Jiang Wei, the killer of a kingdom?

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Re: Jiang Wei, the killer of a kingdom?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:10 pm

Kongde wrote:All that being said, I think Jiang Wei wasn't that bad of a commander. He had his moments I heavily disagreed with him on, but overall, he was intelligent and well thought out. However, he constantly got the short of the end stick. Similarly to how Zhuge Liang was able to rout Sima Yi and his sons in a fire ambush, but rain alone saved them (pure bad luck), Jiang Wei consistently was on verge of victories, but had it snatched away by various unlucky means out of his control. Twice he was recalled back to the kingdom whilst winning (if you're going off SGYY), and the same had happened to Kongming previously. You'd think the Second Emperor would have learned! But he fell for it every time. Alas, I don't blame Jiang Wei for the fall of Shu, but I blame Liu Shan and his total incompetency.

and many other things on Jiang Wei and Liu Shan, worth reading


Good post, mine will be trying to get balance between novel and history here but just to make clear my original post was about history Jiang Wei.

I'm warmer towards the novel Jiang Wei then I am the history one, he is a well written if perhaps overpowered figure, he makes a good tragic last hero. Talented but flawed, novel keeps the too many camapigns but changes motive, swaps some flaws (though intresting novel felt the mother issue had to be addressed) for a touch of arrogance and temper, very able but falls just that bit short with a almost admirable flaw.

When we talk about Liu Shan not being a total incompetent, that is referencing the historical one whose reputation was decent in his time though he rightly takes a considerable share of blame for the ending. The novel one is so incompetent, he is to blame for extinction of dodo's and led to a really bad reputation. The SGYY is propaganda but it is also nuanced, even the heroes like Liu Bei (brainless once Xu Shu turns up, loses his way near end), Guan Yu (arrogance is amped up), Jiang Wei have major flaws which really does help it be a great novel. Some figures are ability hit to allow others like Zhuge Liang to shine but sure, the only early figure to be really character attacked that is a major Shu figure is Wei Yan. Who perhaps nowadays benefits from the heavy handed approach the novel takes

With the fall of Shu, the novel has to explain why Shu failed, why it didn't have the mandate and human failings make a better read then "well they didn't have the resources really" (also the way Chinese history/culture worked, fall is heaven way of punishing human failings to the point there were known tropes so would be expected in the novel for Shu to morally decline). So latter Shu figures need to take the fall. Jiang Wei? He gets some blame in novel and is a flawed hero but he is meant to be a last hero so some shielding was required. Huang Hao? Yep, evil eunuch trope works well (as does in the history records). Qiao Zhou? Soothsayer, loyal adviser, historian, opposed Jiang Wei and Huang Hao? Surrender monkey. Chen Zhi should be in but short life means novel overlooks him. Yan Yu? Respected officer, commander of the south who the court wanted to replace the unpopular Jiang Wei, turns into corrupt creature of Huang Hao of no talented. The novel happy to use Huang Hao but also drag the names of others into mud so Jiang Wei can be hero. However an officer isn't enough for a kingdom to be worthy of conquest, the ruler has to pay.

Liu Shan was significantly responsible for Shu's fall, not surprising the novel builds on that and uses him for moral failure of state. It exaggerates flaws (the extent of his leisure is bigger and comes in earlier though it was a problem in history), it removes his good points, it exaggerated his stupidity (though he was not very bright historically to put it kindly), makes him a coward, changes circumstances he made decisions like the surrender so it comes across a lot worse, makes things up things he never did.

You mention the recalls, it is a decent example. Historically Liu Shan never recalled a commander from the field. Ever. Those Zhuge Liang camapigns where Liu Shan recalled him? They didn't even exist as camapigns, they were invented so 1) Zhuge Liang looked good as he became so close to victory (in a way the real 5 couldn't be) if not for that pesky Emperor, 2) Liu Shan looked horrible, he already looks corrupt and inept, he stops Shu winning. It went against one the fundamental traits of his historical rule, that he trusted his chief officers to point where it was a problem

As a novel, it also works well. It also makes for better drama, the contrast between the moralistic father and the corrupt son, sending the message about how surrenders are bad, that the Han once more is undone by bad emperor and that the pattern that saw Han rise then fall has repeated itself with it's successor. The surrender and Liu Shan's role in Shu's fall is memorable in the novel, the novel provides great power and anger in people's reactions, Liu Shan became a hated and mocked figure culturally in a way that the historians had not done (or people of his own time) with the real Liu Shan.

I agree with you on the novel Jiang Wei to an extent. He faced a very difficult situation, undermined at home, facing strong opponents abroad but I don't think the novel hides that Jiang Wei pushed too much on campaigning, that his zeal and loyalty sort of blinded him and he kept going, exhausting his army. I really don't think the novel Jiang Wei needed to camapign as much as he did as even his generals raised concerns about it
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