Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

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Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:08 pm

Liu Bei's invasion of Yi has always interested me, I have been thinking about it recently but not the way I usually do. Recently I have been asking myself how Liu Bei picked the officers that he took along with him. As we all know Liu Bei had a core group of officers whom he had relied upon for decades by this point. Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, and Zhuge Liang, each having been with Liu Bei for years by this point Guan Yu and Zhang Fei being with him for almost thirty years by this time. Despite fighting along side these men for many battles Liu Bei instead takes along people whom had joined him relatively recently. Huang Zhong, Pang Tong, Wei Yan, Liu Feng (Liu Feng though had been with him a bit longer then Zhuge Liang)

The Yi campaign was different from previous fights due to the fact that Liu Bei left behind his most trusted officers to bring an army of newcomers, mostly people whom he had recruited in Jing rather then the northern officers he had fought along side of. He supplemented this force with Fa Zhang and Meng Da whom he had recruited in Yi itself.
I have gone over Liu Bei's bio and it doesn't really state why he decided all of a sudden to leave all of his veteran officers behind and take a brand new officer core with him.
The only other time he does this in his career is when he invaded Wu, the majority of the officers he brought were recent acquisitions, though one could argue that most of his old guard were dead by this point.

Does anyone have any theories as to why Liu Bei would risk such an important campaign by bringing relatively untested generals? People like Haung Zhong and Wei Yan gained their fame from their impressive fighting in Yi so they hadn't proven themselves yet.
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby DragonAtma » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:54 pm

Keep in mind that Zhuge Liang had only been with Liu Bei for a few years by then (Zhuge joined in 207, Liu Bei arrived in 211, and invaded in earnest in 212).

Also keep in mind that Liu Bei needed to leave officers behind to defend Jing. It'd been three years since Chibi, so Cao Cao's army must have recovered somewhat, especially since he still controlled two thirds of china's people. In comparison, Liu Zhang was a softy to the point that people switched sides in droves (even Wu Yi, whose sister had been married to Liu Zhang's brother Liu Mao). Liu Zhang eventually had to send out no less than his son and heir to provide a general who didn't switch sides.
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:53 pm

DragonAtma wrote:Keep in mind that Zhuge Liang had only been with Liu Bei for a few years by then (Zhuge joined in 207, Liu Bei arrived in 211, and invaded in earnest in 212).

Also keep in mind that Liu Bei needed to leave officers behind to defend Jing. It'd been three years since Chibi, so Cao Cao's army must have recovered somewhat, especially since he still controlled two thirds of china's people. In comparison, Liu Zhang was a softy to the point that people switched sides in droves (even Wu Yi, whose sister had been married to Liu Zhang's brother Liu Mao). Liu Zhang eventually had to send out no less than his son and heir to provide a general who didn't switch sides.


Well it isn't like there was no resistance, there were many battles. They are glossed over for some reason though, we know there must have been fighting as we are told that Wei Yan, Huang Zhong, and Liu Feng all distinguish themselves in the fighting (the first two a lot more then the third though) plus we learn that Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Yun all win several battles when they bring reinforcements.
Even if Liu Bei thought this would be easy which I doubt considering that Liu Zhang would outnumber him around three to one, you would think he would bring at least one experienced general.
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby DragonAtma » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:41 pm

I think you're underestimating how much trouble Liu Zhang had. Officers defected en masse, as did advisors. Given that Liu Bei initated the campaign by executing Gao Pei and Yang Huai, Liu Zhang's list of loyalists was limited to himself, Liu Xun, Zhang Su, Zhang Ren, Liu Gui, and Ling Bao. None of them (except possibly Zhang Ren) were people of note -- and Zhang Ren was mainly known for loyalty.

As for advisors, Liu Zhang did little better. Zhang Song and Fa Zheng both supported Liu Bei; Xu Jing (a commandery administrator) planned to defect, but he was caught at the end.

As for skilled officers, Liu Bei had himself and Pang Tong. When Pang Tong died to a stray arrow, Zhang Fei was sent to replace him. All three exceed Liu Zhang's loyalists in skill.

I should add that while being too harsh is a critical failure in a general (it caused Zhang Fei's death in 221), being too soft is also a critical failure -- and was one of Liu Zhang's problems (he applied little to no punishments to the families of those who defected, so his generals had little motivation to fight).
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:56 pm

He may have seen Jing as vulnerable and also wanted senior figures who he could trust to bring reinforcements and smash through Yi defences or help him if he got in trouble/got bogged down. Pang Tong and Fa Zheng provided the strategic minds

Liu Bei may also have been, like Yi Ling, trying to build bonds with new officers and blood them. Some will have had expirence in Jing and so more about testing them+winning them over, others would need the expirence. If he fought Zhang Lu, that helps but if he doesn't, well he is taking on Liu Zhang.

Didn't it take Liu Bei three years to beat Liu Zhang?
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:14 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:He may have seen Jing as vulnerable and also wanted senior figures who he could trust to bring reinforcements and smash through Yi defences or help him if he got in trouble/got bogged down. Pang Tong and Fa Zheng provided the strategic minds

Liu Bei may also have been, like Yi Ling, trying to build bonds with new officers and blood them. Some will have had expirence in Jing and so more about testing them+winning them over, others would need the expirence. If he fought Zhang Lu, that helps but if he doesn't, well he is taking on Liu Zhang.

Didn't it take Liu Bei three years to beat Liu Zhang?


He went there in 211, spent a year going around helping the peasantry and building bonds I believe. The fighting started shortly after Cao Cao attacked Sun Quan (with a bigger army then at Chi Bi I believe) which I believe was in 212. So I think around 3 years of fighting.

For losing people left and right Liu Zhang put up a long fight. :P
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby DragonAtma » Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:24 pm

Liu Zhang may have put up a long fight, but IIRC he had only three things even close to victories:
(1) Pang Tong getting arrowed
(2) Zhang Su finding his brother's treachery
(3) Liu Zhang catching Xu Jing's plans to leave Chengdu and surrender.

Nevermind that #1 was a lucky (unlucky?) arrow, #2 only happened because Zhang Song was selling him out, and #3 only happened when Liu Zhang was on the verge of defeat (and at a time Liu Zhang was considering surrender himself).

It's the same reason Liu Zhang couldn't pry Hanzhong out of Zhang Lu's hands, despite having ten times the population.
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby lcklasman » Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:51 pm

The way I see it, Liu Bei most likely realized that it was only a matter of time until Liu Zhang was unable to resist the force Shu had at the time. Not to mention Zhang continued to lose his own men as they defected. It's like a professional sports team when they know they already made it into the playoffs and they put in the backups to let the stars rest. Sometimes, it works better than expected.
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby Fornadan » Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:18 pm

The simple answer is probably that the sources have downplayed/suppressed Liu Bei's difficulties
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Re: Liu Bei's invasion of Yi

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:40 pm

Liu Bei seems to be a slow conqueror. He doesn't push a siege, or try something daring to change things, he takes his time and waits for an opening. He does it in conquest of Yi, Hanzhong and was doing it in Yiling. Add Yi's natural defences and some strong resistance from figures like Liu Xun and I can see why it took so long.
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