Most Hated People of the Han Dynasty / Three Kingdoms

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Re: Most Hated People of the Han Dynasty / Three Kingdoms

Unread postby Jordan » Sun Jun 21, 2020 2:22 am

Going back to some earlier points made by DaoLunofShiji, I just can't bring myself to hate Sima Zhao or Sima Yan because, relatively speaking, they showed a lot of clemency toward many of their adversaries (probably not all though, admittedly). This is something I greatly admire in historical figures and especially warlords/military leaders. But DaoLun made a really good point about evaluating the characters based on the morality of the time, in which case regicide would seem like a far worse offense than a massacre of civilians. However, Sima Zhao treated Liu Shan mercifully and when his advisors suggested he slaughter the citizens of Shouchun due to that city's constant uprisings, he refused. These are things I find appealing. Zhao's ultimate action of killing the Wei Emperor and supplanting him with another is probably worse from a standpoint of ancient Chinese morality, but then again I'm not sure what he could have done. Even if he had followed moral standards and reverted to a loyal and pliant vassal, in my opinion it would have just been foolish to do so. The Emperor, if he assumed full power, probably would have had him and his clan purged for their previous actions and dominance of the court.

If we go by standards of the time, and for much of Chinese history in general actually, eunuchs tended to be absolutely reviled. I actually personally think they are not as bad as the history makes them out to be. However, this ties into my personal theory about the dynamics of power in Imperial China. In my opinion, Emperors constantly had to fear the threat of various factions and potential enemies, including but not limited to their own consorts and their extended families, anybody with military authority on the periphery, powerful ministers of the gentry class within their own court, popular uprisings, foreign invaders, and the Emperor's own Imperial family. Eunuchs could potentially be a threat as well, but they were in most periods the most benign of all the possible threats an Emperor could face. This is because they tended to owe their positions to the Emperor personally. It is also because there was no easy way a eunuch could claim the mandate of heaven or form their own dynasty or anything along these lines. Eunuchs could often serve as a counterbalance to other threats to the Emperor, serving as informants or loyalists for an Emperor in a time of need. They helped the Han overthrow the influence of Liang Ji, and the first Ming Emperor depended upon them as well due to his distrust of others at court. Some eunuchs such as Cai Lun in Late-Han times (relevant to this thread) or Zheng He had incredible accomplishments. Even among the infamous 10 Regular Attendants (there were more than 10 though), there was one eunuch named Bi Lan who was a masterful engineer and architect. On the other hand, in Tang times with the Sweet Dew incident and others, eunuchs could show they had the power to take control of a weak court, and Zong Ai in Northern Wei times killed several sovereigns. So it's not like they had no blood on their hands in Chinese history, but my opinion is that they were not as bad as warlords/other possible threats to the Emperor.
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Jordan
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