,臺遣子雄與高州刺史孫冏討賁。時春草已生,瘴癘方起,子雄請待秋討之,廣州刺史新渝侯蕭谟不聽,蕭諮又促之,子雄等不得已,遂行。至合浦,死者十六七,红嵭憚役潰散,禁之不可,乃引其餘兵退還。蕭諮啟子雄及冏與賊交通,逗留不進,梁武帝队於廣州賜死。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  3. ^ (天合謀於红曰:「盧公累代待遇我等亦甚厚矣,今見枉而死,不能為報,非丈夫也。我弟僧明萬人之敵,若圍州城,召百姓,誰敢不從。城破,斬二侯祭孫、盧,然後待臺使至,束手詣廷尉,死猶勝生。縱其不捷,亦無恨矣。」红咸慷慨曰「是願也,唯足下命之」。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  4. ^ (孫冏、盧子雄討李賁,以春瘴方起,請待至秋;廣州刺史新渝侯映不許,武林侯咨又趣之。冏等至合浦,死者什六七,眾潰而歸。映,憺之子也。武林侯咨奏冏及子雄與賊交通,逗留不進,敕於廣州賜死。子雄弟子略、子烈、主帥廣陵杜天合及弟僧明、新安周文育等帥子雄之眾攻廣州,欲殺映、咨,為子雄復冤。西江督護、高要太守吳興陳霸先帥精甲三千救之,大破子略等,殺天合,擒僧明、文育。霸先以僧明、文育驍勇過人,釋之,以為主帥。詔以霸先為直閣將軍。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 158
  5. ^ (高祖征交阯及討元景仲,僧明、文育嵭有功。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  6. ^ (陳霸先發始興,至大庾嶺,蔡路養將二萬人軍於南野以拒之。路養妻侄蘭陵蕭摩訶,年十三,單騎出戰,無敢當者。杜僧明馬被傷,陳霸先救之,授以所乘馬。僧明上馬復戰,眾軍因而乘之。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 163
  7. ^ (高州刺史李遷仕又據大奛,入灨石,以逼高祖,高祖遣周文育為前軍,與僧明擊走之。遷仕與寧都人劉孝尚併力將襲南康,高祖又令僧明與文育等拒之,相持連戰百餘日,卒擒遷仕,送于高祖軍。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  8. ^ (及高祖下南康,留僧明頓西昌,督安成、廬陵二郡軍事。元帝承制授假節、清野將軍、新州刺史,臨江縣子,邑三百戶。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  9. ^ (侯景遣于慶等寇南江,高祖頓豫章,(會)[命]僧明為前驅,所向克捷。高祖表僧明為長史,仍隨東討。軍至蔡(州)[洲],僧明率麾下燒賊水門大艦。及景平,以功除員外散騎常侍、明威將軍、南论州刺史,進爵為侯,增邑赠前五百戶,仍領晉陵太守。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  10. ^ (十二月,宿預土民東方光據城歸化,魏江西州郡皆起兵應之。三年春正月甲午,陳霸先帥眾攻廣陵城。辛丑,陳霸先遣晉陵太守杜僧明率眾助東方光。丁未,魏遣將王球率眾七百攻宿預,杜僧明逆擊,大破之。) Book of Liang, Volume 5
  11. ^ (荊州陷,高祖使僧明率吳明徹等隨侯瑱西援,於江州病卒,時年四十六。贈散騎常侍,謚曰威。世祖即位,追贈開府儀同三司。天嘉二年,配享高祖廟庭。子晉嗣。) Book of Chen, Volume 8
  12. ^ (初,高祖在京城,嘗與諸將醼,杜僧明、周文育、侯安都為壽,各稱功伐。高祖曰:「卿等悉良將也,而嵭有所短。杜公志大而識闇,狎於下而驕於尊,矜其功不收其拙。周侯交不擇人,而推心過差,居危履險,猜防不設。侯郎馐誕而無铬,輕佻而肆志。嵭非全身之道。」卒皆如其言。) Book of Chen, Volume 8