Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby waywardauthor » Thu May 18, 2017 11:22 pm

greencactaur wrote:Are there any records of sun quan or liu bei using such torture devices? The 3k period sounds like an awful time to be alive .

The Later Han-Jin Dynasty transition period saw the population of China reduced to a third. While there is some argument over this, with many asserting that the reason why the numbers were so low had to deal with taxable population centers, this is in some ways a distraction. Some of the most densely populated areas of China were depopulated to the point where frontier peoples were imported whole-sale to bolster numbers and make territories governable. Copious references are given to plagues, floods, years of dearth (which is a codeword for starvation), mass executions and slaughter, refugees fleeing by the thousands and tens of thousands, and so forth. Refugees transformed the territory of Yang province from a backwater territory that was an afterthought to a regional powerhouse that could contend for control of the nation. The entire government of China, along with much of its bureaucracy, was overthrown. There are a number of areas where traditional order was maintained, but for the most part you had the emergence of warlords who were able to create their own sense of authority and thus shifted the locus of government and the scholar-gentry to themselves.

That the taxable population of China remained so low after concentrated efforts at relocation and establishment of governance, and with so little complaint of such practices noted in any record that we have available, highlights just how bloody and violent this period was. 60 million people to under 20. Should we be generous and say a fifth of the population of China were outside of taxation purposes, then about 25 million people remained alive in China after almost a hundred years of concentrated warfare. This is so even when one would consider that families would still be founded, and children born to high fertility parents would be quite common. This isn't like China had to recover with 2-3 children, this is as though China could barely avoid total destruction with 5 to 8 children born every generation with disease, starvation, and war taking almost all of them.

Unless someone has a better reasoned article than the ones I've read for the demographic collapse of the Later Han, honestly it was a miracle that the War of the 8 Princes didn't result in China's irrevocable collapse - and thus makes something like the Wu Hu rebellions and the Northern Dynastic period one of the better potentialities for the nation after the Sima family went into an internal murder spree using what little remained of the Chinese populace as cannon fodder.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby Taishi Ci 2.0 » Fri May 19, 2017 7:28 pm

I have to wonder to what extent we can rely on population figures in northern China at all in the post-Three Kingdoms period (i.e., after the reunification in 280), considering that the accounts of struggles in that region only fifty to a hundred years later are filled with general after general raising armies of enormous sizes.

Almost every two-bit rebel is able to raise at least ten thousand men to his banner, and the actual state armies number from the tens to hundreds of thousands. In 350, during the worst part of the Later Zhao civil war, the most powerful of the warring contenders is stated to have an army of three hundred thousand. By 370, the state of Former Yan was allegedly fielding an army of three hundred thousand men to oppose an invasion (and this is going by the ZZTJ account; Sima Guang reduced the number from the claimed four hundred thousand in the Book of Jin). The largest army of the era was probably Fu Jian's invasion force against Eastern Jin: a "vanguard" of two hundred and fifty thousand cavalry, a main body of six hundred thousand infantry and two hundred and seventy thousand cavalry, and other flank and rear forces, and the opposing Eastern Jin army had eighty thousand, in excess of what it is claimed that Cao Cao and Zhou Yu fielded at Chibi (though the histories claim that the Qin vanguard force suffered an 80% casualty rate after Fu Jian was merely routed at Fei River, about as bad as the worst estimates of Roman casualties when they were completely surrounded at Cannae). Obviously all these numbers are inflated to some extent, but the historians do expect us to believe in the basic thrust of their accounts. This is in addition to all the usual horrors of war and plague listed, with not a few mentions of outright cannibalism in cities under siege.

Not to mention that throughout the period, many invasions and raids result in the wholesale forced relocation of people and households, thousands and tens of thousands of households at a time, to different corners of the empire.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby Fornadan » Fri May 19, 2017 10:37 pm

Personally I think any number for a single army gathered at a single place above 100 000 should be disregarded as vastly exagerated. The logistic and administrative difficulties are just insurmountable for a pre-modern organization. There are lots of accounts of plausible armies in the thousands and tens of thousands ranges, then suddenly from time to time these monster armies appear.

During the 1920s at the height of the warlord era, China was chafing under an estimated 2 million soldiers, and that was with railroads and ten times the population as ancient China.


It's a pretty strong census among the academics, and well-supported by the sources, that a large share if not the majority of the apparent population drop can be ascribed to people avoiding census registration. (The census population of Eastern Han was only about 50 million, down from the 60 of Western Han)
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby DragonAtma » Fri May 19, 2017 10:56 pm

There's one thing I'd like to add to waywardauthor's post: they had nearly a century of battles. Battles like Chibi are famous for massive deaths; I'm not going to even try and count how many died in battle.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby waywardauthor » Sat May 20, 2017 4:30 am

Fornadan wrote:Personally I think any number for a single army gathered at a single place above 100 000 should be disregarded as vastly exagerated. The logistic and administrative difficulties are just insurmountable for a pre-modern organization. There are lots of accounts of plausible armies in the thousands and tens of thousands ranges, then suddenly from time to time these monster armies appear.

During the 1920s at the height of the warlord era, China was chafing under an estimated 2 million soldiers, and that was with railroads and ten times the population as ancient China.

It's a pretty strong census among the academics, and well-supported by the sources, that a large share if not the majority of the apparent population drop can be ascribed to people avoiding census registration. (The census population of Eastern Han was only about 50 million, down from the 60 of Western Han)

Not necessarily. People are willing to trust ten thousand coming from a single area, but tend to shy away from larger numbers that mass from multiple major population centers. In many areas of the world, over 100,000 is too high - but immediately disregarding all of them is not the right approach. Exaggeration is possible, even likely, but not necessarily entirely false. A good way to look at it is if a region can support a few million people, the army would displace much of the local population and it would be able to consume local food stores.

The United States chaffs significantly supporting its much smaller military than it did in the past because logistics trains become massively enlarged in order to support more modern soldiers. The corrupt warlord-ridden regime that had a complete collapse of national taxation and logistical systems could barely afford to support their own bureaucracy as well as invest in modernization projects. This is why Chiang Kai Shek invested heavily in smaller, well trained armies that were able to route much larger peasant armies that were lightly armed. Hence 200,000 took down a million in the 1920s. Supporting a modern military of even 15,000 (without tech and equipment, but a vague equivalent) would be almost impossible.

The almost 60 million population count was right before Wang Mang (if I'm not mistaken) and the series of civil wars that led to the formation of the Eastern Han - which had a few generations of peace, but the decline can also be linked to an empire in decline. Corruption probably hid a decent chunk of the loss, but given events like the Liangzhou rebellion I would be inclined to suggest that the Eastern Han had been on the way down, and made brittle long before the Yellow Turban and the Dong Zhuo catalyst that brought it to its knees.

I haven't really been convinced with the materials I have read to suggest the vast hiding of China's population from the governments, especially since we know the great lengths through which the Sun clan went to round up and populate centers under military rule and the many records of devastation and areas devoid of population in the Cao and Sima controlled lands that they had to import foreigners simply to make land governable. If regions simply had census issues, then importing foreigners would be a nonsensical move - and it would have been impossible for them to crew as much power as they later would. Really the only area I could buy this for would be Shu.

DragonAtma wrote:There's one thing I'd like to add to waywardauthor's post: they had nearly a century of battles. Battles like Chibi are famous for massive deaths; I'm not going to even try and count how many died in battle.
Whatever the number, it is hideously gross. Especially since most of the battles are never recorded, or heard of. One mustn't assume a degree of passivity in the vast majority of China simply because the important men of biographical significance didn't trend there or wage war. Often you will get a few throwaway lines about a conflict that lasted years, or about concentrated campaigns to secure territory of vast commanderies. The process of nation-building that we find in some warlords courts must have been commonplace, if only to ensure that they could support themselves. The vast majority of this has been lost because they never took root. Safe havens are noted so prominently in the record because, we must assume, they were rare until some hegemonic influence was able to exert a militaristic pacification.

Taishi Ci 2.0 wrote:I have to wonder to what extent we can rely on population figures in northern China at all in the post-Three Kingdoms period (i.e., after the reunification in 280), considering that the accounts of struggles in that region only fifty to a hundred years later are filled with general after general raising armies of enormous sizes.
Those accounts probably resembled human meat engines of slaughter as civilization itself was torn apart. The numbers were probably inflated, especially if the history was derived from Jin Dynasty records, but northern China was almost demographically rewritten a handful of times from what I've gathered. I almost wish Fu Jian had succeeded in reuniting China much earlier, because China as a recognizable nation came its closest to being erased during the Age of Fragmentation.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby greencactaur » Sat May 20, 2017 4:02 pm

I alwayd figured 10% of the total population tend to have been military. Thats just personal estimate,but seeing how that time period resulted in deaths of millions it's probably safe to assume a large chunk of the population was most likely ill as well. I think Chi Bi 50k vs 200k is fairly accurate, but yuans 1 million man army at guan du was probably false.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Sun May 28, 2017 1:16 am

Something that's been driving me nuts for, like, years now.

There's a section on Wikipedia's article about Lady Sun (Sun Quan's sister/Liu Bei's wife) that says the Han Jin Chunqiu gives her personal name as Rénxiàn 仁献/仁獻.

Every couple of months I get itchy and try to find which SGZ biography contains this Han Jin Chunqiu passage. I've never been able to track down the origin of this claim, though. I've searched the digital version of the SGZ on Chinese Wikipedia for the characters 仁献/仁獻 and couldn't find them anywhere.

Googling the name just gives me 1,000 different sites that just copy/pasted the Wikipedia article.

As near as I can tell, the origin of this claim comes from this forum post from 2007: http://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=5998&p=442632#p442632

Given that this is a one-time poster who doesn't really provide a source, I'm not inclined to take his word for it.

Does anyone know which SGZ biography contains this Han Jin Chunqiu passage, or is this all just people repeating something someone made up 10 years ago?
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun May 28, 2017 7:21 am

Part of me wants it to be a random thing a Scholar of Shen Zhou said once upon time that has ended up getting treated as fact since. The other part of me wants to know what her personal name is :lol:.
Last edited by Sun Fin on Sun May 28, 2017 1:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby Fornadan » Sun May 28, 2017 1:28 pm

At the end of Sun Jian's biography, Pei Songshi quotes the Zhi lin stating that Sun Jian's youngest son Sun Lang had the alternative personal name Ren.

And I believe that is all there is to it.


If there was an authentic source, even an obscure one, giving Lady Sun's personal name, we would have known.
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Re: Three Kingdoms Questions (You Ask, We Answer)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Mon May 29, 2017 12:30 am

That's about what I figured, although I was hoping for more.

I suppose it's time to engage in a Wikipedia edit war to remove the faulty reference.
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