Top 10 Generals of the period

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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 1:24 pm

I can see Yang Hu but Fei Yi didn't fight much and why Guan Yu instead of any of the good generals like Wang Ping, Zhang Fei and co?
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Elitemsh » Sun Aug 01, 2010 1:58 pm

Note that the following is not in any particular order. It is not a list from best to worst.

Cao Cao: I don’t like him at all. I think he was excessively cold and too brutal. I realise that to be a successful leader during this time you have to take some liberties with morals and ethics but some of his actions were totally unnecessary. I think it is quite just that he never fully conquered the land and that his line was overthrown in the end. Still Cao Cao was a brave leader, excellent general and very intelligent. I can’t deny that. However, in a direct battle with no time for strategy (like the first confrontation with Lu Bu) he would have lost I think to a number of others. However, so long as there is sufficient time to plan, he was the best of the best.

Lu Meng: The best of Wu I think. He gained a lot of land for Wu and gave brilliant advice. Some believe that he destroyed the alliance and ruined any chance of beating Wei however this was not so. Lu Meng’s responsibility was to do what was best for Wu and he certainly did that. He strengthened Wu considerably. Only Shu was weakened by the betrayal. Lu Meng took the city of Wan and he took Jingzhou. Unlike Lu Xun, Lu Meng excelled in both offence and defence.

Zhao Yun: Well this will come as no surprise to some here I imagine. Most people probably wouldn’t agree with me on this but that’s fine. I think that given Zhao Yun’s opportunities under Liu Bei which I think were far less than Wu and Wei generals, he did very well in a number of areas. He defeated Cao Cao’s main army in an unexpected, unplanned battle despite being heavily outnumbered by using bravery and wits. As a result he gained great respect from his soldiers. I get the impression that this respect went beyond most other generals. The nickname he was given by the Shu army was a prestigious title usually gifted to especially highly valued generals (Sun Quan gave it to Lu Meng at the height of his career). This tells me that Zhao Yun was very highly thought of by the army. In the northern campaign, despite being badly outmatched, he defended well and showed good leadership in taking it upon himself to guard his troops and supplies. I can’t see anyone beating Zhao Yun in a fair battle easily. He was quite smart, obviously very brave and his leadership (proven by his troops’ admiration) was good. He could fight on the front lines aggressively but he could also defend well. Good in all areas. He inspired his soldiers.

Zhang Fei: One of Shu’s best generals and I am quite surprised more people haven't mentioned him yet. He is recorded to have completely defeated Zhang He who was among Wei’s elite by using superior strategy and clever manoeuvring. In other ways he was a joke but on the battlefield he was as good as they come. I think of Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun as the pride of Shu.

Zhou Yu: The fact that his death had such an enormous impact on the events following, tell me that his leadership skill must have been at least good. It is said that he commanded authority rivalling Liu Bei’s which was very impressive considering how much younger and less experienced Zhou Yu was at the time.

Zhang He: My favourite Wei general who I think was somewhat hard done by. He had more ability than a number of his superiors (Sima Yi, Xiahou Yuan) and yet was not given as much command as he should have been. I know that Zhang He was subordinate under Yuan for many years. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Xiahou Yuan’s victories against Ma Chao which enhanced his fame were actually due to Zhang He’s skill more than his own. There is a good reason why both Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang feared Zhang He and not Yuan.

Xu Huang: My second favourite Wei general. I think he is somewhat overlooked in favour of Zhang Liao. Cao Cao compared Xu Huang to Sun Tzu and for good reason. Xu Huang was adept at using strategy. Unfortunately I don’t have access to his SGZ anymore so I can’t point out some of his specific accomplishments but from what I remember he was top class.

Sun Ce: I don’t value Sun Ce as highly as others here it would seem. Like his father I think his death was a major failure on his part as a leader. A lot of people say that Sun Ce could have done so much more if he had survived (many say the same thing of his father) without realising that it was largely his own fault that he died when he did. You reap what you sow. It was hardly just bad luck. He should have realised that being an important leader inevitably means being the target of assassination attempts. Cao Cao understood this. Sun Ce rode out alone just like Sun Jian pursued his enemy by night. Both were killed due to their own foolishness. Nonetheless, Sun Ce could certainly lead troops effectively in battle. On the battlefield he would be a difficult opponent. I don’t think it’s all about performances on the field though. You’re a general off the field too.

Lu Bu: This man excelled on the frontlines. He came very close to destroying Cao Cao and beat him thoroughly in their first battle by utilising his skill with leading cavalry. He was defeated by Sun Jian twice though, as well other defeats. So I wouldn’t rate him as high as others.

Sun Jian: IMO this guy was the best vanguard general of this time. In a direct battle (i.e without time for strategy) I can’t see anyone beating him. He was even better than Lu Bu in this area I think. However just like his son, his death was his biggest defeat and it was a major one. His death shows his ability as a leader (and thus general because I consider these two things to go hand in hand) was limited in the end. From what read of his bio, Sun Jian was ironically lucky to live as long as he did. He almost died on at least one previous occasion.

I was thinking of including Ma Chao since he like Lu Bu came so very close to killing Cao Cao but he was defeated too many times for my liking to be included.

I have no idea why some have included Sima Yi. His incompetence caused the death of one of Wei’s greatest generals.

Wang Ping performed well but he I felt he was involved too late in the grand scheme of things. I can understand why some rate him highly.

I think that Lu Xun is very highly overrated. He had a number of advantages when he defended against Liu Bei. All he did was wait until Liu Bei’s forces drained themselves and their disciplined slacked and then he struck. He showed mental strength and patience but it certainly wasn’t incredibly smart.
Last edited by Elitemsh on Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:08 pm

I agree with your assessment on Sima Yi. As I said, holding a fortified defense line against an enemy with half your numbers and supply problems isn't really that difficult.

But I can't agree on Lu Xun. You can't just judge Lu Xun by Xiaoting. He was at least 30-40% of the invasion of Jing in terms of contribution, one of the most flawless campaigns in Three Kingdoms. He played his part perfectly in fooling Guan Yu in tandem with Lu Meng and then took the southern commanderies whilst Lu Meng went to deal with Guan Yu himself.

And we'll leave the battle of Xiaoting for now. But he still executed a lure and counter campaign to picture perfection. But yeah, I agree he was always favorites to win that one.

The battle of Shi Ting is what I rate him for. He executed another perfect lure and counter campaign, and this time against an enemy twice his size.



And Sun Quan ranked Lu Xun highly, above Lu Su and Lu Meng and equal to Zhou Yu. Of the Wu generals his records were the best aside from like...Sun Ce himself.
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:23 pm

The battle of Shi Ting is what I rate him for. He executed another perfect lure and counter campaign, and this time against an enemy twice his size.


Wasn't that Zhou Fang's plan though?
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:28 pm

Yeah but the execution of it as commanding officer, I mean. He still had to plan the ambush and encirclement and lead the battle.

Similar to how Red Cliffs' fire attack was Huang Gai's plan. But that doesn't mean Zhou Yu didn't have to do the commanding bit, and that he should be spared the glory of the victory.
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Elitemsh » Sun Aug 01, 2010 3:15 pm

Crazedmongoose wrote:I agree with your assessment on Sima Yi. As I said, holding a fortified defense line against an enemy with half your numbers and supply problems isn't really that difficult.

But I can't agree on Lu Xun. You can't just judge Lu Xun by Xiaoting. He was at least 30-40% of the invasion of Jing in terms of contribution, one of the most flawless campaigns in Three Kingdoms. He played his part perfectly in fooling Guan Yu in tandem with Lu Meng and then took the southern commanderies whilst Lu Meng went to deal with Guan Yu himself.

And we'll leave the battle of Xiaoting for now. But he still executed a lure and counter campaign to picture perfection. But yeah, I agree he was always favorites to win that one.

The battle of Shi Ting is what I rate him for. He executed another perfect lure and counter campaign, and this time against an enemy twice his size.



And Sun Quan ranked Lu Xun highly, above Lu Su and Lu Meng and equal to Zhou Yu. Of the Wu generals his records were the best aside from like...Sun Ce himself.


I am not sure he was 30-40% responsible for the capture of Jing. I would say less. Lu Meng had already made the plans before Lu Xun came into the picture. Lu Xun did send that letter to Guan Yu acting weak and preying on Yu’s arrogance which was quite clever but it was quite minor. I don’t believe that taking the southern commanderies would have been at all difficult. I would compare it to when Liu Bei took the southern commanderies after Cao Cao had been driven back. No one acknowledges Liu Bei’s capture of southern Jing as impressive. The same would be true of Lu Xun here I think.

What exactly do we know of the Shi Ting battle? I know it was a defensive battle on behalf of Wu. Correct me if I am wrong but the impression I get from Lu Xun’s SGZ bio and the ZZTJ is that he wasn’t commanding officer until after the lure was complete. He did not order the lure or supervise it. Sun Quan ordered Zhou Fang to trap Cao Xiu and after it was done he appointed Lu Xun to lead the attack. The second half of the ZZTJ (available on this site) gives full details on the trap of Cao Xiu. Here is the full account:

The King of Wu ordered Zhou Fang, t'ai-shou of P'o-yang, to seek out secretly those of ancient families and renowned chieftains in the mountains of P'o-yang who were known in the northern region and get them to deceive and decoy Cao Xiu, the Wei ta ssu-ma and Governer of Yang-zhou.

Zhou Fang said, "I am afraid these chieftains of the people and petty followers are not worthy of our trust and of the task. If the matter should leak out, we will fail to get hold of Cao Xiu. May I send my own trusted men with a letter in seven times to decoy Cao Xiu?"

The letter said that he had been banished and was in fear for his life, and that he wanted to surrender P'o-yang to the North; and asked that Cao Xiu's troops come to his aid. The King of Wu gave his permission. At this time, the officials frequently visited Zhou Fang to investigate and inquire into various affairs, and then Zhou Fang betook himself to the government house of P'o-yang, where, with his hair shaved off, he pretended to seek for pardon.

24. When he heard this, Cao Xiu advanced with ten thousand infantry and cavalry towards Huan to cooperate with Zhou Fang. The Emperor further had Sima Yi advance to Jiang-ling and Jia Kui to Tung-kuan. Thus they advanced simultaneously along three routes.

25. Autumn, eighth month (Sept. 17 - Oct. 15). The King of Wu came to Huan. He appointed Lu Xun to be commander-in-chief, lent him the Yellow Axe of Royal Power, and personally held the ceremonial whip to show him honor. He also appointed Zhu Huan and Quan Song as Commanders of the Left and of the Right, each commanding thirty thousand men, to attack Cao Xiu. Cao Xiu discovered that he was deceived, but he relied on his troops and accordingly wished to fight the Wu.

Zhu Huan said to the King of Wu, "Cao Xiu was given his position merely because he was a member of the Wei imperial clan; he is not a general renowned for intelligence and courage. If he now fights, he is certain to be defeated; if defeated, he is certain to flee; when he flees, it will certainly be along Jia-shi and Qua-zhu.

"These two routes are both steep defiles. If we use ten thousand troops and obstruct the routes with timber, his horde can be annihilated and Cao Xiu himself captured. I request that I be allowed to lead my own men and cut off the route. If, grace to the heavenly prowess of Your Majesty, I am enabled to achieve a success at the expense of Cao Xiu, we may then take advantage of the victory and make a long drive, advance and take Shou-chun and annex the region south of the Huai thus controlling Xu-chang and Luo-yang. This is an oppurtunity offered once in ten thousand generations; we cannot afford to lost it."

Sun Quan asked Lu Xun about it; Lu Xun did not assent, so it was dropped.

26. The shang-shu Jiang Ji sent up a memorial saying, "Cao Xiu has penetrated deeply into enemy country and confronts the picked troops of Sun Quan, but on the upper course of the river Zhu Ran and others threaten Cao Xiu's rear. I do not see any profit in this."

27. The ch'ien chiang-chun Man Chong sent up a memorial saying, "Though clear in mind and resolute, Cao Xiu has seldom participated in battle. The route he now takes has lakes at the rear and the Jiang on the side; it is one where advance is easy and retreat is difficult. This is what is called Terrain of Fetters. If the Wu enter Wu-jiang-k'ou, a great precaution will be necessary." While Man Chong's memorial was still unanswered, Cao Xiu fought Lu Xun at Shi-t'ing.

28. Lu Xun himself took the center and had Zhu Huan and Quan Song form the left and right wings; thus along the three routes they advanced simultaneously. They thrust into Cao Xiu's ambush troops and set them to flight. They pusued the fleeing enemy, straight to Jia-shi, slaughtering and capturing more than ten thousand men, and taking as booty cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, and ten thousand carts. Cao Xiu's military provisions and weapons were almost completely lost.

29. Now Cao Xiu had petitioned that he be allowed to penetrate deeply in order to cooperate with Zhou Fang. The Emperor ordered Jia Kui to advance eastward and join forces with Cao Xiu. Jia Kui said, "The rebels are not defending Tung-kuan; they must have their united forces at Huan. If Cao Xiu penetrates deeply and fights the rebels, he is certain to be defeated."

Thereupon, directing the various generals under him, he advanced simultaneously by land and water. They had gone two hundred li when they caught a man of Wu, who told them Cao Xiu had been defeated in a battle and the Wu had sent troops to cut off the Jia-shi route. The various generals did not know what course of action to take. Some suggested waiting for the arrival of the rear forces.

Jia Kui said, "Cao Xiu is defeated on the exterior and his route of retreat is cut off in the interior; he cannot advance and fight, nor can he withdraw and return. His fate will be decided in a day's time. The rebels have taken this course of action thinking that our army is without rear forces. If we now advance suddenly and take them by surprise,--this will be what they call being beforehand with a man to take the heart out of him. When they encounter our troops the rebels will certainly flee. If we wait for the arrival of the rear forces, the rebels will have cut off the pass. In that case, what good would larger forces be?"

He then advanced his army at double march, setting up a great number of banners and drums to deceive the enemy. When the Wu saw Jia Kui's troops, they fled in alarm; thus Cao Xiu was enabled to return. Jia Kui then occupied Jia-shi and supplied Cao Xiu with provisions, so that Cao Xiu's army was revived.

Jia Kui had previously been on bad terms with Cao Xiu. During the Huang-ch'u period, Wen-Di wished to lend the Military Tally to Jia Kui. Cao Xiu said that Jia Kui was by nature uncompromising and had often been arrogant to other generals, and that he should not be made a tu. The Emperor thereupon desisted. At the time of his defeat, Cao Xiu was rescued thanks to Jia Kui.


It seems that Lu Xun was not at all involved in the luring which is why I can’t give him much credit for this battle. In fact I think that Sun Quan and Zhou Fang should be given most of the credit for this victory.

Lu Xun was probably better than I give him credit for but I certainly can’t acknowledge him as a great commander and not Lu Meng’s equal IMO despite what Sun Quan said. He was great talent but i don't think he was a great general.
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Xia Kyoto » Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:09 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:I can see Yang Hu but Fei Yi didn't fight much and why Guan Yu instead of any of the good generals like Wang Ping, Zhang Fei and co?



Again, i understand this, and admit i could choose someone else better..
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:23 pm

Don't worry about it, was just curious
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby Sun Fin » Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:52 am

I feel the need to re-write my list and make a more informed judgement:

1) Cao Cao: I hate doing this however he has the victories to back him up as well as the raw talent. Perhaps if my man Ce had lived longer this would have been different but one only has to look at Guan Du to see the kind of audacious moves Cao Cao was capable of making. Only his early defeat to Xu Rong, the actions of Zhang Xiu and of course Chi Bi stain this man’s record.

2) Sun Ce: No hesitation here, he may have been beaten by Chen Deng but his quick conquest of Wu is a taste of the man’s talent and he is without a doubt the greatest what if of the time period. I believe if he had lived longer we would talk about him in the same way that we refer to Cao Cao now in terms of talent.

3) Deng Ai: As someone said somewhere else often when people think about the fall of Shu they look at the inadequacies of Jiang Wei and Liu Shan and I understand this, however what Deng Ai attempted was just so damn audacious that by pulling it off he deserves to be ranked as one of the greats!

4) Sun Jian: Chased Dong Zhuo out of his capital with minimal help what so ever from the rest of the coalition. Sadly he spent most of his career crushing disorganised rebellions but he proved himself to be a great commander almost whenever he took the field. He was too reckless on the battlefield but one has to remember that he wasn’t an aristocrat born to led from the rear, instead he had earned his way up the ranks by leading his men in to battle.

5) Zhou Yu: Won the most famous and arguably most significant battle of the era at Chi Bi.

6) Liu Bei: His greatest talent may well have been his shocking ability to bounce back but something about him just allowed him to keep fighting no matter what. It wasn’t until Shu that he gained what Sun Ce and Cao Cao had always had in Fa Zheng, a military advisor that genuinely knew what they were doing. Guo Jia and Lu Fan, among others, had always been present for the other two and after the emergence of Fa Zheng Liu Bei won the greatest battle of his career.

7) Lu Meng: It pains me here to do this, I dislike Lu Meng immensely but one just can’t overlook the competence and skill involved in his Jing campaign.

8) Zhang Xiu: Yes he may have had the greatest military advisor of the era helping him along but that didn’t do it for Li Jue and Guo Si, one has to listen to the advice given and his continually successful campaigns against Cao Cao, the heavyweight champion of the era is something I still find breath taking.

9) Zhang Liao: He Fei, enough said I imagine?

10) Xu Rong: He beat both Sun Jian and Cao Cao, albeit early in his career, but still the man did a great job in the circumstances.

Honourable mentions to Lu Xun, Wang Ping, Chen Deng, Cao Ren, Zhao Yun, Qu Yi amongst many others.
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Re: Top 10 Generals of the period

Unread postby XuSheng » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:15 pm

I don't have time right now to write my reason for each generals, but i'll edit it later.

1. Cao Cao
2. Lu Meng
3. Deng Ai
4. Xu Huang
5. Zhang Liao
6. Sun Jian
7. Lu Bu
8. Sun Ce
9. Ling Tong
10. Cao Ren

Honorable list: Xu Rong, Qu Yi, Lu Xun, Yue Jin, Gan Ning, Zhang Fei, Wei Yan and Sima Shi.

I didn't put Zhuge Liang because he's more an advisor than a general.
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