Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:13 am

Tokugawa Liang wrote:
I don't think taking possession of the emperor was a threat to Yuan Shao's independence. I think it would be more Yuan Shao giving orders to the emperor and not the other way round... I think the emperor could have given some useful decrees to help Yuan Shao, until he wouldn't be of any use anymore, time when Yuan Shao would get rid of it; that's pretty much what Ding Zhouo tried to do.


Dong got killed. Cao Cao had to do a lot of killing to keep his authority, even forcing the death of his old friend Xun Yu late on in his career. It worked for Cao Cao, he survived the dangers and was able to keep the Han court pliant but he did face a lot of trouble. Yuan Shao didn't want the burden or the risk, he and some of his advisers felt the cost was not worth the political rewards
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Scholar » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:04 am

We don't really get a favorable or complete view of Yuan Shu, nor would we. He violated the confucian scholarly ethic too soon, he did not properly follow the rites, and he, worst of all, lost. Dong Zhuo and Yuan Shu are probably the most propagandized characters in the later Han period. Because of Yuan Shu's later move every move he makes has a sinister greedy tone inside of the records. Moves that he made that were supportive of the royal house had to be altered for this black character as a hypocritical front because of a long deep seeded desire to become emperor. His military achievements were trivialized, his role in creating an empire gets footnotes, and his significance is downplayed. His retainers are presented as men of low cunning or people desperately attempting to leave his sinking ship, even when Yuan Shu himself is in a position were he can only rise at those points. He is made to tremble in the face of justice and made to be destroyed in a nice variety of poetic justice as to his character.

I really enjoyed the modern series' portrayal of Yuan Shu precisely because it presents him more evenhandedly.

What is known about Yuan Shu is that he was an immeasurably powerful warlord in influence even though he had comparatively few troops. Yuan Shu moved against bandits causing him trouble with his army, but the bandits were supported by Cao Cao who then went to war with Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu, outnumbered 3:1, was defeated. He was defeated by arguably one of the most talented generals of the age when he was outnumbered 3:1. With his battered remnants he was forced to move from Nan to Shou Chun. However, upon arrival, he was refused. Yuan Shu, using this disorganized force and retinue of retainers from hundreds of li away, managed to capture the city and make it into his new base of power. From there he turned a city into the second or third most powerful faction in the entirety of China, expanding to the borders of Liu Biao, Cao Cao, and Xu province. He had already taken over Yangzhou when it rose in rebellion. The sun clan, which was powerful and prestigious so it could have went anywhere, chose to follow Yuan Shu through all of this even after the refraining of supplies. The relationship between Yuan Shu and the sun family wasn't bad, it was actually very positive. Yuan Shu allowed Sun Ce to go on a campaign in Yangzhou and when Sun Ce took over the entire province he still served Yuan Shu, and Yuan Shu still recognized that province as part of his empire. The Sun family was an autonomous vassal, always had been.

What caused Yuan Shu's ruin was frequent betrayals by his own followers: Yuan Shu's army was crushed by defections fighting against Lu Bu, Sun Ce betrayed Yuan Shu's trust and rebelled, most of Yuan Shu's "notable" retainers went on to serve Cao Cao and the Sun family. His army was in disarray, struggling from defections, and decisively beaten when Cao Cao and Liu Bei moved in. Yuan Shu was forced to move further south and continued to reign over his (decaying) empire. He was still, however, a force to be noted and perhaps even feared until his death. His son continued to rule over a fragment of the empire until Sun Ce took it, again, by a mix of betrayal. First by befriending the faction there, then by leading them into war, and finally by taking advantage of their now compromised and open position. However, for a family that made itself royalty and for Sun Ce's touted reasons for betraying Yuan Shu, Sun Ce and his brother took very good care of the Yuan clan. The Yuan family would be noted as one of four that held considerable sway over the Wu Dynasty (though I cannot be certain if they are all connected to Yuan Shu). A daughter or granddaughter of Yuan Shu would be Sun Quan's wife and would have been made Sun Quan's empress should she have borne him any children. In fact, it was Lady Yuan that turned down Sun Quan. Wu's force was also composed largely of former Yuan retainers, Zhou Yu, many of the scholars, and the Sun family were all under Yuan Shu's banner.

There is an inescapable fact, however. Yuan Shu declared himself Emperor. Something that was an unforgivable move at the time, but only to a point. Had Yuan Shu been successful in his move there would be many other emperors propping up. Yuan Shao may have made a move in that direction as could others. One of the largest fears was that if Yuan Shu could continue to be emperor than others would prop up and the Han's Emperor would be made worthless because of it. There are a lot of negative marks on his personality, motivations, and his ability to to lead. However, while we know this cannot all be true given the sheer chronology of his career, it is obvious that he was overtly prideful and most likely did have many unsavory traits. At least unsavory by the ethical standards of the time (which was noted to Cao Cao by Dong Zhao as prominent officials who wore fine cloths were deemed as excessive and of low character while those who wore simple or raggedy cloths were deemed of excellent character. It had gotten so bad in his court that officials had to hide their fine silks and wear rags in order to avoid slander and derision.). He was really, truly, hurt in the campaign against Lu Bu, something he never recovered from.

In overall summation: Yuan Shu is an underrated character whose complex and talented nature has been overshadowed by comments and records made long after his death and defeat.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Jordan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:43 am

I agree but with a few caveats. For example, you mention that what caused his ruin was the betrayal of vassals and allies. One must look to the root of this cause though. These betrayals were caused by other factors such as Yuan Shu's grip on his nominal vassals (such as Sun Ce) slipping and Yuan Shu's own poor decision to proclaim himself Emperor. The latter provided a reasonable pretext for insubordination. Yuan Shu was a decently powerful warlord, which is recognized by most. However, there is no doubt that he made several mistakes.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby DragonAtma » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:08 pm

Yuan Shu definitely dropped the ball a few times. The obvious one was declaring himself emperor (thus earning the wrath of everyone nearby), but that's not the only one; at the very minimum, not once but twice he promised sun ce a commandery only to appoint someone else (first jiujiang, then lujiang).
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Sun Fin » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:41 pm

DragonAtma wrote:Yuan Shu definitely dropped the ball a few times. The obvious one was declaring himself emperor (thus earning the wrath of everyone nearby), but that's not the only one; at the very minimum, not once but twice he promised sun ce a commandery only to appoint someone else (first jiujiang, then lujiang).


Scholar and I have argued on these lines frequently in the past and whilst I agree with much of what he says Yuan Shu's treatment of Sun Ce was less than ideal. Why should Sun Ce stay loyal to Shu when Shu hadn't played fair with him?
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Scholar » Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:04 am

Jordan wrote:I agree but with a few caveats. For example, you mention that what caused his ruin was the betrayal of vassals and allies. One must look to the root of this cause though. These betrayals were caused by other factors such as Yuan Shu's grip on his nominal vassals (such as Sun Ce) slipping and Yuan Shu's own poor decision to proclaim himself Emperor. The latter provided a reasonable pretext for insubordination. Yuan Shu was a decently powerful warlord, which is recognized by most. However, there is no doubt that he made several mistakes.
Oh, I am fully aware that Yuan Shu was not without his blunders and mistakes. The primary amongst those would have been declaring himself Emperor at the wrong time before he had fully recovered from his campaign against Lu Bu. The point is simply that Yuan Shu isn't really considered a talented individual, but rather someone relying on a fame he doesn't deserve and that every action he makes has been combined with political undertones that are designed to make him as talentless and as greedy as possible. While I wouldn't rate him very high in the ranks of generals and warlords, I don't think it would be out of the question for Yuan Shu to be in the top 15-30 in the era.

DragonAtma wrote:Yuan Shu definitely dropped the ball a few times. The obvious one was declaring himself emperor (thus earning the wrath of everyone nearby), but that's not the only one; at the very minimum, not once but twice he promised sun ce a commandery only to appoint someone else (first jiujiang, then lujiang).
The circumstances around that incident aren't really clear. It does beg a few questions in the decision making process, and why Yuan Shu still felt like Sun Ce was his man to the south and east. One should remember that Sun Ce wasn't even in charge of the Sun family after Sun Jian's death, he only assumed control of it very early on and he was still a young man. Yuan Shu showing obvious favoritism towards Sun Ce by giving him prestigious appointments before his older and more accomplished generals could easily cause discontent amongst his armed forces, and from what I can tell Yuan Shu didn't think the incidents really damaged his relationship to Sun Ce. Like the withholding of supplies, it seems to be given exaggerated importance. However, I fully agree that this seems like a huge blunder knowing that Sun Ce did rebel and could easily have been justified in doing so.

Sun Fin wrote:Scholar and I have argued on these lines frequently in the past and whilst I agree with much of what he says Yuan Shu's treatment of Sun Ce was less than ideal. Why should Sun Ce stay loyal to Shu when Shu hadn't played fair with him?
While useless romanticism, Yuan Shao didn't treat any of his advisers or much of his generals very well. A lot of them died and chose death upon capture. Compared to Yuan Shao's treatment of his advisers, Sun Ce was treated very well. The sun family, its relatives, and many of its old retainers were long standing vassals of Yuan Shu's army by the time Sun Ce showed up. He wasn't, I don't think, even the head of the family when he was offered Jiujiang. I don't hold Sun Ce's betrayal against Yuan Shu against him, by all regards Sun Ce and Sun Quan were even excessively protective of the Yuan family when they clearly didn't have to be. That implies that the relationship between the Sun faction and the southern Yuan faction were much, much better than we think it was.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Jordan » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:01 am

While I wouldn't rate him very high in the ranks of generals and warlords, I don't think it would be out of the question for Yuan Shu to be in the top 15-30 in the era.


I agree. I'd rate him even higher in fact. There were a ridiculous number of petty warlords that sprung up when the Late-Han was in its decline. At Yuan Shu's zenith, he was one of the most powerful warlords in China and a clearly notable contender for power. He deserves to be ranked with Liu Biao, Liu Yan, Yuan Shao Lu Bu, Gongsun Du, Zhang Lu, Han Sui, etc. in notoriety and importance.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Scholar » Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:00 pm

Jordan wrote:
While I wouldn't rate him very high in the ranks of generals and warlords, I don't think it would be out of the question for Yuan Shu to be in the top 15-30 in the era.


I agree. I'd rate him even higher in fact. There were a ridiculous number of petty warlords that sprung up when the Late-Han was in its decline. At Yuan Shu's zenith, he was one of the most powerful warlords in China and a clearly notable contender for power. He deserves to be ranked with Liu Biao, Liu Yan, Yuan Shao Lu Bu, Gongsun Du, Zhang Lu, Han Sui, etc. in notoriety and importance.
I would put him above Han Sui, as Han Sui as a general had limited influence in Liang while Yuan Shu's state laid the foundation for Wu and was at one point within the top three most powerful factions in China. Zhang Lu's importance is more religious than otherwise, while Gongsun Du was perhaps the most important foreigner inside Korean history. The rest all had parts to play that, if not fulfilled, would have made the three kingdoms era impossible. From the assassination of Dong Zhuo to the creation of an independent Yizhou which would serve as a later basis for Shu-Han. Perhaps I place Yuan Shu too highly in my arbitrary range, as I was referring to overall position rather than strictly amongst independent warlords. :lol:
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:39 am

Scholar wrote: One should remember that Sun Ce wasn't even in charge of the Sun family after Sun Jian's death, he only assumed control of it very early on and he was still a young man. Yuan Shu showing obvious favoritism towards Sun Ce by giving him prestigious appointments before his older and more accomplished generals could easily cause discontent amongst his armed forces, and from what I can tell Yuan Shu didn't think the incidents really damaged his relationship to Sun Ce.


Not sure I agree with all of that. Its true Sun Ce wasn't head of the clan following Jian's death that duty fell to Jian's brother-in-law Wu Jing and nephew Sun Ben. However neither of them had retained authority over Jian's subordinates like Chang Pu. But that doesn't mean Sun Ce didn't have any following when he arrived at Shu's court, he at least had Lu Fan and Sun He (formerly Jian's head bodyguard) and their men as well as local people that followed Ce. Rafe also says he was joined by some of his father’s ex-troops and officers (such as Cheng Pu who despite being nominally attached to Yuan Shu in these years saw little if any action). Just to clarify Rafe makes clear that he WASN'T given these men by Yuan Shu only that they joined Ce. So when he joined he already had the making of a small force.

He also didn't immediately receive favour, he was despatched to help his uncle Wu Jing where he spent a few months doing little more than learning how to fight against the hill clans and bandits. Hardly a dream job, however he drew more men and had an army of about 1,000 men. Then he went back to court and spent a year there as Shu promised him one thing and then didn't deliver. Eventually he despatched Ce against Lu Kang, I suspect in anticipation of his defeat so that this upstart Ce would finally leave him alone and stop moaning about a broken promise. Anyway Ce won that victory and after that he went back to help his uncle, and in theory his commander, Wu Jing. However Jing recognised Ce's superior ability and allowed Ce to take over.

I wouldn't say any of that shows Yuan Shu showing favouritism towards Sun Ce, the only event that can be seen as that is the fight against Lu Kang. At that point Ce had already been promised Jiujiang and so this was surely in some way to make up for that let down.
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Re: Yuan Shao - Yuan Shu

Unread postby Scholar » Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:27 am

Sun Ce was very young, and perceived to be very inexperienced. Even if he was talented and promised positions, giving him that high of a position while there were more established and achieved generals under his command that were, perhaps, more deserving would have been a very poor move. Sun Ce was too young to realistically gain those appointments and too new to Yuan Shu's services. Even if it was breaking his agreements with Sun Ce, Yuan Shu did eventually honor his agreements. He could have just as easily brought Sun Ce back to the capital with the initial conquest of part of Jiang Dong as he had with the other two engagements. He didn't, and instead allowed many of his own generals and officials to be, in a sense, transferred. That, and Sun Ce was favored by Yuan Shu.

You also run on a few assumptions: We have no information, or next to no information, about the campaigns and military expeditions of Yuan Shu from his arrival in Shou Chun to his conquest of southeastern China. It is very possible that many of Sun Jian's former entourage were used in a number of battles. In fact, its unlikely that they wouldn't see much use.

Further, unless Sun Ce defeated both commanders and began his conquest of Yang with the few minor forces he brought with him then it is clear that he did receive extensive reinforcement from Yuan Shu. While some of the generals may have defected, if any of them joined Sun Ce before the break between the two and Sun Ce's own rebellion then the officers and generals joined him while under the nominal command of Yuan Shu. It is unlikely that such moves went without Yuan Shu's notice, or approval. Warlords don't allow generals and troops to leave their command without a word, and we have virtually nothing as far as objections or attempts to stop the moves.

However, I had not meant to start debate on the merits and career of Sun Ce. Suffice it to say he was just about 20 when he went back to Wu Anguo for the second time. It would have been ridiculous for Yuan Shu to actively promote someone who was not his own blood to a high ranking position above many of his other long term officers at that age. Even if there was two promises or agreements, it still would have been ridiculous given his age. Only with the third great victory was Sun Ce's ability and worth unquestionable and it was far enough away in a remote area that his attaining power wouldn't readily draw the malcontent of Yuan Shu's veterans. There's a reason why Sun Ce is called the little conqueror and why his age is made such a big deal, no one accomplishes what he did at that age, regardless of their own talent unless they are related to the ruler's family. Age is something immensely important to Chinese culture and society, someone simply living to be old is deeply respected and someone who reaches extreme levels of age is revered. People establish their relationship to other people based on their age, station, and origin. Sun Ce was the grandson of a merchant, he was extremely young, relatively inexperienced, of low rank, and new to Yuan Shu's services. I don't mean to make this a slight against Sun Ce, but that's something unavoidable when talking about him. It makes his rise much more noteworthy and fantastic, but it also makes his initial lack of advancement readily understandable (if disagreeable from our current standpoint).
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