Discussing Liu Bei’s Military Career

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Discussing Liu Bei’s Military Career

Unread postby Shadowlink » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:20 am

Did Liu Bei really lose alot battles? Lu xun says his military career looks bad, did luo guanzhong just added that quote so he can make lu xun look good? I heard he won 30 battles against the turbans

Mod edit (James): Split from Three Kingdoms Q&A thread.
(Looks like a great topic of discussion worthy of more attention.)
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Unread postby James » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:52 am

I think Liu Bei's military career (aside from Yiling) was remarkable. Not only did he collect his victories in the novel, he had many more in history that were commonly credited to other people (such as Xu Shu). As for losing, he is a true example of the statement that both victory and defeat are a part of warfare. Look at what he started with, what he attempted to do, where he went, and what he eventually became. No wonder he lost some battles along the way.

Edit: I need to read up on it again, but I understand his contributions to the Yellow Turban Rebellion were not really extensive, but he did contribute. I also read about how his contributions were played down or ignored—someone [forget who] recognized him, though, and made sure Liu Bei was at least promoted to govern Anxi. Obviously this wandering memory can stand to be cleared up. I'll read up on it again in a bit.
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Unread postby Shadowlink » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:03 am

"As far as I am aware, there is no accounts of the details of Liu Bei's campaigns against the YT, but it can be safely assumed no duels took place. Also, Liu Bei won 30 battles against them."
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Unread postby James » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:06 am

It is covered to an extent in his <i>Sanguozhi</i> biography (but I don't remember any real campaign-by-campaign detail), and I suspect there is more information in <i>Zizhi tongjian</i>. I've never heard of his 30 victories before! I'll have to find that. Sounds interesting.
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Unread postby JamesD » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:24 am

I do agree that he does have a good military record. But some battles in the novel he wasn't involved in(Zou Jing, Han Zhong- yellow scarve) ti name a few
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Unread postby Shadowlink » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:35 am

At least it is safe to assume that his military career is the same or better than sun quan.
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Unread postby Sun Gongli » Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:57 am

Quan's fortes were defensive battles and administration. While Liu Bei was known for benevolence, his political ability didn't match Sun Quan's. Militarily, Liu Bei was better at attacking, but at the end of his career, his pride got the best of him. Even at his most disastrous loss at Hefei, Sun Quan had lost a multitude of troops only to plague, not to any enemy actions like Liu Bei did. And Sun Quan's losses at Hefei never set back Wu's military abilities like Yiling did for Liu Bei, so perhaps Sun Quan's caution gave him the edge in his respect, though again, Liu Bei was a bit more successful.

In addition, most of Liu Bei's early victories were merely successful attempts at retreating, such as Changban. It was once Liu Bei got a hold of Zhuge Liang that he began to win more decisive battles. However, there was no battle in South Jing - Liu Bei led troops into the area, and Han Xuan, Jin Xuan, etc. all immediately surrendered.
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Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Sat Jan 20, 2007 6:20 am

Sun Gongli wrote:Quan's fortes were defensive battles and administration. While Liu Bei was known for benevolence, his political ability didn't match Sun Quan's. Militarily, Liu Bei was better at attacking, but at the end of his career, his pride got the best of him. Even at his most disastrous loss at Hefei, Sun Quan had lost a multitude of troops only to plague, not to any enemy actions like Liu Bei did. And Sun Quan's losses at Hefei never set back Wu's military abilities like Yiling did for Liu Bei, so perhaps Sun Quan's caution gave him the edge in his respect, though again, Liu Bei was a bit more successful.

In addition, most of Liu Bei's early victories were merely successful attempts at retreating, such as Changban. It was once Liu Bei got a hold of Zhuge Liang that he began to win more decisive battles. However, there was no battle in South Jing - Liu Bei led troops into the area, and Han Xuan, Jin Xuan, etc. all immediately surrendered.


A few minor things, a large part of Liu Bei's losses at Yi Ling was due to the landslide, militarily he took quite a few losses in that battle but he was always ok up until the landslide which ended any chance of a counterattack and routed his forces.

Liu Bei had several decisive victories early in his career but they were mainly defensive.(first battle at Xu, first battle at Ru Nan, and Bo Wang) Also there was a battle in southern Jing. Jin Xuan didn't surrender and fought Liu Bei and was defeated. He was then captured and Liu Bei executed him. It was after that did the rest of the local administraters surrender.
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Unread postby Starscream » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:36 pm

Liu Bei did have some contributions in quelling the Yellow Turban rebellion hence he obtained some ranks and recommendations from higher-ranking people. However, his earlier military career was pretty unstable in my opinion. 3 times he was recorded to have captured cities and then losing them eventually and had to flee, leaving his wife behind (his wife became hostage). This shows that Liu Bei did not have more than 1 base and he could not manage to secure "surplus" land/city back then. Whenever Liu Bei fled, he'd seek the help from another warlord and due to his good connections and diplomatic abilities, he was able to reorganise his forces again. His instability ended when majority of the Jingzhou officers surrendered to him after Liu Biao's death, as we all know. That proves again, not his military prowess, but excellent diplomatic relations.

Liu Bei's most notable military achievements would be the allied victory against Cao Cao at Chibi and later at Han Zhong. His campaign at Yizhou is quite debatable in my opinion, since he and Sun Quan were allies hence no need to worry about rear attacks, and his troops entered Yizhou via diplomatic means, which makes it much easier for conquest later. His battle at Yiling wasn't too good, due to perhaps geographical conditions and that he had a strong opponent. But this again proves that, comparatively, Cao Cao was a bigger success than Liu Bei in terms of military exploits. (Battle of Guan Du is always the favourite example to quote for Cao Cao's military exploits.) Sun Quan's military career couldn't be any better since he only managed to maintain the status quo (not losing more than what he had).

Please feel free to dispute my views. :P
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Unread postby ZhaoZiLon » Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:25 pm

LiuBeiwasGreat wrote:A few minor things, a large part of Liu Bei's losses at Yi Ling was due to the landslide, militarily he took quite a few losses in that battle but he was always ok up until the landslide which ended any chance of a counterattack and routed his forces.

Liu Bei had several decisive victories early in his career but they were mainly defensive.(first battle at Xu, first battle at Ru Nan, and Bo Wang) Also there was a battle in southern Jing. Jin Xuan didn't surrender and fought Liu Bei and was defeated. He was then captured and Liu Bei executed him. It was after that did the rest of the local administraters surrender.


Hmm...landslide? This is the first time I've heard this...could you shed more light on this?

Liu Bei did not start off as being good at military battles, but got better and better. He managed to force Cao Cao to retreat in Huang Zhong, admittedly with Fa Zheng giving him a hand. Regardless, that's some achievenment.

As for Yi Ling, I must admit I have a different understanding. Lu Xun ordered a squad to attack Shu's front camp, but also ordered a large Wu army to directly hit the main camp (Where Liu Bei is) via the water route, bypassing the front camp. They also used fire attack which caused a lot of Shu's camps to be on fire...etc etc...
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