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The genius of Zhuge Liang


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I thought Cao Cao was already portrayed as a bad guy by the time of the Ming dynasty (although I could be wrong).

...

One of the reasons why Cao Cao was portrayed as a bad guy is because he was perceived as an usurper' date=' having toppled the Eastern Han dynasty. But the dynasty was already defunct by then.[/quote']

Wasn't it a political reality that anyone who attempted to usurp Han’s throne would be damned by people “under heaven”? Cao Cao himself dared not to declare his new empire. He could only set up a foundation for his son to be an emperor. Some not-smart officials proposed to abandon Han, and they were immediately killed by Cao Cao. By that, Cao Cao pretended loyalty to Han dynasty. The loyalty was like “political correctness” nowadays.

I think it might because, given Han was the second dynasty in history following Qin that was not supported by most people, at that time people believed the royal Liu family was designated by the heaven. But after Han, people learned from history that everyone could overthrow an old dynasty and build his own, if he was strong enough.

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Actually according to Cao Cao himself, there would be many non-Liu Emperors if he had not presided in the Han Court.

Technically Cao lengthened the duration of Han Dynasty.

In modern day political jargon, Cao should be credited for restoring political and economic stability in the Northern China region.

And there are many events that are related to Cao Cao which are worth praised:

(1) Cao Cao emerged in the way as an underdog without an aristocratic background. When he engaged in the make-it or break-it war with the Warlord Yuan, many of Cao's retainers secretly corresponded with Yuan to beg for clemency if Cao suffered a semmingly certain defeat. But when Cao won a surprising war, most of Cao's retainers dreaded to death. But what did Cao do? After Cao searched Yuan's camp and raided all those letters, he didn't open them but burned them all. Cao sighed: "When the war was at its difficult moment, even I wanted to correspond with Yuan to beg for clemency. Why should I blame those whom really had?"

Judged by this incident, Cao was so broad-minded that hardly any politicians in the subsequent generations could.

(2) Even in the turbulent time, Cao Cao remembered to pay ransom and got back the consort Wen from the XiongNu tribes.

(3) Cao Cao had many famous stories. The proverb "Looking at plum to quench one's thirst" shows that Cao had wit.

On the other hand, what is Liu Bei?

A very-very-very distant relative of the royal family who had degraded as a jobless wanderer even at the "old" age of 28 when the book first mentioned him. He was lousy in martial art, knew nothing about military skill, nor any talent in literature. The only talent Liu knew was "crying".

Claiming that he was a part of the royal family, somehow he stole the Sichuan region from his distant Liu cousin. And even though the book is ambivalent, I bet his young Liu nephew who was leigitmate heir to Hubei was poisoned by him too.

Liu is just another Song Jiang -- faked kindness and faked righteousness!

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On the other hand' date=' what is Liu Bei?

A very-very-very distant relative of the royal family who had degraded as a jobless wanderer even at the "old" age of 28 when the book first mentioned him. He was lousy in martial art, knew nothing about military skill, nor any talent in literature. The only talent Liu knew was "crying".

Claiming that he was a part of the royal family, somehow he stole the Sichuan region from his distant Liu cousin. And even though the book is ambivalent, I bet his young Liu nephew who was leigitmate heir to Hubei was poisoned by him too.

Liu is just another Song Jiang -- faked kindness and faked righteousness![/quote']

I agree with you. I’m not a fan of Liu Bei neither. But I’d like to say he did have a strong point, which made him successful: leadership.

The kingdom of Shu, shouldn’t have existed at all.

His subordinates did wonderful jobs and those victories should give credits to their leader, Liu Bei. There were many who had more lands and troops, who were smarter, stronger, more treacherous, and more charismatic than Liu Bei. But he turned out to be a king. There must be some reasons.

At his lowest point, he was a warlord with no land. At the same time, Cao Cao had defeated Yuan Shao and had great advantages over all other warlords. Cao Cao saw Liu Bei as the biggest threat and sent out an army to chase him. Since then, Liu Bei’s troop made a series of stunning military successes, used diplomatic means to change Wu’s policy, allied with Wu, thwart Cao Cao’s unprecedented assault at Red Cliff (the credit belonged to Zhou Yu) and finally took the land of Shu. That was so unbelievable.

Once again, these come from ROTK (Romance of Three Kingdoms), which was a mix of history and tales. But I think the major events shouldn’t be false.

=============

Add a side note, Shu's generals appeared to be the strongest in general. I use "appeared" because Wei's generals didn't get so many opportunities to fight desperately and show their muscles and martial arts. :D

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I find Liu Bei the most boring character in the Three Kingdoms history. There is something intriguing about Cao Cao's character; enigmatic, strategically brilliant, and cunning.

Liu Bei once defected from Cao Cao to Yuan Shao. The smart move would have been to stay on Cao Cao's side rather than establish his own separate kingdom because in the end, which one of the Three Kingdoms prevailed over all the rest? It is a little silly for Luo Guanzhong to portray Liu Bei in a very positive light when in fact, Liu was only a very distant relative to the Han family.

If Zhuge Liang offered his service to Wei, that would have been a formidable combination. Against Zhuge Liang's advice, Liu Bei launched an invasion of Wu in revenge when Wu killed Guan Yu. Liu Bei ended up being defeated.

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Since then, Liu Bei’s troop made a series of stunning military successes, used diplomatic means to change Wu’s policy, allied with Wu, thwart Cao Cao’s unprecedented assault at Red Cliff (the credit belonged to Zhou Yu)

Wasn't Zhuge Liang the mastermind of the 赤壁之戰 victory? He had a subordinate infiltrate the Wei camp disguised as a military adviser to Cao Cao. This subordinate suggested to Cao Cao that he chain all his ships together during the battle. Surprisingly Cao Cao took this advice and did just that. At that time Cao Cao was not an expert in naval warfare, and was primarily skilled in infantry and cavalry. He had all his infantrymen and cavalrymen converted into a naval personnel despite their lack of experience on the water.

Zhuge Liang had counted on a wind to blow towards the northwestern direction, from the southeast to the northwest. Cao Cao's fleet was stationed in the northwest while the combined Shu and Wu fleets were stationed in the southeast.

Just as Zhuge Liang predicted, the wind blew towards the northwest direction, causing Cao Cao's fleet to sail against the wind while advancing on the Shu-Wu fleets. As a result, all the arrows launched by Wei towards Shu-Wu fell into disarray due to the wind disadvantage. The Wei navy panicked and began to retreat, but the chaining of the boats prevented a hasty retreat. Shu-Wu took this opportunity and fired a barrage of flaming arrows at the Wei boats, with the wind advantage aiding the speed and accuracy of their arrows.

As we all know, Cao Cao lost that battle despite outnumbering the Wu and Shu navies. So even if you have numerical superiority, if you don't know yourself (in Cao Cao's case, not knowing how to fight a naval battle) and don't know your enemy, guaranteed you will lose.

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  • 1 month later...
Wasn't Zhuge Liang the mastermind of the 赤壁之戰 victory?

Sorry I just missed the interesting post. I didn't find other things I could talk about but came across this when I dig the forum.

I think ROTK exaggerated the role of Zhuge in the battle. Zhou Yu was the chief commander and he planned as a whole. Zhuge, as the most, worked as a strategist. He didn't command the army. Pang Tong did equally important job as Zhuge in this scheme, which downgraded Zhuge's role even further.

The grace and talent of Zhou Yu is best described in Su Shi's 赤壁怀古

念奴娇 赤壁怀古

大江东去,浪淘尽,千古风流人物。

故垒西边,人道是,三国周郎赤壁。

乱石崩云,惊涛裂岸,卷起千堆雪;

江山如画,一时多少豪杰。

遥想公瑾当年,小乔初嫁了,

雄姿英发,羽扇纶巾,谈笑间,强虏灰飞烟灭。

故国神游,多情应笑我,早生华发。

人生如梦,一尊还酹江月。

You see, you got a chance to make the whole world as your own stage, you did one thing in your life, put all your engergy in it. Thousands of years later, people will still admire you. What a remarkable person he was!

And regarding Cao Cao, I find it amusing to see his failure here. He was a great man, and, all right, he could affort the loss. So, let's kick his ass. People will remember for his poem 短歌行, which was written right before the battle. Cao Cao, he felt the world was right in his hands and he was going to take it! Suddenly, he ended up in muddy 华容道. Oh, poor Cao Cao. :lol:

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Most of the great stuff about ZL in the novel is fake. Well it was real but it was not him.

 

The empty city ruse did occur but it did not involve him. The borrowing arrows scheme was from a general of Wu who was defending against an attack from Wei.  Probably Zhu Ran but i forget.  They fired so many arrows at his ships they were going to topple so he had to turn around and the arrows fired on the other side rebalanced it.

 

While i dislike Liu Bei you cannot dismiss his skill as a leader.  He had nothing.  If his imperial connections were fake then he is even better imo. There were plenty of Liu's still around.  How many of them could go around the warlords and get help from them?  He went from one to the other and they all respected him.  No one else was capable of that.  He had nothing as everyone else was building up and somehow right under their noses he forms the third kingdom.  That was no easy feat given that Cao Cao had 2/3 of the empire already and the remainder was split between Liu Bei and Wu.

 

After the loss of Jing, Liu Bei's campaign against Wu was disastrous. He left everything to ZL.  ZL was able to maintain the state without it imploding - without him that regime would not have survived for long.  Liu Bei and his 2 brothers had died in quick succession.  Zhao Yun was fast aging and just a glorified bodyguard.  Wei Yan was the last big name general left.  And yet somehow ZL was able to come out of Hanzhong and conquer a huge swathe of Wei before they could react.  The Wei court was in panic, if it was not for ZL's mistake of appointing Ma Su and his defeat, taking Changan would have been a decisive turning point.

 

Of course he failed and had to retreat but aside from that he was able to come and go as he pleased, they didn't even dare engage him.  Apart from the first time he always retreated intact.  That this one man made a one province state a credible threat to Wei says volumes.  By contrast, when Wei attacked, they got owned.

 

To me, the magical stuff is an injustice to him. He was enormously skilled in managing the state.  He was probably one of the best when it came to organizing the army but his downfall was that Wei had men to at least match him in every aspect.  As a conqueror he was not the best, he wouldn't take risks but that is understandable because one defeat would end the state but at the same time even people like Cao Cao had to take great risks and he did suffer some huge defeats.  But by doing so he also gained some great victories.

 

The historian said it best when he said that while he was alive the people did not notice how great he was but once he passed the difference he had made was clear to them.  It is no small feat to make the people of Sichuan love you when you are foreign invaders and forcing them to fight wars you don't give a crap about.

 

He did take 2 prefectures from Wei and permanently kept them. Doesn't sound like much but once the stalemate was set up, that was probably one of the biggest transfers of territory.

 

If you compare him to his successors, once he passed, what slim chance they had evaporated.  Jiang Wan and Fei Yi were sufficient to defend and the latter was actually a skilled general too as he calmly owned Wei when they invaded.  But once they and the last guy that ZL left died, the Emperor appointed his own men and that was disastrous.  It was not hard to maintain their independence given the natural barriers but the emperor and his mismanaged commander were attrocious and handed their kingdom over as much as the opponent was skilled.

 

The thing i think ZL is remembered for is his single minded devotion and hard work.  He literally worked himself to death to fulfil the dream of his lord.  The memorial he presented to the Emperor prior to his campaign against Wei is probably one of the most moving.  I think even if we disagree with what he was doing or didn't particularly like him, he deserves respect for that spirit.

 

Similarly i highly admire Sima Yi's restraint and patience before he seized the reins of power even if it was a disloyal action.

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