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Liu Bang vs. Xiang Yu

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bhchao

Everyone knows about the struggle between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu for control of China after the fall of the Qin dynasty. But who do you sympathize more with?

Liu Bang had political vision, and knew how to attract, retain, and reward talent. Many people from Xiang Yu's camp went over to Liu Bang's due to this reason. Xiang Yu only rewarded favorites of his.

On the other hand, if you compare the two men personality-wise, Liu Bang was a small man while Xiang Yu was often portrayed as the honorable, magnanimous (even romantic), and courageous leader. On the negative side, Xiang Yu was arrogant. He had no political vision, and often ignored the advice of his chief councillor 範增 .

For example during 鴻門宴 (Hongmen banquet), 範增 wanted Xiang Yu to do away with Liu Bang by using a sworddance. Xiang Yu took no action despite his chief councillor's urges. Liu Bang came out of the party alive instead. If you switch roles, with Liu being the host and Xiang Yu being the target of the sworddance, most likely Liu Bang would waste no time in ensuring Xiang Yu's death. Xiang Yu's inaction at the banquet showed that he was magnanimous and stupid at the same time!

There were some amusing stories about what Liu Bang did. I'm not sure whether this story is true, but he supposedly kicked his two children off a cart so he can escape. According to what Sima Qian wrote, he grabbed the hat of a Confucian scholar and urinated into it.

To top it off, Liu Bang had political vision, an eye for talent, was a big womanizer, and was cunning and very trickery. Xiang Yu had courage, was devoted to his concubine Yuji, and was the honorable type. Turned out that the weaker man defeated the stronger man at the end.

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Outofin
Everyone knows about the struggle between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu for control of China after the fall of the Qin dynasty. But who do you sympathize more with?

You already have your answer in it, don’t you? :)

Two different persons, two different paths. But I think, they both chose their paths and got what they wanted. Liu Bang wanted the land under heaven, he got it. Xiang Yu wanted to destroy Qin, had a true love, be an honorable man, and he did.

I like Xiang Yu. But if you think about the question, what kind of dynasty would Xiang Yu build? Liu Bang might be a better option for the history.

Reading history often make people feel thrilling and terrified. But Xiang Yu’s life could make people shed their tears.

At the last, Xiang Yu’s army was destroyed. He fought his way to the riverside of Wu. There was a boat waiting for him. The boatman said, “Get on. The other side of the river is your home country. You could start over.” Xiang Yu said, “I left my home with eight thousands men. They all died. I can’t face their parents. I’ll stay here, but take my horse. It has been my side for many years and I don’t want it die with me.”

The army of Han chased him. He killed another several hundreds of men but he knew his time was coming. He saw a man in the enemies’ army, Lv Matong, who was his general but had betrayed him. He asked, “Aren't you my old friend?” How shameful! Lv couldn’t answer him. Xiang Yu said, “Liu Bang rewards a thousand pieces of gold for getting my head. Take it and it’s my last gift to you.” :cry:

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bhchao

There's no right or wrong answer to this :)

I also like Xiang Yu, even though Liu Bang had the leadership qualities essential for running a country or dynasty.

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skylee

Isn't Sima Qian Great -> 項羽本紀

And this is Sima's comment ->

"自矜功伐,奮其私智而不師古。謂霸王之業,欲以力征經營天下。五年卒亡其國,身死東城,尚不覺寤,而不自責,過矣。乃引『天亡我,非用兵之罪也』,豈不謬哉!"

BTW, it is 范增 ...

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wushijiao
Turned out that the weaker man defeated the stronger man at the end.

Right now I'm reading the book 中国十二帝. According to the book, the biggest reason Liu Bang was able to beat Yu Xiang is that Liu was much better at listening to his generals and subordinates. A group of great minds is better than just one in war.

It seems that in Chinese history, the biggest mistake an emporer can make is to not listen to subordinates or only listen to just one. So, one might doubt if Yu Xiang's empire would have lasted very long.

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peeyuwu

July 7, 2005

Dear Friends:

Well it seems that as a person the consensus is that most of us admire the 英 雄 氣蓋 of Xiang Yu. Even the famous Song poet 李清照 whose epitaph for Xiang Yu in the title shows that she also admired his melancholy spirit of 無 面 見 江 東 父 老 . I have not come across any works even half as complimentary about Liu Bang, although in the end he probably was a better ruler than Xiang Yu (even with his antics of pissing into scholars hats).

The famous remark which Xiang Yu uttered prior to his pending defeat, "非 戰 之 罪 , 實 天 亡 我 !", reveals the most important character flaw of this tragic historical personality.

P5

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Outofin
And this is Sima's comment ->

"自矜功伐,奮其私智而不師古。謂霸王之業,欲以力征經營天下。五年卒亡其國,身死東城,尚不覺寤,而不自責,過矣。乃引『天亡我,非用兵之罪也』,豈不謬哉!"

I think that's a fair comment. But I feel Sima Qian portrayed Xiang Yu as a hero' date=' with some passion in it. I remember in my middle school, the teacher said 本纪 is only for emperors but Xiang Yu was never an emperor.

Right now I'm reading the book 中国十二帝.

Your Chinese is so good. I'm, very shamefully, lack of patience to read a serious history book.

Xiang Yu's death was one of the most tragic things, which could be well said in Chinese by 美人迟暮,英雄末路。

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studentyoung
On the negative side, Xiang Yu was arrogant. He had no political vision, and often ignored the advice of his chief councillor 範增

Hmm? 范增? 范亚父?I think I sympathize this guy. He was as smart as Zhang Liang who was his counterpart in Liu Bang’s army. Fan’s tragedy was that he had no choice though he understood quite well that Xiang Yu was a mediocrity. Just after Hongmen banquet, Fan just accurately predicted the end. What’s more, he was suspected by Xiang Yu, so he finally left Xiang Yu and died of carbuncle on his back on his way back home. Poor guy!

公式:怀才不遇 + 忠而见疑 + 郁郁而终 = 中国典型智士悲剧

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skylee
I think that's a fair comment. But I feel Sima Qian portrayed Xiang Yu as a hero, with some passion in it.

I agree. Sometimes I think this is actually a problem with 史記 ... it is so good that it is more than just history ...

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bhchao

skylee, "範增" are the traditional characters for Xiang Yu's chief councillor. :wink:

He was as smart as Zhang Liang who was his counterpart in Liu Bang’s army. Fan’s tragedy was that he had no choice though he understood quite well that Xiang Yu was a mediocrity. Just after Hongmen banquet, Fan just accurately predicted the end. What’s more, he was suspected by Xiang Yu, so he finally left Xiang Yu and died of carbuncle on his back on his way back home. Poor guy!

I agree. 範增 was smart, though I think Zhang Liang had the edge in military thinking. Too bad Xiang Yu didn't listen to him. If Xiang Yu did, Liu Bang would be dead long ago and there will not be a Confucius on this forum!

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skylee
skylee, "範增" are the traditional characters for Xiang Yu's chief councillor.

No, I don't think so. It should be 范, not 範.

But I think when simplified characters like "范增" and "咸阳" are converted to traditional characters by the computer, they could become "增" and "陽" ...

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Outofin
公式:怀才不遇 + 忠而见疑 + 郁郁而终 = 中国典型智士悲剧

There is another example which happened about 300 years earlier than 范增, the old mad man 伍子胥.

That’s another story so I’ll start a new thread. 吴越争霸

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bhchao

Although it seems a majority of us like Xiang Yu, he did burn all the remaining pre-Qin books that Qin Shi Huang chose to spare. This second burning of the books probably did more damage than what the First Emperor did.

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