3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:38 pm

capnnerefir wrote:
yalokinh wrote:Hey,
just joined, but I've been interested in the weapons and armor used during the three kingdoms and I'm trying to find out more.
Here is something I found, not sure if someone has put it up already.
Talks a little bit about Zhuge Liang's crossbow and other stuff, but generally not much is said from 1st-3rd century

http://www.grandhistorian.com/chinesesi ... 22007.html


I just stumbled onto that page yesterday. It all looks like very interesting information, as as near as I can tell it's quite reliable and well-researched, though the information about the "Zhuge Nu" is a bit more questionable. I have to question the credentials of anyone who calls Zhuge Liang "a military genius".


That was written by Liang Jieming of China History Forum. He knows his stuff, and he's an engineer by trade. He made a bunch of miniature trebuchets to serve as the centerpiece on the tables at his wedding. I don't really think one can question his credentials given his knowledge of the period. By all intents and purposes, Zhuge Liang was a military genius.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Jordan » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:17 pm

I agree with you completely, Aaron, that the article is well-written and the author appears to know his stuff. His credentials seem respectable by all means. I feel that it's fallacious, though, to use ethos evidence to back up what is basically a subjective opinion. Whether Zhuge Liang is a military genius or not is completely a matter of opinion. Even if somebody were the most respected and prolific historian in their field, they would not be able to settle the score on the issue and make a factual claim that somebody is a genius. That is a matter of opinion. And actually, despite my admiration for Zhuge Liang, I actually stand on the same page on this issue as capnnerefir. I don't think Zhuge Liang was a military genius. Even in his own time there were much smarter generals, inventors and tacticians. When looking at Chinese history as a whole, his achievements seem even more diminutive.

I do think opinions can be wrong. Moreover, some opinions can be made stronger if bolstered with evidence. In this particular case, though, the issue is certainly debatable. Other scholars such as Killigrew (who nonetheless offers a fairly favorable account of Zhuge Liang) and de Crespigny probably would not agree that Zhuge Liang was a military genius. On the other side, there are many Chinese and Western scholars who would concur that he was a genius. I don't think there is a scholarly consensus or definite answer.

Regardless, it seems likely that Zhuge Liang modified existing repeating crossbows that were in use in some way. That seems to be what the article suggests and that's what I've read in most other scholarly works. At the very least, even Chen Shou was compelled to admit that he had some kind of engineering acumen. I feel that it is probable that while Zhuge Liang did not invent the famous chu-ko-nu, he probably did make some improvements or changes to the technology that existed in his time. While I don't think that makes him a military genius per se (regardless of who thinks he is), I think he did have some notable achievements.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:39 am

I wouldn't say it's even his invention or improvements of the Chu Ko Nu that make him a military genius. It's honestly his entire engineering acumen as a whole, combined with everything else he did. There might be some who were better generals, some who were better inventors, some who were better tacticians in each of those individual categories. But in regards to people who have the entire package and perform reasonably competent in all of these things combined, there are few who can even compare to Kongming.

His entire spectrum of knowledge and learning must be taken into account. It's easy to ignore other aspects of him and say "He wasn't that good at ____." but fail to recognize that he was a complete package. It was his well rounded intelligence and competence in pretty much every thing he did that makes him a military genius (considering that most of his accomplishments, even in civil matters are still related to a military context. Politics is simply war by other means, especially considering that this was in essence a period of "Total War" i.e. the entirety of the state was used specifically for the purposes of making war). Throughout all of history you don't get too many individuals like Zhuge Liang.

The reason I say Zhuge was a military genius is because he appears to be a Gustavus Adolphus like figure (or perhaps it would be more correct to say Gustavus Adolphus is a Zhuge Liang like figure). There are not many people willing to argue that Gustavus Adolphus was not a military genius when taking into account his entire repertoire of skills and areas where he was competent in (but when just picking apart his individual aspects, one could potentially make the case that he wasn't). But when it comes to Zhuge,most people ignore the entirety of him and base their opinion on one aspect of him only, and use that to judge everything else. I find that intellectually dishonest. Because as a whole, there are not many people within Chinese history that are as good in all of the aspects that Zhuge Liang was good at.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:41 am

I don't see how being a genius inventor and administrator, a man with a considerable eye for talent makes him more then a skilled miliatry figure. His multiple talents make him an impressive figure, a genius, a brilliant man. It doesn't transfer into making him a miliatry genius, there he showed skill but not genius level skill and however skilled he is in multiple fields doesn't make him a genius in another specific field.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:33 am

Dong Zhou wrote:I don't see how being a genius inventor and administrator, a man with a considerable eye for talent makes him more then a skilled miliatry figure. His multiple talents make him an impressive figure, a genius, a brilliant man. It doesn't transfer into making him a miliatry genius, there he showed skill but not genius level skill and however skilled he is in multiple fields doesn't make him a genius in another specific field.


Because all of the fields in which he was skilled in, are all applied to the military. In a "Total War" scenario like one that took place during the Three Kingdoms, all of the aspects which Zhuge was skilled in can be combined to contribute to his military skill. War is simply politics by other means. Someone being a military genius does not necessarily imply that they were exceptionally skilled tacticians. It's the fact that Zhuge was a skilled tactician, strategist, statesman, inventor, administrator, and a considerable eye for talent that he used all in a combined effort in order to use the entirety of the state to make war.

That is what makes him a military genius. There are few individuals throughout all of history who were on that sort of level. In the manner of making war, Kongming showed exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, and originality. The fact that he was skilled in multiple subjects (like Marie Curie and Leonardo DaVinci were), helps cement this. There's no scientific definition of genius, but given that the entirety of the state was utilized for making war, Kongming used all of his intellectual capacity in order to be skilled in all of those avenues, it's hard to label him as anything but a military genius.

Think of it this way. If Zhuge Liang never existed, who else in Shu could single-handedly take on all of those aspects of the state, and utilize it for waging war in the manner that he did? He alone stands out from the crowd in that respect, even among the other kingdoms.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:42 pm

Because all of the fields in which he was skilled in, are all applied to the military. In a "Total War" scenario like one that took place during the Three Kingdoms, all of the aspects which Zhuge was skilled in can be combined to contribute to his military skill.


To limited success.

When I see people talk of military genius, I see people using the likes of Napoleon, Patton and so on. Not the inventors of the tanks or siege weapons, if remembered at all then words like inventing genius or engineering genius are used. Or the great siege engineers and fort builders when cannon became a major weapon, the term I see used around them is not military genius. Genius yes but in another spheres. Weapons and inventions may be used for military purpose and Zhuge Liang's inventions were a clear asset to Shu.

Aaron.K wrote:War is simply politics by other means. Someone being a military genius does not necessarily imply that they were exceptionally skilled tacticians. It's the fact that Zhuge was a skilled tactician, strategist, statesman, inventor, administrator, and a considerable eye for talent that he used all in a combined effort in order to use the entirety of the state to make war.


We call him a great/skill at certain aspects because that is what he was great at. To call him a skilled military commander would be correct in my view, maybe very skilled but military genius, no. He may have organized a state to make war but with limited end results. The military genius people refer to are the ones that won battles, camapigns, even defined era's with their military victories and brilliance. Zhuge Liang defined the era with his administration perhaps and certainly his inventions, he was a genius in those spheres.

Aaron.K wrote:That is what makes him a military genius. There are few individuals throughout all of history who were on that sort of level. In the manner of making war, Kongming showed exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, and originality. The fact that he was skilled in multiple subjects (like Marie Curie and Leonardo DaVinci were), helps cement this. There's no scientific definition of genius, but given that the entirety of the state was utilized for making war, Kongming used all of his intellectual capacity in order to be skilled in all of those avenues, it's hard to label him as anything but a military genius.


What you list makes him a genius. A great organizer. A great adaptor of technology as well as an inventor. One of the great men of his time.

The idea of a commander is to win camapigns. To conquer or to win brilliant defences depending on the relevant camapign. To be a military genius (I would say Cao Cao was a military genius of anybody in the three kingdoms, I can perfectly accept the argument not the foremost overall genius of the time) would surely be that of a man who won at least for awhile.

Aaron.K wrote:Think of it this way. If Zhuge Liang never existed, who else in Shu could single-handedly take on all of those aspects of the state, and utilize it for waging war in the manner that he did? He alone stands out from the crowd in that respect, even among the other kingdoms.


Nobody in Shu had his work ethic. Could someone in Shu have won more then two towns? Who knows. Shu didn't seem to help foster great commanders and tacticians, someone who could define war and his military greatness could strike fear or at least victory.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:44 am

Dong Zhou wrote:To limited success.

When I see people talk of military genius, I see people using the likes of Napoleon, Patton and so on. Not the inventors of the tanks or siege weapons, if remembered at all then words like inventing genius or engineering genius are used. Or the great siege engineers and fort builders when cannon became a major weapon, the term I see used around them is not military genius. Genius yes but in another spheres. Weapons and inventions may be used for military purpose and Zhuge Liang's inventions were a clear asset to Shu.


They're thinking in limited scope if that's all they apply "Military Genius" to. Napoleon certainly was a military genius, because he was more than just a military tactician, but was a Zhuge Liang type figure. He was well rounded, but he also had a considerable amount to work with. The entirety of France is an extremely massive place compared to just Shu, and it is not limited in the avenues in which it can attack.

But Patton certainly wasn't a military genius by any stretch of the imagination. A good tactician, and inspiring, but those two alone do not make a military genius.

We call him a great/skill at certain aspects because that is what he was great at. To call him a skilled military commander would be correct in my view, maybe very skilled but military genius, no. He may have organized a state to make war but with limited end results. The military genius people refer to are the ones that won battles, camapigns, even defined era's with their military victories and brilliance. Zhuge Liang defined the era with his administration perhaps and certainly his inventions, he was a genius in those spheres.


Considering what he had to work with, I doubt anyone could have achieved much, neither Napoleon or Cao Cao, or anyone else. His options were severely limited, and that he was able to make the best of them despite that is a good example of military genius. The fact that he held the state together and completely utilized all aspects of it for war, and that it didn't completely fall apart at his death and that they were able to even go on for as long as they did is a pretty good example of military genius.

If he was not a military genius (a term which is not at all limited to simply battles and tactics), Shu would have comparatively speaking not even been remotely able to do pretty much anything militarily after the defeat of Xiaoting. Nobody seemed to have the drive, the gun-ho attitude, the courage, or the inherent knowledge to even push them forward.

What you list makes him a genius. A great organizer. A great adaptor of technology as well as an inventor. One of the great men of his time.

The idea of a commander is to win camapigns. To conquer or to win brilliant defences depending on the relevant camapign. To be a military genius (I would say Cao Cao was a military genius of anybody in the three kingdoms, I can perfectly accept the argument not the foremost overall genius of the time) would surely be that of a man who won at least for awhile.


That is thinking in a limited scope though. I doubt if Cao Cao was in Zhuge's scenario, where he was in a limited area with only limited avenues of attack (there was really only two routes that could be taken. Wei simply had to block them. To defend is not as skillful as having to attack), and had to face off against Wei, that even he wouldn't be able to achieve overwhelming success.

Zhuge Liang perfectly embodies the spirit of "Military Genius" as defined in Clausewitz's Treatise "On War".
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Jun 26, 2014 3:47 pm

Aaron.K wrote:
They're thinking in limited scope if that's all they apply "Military Genius" to. Napoleon certainly was a military genius, because he was more than just a military tactician, but was a Zhuge Liang type figure. He was well rounded, but he also had a considerable amount to work with. The entirety of France is an extremely massive place compared to just Shu, and it is not limited in the avenues in which it can attack.

But Patton certainly wasn't a military genius by any stretch of the imagination. A good tactician, and inspiring, but those two alone do not make a military genius.


When people describe Napoleon's skills outside the army it is "not only was he a miliatry genius but also..." You may disagree with that and so just about everybody I have watched/read/listened to but I'm more with them on that.

I was just throwing out a name there with Patton. Hannibal or whoever else could have been used.

Considering what he had to work with, I doubt anyone could have achieved much, neither Napoleon or Cao Cao, or anyone else. His options were severely limited, and that he was able to make the best of them despite that is a good example of military genius.


I honestly think greater miliatry commanders could have got greater miliatry results. Zhuge Liang did well, a 7/10 job in terms of battlefield but others have overcome greater odds in battle. Won the entire war? That may well be going too far but taking more then two towns by being a superior miliatry figure was possible in my view.

The fact that he held the state together and completely utilized all aspects of it for war, and that it didn't completely fall apart at his death and that they were able to even go on for as long as they did is a pretty good example of military genius.


It shows his skill as a administrator and eye for talent. His abilities as a statesmen. Making him a miliatry genius? Not for me. Nor would being the greatest calligrapher or zither player of the era make a man a miliatry genius. They are different spheres.

If he was not a military genius (a term which is not at all limited to simply battles and tactics), Shu would have comparatively speaking not even been remotely able to do pretty much anything militarily after the defeat of Xiaoting. Nobody seemed to have the drive, the gun-ho attitude, the courage, or the inherent knowledge to even push them forward.


It could hold itself as long as it was well organized and competently defended at Hanzhong. Lesser commanders couldn't have pulled off what Zhuge Liang did on the offensive, no.

Drive is not solely a miliatry thing. I'm not saying Shu would have been better without Zhuge Liang, it is hard to see anyone in Shu who could have done so well. Then again, Shu was bad at fostering tacticians.

That is thinking in a limited scope though. I doubt if Cao Cao was in Zhuge's scenario, where he was in a limited area with only limited avenues of attack (there was really only two routes that could be taken. Wei simply had to block them. To defend is not as skillful as having to attack), and had to face off against Wei, that even he wouldn't be able to achieve overwhelming success.


I think he would have done better. The likes of Cao Cao had the ability to do something daring and brilliant in a battle, in a camapign that caught people by surprise and overcome the odds, Zhuge Liang could win battles but only seem to get surprise when ambushing in retreat. Of course, the problem with someone like Cao Cao is they can also nearly get themselves killed.

For me, elements of your argument (the "I don't think anyone can have done something better in charge of the Shu army" is fine, not referring to that bit) seems like saying if a man can compose great music and craft a wonderful piano, then he must automatically be a pianist genius. Or a great sports-player with a economics or business degree would make a great coach. Elements of the successful parts may help but combined, does not make one great in another element.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:11 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:When people describe Napoleon's skills outside the army it is "not only was he a miliatry genius but also..." You may disagree with that and so just about everybody I have watched/read/listened to but I'm more with them on that.


I was just throwing out a name there with Patton. Hannibal or whoever else could have been used.[/quote]

It's still limited thinking in regards to the term "military genius, especially in regards to the term as defined by Clausewitz.

I honestly think greater miliatry commanders could have got greater miliatry results. Zhuge Liang did well, a 7/10 job in terms of battlefield but others have overcome greater odds in battle. Won the entire war? That may well be going too far but taking more then two towns by being a superior miliatry figure was possible in my view.


Perhaps they could have. But I seemingly doubt it. Shu really only had two avenues of attack, and had to move their army and supplies through a treacherous mountain road. Wei could move its troops much faster, and they simply had to block two avenues of attack. Defending also requires much less skill than attacking, and is a lot less costly. I don't think there are any individuals in the period (Cao Cao, Zhou Yu, Liu Bei, etc.) who would have been able to effectively break through in regards to the way Zhuge had to launch his attacks.

It shows his skill as a administrator and eye for talent. His abilities as a statesmen. Making him a miliatry genius? Not for me. Nor would being the greatest calligrapher or zither player of the era make a man a miliatry genius. They are different spheres.


Calligraphy and playing the zither is a strawman though. Military genius as defined by Clausewitz is someone who utilizes everything that they can for the purposes of the state to make war. And by that definition (seeing as how it's the most objective definition of "military genius", defined by a general), Zhuge Liang most certainly fits that description.

It could hold itself as long as it was well organized and competently defended at Hanzhong. Lesser commanders couldn't have pulled off what Zhuge Liang did on the offensive, no.

Drive is not solely a miliatry thing. I'm not saying Shu would have been better without Zhuge Liang, it is hard to see anyone in Shu who could have done so well. Then again, Shu was bad at fostering tacticians.


Even a greater commander probably could not pull off anything different from what Kongming did on the offensive. I think that the situation would not have changed much. Perhaps someone might get more fortunate in any one battle, but none of those battles were actually decisive in the long scheme of things, considering that something even worse could have happened after.


I think he would have done better. The likes of Cao Cao had the ability to do something daring and brilliant in a battle, in a camapign that caught people by surprise and overcome the odds, Zhuge Liang could win battles but only seem to get surprise when ambushing in retreat. Of course, the problem with someone like Cao Cao is they can also nearly get themselves killed.


I don't think so. Cao Cao has never been in any sort of situation where he was forced to attack from a very bad position and only had two routes of doing so. That is a major hindrance and one that cannot be overcome even through exceptional skill at tactics and strategy. I don't feel Cao Cao would have done any better than Zhuge Liang would if he was placed in the exact same situation and parameters he had to deal with.

Shu was in such a bad spot at that point that everything would have to go exactly according to plan (and it wouldn't), and everything would have to go horrendously bad for Wei (chances of happening are so miniscule it's pointless to even suggest). I don't think even Cao Cao's daring could overcome that.

For me, elements of your argument (the "I don't think anyone can have done something better in charge of the Shu army" is fine, not referring to that bit) seems like saying if a man can compose great music and craft a wonderful piano, then he must automatically be a pianist genius. Or a great sports-player with a economics or business degree would make a great coach. Elements of the successful parts may help but combined, does not make one great in another element.


Except that's not what I'm arguing at all. What I'm stating is that based on the definition of a military genius as defined by Clausewitz, Zhuge Liang embodies that definition quite well. It's the entire package of everything that has to be involved at waging war.

It's more in the vein of someone who is decently skilled at carpentry, plumbing, electrician, cement laying, etc. and then declaring that they are a very good home contractor (since I don't think there can be a "genius" contractor). These are skills which are required for the job, and to be considered very good at it, you need to be competent in all of them. A genius is a person who possesses intelligence in many different avenues. Why must a military genius only be defined as those who possess only some of the skills related to military matters? Why must those skills be weighted more heavily in favour, when they're not inherently more suitable as other skills that enable you to completely and utterly devote the state towards making war?
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Jordan » Fri Jun 27, 2014 9:40 am

I feel like this is becoming a semantics argument. Ok, you're basing your assessment of Zhuge Liang as a military genius on Clausewitz's definition of what a military genius is. That does not mean that Clausewitz's idea on what a military genius is constitutes the only way to define a military genius.

I don't even think Liang Jieming's article mentions Clausewitz. His suggestion that Zhuge Liang is a military genius is just rather generalized and is purely a matter of subjective interpretation. It is not based on a specific criteria for defining a military genius, as your Clausewitz definition is. At the start of the article, he just decided to praise Zhuge Liang as a military genius without really bothering to elaborate why he felt Zhuge Liang deserves that accolade.

He's entitled to his opinion and it is neither wrong nor right. It is just a personal sentiment which others can either agree or disagree with based on their own interpretations of what constitutes a military genius (using Clausewitz's criteria or whatever other criteria they choose).

I think the article in question is excellent and the author knows his history. Nonetheless, regardless how good somebody's ethos is, their ethos cannot really be used to decisively settle a debate that is a matter of personal opinion.
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