Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

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What if Zhuge Liang had not joined Liu Bei, but instead Cao Cao?

All China would have benefited tremendously!
7
21%
All China would have benefited somewhat.
0
No votes
Pretty decent, but after boths death, things would have played out similar.
8
24%
They would not have worked together well.
9
27%
They were to different, no good would have come of this!
8
24%
Something else... (explain in thread!)
1
3%
 
Total votes : 33

Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby saneman » Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:05 pm

In both novel and history, Cao Cao mistrusted Sima Yi. Why should he have trusted Zhuge Liang?
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:31 pm

saneman wrote:In both novel and history, Cao Cao mistrusted Sima Yi. Why should he have trusted Zhuge Liang?


Agreed, I think the only advisers Cao Cao may have trusted were Guo Jia and (earlier) Xun Yu. And Zhuge Liang would have known he could not have been that high up in Cao Cao's organization. Similar to Sun Quan, who already had Lu Su and Zhang Zhao. Zhuge Liang needed to find a fresh leader so to speak.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:52 pm

Cao Cao's relationship with Sima Yi seems to have been a tad erratic, he gave the guy rank after forcing him into employment against Yi's wishes but other occasions did show distrust. May partly be historians adding an event or two for political reasons (example Sun Jian suggesting Zhang Wen execute Dong was probably a Wu lie) or maybe Cao Cao sensed something that may or may not have been there. Who knows how he would have felt with Liang though
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:52 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Cao Cao's relationship with Sima Yi seems to have been a tad erratic, he gave the guy rank after forcing him into employment against Yi's wishes but other occasions did show distrust. May partly be historians adding an event or two for political reasons (example Sun Jian suggesting Zhang Wen execute Dong was probably a Wu lie) or maybe Cao Cao sensed something that may or may not have been there. Who knows how he would have felt with Liang though



Well, that Cao Cao distrusted Sima was for a very valid reason which wasn't really pointed out in historical records, and was only brought light to me by a history professor family friend in China. (There's also a fairly famous book in China about it, called "Pin San Guo" by Yi Zhong Tian (part 2))". It's to do with the social and political climate of the time.

During the late Han dynasty, power in terms of wealth, political and social allies, reknown, political and social clout, court and local power etc. rested with three groups of people.

Firstly the military commanders, as exemplified by He Jin. With He Jin's death however they ceased to act as any cohesive force.

Secondly the eunuchs. The Cao family can roughly be grouped under this even though Cao Cao ended up opposing the Eunuchs, it was where his family wealth and power came from. Obviously they all died off early except Cao Cao who became a warlord and so really no longer represented them.

The third, and the most important by far, were the "shi zu". These were large land owning wealthy families, but what distinguished them was that they studied for many generations. How it works is that one wealthy scholar would make a name for himself, perhaps with a court appointment, and he'd have his sons and nephews and so on who would follow the path in scholarly pursuits. Some of them would go on to become court officials. Other become further land owners/scholars. Everybody would also take proteges who would spread throughout all China in influence and power.

Many of the most powerful families in Three Kingdoms were of Shi Zu origin. The Yuan family in particular were said to be "san gong wu shi", meaning they've been shi zu for at five generations. That was where their influence and power came from (since remeber Yuan Shao didn't actually start off with a regional appointment in Yi Zhou or anything). Other notable families include the Lu family of Jiang Dong (Lu Xun), the Kong family of Beihai (Kong Rong), the Xun family (Xun Yu and Xun You) and of course, the Sima family.

The Shi Zu power for all the three main factions in Three Kingdoms represented a significant headache. They were too powerful to kill off or disregard (though god knows Dong Zhuo tried). They were wealthy, influential, had political clout and allies. If you upset them you just couldn't get a lot of good advisors, adminstrators and officials coming to you anymore. Nor could you have access to the local wealth short of killing them all. Yet all three leaders were distinctly not from Shi Zu and there was always a degree of hostility between them and Shi Zu because, quite frankly, Shi Zu were a bunch of snobs and didn't think very highly of Cao Cao (whose father was adopted by a Eunuch), Sun Quan (whose father was a military man), Liu Bei (who was for all intents and purposes a commoner, so called "su zu") and Zhuge Liang (also "su zu"; commoner).

Anyway this post is already becoming way too long. So I'll come back to the point.

What Sima Yi represented was a kind of political power that Cao Cao feared but needed. Cao Cao's entire later life, was less a military external struggle (as you'll note by his limtied conquests after Chibi) and more an internal court struggle. The results of which were Kong Rong and a crapload of other shi zu being killed, exiled or demoted. He needed the support of the Shi Zu but they at the end of the day were not his people with the exception of Xun Yu and a few others. That was his reservation about Sima Yi. Another point was that whilst politically Zhuge Liang and the later Cao Cao couldn't have been more different, they both had one social/political goal in common. They did not want Shi Zu to hold excessive power. Zhuge Liang tried to manage everything by law. Cao Cao tried to manage by individual, rather than family merit. This is why, had other factors not been an issue, Cao Cao would have trusted Zhuge Liang more than Sima Yi in my opinion.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby James » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:59 am

Very interesting post, Crazedmongoose.

Was there any mention of how this relationship tied in between Cao Cao and Sima Yi, or is it an assumption drawn from other factors to explain why there might have been problems between the Sima and Cao clans? It always seemed to me that most of the problems came about long after the death of Cao Cao.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:17 am

James wrote:Very interesting post, Crazedmongoose.

Was there any mention of how this relationship tied in between Cao Cao and Sima Yi, or is it an assumption drawn from other factors to explain why there might have been problems between the Sima and Cao clans? It always seemed to me that most of the problems came about long after the death of Cao Cao.


I don't think there were overt mentions of that being the cause of their erratic relationship.

And after Cao Cao's death it was a whole different story. Because Cao Pi unlike Cao Cao embraced Shi Zu power and society. I always liked these facts because it makes these characters so human.

You can just picture it in your head. Cao Cao for his early life was rich, and constantly mingling with the likes of Yuan Shao, but in his heart he knew he wasn't their equal due to social standing. During the alliance against Dong Zhuo whilst Yuan Shao and Cao Cao's other peers all rose to great standing Cao Cao was forced to fight to his bare bones to prove his worth. And later when the confrontation came between him and Yuan Shao all the Shi Zu backed Yuan Shao (including...um...crap what was his name? The guy who wrote the huge article denouncing Cao Cao). Then after Yuan Shao lost the Shi Zu began backing Liu Biao against Cao Cao. Even after Chi Bi the Shi Zu opposed his every move in court. At the time the anti-Cao propaganda originating from the Shi Zu was immense, with outlandish stories like how Xun Yu commited suicide because Cao Cao ordered him to kill the empress. One of Kong Rong's friends, I forgot his name, made a name for being incredibly anti-Cao, turning down invitations, publically humiliating him. Eventually Cao sent him to Liu Biao who sent him to Huang Zu, who killed him because as it turns out the guy was a twat and humiliated his host no matter where. But THIS was also blamed on Cao Cao, they said Cao Cao ordered Huang Zu to killed this guy for speaking out against Cao Cao. Does that even make sense to you? Huang Zu was Liu Biao's man, and Liu Biao sent him to Huang Zu.

My guess is Cao Cao for his entire life would have had this inferiority complex. Where as Cao Pi, growing up rich and powerful, really had no sense of his dad's meritocratic hard working roots and thus saw no problems with Shi Zu.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby saneman » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:30 am

Crazedmongoose wrote:
James wrote:Very interesting post, Crazedmongoose.

Was there any mention of how this relationship tied in between Cao Cao and Sima Yi, or is it an assumption drawn from other factors to explain why there might have been problems between the Sima and Cao clans? It always seemed to me that most of the problems came about long after the death of Cao Cao.


I don't think there were overt mentions of that being the cause of their erratic relationship.

And after Cao Cao's death it was a whole different story. Because Cao Pi unlike Cao Cao embraced Shi Zu power and society. I always liked these facts because it makes these characters so human.

You can just picture it in your head. Cao Cao for his early life was rich, and constantly mingling with the likes of Yuan Shao, but in his heart he knew he wasn't their equal due to social standing. During the alliance against Dong Zhuo whilst Yuan Shao and Cao Cao's other peers all rose to great standing Cao Cao was forced to fight to his bare bones to prove his worth. And later when the confrontation came between him and Yuan Shao all the Shi Zu backed Yuan Shao (including...um...crap what was his name? The guy who wrote the huge article denouncing Cao Cao). Then after Yuan Shao lost the Shi Zu began backing Liu Biao against Cao Cao. Even after Chi Bi the Shi Zu opposed his every move in court. At the time the anti-Cao propaganda originating from the Shi Zu was immense, with outlandish stories like how Xun Yu commited suicide because Cao Cao ordered him to kill the empress. One of Kong Rong's friends, I forgot his name, made a name for being incredibly anti-Cao, turning down invitations, publically humiliating him. Eventually Cao sent him to Liu Biao who sent him to Huang Zu, who killed him because as it turns out the guy was a twat and humiliated his host no matter where. But THIS was also blamed on Cao Cao, they said Cao Cao ordered Huang Zu to killed this guy for speaking out against Cao Cao. Does that even make sense to you? Huang Zu was Liu Biao's man, and Liu Biao sent him to Huang Zu.

My guess is Cao Cao for his entire life would have had this inferiority complex. Where as Cao Pi, growing up rich and powerful, really had no sense of his dad's meritocratic hard working roots and thus saw no problems with Shi Zu.


The gentleman you are talking about is Mi Heng.

The thing about Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao is that legalism and meritocracy does not necessarily gel together too well. And although he was no Li Si, Zhuge Liang certainly held legalistic preference, although he did temper it in his time as Prime Minister.

As for Cao Pi, he may have decided that for sake of holding on to his power, he had to have the support of the Shi Zu, or risk being isolated and overthrown. He had little alternative, I would think it was either that or dictatorship via military fiat. Besides, he might also have thought that he would be able to come to some sort of accommodation with the gently class.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:52 am

Sima Yi was forced into service having faked being paralysed probably didn't help the rumours. Chen Lin did the writing, Mi Heng did the strip tease (which Cao Cao apparently found funny)

I think the general point is an interesting one but would issue two objections.

1) He Jin was not a general. While from a butcher's family (which may explain his awe of the eunuchs), they evidentially had enough money and influence to get Lady He into the harem. He rose up through the in-law route and just happened to gain a military rank but he was a politcal being more then anything. The generals themselves were ignored by the courts, it would take ages for the likes of Huangfu Gui and Song, Duan Jiong and others to gain equivalent rewards as a court minister

2) That Cao Cao didn't trust the Sima's. He didn't trust Yi, he seemed fine with the other Sima's but they didn't fake being paralysed which may have had something to do with it
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:11 am

You're right about the He Jin assertion, it may be that they never played any substantial force in terms of court and societal power (as the military generally doesn't in a confucian society) and He Jin was simply leading a convenient coalition of anti-eunuch forces.

And I agree with your other point too. Because I'm not saying that the shi zu reason was the only reason why Cao Cao distrusted Sima. It just seems to me that Cao Cao percieves a greater threat, and exacts a harsher punishment/takes a more mistrustful stance, on people if they happen to be Shi Zu, which is understandable. Of course that's by no means a sole qualifier of how Cao Cao views people, some of his greatest supporters (ie. Xun Yu) were also shi zu.
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Re: Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao?

Unread postby Zhilong » Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:32 pm

In those time, refusing an appointment by simply saying no was not very wise so the convention was to use an excuse like illness. Cao Cao of all ppl would have understood this and i doubt he would have really been bitter over this fact.

Sima Yi was a great official, it was simply that Cao Cao's descendants relied too heavily on him, were not as competent and the court situation, that he could do what he did.

Very interesting read on the gentry class and the records do mention some conflict and the activities of this class in all of the kingdoms. I guess Wei & Shu did a better job at neutering their power than in Wu where they wielded considerable power. For example, in Shu when the gentry and peasants combined to complain to Liu Shan about the exhausting campaigns by Jiang Wei, it was one of the few times Liu Shan actually listened to good advice and did some good.
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