The Death of Empress Zhen

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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:03 am

Qu Hui wrote:Or he, being a historian by employment, could have realized what the Weishu's account was actually saying? He could have heard secondhand accounts from descendants of the people involved? As a historian, he would have had access to the edict ordering her death and other documents that would have recorded it?


Chen Shou was part of a historiographical movement which began seriously questioning sources as a result of the discovery of the Jizhong 汲冢 texts - think of it as a first wave of Chinese higher criticism. Now, it is possible he came to the conclusion that he did after having read both WS and WL, but he would have come in for major flak, possibly career-destroying, from every other independent historian of the Sanguo era if he'd done what you're suggesting here, and never alluded to his non-textual and primary sources or copied or quoted them anywhere in his text or commentary. Zhang Hua's disciples along with Du Yu 杜預 essentially got the official court historian and head of the Imperial Library sacked over his possible mishandling and miscompiling of the Jizhong texts, and he himself criticised one of his students incredibly harshly for making an incorrect citation. If this edict actually existed, the community of Jin historians and historiographers would basically have torn Chen Shou a new one if he'd left something as important as an imperial edict from Cao Pi ordering the death of Lady Zhen out of his official history when describing the incident.

Personally, I think it's foolish to the point of tin-foil hattery to assume Chen Shou had more sources to hand than he actually used. It would have damaged his reputation as a historian practically irreparably if word got out that he hadn't cited them appropriately, and besides, given the background of the Jizhong find after which he began writing SGZ, he would have had every possible reason in the freaking book to pull primary-source authority as his trump card if he had it.

Qu Hui wrote:And? All this proves is that he liked Cao Zhi's works. That's not evidence of him slandering Cao Pi.


Slander? Again, don't have the WL in front of me and can't say for myself. Oh well, if you want a job done right...

But it's really naive to say that factional alliances didn't matter, and historians were not immune from them. They certainly mattered during Xi Jin, and if I'm reading my sources correctly the Wei court was probably better in that regard but not by much. A historian who publicly favoured Cao Zhi as heir in such a way, who was still writing history after Cao Rui's death, might indeed still have some bias there. And again, the environment under Cao Shuang was such that you could get away with writing things that might not otherwise be allowed.

Again, I'm agnostic on the issue of whether Zhen was suicided or whether she actually got ill and died. But please let's not pretend bias didn't exist in the texts of the time. The reading I'm doing now suggests very strongly otherwise.
Last edited by WeiWenDi on Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:21 am

Dong Zhou wrote:If it was Liu Yi and Liu Shi then yes it would. As they were Sima's and Jin claimed right of line through Wei, then it was more awkward. On one hand, the three main rulers (Cao, Pi, Rui and Rui's second wife) needed not to be saints whose greatness and moral character make them unimpeachably good, there needed to be moral failings to justify that Heaven wanted Sima's. Long running issues (like choice of wives actually).

On the other hand, they also don't want to be the legitimate successors of Darth Vader and his kingdom of evil.

Think of it as someone from the same party replacing the retiring PM or President. The balance they have to walk between praising their predecessor, drawing upon their legitimacy and needing to rubbish it a bit so they looked good in comparison.


Good point, but it's a little more complicated than that.

The Jin emperors needed several things to be true: 1.) that the Mandate of Heaven had been legitimately removed from the Han Dynasty and given to Cao Wei (rather than Shu Han or Dong Wu); 2.) that Du Kui and/or the neo-Daoist xuanxue, zhengshi and qingtan movements all screwed that up royally; and 3.) that the Jin needed to reassert the place of the former Han gentry to bring the moral universe of China back to order.

That's a really fine line to walk, and it's not exactly similar to someone 'from the same party' replacing the retiring PM. I can see the parallels, of course, but there's an ideological rift here that's not exactly being addressed. The Jin needed to say that Wei were ideologically and ritually incorrect, but also that they hadn't always been so, and that the Simas were the only people capable or ritually appropriate to fix their mess.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:07 pm

Chen Shou quoted his sources?

I'll be honest, something I find a bit weird about the suicides generally is it is supposed to save face but it hardly seems that effective if it becomes common knowledge. Yet they kept doing that and most of the time, the histories are nudge nudge wink wink about it.

One correction to what I have said: Jin seems to have generally put a good light on Dowager Guo as it was important for Jin legitimacy that they were her protectors and aided her.

WeiWenDi wrote:Good point, but it's a little more complicated than that.

The Jin emperors needed several things to be true: 1.) that the Mandate of Heaven had been legitimately removed from the Han Dynasty and given to Cao Wei (rather than Shu Han or Dong Wu); 2.) that Du Kui and/or the neo-Daoist xuanxue, zhengshi and qingtan movements all screwed that up royally; and 3.) that the Jin needed to reassert the place of the former Han gentry to bring the moral universe of China back to order.

That's a really fine line to walk, and it's not exactly similar to someone 'from the same party' replacing the retiring PM. I can see the parallels, of course, but there's an ideological rift here that's not exactly being addressed. The Jin needed to say that Wei were ideologically and ritually incorrect, but also that they hadn't always been so, and that the Simas were the only people capable or ritually appropriate to fix their mess.


I was thinking of Cameron being the heir to Blair, neither comparison is perfect but was trying to come up with a simple example that helps explain that the Jin scholars were looking for somewhat of a balancing out, not a "kick Pi" party.

There were perhaps one or two long running themes Jin used to show Wei was never quite pure enough and so it is natural Jin had to save the day. The Cao's choice of marriage to the lower class and their love of the mystic/strange comes to mind.

Shen Ai

I'll leave bits Qu Hui covered like Bao Xun

Xiahou Shang was married to Cao Zhen's sister (no name recorded). Xiahou Shang was of course, one of Cao Pi's closest friends. He had a beautiful concubine who he loved very much, and ignored his wife in favour of her. Shang's wife (Cao Zhen's sister) appealed to Cao Pi in her humiliation and sorrow. Cao Pi decided to have the concubine killed to assuage Cao Zhen's family. Xiahou Shang never forgave Cao Pi for it, and Cao Pi avoided Xiahou Shang afterwards to avoid conflict with him.

Xiahou Shang died in 225 and Cao Pi went to him before his death and held his hand and weeped when he passed.


So basically, we have a man murdering a woman rather then telling Cao Zhen to grow up or talking to Shang? I don't see a way that looks good for Pi. Generally murdering your subordinates wives for no crime goes down like a lead balloon.

On the ones you listed, Zhang Fei's is arguably worse but the others at least had valid law or political reason to do it.

It's a comment on the culture of unfairness about his person. I can understand why historians wouldn't like him. Ended a 400 year old dynasty that was once the strongest in the world and after that Cao Pi did nothing and died with mostly administrative credits and scholarly credits to his name. His lack of greatness makes him easy to criticize.

And it didn't help that he seemed to be a man who played favourites and was a schemer/politician by nature. As opposed to Cao Zhi (whose literary skill surpassed even their father and is kind of a romantic figure), Cao Zhang (who proved himself in battle), Cao Chong (who is one of the great 'what-if' questions), and even Cao Ang (with his heroic sacrifice) Cao Pi seems a lot more petty, quiet, and easy to dislike.


I think you have hit somewhat on the cultural reasons for Pi's unpopularity. Particularly with Zhi and Zhen Ji and why, even among history fans like myself, Pi isn't the easiest person to warm to.

Historians? Not so much. I'm sure some down the years were Han fans and probably not pleased with Pi. All of them down the centuries? Some were in jobs that relied on Han-Wei-Jin being the right way, others just don't seem that bothered and see it in the same way we see one government falling to another.

No, not really. I rather like the evil image people have of him, makes him very likeable for me, since I'm a sucker for villains. Just making a point here that his cruel actions have a lot more to them than justh im being a mean guy.


but you like villains who never do anything evil? Because once we whittle out the fictional tales (as in ones no way connected to any historical source), you then declare any of the bad acts as: the sources lies and even go as far as a 2000 year conspiracy between every historian involved and where that can't be used, it is an act of goodness and mercy.

Not once have you said "yeah, Cao Pi was a jerk on this" but instead you have declared slander to be a good and moral thing (but only when done by people you like, anyone else should be killed) , declared it is acceptable to murder a man's wife because another man is a bit pissy and advocated the abuse of power. I seriously doubt you advocate any of that but that is what you have ended up doing.

Where is the "this is what makes Cao Pi an actual villain" but I like him anyway?

Yes, but it was Cao Pi's actions that got him returned.


Well it's more Quan's in he offered the surrender but I get what you mean.

Why his father's memorial? It's not like Cao Cao was intrinsically linked with Fancheng. Why not Pang De's grave?


I don't know where Pang De's tomb would be so I don't know how far Yu Jin would have to travel and it would kind of tip off the surprise.

Cao Cao's tomb is something Pi can control and get painted without others noticing, Yu Jin likely had a bigger connection to Cao Cao who he had served most of his life then a guy he fought alongside once, Yu Jin won't suspect a thing.

What did Cao Pi care for Fancheng? Other than his brother making a fool of himself again.


It would seem he felt Yu Jin disgraced himself and the kingdom by surrendering.

Politically foolish? Cao Pi stripped an arguably more successful general of his powers and relocated him. He executed noteworthy scholars and a friend to his father. He threatened to axe a veteran who saved his father's life. Surrender was something that even saddened Cao Cao. Technically, Cao Pi would be within his rights to punish Yu Jin.


As you referring to Zang Ba?

True, he executed noteworthy scholars and took the black mark, Kong Gui shouldn't be a black mark. I imagine Pi had learnt his lesson from Cao Hong

It would be a very bad signal to kill a returning general with a long career, a man greatly famous, fairly early on in your reign. He probably did have the right to it, that still doesn't make it really awkward and far far better to go with the face saving one for all sides. Also probably not a good idea to advertise to those who might return someday that you will kill them.

Weeping usually indicates that you're emotional upon seeing said person. A man who feared for his life would weep for a different reason.

He still forgave military failures, like with Cao Zhen, Cao Xiu, and Zhang He.


Yeah, Yu Jin wasn't expecting to die. Your point? Most people don't expect to be robbed, doesn't mean they can't get robbed.

Defeat is not the same as surrender.

Or he was just old and died. He even wanted to send him to be an ambassador to Wu (or was it invading general?). And it's too... poetic and flashy. Why didn't he just send him an empty fruit basket?


Envoy according to sgz (with Chen Shou outright saying it was suicide). It wasn't unusual for the soon to die to get a promotion of sorts, it was part of the suicide formula (for men). As for why the flashiness, my guess would be Cao Pi wanted Yu Jin to know why he had to die.

Yu Jin wasn't home for years. Easy to build him a new house and then paint graffiti all over it.


Yep. The house. Which the family move into and see the graffiti. Plus all their friends.

If he didn't like Yu Jin he wouldn't need to honour his sons.


I'm wondering if know how forced suicides worked? Because there are a few statements like these where you seem to not understand how the, for want of a word, ritual operated and it might be easier if we explained it to you?

Man hash hunting trip with sons and cries upon realizing he shot Bambi's mom.


I thought it was more Rui's line about his mother.

It was more than that. He treated Meng Da the way his father treated Xiahou Dun. He gave him honoured titles and let the man ride in his carriage with him. He even joked about Meng Da being an assassin.


Fair play to Pi then.

I dunno what PR purposes Yang Biao served. He had long fallen out of favour with Cao Cao and his son was killed for revealing secrets to Cao Zhi. And Yang Xiu was arguably the most important of Cao Zhi's advisors. He didn't need to offer him Grand Commandant as a role. Or even treat him well at all.


Highly respected man, would be a boost with the gentry that Pi had shown magnanimity, shows new era while showing respect for the Han.

Xin Pi assaults Cao Pi to make a point, Cao Pi lets him go and follows his advice. Jiang Ji calls Cao Pi a moron for giving Xiahou Shang executive power, Cao Pi recalls the edict.


I don't know the Xin Pi story but nice Pi gave leeway to an old friend, think you may be exaggerating Jiang Ji's comments a tad :wink:

There's a heart in there somewhere is all I'm saying. I mean, he seemed legitimately broken up over his death


Sure. One can be a massive jerk and have a heart, any you claims he doesn't have a heart is engaging in hyperbole

A ruler doesn't have to do it. Cao Cao never liked Zhu Ling and Cao Pi rewarded him anyways. I give Cao Rui credit for disregarding Cao Pi and Chen Qun's edicts on honouring relatives on your mother's side.


Cao Cao gets something of a knock for that though.

I'll be honest, I see why Qun and Pi gave those edicts

From what I've read Cao Cao told Cao Pi to take care of Cao Gan, and Cao Gan's mother actually spoke well of Cao Pi to Cao Cao. Cao Pi treated Cao Gan like a son and then had Cao Rui do the same.


Either way, it does speak well of Pi.

Like I said, it was times when he showed a rather more human side. I'm not saying Cao Pi was Mother Theresa or even Lance Armstrong. But his circumspect stories of killing people off could be countered with his much less known stories of him showing a rather kind, human side.


The problem is, the jerk side is so often and more impactful then the bits of ordinary, and sometimes impressive, kindness

Eh, history at the time was anti-woman. Chen Shou didn't even make biographies for some women (most women) or even recorded their full names.


That may have been also something to do with the sources he had but I agree, history was not kind to woman most of the time.

It's a symbol of the culture surrounding one man that could and likely has skewed perspective of him in a historical sense.


To ordinary people? Yes. To men like Professor Rafe and Cutter, I don't see evidence of that.

But Chen Shou did have Weilüe with him when he made the records and it is said by Yu Huan that killing Zhen Ji was what really happened. Imperial libraries would be the same as Weishu logically.


I don't see how the libery with all the details and records in it would be the same as the Weishu?

It contradicts other writings and doesn't seem to be credible in this single regard. Other records say this was not the case (Zhen Ji's suicide) and I happen to find them more credible. There's really nothing that puts Weilüe over Weishu, not when Weilüe has it's own contradictions.


One record vs every other record and every historian.

Every other source? Name me one record from that era that isn't Weilüe and Han Jin Chunqiu that says Cao Pi actually killed Zhen Ji. Historians go off of all the texts they have. They're free to pick and choose which version they want to believe or which they find more reliable. Historians aren't authority, they're interpreters.


SGZ within the limits of what Chen Shou could get with it plus the two sources plus every expert that discuss vs one.

Well historians have authority as the leading experts on the subject, they help influence, frame and discover about the era. However yes, they are interpreters. Yet when every single major one (that I'm aware of) over 2000 years says the same thing, that doesn't cause you to reconsider?

Advice. Like a Grand Tutor. Not as an alternativep ower figure.


Think we are starting to dance on the head of a pin
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:16 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Chen Shou quoted his sources?


Ah, okay, that's a 'my bad'; going back to check the source it was Pei Songzhi who interpolated the Weishu and Weilüe accounts into Chen Shou's work. Chen himself seems to have been more of a chronicler in this instance than an historian.

Even so, Pei Songzhi's reasoning for dismissing Weishu's account of Empress Zhen's death reads to me as questionable (to say the least) given what we now know about the authors. Chen Shou had an incentive to make Wei look good. Ruan Ji had none - in his own views he was practically an anarchist. Wang Chen had none (as said before, he was one of the people responsible for quashing Cao Mao). And particularly Xun Yi had none. Pei Songzhi got confused elsewhere about Xun Yi's career in his remark about He Qiao, which makes me think he isn't the most reliable interpreter of Weishu in instances like these - like I said before, Weishu has to be considered an at least mildly anti-Cao piece of writing written to bolster the legitimacy of the early Jin. According to Goodman the entire rest of Xun Yi's corpus, particularly in the Jin rites, points to a strong, even fervent, mission to promote an anti-Wei historiography - though one which conforms to Confucian norms and didactic purposes.

The real question here is: why would the authors of the Weishu make up stories and anecdotes to protect or advance the reputations of people (like Empress Zhen) whom none of them particularly personally cared about? The stories could very well still be false, but Songzhi's reasoning on why has to be called into question.

Dong Zhou wrote:I was thinking of Cameron being the heir to Blair, neither comparison is perfect but was trying to come up with a simple example that helps explain that the Jin scholars were looking for somewhat of a balancing out, not a "kick Pi" party.

There were perhaps one or two long running themes Jin used to show Wei was never quite pure enough and so it is natural Jin had to save the day. The Cao's choice of marriage to the lower class and their love of the mystic/strange comes to mind.


That's true, and it accords with everything I've been reading about the intellectual background and stakes. Not sure how much the Caos' marital choices mattered to the Jin in the long run, but certainly their 'love of the mystic / strange' - which one might go so far as to call explicitly-Daoist - provided fertile grounds for the Xun Yi / Xun Xu prisca Zhou critique. (Poor Du Kui, by the way - man can't catch a break.)

I kind of wonder, though. Given that the early Tang dynasts loved Cao Wei and Huang-Lao Daoism generally, do you think there may have been an element of pro-Cao sentiment underlying the contemporary popularisation of chuanqi 傳奇 type stories?
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:46 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:Not sure how much the Caos' marital choices mattered to the Jin in the long run,


Beyond using it as something to lure the gentry to the Sima's, probably not much. Just something that seemed to irritate the gentry every time

WeiWenDi wrote:I kind of wonder, though. Given that the early Tang dynasts loved Cao Wei and Huang-Lao Daoism generally, do you think there may have been an element of pro-Cao sentiment underlying the contemporary popularisation of chuanqi 傳奇 type stories?


Sorry, that one has gone over my head? Chuanqi type stories?

Didn't Ruan Ji have the ability to do openly praise yet sarcasm underneath if pushed into something? With the Wei-Shu account of her death, leaving aside the every expert disagrees with it on this part, it just doesn't strike me as believable. It feels very much like the Jin explanation for Cao Mao's death, trying to pretty it up.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:12 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Didn't Ruan Ji have the ability to do openly praise yet sarcasm underneath if pushed into something? With the Wei-Shu account of her death, leaving aside the every expert disagrees with it on this part, it just doesn't strike me as believable. It feels very much like the Jin explanation for Cao Mao's death, trying to pretty it up.


I don't know. Does the Weishu account read as sarcastic to you? And with coeditors like Wang Chen and Xun Yi, it strikes me as weird that he would be 'pushed' into praising Wei...

Look, I'm not saying Weishu's account is the right one, only that Pei Songzhi's stated reasons for preferring the Weishu account over Weilüe are, on their face, suspect, and I'm sure that at least some 3K experts - even some who disagree with the Weishu in this particular instance - are sensible of the reasons why.

I guess my question is, okay, the Jin Emperor had a valid reason to want a neat and tidy explanation and account of Cao Mao's death. That's believable, and I can understand their motives. The legitimacy of the entire dynasty is at stake; if they quashed what would appear to be a legitimate dynast's uprising by cruel and foul means and allowed it to get out, it would be disastrous. But here's the thing I can't wrap my head around. Why on earth would Ruan Ji, Wang Chen and especially Xun Yi want to 'pretty up' the death of Lady Zhen? It's fine to be suspicious of the source, but that suspicion has to be grounded in something factual.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:11 am

Dong Zhou wrote:So basically, we have a man murdering a woman rather then telling Cao Zhen to grow up or talking to Shang? I don't see a way that looks good for Pi. Generally murdering your subordinates wives for no crime goes down like a lead balloon.

On the ones you listed, Zhang Fei's is arguably worse but the others at least had valid law or political reason to do it.


It's a tough situation for him though, because Cao Zhen was very close to him and he and his family would be influential. As friends to both Cao Zhen and Xiahou Shang, it is possible he knew Xiahou Shang's wife, which influenced his decision.

It's not a forgivable deed, but I wouldn't count it too hard against him in terms of context.


Historians? Not so much. I'm sure some down the years were Han fans and probably not pleased with Pi. All of them down the centuries? Some were in jobs that relied on Han-Wei-Jin being the right way, others just don't seem that bothered and see it in the same way we see one government falling to another.


Isn't it possible that the way the historians wrote of Cao Pi influenced how they thought of him or perceived him? They are all, of course, simply interpreting the written word.

Course, most of what you guys are saying about historians is going right over my head. It's a fascinating read, but I can understand half of it at best.

but you like villains who never do anything evil? Because once we whittle out the fictional tales (as in ones no way connected to any historical source), you then declare any of the bad acts as: the sources lies and even go as far as a 2000 year conspiracy between every historian involved and where that can't be used, it is an act of goodness and mercy.

Not once have you said "yeah, Cao Pi was a jerk on this" but instead you have declared slander to be a good and moral thing (but only when done by people you like, anyone else should be killed) , declared it is acceptable to murder a man's wife because another man is a bit pissy and advocated the abuse of power. I seriously doubt you advocate any of that but that is what you have ended up doing.

Where is the "this is what makes Cao Pi an actual villain" but I like him anyway?


I should clarify, when I attribute Cao Pi's killing of people to certain reasons, it doesn't excuse them, I just think there's a context and given the times he lived in it's not something that was out of the ordinary.

If I've ignored to mention that his actions were still deplorable, then I do apologize, because I don't condone them. I just find them a little too embellished in a negative manner at times. As in "Cao Pi did this because he was an evil man." I think there's more to it than that more often than not.

As for his villainous appearance, that's mostly in pop culture, like the Three Kingdoms series and the film The Assassins. And in Dynasty Warriors 5 for that matter (his best portrayal).

Envoy according to sgz (with Chen Shou outright saying it was suicide). It wasn't unusual for the soon to die to get a promotion of sorts, it was part of the suicide formula (for men). As for why the flashiness, my guess would be Cao Pi wanted Yu Jin to know why he had to die.


It seems awfully eccentric of him. A good old fashioned letter would do the same.

I'm wondering if know how forced suicides worked? Because there are a few statements like these where you seem to not understand how the, for want of a word, ritual operated and it might be easier if we explained it to you?


Please do, though from my understanding it was usually an easy way out to avoid publicly accusing someone of a certain crime and dredging up an unpleasant business which could lead to a fall in image and PR.

I'm assuming then, because that those were forced to suicide weren't technically traitors or lawbreakers, the families were treated as well as if the person had died of natural causes?

I don't know the Xin Pi story but nice Pi gave leeway to an old friend, think you may be exaggerating Jiang Ji's comments a tad :wink:


Lemme try and look for it:

The Emperor wished to move a hundred-thousand households of soldiers from the province of Jizhou to the prefecture of Henan [in the Metropolitan province of Sizhou]. At this time, due to drought and a plague of locusts, the people were suffering from famine. Various officials of the Court disapproved of this measure, but the Emperor's mind was set on it. The Grand Chamberlain (shizhong) Xin Pi, together with other court officials, requested an audience with the Emperor. Knowing well that they intended to remonstrate with him on this score, the Emperor wore a vexed expression when he received them. No one else dared to speak; Xin Pi, however, said, “Your Majesty intends to move the households of the soldiers. What is your aim?”

The Emperor asked him, “Do you mean to say that you disapprove of me moving them.” Xin Pi affirmed, “I definitely disapprove.” The Emperor said, “I am not going to discuss the matter with you.”

To this Xin Pi said, “Your Majesty, not considering me unworthy, has made me one of your attendants and appointed me one of your counselors. How can you now be unwilling to discuss the matter with me? It is not of private nature, but concerns the dynasty itself. Why should you be vexed at me?”

Without answering, the Emperor rose from his seat and went inside. Xin Pi followed him, pulling him back by the lapel of his coat; the Emperor shook himself loose and said, “Zuozhi [Xin Pi's style name], you are harassing me!”

Xin Pi said, “Should you move these households, you will lose their affection; and besides, you cannot feed them. That is why I could not help braving your vexation and contending as hard as I could.

In the end, the Emperor moved half the original number.


In the end he agreed with Xin Pi and decided to reach a compromise which implemented both of their plans. And it turned out well I believe.

As for Jiang Ji, I wouldn't blame him if he did say that.

Cao Cao gets something of a knock for that though.

I'll be honest, I see why Qun and Pi gave those edicts


I always thought Chen Qun did it because he was quite a strict Confucian?


Qu Hui wrote:Or he, being a historian by employment, could have realized what the Weishu's account was actually saying? He could have heard secondhand accounts from descendants of the people involved? As a historian, he would have had access to the edict ordering her death and other documents that would have recorded it?


Are you familiar with the game "Chinese Whispers" ?

Link and/or quote, please.



“I have heard that, from the beginning of the earliest dynasties, the perpetration of sacrifices to the state and the handing down of blessings to descendants all were due to empresses and consorts. Therefore, you must carefully select such women in order to make moral education thrive in the palace. Now, when you have just assumed the imperial throne, you really should raise and promote a worthy and good woman to take overall charge of the Six Palaces. I consider myself ignorant and lowly, not up to the offerings of grain-filled vessels. Besides, I am sick in bed and dare not maintain the slightest aspirations.”


I believe that's the letter in Weishu.

I'll recant this because I misread my source (stupid pronoun confusion), but I'm also going to point out that regardless of who demanded her death it was still a petty move that exploited Cao Zhen's connection to the emperor, who really should have known better. Cao Pi had a woman killed because his best friend's sister was jealous of her and told him to, it's really hard to spin that in a way that makes Pi or Zhen's sister not look like jerks.


Eh, no one is perfect. While I feel for the concubine, it's likely Cao Pi never knew her. Cao Zhen on the other hand was a dear friend, and as a friend to both him and to Xiahou Shang it is possible he also knew Shang's wife (Zhen's sister) which influenced his decision.

What about Pi having every male in Ding Yi's family executed along him?


A vicious action, especially considering the long history the Ding family had with the Cao family.


If you have a translated copy of Cao Pi's SGZ, I would like to see it, because as far as I know it's never been translated. And Wang Zhong is mentioned in a few bios, but they haven't been translated.


I thought we had one posted on the site? Cappernifer (I can't recall the name) translated it.


Huo Xing (tortured and executed for opposing an invasion of Wu that Cao Pi himself later decided was a bad idea), Dai Ling (sentenced to hard labor for opposing Cao Pi's excessive hunting) and Bao Xun (will elaborate) would disagree.


Well I did say he had to respect the person. Clearly these people weren't worth the time of day for him. Manner of expression is important.


Why would Chen Shou care that Cao Pi ended the Han? Why would Pei Songzhi care? Why would Sima Guang care? Why would Achilles Fang care? Why would Cutter and Crowell care? Why would Prof. Rafe care? Why would almost 2000 years worth of historians care that Cao Pi ended the Han, and care enough to slander him for all that time or not uncover this supposed conspiracy? People in the last twenty years of the Han barely cared about the Han, so why would hundreds of future historians care?


They are reading records and histories of the era, and not all of the sources are completely impartial.

First, it was the magistrate's superior who wanted him punished, not Cao Pi.


Speaks well for Cao Pi then.

Second, the Three Excellencies were well within their rights to dismiss Bao Xun's punishment.


With the power Cao Pi had just recently gave them.

Third, Bao Xun being executed for what Gao Rou and the Three Excellencies did stinks of Cao Pi just using it as an excuse to kill someone he didn't like.


Or he wanted the man to be sentenced and was angry when the Excellencies just overturned the established sentence. He had just given them their power back and they already pardoned someone who had spoken against him. It wouldn't do to let them walk all over him. It seems it was a kind of show meant to tell them that he was, in fact, still the boss.

And Cao Pi broke his own law in having Bao Xun executed for a crime not treason or rebellion, so no matter how you look at it Cao Pi was in the wrong, and in at least one case was a hypocrite to boot.


Laws are made by an Emperor, not for one.

Which non-Weishu writing does it contradict, then?


Weishu.

Dong Zhou wrote:Bear in mind Cao Pi is the (likely) future ruler. That future ruler is pissed off at you. That wouldn't concern you?


His position was far from stable, and I dunno if I'd be worried what an angry 21 year old told me. Certainly not enough to be induced to commit suicide.

So if I spread rumours that you steal candy from babies, it is poetic justice if you then later go on and do something wrong/horrible in your life. Rather then me being a slandering jerk.

Cao Pi's act of jerkery (and blocking a marriage is pretty bad) is what turned Ding Yi against Cao Pi.


The two didn't get along and Cao Pi instead steered his sister into a marriage with his good friend and the son of Cao Cao's great friend. If Ding Yi held a grudge over that and got two men killed for it then he was asking for it.

Killing off all of the males of his family is the black spot.

I would honestly not have an issue with executing Cao Hong for the umpeeth breach of discipline. Hong was not a particularly nice man and I think if that breach had been seen as the case, it would been less controversial. Still controversial and probably commuted to a slap on the wrist to save an early PR disaster

Oh sure, they did the same. The problem for Pi is that Zhuge Liang is generally considered a good man, Fa Zheng's generally jerkitude is forgotten and Cao Cao... is probably a worse man overall but his brilliance, his charm means that is forgiven.


It is worth noting Cao Pi didn't punish Cao Hong right away, and instead waited for him to make mistakes. That must say that it wasn't at least motivated purely by spite, because he wasn't to know if Cao Hong would ever make such a mistake again.

Ah, I think I know what happened here. Zang Ba didn't go absent, his men did. The Qingzhou troops went nuts and Jia Kui had to deal with it. Ba was innocent of a crime but another occasion might have got a slight demotion.

Zang Ba was later, as it were, retired to the capital but was still influential so those claiming he got punished are being inaccurate.


I see. Well that is interesting. So it doesn't make mention of Cao Pi and him disliking the other then?
Last edited by Shen Ai on Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:23 pm

Shen Ai, I'm leaving your post till tomorrow but just want to deal with WWD, been busy of late and he has been left hanging.

WeiWenDi wrote:
I don't know. Does the Weishu account read as sarcastic to you? And with coeditors like Wang Chen and Xun Yi, it strikes me as weird that he would be 'pushed' into praising Wei...

Look, I'm not saying Weishu's account is the right one, only that Pei Songzhi's stated reasons for preferring the Weishu account over Weilüe are, on their face, suspect, and I'm sure that at least some 3K experts - even some who disagree with the Weishu in this particular instance - are sensible of the reasons why.

I guess my question is, okay, the Jin Emperor had a valid reason to want a neat and tidy explanation and account of Cao Mao's death. That's believable, and I can understand their motives. The legitimacy of the entire dynasty is at stake; if they quashed what would appear to be a legitimate dynast's uprising by cruel and foul means and allowed it to get out, it would be disastrous. But here's the thing I can't wrap my head around. Why on earth would Ruan Ji, Wang Chen and especially Xun Yi want to 'pretty up' the death of Lady Zhen? It's fine to be suspicious of the source, but that suspicion has to be grounded in something factual.


It reads a bit... over the top and flowery, like Pi is about to burst into opera. I could see sarcasm through that route but that is probably just historians tendency to "hansard" it. Aka no stutters, no ums, perfect language.

If I had to guess why they would go for the nice death? Cao Rui as the legitimate line and it strengthens that is possible (or the alternative, look at how heaven punishes Wei), maybe highlight the good gentry lady vs the other low born wives. I don't know how those three wrote up Sima Shi's first wives death, the contrast would be intresting.

I'll admit, most of my belief in Zhen Ji's suicide is the historians and it... just reads more human for me. Cao Pi preferring the adviser in his woman, Zhen Ji upset, Pi annoyed but only perhaps simply looking to secure a few things: like the non-gentry wife policy, having the one he deems wise as Empress and ensuring he doesn't get gentry going "pick Zhen Ji", that sort of thing.
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Mar 19, 2015 11:53 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:t reads a bit... over the top and flowery, like Pi is about to burst into opera. I could see sarcasm through that route but that is probably just historians tendency to "hansard" it. Aka no stutters, no ums, perfect language.

If I had to guess why they would go for the nice death? Cao Rui as the legitimate line and it strengthens that is possible (or the alternative, look at how heaven punishes Wei), maybe highlight the good gentry lady vs the other low born wives. I don't know how those three wrote up Sima Shi's first wives death, the contrast would be intresting.

I'll admit, most of my belief in Zhen Ji's suicide is the historians and it... just reads more human for me. Cao Pi preferring the adviser in his woman, Zhen Ji upset, Pi annoyed but only perhaps simply looking to secure a few things: like the non-gentry wife policy, having the one he deems wise as Empress and ensuring he doesn't get gentry going "pick Zhen Ji", that sort of thing.


Oh wow. Usually I'm the one who goes straight for the class-conscious read on these things, so this is a little bit embarrassing for me to have overlooked!

And this does make some sense as an interpretation. Xun Yi naturally would not have forgotten that his family were also in-laws of the Caos; he would have had a definite interest in making sure his own (and his own class's) interests were represented in the official Jin history. 'Look how awesome, virtuous and faithful this noble lady of the gentry was,' and so on. I can see why, for example, he wouldn't have wanted any trace of disloyalty to light on Lady Zhen (possibly for the same reason he wouldn't have wanted any to light on Xun Yu).

At the same time, though, it's a question of the audience he was writing for, and again there's that dynastic-political nuance that has to come into play. If Zhi Yu is a reliable critic (as Goodman seems to think), Xun Yi can be safely characterised by this time as a convinced anti-Wei legal scholar and interpreter of court rites. So I agree with you that Pi's mourning of Lady Zhen is well out-of-character for him, but maybe not necessarily for the reasons you might think?

I'm almost - almost - tempted to read the Weishu's interpretation of Cao Pi as a kind of indirect jab at Xun Can (and his entire class of young xuanxue-influenced public intellectuals). Very obviously Cao Pi didn't go as over the top in his mourning over Zhen in Weishu as Xun Can did over his wife. But both the family and the ideological connexions are there; I can't help but wonder if some of that sarcastic inflection you notice is directed the other way (toward Cao Pi himself)?
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Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Mar 22, 2015 3:11 pm

WWD, I have nothing intelligent to add to that. It might be a jab at someone who loves too much but beyond the overly flowery letters, I don't think it really goes for Pi as being too loving.

Shen Ai (I redefine tomorrow! :oops: )

Please do, though from my understanding it was usually an easy way out to avoid publicly accusing someone of a certain crime and dredging up an unpleasant business which could lead to a fall in image and PR.

I'm assuming then, because that those were forced to suicide weren't technically traitors or lawbreakers, the families were treated as well as if the person had died of natural causes?


Spot on Shen Ai.

For female suicides: Empress falls out of favour, gets moved to a separate palace with a pretty name, "dies of grief". I assume it is done like that to prevent issues of legitimacy or upset-in laws (not a great idea even so if in-laws are powerful) while giving Emperor chance to rid himself of political baggage or troublesome wife.

For males the general pattern is

1 Emperor gets upset but like you say, killing the other person is awkward due to PR or it not being a crime. In the case of Liang Ji, not a PR issue or lack of crime but possibly a case of might be awkward for a lot of people if Liang Ji is arrested and talks about what he knows.

2) The doomed gets a "promotion", the kind you can't refuse, looks great but essentially moves you out of powerbase. It is still a practise used today to kill the career of a political rival or to remove someone awkward into somewhere where they can do no harm.

3) A signal is given (Xun Yu had the box, Yu Jin the painting, Liang Ji the armed guards surrounding his home) that the emperor would rather like you to die if that wouldn't be too much trouble. Sometimes the rank is the signal, your marquis/position is moved to the Chinese equivalent of Siberia. I doubt there is a letter for reasons of plausible deniability

4) The death occurs. How shocking you should die just after that big promotion and in no way suspicious. Now for the Emperor to fulfil is part of the social contract

5) Assuming your not in a Liang Ji type position, the Emperor says nice things and the gentry mourn as appropriate. Your family honour is unstained, your family (for the Emperor is, of course, gutted at such a sad death) gets a marquis here, a promotion there, your reputation is given a quick boost.

In a way, the deal is that the Emperor has decided to kill you but it would be awkward. Plus due to your proud service, you will be allowed to bow it with head held high, your family will be honoured and able to advance as if you had died a natural death. Whereas if the Emperor had to kill you, it would require allegations to try and wreck your rep and your family probably has to die.

It's a tough situation for him though, because Cao Zhen was very close to him and he and his family would be influential. As friends to both Cao Zhen and Xiahou Shang, it is possible he knew Xiahou Shang's wife, which influenced his decision.

It's not a forgivable deed, but I wouldn't count it too hard against him in terms of context.


I can see why he would be tempted to interfere and even understand exiling the lady but killing? Of the list, that is the one I find least "understandable context" for really.

Isn't it possible that the way the historians wrote of Cao Pi influenced how they thought of him or perceived him? They are all, of course, simply interpreting the written word.


Do you mean latter historians views are being shaped by those that went before them? That works both ways, some get lured in, some seek to challenge the consensus.

I should clarify, when I attribute Cao Pi's killing of people to certain reasons, it doesn't excuse them, I just think there's a context and given the times he lived in it's not something that was out of the ordinary.

If I've ignored to mention that his actions were still deplorable, then I do apologize, because I don't condone them. I just find them a little too embellished in a negative manner at times. As in "Cao Pi did this because he was an evil man." I think there's more to it than that more often than not.


I think you fall into the old trap of going too far the otherway in the fightback but sure, I understand that. I actually appreciate it, it has made me think and I have a lot less issue with some things (like Zhen Ji's death) then you might think.

I think there were occasions Pi was being a jerk. All warlords had at least one moment of that in their lives, I think Pi gets it partly due to the Zhen Ji/Cao Zhi factor and partly... he just doesn't charm on the page. I'm curious as the ones you think are bad

In the end he agreed with Xin Pi and decided to reach a compromise which implemented both of their plans. And it turned out well I believe.


Ah yes, I remember it now. It is a nice tale of two old friends

I always thought Chen Qun did it because he was quite a strict Confucian?


I suspect partly that, partly lessons drawn from Han in-law.

Laws are made by an Emperor, not for one.


While strictly speaking that is true of Emperor's, Presidents and PM's, blatantly breaking the law does not go down well. Even then, there were some rules and processes that they were supposed to follow.

His position was far from stable, and I dunno if I'd be worried what an angry 21 year old told me. Certainly not enough to be induced to commit suicide.


but he was one of two candidates and probably the fav. Cao Caon't not that young anymore and his likely heir clearly (understandably perhaps) hate you, nowadays that may well mean career death but this could mean actual death.

The two didn't get along and Cao Pi instead steered his sister into a marriage with his good friend and the son of Cao Cao's great friend. If Ding Yi held a grudge over that and got two men killed for it then he was asking for it.


So if I hear someone is getting married to someone in an influential family, contact their fiancée and lie when I warn them that said finance that (since the way the world works has changed) their husband/wife to be is sleeping around leading to the break up... they should suck it up and I'm the good guy?

It is worth noting Cao Pi didn't punish Cao Hong right away, and instead waited for him to make mistakes. That must say that it wasn't at least motivated purely by spite, because he wasn't to know if Cao Hong would ever make such a mistake again.


It depends how much time we are talking about between getting the throne, and all the distractions that entails, and his punishing of Hong.

So it doesn't make mention of Cao Pi and him disliking the other then?


Nope
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