Liu Bei, control freak?

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Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:25 pm

Hey, I was thinking about Liu Bei (shocking I know) and was thinking about his military career and unless I am mistaken he personally led every single offensive and defensive battle that he was around for. I won't mention battles before he gained his own force because naturally he had no one of rank to send in his place as Zhang Fei and Guan Yu weren't high ranked enough to control their own armies.
When Liu Bei gained control of Xu province and he was ordered to fight Yuan Shu he didn't send one of his people to lead the attack he went himself. When Liu Bei rebelled against Cao Cao he left Guan Yu in charge of running Xu and he personally led the defense against both invasions before he was driven out. When he joined with the rebels in Ru Nan he personally led the army against both attempts to remove him (like in Xu he won the first battle then lost the second)
When Liu Bei was defending the boarder of Jing for Liu Biao he personally took charge of the defenses and led the army at Bo Wang. Then at Danyang he led the futile defense against Cao Xiu.
During Chi Bi he personally led his army alongside Zhou Yu to defeat Cao Cao's first attempt to cross the river.
Liu Bei then again personally led the army into Southern Jing and executed Jin Shun causing the other governors to surrender.
Naturally Liu Bei led his armies into Yi, then personally leads his army to Han Zhong (Huang Zhong and some others get some small assignments but the major attacks are led by Liu Bei himself)
After losing Jing Liu Bei doesn't order his highest ranking generals to attack he leads the army himself.

Liu Bei is an odd leader. We see in multiple occasions his great ability to foster military talent (he doesn't really promote civil officers much) he finds and promotes Huang Zhong, Wei Yan, Zhao Yun, Wu Yi, Wu Ban, Huo Jun, etc. He also trusted a bunch of people during his invasion into Jing like Zhang Nan, Feng Xi, Fu Rong, however unlike his previous choices due to the disastrous nature of the campaign they all die so we don't know if they had any real talent. (Wu Ban is impressive during that fight though)
Yet despite the fact that he had an eye for talent he seemed to refuse to let them lead sizable armies preferring to lead them himself.
This obsession with control seemed to have rubbed off on Zhuge Liang who did the same thing, sadly without the great ability to find military talent (though he was much better in finding great civil officers)

Do any of you think that if Liu Bei shared military authority more while he was alive, perhaps could he have been able to do better? If he sent a general to Jing to invade and stayed in Yi, would he have lived longer even if the campaign still failed? Would that have made much of a difference in the long run?
Have I just rambled on incoherently? You be the judge! :-P
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Thu Mar 03, 2016 6:40 am

I don't know, off the top of my head, I want to point out that Cao Cao was involved in a majority of the campaigns under his banner. Yes, there are examples of his subordinates handling affairs, but as his territory grew, he couldn't be everywhere at once. He had a tendency to lead the initial assault (in some capacity), set up camp, and then leave the more minor affairs and mop-up operations to his officers.

I feel like Liu Bei was of the same mindset. The only time he gets tagged with the needed in two places at once stick, he's got to dash off from his northern expansion operations to salvage what he could of Jing after Wu's first aggression.

My point is, both of these men were kind of one-track-minded and tended to directly participate in expansion campaigns. However, Liu Bei was a small-time player for much longer, so he did more defending over the course of his career and therefore might come off like he couldn't trust others to handle anything important.
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 03, 2016 10:39 pm

Yes, Liu Bei is whatever negative you want! :wink:

Liu Bei's early rise from Turban days was as a fighting man and part of the reason warlords hired him so many times was his repute as a commander. It was important for Liu Bei to be seen as that, had he taken a backseat then he might have been a less attractive hire. As battles he fought tended to mean life of death for his dreams, it is asking a lot for him to sit back in his capital and leave it to others while if he loses miliatry control then does the loyalty of the army fade away? Similar things may have been behind why Cao Cao and the Suns took to the field themselves even when they had strong officer core

I struggle to think of a camapign where it seems odd Liu Bei fought
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:00 am

Personally I feel that the Jing invasion was one where he should have stayed behind. Liu Bei was the emperor he needed to show that his empire consisted of more then just him. Li Yan, Wu Yi, Huang Quan or Wei Yan should have led the invasion in my opinion.
Also the invasion of Han Zhong could have been led by Zhang Fei, Ma Chao, or Fa Zheng.
Having Liu Bei lead these attacks basically left Shu-Han with no one who had any experience leading large scale campaigns.
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Fri Mar 04, 2016 7:10 am

LiuBeiwasGreat wrote:Personally I feel that the Jing invasion was one where he should have stayed behind. Liu Bei was the emperor he needed to show that his empire consisted of more then just him. Li Yan, Wu Yi, Huang Quan or Wei Yan should have led the invasion in my opinion.


I don't know, Liu Bei had basically made major progress until a man named Lu Xun worked out the magic trick of out-waiting him. :lol:

My point is, emperors weren't like banned from marching out to battle (not founding ones, anyway), and if you're the man for the job, so be it.

Also the invasion of Han Zhong could have been led by Zhang Fei, Ma Chao, or Fa Zheng.


I'm curious why you chose some of the names you chose as recommendations. Some are interesting, some are probably disasters waiting to happen, and some are like out of left field for me.

Having Liu Bei lead these attacks basically left Shu-Han with no one who had any experience leading large scale campaigns.


I don't know. Nobody else under him had large campaign experience to begin with. There just weren't that many opportunities, since he was always scraping by early on. I can imagine Liu Bei being reticent to send his army off, under some inexperienced large-scale commander, to duke it out with Wei up in Hanzhong.
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:27 pm

Also the invasion of Han Zhong could have been led by Zhang Fei, Ma Chao, or Fa Zheng.


Zhang Fei probably could not be trusted with command of an army, Ma Chao probably can't be trusted.

I think he wouldn't have been able to play the "revenge" line if he stays behind at Yiling. Both Hanzhong and Yiling were key to the future of Shu, I can't see Liu Bei or his fellow warlords stepping back in either situation.

It did lead to a lack of big expirence but I wonder if that is made worse simply by scale of Yiling defeat
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby LiuBeiwasGreat » Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:26 pm

I am bad at quoting multiple people, sooooooo :P

Zyzfer first!
LIu Bei was a talented general, and it is true that he defeated the Wu army in several small battles during the begining on the Wu invasion. I also believe that if someone other then Lu Xun was in charge that Liu Bei probably would have won. I base this on the fact that when Liu Bei set an ambush every Wu general wanted to rush right into it was only because of the fact that Lu Xun refused to let them did the ambush not work.

As for why I picked Ma Chao and Fa Zheng? Despite Ma Chao's multiple military defeats he still managed to win some victories during his first attack on Tong Pass almost killing Cao Cao. I believe in most head on fights his forces defeated Cao Cao's army which is why Jia Xu and Cao Cao went with the plan to drive a wedge between Ma Chao and Han Sui. I disagree that Ma Chao was a bad general, he was mainly facing the juggernaut and didn't have the talent or powerbase to handle it. Lu Xun failed in every offensive campaign he did yet we still consider him a good general. (I consider the capture of Jing to be Lu Meng's campaign) Plus Ma Chao was his most experienced general when it came to leading large armies as he was the only one who ever did....he failed but he had experience.

If you are referring to the ones I picked for the Jing campaign?
Well Li Yan at Liu Bei's death equalled Zhuge Liang's rank when it came to military matters. So it isn't odd to send one of the top ranked Generals to lead a campaign. Sadly the only battle that I personaly know that he was in was the capture of Shang Yong alongside of Liu Feng and Meng Da though that was less of a battle and more of them surrendering right away.
Wu Yi, was considered to be a great general that Chen Shou believed to have been unfairly suppressed by Zhuge Liang. After Zhuge Liang's death he was promoted very highly and was considered a great leader.
Huang Quan was highly regarded by Sima Yi and Cao Pi for his talent. Liu Bei also thought very highly of him. The fact that Liu Bei trusted him to defend against Wei interference during Yi Ling shows trust.
Wei Yan was an excellent general who won many battles over his career, the fact that Liu Bei trusted him to defend Han Zhong over Zhang Fei shows his trust and faith in his abilities.

Dong Zhuo now! :P
I don't see why Zhang Fei couldn't be trusted with an army. The year before the Han Zhong campaign he defeated Zhang He, and during the invasion of Yi he captured multiple locations and captured Yan Yan (though considering that Liu Zhang's officer's bios tend to start with the Yi campaign we don't know how impressive that is)
I think that Zhang Fei would have made a fine leader in that campaign.
I put above that I do believe that Ma Chao gets more crap then he deserves overall. I don't think he is as good as the novel suggests as he has a lot more losses then victories. However I believe context is important, many consider Sun Ce to be a brilliant general, however the vast majority of the opponents he defeated were people whose only fame was being defeated by Sun Ce. Then to be defeated by Chen Deng whose main fame consisted of secretly betraying Lu Bu, and defeating Sun Ce.
Ma Chao fought against some of the greatest talents in the land and almost killed the greatest of them all. Yes he lost but most anyone in his situation probably would have lost as well. Does that make him great? Nope, does that make him terrible? In my opinion nope. He was taken seriously by Cao Cao, to me that says something.

As for the revenge line, I think most people understood that the campaign was not actually about revenge but about reclaiming Jing and proving that Liu Bei's forces could strike back. The fact that the campaign took place 3-4 years later proves that. Having someone else lead the campaign wouldn't have altered public opinion much. Plus the fact that Liu Bei was over 60 years old makes a good excuse why the elderly Emperor isn't personally leading the army.

I certainly understand Liu Bei's reluctance to trust his people with such important battles but sometimes that is what a great leader does. Liu Bei may be my favorite person from this time period but I understand that was was quite flawed. He achieved many great things, and made many mistakes. I believe that if he changed a few decisions, maybe worked a bit harder to make the alliance with Sun Quan work (may have been impossible as Sun Quan looked for every opportunity to screw over all his neighbors. Brilliantly done) I think Liu Bei could have achieved much more, and it is fun to speculate.
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby DragonAtma » Fri Mar 04, 2016 5:54 pm

There are two things to point out:
(1) Liu Bei was a talented general. He may not have been on par with Xiang Yu, but he was definitely more skilled than the novel suggested.
(2) Most of the time, Liu Bei only ruled a single province or less. As a result, he often had only one place that needed military leadership (whereas Wei, for example, would need troops on the Shu border, on the Wu border in multiple places, on the Xiongnu border, on the Gongsun/Goguryeo border, etc.). Given that his opponents were usually either highly competent people or had highly competent followers, it'd make sense for Liu Bei to go in person.
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Mar 05, 2016 12:18 pm

I don't see why Zhang Fei couldn't be trusted with an army. The year before the Han Zhong campaign he defeated Zhang He, and during the invasion of Yi he captured multiple locations and captured Yan Yan (though considering that Liu Zhang's officer's bios tend to start with the Yi campaign we don't know how impressive that is)


His noted brutality and people handling of his lessers. He can be a great general but that seems a really big flaw for a CiC

I put above that I do believe that Ma Chao gets more crap then he deserves overall. I don't think he is as good as the novel suggests as he has a lot more losses then victories. However I believe context is important, many consider Sun Ce to be a brilliant general, however the vast majority of the opponents he defeated were people whose only fame was being defeated by Sun Ce. Then to be defeated by Chen Deng whose main fame consisted of secretly betraying Lu Bu, and defeating Sun Ce.
Ma Chao fought against some of the greatest talents in the land and almost killed the greatest of them all. Yes he lost but most anyone in his situation probably would have lost as well. Does that make him great? Nope, does that make him terrible? In my opinion nope. He was taken seriously by Cao Cao, to me that says something.


By trusted, I mean Ma Chao is a new boy with a not exactly sterling reputation for loyalty.

I do see what your saying but I can't see the other warlords delegating those wars either. Maybe they would be wrong not to do that but it isn't something I can blame Liu Bei for
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Re: Liu Bei, control freak?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:02 am

Main points I could raise have already been touched on but just my two cents. In general first...

LiuBeiWasGreat wrote:I certainly understand Liu Bei's reluctance to trust his people with such important battles but sometimes that is what a great leader does. Liu Bei may be my favorite person from this time period but I understand that was was quite flawed. He achieved many great things, and made many mistakes. I believe that if he changed a few decisions, maybe worked a bit harder to make the alliance with Sun Quan work (may have been impossible as Sun Quan looked for every opportunity to screw over all his neighbors. Brilliantly done) I think Liu Bei could have achieved much more, and it is fun to speculate.


Agreed it is fun to speculate.

But it seems unfair to say the man was flawed because he led the campaigns, given his circumstances. There are plenty of criticisms to level at him, but I don't think this is one.

Hanzhong - He absolutely needed a decisive win against Wei here, it was vital that he take the stronghold, and take it with authority. You don't just toss that at someone unproven. It's too important.

Jing - You could say in a way that Guan Yu's epic failure with Jing may have soured Liu Bei on entrusting that level of control to someone else again so soon.

There's a lot more subtext to it than Liu Bei just being some massive control freak.

On to specifics...

LiuBeiwasGreat wrote:As for why I picked Ma Chao and Fa Zheng? Despite Ma Chao's multiple military defeats he still managed to win some victories during his first attack on Tong Pass almost killing Cao Cao. I believe in most head on fights his forces defeated Cao Cao's army which is why Jia Xu and Cao Cao went with the plan to drive a wedge between Ma Chao and Han Sui. I disagree that Ma Chao was a bad general, he was mainly facing the juggernaut and didn't have the talent or powerbase to handle it. Lu Xun failed in every offensive campaign he did yet we still consider him a good general. (I consider the capture of Jing to be Lu Meng's campaign) Plus Ma Chao was his most experienced general when it came to leading large armies as he was the only one who ever did....he failed but he had experience.


How does that make Ma Chao more appropriate than Liu Bei for the task? They both had a mediocre track record. This wasn't the sort of campaign where Liu Bei had the luxury of going with the 220 AD equivalent of "lol my knight needs a bit more XP to level up and unlock that super sweet Commander skill, let me grind him up in Hanzhong for a year".

I'm also interested in why you glossed over Fa Zheng, as he was both in the position to receive such an appointment from Liu Bei, and possibly talented enough to achieve success.

If you are referring to the ones I picked for the Jing campaign?
Well Li Yan at Liu Bei's death equalled Zhuge Liang's rank when it came to military matters. So it isn't odd to send one of the top ranked Generals to lead a campaign. Sadly the only battle that I personaly know that he was in was the capture of Shang Yong alongside of Liu Feng and Meng Da though that was less of a battle and more of them surrendering right away.


Comparing his rank to Zhuge Liang doesn't really do him any favors in the "getting things done" department. You might as well toss Zhuge Liang in the suggestion box while you're at it.

Wu Yi, was considered to be a great general that Chen Shou believed to have been unfairly suppressed by Zhuge Liang. After Zhuge Liang's death he was promoted very highly and was considered a great leader.


Could show just how much political maneuvering came into play with such matters. Liu Bei could protect someone he was fond of from politics, like Fa Zheng, but if he's more "meh" about someone (marrying his sister doesn't necessarily make them besties), then not much can be done at that point.

Huang Quan was highly regarded by Sima Yi and Cao Pi for his talent. Liu Bei also thought very highly of him. The fact that Liu Bei trusted him to defend against Wei interference during Yi Ling shows trust.


It shows trust and respect, but not necessarily ability to command a large army. A question mark, I suppose.

Wei Yan was an excellent general who won many battles over his career, the fact that Liu Bei trusted him to defend Han Zhong over Zhang Fei shows his trust and faith in his abilities.


I'm pretty sympathetic toward Wei Yan generally. I'd say he's a bit of a question mark. But if you look at the sorts of offensive campaigns that Liu Bei waged, they were quite conservative and few risks were taken. Wei Yan was of course more unorthodox, which has its advantages, but it may have been a matter of their views not lining up. Perhaps Liu Bei saw talent in him when he was reined in and kept on the defensive, but found him a liability in offensive maneuvers.

Rest wasn't directed at me but I'll comment briefly.

I don't see why Zhang Fei couldn't be trusted with an army. The year before the Han Zhong campaign he defeated Zhang He, and during the invasion of Yi he captured multiple locations and captured Yan Yan (though considering that Liu Zhang's officer's bios tend to start with the Yi campaign we don't know how impressive that is)
I think that Zhang Fei would have made a fine leader in that campaign.


Dong Zhou nailed it, he was a fine vanguard/general at this point but didn't have the best track record when given leadership roles.

I put above that I do believe that Ma Chao gets more crap then he deserves overall. I don't think he is as good as the novel suggests as he has a lot more losses then victories. However I believe context is important, many consider Sun Ce to be a brilliant general, however the vast majority of the opponents he defeated were people whose only fame was being defeated by Sun Ce. Then to be defeated by Chen Deng whose main fame consisted of secretly betraying Lu Bu, and defeating Sun Ce.
Ma Chao fought against some of the greatest talents in the land and almost killed the greatest of them all. Yes he lost but most anyone in his situation probably would have lost as well. Does that make him great? Nope, does that make him terrible? In my opinion nope. He was taken seriously by Cao Cao, to me that says something.


Seems like you're trying to bring Sun Ce down rather than elevate Ma Chao with this line of reasoning. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but it shifts the debate to Sun Ce's ability rather than whether Ma Chao was equipped to oversee Hanzhong, which doesn't really lend credence to your point. To put it another way, if you put Sun Ce in charge of Hanzhong, I imagine most people feel he would see success, Ma Chao, much cloudier future. Sun Ce having "nobody" opponents and apparently losing to Chen Deng doesn't change this.

Edit - Also, is there anyone that Cao Cao defeated who he didn't (eventually) take seriously? I feel like he learned his lesson after all of his own campaign failures from not taking someone seriously.

tl;dr - Like you said, it's fun to speculate. But even speculating about your suggestions, I don't necessarily see too many of these guys seeing that much success. Both campaigns were bold statements by Liu Bei, so to me, him leading them makes sense.
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