Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

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Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:18 am

Commentary on The Romance of The Three Kingdoms Novel
By : Lord Yang Jiahua

For the interest and feedback from his fellow Scholars of the the-scholars forums and the general viewing of anyone of interest for thoughts regarding the Romance of The Three Kingdoms both fiction and historical.

This writing is using the Moss Roberts translated edition entitled : Three Kingdoms attributed to Luo Guanzhong. Published by Foreign Languages Press, Beijing China, Eighth Edition 2008. (proper bibliographical style omitted for convenience of reading.)

I intend to post these as a series of Posts in a forum thread, I assume this will be appropriate with moderators and administrators, please inform me otherwise, or combine them all into one giant post at some point if that is more appropriate. Please also edit and or re-title this thread/posts if the formatting is somewhat bad, as i have to write these in a word processing program before posting. (I will add page number and citations but only if requested, as i think most people are well aware of the events of the novel.)

Apologies in advance, I have been told by a great many of my teachers over the years that I have quite good writing ability, but if this jars the reader in any way, please note I am aware of it.

The format will be following the novel, sequentially, with a big heading for the Chapter. I will not be commenting on all the events in the chapter, but I am aiming for most, including my thoughts on the various literary notes at the end of the books, and the materials located in the more Appendix type sections of the fourth volume of this version of the novel.(i.e the Afterwards etc etc).
And away we go....


Chapter 1 : Three Bold Spirits Plight Mutual Faith in the Peach Garden
Heroes and Champions Win First Honors Fighting The Yellow Scarves


It must be of note that The novel has only praise for the Han founder Liu Bang, or Han Gao Zu. As noted from the translators Afterward section. Of second note also from the afterwards, the Han Dynasty had a continuous conflict between two rival parties within the government, the party of the Empress, and the party of the Eunuchs, in the Western Han, the former had power, in the Eastern Han, the latter.
These in mind, the reader sees the first episode discounted by the novel, but pointed to heavily in the history, that of Chen Fan and Dou Wu versus the eunuchs. Also according to the translator, apparently Cao Cao tried to have the two posthumously rehabilitated for their actions. (confirmation needed). The novel presents this as able ministers attempting to re-establish good governance.
The problem from this situation, is that though it represents a virtuous move, why should the emperor have to listen to anyone in the first place? Emperors Huan and Ling are characterized as absolutely weak Emperors by the novel. Though, an observant historical reader must wonder, why don't the Emperors exert an absolutist control that our textbooks so often tell they did? The Emperors seems more concerned with the luxuries of being just that, Emperor, than actually ruling anything.
In comparison the Roman Empire was ruled by very able “in the saddle” Emperors, at the exact same moment in History. But when lack there off was the rule, as during the 3rd and some of the 4th centuries, the Empire more or less disintegrated, both administratively and morally. With the military being the main focal point of anything in the Roman Empire period. Conversely, it seems that despite the lack of formal involvement by the Han Emperors, the Empire still functioned quite well, at least up until what is still characterized as the largest Peasant Rebellion in History, the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. This would point to the concept of Wuwei, aloof Emperor, more or less, the problem is that Wuwei becomes something of an excuse for disintegration of Imperial and central authority, as seen with Huan and Ling.

First of Note : (a Pattern repeated in the Wei Dynasty). All the Emperors seem to be quite young at their ascension, quite useless at something of a personal rule, and good at dying rather young as well. Unlike their ministers, who live such as Cao Cao, well into their later years.

Zhang Jue (Zhang Jiao), was presented his book and his subsequent powers by Zhuang Zi, a name which should be significant to those of who have studied something of Chinese mythology. Zhang Jue represents a corrupt priest more or less, who exploits his powers for basically his own gain while using the “saving the people” line as a shield. The Han were indeed becoming decadent and corrupt, but the mystic overstepping the heaven granted good fortune he received and attempting something of a revolution seems to already show his movement as doomed to failure. If somewhat reaffirming of the Imperial system under which China operated for Millennia , also rather jadedly makes the people seem powerless, or easily misled, and properly In need of a paternalistic state system.
Powerless because the people collectively cannot effect change in the Empire, but the ministers apparently only can. As we'll see later on.

The Peach Garden Oath, the most significant portion of Chapter One is commented on in great detail by translator and probably historiographical sources devoted to separating 3 parts fiction and 7 parts truth. (The oft characterization of the entire novel) Therefore I will not commentate it here, except to say that the eventual ascension to Godhood of Guan Yu and his his brothers, was quite positive for the values it represented, and the morals their deities stand for. (even if the concept of sworn brotherhood was appropriated by Jiang Jieshi's Dai Li secret service, as according to the translator's notes.)

Indeed, Cao Cao appears and disappears like the wind, according to Mao's note. As he and Sun Jian do for most of Chapter 1 and 2 fighting the Yellow Scarves.
Of note should be the ages of both Liu Bei and Cao Cao, they are both quite young, Cao Cao is about 30, Liu Bei is around 23. History seems to bear out that most great people do not start on the path to greatness until they are in their mid to late 20's, or even later in the case with many Western Historical figures. (Caesar and Augustus among them.) There's a moralizing argument worthy of an essay there about this regarding ages, and applying it to modern day people and their lives.

We run into Dong Zhuo, a major antagonist for the 1st section of the novel at the end of Chapter 1. Replacing and arresting of all people Lu Zhi, Liu Bei's former instructor. Zhang Fei wants to kill Dong Zhuo, the first time the reader will see Zhang Fei behave this way, but definitely not the last. Historically, Zhang Fei may have been quite different than this, or perhaps more calculated.

The Notes of the Novel for Chapter 1 are particularly Large and longwinded, anyone to read them can gain a great understanding of various intricacies of both the novel, and even Chinese Culture and History to a certain degree, therefore I will not devote time to commenting on them.

Chapter 2 : Zhang Fei Whips the Government Inspector
Imperial In-Law He Jin Plots Against the Eunuchs


Of note to the reader, this chapter more or less sums up events 184-189A.D outside of those in the Imperial Court.
Dong Zhuo is revealed as a massively incompetent field general. A reader not skipping ahead or new to the book, would then immediately wish to discount Dong Zhuo from any proper role in the novel, oh how wrong they'd be.

Sun Jian gets a section in this chapter, devoted to showing his bandit and rebel destroying exploits. Becomes governor of Changsha, lower Jing Province. Why then apparently Sun Ce his son abandons this position In later chapters is a mystery. It must be noted that one of the future conflicts of the novel centers on the province in which Sun Jian receives his office, but curiously the legitimacy of Sun Jian having been a governor there is never used.(more on this in future sections).

The central episode of this chapter, around Liu Bei's tiny official post, despite his apparent exploits fighting the Yellow Scarves, which should have earned him a good reward, is actually historically different. Our translator says Liu Bei does what Zhang Fei does, and that the Inspector was a henchmen of the Eunuch faction at court. Translator and reader agree : who wouldn't want to beat the snot out of such a man who wrongs Liu Bei.

The meat of the Chapter centers around He Jin, the brother of humble origins to the current Empress attempting to take down the eunuchs. If one reads out the just ministers attempting to re-establish virtuous authority, than it looks like nothing more than a political power play to put the Empress' faction behind the throne. He Jin also gets more or less blamed for the collapse of central authority due to his actions.
Practically, his death is a silly one, walks into the palace expecting no one to kill him, gets chopped up by the Eunuch's henchmen. (Chapter 3)
Why the Eunuchs are heeded when they beg Empress He (He Jin's Sister) not to let her brother kill them, is quite the mystery. She is Empress after all, and He Jin is Regent-Marshal after all. Despite a move here appearing rather like a shameless power grab, it might have been well received by the realm at large if presented publicly in a certain manner. Then a general follow up of appointing and reappointing of “good” officials and officials wronged by the Eunuch party would ensure general peace in the Empire. He Jin is an indecisive incompetent at best then. Son of a butcher indeed. Though it must be noted that this depicts common people, or commoner class people (of which He Jin comes from) as useless at government.
To fit that narrative, Cao Cao and Liu Bei are both of a certain kind of aristocratic class of the Han Empire, and Sun Jian though of a minor clan, is also relatively well regarded. All three are quite capable. To simplify, Commoner people, or those of Commoner stock(supposedly) don't fit in a rulership position. Though this would seemingly discount Liu Bei's background, however, his family name makes this otherwise to this author.
Empress Dong, a competing Empress also plays into the Chapter, could she have truly believed she was manipulating the Eunuchs? Or Perhaps neither of the women were smart enough to understand they were being manipulated. It seems very shallow on a whole though, had either faction wanted power, they should have just taken it. Its not like either the Empress Faction(s) nor the Eunuchs were going to do anything useful to benefit the realm apparently. Official positions for what?, money, control, offices, accolades? Its all just waiting for someone more, assertive, to step in...
Of course Emperor Ling keels over, conveniently, In this chapter. He apparently was in his 30's, why does he die so young? It seems Emperor Ling wanted Prince Xie not Prince Bian, to succeed him. And the Eunuchs were backing this. Despite its intrigue value, this seems quite arbitrary, by both Emperor and Empresses (Prince Bian Succeeds after all). Yet, there's nothing to prove who would be a more able Emperor when they're both basically still children, except for the aspect of perhaps how manipulable they are.
A question, how educated actually were the Emperors? And the potential would be Emperors? We see the notion of education play a significant role with many primary and secondary characters throughout the novel, what books they read, who were their teachers,(Ex Liu Bei) etc etc. So, the would be Emperors simply never read things such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, or perhaps studied with great scholars of the day (would be Kingmakers in some right). If they did, then why do they seem so weak to assert their authority, or so in fear of being overthrown(logically). Or perhaps simply direct action, as Emperor Ling could have, provide for the realm? I.e the question becomes, are the Emperors really that weak, or are their managers (like He Jin is, and is first on the list) really that terrible or to be feared.

The Notes on Chapter 2 pick up the above comment on which Inner Court faction was in power and what effects that had on the Han Dynasty.

Chapter 3 : In Wenming Garden, Dong Zhuo Denounces Ding Yuan
With Gold and Pearls Li Su Plies Lu Bu


Chapter 3 opens with He Jin inviting outside forces, I.e the regional garrisons to help overthrow the Eunuch party at court, and with Cao Cao rebuking him for quite the same simple reason observed above. The notes on the chapter also point out that He Jin's ruin and subsequently the Han dynasty's will be because he invites outside forces in, into something that should have been a simple in court political move, turning it into something, worse.
Dong Zhuo is next presented as being one of the regional lords invited by He Jin to the capital. The ministers state their objections, and He Jin (still alive at this point) ignores them. The novel in general picks up after this point, mainly because its not skipping about 5 years as it does from 184-189 in chapter 2. Dong Zhuo's adherents are also named, they will be significant later on.
To the reader that has Dong Zhuo penned as a useless person, they are about to receive a real shock. Popularly Dong Zhuo is painted as a fat, lecherous oaf. One has to wonder if he was really that, or its just to make him more detestable without refraining to a long discussion of what was considered tyrannical about Dong Zhuo besides his conduct in later chapters and this chapter.
The next few chunks of Chapter 3 involve a bloodbath of Eunuchs and their people versus those with regent-marshal He Jin, who include Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu (oddly Chun Yuqiong as well who has a role in future events). A hapless He Jin is chopped up by the eunuch's faking the Empress He's summons, however his arrogance is probably not totally untrue with his “I am the master of the empire” remark. Oddly, He Jin's helpers, who escorted him, armed into the Imperial Compound are reluctant to protect He Jin just before he walks into the trap, and stop before a command by the Inner Bureau that He Jin and only He Jin had been summoned by Empress He.
What does not make sense is that, a) He Jin is Regent-Marshal, he shouldn't have needed worry about court conduct if he was truly “master of the empire”, he could have strode in flanked by Cao Cao , Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu and 500 men, and nobody would have worried in theory.( a discussion on the pre-eminence of Ranks and titles in the Han court can be found in the various notes and afterwards) b) what makes less sense is why the Empress is so easily moved by the Eunuchs into basically setting up this trap that leads to basically the defeat of her faction at court as well, just not in the way the reader imagines. Its something of a genius move by the writer to insert the section about Dong Zhuo, before He Jin's death. As an uninitiated reader would not expect where things are about to go.
The Empress He was not about to order He Jin to kill the eunuchs the first time, despite the fact that it would have given her complete power at court. She was easily manipulated by the eunuchs the second time a similar situation presented itself. Likely, she would have not ordered it the second time around either.
Cao Cao, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu seem to be enjoying themselves, slaughtering Eunuchs and a whole lot of other people at this point. Cynically, perhaps each of them felt they could obtain control of the empire at this juncture. After all, all three of them will attempt to do so as the novel progresses.

The significant section of the chapter, the flight of the Emperor Shao ( Liu Bian or Prince Bian) and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie or Prince Xie) is critiqued for its symbolic foreshadowing. The only comment here should be, that its completely arbitrary that Dong Zhuo, who runs into the Imperial party after the episode, is impressed by Prince Xie's fierceness in making sure the proper ceremony is observed in Dong Zhuo meeting now Emperor Shao. Zhuo considered Prince Xie the stronger of the two, and wishes to depose Emperor Shao and enthrone Prince Xie, whats ignored is pointing out that this is merely pretext for Dong Zhuo to seize power.
The Banquet in Wenming Garden is next, Li Ru pronouncing that Dong Zhuo should “act on his authority” is a very odd statement. Authority of a regional governor? Authority of a general? The three elder lords would have had more authority, at this point, but the threat of troops quartered against the court is enough to cow the court and its courtiers, though this is mentioned very indirectly, its not so clear that something couldn't have been done to stop Dong Zhuo.
Then the question, why place Xie on the throne? If its because Zhuo is impressed with the Prince's ability and forthrightness, wouldn't that make him the less malleable candidate? Do away with Empress He and Shaodi is his.
Theres a relation between the reknowned scholar Cai Yong and Dong Zhuo, Dong Zhuo wanting to kill Lu Zhi for objecting to his Depose the Emperor plot, shows the man doesn't like to be disagreed with. Yet Cai Yong despite his intelligence seems to benefit from Dong Zhuo's Court Administration, as will be shown in later chapter, Cai Yong of course stops Dong Zhuo from killing Lu Zhi.
Ding Yuan, the Governor of Bingzhou, is the only one to step up and challenge Dong Zhuo's power grab. Though, why he didn't kill Dong Zhuo at the banquet, or better yet order the giant of a man, Lu Bu, with him at the banquet, to simply hack the apparently fat bastard down is beyond the thoughts of this commentator. Then Ding Yuan leaves, prepares his army, and prepares to do battle with Dong Zhuo. Though this is very gentlemanly of Ding Yuan, it leaves one wondering, why fight someone who is obviously not a gentleman, or of any morals whatsoever, on such moralistic grounds? I.e taking it outside with armies to do battle as proper generals. One could say, perhaps Ding Yuan did not want to stoop so low as to be like Dong Zhuo, but then, the question becomes, would not the other courtiers with their high offices agreed with Ding Yuan had he indeed chopped up Dong Zhuo then and there?
Lu Bu, to become a pivotal figure for the first 20 or so chapters of the novel, is of course slyly convinced away from Ding Yuan, kills him (obviously showing he lacks something of morals himself, making it more simple as to that he probably would have killed Dong Zhuo on Ding Yuan's order instantly without hesitation at the banquet.) and goes to serve Dong Zhuo. I.e The second part of the chapter, courtesy of Li Su.


The Novel likes to play Host and Guest, to Western Audience this is more like Primary Character and Foil character. Comparing across Chapters, Dong Zhuo serves as a Guest to Cao Cao, who is the Host. However, as we'll see, Cao Cao is more willing to do what Dong Zhuo would not, but Cao seems to do it in a way, less villainous than Dong Zhuo apparently. Or perhaps its simply the bias of the reader (and probably myself)to believe Dong Zhuo way more evil than Cao Cao ever was or could be.

A general note should be that women like Empress He are depicted very incompetently, or as just rather naive. Perhaps because of their luxurious environment didn't see the real politics of the court. Perhaps the thought that Eunuchs=Servant was too overriding to Empress He to make her realize what was going on.
Though, women characters in the novel, bar Empress He, are all rather extraordinary in some way otherwise. (Spoiler). She seems to be the one person purposely depicted as somewhat worthless despite her power. It can be forgiven if the reader believe that Chinese literature is patriarchal and male centric, though it is in most regards, Women in the Three Kingdoms novel at least do play some very key and even heroic roles.
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Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:09 am

These in mind, the reader sees the first episode discounted by the novel, but pointed to heavily in the history, that of Chen Fan and Dou Wu versus the eunuchs. Also according to the translator, apparently Cao Cao tried to have the two posthumously rehabilitated for their actions. (confirmation needed). The novel presents this as able ministers attempting to re-establish good governance.


Chen Fan's son returned to office in 184 and Dong held ceremonies to them, I don't recall Cao Cao doing much for them particularly

The problem from this situation, is that though it represents a virtuous move, why should the emperor have to listen to anyone in the first place? Emperors Huan and Ling are characterized as absolutely weak Emperors by the novel. Though, an observant historical reader must wonder, why don't the Emperors exert an absolutist control that our textbooks so often tell they did? The Emperors seems more concerned with the luxuries of being just that, Emperor, than actually ruling anything.
In comparison the Roman Empire was ruled by very able “in the saddle” Emperors, at the exact same moment in History. But when lack there off was the rule, as during the 3rd and some of the 4th centuries, the Empire more or less disintegrated, both administratively and morally. With the military being the main focal point of anything in the Roman Empire period. Conversely, it seems that despite the lack of formal involvement by the Han Emperors, the Empire still functioned quite well, at least up until what is still characterized as the largest Peasant Rebellion in History, the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. This would point to the concept of Wuwei, aloof Emperor, more or less, the problem is that Wuwei becomes something of an excuse for disintegration of Imperial and central authority, as seen with Huan and Ling.


I get the impression that Chinese Emperor's didn't often take to the field themselves once land was united, they stayed at court, cultivating scholarship, appointing officers and if they took lead, it was administrative matters. Huan and Ling also had to deal with a gentry that had a crippling control on the country and would remember how bad things were for their predecessors so balancing them off with eunuchs rather then attempting absolute rule was wise. Huan and Ling did get involved in ruling but their interests were more scholarship, artistic as well as luxury and they faced major problems with solutions the gentry would have hated (like an effective tax system)

I think the novel makes clear things were not functioning for years before the Turbans and historically, it was not functioning way before Emperor Huan overthrew the regicide regent Liang Ji and took power

The central episode of this chapter, around Liu Bei's tiny official post, despite his apparent exploits fighting the Yellow Scarves, which should have earned him a good reward, is actually historically different. Our translator says Liu Bei does what Zhang Fei does, and that the Inspector was a henchmen of the Eunuch faction at court. Translator and reader agree : who wouldn't want to beat the snot out of such a man who wrongs Liu Bei.


Well historically the guy was doing his job (the worst crime the guy does is saying he s too sick to meet Liu Bei which might be a tad rude but the punishment is a tad excessive), beating up someone for doing his job speaks ill of Liu Bei. It also speaks ill of the translator who advocates brutality for people doing their jobs

Why the Eunuchs are heeded when they beg Empress He (He Jin's Sister) not to let her brother kill them, is quite the mystery. She is Empress after all, and He Jin is Regent-Marshal after all. Despite a move here appearing rather like a shameless power grab, it might have been well received by the realm at large if presented publicly in a certain manner. Then a general follow up of appointing and reappointing of “good” officials and officials wronged by the Eunuch party would ensure general peace in the Empire. He Jin is an indecisive incompetent at best then. Son of a butcher indeed. Though it must be noted that this depicts common people, or commoner class people (of which He Jin comes from) as useless at government.


The novel mentions "we owe the eunuchs" once or twice, historically Empress He may not have been utterly trusting her half-brothers motives.

While there is some inconsistencies as was meant to be possible to get to high ranks from low birth and they were happy with Sun family despite their low background, there does feel an element of sneering about He Jin's background. Certainly goes in harder on He Jin and makes him a buffoon whereas the historical record is more balanced

Empress Dong, a competing Empress also plays into the Chapter, could she have truly believed she was manipulating the Eunuchs? Or Perhaps neither of the women were smart enough to understand they were being manipulated. It seems very shallow on a whole though, had either faction wanted power, they should have just taken it. Its not like either the Empress Faction(s) nor the Eunuchs were going to do anything useful to benefit the realm apparently. Official positions for what?, money, control, offices, accolades? Its all just waiting for someone more, assertive, to step in...


The battle was to put their own son on the throne. With all the power and security that provides

Of course Emperor Ling keels over, conveniently, In this chapter. He apparently was in his 30's, why does he die so young? It seems Emperor Ling wanted Prince Xie not Prince Bian, to succeed him. And the Eunuchs were backing this. Despite its intrigue value, this seems quite arbitrary, by both Emperor and Empresses (Prince Bian Succeeds after all). Yet, there's nothing to prove who would be a more able Emperor when they're both basically still children, except for the aspect of perhaps how manipulable they are.


34, there is nothing recorded about what killed him. Yes, he wanted Xie instead as he felt Bian was frivolous and he had long favoured Xie who he nicknamed "Little Me". There may also have been a anti-He factor in Ling's feelings as well and Dowager Dong had long cared for Xie.

Dong Z also seems to have felt Bian was not as able as Xie

A question, how educated actually were the Emperors? And the potential would be Emperors? We see the notion of education play a significant role with many primary and secondary characters throughout the novel, what books they read, who were their teachers,(Ex Liu Bei) etc etc. So, the would be Emperors simply never read things such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, or perhaps studied with great scholars of the day (would be Kingmakers in some right). If they did, then why do they seem so weak to assert their authority, or so in fear of being overthrown(logically). Or perhaps simply direct action, as Emperor Ling could have, provide for the realm? I.e the question becomes, are the Emperors really that weak, or are their managers (like He Jin is, and is first on the list) really that terrible or to be feared


Bian was raised by Taoist Master Shi Zhimaio, Xian's education was presumably rather disrupted by his chaotic reign but he was friends with some leading scholars as an adult and one would assume did read the key works. The novel is not really going to concentrate on building up Xian and Bian though whereas they will about the protagonists like Liu Bei and Cao Cao

Bian barely had five minutes on the throne before being overthrown by a guy with an army. Xian was in constant control, despite his able efforts, of armed forces. When you have no army and few loyalists, good luck trying to impose your will on a guy with a massive army.

To the reader that has Dong Zhuo penned as a useless person, they are about to receive a real shock. Popularly Dong Zhuo is painted as a fat, lecherous oaf. One has to wonder if he was really that, or its just to make him more detestable without refraining to a long discussion of what was considered tyrannical about Dong Zhuo besides his conduct in later chapters and this chapter.


Historically, in his early years he was considered a skilled warrior, one of the Han's leading commanders and it even acknowledges some restraint when he first takes power. The fatness and lechery, if true, comes later

What does not make sense is that, a) He Jin is Regent-Marshal, he shouldn't have needed worry about court conduct if he was truly “master of the empire”, he could have strode in flanked by Cao Cao , Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu and 500 men, and nobody would have worried in theory.( a discussion on the pre-eminence of Ranks and titles in the Han court can be found in the various notes and afterwards) b) what makes less sense is why the Empress is so easily moved by the Eunuchs into basically setting up this trap that leads to basically the defeat of her faction at court as well, just not in the way the reader imagines. Its something of a genius move by the writer to insert the section about Dong Zhuo, before He Jin's death. As an uninitiated reader would not expect where things are about to go.


A) A great way to lose support as master of the empire is by coming across as a guy who leads troops into the palace and invading a sacred space. It also sends really bad signal for future B) She sees eunuch as her faction, not He Jin. Potentially the eunuchs in power gives her more control then He Jin in power

The significant section of the chapter, the flight of the Emperor Shao ( Liu Bian or Prince Bian) and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie or Prince Xie) is critiqued for its symbolic foreshadowing. The only comment here should be, that its completely arbitrary that Dong Zhuo, who runs into the Imperial party after the episode, is impressed by Prince Xie's fierceness in making sure the proper ceremony is observed in Dong Zhuo meeting now Emperor Shao. Zhuo considered Prince Xie the stronger of the two, and wishes to depose Emperor Shao and enthrone Prince Xie, whats ignored is pointing out that this is merely pretext for Dong Zhuo to seize power.


On the one hand, you have the Emperor freezing and failing to react to the situation, one the other you have a figure showing boldness and sense of authority. Which is more impressive?

The Banquet in Wenming Garden is next, Li Ru pronouncing that Dong Zhuo should “act on his authority” is a very odd statement. Authority of a regional governor? Authority of a general? The three elder lords would have had more authority, at this point, but the threat of troops quartered against the court is enough to cow the court and its courtiers, though this is mentioned very indirectly, its not so clear that something couldn't have been done to stop Dong Zhuo.


The translation I have may make sense "The government is really without a head; there can be no better time than this to carry out your plan. Delay will spoil all. Tomorrow assemble the officials in the Wenming Garden and address them on the subject. Put all opponents to death, and your prestige is settled."

Then the question, why place Xie on the throne? If its because Zhuo is impressed with the Prince's ability and forthrightness, wouldn't that make him the less malleable candidate? Do away with Empress He and Shaodi is his.


Massive age gap, Bian was in his teens and Xian 9 or so is best I can think of. There does tend to be an element of contradiction in clearly Dong believes Xian is best suited to the job compared to his brother, yet the novel also puts down as ambition and evil. Perhaps simply, deposing the Emperor is just a no no whatever the merits so simply doing it is a sign of evil

Ding Yuan, the Governor of Bingzhou, is the only one to step up and challenge Dong Zhuo's power grab. Though, why he didn't kill Dong Zhuo at the banquet, or better yet order the giant of a man, Lu Bu, with him at the banquet, to simply hack the apparently fat bastard down is beyond the thoughts of this commentator. Then Ding Yuan leaves, prepares his army, and prepares to do battle with Dong Zhuo. Though this is very gentlemanly of Ding Yuan, it leaves one wondering, why fight someone who is obviously not a gentleman, or of any morals whatsoever, on such moralistic grounds? I.e taking it outside with armies to do battle as proper generals. One could say, perhaps Ding Yuan did not want to stoop so low as to be like Dong Zhuo, but then, the question becomes, would not the other courtiers with their high offices agreed with Ding Yuan had he indeed chopped up Dong Zhuo then and there?


The banquet hosted by an armed Dong with his supporters and guards where Ding Yuan can't be sure of the other officers and where murdering a fellow Han officer without authority might be rather looked down on.
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Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:57 pm

Yay, i finally got some critiques.

Again im doing this solely off of the novels standpoint, and perhaps a little bit of the actual history that i've come across, and they are after all, commentary.

Still think considering how arbitrary Lu Bu is in the novel, he could have quite easily hacked down Dong Zhuo for much the same reason Li Ru is telling Dong Zhuo to seize power, and yes that translation makes alot more sense. If Lu Bu was indeed the super-warrior we are all led to believe he was, i dont think a couple dozen armed officers would have done much good.

Perhaps i am advocating for the tyrants, but as we see with Cao Cao, he comes off as the biggest of them all later on, possibly because defeating all the warlords in the North made the ppl accept that Cao was the best man for the job. Possibly because the novel tries to paint a positive portrait of all three main characters and their houses, except for things like say, Cao Cao getting Emperor Xian's Empress strangled etc.

Dong Zhuo is an example of a more, assertive person,just waiting to steal the show, and does, and despite burning Luoyang and fleeing with the Emperor in custody, there does seem to be less the "lords of the realm" want to do about him or can do to him, then we actually see in the novel. I.e the Coalition may be quite exaggerated.

Noting the academic article in the other thread, the work clearly talks about how there was really lack of a precedent for change of dynasty, and in that regard it seems power concentrated in the hands of single individual other than the emperor, despite this being clearly evil the reader is told, actually keeps everything, especially in the historical context of 2nd century A.D very stable, both at court and in the realm once military control (as done by Cao Cao) over a certain area is established.

The chaos of the Roman Empire during the 3rd century proves that in the West the opposite was true, military control or lack thereof if one interprets that as "military" forces running roughshod over the common populance at large, led to the economic and intellectual disintegration of the Empire, and it took really special individual rulers to gain a grip on things, and even then.
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Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:24 pm

Lu Bu is meant to be a superwarrior but even so, sheer numbers against him isn't something he is meant to be able to overcome by himself. Even if he could kill all the guards and get to Dong, kill him, the political consequences of murdering a fellow Han officer at his house could be dire

Perhaps i am advocating for the tyrants, but as we see with Cao Cao, he comes off as the biggest of them all later on, possibly because defeating all the warlords in the North made the ppl accept that Cao was the best man for the job. Possibly because the novel tries to paint a positive portrait of all three main characters and their houses, except for things like say, Cao Cao getting Emperor Xian's Empress strangled etc.

Dong Zhuo is an example of a more, assertive person,just waiting to steal the show, and does, and despite burning Luoyang and fleeing with the Emperor in custody, there does seem to be less the "lords of the realm" want to do about him or can do to him, then we actually see in the novel. I.e the Coalition may be quite exaggerated.

Noting the academic article in the other thread, the work clearly talks about how there was really lack of a precedent for change of dynasty, and in that regard it seems power concentrated in the hands of single individual other than the emperor, despite this being clearly evil the reader is told, actually keeps everything, especially in the historical context of 2nd century A.D very stable, both at court and in the realm once military control (as done by Cao Cao) over a certain area is established.


The novel, while it is very fast and loose with details of that camapign, are accurate as to why the Coalition had... limited victory.

Certainly not the intent the novel goes to advocate puppet Emperor's, for though with Duke of Zhou, it was something China was aware could work well. Those that control the emperor are painted as the bad figures throughout whether it be cartoon villain like Dong or complex figures like Cao Cao. Given it also led to Han being overthrown by Cao Cao's son and change of dynasty, ditto when Sima Yi took control of Wei, that is not going to be a good advert for Emperor's not having control.

Power concentrated on variety of factions at various times. Eunuchs like near the end or in-laws tended to be the big ones as Han decline and like the regicide Liang Ji showed, having power concentrated in single figure doesn't always end well.
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Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:30 pm

Chapter 4: The Installation of The Chenliu Prince Emperor Shao Is Deposed
A Plot Against Traitor Dong, Cao Cao Presents a Jeweled Knife


The chapter opens on the deposition of Liu Bian, Emperor Shao. Yuan Wei, whether coerced, forced, or actually agreeing with Dong Zhuo, (Yuan Wei is Imperial Guardian and of comparable position at court to Dong Zhuo at this point) goes along with Dong Zhuo's move.

The notes record that Yuan Wei was the courtier who led the Emperor down from the throne.

Wu Qiong, advises Dong Zhuo to give Yuan Shao an outside command, calling Yuan Shao basically indecisive and that doing this will buy him off. Odd how Yuan Shao's attitude will become a defining feature later in the novel, but it is foreshadowed here.

Ding Guan's Protest and subsequent execution will be a re-occuring feature of deposed ruler processes throughout the novel.

Queen Mother He now has no power, yet circumstances had changed. A discussion of is “blood thicker than water” could be merited here regarding her attitude towards He Jin. Its somewhat karmic, all her manipulations and supposed power come to naught.

Dong Zhuo treats Cai Yong well, odd considering he opposed Dong Zhuo. Cai Yong must have really been that important of a person. Or Dong Zhuo had an odd regard for him, despite not being able to take criticism as following events will show.

Events conspicuously shift to Wang Yun, it seems the “todays my birthday excuse” has been a feature of human language as old as time.

The reader must understand the entire episode with Cao Cao trying to kill Dong Zhuo with the Seven Star knife, (Wang Yun's Jeweled Knife) is completely fiction. Though a very good plot device, it is entirely the invention of the author.

Cao Cao meeting Chen Gong however is an interesting side event of all this “fiction”. Cao Cao returns to his home district. He goes to a friend of his father's, Lu Boshe, and subsequently ends up killing a whole bunch of “innocent” people(this includes Lu Boshe), whom Cao, of a naturally suspicious nature suspects are trying to capture and turn him in, as of course, attempting to assassinate the man in power, Dong Zhuo, would get one a massive bounty on their head.

The Novel portrays them as innocent, though the notes say that in fact the people Cao kills were attempting to capture him. The notes also interestingly say details of Cao's early life are left out in general, but that the novel's portrait of him is more or less historical. Why? Also, why reinterpret this event? At this point the “protagonist” of the novel, Liu Bei hasn't really done much to merit protagonist, if the original intention was to make Cao Cao antagonist, the author has done a better job of making him Anti-Hero so far. What with his actions against the eunuchs, attempting to assassinate Dong Zhuo, killing people attempting to capture him.

The line is interpreted depending on translator, here it reads : “Better to wrong the world than have the world wrong me.” Chen Gong, accomplice to Cao Cao for the latter half of this chapter, is totally unnerved by this. The notes courtesy of Mao Zonggang a noted commentator of the novel in Chinese, say that he defends Cao Cao's character here, interpreting the Confucian reversal Cao Cao is doing by saying this line. The normal line being , “Better to be wronged than wrong another”, it does sound good, as Mao notes. Mao praises Cao Cao for being bluntly honest with his feelings, perhaps this is cultural context enough to show how Cao Cao is a “bad” person.

Noted, Cao Cao is one of the more complex characters if not the most in the novel, perhaps his initial actions are designed to balance out the reader's perspective of him as the story progresses. Liu Bei going to fight the Yellow Scarves etc, seem to be nothing more than the duty of all good Han loyalists at the time, making his actions not very extraordinary, nor convincing the reader he is the protagonist, so far.

Cao Cao is Anti-hero, in doing what the readership all want (attempting to assassinate Dong Zhuo even if its a fiction) but know they can't do, or the other characters won't do. But other than that, and his ending lines in the chapter, there isn't much to paint him as really anti-hero, or even antagonist so far.

The fact that Chen Gong is unnerved by Cao Cao shows the shallowness of his character, (device of the novel/bias of the novel or not). Future actors will be equally unnerved by Cao Cao's character, but will respond differently, Chen Gong serves as kind of a benchmark for the observant reader, of how deep characters that encounter Cao are.


Note: Please do Not post after this one for now, as i intend to add at least one more chapter commentary to this post. As i want to make good use of posts and space.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
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