Would the RTK era exist without Cao Cao?

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Would the RTK era exist without Cao Cao?

Unread postby Lexus Fiend » Sat Feb 04, 2006 10:01 am

Just a little background as to why I created this, I had toyed with this idea in the other current Mengde thread going around, and my suggestion of a seperate thread was seconded by James who agreed that this can be a very interesting discussion, so here goes;

First of all, this can be discussed in a variety of ways. The most obvious being something along the lines of "what if Cao Cao never was born in the first place", but I feel that is a bit too vague and frankly isn't worth discussing here.

I think it is far more useful to consider what the RTK era in China would be like if Cao Cao had died at a young age? How about him dying in the Yellow Turban Rebellion? Those questions would lead to the same conclusion, which is, there is no answer to those questions, only speculation. For better discussion's sake, let's say he was killed around the time of Dong Zhuo or not long afterwards. Perhaps even if he was killed at Chibi? Without going into much detail myself, as many of you all know far more than I about specifics of the era, I will go as far to say that the Three Kingdoms would never have existed without Cao Cao's involvement.

Now, obviously there are tons of possibilites here, and that's where you all come in to chime in with certain points and information/speculation. Let's say that Cao Cao was killed somehow during the coalition battle against Dong Zhuo. More than likely, I would venture to say that Dong Zhuo would still eventually be defeated. Now, at this point, the one holding the most power arguably would be Yuan Shao. There is also Sun Jian who cannot be forgotten, especially since he most likely would not have had to go to war with Liu Biao and be killed. Liu Bei would play a prominent part as well, as the "Imperial Uncle", if there were still enough Han supporters around.

Before this becomes too much of a "what-if" type of thread, let's just focus on, in general, without Cao Cao's existence, would the Three Kingdoms era as we know it today even exist? Or, if you prefer, point out a certain important time in Cao Cao's life where he may have passed away, and try to come to a conclusion on what would have happened in China with him gone.

I think this can be a very fun discussion if done properly. Perhaps it could have been worded differently, and if James or anyone has any suggestions on how to make this thread more informative and interesting, feel free to help out.
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sat Feb 04, 2006 2:47 pm

Well, as the question is stated, would the 3K era as we know it have existed without Cao Cao?, the answer is clearly no because the 3K era as we know it is centred most prominently on three people: Liu Bei, Sun Quan and Cao Cao. Clearly things would have been different.

I would argue that there still would have been a long civil war, and possibly even the tripartite division that was later established. Yuan Shao is clearly the major force in the North in this scenario and given that Liu Bei didn't become powerful until he seized the West, and Wu was in the south, I think Yuan Shao takes the north with ease. The question is whether anyone challenges him for the Central Plains. It is said that Sun Ce, prior to his death, wished to go north to attack Cao Cao but this is somewhat debated. If I remember correctly, de Crespigny comes down on the side that Ce probably didn't really intend to do this. As such I'm inclined to believe Wu would have stayed in the south.

As for Liu Bei, he clearly was not someone who wished to serve anyone for long, rather wishing to be a leader himself. I think that he would have escaped the clutches of any hostile forces, just as he did in the real situations, because if he can get away from Cao Cao on multiple occasions, he can get away from anyone. I believe he would have evntually found his way south to Liu Biao in either case.

This brings us to the big question, and one of the major axes on which the 3K saga turned, and that's Jing province. Cao Cao was responsible for Yuan Shu being put down, and as we know Shu and Biao were often at odds with one another. I don't see Shao making a beeline south as Cao did, so that leaves Shu, Biao, probably Liu Bei on Biao's side, and the possible intervention of Sun Ce/Quan. Were Sun Jian still alive I have no doubt he would have of course fought against Biao, but Ce had been neglected by Yuan Shu - one of the catalysts for the formation of Wu to begin with - so I'm not sure how that would play out. Biao's forces were responsible for Sun Jian's death, however, so perhaps Wu would team up with Yuan Shu anyway. In this scenario, Shu is hardly a weakling, but if he still makes his imperial proclamation then all is lost for him anyhow - everyone would have sicced their dogs of war on him if Cao Cao hadn't. This, perhaps, would be enough to drive Wu away from Yuan Shu. However, Shu was on his way to his brother/cousin Shao when Cao Cao struck the final blow, so perhaps he does manage to unite with his brother/cousin this time

So we have a scenario where there are three factions in this south-central region, the area that gave rise to Chibi and gave Liu Bei the momentum to rocket into sudden relevance in the big picture. The factions are:

Han family members:

- Liu Biao
- Liu Bei
- Liu Biao's kids

The Yuan clan:

- Yuan Shu
- Yuan Shao

Wu:

- Sun Ce
- Sun Quan

I think Liu Bei still finds Zhuge Liang and, given Yuan's power in the north, Liang comes up with a similar version of his Longshan plan. When Liu Biao dies Yuan Shao and Shu may come on the offensive, but they aren't nearly as wily and seamless in their actions and fighting as Cao Cao, so whether Liu Zong surrenders again is in question. It is true, however, that Shao had many, many men. So, I think we see this: Liu Bei, who is nominally backing Liu Zong and Liu Qi in Jing province, joins forces with Wu again, though this time he has many more soldiers and officers than he did in real life, and they drive off Yuan Shao. Now, Cao Cao clearly suffered a striking defeat at Chibi, possibly in two different locations, but the marsh sickness was the major reason why he decided to heed the better part of valor. I think Shao and Shu's troops get sick as well but they are not as forward-thinking as Cao Cao and they end up getting beat terribly in the confrontation with Bei and Quan. They flee northward, Liu Bei has total possession of Jing north of the river, the defense of their father's homeland convinces the anti-Bei party in Jing to get over it, and both Bei and Wu are secure. Since Liu Bei has northern Jing as his base, he agrees to cede the southern commanderies to Wu despite Biao having nominally had control over the whole shebang (Biao's ability to hold the southern commanderies in check was hit-and-miss).

Bei then moves west, as normal, leaving Liu Qi (providing he lives longer this time) and Zong to handle Jing, with the historical backup forces he left in reality, only more secure and more men. However, because the Yuan got sledgehammered at our Chibi replacement, they are far weaker now than Cao Cao was. Sun Quan attacks Hefei and is successful, Liu Bei takes Hanzhong and Guan Yu seizes Fan castle.

At this point its a race to see who takes the Yuan out. I think either Liu Bei or Wu could have done it, that's how much worse the Yuan were than Cao Cao in terms of strategy, defense and military things in general. Yuan Shu and Shao may start squabbling amongst themselves, as Shao's kids did in reality, and basically whoever is able to knock them out first has got the show won because they have the other kingdom surrounded.

The only exception would be if Shu and Wu continued their joint attacks and ended up carving up the Yuan lands between them, thus forming a kind of Yin-Yang shaped division. Then we have Marginally-Less-Romantic Two Kingdoms and that could be a stalemate that lasted for awhile. Both were plenty capable with, at this time, a lot of talented men on the battlefield and in administration, and they would have absorbed a lot more as they overcame the Yuan. Shu would be at a slight disadvantage because, depending on how far their 'crescent' extends on the northern border they've got Xiongnu and other fun times ahead of them. Wu is sitting rather pretty, with only the weak, southern tribes to handle, but Shu probably has more of the powerful north-central region.

Yup, those are two divisions that could be sitting there for a long, long time. Instead of being reunified for about 100 years or so under Jin, the nation could have remained fragmented for even longer.

Adrian
Last edited by Liu Yuante on Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Rastafarian » Sat Feb 04, 2006 3:54 pm

cao cao is in the center of chaos(central plain) and he even become the first one looks really dominating , he make a strong foundation for wei and even jing who finally dominated the whole land , is the seed from wei that cao cao created , i think he's the most important figure in three kingdoms :twisted:
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Sat Feb 04, 2006 6:36 pm

Yuan Shao could have merely absorbed Cao Cao's territory and forces without much trouble, and probably would have. In that case, Liu Bei would have no where to go, since he would either side with Yuan Shao or Gongsun Zan (most likely Gongsun Zan, but then after Zan's defeat go to Yuan Shao). Yuan Shu would become Shao's chief opposer, not to forget Lu Bu and Li Jue (assuming Dong Zhuo is still assassinated, of course). Things would continue to progress in the south as is, with the exception that Yuan Shu's self-declaration would be targeted at Yuan Shao rather than at Cao Cao, thus possibly causing Sun Ce not to break away from him, since he partially blames Yuan Shao for Sun Jian's death.

Without Cao Cao's skill, however, Yuan Shao would most likely have a great deal of difficulty in dealing with Yuan Shu. Additionally, Li Jue would continue to hold the Emperor. He would most likely fall in some time, but he would be a threat that Yuan Shao couldn't ignore.

So, there wouldn't be a Three Kingdoms period, but rather a Two Kingdoms period between memers of the Yuan clan. Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu's upcoming deaths would only add to the chaos, with Yuan Shao's sons fighting over succession, Yuan Shu being replaced with a man undoubtedly more talented and virtuous than he (possibly even Sun Ce, who at the time protected more than 3/4 of Yuan Shu's territory).
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:45 pm

LiuYuanTe, I think your reasoning sounds really good, but I also think that Sun GongLi also has a point.

I was thinking on the Ma clan (Ma Chao and his family).

This may be irrelevent, but if Cao Cao was dead at this time, surely the Ma clan would not be exterminated. Therefore we can assighn a much larger role to the Ma's, which I think is very interesting.

I dont think that many people at the time were worried about the Ma's, and I think that they may have moved on Shu if the others (the Yuans, the Suns and the Liu's) were concentrating too hard on defending against each other.

Who would the Ma's join up with/ ally themselves with? If Ma Chao was really a Han supporter, then maybe the Liu's and the Ma's would hold half the country with the Yuan's and the Sun's holding the other two quarters.

Then we've got a more romantic 4 kingdoms with two allied forces against another two, which I think is quite good fun!
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Unread postby Lexus Fiend » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:53 am

I'm not so sure the Ma clan would have played such a huge role in the era with Mengde gone as others have stated. Sure, they would have been a force to be reckoned with, but not to the effect of say Shu or Wu. The main reasoning behind my opinion there is I'm not how sure Ma Teng would have been as a ruler of a large country. He's a talented man, no doubt, as well as a capable leader of men. I'm not sure if he would have had the ambition necessary, or the talent under him (also, the charisma to attract talent) to compete with the others. Note that I'm not the most knoledgable on Ma Teng, so correct me if I have made wrong assumptions here. I may be wrong, but wasn't he a rather strong supporter of the Han? Whether that would play much of a role here, as the other Han "supporters" abandon their former allegiance, is debatable as well. That brings up another possibility of a "Han restoration coalition", which could be quite a force.

EDIT:To Shi Tong, I misread your post the first time around, my apologies as many of my points were in contrast to with what you had stated.

Also, with Ma Teng eventually passing, presumably Ma Chao would be the next ruler, and I don't see him doing well at all. Perhaps his reign would be comparable to Sun Ce, but I view Chao as even more hot-headed and aggressive as Ce.

Also, to Liu Yuan-te, perhaps I worded the name of this thread wrong, but you all get the jist of what I was getting at I'm sure.
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Unread postby Gabriel » Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:28 am

Without Cao Cao would there be any reason for Liu Bei to flee from place to place and eventually form his own kingdom? I imagine him staying in one place, unless he's ordered to another, and eventaully being destroyed by a stronger force like Dong Zhuo's or Yuan Shao's. Speaking of those two, I'd imagine them being the greatest threats, with Sun Ce as one to the south. They'd be the new three kingdoms. All else would be swallowed by them. Just my personal opinion though....
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Sun Feb 05, 2006 1:28 pm

Without Cao Cao would there be any reason for Liu Bei to flee from place to place and eventually form his own kingdom?


I would immagine yes is the answer to this question!

It's not that I dont think that Liu Bei was mostly running from Cao Cao in order to oppose him on grounds which he could actully fight on, but that I think there were so many opposers to the Han that someone would have taken a strong lead in the Han court, meaning that Liu Bei would have to get somewhere to fight (again).

What's Yuan Shao's possision on this? It was Yuan Shu who made himself an emperor before time was due, but Yuan Shao didn't join him as "friends". Was he a Han supporter at all? Otherwise, why would Liu Bei even entertain the thought of being his friend?
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:11 pm

Liang Shuo wrote:Without Cao Cao would there be any reason for Liu Bei to flee from place to place and eventually form his own kingdom? I imagine him staying in one place, unless he's ordered to another, and eventaully being destroyed by a stronger force like Dong Zhuo's or Yuan Shao's.


Keep in mind that Liu Bei also became estranged from Lu Bu after having previously been allied (when Lu Bu attacked him, though) and also fled from Yuan Shao. He also could have gone into service for Wu after Chibi but was committed to doing his own thing. I think that Liu Bei was not someone who wished to serve another and would have kept moving until he found such a place where he could be his own master. The thing which drove him into Cao Cao's arms was being attacked by Lu Bu, and then he fled from there to Yuan Shao, and then to Liu Biao. Assuming Lu Bu still attacks, he either goes to Yuan Shao, who is closest, or down to Liu Biao, who is a distant relative. Since he left Yuan Shao in reality, I see no reason why he would not leave him again. Yuan Shao's position did not become precarious or in bad shape until long after Liu Bei had left his service, so the lack of Cao Cao would not, I think, be an issue. This is why I believe he would have ended up in Jing anyhow.

Another point to consider is Lu Bu. For those who feel that the pressure from Cao Cao on Shao was the driving force for Bei heading to Biao, Lu Bu could have taken up that role. Cao Cao destroyed him, too, so he probably would have ended up being the main force opposing Yuan Shao. So no, I think Liu Bei still winds up in Jing.

Also, reading through my earlier analysis, I want to clarify my reasoning surrounding Liu Bei allowing Wu to have southern Jing in my scenario. At face value it seems strange, but here's what I'm thinking: later on down the road (in the actual history) Zhuge Liang is insistent on peace and cooperation with Wu, so he clearly recognises the benefits of alliance. The Yuan probably control the Emperor in this scenario, so Shu would definitely have still been wanting to take them out first. Even though the Yuan get beaten badly by the coalition force, they are still more numerous than they other two and of course just recently Wu and Shu were allies, so the natural thing would be a joint attack on the Yuan, as in reality they were supposed to do against Wei. Since Liang is committed to this, it seems to me that his actual behavior in snatching up Jing in real-life was based on necessity - essentially honorable as he was, when his master was in desperate need of a base, and shelter, he advised what was necessary. With Liu Bei having a base in my alternate scenario, there is no need for this and Liang, when Wu inquires into the matter, agrees to give up all or a portion of the southern commanderies of Jing in the spirit of mutual cooperation and keeping things friendly until they can liberate the throne of Han.

Shi Tong wrote:What's Yuan Shao's possision on this? It was Yuan Shu who made himself an emperor before time was due, but Yuan Shao didn't join him as "friends". Was he a Han supporter at all? Otherwise, why would Liu Bei even entertain the thought of being his friend?


According to Cao Cao's SGZ biography, when Yuan Shao and Cao Cao both were holding high office at the capital - Yuan Shao as General-In-Chief and Cao Cao as Minister of works - Yuan Shao minted currency without authority, made the recommendations for those to be named as Filially Pious and Incorrupt, and all of the officials reported to him. Furthermore, he wished to establish a new capital at Juancheng with a new emperor - Liu Yu. Liu Yu was of the Han, but really this is not very loyal behavior. Yuan Shao was trying to usurp authority for himself - if we believe the letter Cao Cao sent to Xian that is quoted in the annotations to SGZ - and I think that, given the chance, he would have been at least as bad as Cao Cao, if not worse, in terms of setting the Emperor to the side and taking control.

Oh, and when I say Sun Quan takes Hebei successfully, I meant Hefei. Hebei is quite a ways north.

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Unread postby Gabriel » Sun Feb 05, 2006 5:06 pm

When making my comment, I was speaking as if Cao Cao died early on, like during the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. Sorry I didn't bring that out.

Anyway, without Cao Cao things would remain the same for a few years after his death. I'd imagine the people still being given their rewards and being stationed where ever and what not, but when we get a little further things start to change. Liu Bei got mixed up with Cao Cao because of the Tao Qian incident. Without that I'd see no reason for him to leave Pingyuan and his dear friend, Gongsun Zan (who was fighting Yuan Shao), to go somewhere else. I mean, it's not like he was serving anyone other then the Han right? He'd then either be destroyed by Yuan Shao or victorious under Gongsun Zan. If it's the first then I could see him wonder around and maybe get something, like a piece of land. If not that then I see him dead or under Yuan Shao. If it's the latter then I see no reason for him to leave. He'd still have power, an army and such, and he'd be serving his old friend. He could fight the opposers to the Han with Gongsun Zan and he'd have no reason to really go anywhere else....
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