Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

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Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Tokugawa Liang » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:36 pm

Yuan Shao was a great (or not) general of the Three Kingsdoms period. He had hundreds of capable officers and thousands of soldiers, ready to obey him. However, in the end he still got beaten by the genius of Cao cao, in which Yuan Shao's indecision helped a lot. But if Shao had been such a fool, how did he grow to this position?! He controlled many commanderies in the north, but suddenly Cao Cao arrived and all his tactics proved ill and lead him to defeat. Is it possible that after an intelligent youth, Yuan Shao had a sort of downgrade of his capacity and finally was unable to lead an empire? You may say he had a noble origin and hgis family was well known by in the court, so many Han-loyalists went to him with hope, but what of his brother, Yuan Shu?
Was his brother in any aspect different from him that he could not gahther such a force as his brother?

Another point that bothers me is the relationship between the two brothers. Though nopt allied they formed two different forces wich both strived for the dominion of China, sometimes representing a threat to the other's ambition. In the end Yuan Shu wanted to join his brother, but if they had started together would it not have added to their good reputation and, mainly, to their strength?

Anyway, I think we can agree that Yuan Shao was not a match for Cao Cao0, but he had still many advisors that could have lde him to victory.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:17 am

Tokugawa Liang wrote:But if Shao had been such a fool, how did he grow to this position?! He controlled many commanderies in the north, but suddenly Cao Cao arrived and all his tactics proved ill and lead him to defeat. Is it possible that after an intelligent youth, Yuan Shao had a sort of downgrade of his capacity and finally was unable to lead an empire? You may say he had a noble origin and hgis family was well known by in the court, so many Han-loyalists went to him with hope...


Quick note-Yuan Shao was from a very prominent family (The Yuan clan could be compared to the Kennedys) and had been appointed governor of Bohai Commandery prior to the campaign against Dong Zhuo. That provided him with a fantastic head start. After the breakup of the coalition, Yuan then manipulated Han Fu into surrendering his very wealthy territory surrounding Ye. So his success was due to family connections, a decent power base at the beginning, and the good fortune to be surrounded by idiots (his main rival in the north was Gongsun Zan, and despite what ROTK might tell you, he was quite incompetent.)

There's a hypothesis circulating that Yuan had gone senile by Guandu, which would explain his incompetent leadership.

I wouldn't consider it likely that Han loyalists would flock to Yuan, at least not after the breakup. Yuan actually had an opportunity to rescue Emperor Xian after he fled Chang'an, but refused to, reasoning that he would have to defer to the Emperor. With that in mind, one wonders if Yuan hadn't gone senile relatively early.

Also, Yuan Shao and Shu were cousins, not brothers. Yuan Shu also had a very large army at first, counting Sun Jian (and later, his son) as one of his vassals. But he could never seem to win a battle unless a Sun was leading, and when he declared himself Emperor, he became a pariah.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:54 am

TMBJ is on the mark I think for the most part. Though I think Yuan Shao actually had a fair bit of talent, just not Cao Cao levels. Yuan Shao was ultimately undone in his elder years because he couldn't manage the disunity which was rampant in his faction, something many rulers are guilty of in their old age (ie. Sun Quan).

Also for the early part of Three Kingdoms, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu were actually the greatest powers, maneuvering against one another. Yuan Shu resented Yuan Shao's popularity because Yuan Shao was technically of a lower birth than him (ie. Yuan Shao wasn't a son of the first and proper wife)
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:05 am

I want to say that Yuan Shao isn't quite as bad as people make him out to be. He was certainly fickle, a strike against him. But I also think he underestimated Cao Cao going into Guandu. It's worth noting that historically he reversed Cao's gains not long after Guandu. I'm slowly coming to believe more and more that Guandu is a bit overhyped, but I haven't given it a deep amount of thought to justify this with evidence.

What definitely did Yuan Shao in was his early death and succession issue. Cao Cao eventually overcame the Yuan siblings but it was a house divided and warring with itself. Had the succession gone more smoothly for whatever reason then I feel Cao would have had a tougher time of it.

Yuan Shu, I like the guy for some odd reason but he wasn't a big picture thinker in my opinion. Even with greater success, he still would have fumbled about and ruined himself.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:18 am

Just to clarify-I think Yuan Shao was very competent until the late 190's. That's why I buy the senile hypothesis. Yuan Shao could've prolonged the Han possibly for decades if he had been in charge as opposed to He Jin, and his rapid reprisal in the wake of He Jin's assassination (he failed to liberate the capital, but there was little else he could do), his gambit against Han Fu, his forging of an alliance with Liu Biao (eliminating by proxy Yuan Shu's best general) and his elimination of Gongsun Zan show a man on top of things.
Last edited by TooMuchBaijiu on Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:25 am

I'm slowly coming to believe more and more that Guandu is a bit overhyped, but I haven't given it a deep amount of thought to justify this with evidence.


I agree, and there are evidences to back this up I think. No territory changed hands, and Cao Cao was not strong enough to seriously incur into the north even after Guan Du until Yuan Shao was dead and the Yuan brothers were warring.

I think Guan Du was less about defeating Yuan Shao, and more important in that it allowed Cao Cao to survive. So in that sense think of it more akin to Red Cliffs, it saved the weaker side from destruction and was thus pivotal.

What definitely did Yuan Shao in was his early death and succession issue.


It did him in, but let's not say it was that early. Cao Cao was born in 155, and we assume Yuan Shao was older than Cao Cao. That means when Yuan Shao died he would have been probably 50 or even older. That means he lived longer than rules like Cao Pi and Cao Rui.


edit: TMBJ: I don't agree that he was constantly competent, just because he made perhaps the biggest blunder in his youth. Yuan Shao was the person who called the warlords into the capital. Cao Cao was prescient and warned against this, saying this would be much more problem than it was worth.

But I know I'm in the minority, because I always thought that the regional warlords were the greatest threat to the Han Dynasty, not the eunuchs.
Last edited by Crazedmongoose on Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:35 am

Crap, I thought He Jin called the warlords. Well, scratch that.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:01 am

I should clarify, since I'm usually jumping on people about “early deaths” of people like Guan Yu and the like. It's better to say people weren't prepared for his death. He certainly wasn't a young man in his prime.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:41 am

I would say Yuan Shao was a bit politically incompetent

Tokugawa Liang wrote:Yuan Shao was a great (or not) general of the Three Kingsdoms period. He had hundreds of capable officers and thousands of soldiers, ready to obey him. However, in the end he still got beaten by the genius of Cao cao, in which Yuan Shao's indecision helped a lot.


Eh I would say Yuan Shao's age, leading to weakened leadership, and poor luck plus a few (not as many as people think) wrong moves as well as Cao Cao's brilliance were the main factors. Remember Yuan Shao was close to victory till Cao Cao got Xu You who knew were the supplies were held

But if Shao had been such a fool, how did he grow to this position?! He controlled many commanderies in the north, but suddenly Cao Cao arrived and all his tactics proved ill and lead him to defeat. Is it possible that after an intelligent youth, Yuan Shao had a sort of downgrade of his capacity and finally was unable to lead an empire?


He wasn't a fool, expect perhaps in politics, and as TMBJ said, he moved quickly and exploited opportunities. Though I would suggest Yuan Shao's reputation as a knight-errant, rescuer against the eunuchs and He Jin's deputy helped in his getting the Bo-Hai job as well as family connections.

I think the consensus is that Yuan Shao went senile and lost his grip on his officer core which grew into factional squabbing. Losing his best general Qu Yi did not help

You may say he had a noble origin and hgis family was well known by in the court, so many Han-loyalists went to him with hope, but what of his brother, Yuan Shu?
Was his brother in any aspect different from him that he could not gahther such a force as his brother?


Name a Han loyalist under Yuan Shao for a serious length of time? Holding Liu He prisoner does not count :wink: There were very few Han loyalists out there and most turned up under Cao Cao or had jobs elsewhere, they don't seem to have seen Yuan Shao as the leading Han figure. Perhaps becuase he attempted to overthrow Xian for Liu Yu

Cousin Yuan Shu was the power of the south. Just far less able. Without Sun Jian, Yuan Shu was unable to exploit opportunities and make serious headway, Yuan Shu's chief asset outside his family name (or Sun Jian) was his ability to bounce back.

Another point that bothers me is the relationship between the two brothers. Though nopt allied they formed two different forces wich both strived for the dominion of China, sometimes representing a threat to the other's ambition. In the end Yuan Shu wanted to join his brother, but if they had started together would it not have added to their good reputation and, mainly, to their strength?


Possibly but the two simply did not get on, Yuan Shu once calling Shao the family slave and opposing each other from the off (Yuan Shu and Gongsun Zan vs Cao Cao and Yuan Shao)

Anyway, I think we can agree that Yuan Shao was not a match for Cao Cao0, but he had still many advisors that could have lde him to victory.


I see one adviser, Ju Shou who could have led Yuan Shao to victory. Xu You was corrupt and Tian Feng seems to have had a reputation for upsetting people.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Ma Cheng » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:56 pm

The book certainly likes to play on the idea of Yuan Shao's advisers arguing amongst themselves and offering only contradictory advice.
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