Liu Ye (Ziyang)
Liu Ye was from one of the leading families in Jiujiang, Yang province. In 199, this made him a target of the bandit leader Zheng Bao. Zheng Bao wanted to relocate people in Jiujiang to the south side of the Yangzi river. Because of Liu Ye's local prestige, Zheng Bao wanted to make an example of him.As fortune would have it, at that time Cao Cao sent an observer to Jiujiang to hear court cases. Liu Ye invited the messenger to his estate, and Zheng Bao also went to pay his respects. Liu Ye then held a feast for them, but in the middle of it he took up a sword and killed Zheng Bao. Zheng Bao's bandits were greatly intimidated by this, so Liu Ye was able to temporarily take control of them. He brought them over to Liu Xun, the Grand Administrator [taishou] of the neighboring commandery, Lujiang. Liu Ye explained to Liu Xun that his command over these bandits would soon disappear because they certainly hated him. So it was better for him to pass them off to Liu Xun.
This, rather unfortunately, contributed to an ongoing problem Liu Xun had. He had been a confederate of Yuan Shu, who had appointed him as Grand Administrator of Lujiang years ago. After Yuan Shu's death, many of his retainers and soldiers fled to Liu Xun's protection. As a result, Liu Xun did not have enough food to feed all of these people. He asked for aid from the neighboring territories, but because of his association with Yuan Shu no one would help him. At that time, the warlord Sun Ce sent Liu Xun letters of friendship and urging him to attack the county of Shangliao, which had plenty of food. Liu Ye warned Liu Xun that Shangliao would be difficult to attack and that Sun Ce's friendship might not be genuine, but Liu Xun did not listen. Instead, he led his soldiers out of Huan City to attack Shangliao.
Liu Xun's campaign was an unmitigated disaster. Sun Ce had warned Shangliao of the attack, so Liu Xun gained nothing by it. Furthermore, while Liu Xun was in Shangliao, Sun Ce attacked and captured Huan City. When Liu Xun attempted to return to Huan City, he fell into an ambush set by Sun Ce's generals Sun Ben and Sun Fu. Liu Ye sought help from Liu Biao's general, Huang Zu. Huang Zu, in turn, sent his son Huang She to support Liu Ye. Their combined force fought with Sun Ce but they were utterly crushed. After this defeat, Liu Xun and Liu Ye fled north, to seek protection from Cao Cao.
In the north, Liu Ye appears to have become a partisan of Cao Cao's son and heir, Cao Pi, along with Liu Xun. Some time after joining Cao Cao, he became Master of Records [zhubu] to Xiahou Dun. In this capacity, he participated on Cao Cao's invasion of Hanzhng in 215, the events of which are almost humorous. Zhang Lu was willing to surrender to Cao Cao, but his brother Zhang Wei wanted to resist, so he stationed soldiers at Yangping pass. Cao Cao assaulted the pass, but his initial attack gained nothing. Intending to retreat, he sent Xiahou Dun and Xu Chu to recall the troops still in the pass. However, in the darkness, Cao Cao's soldiers got lost and wandered, quite by accident, into one of Zhang Wei's camps. Zhang Wei's soldiers believed they were the victims of a cunning night raid and fled. It was in this way that Cao Cao pacified Zhang Wei and was able to receive Zhang Lu's surrender. Liu Ye was among the soldiers who got lost and scored the inadvertent victory.
After Cao Cao took Hanzhong, Sima Yi and Liu Ye urged him to press on into Yi province, where his old enemy Liu Bei had usurped control from the previous governor, Liu Zhang. He argued that Liu Ye had taken Yi by deceit and force and that the people of the province were not yet attached to him and would gladly support Cao Cao. Sima Yi argued from the more logical perspective that Liu Bei was distracted haggling over Jing province with Sun Quan. Liu Ye warned that if Cao Cao delayed too long, the opportunity would pass. Cao Cao took several days to settle affairs in Hanzhong, but after that was finished, Liu Ye informed Cao Cao that the opportunity had passed. Cao Cao then decided not to attack Yi.
After returning from Hanzhong, Liu Ye was appointed [xingjun changshi] and [linjun].
In 220, Cao Cao passed away an his position was assumed by his son, Cao Pi. During his time as heir, Cao Pi had been gathering a circle of generals and advisers who were personally loyal to him. Liu Ye was among this group, along with Xiahou Shang, Xiahou Mao, Xin Pi, Chen Qun, and many others. As a result, Liu Ye found himself entrusted with far more authority under Cao Pi than he had enjoyed during Cao Cao's reign.
In 220, a general named Meng Da defected from the Liu faction to serve Cao Pi. Cao Pi liked Meng Da and treated him very well, acting as though they were old friends and entrusting him with the defense of extremely important territory along with the border with his enemies. Liu Ye warned Cao Pi that Meng Da's loyalty was a passing thing and that he could not be trusted. This advice proved to be both true and false. Meng Da served loyally during Cao Pi's lifetime, but after Cao Pi's death, he reestablished ties with the Liu faction and intended to revolt in their name. He was subsequently killed by Sima Yi.
At one point, Cao Pi asked his advisers if they believed that their enemy Liu Bei would attack their some-time ally Sun Quan in order to avenge the loss of Jing province, which Sun Quan had taken from Liu Bei in 219, during which Liu Bei's longtime general Guan Yu was killed. Liu Ye held to the minority position that Liu Bei, in spite of the fact that his state was small and weak, would indeed attack Sun Quan. Events proceeded as Liu Ye predicted and Liu Bei attacked Sun Quan.
By this time, the last Han emperor had abdicated the throne to Cao Pi. In 221, Sun Quan sent an envoy to Cao Pi to acknowledge him as emperor and offer formal surrender. The majority of Cao Pi's advisers offered congratulations, but Liu Ye was suspicious. He argued that Sun Quan's surrender was only because he did not want to worry about Cao Pi's state of Wei invading him while he fought the Liu forces. As soon as the threat was dealt with, he would again turn hostile. Thus, Liu Ye instead urged Cao Pi to take advantage of the conflict and invade Sun Quan's lands. Liu Ye claimed that they could be conquered within a month. Cao Pi feared that, if he attacked a surrendered enemy, it would inspire disloyalty in his other subjects. Liu Ye continued to argue his position, but Cao Pi did not change his mind.
Furthermore, Cao Pi decided to enfeoff Sun Quan as King of Wu and bestow great honors upon him. Liu Ye argued against this. He said that Sun Quan's surrender was false to begin with. Secondly, that the title of king belonged only to the royal family and should not be give to Sun Quan, who only held the honorary title of General of the Agile Cavalry [biaoji jiangjun] under the previous dynasty in addition to his title as Marquis. He believed that it would grant Sun Quan too much legitimacy and that he would certainly rebel in the future. Cao Pi, hoping to buy Sun Quan's loyalty, did not accept this advice.
By 222, the friendship with Sun Quan had turned stale. Sun Quan had easily repelled Liu Bei's attack on his territory and no longer felt the need to make a show of respect to Cao Pi. Cao Pi requested that Sun Quan send his son, Sun Deng, to the court (essentially as a hostage) but Sun Quan refused. Cao Pi began to plan to attack Sun Quan. Liu Ye urged Cao Pi to abandon the idea, but Cao Pi refused to do so.
Cao Pi attacked Sun Quan in 222 and 223, and though the Wei forces won several major victories, Sun Quan's armies were ultimately able to prevent them from holding any territory.
In 224, Cao Pi gathered his forces for another attack on Sun Quan. He gathered his army along the Jiang river, where he waited for Sun Quan to meet him in battle. As Liu Ye predicted, Sun Quan held to his defenses on the south side of the Jiang aid did not engage Cao Pi. After some time, Cao Pi withdrew his army.
On June 29 of 226, Cao Pi died of illness. At that time, none of the officials knew much about his heir, Cao Rui. When Cao Pi was Crown Prince, he had focused on political affairs and had gathered friends to serve as generals and advisers. Cao Rui, on the other hand, had not involved himself in politics and had instead focused on his studies. As a result, the high officials of the empire did not know him at all. By this time, Liu Ye was a palace attendant [shizhong] Cao Rui agreed to meet with him privately to discuss affairs. Liu Ye spoke with him the whole day and, when finished, Liu Ye spoke to the other officials and declared that Cao Rui was a genius on par with the greatest emperors of antiquity.
For many years, the Gongsun family ruled the isolated region of Liaodong as kings. In 228, Gongsun Gong was driven from power by his nephew, Gongsun Yuan. Liu Ye urged Cao Rui to take this opportunity to attack Gongsun Yuan, believing that he would cause trouble later and that he would be difficult to attack. Cao Rui declined this proposal.
For numerous reasons, Cao Rui eventually sent Sima Yi with an army to pacify Gongsun Yuan in 238.
In 232, Liu Ye's long career came to a sudden end. Cao Rui was considering an invasion of Yi province, which was held by the Liu faction. Most of the officials in the empire disagreed with this plan, believing that Yi was too difficult to attack. In private sessions with Cao Rui, Liu Ye advised him that Yi could be successfully attacked. However, when speaking to other officials, Liu Ye argued against the campaign. He was able to provide solid arguments for both positions.
Liu Ye's doubletalk was discovered when his friend, the [zhonglingjun] Yang Ji argued against Cao Rui using Liu Ye's words. Cao Rui suspected that the argument was too refined to be Yang Ji's own opinion and questioned him on it. Yang Ji admitted that he had been repeating with Liu Ye had said to him in private. Cao Rui was suspicious, since Liu Ye had supported the campaign when he spoke privately with Cao Rui. Cao Rui summoned Liu Ye, but Liu Ye refused to speak in front of others, so Cao Rui met with him privately. Liu Ye insisted that the reason he took the opposite position in public was because he was afraid that enemy spies would otherwise learn of their plans. Because of his long service, Cao Rui believed him.
However, other officials argued that Liu Ye was just telling Cao Rui what he wanted to hear. They suggested that Cao Rui speak of affairs with Liu Ye, using terms that suggested the opposite of his intention (i.e. asking whether he should alter the calendar in a way that suggested he wanted to do so when he did not actually want to). If all of Liu Ye's answers agreed with what Cao Rui said – rather than what made sense – it would prove that Liu Ye was being dishonest. Cao Rui took their advice and spoke with Liu Ye for a long time. Liu Ye agreed with everything Cao Rui said, no matter whether it was nonsense or not. Because Liu Ye was just agreeing with Cao Rui instead of proving honest advice, Cao Rui never trusted him again. He was given an appointment as [da honglu] outside of the capital.
Before his disgrace, Liu Ye had slandered Chen Jiao, Prefect of the Masters of Writing [shangshu ling], saying the he was monopolizing power. When Liu Ye was disgraced, this accusation brought no harm to Chen Jiao.
In the final years of his life, Liu Ye suffered from severe dementia.
Liu Ye served the Cao family for over 30 years. He correctly predicted the actions and intentions of Sun Quan and Gongsun Yuan and provided sound advice for dealing with them. He was able to quickly adapt to new situations and was an excellent debater, able to see both sides of an argument and defend them both. However, Cao Cao felt that Liu Ye did not compare to his other advisers, and Cao Pi often ignored his advice. As a result, Liu Ye was often disregarded by his superiors. Perhaps that is why he ultimately destroyed himself by speaking falsely to Cao Rui. In the end, he died insane and in disgrace.
The previous three paragraphs are all drawn from Jian'an 4, S
Cao Pi mentions Liu Xun as a drinking companion of his in his preface to the dian lun, a book of literary criticisms he wrote.
Jian'an 20, H gives Liu Ye's rank as Master of Records. I assume his relationship to Xiahou Dun based on the context of this sentence, in which he is traveling with Xiahou Dun's army. In the office of the Grand General [da jiangjun] during the Han, the Master of Records was the chief secretary. It would appear that the Master of Records to a particular general served the same function.
Jian'an 20, H. A detailed account of this incident is found in a memorial by Dong Zhao, quoted by Pei Songzhi in the biography of Zhang Lu.
Jian'an 20, J; Sima Yi's arguments are found in Jian'an 20, I
This information is drawn from Fang's note 28 of Huangchu 1. I have no idea what these ranks mean.
Huangchu 1, 27
Huangchu 1, 28
The account of Meng Da's rebellion is found in Taihe 1, 14 and 15, followed by Taihe 2, 1.
Huangchu 2, 26
Huangchu 2, 27
Huangchu 2, 30
Huangchu 3, 30
Huangchu 3, 31
Huangchu 5, 8
Huangchu 5, 13
Huangchu 7, 13
Huangchu 7, 16 gives his rank as such.
Huangchu 7, 16
Taihe 2, 41
Jingchu 2, 1
I am uncertain how to translate Yang Ji's rank.
Again, I do not know how to translate this rank. From context, one may assume that this was a position without much authority.
The previous three paragraphs are drawn from Taihe 6, 15
Taihe 6, 16
Taihe 6, 15