Jiang Wei’s contribution to Shu’s downfall?

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Jiang Wei’s contribution to Shu’s downfall?

Unread postby James » Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:07 pm

I’ve recently enjoyed an interesting discussion about Jiang Wei’s possible contributions to the fall of Shu and I realized that hasn’t been talked about here in years. I wonder what new folks might have to say? Some familiar faces where quite active in the old discussions, such as our good friend Exar Kun!

Aside from the obvious question of “How much did Jiang Wei’s campaigns damage Shu?” one wonders what his motive was for the action. Jiang Wei did not begin his campaigns until around fifteen years after Zhuge Liang died (he originally lacked the authority). When he did, though, we all know how much he focused on the task.

Second question: What do you suppose he wanted to accomplish?

A continuation of the 2003 topic, Jiang Wei, the killer of a kingdom?
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Unread postby Elitemsh » Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:43 pm

Jiang Wei, although I respect his efforts, simply weakened an already weak Shu. In my view, he just shortened Shu's life span. Shu was destined to die the earliest. The Yi Ling battle severely weakened Shu's resources. Ever since that date, Shu was so drastically inferior to Wu and Wei in manpower and resources. Even Zhuge Liang, with his great abilities was unable to gain victories against Wei, mainly due to difficult terrain and a major lack of resources. IMO, for Jiang Wei to have been successful was impossible considering his opposition's strength.

Perhaps Jiang Wei was just doing what he felt was his duty to his kingdom or to Zhuge Liang.

Shu's downfall was inevitable. Ironically, Jiang Wei, in doing what he felt was best for his kingdom, he actually did the opposite. He did indeed contribute towards Shu's downfall.
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Re: Jiang Wei’s contribution to Shu’s downfall?

Unread postby Xiahou Mao » Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:59 am

James wrote:Aside from the obvious question of “How much did Jiang Wei’s campaigns damage Shu?” one wonders what his motive was for the action. Jiang Wei did not begin his campaigns until around fifteen years after Zhuge Liang died (he originally lacked the authority). When he did, though, we all know how much he focused on the task.

Second question: What do you suppose he wanted to accomplish?

My position on this is pretty well known, I imagine. But I don't know that I've stated it here, aside from the Xiahou Mao biography that more people should read. ;)

Jiang Wei was motivated simply by fame and glory. Feeling he wasn't getting a fair shake in Wei, he defected to Shu. Zhuge Liang immediately rewarded him with a high rank, but did not trust him with important tasks. Why would you trust someone who's proven in the past that he'd betray his lord? Jiang Wei was content with this rank, but grew agitated by the lack of military movement in the years following Zhuge Liang's death, and by the time Fei Yi was in charge of Shu he wanted a chance to prove himself and lead invasions. Fei Yi entrusted him with a couple but limited his soldiers. Oddly, these invasions with limited resources were among Jiang Wei's most successful. When Fei Yi was dead, though, there was no one left to tell Jiang Wei what he could and couldn't do. That's when he went out of control.

His single-minded desire for fame led him to recall troops from the defensive positions in Han Zhong (what glory is there in defending?) and throw them headlong at Wei. Though he had able officers in Xiahou Ba and Zhang Yi, he listened to their advice very selectively. At various times, both Xiahou Ba and Zhang Yi advised against attacking and warned Jiang Wei of impending defeats if he pressed on. Jiang Wei did not like hearing advice like that. His response to Xiahou Ba and Zhang Yi on these occasions was to make them lead the attack, which in both cases resulted in their deaths. In my opinion, Jiang Wei wound up viewing both of them as impediments to his crusade due to their differing opinion, and thus deliberately placed them into danger. After all, if they're dead they can't complain to Liu Chan, can they?

Eventually even Liu Chan couldn't turn a blind eye to Jiang Wei's wasteful attacks. He demoted him and refused to allow further attacks. Unfortunately, by that point it was too little, too late. Han Zhong had been dismantled to such an extent that Zhong Hui and Deng Ai were able to roll in on their two-pronged attack, crushing Jiang Wei and Fu Qian and setting up the demise of Shu. If Jiang Wei hadn't ruined the defenses of Han Zhong, he could have held them against the attacks. He did have some talent, after all, and a good general on defense can beat great generals on offense, as Hao Zhao proved against Zhuge Liang. But he was single-minded in his pursuit of victory and glory, and that cost him in the end.

The silliness that happened after Liu Chan's surrender, with Zhong Hui, reinforces Jiang Wei's duplicitous and covetous nature. He ostensibly surrendered to Wei, but knew that due to his betrayal earlier he would never be promoted. So he fed Zhong Hui honeyed words to entice a rebellion. While people claim this rebellion was to restore Liu Chan, the only thing it did was place him in danger. Not only were Jiang Wei and Zhong Hui killed when they were found out, but so were many other innocent Shu ministers, including Liu Chan's son the crown prince. Jiang Wei didn't care about endangering their lives, though. He didn't care about Liu Chan being in danger either. He just saw an opportunity for him and Zhong Hui to hold ultimate power. It was his last-gasp attempt to realize his dreams, and much like everything else Jiang Wei tried in his lifetime, it met with failure.
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Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Dec 28, 2006 10:31 am

Xiahou Mao pretty much covers my view, I will say that his fame seeking would also explain his complete neglect of civil affairs until it started affecting him. He does seem to have been capable with small troops but he was no commander in chief, he lacked the tempremant and perhaps the ability to do that job
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Unread postby Shu_Tian_Wei_Da_Jiang_Jun » Thu Dec 28, 2006 5:03 pm

Well - to be fair, Zhuge Liang after 225 didn't manage civil affairs either(a guy who was a brilliant domestic administrator, even better than he was as a commander.)

But in 225, there was still Fei Yi, Dong Yun and Jiang Wan around, along with a still solid government. So point taken.

Still, how can we determine Jiang Wei's motives either way? For example, Jiang Wei's defection from Wei is used as proof of his greedy and treacherous nature. But didn't Wang Ping do the same? (mainly because he felt slighted by Xu Huang IIRC) Nobody bashes Wang Ping for that.
Hell, Xu Huang himself defected from Yang Feng because he knew Yang Feng had no future.

The Zhong Hui revolt...again, I can't ascribe any motives, though in terms of putting people in danger, well, hindsight is 20/20, right? I'm sure he thought it would go without a hitch, since he presumably still had the loyalty of the Shu Army, which would support him. Just so happened that he was surrounded by Wei troops.

As for the changing of the defensive formations, Jiang Wei did his job in the defense of Shu. It was the other passes that surrendered, forcing him to retreat because he was outflanked.

I believe the stated reason for the switch was to permit a counterattack in case of a Wei invasion. I believe he thought that any opportunity to inflict big losses on the Wei army was justified. But the problem with the strategy was that if one or two passes fall, the whole defense fails, which is what happened in the Wei invasion.

I will agree that Jiang Wei was too aggressive and ambitious, and ignored good advice from his commanders. That cannot be disputed.

I will also agree that Jiang Wei is not a natural commander in chief - he did not show the ability to see a situation as a whole - he could only focus on parts of that whole.

I would compare him to Xu Huang or Zhang Liao - brilliant FIELD generals, but I believe both would suck the big one as a CIC, because their focus would be on individual battles, and not the whole campaign.

If someone capable of leading such a campaign had been found, Jiang Wei could have been one of the best in 3K history - as when it came to winning individual battles, he was great, but when it came to winning a campaign, he was not.
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Unread postby Exar Kun » Fri Dec 29, 2006 6:30 pm

Ah yes, these were the good old days indeed.
Add original thread to archives

Exar Kun wrote:Holiday drinking will do you no good,you seem to have mixed Jiang Wei up with someone else.But it's all right,I won't call you on these things.

Exar Kun wrote:Reading this,Exar became shocked.
Bofu seemed to have this debate in a lock.
What course of action,could he possibly take?
"Read your last post...for pity's sake!"
But looking back,the answer became clear:
"Bofu I said that already...right over there.

Good grief, I certainly do miss my old friend Bofu (Lu Kang).

I'll give a concise summary of my thoughts on this matter.

I don't believe Jiang Wei's motives were selfish at all. It's obvious that he was not truly valued in Wei at all if they would so easily believe him to be a traitor. And then he's offered a position by Zhuge Liang himself. It's strange that people would be so quick to point out disloyalty here but then look the other way and go "hmm" if anyone tried to equate Sun Ce with the same behaviour.

Now then, as to the campaigns. Again I don't believe he was glory seeking at all. The campaigns quite simply were essential to Shu's survival. Shu is often seen as the aggressor kingdom that threw everything into offense while Wu was the sleeping giant, happy with what he has and only baring his teeth occassionally to show he hasn't lost them.
Well at the end of the day they both fell. Wu's defensive posture gained them 17 years. 17 years and literally zero chance of victory short of Wei/Jin collapsing totally. In exchange for Shu's 17 less years, they had the opportunity for victory everytime they went north. Yes, every time. No matter how bad they may have been beaten at times, they gave it their all and would have been fully prepared to go all the way. Compare to Wu, who would retreat win,lose or draw.

Given that the war never was (and never would be) a cold war, each kingdom could choose either victory or death. Victory meant fighting and that's what Jiang Wei believed in. If you aren't prepared to go for victory and instead will just wait for death then why even bother being independent. They could have gotten a better deal going vassal and offering their support in a Wei offensive against Wu as a dowry. Liu Shan would have been made King of Shu and they could live peacefully.

Jiang Wei was simply doing what was required. Shu was not getting any better, in fact the kingdom was steadily deteriorating, especially in terms of military personnel. Better to attack while still some strength remained, even if the effort sapped that remaining strength at an increased rate.
But even had he launched no campaigns, Shu would still be dead before the turn of the century. The kingdom was simply too weak, even from its inception, to live unless it maintained anything but an "offence if the best defence" posture. Thinking anything else is delusional.
And so is believing that by trying to survive as long as possible is a plausible strategy for victory.

This post really isn't keeping with the usual high standard I keep for myself but I don't feel particularly eloquent today. I'll try adding some more later, I just felt obliged to post something since James named me.
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Unread postby Xiahou Mao » Fri Dec 29, 2006 10:45 pm

I don't really buy that kind of assessment. Yes, Shu was outmatched, but staying on the defense doesn't mean they're giving up and resigning themselves to eventual defeat. Was Cao Cao giving up when he defended against Yuan Shao? No, he was waiting for his opening, which eventually came. Obviously, the Shu vs. Wei conflict stretches out for many more years than Cao Cao vs. Yuan Shao did, but the same core system applies. Given the choice of attacking with no chance of victory, as opposed to defending with a chance of victory, I'll choose defending each time.

Wu didn't lose because it sat back and defended. Wu lost because Sun Hao was a moron who alienated or executed just about every worthy officer he had. Liu Chan was nowhere near as bad as Sun Hao. Had Jiang Wei not thrown thousands of Shu soldiers to their deaths for no return against the Wei juggernaut, Shu could have held against a Wei attack. Indeed, the Wei attack might not even have come. They weren't in a rush to attack while Jiang Wan and Fei Yi were holding the defense, were they? Wei/Jin was almost content to be ruling the half of China they did, only launching offensives when they were assured of victory. If Jiang Wei's repeated campaigns and Sun Hao's rampant tyranny had not opened the paths to victory for Wei and Jin, who's to say whether or not Sima Zhao and Sima Yan would have even authorized the attacks?
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Unread postby kvn_m » Sat Dec 30, 2006 2:50 am

after the battles' results, you'd say that his campaigns strained shu's resources. but yeah, it's possible he thought of continuing Zhuge Liang's policy of offense is the best defense. Having skirmishes that resulted in more loss in Wei than Shu... slowly. But Jiang Wei didn't lead the northern campaigns like Zhuge Liang did. Jiang Wan I think, thought that it was better for Jiang Wei to hold his campaigns... because Shu didn't have the talents yet. Better to wait or hold for a little bit to be certainly profiting from the northern campaigns.

I do not believe that Jiang Wei was glory-seeking either. Circumstances were tighter on him than on Zhuge Liang's. Yet if he knew that, shouldn't he have not continued the campaigns? Shrugs.
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Unread postby Jordan » Sat Dec 30, 2006 11:57 am

Wu didn't lose because it sat back and defended. Wu lost because Sun Hao was a moron who alienated or executed just about every worthy officer he had

I may be wrong, but I think that Wu did launch a few attacks on
Late Wei/Jin even. I agree with what you said here.

I agree with Xiahou Mao that Jiang Wei's campaigns were bad for Shu, but I don't see how anybody can historically straight-up assess that Jiang Wei was a selfish prick and launched all his campaigns simply for the sake of glory. No historical source in the world can give us access to Jiang Wei's thoughts and convictions at the time of his invasions...

Anyways, I would say more but it would be kind of pointless since I'm engaged with this same debate on Koei Warriors. If I'm not unbanned there by New Years though, I'll be glad to continue arguing about Jiang Wei's contribution to Shu's downfall here...
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Unread postby Lu Kang » Sat Dec 30, 2006 10:46 pm

The Futility of Jiang Wei’s Campaigns can be seen in the eyes of his contemporaries. Atleast 4 of them voiced opposition to his campaigns which is fairly remarkable when looking at the trends in SGZ. Furthermore most were active on his campaigns. This is even ignoring the multitude of outcries by the common man. Without the will of the people there is no will of the Kingdom. Quite frankly the only man who voiced strong active support for Jiang Wei was Huang Hao. His only motive for such an opinion was to keep Jiang Wei out of the capital where he could ignore his duties as a high ranking civil officer. What is the purpose of expanding the exterior if the interior is rotten?

Shu’s campaigns under Jiang Wei were poorly planned and lacked strategical timing. By attacking every single year the troops got weaker and the resources of the state got smaller. With the smaller resources campaigns could not be carried on for as long and in the end had an ever decreasing chance of victory. Furthermore without the military or civil structures in place and land gained would be quickly lost. This is proven by Zhuge Liang’s multiple conquests and subsequent losses of nearby prefectures. After Jiang Wei’s first large scale campaign it is unlikely that any of his subsequent ones could have succeded in conquering a significant portion of land with the strained resources that were then available. Resources greatly dictated how successful a campaign could be. Without strong backing and good morale troops aren’t as effective even if the strategies are good. This can be seen with the fall of Shu, even though the strategy was probably flawed, the armies didn’t give anything more than token defense even though in years prior armies had easily defended such points.

but I don't see how anybody can historically straight-up assess that Jiang Wei was a selfish prick and launched all his campaigns simply for the sake of glory. No historical source in the world can give us access to Jiang Wei's thoughts and convictions at the time of his invasions...

This is true. We only have the thoughts of his contemporaries and the facts that may hint at such feelings. Chen Shuo, a officer of Shu who probably had enough information on him to make a solid opinion of him (whether faulty or not) surely did not look at him very favorable. He does attack him fairly hard for leaving his mother behind in Wei. The governor of Tian Shui, his superior in Wei who is responsible for all beneath him thought he would be disloyal. While being disloyal does not necessarily imply selfish nature, rarely does someone act disloyally without their own interests at the forefront. His strategy regarding Han Zhong is also overly grand. He seems to be wanting an end all and win all. He abandons a proven defensive stratagem in favor of a more risky one that could potentially score a larger victory over the enemy. But all in all, his strategy would only win sort term glory as in the long run even anialating a single army doesn’t necessary strengthen his position as Shu has neither the military strength nor government security to actually defeat and hold a conquered Wei, even a defenseless one. A further implicit example would be Jiang Wei’s early “campaigns”. These are the ones that were supposedly launched with only 10,000 troops. This force is far too small to do any actual damage to Wei or even conquer anything. The only purpose of such force would be to skirmish with the enemy and hopefully win a few small engagements. Such actions would not actually help the greater effort and in other examples through the period were conducted by men trying to win some glory.
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