Liu Bei's skillz

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Liu Bei's skillz

Unread postby Lady Wu » Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:23 am

How good was Liu Bei a commander? This was a question that came up during the "could Liu Bei win at Yiling" discussion.

One of the sources of disagreement is Liu Bei's role at Mt Dingjun. Was he the one to whom victory should be attributed?

Let's first consider the passage in Liu Bei's SGZ bio:

二十四年春,自阳平南渡沔水,缘山稍前,於定军山势作营。渊将兵来争其地。先主命黄忠乘高鼓譟攻之,大破渊军,斩渊及曹公所署益州刺史赵颙等。
"In the spring of the 24th year [of Jian'an], he crossed the Mian River southwards from Yangping, and advanced along the mountains, setting camp by Mt Dingjun. Xiahou Yuan led his troops to fight over that land. The Former Ruler ordered Huang Zhong to take the higher ground, and to attack him with great clamour. He thus dealt Xiahou Yuan's army a great defeat, and beheaded Yuan and Zhao Yun, Inspector of Yizhou appointed by Cao Cao, among others."

Note that Fa Zheng was not mentioned.

Here's from Fa Zheng's bio:

二十四年,先主自阳平南渡沔水,缘山稍前,於定军、兴势作营。渊将兵来争其地。正曰:“可击矣。”先主命黄忠乘高鼓譟攻之,大破渊军,渊等授首。”
"In the 24th year, the Former Ruler crossed the Mian River southwards from Yangping, and advanced along the mountains, setting camp at Dingjun and Xingshi. Xiahou Yuan led his troops to fight over the land. [Fa] Zheng said, "You may attack him now." The Former Ruler then ordered Huang Zhong to take the higher land and attack him with great clamour. He thus dealt Xiahou Yuan's army a great defeat, and Yuan was beheaded."

I think what Fa Zheng did was only to support Liu Bei's decision to attack. All he said was with regard to the time of the attack, not how to attack. Note that it was still Liu Bei (in this passage) who ordered Huang Zhong to charge down from the mountain (which was a crucial point to the victory). The Hanzhong campaign was still Liu Bei's design.

[Isn't there a translated bio of Fa Zheng??]
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Unread postby Lu Kang » Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:38 am

Yes there is LW, Here

I'd also like to bring into this dicussion the contributions of Huang Quan.

From Huang Quan's SGZ bio:

及曹公破張魯,魯走入巴中,權進曰:「若失漢中,則三巴不振,此為割蜀之股臂也。」於是先主以權,為護軍,率諸將迎魯,魯已還南鄭,北降曹公。然卒破杜濩、樸胡,殺夏候淵,據漢中,皆權本謀也。

When Lord Cao defeated Zhang Lu, Lu retreated into Bazhong. Huang Quan said, "If we lose Hanzhong, then the three Ba will not be safe. This will be like cutting off a portion of Shu." Consequently, the First Sovereign made Huang Quan the Protector of the Army (hujun) and sent him to lead various general to welcome Zhang Lu. But Zhang Lu had already returned to Nanzheng in the north to surrender to Lord Cao. Later, the defeat of Du Huo and Po Hu, the killing of Xiahou Yuan, and the seizing of Hanzhong, all were based on Huang Quan's own plans.


It appears that perhaps Fa Zheng was reinforcing Huang Quan's plans.
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Unread postby Shield of Rohan » Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:14 am

I myself had never thought much on Liu Bei's command talent, but I do believe that he had a good share of it after reading two SGZ biographies in particular.

Liu Zhang's SGZ wrote:The next year [CE 212], the First Sovereign was at Jiameng and directed his troops to the South and was winning everywhere.


Cao Cao's SGZ wrote:In the third month, the King advanced from Xie Gorge, ordered his army to secure strategic points, approached Hanzhong and subsequently reached Yangping. Liu Bei held out in the defence of the difficult terrain.

In the fifth month—summer—he led the army in withdrawal to Chang’an.
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Unread postby kvn_m » Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:02 am

I believe that Liu Bei was an able commander as well as a brilliant man in the history. Most of the credit of taking Yizhou, in fact, goes to Liu Bei. Zhuge Liang only suggested Liu Bei to take Yizhou.

He was able to get a grasp of Jingzhou because he "borrowed" it from Sun Quan.

I was not aware of his contribution at Mt. Ding Jun. Haha. However, it only makes me believe more firmly that he was a great commander.
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:51 am

Liu Bei was, in my opinion, an above average military commander who nonetheless could not match the likes of Cao Cao or Sun Jian. At Yi Ling, even before Lu Xun's counterattack, the Shu army faltered against an outnumbered Sun Huan. In addition, it appears that Yizhou, while a vast area, did not take much in the way of conquering - Liu Zhang surrendered relatively quickly. The defeats of Han Xuan, Jin Xuan, Zhao Fan, and Liu Du are equally unimpressive, as all were vastly outmanned by Liu Bei ahead of time.

That's not to say that "above average" is BAD. Liu Bei DID demonstrate uncommon skill in the battle at Bo Wan Slopes, and though the campaign for Yizhou was short, it was still quite successful and Liu Bei does deserve credit.

Is Liu Bei a "brilliant" military commander? I don't believe so. Is he good? I won't argue there. But his greater talents lied elsewhere
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Unread postby Elitemsh » Wed Aug 17, 2005 11:03 am

I think Liu Bei was a brilliant and charasmatic leader who had a great ability to rally the people around him, this is a rare quality. However, I do not think Liu Bei was a great commander. Liu Bei was good at recruiting talent and appointing them in suitable positions. To me, though, a great commander is someone who thinks up at least some strategies on his own and is often directly responsible for victory in battle. Correct me if i am wrong but Liu Bei rarely won a battle due to his own skills or strategy, it was always due to the prowess or mind of one of his generals not him himself. There is a difference between being a great leader and a great general or commander, Liu Bei was I think a great leader not a great general. Examples of great commanders or generals in Shu would be Guan Yu, Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei or Pang Tong.
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Unread postby Jordan » Wed Aug 17, 2005 11:34 am

Yawn well my main argument about Liu Bei's command skills come from "Claim to the Mandate" from Generals of the South. On pages 6,7,8 & perhaps a little bit onward, Dr. Rafe de Crispigny says for instance "Liu Bei just over 60 years old planned the strategies and gave the orders in person." Things like that. Most of his decisions, at least from what I read seemed to be pretty wise. I don't know about Fa Zheng, I was just asking.

http://www.anu.edu.au/asianstudies/decr ... index.html

(Read Claim to the Mandate pages 6 and onwards to see what I mean. That quote comes from page 7 I think)
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Unread postby kvn_m » Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:03 pm

In the novel, it's true that the battles he won are due to the prowess or wits of his generals and advisors. However, historically, it was he who made the moves to win battles and gain territories. The other person who's similar to Liu Bei would be Cao Cao, Yuan Shao and Sun Ce who expanded their forces. Yuan Shao managed to take over Gongsun Zan; Sun Ce managed to pacify the southerlands; Liu Bei managed to take Jingzhou or Yizhou. Whether they're spectacular or not, I believe it's more important than defending Chi Bi or defending He Fei. Chi Bi and He Fei are both BIG victories. It's good. But in taking Yizhou, I actually compare it to the battle of Guan Du. Even if it wasn't a show of feat as much as it was in Guan Du, I believe that Liu Bei's action of taking Yizhou was almost as important as winning the battle of Guan Du.
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Unread postby Jordan » Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:21 am

kvn_m wrote:In the novel, it's true that the battles he won are due to the prowess or wits of his generals and advisors. However, historically, it was he who made the moves to win battles and gain territories. The other person who's similar to Liu Bei would be Cao Cao, Yuan Shao and Sun Ce who expanded their forces. Yuan Shao managed to take over Gongsun Zan; Sun Ce managed to pacify the southerlands; Liu Bei managed to take Jingzhou or Yizhou. Whether they're spectacular or not, I believe it's more important than defending Chi Bi or defending He Fei. Chi Bi and He Fei are both BIG victories. It's good. But in taking Yizhou, I actually compare it to the battle of Guan Du. Even if it wasn't a show of feat as much as it was in Guan Du, I believe that Liu Bei's action of taking Yizhou was almost as important as winning the battle of Guan Du.


Well you have a point. The victory at Guandu secured Cao Cao's place in the Central Plains and Nei Bei. Similarly Liu Bei's victories in Yizhou secured Shu-Han's place in the southwest for several decades. Liu Bei was decent. He was not the best general in Shu, but he was an apt commander. Sometimes I think that Luo Guanzhong, the author of the novel, unintentionally made Kongming seem better than he was at the expense of several Shu advisors, generals and even Liu Bei himself.
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:36 am

SlickSlicer wrote:Yawn well my main argument about Liu Bei's command skills come from "Claim to the Mandate" from Generals of the South. On pages 6,7,8 & perhaps a little bit onward, Dr. Rafe de Crispigny says for instance "Liu Bei just over 60 years old planned the strategies and gave the orders in person." Things like that. Most of his decisions, at least from what I read seemed to be pretty wise. I don't know about Fa Zheng, I was just asking.

http://www.anu.edu.au/asianstudies/decr ... index.html

(Read Claim to the Mandate pages 6 and onwards to see what I mean. That quote comes from page 7 I think)


Are you reading the same pages I am? Because these pages say that Liu Bei, after pushing Pan Zhang back (but not routing his army), was utterly destroyed by Sun Quan's armies.
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