Jiang Wei’s contribution to Shu’s downfall?

Join the Romance of the Three Kingdoms discussion with our resident Scholars. Topics relating to the novel and history are both welcome. Don't forget to check the Forum Rules before posting.
Kongming’s Archives: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms Officer Biographies
Three Kingdoms Officer Encyclopedia
Scholars of Shen Zhou Search Tool

Unread postby ZhaoZiLon » Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:27 am

Hi All - what a topic. Here is what I think:

The critisicm of Jiang Wei seems to evolve around the following:
1) He left his home country, Wei, and joined Shu, supposedly out of not being noticed and out of greed. After that, he attacked his home country again which means that he's not loyal. He ignored letters from his mum to go back and therefore he is not obedient to his parents.
2) He ignored the affairs of the state and went on expensive campaigns supposedly for his own glory. By doing so he shortened the life of the Shu kingdom. This is further compounded by the fact that he had no success with his campaigns at all.
3) He 'engineered' the death of other generals who opposed to his northern campaign
4) His strategy was 'overly-grand' and lacked 'strategic-timing'.

I think that cover it mostly. I'll give my response on each item:

1) Firstly I seem to remember a relatively renowned Chinese historian had a similar argument on this. Sun Tsi was his name I think? His paper came out and it was hotly debated, even tho internet didn't exist back then, Anyway.

I agree that it is a bit taboo for people (in that age) to change employers in his condition. It would have been better if he picked up him family and moved to Shu because he felt that Shu was a better employer to serve under, but no, he was forced into that situation. Then again, countless generals changed employers midway and they don't seem to recieve the same negative treatment from the community - Wang Ping, Zhang He, Huang Zhong, Yan Yan, Li Yan (bad example cos I hate him), Gan Ning, TaishiCi, Wei Yan, Guan Yu (Nope. He surrendered to Cao Cao and went back to Liu Bei. Sorry. I'm not taking any other answer for that one). Nevertheless, according to history books he surrendered and gave his heart to Shu. Was it indeed out of fame and glory? We will never know but I submit the following points to you:

- Before he surrendered to Shu I think he was already a 3rd tier general in Wei, with small dedicated army. At that time he wasn't even 30. I think history text stated that he was 27 when he made general in Shu. He was also recognised as a local leader and the elderley volunteered him to lead negotiations with Shu. That's why he came into contact with Zhuge Liang, I think. Being a third-tier general before 30 I don't think this necessarily consitutes bad treatment by Wei.

- For whatever motive, he joined Shu and was recognised by Zhuge Liang. I believe he would have agreed with the objective/goal of Shu and decided he would dedicated his career to that course. In doing so, he had to make a choice between serving Shu and serving his mum. He made a sacrifise and decided on the former. I would have thought this would have been painful for him, if anything. How do I know for sure? Well I don't, but for the same reasons neither do we know whether he was greedy/fame-hungry/lacked vision/rackless. We can discuss his actions/behaviour, but I don't think we have enough to go on for his personality. Just because he believed in a higher cause and had to made sacrifises in his life doesn't make him not obedient to his parents. We all know Xu Shu (Liu Bei's previous advisor) did it, well good on him, but frankly that's also why nothing came out of him after that. We can say he is obedient, or he actually didn't see a future out of Liu Bei's administration and wanted to find an easier career path, or he went for money/glory from Wei. Same thing applies here.

- History text also stated that he often has little in possession, spend all his spare funding on government matters and as a result sometimes leaving his wife/kids in hunger. I suppose you can also say that he neglect his family, but it seems to be common to neglect your family in those days (leaving them in hands of enemy etc, not to say I agree with it). I can also argue, again, that due to his believe in the higher course, he again made sacrifises for his own family's well being. I can say that he wanted to set an example for all those around him that they should put all their resources/energy into the nation's affairs. How do I know? again, I don't, but the above points seems to point me in that direction.

I'll also add that most Shu generals seem to exhibit the above behaviour. Zhuge Liang is known to have little to none possession, so was Zhang Yan, Fei Wei (who is known to walk from places to places where possible and doesn't even have bodyguards). Jiang Wei, as far as I can tell, seem to have the same characteristics here.

Need to head home first...will response to the rest a bit later.
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:04 am

Unread postby Terranigma Freak » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:12 pm

Let us look at it this way instead and consider a few things.

1: Selective reading from those who want to slander Jian Wei. Did Shu fall due to resources being stretched? As far as I can tell, the main reason Shu fell was because of the lack of defense. I don't recall reading anything about Shu's fall involves starving people.

In Jin Yao 6th year, Jiang Wei warned Liu Shan of Zhong Hui militaristic intentions at Guan Zhong. In accordance to that, Jiang Wei proposed to Liu Shan to dispatch troops to Yang Ping Guan in case of emergency. However, the eunuch Huang Hao invited a shaman who predicted that Wei would never invade Shu. As such, the warning was suppressed and the other court ministers did not have a chance to hear of it. It was not until the actual invasion of Zhong Hui at Luo Gu and Deng Ai at Da Zhong that troops led by Liao Hua and Zhang Yi were dispatched to Yang Ping Guan.

Of course Jian Wei was defeated, the troops couldn't mobilize till it was too late. Looking at all the sources, not one of them stated that the fall of Shu had anything to do with resources, but they all seem to say the same about Liu Shan and Huang Hao.

2: Would people still blame Jian Wei for the fall of Shu if he didn't go on any campigns? I'd say yes. It's double standards. If Jian Wei goes on campigns, it's his fault for draining Shu's resources. If Jian Wei didn't attack, people will blame Jian Wei for his lack of action. Sure, the latter didn't happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if history was different. Since Jian Wei was blamed for everything but the death of Jesus (for glory and fame anyone?), I think it's very likely people will blame him for the lack of action if he didn't do anything. Hell, even I -- or other Jian Wei supporters -- would hate Jian Wei if he didn't do anything.

3: Let me ask you guys this, why wasn't the downfall of Shu blamed on Liu Shan not challenging Deng Ai to a one-on-one duel? Why didn't Huang Hao himself lead armies into combat? Well believe it or not, unlike the video games, different officiers are responsible for different tasks, and can't do as they please. Jian Wei was a general (look at all his titles), a commander of the armies. His job is to fight, while domestic affairs are handled by the other officiers. Yes, there were OTHER officers in Shu, imagine that. If Shu did fall to resource, maybe it's because those in charge of it were complete morons who couldn't supply to country with enough food. If that's the case, then yes, I guess we could blame Jian Wei for mobilizing his tiny armies. Now if Jian Wei's task was to take care of domestic affairs but he decided to go to war for shits and giggles, then yeah, it's very much his fault.

Is Jian Wei perfect, of course not. I'm sure there are things Jian Wei could have done differently. For example, he could have gained more of the emperor's trust by being around him more. Then again, we're talking about an idiot who ignored Jian Wei's warning and trusted a Shaman, so I'm not sure if Jian Wei was stupid enough to reason with Liu Shan. While I know getting rid of Huan Hao is no easy task, I do believe Jian Wei should have at least tried to come up with plan to eliminate him. Many court officials throughout history have tried to eliminate their opposition, with varying results. It can be done.
Terranigma Freak
Scholar of Shen Zhou
Posts: 753
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2004 8:46 pm

Unread postby Zhilong » Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:10 pm

Exar Kun wrote:
Zhilong wrote:I'm also of the opinion that he was in it for personal fame and glory. Otherwise who would ignore the internal decay of his kingdom and accelerate it with his own exhausting campaigns? If he finds he cannot remove Huang Hao he should at least stay in the capital to counter him. Poor Dong Yun managed to do the thankless task without a single soldier in his command.

Gotta love them generalized recommendations.
Maybe instead of these general plans you might say exactly how he was going to accomplish this?
How exactly is he going to 'counter' Huang Hao? People make these statements rather often without troubling themselves to go into the details.

"The eunuchs were destroying the Han! Some loyal person should've just killed them!"

These things are never quite as easy as it seems when making generalized statements. Given Jiang Wei's history and position, Huang Hao's history and position and the overall historical precedent in these matters, I submit that there really wasn't anything he could have done to 'counter' Huang Hao in any effective fashion short of seriously overstepping his bounds and probably ending up dead for it.

A prudent approach would be to not be away from the capital so often for a start. SGZ explicitly states that as a reason for Chen Zhi having more power than Jiang Wei despite Jiang Wei being senior to him. Even working in a modern company, the decisions and power tend to be at HQ, you need be there to get a say, network and influence decisions.

He should have returned and could provide leadership to those who opposed the corruption. Especially once Chen Zhi died, the support Jiang Wei could muster in court would be overwhelmingly in favour with the ranks of the upper administration in the hands of ppl like Dong Jue, Fan Jian and Zhuge Jr. He could certainly have lent some support to Qiao Zhou who while respected had little substantive power since Jiang Wei is commander in chief after all.

Even if we accept there was not much that could be done it is a weak argument to say that it was ok for him to do nothing and does not justify him making the situation worse. For the record i don't think Jiang Wei could get rid of Huang Hao via proper methods as Liu Shan was incompetent or stamp out the corruption. However, Dong Yun merely through his authority had a positive effect. Given that Jiang Wei risked his life on the battlefield i cannot understand what he has to fear by merely trying to do some good for his kingdom.
"You weaver of mats! You plaiter of straw shoes! You have been smart enough to get possession of a large region and elbow your way into the ranks of the nobles. I was just going to attack you, and now you dare to scheme against me! How I detest you!"
Scholar of Shen Zhou
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Oct 26, 2002 5:22 am
Location: Shang Fong Valley with petrol bombs waiting for yours truly.

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:48 pm

I am sorry you find my reading to be selective Terranigma Freak but calm down a little. At least be polite and maybe give me the benefit of the doubt that I might know that Liu Shan shouldn't duel Deng Ai, your a better poster then that.

1) Wu's envoy warned that Shu was about to fall becuse of said civil problems, why do you think Wei attacked all of a sudden? Becuase Shu was weak, becuase they belived that they could overcome Hanzhong now

What is the diffirence between the failures and the succeses? First would be a diffirent defence, second would be the court being rubbish. Also when Liu Shan had to run to fight again or surrender, Qiao Zhao(apprantly) told him that he couldn't and one of the reasons was lack of love among his people so the choice to surrender had part of the civil problems

2) Or he could take the middle road, NC's are fine until you over do it, attacking year after year. Jiang Wan liked to stay at home, Zhuge Liang to attack, both did it within moderation, I don't blame either. Jiang Wei chose to attack rather then do his job and took no account of the people or advice. Can you really discount Zhang Yi's advice?

When the common man, in those times, is able to force Jiang Wei to demote himself, someone somewhere has mucked up.

3) Jiang Wei was the commander in chief, as such he had politcal clout, he also outranked Chen Zhi on these matters yet who controlled the court? His subordinate Chen Zhi. Jiang Wei had been made to do civil work before by worked on matters of the Emperor's Secretariat. he also ran off to grow wheat so yes he would have presumbly had some civil rank to handel these tasks. As the SGZ mentions his neglect of court meant Huang Hao was able to rise and that he had the responsibilities of a minister, I am inclined to disagree with you.

He Jin was Grand Commander and out ranked yet he attempted to get rid of corruption in the court, why not Jiang Wei? Didn't Jiang Wei have 100,000 men? More then Zhuge Liang had most of the time. Jiang Wei as a civil and politcal figure failed to uphold the court and must be blamed for his noted neglect.

It would be fair to mention the officers who deserve credit and those he didn't so off the top of my head in no real order since Dong Yun

Praise: Qiao Zhao, Zhang Yi, Liao Hua, Luo Xin, Fei Wei

Blame: Shan, Huang Hao, Jiang Wei, Zhuge Zhan and all the others that sucked up to Huang Hao

ZhaoZiLon, I'll deal with your post when the rest is up
User avatar
Dong Zhou
Posts: 17131
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Unread postby FuguNabe » Fri Feb 02, 2007 6:00 am

Nothing against Jiang Wei's abilities as I'm sure he is probably is talented. However he definitely wasted too much of Shu's resources in what seems to be in his mind a war of attrition against a stronger kingdom. Not necessarily a bad thing but the unneccesary amount of campaigns ruined themselves eventually. Not to mention any coordinated attack with Wu (or the Qiang) was pretty sloppy.

Shu could have taken more time to replenish resource and increase troops after Zhuge Liang's death. Considering how important spy work is in warfare (even according to Sun Tzu's Art Of War), Shu should have known of the internal struggles brewing between the Cao and Sima. They should also see from this that at that time Wei had policies to maintain the state rather than to expand it. IMO rather than taking the obvious path of attacking continuously while Wei maintained their borders Shu probably should have taken advantage of this and also forsaw the upcoming internal conflict in Wei to just limit themselves to strict border patrol, and amassing a larger troop for one major coordinated campaign (with Wu). All while pushing a policy to increase and maintain resources for better opportunities like when activities get hot between the Sima and Cao.

IMHO Jiang Wan and Fei Yi did quite well with their less militant administration before Jiang Wei.

Jiang Wei is just not a long-term thinker me think. He's not a bad field tactician who would do well under great advise of a higher positioned warlord/strategist. I'm sure Kongming realized Jiang Wei's shortcomings hence didn't put him as his direct replacement after he died. At least he can withdraw troops relatively well (as he should considering he was under direct tutelage by Zhuge Liang).

So many SGYY reader that are pro-Shu seems to look favourably and blame Shu downfall to Liu Chan's weak reign and his eunuch bumchum's corruption (definitely a weak link no doubt). I would however say Jiang Wei's constant northern campaigns were definitely one of the reason for the fall of the kingdom, if not the most direct reason itself.
Cynicism in my lyricism? Life has been series of questions and sessions of lessons to enhance my essence...

Knowledge is god as despite my iaido skills my pen is is mightier than my sword...

With a tongue to match my wit your mental death swift...
User avatar
Scholar of Shen Zhou
Posts: 1276
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2005 1:26 am
Location: You'd find me at some karaoke drinking and singing with ladies on the weekend

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:55 am

In regard the Zhang Yi SGZ line about front line, the translator thinks it should be
"Because of the advice from Zhang Yi, Jiang Wei felt in his heart that Zhang Yi was not good. But despite this, he still had [Yi] accompany him in command, so [Zhang] Yi had no choice but to go along."

I withdraw the Zhang Yi point about trying to kill him but will never withdraw the claim that he stole cookies from orphans :wink:
User avatar
Dong Zhou
Posts: 17131
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Unread postby kvn_m » Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:52 pm

dong zhou... i don't think jiang wan liked to stay at home. however he was a clever man that balanced necessity correctly. he believed that Shu wasn't as strong so they needed the time to build up their resources a lil bit more n wait for talents to show up or better opportunities to attack Wei.
"You are no fool who gives what you cannot keep, and gain what you cannot lose."
Posts: 254
Joined: Sun Jul 31, 2005 7:58 am

Unread postby Sun Gongli » Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:32 pm

My main criticism of Jiang Wei is this:

His absolutely horrible defense plan which he proposed to Liu Shan. The plan - if you can even call it that - was to abandon Shu's defensive tactic of keeping border guards spread around the Wei border and instead pulling them back to key points. He seriously underestimated his opponents in thinking that, even if they did invade through a non-convetional route, that he'd be able to deal with them. This plan was accepted by Liu Shan, and it was directly because of this overconfidence on Jiang Wei's part that Deng Ai was able to penetrate Shu so easily by using a forced march.

In addition, Jiang Wei's offensive attacks did nothing to weaken Wei, whilst they did serve to continually drain Shu of soldiers and its will to fight.
"There are those who try to shape the world to their own whim,
and then there are those who allow the world to shape them.
It is in the balance that greatness is achieved."
User avatar
Sun Gongli
Poo Poo Pants
Posts: 4058
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:56 am
Location: Spies destroy everything I create!

Unread postby Marx!_II » Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:57 pm

The situation for Shu in Jiang Wei's time reminds me of the Southern situation in the latter years of the American Civil War. Simply put, Wei could replace men, mobilize resources, gather talent and bribe Wu at a rate head and shoulders above anything Shu could manage. Is it impossible to imagine that Jiang Wei didn't have this in mind as he set out for his Northern Campaigns? A protracted war would surely end in a loss for Shu, but if he could make one (or a few) decisive and bold strikes along the border, perhaps putting Xu Chang in peril and scaring the populace, Shu might be able to at least secure favorable terms from a Wei/Jin emperor who needed to keep an eye Southward. Thoughts?
User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2004 7:45 am
Location: About Seattle

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:29 am

kvn_m, you have it right, I just trying to point out the need for balance

Marx, that would be a fair plan if he hadn't done this on a yearly occurance and Shu wasn't killing itself
User avatar
Dong Zhou
Posts: 17131
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"


Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved