The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

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The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Dudeinator » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:38 am

*Please read entire post before commenting*

After getting a lot of mixed reactions about Zhao Yun from diff. threads, I want to settle this right here.

Zhao Yun has become widely known for his heroics in the novel, particularly for saving Ah Dou on a few occasions. He has established an image and reputation for competence and loyalty. In the novel, he's accompanied Zhuge Liang in the Nanman campaigns and was overall a steadfast servant for Shu-Han. Most novel enthusiasts like him.

Historically, many of his exploits were indeed exaggerated by the novel. Some people believe his current cultural image of being young, handsome, and virtuous is undeserved. Some also say his historical achievements don't amount to all the praise he gets. I find that most people belonging in this category are the history enthusiasts.

So what is the real deal with Zhao Yun? This question is hard to answer because it might just end up being novel vs. history, what he did do vs. what he didn't do. Instead, I want to challenge you guys by analyzing his character in terms of how his novel representation reflects on his historical representation, and whether it is merited.

In other words, I don't want you to compare novel and history side-by-side to see whether he did all the things that he did. I want you to analyze his historical career and decide whether or not he has earned the cultural image that the novel portrays him as.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:27 am

I've never heard any one criticize Zhao Yun in terms of character. Even in history he's one of the few virtuous generals in Liu Bei's faction.

There is no mistake that in terms of the novel and cultural depiction of Zhao Yun, he has been the most positively exaggerated character of the era save maybe Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Lonely_dragon » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:31 am

Crazedmongoose wrote:I've never heard any one criticize Zhao Yun in terms of character. Even in history he's one of the few virtuous generals in Liu Bei's faction.

There is no mistake that in terms of the novel and cultural depiction of Zhao Yun, he has been the most positively exaggerated character of the era save maybe Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu.


Like mongoose said... he is one of the few virtuous generals in Shu... Aside of that I think his feat really did live up to his name... Saving Liu Chan at Chang Ban... Helping the conquest of Cheng Du... Repelling Cao Cao army at Hanzhong... Minimizing the damage at Zhuge's northern campaign...

imo He really did live up to his reputations... tho' perhaps he didn't kill thousands at Chang Ban, etc... :)
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:05 am

Oh he was definitely reliable and capable. I don't think anybody questions that. But then nobody questions Guan Yu being loyal and brave and Zhuge Liang being intelligent and selfless either. But that still doesn't mean that relative to other characters, they got a much bigger bump in the novel.

For example; Zhao Yun's actions in Jieqiao and Changban. And that's just what made it into the novel. Some of the other tales which didn't make it in gets even more ludicrous.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Elitemsh » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:38 pm

Zhao Yun's novel representation actually makes a lot of people underrate him. They read his history and assume that he was overrated because he wasn't as good a warrior and yet they dont' realise that parts of his historical self were greatly underrated in the novel.

Zhao Yun's prowess as a warrior is the only thing I can see that is exaggerated in the novel, although having said that in real life we can say that he was a decent enough fighter and he could hold his own.

I, however, find that his personality was actually more impressive historically than the novel. For example, in the novel he was ordered to guard Liu Bei’s family at Changban. So when he turned back he was fulfilling his duty, as brave as it was. In history, conversely, this was not the case. He was not ordered to guard the family so when he turned back it was actually more heroic in a way than it was in the novel. His performance at Changban was overrated in the novel in terms of warrior skill but underrated in terms of his nobility. Having said that we can’t assess how much skill he may have historically showed at Changban in terms of fighting because there isn’t enough info.

Also, I find that historically he was a better general and leader than he is portrayed as in the novel. In the novel he is tricked by Xiahou Mao (historically unimpressive) of Wei and falls into an ambush later in life. In history this didn’t take place and Zhao Yun’s only defeat against Cao Zhen is an understandable one and is actually one of his best achievements. In the novel he is also arrogant at times and boasts about some of his achievements. In history there is no evidence of this.

To conclude I would say that Zhao Yun was a better warrior in the novel but was inferior as a general and as a person to his historical counterpart.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:33 pm

Hmm....yeah I can definitely see where you're coming from.

Also he's opposition to Liu Bei attacking Wu, I really liked that. That showed character and conviction. I can't remember if that was in the novel?
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Qu Hui » Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:32 pm

Elitemsh wrote:Also, I find that historically he was a better general and leader than he is portrayed as in the novel. In the novel he is tricked by Xiahou Mao (historically unimpressive) of Wei and falls into an ambush later in life. In history this didn’t take place and Zhao Yun’s only defeat against Cao Zhen is an understandable one and is actually one of his best achievements.

Actually it is not. Zhao Yun made a tactical misstep in attacking Qishan with troops that were lesser in number and inferior to Cao Zhen’s, was defeated and forced to retreat. Also, it is his only defeat (which, if I recall correctly, it was not, he was later defeated alongside Deng Zhi at Jigu) because it is the only time (again, unsure) he was in command of his own detachment of troops.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Elitemsh » Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:04 pm

Qu Hui wrote:Actually it is not. Zhao Yun made a tactical misstep in attacking Qishan with troops that were lesser in number and inferior to Cao Zhen’s, was defeated and forced to retreat. Also, it is his only defeat (which, if I recall correctly, it was not, he was later defeated alongside Deng Zhi at Jigu) because it is the only time (again, unsure) he was in command of his own detachment of troops.


Let us recall the point of Zhao Yun’s battle with Cao Zhen. Zhuge Liang announced he was marching through Jie Gorge when in fact his main army was to attack a different area. Wei was fooled by the ruse and sent their strongest army under Cao Zhen to Jie Gorge. Zhao Yun was chosen by Zhuge Liang to be a decoy force and to distract Cao Zhen for a time. Since he was a decoy force Yun was obviously given inferior numbers to Zhuge’s main army and of course vastly inferior to Cao Zhen who was leading Wei’s army.

Anyway if Zhao Yun didn’t attack then he would not have been able to distract Cao Zhen for long enough as he assigned to do and he would be disobeying orders. I don’t know how you can say that Zhao Yun made a tactical misstep. There doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to support that conclusion. As far as we know he likely had to attack when he did due to the nature of his mission. He had to initiate a battle. That was the whole point as far as I can tell. As for the specific area he attacked and whether this was a mistake, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to affirm this at all. The bottom line is that Zhao Yun succeeded in distracting Cao Zhen just as he was meant to and with minimal loss. He was demoted simply because that was military law and the battle was officially a defeat. Zhao Yun's perfomance was at least good under the cirumstances and Zhuge Liang's reaction stands as proof of this.

The defeat alongside Deng Zhi was the above battle. They were one and the same. So he was not beaten more than once. Also, it was not the only time Zhao Yun as in charge of his own troops. When he attacked Shu, he led his own troops along a separate route. He was given independent command when at all possible.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby Qu Hui » Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:34 pm

Elitemsh wrote:Let us recall the point of Zhao Yun’s battle with Cao Zhen. Zhuge Liang announced he was marching through Jie Gorge when in fact his main army was to attack a different area. Wei was fooled by the ruse and sent their strongest army under Cao Zhen to Jie Gorge. Zhao Yun was chosen by Zhuge Liang to be a decoy force and to distract Cao Zhen for a time. Since he was a decoy force Yun was obviously given inferior numbers to Zhuge’s main army and of course vastly inferior to Cao Zhen who was leading Wei’s army.

We speak of two different battles, it seems. The one I speak of occoured in 227, and the one you speak of occoured in 228. Otherwise, we have two very conflicting accounts of the same battle presented in the Sanguo Zhi.

Elitemsh wrote:Anyway if Zhao Yun didn’t attack then he would not have been able to distract Cao Zhen for long enough as he assigned to do and he would be disobeying orders. I don’t know how you can say that Zhao Yun made a tactical misstep. There doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to support that conclusion. As far as we know he likely had to attack when he did due to the nature of his mission. He had to initiate a battle.

Zhao Yun's SGZ wrote:During the battle, Zhao Yun took the lead in the army and ordered for an attack on Qishan. The attack was futile and they were forced to retreat.

Thus, Zhao Yun took the inititaive and attacked Qishan, where Zhuge was supposed to be attacking, by himself. It makes no tactical sense for a decoy unit to engage the target that the main force is attacking.

Elitemsh wrote:That was the whole point as far as I can tell. As for the specific area he attacked and whether this was a mistake, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to affirm this at all. The bottom line is that Zhao Yun succeeded in distracting Cao Zhen just as he was meant to and with minimal loss. He was demoted simply because that was military law and the battle was officially a defeat. Zhao Yun's perfomance was at least good under the cirumstances and Zhuge Liang's reaction stands as proof of this.

It is never mentioned that any of the other officers that acted as decoys for Liang, such as Zhang Yi and Ma Zhong, were demoted for their defeats. Why would Liang suddenly break this pattern for Zhao Yun?

Elitemsh wrote:The defeat alongside Deng Zhi was the above battle. They were one and the same. So he was not beaten more than once. Also, it was not the only time Zhao Yun as in charge of his own troops. When he attacked Shu, he led his own troops along a separate route. He was given independent command when at all possible.

This is incorrect. There are no battles mentioned in any historical record involving Zhao Yun in Shu. So while yes, he may have had indipendant command, he wasn't actually facing any opponents and thus isn't an accurate measure of his leadership abilities.
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Re: The Real Deal with Zhao Yun

Unread postby SilentNinja » Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:05 am

By reading this thread, it goes to show why Zilong's history was butchered among other figures who have the same lack of background depth in their records...

Elitemsh: Wei was fooled by the ruse and sent their strongest army under Cao Zhen to Jie Gorge. Zhao Yun was chosen by Zhuge Liang to be a decoy force and to distract Cao Zhen for a time

They weren't fooled by the ruse AFTER Ma Su's costly error.... :rangry: a guy Kongming trust the MOST. Sheesh....

Qu Hui:Thus, Zhao Yun took the inititaive and attacked Qishan, where Zhuge was supposed to be attacking, by himself. It makes no tactical sense for a decoy unit to engage the target that the main force is attacking.

This is the part I find totally untrue and it bugs me why that unclairfied action took place when all Zhao Yun did when he found out about the outnumbered force of Cao Zhen was burn the road to halt Cao Zhen's pursue and retreat. No specify injuries occurred.

Qu Hui:This is incorrect. There are no battles mentioned in any historical record involving Zhao Yun in Shu. So while yes, he may have had indipendant command, he wasn't actually facing any opponents and thus isn't an accurate measure of his leadership abilities.

You should blame Chen Shou for that, because he had to write MORE about Zhuge Liang as a selfish Leader compare to Zhao Yun, the patient more insightful, LESS egomaniac one.... :lol:

The chinese society back then wants to hear about Zhuge Liang the Leader, not Zhao Yun.

Even in history he's one of the few virtuous generals in Liu Bei's faction.

Zhao Yun's supposed 'friend' turned vengenceful fool who end up contradicting his true motives....
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