Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Gray Riders » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:15 pm

Zyzyfer wrote:Actually AxeLordGerardo, if you are going to argue novel points (Huarong Trail, Liu Bei's meekness) then it kind of hurts Yuan Shao a lot, I would think. Didn't he lose a few more big battles after Wuchao to Cao Cao in the novel? That would kind of bulk up his lack of ability, I would think...

The novel had him lose Jieqiao, which I think is one of the few times it changes the outcome of a battle, and I think it cut his victories over the mountans bandits, too.

They also made him look worse with Xu You's defection by having Yuan Shao flip out at him instead of just Xu You getting angry and defecting after his relative was arrested by Shen Pei.
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Personally I usually think of Yuan Shao as one of the most skilled warlords of the period. Not as good as the founders of the big three, but probably better than their successors and pretty much all the other warlords. If it wasn't for some flaws that seemed to get worse with age I think he'd have won at Guandu.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Jordan » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:33 pm

It's true that some of what AxeLordGerardo is saying is from the novel but it is also true that historically he was caught and almost killed several times. Sun Fin has pointed out before how Sun Ce is often described as reckless simply because he got unlucky and was killed from injuries in an ambush (of sorts) while Cao Cao is regarded as cautious even though he was caught and nearly killed in several incidents (such as when he was initially fighting with Lu Bu over Yan).
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Qu Hui » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:20 pm

Zyzyfer wrote:Didn't he lose a few more big battles after Wuchao to Cao Cao in the novel? That would kind of bulk up his lack of ability, I would think...

Cangting was Yuan Shao's last battle and the only battle between the two after Guandu. He died a few months later.

Zyzyfer wrote:Yuan Shao does kind of bomb it taking forever to finish Zanny off, but I think he performed acceptably up north otherwise.

Yuan Shao's slowness in defeating Gongsun Zan can most likely be attributed to the truce the two had going for about 4-5 years starting in 193.

In my opinion, Yuan Shao was a good ruler and commander who had issues when it came to personnel management. The area north of the Yellow River seems to have prospered under his rule and he did manage to amass a successful and large army. I think as he aged his health severely declined and his judgment went with it. Most of the incidents involving personnel issues happened closer to Guandu when Yuan Shao was quite old. I think, had his judgment been better he might have stood a chance, considering that his kids showed that he was nowhere near defeated after Guandu.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Sun Kuang » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:56 pm

Axe-

All due respect, many of the points you have brought up generally can be contributed to the novel, so I will try to break it down.


Cao Cao and Yuan Shao's luck: Yuan Shao and Cao Cao had a different kind of luck. Cao Cao had the luck of being able to get out of a life and death situation, while Yuan Shao had the luck of having a great start by the time the warlords began to fight one another. Cao Cao also managed to muster up an army while starting with little resources, something I would contribute to his skill and not luck. If Yuan Shao had to do the same, I think it would have been a different situation.

And the Red Cliff point, I'm not entirely sure that Guan Yu had him, I don't recall ever reading it in a historical source, but if it did happen, it could be used as a compasion on how Yuan Shao and Cao Cao treated their generals differently. Cao Cao was benevolent to those who served them well, Yuan Shao picked favorites and alienated his officers. He also executed his best general (as Jordan pointed out).


Liu Bei - I think someone else pointed out that his meekness is something from the novel, I'm going one step further to defend Liu Bei. He was one of the most resourceful generals of the time, and many of his good traits (along with Zhang Fei's) are given to Guan Yu in the novel to make him more heroic. Liu Bei couldn't have survived as long as he did if he relied on Guan Yu and Zhang Fei solely.

And the Yiling point, Sun Quan had betrayed him and took Jing, if he didn't attack Sun Quan he would have looked extremely weak and many of the men would have lost heart. He would wanted to be taken seriously by his men he would have had to reprise in some fashion. So Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei were both right and wrong.

Yuan Shu and Yuan Shao - To each his own, I compared these two because they both had the same regard for the Han and were decent enough warlords outclassed by Cao Cao. I stand by that Yuan Shao wouldn't be able to last very long had he has been in the Central Plains and not the north.

Lu Bu - The demi-god warrior who couldn't think himself out a paper bag is also novel. The novel does contribute a lot of things to Lu Bu that aren't true, namely his feats at Hu Lao (which in reality, he didn't do much), and how inept he was. He was a skilled general who managed to do something that Yuan Shao never did, almost defeat Cao Cao. I compared him to Gongsun Zan because they used similar tactics, they were both brutal opportunists, and that is all they had in common.

Zhang Xiu - He was at Guan Du and was promoted afterwords for his apparent contributions, and was even given a posthumous title after his death. He was a good enough general that Cao Cao viewed him to be useful enough to use and not put to death due to the involvement with Ang's. Jia Xu was brilliant, very true, but Zhang Xiu was also a good general.

And your final point - Everybody has luck, but luck can only get you so far, and you ignored the skill factor. Yuan Shao had his luck, but lacked the skill to keep his army together. Yuan Shao was a good enough warlord to defeat a tyrant, and unite a region, but that's it. He didn't show brilliance like Cao Cao, resourcefulness like Liu Bei, or the ability to inspire or correctly pick talent like Sun Quan. He was an average warlord with great circumstances, and I stand by that. ;)

Zyzyfer - True, Yuan Shao had a good chance. But you also pointed out that his fatal flaw was his inability to control his staff, which might be the most important thing a leader has to do. Without the ability to effectively control his army, what did Yuan Shao have?

Gray Riders - I would equate him with Liu Biao, they both had great odds but lacked the skill to be truly great.

Jordan - You're right that the armies were much closer in strength, but I think that point you made still holds. Yuan Shao still had the slightly larger army, and more people were still willing to leave that army due to how much backstabbing and chaos controlled it.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Qu Hui » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:10 pm

Sun Kuang wrote:And the Red Cliff point, I'm not entirely sure that Guan Yu had him, I don't recall ever reading it in a historical source,

Nope, it was a fictional event. Guan Yu was off in Jiangxia at this time with the rest of Liu Bei's army.

Sun Kuang wrote:Liu Bei - I think someone else pointed out that his meekness is something from the novel, I'm going one step further to defend Liu Bei. He was one of the most resourceful generals of the time, and many of his good traits (along with Zhang Fei's) are given to Guan Yu in the novel to make him more heroic.

Well, there's a bit of values dissonance here, because the traits that Liu Bei show in the novel were valued by the culture it was written in. Many of Liu Bei's good traits in the novel were fabricated, and historically Liu Bei was an ambitious warlord who sometimes treated his people well (and also was marginally better as a general).

Sun Kuang wrote:And the Yiling point, Sun Quan had betrayed him and took Jing, if he didn't attack Sun Quan he would have looked extremely weak and many of the men would have lost heart. He would wanted to be taken seriously by his men he would have had to reprise in some fashion. So Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei were both right and wrong.

Actually, Liu Bei started that whole nonsense by not returning Nanjun, which Wu legitimately lent to him historically (that doesn't excuse the fact that Wu escalated things, though). Neither side took the alliance very seriously, honestly.

Sun Kuang wrote:Lu Bu - The demi-god warrior who couldn't think himself out a paper bag is also novel. He was a skilled general who managed to do something that Yuan Shao never did, almost defeat Cao Cao. I compared him to Gongsun Zan because they used similar tactics, they were both brutal opportunists, and that is all they had in common.

No, historically Lu Bu was pretty bad. He was defeated by Sun Jian early on, defeated by Li Jue, the battle with Zhang Yan ended in a stalemate, he had very little part in the initial uprising against Cao Cao, he only took Puyang because Xiahou Dun was tricked away, three commanderies with few troops managed to hold out against him until Cao Cao returned from Xu, the Puyang thing was admittedly Cao Cao's own fault (he set his escape route on fire) and after that it was pretty much downhill for Lu Bu.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Sun Kuang » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:33 pm

1. I'd say Guan Yu was more at fault than Liu Bei when looking at the Wu betrayal thing. After they divided Jing in half they could have perhaps salvaged the alliance (or at the very least mitigated the damage that was to come) if Guan Yu handled the diplomatic situation with any finesse.

Ultimately how both sides handled the situation prevented either one of them from standing a future chance against Wei.

2. You do have a good point, I should have mentioned Liu Bei's fault that the novel protected instead of his just his strengths, I apologize for not mentioning how he wasn't as selfless and kindhearted as he was portrayed, but he was a very shrewd man who was a great leader, more so than Yuan Shao.

3. I wouldn't say it went all downhill for Lu Bu after Puyang, he did gain control of Xu and defeat Yuan Shu's invasion. I might be overestimating his skill as a general but he wasn't bad by any means.

4. And thank you for clarifying the Guan Yu thing, I was 99% sure it was fictional but I didn't want to discard it without being 100% sure. :)


And sorry for the lack of quotes, I'm terrible at using forum functions. :P
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:59 am

Qu Hui wrote:Yuan Shao's slowness in defeating Gongsun Zan can most likely be attributed to the truce the two had going for about 4-5 years starting in 193.


I admit I am not well-versed when it comes to Zanny and Yuan Shao, but...

China History Forum Thread wrote:In 195, Liu Yu's former official Xianyu Fu gathered ex-soldiers from Liu's disbanded Youzhou units and rebelled to avenge their master. They were joined by the charismatic Yan Rou, who gathered several tens of thousands of Wuhuan and Xianbei into the rebel army. 7,000 Wuhuan and Xianbei cavalry headed south to receive Liu Yu's son Liu He (who was still in Yuan Shao's custody). Yuan freed Liu He and also dispatched Qu Yi with 100,000 men to aid the rebels against Gongsun Zan. At the Baoqiu River, the rebels defeated Gongsun Zan and killed 200,000 of his men. Numerous prefectures in Youzhou defected to the rebels and killed off the officials Gongsun had appointed.


I am not so sure killing 200,000 is um conducive of a truce?

That same link also points out that they had established a marriage alliance in 193, so they definitely made an attempt at amends for a time, I will concede that. But that first post in the link makes it sound like Yuan Shao was going at Zanny for a number of years.

Oh and...

Same Thread wrote:8. There were two Gongsun-Yuan wars, with a truce in between: the first in 192-193, and the second in 195-199.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Qu Hui » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:12 pm

Zyzyfer wrote:That same link also points out that they had established a marriage alliance in 193, so they definitely made an attempt at amends for a time, I will concede that.

I can't find any evidence of a marriage being involved in the truce. Quoteth the ZZTJ:
ZZTJ Chapter 60 wrote:Yuan Shao made his son Tan Inspector of Qing province. Tian Kai fought him but had no success. Then Zhao Qi came to make peace in the east of the passes. Gongsun Zan accepted a truce with Yuan Shao and each side led their troops away.

I will admit that I made a mistake with the dates of the war (it's hard to measure because there aren't any recorded conflicts between 195 and 198, at least as far as I could find), though.

As for the "Yuan Shao taking so long to defeat Gongsun Zan" point, it's kind of moot when you realized that it took Cao Cao just as long to finish off Lu Bu.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:22 am

Qu Hui wrote:As for the "Yuan Shao taking so long to defeat Gongsun Zan" point, it's kind of moot when you realized that it took Cao Cao just as long to finish off Lu Bu.


Fair enough on the rest, but I'll clarify my point a bit more here. I was referring to Yuan Shao's siege of Yijing, it seemed to have gone on for quite a while. Though to be fair, Cao Cao's sieges on Lu Bu tended to be drawn-out affairs as well.

Anyway, it serves to show that Yuan Shao's ability can be easy to underestimate.
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Re: Was Yuan Shao really that bad?

Unread postby Qu Hui » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:10 pm

Zyzyfer wrote:Fair enough on the rest, but I'll clarify my point a bit more here. I was referring to Yuan Shao's siege of Yijing, it seemed to have gone on for quite a while. Though to be fair, Cao Cao's sieges on Lu Bu tended to be drawn-out affairs as well.

Yijing was pretty much a superfortress, though, if the ZZTJ is anything to go by:
ZZTJ Chapter 61 wrote:He had ten moats dug around, and within the moats he built motte [sic] fortresses, each fifty or sixty feet high, and on top of these he put towers. The mound within the central moat was a hundred feet high, and that was where he lived himself. The gates of the fortress were made of iron.
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