Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Xu Huang fan » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:08 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:What do people think nowadays? Is Sima Yi a traitor? Was he right to overthrow Cao Shuang? Was he wrong but with good intent?

To widen it out a bit, what do people think of Sima Yi generally nowadays? He doesn't seem as much discussed as other big figures of his time.


i actually don't know too much about the circumstances behind that, but from what i can see in media stuff, sima yi might've been justified to do so, but i'm really open to other interpretation.

on the subject of sima yi not getting discussed as much, i think part of that was because he was alot more mysterious back then, now we know alot more about the guy (and he even gets recognized as a faction leader instead of just being some vassel), that might've have discussion about him die down.
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Jul 27, 2019 4:28 pm

When it comes to the coup, I don't think Sima Yi went in thinking of Wei's doom but he was furthering his own interests behind a bigoted morality and probably believed he was doing the right thing

I find it intresting how, in history, Sima Yi's last actions shaped his reputation in China and the tensions in how he was viewed between courts and Emperor's as to if he did the right thing.
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Sun Jul 28, 2019 2:38 am

Sima Yi's actions, both by his contemporaries and by his own family, was seen in a very negative light.

Yin Ji's Tongyu says
When Sima Yi had Cao Shuang killed, Fei Yi presented the following argumentation to reason out who was right and who was wrong in the matter. Viewpoint A assumes that Cao Shuang and his brothers were men of ordinary caliber, and only because they were scions of the imperial house were they given the responsibility of advising the [young emperor]. However, they were arrogant and assumed luxuries and power beyond their station, befriending improper people, building up their own faction to plot against the kingdom. Therefore, when Sima Yi led a force against them in punitive action and eliminated the lot at once, he showed that he was worthy of the task entrusted to him and his action was in accordance with the hopes and wishes of the people. Viewpoint B takes Sima Yi to be discontent at the former Cao lord’s not giving power solely to him, as well as Cao Shuang’s interfering with his business. Shi shi bu zhuan, and thus he secretly harboured a grudge against him. Therefore, he did not give Cao Shuang’s group admonishment or warning beforehand, and on one day slaughtered them all, taking them off guard. In this case, he was not doing something that a gentleman would do to preserve the kingdom. Now, if we assume Cao Shuang had been plotting against his lord, and his treasonous plans were already in motion. On the day the mutiny happened, Cao Fang was in the hands of Cao Shuang and his brother. When Sima Yi and his sons put a force together behind closed gates and turn it in Cao Fang’s direction, Cao Fang’s safety was surely compromised. Can this really be a loyal minister acting for the good of his lord? Reasoning from this, it is clear that Cao Shuang was not guilty of great evils. If Sima Yi really considered Cao Shuang to be guilty of extravagance and arrogance, it would suffice for him to execute him according to the law. However, he exterminated even his infant children, branding them with the name of disloyalty, effectively wiping out Zidan’s [Cao Shuang’s] line. Also, He Yan’s son was a nephew of the Wei ruler, and even he was killed. Sima Yi was assuming too much power and behaving improperly.


The Shishuo Xinyu includes an anecdote between Ming-di of Eastern Jin and Wang Dao when Ming-di asked about the founding of Jin, and when Dao recalled the story of Sima Yi's rise through a bloody coup and the regicide of the Duke of Gaogui, Ming-di's response was as such

Emperor Ming, upon hearing this, pressed his face against the couch and cried, "If it was as you say, how can Our mandate endure?"
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Jul 28, 2019 7:36 am

Was the Emperor Ming a child? I'm just wondering if an adult Emperor would actually say something so damaging about their own dynasty whatever their private thoughts

I do suspect outside of Sima's circle, it was controversial. There is no real evidence of unrest among the populace during Cao Shuang's reign and as much as Sima's tried to denigrate their opponents, there was two political failed coups, four attempted revolts by generals and Xiahou Ba fled is telling about how Sima's faced a legitimacy issue. As is the sheer desperation of Sima Zhao's proclamation about Cao Mao's death, one is surprised he didn't include the lines "and Cao Mao was threatening orphan puppies, stealing candy from babies and scared elderly grand-mothers" in his bid to justify the open stabbing of the Son of Heaven in the streets of the capital.

Maybe if Jin had survived for awhile as a dynasty, while the "Cao Shuang bad" stuck, the manner of Sima's would have got explained away and really justified. When things went wrong for Jin, the manner of their rise was a problem
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:36 am

He was 24-26 at the time of the anecdote.
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:03 am

Odd move of his then given the dangers of saying such things
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Statrosa » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:30 am

Hi guys,

I just joined the forum (which is excellent by the way) and I have to be honest that I did not read this whole thread and maybe my question or comment has already been answered, apologies for that, but here goes:

I have no problem with what the family of Sima Yi achieved (being the Eventful winners) however did they not commit mass murder in the north?

I know that the Mongolians of that time were no sweethearts but genocide(edit I mean mass murder)!
(Update: my wife says that the Mongolians were just like the Sima family at that time, committing terrible acts during the time they served the Cao family).
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 11, 2019 11:39 am

Hi Statrosa

Sima Yi committed one massacre, when he took the King of Yan's Gongsun Yuan capital of Xiangping, he didn't massacre the whole city but the killings of officials, families and civilians was said to have reached the thousands. There was a feeling afterwards that was Sima Yi being a bit too ruthless there

Sons were not involved as far as I'm aware and didn't carry our massacres
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Statrosa » Sun Aug 11, 2019 12:28 pm

Thank you Dong Zhou, for clearing that up. I’m sometimes so stuck in over-information/too much information that I cannot divide the tree from the forest.
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Re: Why do people accuse Sima Yi of being a traitor?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:32 pm

No problem, there are no stupid questions (well unless you ask why didn't Liu Bei use airplane :wink: ) and it was a reasonable question. Sorry if my language come across a bit blunt, I don't know what you don't know and what you may have been told so I tried to give an answer that explained there was one but no others
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