The Unexpected Side Effect of Konming's letter to Yunchang

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The Unexpected Side Effect of Konming's letter to Yunchang

Unread postby Mikhail » Sat May 03, 2008 7:59 pm

I've been thinking about this recently. As most of the Scholars here know, one of Guan Yu's most prevailing characteristic is his arrogance. It was his arrogance that arguably led to his death.

Now, rewinding all the way back to when Zhuge Liang first wrote the letter to Guan Yu about his status above Ma Chao and Zhang Fei, I started thinking. I've had a debate with Dong Zhuo about the stupidity of allowing Guan Yu and Ma Chao to have a test of skill (I was advocating the test of skill between the two while Dong Zhuo was against it) - however, it was a novel discussion. But, in my recent meditations about this event, I am now more sure than ever that this letter of praise to Guan Yu should not have been written.

Utilizing the art of being whiggish, I came upon a conclusion that have occurred due to this letter:

Instead of satisfying Guan Yu's arrogance with this letter of praise, it in fact increased it. What do I mean by this? Well, the letter was supposed to keep Guan Yu from thinking that he was inferior to Ma Chao. Which, to an effect, it did. Ma Chao was built up to be a man of incredible ability, but was unworthy to be equaled to Guan Yu. However, the unexpected side effect of this was now, Guan Yu would have thought that he had no equal in the Shu army and possibly, by extension, anyone else in China (even if he thought this already, Zhuge Liang's letter was a sort of confirmation of this).

Then came Huang Zhong's many successes. He was good enough to achieve a rank equal to that of the bearded one. Guan Yu probably thought that Huang Zhong was inferior to him (especially with Zhuge Liang's letter confirmation of this) and he was angry about that fact. Guan Yu launches an attack on Wei, thinking that if someone inferior to him could successfully launch an attack on Wei, he could as well. And being the arrogant man he is, Guan Yu also probably believes that his skills and abilities are far better than anyone in Wei, so he thought he would succeed without any problems. Then Lu Xun's letter made the Great Yunchang believe that Lu Xun needed to depend on him. And we know what happened afterwards.

To reiterate, the conclusion that I ended up to was that Zhuge Liang's letter to Guan Yu eventually led to Yunchang's death because it his allowed Guan's arrogance to grow (if that makes any sense), instead of satisfying it. This increased arrogance led to some decisions by Guan Yu that wasn't, in hindsight, very smart - which led to his death.

Of course, this is all speculation, but its something that popped into my mind.


I am interested to hear everyone's opinions on this. Am I just plain wrong, or do I might have a point? (Please read all of this before commenting - if possible)
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Unread postby Zhilong » Sat May 03, 2008 8:50 pm

If a letter could do this to him, then the problem would still lie with Guan Yu himself.
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Unread postby Mikhail » Sat May 03, 2008 9:01 pm

Zhilong wrote:If a letter could do this to him, then the problem would still lie with Guan Yu himself.


And I am not arguing that. Guan Yu's arrogance is a fault that he has, which of course led to this problem. My argument is that Zhuge Liang's letter was like adding fuel to a fire, instead of trying to contain it.
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Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat May 03, 2008 9:26 pm

It could be the other way round, the letter failed in it's task to soothe Guan Yu's insecurities and with everyone doing something major recently, Guan Yu felt he needed to do something.

Interesting idea of yours though, could be right
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Unread postby Mikhail » Sat May 03, 2008 9:36 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:It could be the other way round, the letter failed in it's task to soothe Guan Yu's insecurities and with everyone doing something major recently, Guan Yu felt he needed to do something.


That's a good point, which I will put into consideration but...

Guan Yu's SGZ wrote:Upon finishing the letter, Guan Yu was overjoyed and showed the letter to the guests present.


This does show that it was possible that the letter did eradicate any of Guan Yu's insecurities about his position in Liu Bei's army. The man was incredibly pleased with how he was portrayed and he was showing the letter to his guests to signify that he was indeed the best. To show everyone a letter of praise like this seems like a very arrogant and haughty gesture.

Unless of course, you meant that it was only a temporary solution, but then the letter would have no actual meaning.

(By the way, I am incredibly pleased and ecstatic that the Great and Venerable Dong Zhuo has acknowledged the possibility of my theory being correct!)
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Sat May 03, 2008 11:04 pm

Hmm, that raises some really interesting questions.

Was Guan Yu really feeling insecure? About what? And why? I mean, if Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang didn't think he was awesome, they wouldn't have sent him to guard Jingzhou. Or was he just plain arrogant? (Though, a lot of times, arrogance stems from insecurity, and the whole "showing letter to guests" thing really reeks of insecurity.)

I wouldn't really say that Zhuge's letter led to Guan Yu's death, though it might have been a catalyst. But I mean, how else could the situation be handled? It wouldn't make sense for the test of skill to happen (it would have been nice, except who would guard Jingzhou then? And what if one of them is maimed?). Zhuge couldn't very well say "Yeah Yunchang you suck just live with it." And since Guan Yu was said to be "haughty against the gentry", I doubt a lecturing would do him any good, either. So Zhuge took the most obvious solution: stroke Guan Yu's ego first and then convince him not to duel Ma Chao.

But what this would mean is that Guan Yu led to his own downfall, like Zhilong said. Nothing Zhuge could have done would have solved the issue.
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Unread postby Guan Yan » Sat May 03, 2008 11:16 pm

He was eager to sheild he's short comings

this would reffer to his commanding abilities because Guan Yu had known himself the superior warrior and just wanted to make sure that this new comer did not outshine him. But Zhuge Liang would have made his comment true without a doubt because if he wanted Guan Yu to have succsess the genius Zhuge Liang is he should have said Ma Chao was better if he said Ma Chao was better Guan Yu he would give his all, So this means the comment of zhuge Liang was true or he would have said Ma Chao better so that Guan would give his all.
Last edited by Guan Yan on Sun May 04, 2008 12:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Mikhail » Sat May 03, 2008 11:59 pm

Lady Wu wrote:Hmm, that raises some really interesting questions.

Was Guan Yu really feeling insecure? About what? And why? I mean, if Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang didn't think he was awesome, they wouldn't have sent him to guard Jingzhou. Or was he just plain arrogant? (Though, a lot of times, arrogance stems from insecurity, and the whole "showing letter to guests" thing really reeks of insecurity.)


An insecure Guan Yu really puts a new twist on him doesn't it? Because it could definitely be a combination of both. But then if it was, it wouldn't be fun to debate about right?

Maybe he was insecure that he might lose his seat of power in Jing? A new guy has entered the force and he's also praised. He writes the letter to maybe gauge the possibility of someone replacing him or at least sharing his power. At least that's one possible reason for him being insecure, though I still have his arrogance as a bigger reason for the letter at the moment since it doesn't really fit in with his previous persona.

Lady Wu wrote:I wouldn't really say that Zhuge's letter led to Guan Yu's death, though it might have been a catalyst. But I mean, how else could the situation be handled? It wouldn't make sense for the test of skill to happen (it would have been nice, except who would guard Jingzhou then? And what if one of them is maimed?). Zhuge couldn't very well say "Yeah Yunchang you suck just live with it." And since Guan Yu was said to be "haughty against the gentry", I doubt a lecturing would do him any good, either. So Zhuge took the most obvious solution: stroke Guan Yu's ego first and then convince him not to duel Ma Chao.

But what this would mean is that Guan Yu led to his own downfall, like Zhilong said. Nothing Zhuge could have done would have solved the issue.


I guess I worded it wrong, and it should be a catalyst, and not led, like you said. In my opinion at the beginning, Guan Yu was responsible for his own death, but was helped by things like Zhuge's letter.

I've provided some possible ways for a test of strength to occur, which were all shot down, in a way, by Dong Zhuo. However, now armed with the possibility of an insecure Guan Yu, WOULD he accept a test of skill? I mean, there is too much at stake. He could lose his status if he loses and he could also lose power in Jing when he leaves to partake in the test.

But I also agree that Kongming probably had no other alternative than to stroke Guan Yu's ego. I just don't think he had the foresight to see what would have occurred after he did it.
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Unread postby Guan Yan » Sun May 04, 2008 12:27 am

I reckon that Zhuge Liang should not have said the truth, I reckon he should have said Ma Chao is better so Guan Yu would try even harder, he might even try to do a yan liang on Xu Huang or something. :lol:
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Sun May 04, 2008 1:15 am

Guan Yan wrote:I reckon that Zhuge Liang should not have said the truth, I reckon he should have said Ma Chao is better so Guan Yu would try even harder, he might even try to do a yan liang on Xu Huang or something. :lol:

When you think about it, wouldn't the outcome be the same? Guan Yu could have tried too hard, taking unnecessary risks. Like striking north and ignoring the east.

Makes me wonder though, did Guan Yu honestly expect people to arrange a duel for him by writing that letter? Or was it, as Mikhail said, just to gauge Ma Chao's status in the force? Or was it a kind of "Hey Kongming I feel blue write me something to make me feel good"?
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