Why do people think Wei Yan is so great?

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Why do people think Wei Yan is so great?

Unread postby Ma_Lin » Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:16 am

I noticed some people here really think very highly of Wei Yan. I don't see what he did that would make him worthy of all that praise. Certainly he seems like a decently talented guy, but he what amazing things did he really accomplish?

-His plans to attack Chang An directly during ZL's nothern campaign were terrible. He wasn't going to take the city with his 5000 troops.(An all out attack on the city would have been even sillier. The supply lines would have been a disaster, and Shu's army would have been very open to being outflanked.) The defenders could just have sat back in the heavily fortified city and waited for a real Wei army to come crush him. Additionally, even if by some miracle he did take Chang An(like maybe if the person defending it decided to be an idiot and open the gates or something), what then? He would basically be cut off from his allies and Chang An would be recaptured by Wei.

-He designed the defenses at Han Zhong. Well, they generally worked, so that is some credit to him. However, the geography of Han Zhong was what really made it so defensible. Certainly his strategy was solid, but defending a fortified city is not nearly as hard as taking one, and I don't see his defenses as a stroke of genius or anything. Indeed, even Jiang Wei's changing of the defenses had logic to it(I think the act itself is judged to harshly, but I do find the reasoning he gives for it, namely to allow for counterattacks, abhorrent.) Would Han Zhong have held if the original defenses were kept in the face of Zhong Hui's invasion? An interesting question upon which we can only speculate.

-He mounted an insurrection that got him killed. I know that in the novel, ZL had his number, but historically, he disobeyed orders(whether the orders were intelligent or not is debatable, but a military can only function when orders are followed. I can make an exception for a soldier refusing an order that is obviously morally abhorent[like some given in WWII], but refusing an order because you disagree with the strategic implications is not accpetable.) by refusing to assist in the retreat, and then attempted to impede the retreat of his allies by burning bridges. Finally, he attacked his allies. If we look at this from a moral/honor standpoint, clearly this was not the correct or appropriate way to express his disagreement with the orders of his superiors. Whether it was ambition, or hatred or Yang Yi that drove his actions, he clearly put his own agenda before loyalty to his country and comrades. If we look at his rebellion from a competence standpoint, he failed to achieve anything other than getting himself killed, so obviously his insurrection wasn't particularly ingenius.

Perhaps he had potential, but I don't see flashes of true brilliance, and he seems very self centered. I would rather take the likes of someone like Zhao Yun, capable and loyal, anyday.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen the entirety of Wei Yan's SGZ, just what I have picked up from the posts of others, but if someone knows a link to it in english, I would appreciate being able to read it.

That being said, what do supporters of Wei Yan see in him that I don't?
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Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:27 am

Wei Yan's SGZ

I partly think the novel Wei Yan's valour and skill is remembered when people about the historical Wei Yan. I do agree the historical one, a brave general and clearly had some skill in leadership of men, was not that good.
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Unread postby Kong Wen » Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:03 pm

Even in the novel, Wei Yan's talent follows the basic generational pattern. He's singled out as a general who has a lot of potential and could be a "hero" of later-era Shu, but ultimately he falls short of the talents of the glory days.

He's an interesting guy.
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Unread postby Antiochus » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:14 pm

Wei Yan was not a flashy type of general.

But he was one who could get the job done. He participated in nearly all of the Shu campaings from Yi province to the last of Zhuge's campaings, while usually being assigned to key roles that he usually completed well.

As I said, nothing flashy, but gets the job done.
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Unread postby Zhilong » Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:17 pm

-His plans to attack Chang An directly during ZL's nothern campaign were terrible. He wasn't going to take the city with his 5000 troops.(An all out attack on the city would have been even sillier. The supply lines would have been a disaster, and Shu's army would have been very open to being outflanked.) The defenders could just have sat back in the heavily fortified city and waited for a real Wei army to come crush him. Additionally, even if by some miracle he did take Chang An(like maybe if the person defending it decided to be an idiot and open the gates or something), what then? He would basically be cut off from his allies and Chang An would be recaptured by Wei.


ZL took the cautious approach and failed. Wei Yan's approach embodies a bold and risky approach which ppl often do not analyse and automatically advocate. If Wei Yan's approach had been taken and lost Shu the war, ZL's approach would have probably been praised. There are plenty feasible and well thought out bold approaches possible but clearly Wei Yan's was not one of them. He clearly wasn't a man of the same calibre of Lu Meng who was a general but also able to formulate good plans. His plan basically enables him to gain all the glory should it work.

His valour and ability to lead men was probably his best qualities which made him one of the top generals of the latter Shu regime. ZL valued his abilities and placed trust upon him that few other generals received.

-He designed the defenses at Han Zhong. Well, they generally worked, so that is some credit to him. However, the geography of Han Zhong was what really made it so defensible. Certainly his strategy was solid, but defending a fortified city is not nearly as hard as taking one, and I don't see his defenses as a stroke of genius or anything. Indeed, even Jiang Wei's changing of the defenses had logic to it(I think the act itself is judged to harshly, but I do find the reasoning he gives for it, namely to allow for counterattacks, abhorrent.) Would Han Zhong have held if the original defenses were kept in the face of Zhong Hui's invasion? An interesting question upon which we can only speculate.


He merely filled it with troops which is nothing special. Liu Bei did it, ZL did it, Wang Ping did it. In addition ZL also built 2 more walled forts in Hanzhong.

Certainly it was superior to Jiang Wei's approach. Although we can see some brainpower at work he weakens the defence of Hanzhong for the sake of the possibility of counter attack. Gambling the security of the state in such a fashion is not prudent - i think Jiang Wei only had one thing on his mind and it wasn't how best to preserve the state.

Jiang Wei could not block Zhong Hui and rescue the capital from Deng Ai. Previously when ZL and Wang Ping repelled Wei invasions they were able to do so without tying up all their troops and made contingency plans should the Wei troops penetrate. Wang Ping was able to make use of the terrain so that he only needed a small force to repel a much greater enemy force.

-He mounted an insurrection that got him killed. I know that in the novel, ZL had his number, but historically, he disobeyed orders(whether the orders were intelligent or not is debatable, but a military can only function when orders are followed. I can make an exception for a soldier refusing an order that is obviously morally abhorent[like some given in WWII], but refusing an order because you disagree with the strategic implications is not accpetable.) by refusing to assist in the retreat, and then attempted to impede the retreat of his allies by burning bridges. Finally, he attacked his allies. If we look at this from a moral/honor standpoint, clearly this was not the correct or appropriate way to express his disagreement with the orders of his superiors. Whether it was ambition, or hatred or Yang Yi that drove his actions, he clearly put his own agenda before loyalty to his country and comrades. If we look at his rebellion from a competence standpoint, he failed to achieve anything other than getting himself killed, so obviously his insurrection wasn't particularly ingenius.


He couldn't even sense which way the wind was blowing or control his own desires so i think that should tell us the success he might face when attempting to continue the campaign against a commander infinitely more skillful than Yang Yi.

Perhaps he had potential, but I don't see flashes of true brilliance, and he seems very self centered. I would rather take the likes of someone like Zhao Yun, capable and loyal, anyday.


On the other hand Zhao Yun did not win any notable victories. Given the lack of personnel in Shu it is better for ZL to tolerate and make use of a wider pool of talent. Just look at Sun Quan, look at how wild some of his generals were! He tolerated them and they ended up saving his life. That is the reason ZL used Yang Yi & Wei Yan despite knowing about their shortcomings.
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Unread postby Ma_Lin » Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:16 pm

Wei Yan's approach embodies a bold and risky approach which ppl often do not analyse and automatically advocate.


I agree with that 100%. I think that once you step back and look at his plan, you find that it was not well thought out, and the only way it could possibly work would be mass incompetence on many levels in the Wei army, which was not about to happen.

Certainly it was superior to Jiang Wei's approach. Although we can see some brainpower at work he weakens the defence of Hanzhong for the sake of the possibility of counter attack. Gambling the security of the state in such a fashion is not prudent - i think Jiang Wei only had one thing on his mind and it wasn't how best to preserve the state.


I agree. It probably would have been better to leave the defenses the way they were. If Jiang Wei had changed them based on arguments on how to defend Shu under the circumstances(there certainly are such arguments), then I wouldn't feel that it was such a mistake, but the fact that he wanted to change them for the sake of counter attack shows his fixation with attacking Wei, as well as a lack of long term vision.

On the other hand Zhao Yun did not win any notable victories. Given the lack of personnel in Shu it is better for ZL to tolerate and make use of a wider pool of talent.


You could look at it that way. I personally would prefer to have people I could rely on to competently carry out orders as a commander, even if they were not brilliant or superbly adaptable. Had Wei Yan been spectacular then I would make an exception for him(or maybe not because I would be afraid of him?), but he wasn't, he was merely somewhat better than decent. Internal chaos in an army is very damaging and risky. An organized minority can defeat a disunified mass.

I was rather hoping to hear from some Wei Yan admirers though.
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Unread postby Zhilong » Sat Oct 20, 2007 7:48 am

Ma_Lin wrote:
You could look at it that way. I personally would prefer to have people I could rely on to competently carry out orders as a commander, even if they were not brilliant or superbly adaptable. Had Wei Yan been spectacular then I would make an exception for him(or maybe not because I would be afraid of him?), but he wasn't, he was merely somewhat better than decent. Internal chaos in an army is very damaging and risky. An organized minority can defeat a disunified mass.

I was rather hoping to hear from some Wei Yan admirers though.


Zhao Yun certainly is suitable for certain tasks but we should remember he was more of a bodyguard general that worked his way up to become a general. At Yiling he was left behind to lead reinforcements. In the first northern campaign he was put to good use even though he lost as he a decoy anyway but what was good was that he was able to gather the scattered troops and supplies and personally lead the retreat. That showed his best qualities were his responsibility and personal courage against a strong enemy when he himself is weak.

Wei Yan however did get results. When Wei attacked Shu during ZL's time
it was him that ZL trusted to send behind enemy lines - he seldom sent generals on significant tasks. On that occassion ZL & Wei Yan heavily defeated Fei Yao and Guo Huai. There is also an account in HJCQ of Wei Yan, Gao Xiang and Wu Ban heavily defeating the contingent of troops Sima Yi led to attack ZL.

My point is use the best person for the job according to situation. His bio does say he was braver than others and even at the time then Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Huang Zhong & Ma Chao were still alive; Liu Bei appointed Wei Yan as governor of Han Zhong.

In times of war you have to tolerate things sometimes for the bigger picture. Zhao Yun also passed away after the first NCampaign.

When Liu Bang was underseige and needed Han Xin's help, the latter sat idly and wanted to use the situation to become Prince of Qi knowing that Liu Bang can't refuse. Liu Bang realised this but tolerated it and used him but later Han Xin was disposed off once the empire was settled.

It would have been short sighted to not use Wei Yan while ZL was alive because he feared that after his death he might cause trouble.

I'm not sure any of the ardent Wei Yan supporters still frequent the board. You can search the old threads and find some strong, biased and deluded posts about him. :lol:
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Unread postby dwonline » Sat Oct 20, 2007 3:11 pm

yea, I agree wish Dong Zhou (or Zhuo).

He's really a heroic, bold type of guy who over time really took his place as an imposing Shu general. I think it was quite out of character that he betrayed Shu, but he was both helpful and wise many time. He provides a very interesting kind of dilemma for Zhuge Liang, perhaps in a way being a chagrin to the reader by spoiling everything for their favourite character.
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Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:19 pm

Oddly enough, I thought that more disagreed with my views. I think he was an idiot, he showed little wisdom but wasn't a traitor, just greedy and so arrogant that he thought he deserved command and always right.
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Unread postby dwonline » Sat Oct 20, 2007 5:23 pm

yea, I'm talking about WY in SGYY. Your reading about recorded history of him?
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