Zhuge Liang deserves better treatment

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Zhuge Liang deserves better treatment

Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun Sep 08, 2002 6:21 am

Luo Guan Zhong sought to heroize Liu Bei's enterprise in the novel SGYY, and he meant to establish Zhuge Liang as the greatest man in that period of history. It is evident that LGZ spent more effort writing the ZGL stories than the other ones. He also took two of the other most brilliant strategists -- Sima Yi and Zhou Yu, and made them foils to ZGL. In that, he is continuing a folk tradition that deifies the Shu prime minister.

However, his treatment of ZGL in the novel leaves a lot to be desired (Ok, I know Han Xin is probably lurking around the corner with a handful of stones). Specifically, ZGL emerges as a fortune-teller and somewhat an opportunist in the novel. Here are some instances of this unfortunate figure:

(1) The borrowing of the East Wind: While it is mentioned that he predicted the fog in the episode of the arrows, the East Wind chapter left it unclear whether ZGL predicted the wind, or the wind really came at his bidding.
(2) Phrenology: At the first sight of Wei Yan, ZGL ordered him beheaded because from the shape of Wei Yan's skull, ZGL could see that he was to become a traitor. What happened to the cautious, scientific ZGL that LGZ would have us believe in?
(3) Advice to Liu Bei: When Liu Bei and Pang Tong headed west, ZGL sent them a message advising against an attack, as the stars told him that it would be disadvantageous. The prediction was borne out.
(4) The spirit of General Ma: During the campaign in the south, ZGL was blocked by poisonous springs in the path. He prayed at General Ma's temple and was directed to see Meng Huo's brother, who solved the problem for him.
(5) Astrology: ZGL foresaw his death by the dimming of "his" star, and did some ritual to revive the star. It was actually working -- until Wei Yan stepped on his little lamps.

When I first read the novel and was a Shu-fanatic, I objected to these fortune-teller images of my favourite hero. Even now, I still want to see a hero in ZGL, but it seems that his characterization is marred by these unnecessarily details (well I see them as unnecessarily).

Ok, that's a little protest against LGZ, but can someone convince me that he had good reasons for putting those stories in? Or are there other explanations for all the superstitious-y things that ZGL did?
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Unread postby Zhou Gongjin » Sun Sep 08, 2002 6:46 am

It was all meant as a cover-up. People tended to over glorify the Han and its ministers.
I for one think there is a lot more behind Zhuge Liang than LGZ would like us to think. But then, I'm getting ahead of myself.
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Unread postby Dennis » Sun Sep 08, 2002 3:18 pm

I never thought I would here the day where someone said LGZ did Kongming a diservice, but it makes a lot of sense.

Still though, I don't think most people tend to look at those things as luck and superstition based on ZGL, but perhaps sense of pre-cognitive powers he may or may not have had, which I think glorifies him even more. I do understand your point though, and I think it's a cool new perspective to look at Kongming, as a lucky bum. :lol:
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Unread postby Lance » Sun Sep 08, 2002 4:14 pm

Heh, as a Shuist, I understand what she's trying to say. LGZ glorified Kong-Ming to the point where his greatest asset, his skill in civil administration, takes a back seat to this weird fortune-teller guy who goes from scientific to superstitious in the span of 3 seconds....plus, he glorified ZGL as a commander, when, in truth, he was much better at advising and plotting......plus, being glorified makes people who like Zhou Yu and Sima Yi, who were turned into mere plot devices to make ZGL look good, automatically dislike him for obscuring their historical achievements....
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Unread postby Pang Shiyuan » Sun Sep 08, 2002 10:48 pm

SGYY Zhuge Liang's abilities were blown out of proportion (take the "rain making" incident at Chibi for example...), but overall, he was nevertheless an exceptional politician, if not a strategist, of his era.

People find it easy to bag Zhuge Liang nowadays on the basis he was incompetent, just because his intelligence and talents were exaggerated, forgetting that he is human after all, not some supernatural being conjured by LGZ.
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Unread postby Dennis » Sun Sep 08, 2002 11:13 pm

Pang Shiyuan wrote:SGYY Zhuge Liang's abilities were blown out of proportion (take the "rain making" incident at Chibi for example...), but overall, he was nevertheless an exceptional politician, if not a strategist, of his era.

People find it easy to bag Zhuge Liang nowadays on the basis he was incompetent, just because his intelligence and talents were exaggerated, forgetting that he is human after all, not some supernatural being conjured by LGZ.


What's interesing about what I think Lady Wu means though is that Kongming is done a disservice by LGZ by giving him those supernatural abilities, because his natural abilities are not given emphasis.

I think she's right, if he was not given the "wind summing abilities", etc. Although not as flawless in SGYY, he would be more respected by the veteran reader.
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Unread postby James » Sun Sep 08, 2002 11:27 pm

I enjoyed the LGZ Kongming (divination and magic included). It was fun to see a different presentation of the great strategist that was in touch with aspects of the world that the reader doesn’t understand. Then again, I enjoy fantasy novels so this sort of thing is fun for me. I loved his character.

More important is probably the fact that I learned of the fictional Kongming long before the historical Kongming.

From a historical discussion standpoint I feel that LGZ did the character of Zhuge Liang damage. LGZ portrayed him as a supernatural character (something some people, especially non-fantasy readers, don’t enjoy) and also made his primary focus warfare. Although he brushed up on his civil ventures, they took the back seat to his genius on the battlefield.

The result is many people, who have only read the novel, constantly extolling his military prowess and arguing that he was one of the greatest strategists of all time. This goes to show how good a writer LGZ was, but it also creates a reason for people that study the history to dislike him.

On one hand we have the historical Kongming, a civil minded genius and a capable (but by no means the best) military strategist and on the other hand we have the God portrayed in LGZ’s novel. It creates a lot of fiction and hostility from what I can see.

I am still glad we have the novel, no matter how he was portrayed, because most of us wouldn’t be here talking about the history if we hadn’t started with the fiction.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Sep 09, 2002 2:58 am

Zhuge Kongming wrote:I am still glad we have the novel, no matter how he was portrayed, because most of us wouldn’t be here talking about the history if we hadn’t started with the fiction.
:lol: Very true! There is no period of Chinese history that I know even half as well as I do the three kingdoms era, thanks to the novel.

I guess a generalissimo ZGL surrounded by a bunch of cool fairy-tale like stories makes for a more interesting fictional character than a ZGL who only sits in his office working on civil issues.

Another suspicion of mine is that LGZ used some of the superstitious episodes to reconcile the historical facts and the desideratum (sp?) that good people win (and ZGL is de facto the good guy). As Zhou Gongjin suggested, the head-bone episode paved the way for a legitimate excuse for ZGL to kill Wei Yan at the end, though the historical reason wasn't to ZGL's favour. Also, LGZ's audience might be upset by the fact that ZGL, who should be destined to win, dies before he made it into the Central Plains. By putting the blame on Wei Yan and fate, the novelist escapes being pelted with rocks by his readers. (Ok I know I'm brewing another Wei Yan fight here...)

Just some speculations...
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Unread postby DianWei » Mon Sep 09, 2002 4:49 am

Jiang Ziya Reminded me a lot of Zhuge Liang, a brilliant tactician, but he used magic a ton more then zhuge ever did... and fought a little more then zhuge (though it was mainly with magic...)
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Re: Zhuge Liang deserves better treatment

Unread postby Xue Yu Fengsheng » Mon Sep 09, 2002 5:06 am

Lady Wu wrote:Ok, that's a little protest against LGZ, but can someone convince me that he had good reasons for putting those stories in? Or are there other explanations for all the superstitious-y things that ZGL did?


Just giving my useless opinion :
If LGZ made it like a history book than I'm sure only people who had high interest in history only would read it. I mean just look at Lord Of the Rings, this masterpiece use superstitious or othermagic kind of skill as their ingredients.
This kind of ingredients made a person who do not like to history or more extrem do not like to read become fond of it and make reading a hobby.
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