why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Lord_Cao_Cao » Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:21 pm

I don't think Xun Yu's proposal to use the emperor to control the lords hinted at some form of disloyalty. After all, that proposal kept the emperor alive, it kept the dynasty alive. And would possibly have allowed the emperor to regain control later.
The emperor's authority was nonexistant at that point, but having the emperor under control at least gave some sort of legitimacy to Cao Cao's actions, like acting according to heaven's will, something the other warlords lacked.

I think the only major plot against Cao Cao during Xun Yu's time (and pretty much before Cao Cao became duke) was Dong Cheng's. And it happened during a time when Liu Bei rebelled in Xuzhou, the false emperor Yuan Shu had died, Sun Ce had consolidated his rule in Yangzhou and set his eyes north, Cao Cao's adult heir Cao Ang had been killed and the powerful Yuan Shao had defeated Gongsun Zan, preparing to attack Cao Cao. Seemed like an ideal opportunity to remove Cao Cao in hope that one of the other warlords would be less abusive of the emperor (which in my opinion would have been a very idealistic point of view though). The other rebellions against Cao Cao that come to my mind happened after Xun Yu's death and after Cao Cao had become duke, an event that indicated clearer intentions than simply being Prime Minister.

It could have been the case that Cao Cao's own intentions changed over time as well, who knows. I'm inclined to think that the defeat at Chibi and the events in Western China (Liang and Liu Bei's invasion of Yi) marked a turning point in Cao Cao's agenda. He probably realised that reunification would not have been possible in his lifetime, so he may have tried to ensure that his family remained in power after his death. If Cao Cao hadn't become duke and king, I believe Cao Pi would have had less legitimacy to stay in power and it might have caused much more unrest in the north, leading to a period of instability, possibly invasions by Liu and Sun or even open rebellions within Cao's territory. What I'm trying to say is, who knows if Cao Cao had planned to do this step and become duke if he hadn't witnessed such a crushing defeat? Who knows if his intentions were more "loyal" before Chibi and people like Xun Yu had seen it that way as well?
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Xu Yuan » Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:10 pm

ivolga wrote:So, Xun Yu served Cao Cao for many years, being both his adviser and his friend.
During the years of Xun Yu's service, the Han emperor is treated like a mere accessory (Li Jue and Guo Si at least let the emperor write orders, while Cao Cao wrote imperial edicts himself). It was basically Xun Yu's doing since it was he who proposed to use the emperor in order to rule the lords. Han loyalists, who aren't happy with such turn of events, regularly plot against Cao Cao - and regularly get killed off as a result so that the whole families of loyal Han supporters are being exterminated.

The worst thing - the prestige of the Han dynasty inevitably declines (and by the end of Cao Cao's rule apparently reaches its minimum, otherwise the "usurpation" of Cao Pi couldn't have gone so smoothly).

Yet for all these years Xun Yu was apparently fine with this? And only the duke title became the final straw or a wake-up call: Xun Yu makes a weak attempt to resist the inevitable and to fight for the already lost cause?
A suicidal and pointless action: he was an intelligent man and knew Cao Cao well - so he couldn't help expecting a hard retaliation.
No wonder Xun Yu's change of loyalty, as it depicted in SGZ, seems sudden and illogical.


Are you and I reading the same SGZ? Alright, here are at least five quotations straight from Xun Yu's SGZ which shows his loyalty to the Emperor.

Xun Yu's SGZ wrote:(In regards to bringing the Emperor in)
Xun Yu advised, “In the past, when Duke Wen of the state of Jin welcomed King Xiang of Zhou, the feudal lords acknowledged him.


Duke Wen was a Hegemon King who supported the ailing Zhou Dynasty who never strove to go beyond this, but he managed to secure power for his progeny and his reforms helped prolong his state, all while staying loyal to the Zhou.


Now read how Xun Yu figuratively puts words in Cao Cao's mouth, claiming Cao Cao's rationale as being motivated by loyalty to the crown...

Xun Yu's SGZ wrote:Since our emperor was first exiled, General, you were the first to raise a loyal force [to support the Han house]. It is only because of the turmoil in the Shandong area that you have not yet been able to go west of the Passes. Even so, you have sent commanders to be envoys to the emperor, braving many dangers. Though you are outside the capital holding out against chaos, your heart has ever been set on supporting the royal house. You have always aspired to bring order to the realm.

“The emperor and the imperial retinue have been denied their rightful place, and the Eastern Capital is in shambles. All men of righteousness worry about protecting our heritage, and even the commoners lament when they reminisce of the past. Precisely because of this, your support of the emperor and satisfying the people’s hopes will accord with the way of great harmony.


This was all in regards to how to approach the caretaking of the Emperor. To me, the pushes of loyalty to the Han that Xun Yu is trying to drill into Cao Cao are clear as day. When Yuan Shao sent Cao Cao that insulting letter, it was Xun Yu who consoled him, but even then he managed to sneak in a bit about loyalty to the Emperor.

Xun Yu's SGZ wrote:When you support the emperor with these four superiorities, upholding the honourable and waging war against the evil, who will not follow your banner?


Even Cao Cao in a letter to Xun Yu, when Xun Yu refused to show the memorial that Cao Cao had sent to increase Xun Yu's rank to the Emperor, mentions this...

Xun Yu's SGZ wrote:Ever since we have served the country together in order to uphold the court, you have done much—supporting and advising me, recommending talented people to me, drawing up strategies and plans for me, sharing secret counsel with me.


And finally...

Xun Yu's SGZ wrote:(Question of Dukedom)
Xun Yu’s thoughts were since that the Great Progenitor had started off by raising a volunteer force to uphold the dynasty, he should be sincere in his loyalty and steadfast in his humility.


I hope I have made clear that it is not a "sudden change", but has been a hallmark of Xun Yu's character ever since Xun Yu had a chance to rescue the Emperor. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be in Xun Yu's shoes? Xun Yu must have been taught the many stories and legacies of the previous dynasties and that the Han Dynasty was Everlasting. It had already risen once, surely it was Heaven's Decree that the Han should rule forever. Here he had the chance to play the role of the Savior of the Han and he acted on this, he was the Tool of Heaven that would ensure the Han's survival. He was the closest advisor and dear friend to the strongest man in the land, surely he could now see a path forward to the revival of Han. As long as he lived he assured that the Imperial Court was treated with great respect and reverence, as you have read in several of the petitions that Cao Cao sent to the Emperor, the Emperor's hand wasn't forced in accepting these (though it was expected that he would acquiesce to his Prime Minister's desires, this is not isolated to the Latter Han).

Also... you're spouting a falsehood about Xun Yu claiming that "Xun Yu proposed to use the Emperor to control the lords". I believe that is a SGYY quote, not historical. Xun You however did say something similar to this, from what I recall. Xun Yu's rationale for Cao Cao taking in the Emperor was to act as a loyal beacon to the House of Han as Duke Wen did when the House of Zhou was in dire straits.

Xun Yu was brilliant, but was just a man. His naivete was his downfall, and it creates a deeper sympathy for the figure in my eyes. He thought that Cao Cao would follow the path of the Duke of Zhou or as he says in his own words, Duke Wen of Jin, Cao Cao would be the Hegemon Lord protecting the Han Dynasty until it could stand on its own two feet again, which only due to Xun Yu's influence was even the slightest possibility. I have quoted books by scholars who hold that Xun Yu did all in his power to re-establish the power of the Imperial Court in Xuchang.

Also, I would like citations for saying that Cao Cao wrote all of the Imperial Decrees himself, (I know he faked a few during the early days, but that's not what's discussed here) that seems a bit time consuming, in all reality when he could just tell the Emperor what he wants done.


Ivolga wrote:By this time even the Xun family wouldn't have backed him up in this belated attempt: Xun Yu's own clansman and colleague, Xun You (also one of the highest-ranking state officials), was one of the main supporters of Cao Cao accepting the duke, and later the king titles.

Perhaps, Xun Yu envisioned a political system similar to that of Edo Japan or the Great Britain, when the real power belongs to chengxiang (shogun, prime minister) and the government, while emperor exists as a symbolical ruler. If that was his political goal, this could explain why he was ok with the mistreatment of the emperor, and why Cao Cao's intention to establish a new dynasty upset him.

Dong Zhou wrote:Your overthinking it.
...
We do tend to do it to our leaders rather then leaders to subordinates but it is the same thing: a compliment, not a "and secretly our leader is a cuckold/has a drink problem". Or with potential sports stars compared to someone else.


Perhaps, I'm overthinking. Still, this phrase does sound a bit loaded (actually, I was sure that it is SGYY invention so I was surprised to see it verbatim in Xun Yu's SGZ). Cao Cao didn't simply compare Xun Yu to Zhang Liang (e.g. "He is another Zhang Liang", or smth like this) - he emphasized a role Xun Yu has to play for him: "Here is my Zhang Liang". Everyone knows the huge role Zhang Liang played in establishing the Han dynasty, and Xun Yu did play the same role for Wei: his contribution is hard to overestimate - it's second only to Cao Cao himself.


Firstly, Xun You was dead by 216 when Cao Cao made his appeal to Kinghood, so he wasn't around to say one way or the other. However from what we know of Xun You you could make the argument that he would have agreed with it. You cannot say it blatantly though, that is a falsehood. We can see the effect that Xun Yu's ideas had on the next generations, Many within Wei was not of one mind when Cao Pi overthrew the Han Emperor. The way he went about it upset a lot of Wei officials, including Sima Yi. (The omens listed for proof of Mandate were seen as heretical by the Confucians who already felt their power was being marginalized and would be further stamped down by Wei. This is an argument on why Wei fell as quickly as it did.)

To Xun Yu, Cao Cao had a role to play, the power that would unite the realm and return the realm to the Emperor. This isn't an unheard of historical occurrence. Can Xun Yu not be forgiven for miscalculating where his old friend's heart would turn?

This may not mean much, but I created a character for a roleplay forum a long time ago who was an absolute Confucian mouthpiece who joined with a southern Warlord in the hopes of repairing the Han Dynasty after the Imperial Court had fallen in Luo Yang. I played him as an absolute Han Loyalist, and I was also the lord's foremost advisor as far as the political situation was concerned. To my character, his lord was playing the role of Duke of Zhou. He too was crushed when he realized that his lord was manipulating him for his abilities and paid no heed to his calls to stay loyal. So I think I have a good idea of what Xun Yu must have felt like when he saw the steps Cao Cao was going to take. The steps of Duke were walking on the same path as Wang Mang and Xun Yu could see it from a mile away when the idea was proposed.

Though I do have to say, I think you are overthinking the Zifang comment. We only know through hindsight what Cao Cao's path would be. At the time no one thought of the comment, maybe Liu Bei since he makes sure to refer to Zhuge Liang as "a fish finding water", instead of a historical personage (then again Liu Bei was normally always careful with the way he worded things, except for his anti-Cao Cao rant). As Dongzhou says, it was just a compliment that turned out to be truer than either of them could guess at the time.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:45 am

No wonder Xun Yu's change of loyalty, as it depicted in SGZ, seems sudden and illogical.


Only to you ivogla. Maybe try constructing an argument for Xun Yu being a Han loyalist, it may help you to see why his contempries, future scholars and historians call Xun Yu a Han loyalist?

Perhaps, Xun Yu envisioned a political system similar to that of Edo Japan or the Great Britain, when the real power belongs to chengxiang (shogun, prime minister) and the government, while emperor exists as a symbolical ruler. If that was his political goal, this could explain why he was ok with the mistreatment of the emperor, and why Cao Cao's intention to establish a new dynasty upset him.


It had been done before in China. He may also been waiting for Cao Cao to die and to take advantage of the inevitable weaknesses during succession.

Xun Yu took over the Han in a bad bad situation. Joining in the revolts would seem to go against Xun Yu's belief Cao Cao was the best route for Han survival (Cao Cao's success could lend Han legitimacy, winning a second civil war might make Han seem truly impregnable, Cao Cao means Xian is alive, Han had no forces, Cao Cao was best Han controlling gentry figure for decades bar Wang Yun's short spell), as long as Xian was alive and on throne, there was hope. That Xian is not in control is not new for Han emperors and doesn't have to be a problem

Perhaps, I'm overthinking. Still, this phrase does sound a bit loaded (actually, I was sure that it is SGYY invention so I was surprised to see it verbatim in Xun Yu's SGZ). Cao Cao didn't simply compare Xun Yu to Zhang Liang (e.g. "He is another Zhang Liang", or smth like this) - he emphasized a role Xun Yu has to play for him: "Here is my Zhang Liang". Everyone knows the huge role Zhang Liang played in establishing the Han dynasty, and Xun Yu did play the same role for Wei: his contribution is hard to overestimate - it's second only to Cao Cao himself.


Note how the novel reaction to it is not "look, Cao Cao is planning to betray Han this early" but "nice comparison, might use it for poems". If the novel felt it was loaded, LGZ would have leapt on it

Yes, great compliment to Xun Yu. Nobody considered it a "that must mean Cao Cao is claiming Han lineage" or "planning to overthrow the Emperor" or "thinks he is facing Xiang Yu reborn", just that he was really really pleased to have Xun Yu.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Jolt » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:44 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:
No wonder Xun Yu's change of loyalty, as it depicted in SGZ, seems sudden and illogical.


Xun Yu took over the Han in a bad bad situation. Joining in the revolts would seem to go against Xun Yu's belief Cao Cao was the best route for Han survival (Cao Cao's success could lend Han legitimacy, winning a second civil war might make Han seem truly impregnable, Cao Cao means Xian is alive, Han had no forces, Cao Cao was best Han controlling gentry figure for decades bar Wang Yun's short spell), as long as Xian was alive and on throne, there was hope. That Xian is not in control is not new for Han emperors and doesn't have to be a problem


Precisely what I would get at.

Ultimately, I think part of the logic behind the shift in sympathies lies in trying to understand the problem in a temporal context.

Usually, child emperors were highly preferred by high personalities in Imperial Courts as it allowed for the high personalities to control and emanate authority through themselves for a significant amount of time. After all, when there was a problem that needed fixing, the chain of command would go to the regent's office rather than the Emperor. It is coupled with the fact that more often than not, the people who compose the court and the inner circle must be approved or at the very least, tolerated by the regent.

However, when the Emperor would come of age, there would always be an unconfortable transition period where the regent would attempt to marginalize the upcoming Emperor while trying. Detractors to the regent will increasingly try to use the Emperor as an alternate channel of authority as a means of furthering their agendas, and quite often, go against the established authority of the regent.

In the end, there would usually be a coup of some sort by the Emperor, using some source of power outside of the regent's control, to depose him and establish himself.

That much happened a myriad times in the history of the Han. The Dous, the Liangs, the Eunuchs, etc.

Unfortunately for Emperor Xian, the Han State was utterly shattered, and when he went to live in Xuchang, he entered a domain built by Cao Cao where Cao Cao was obeyed as the ultimate authority. There was no outside source of power to turn to this time (outside of the old Han court loyalists, which Xian did try to use), no alternative powerful clan to oust Cao Cao against, and come out on top.

When Xun Yu suggested bringing the Emperor in, Xian was around 15. Still a bit young, but coming of age.

I imagine that Xun Yu and other loyalists desire would be for Cao Cao to ease some authority slowly back onto the Emperor, nevertheless still maintaining an overbearance of importance.

As the years passed however, no such transition happened. Cao Cao maintained paramount authority, while Xian's opinion or authority carried no weight.

The rebellion by Dong Cheng and Liu Bei was supposed to be the coup that emancipated Xian. When it failed, it became obvious that Xian had his days numbered. It is not surprising that Xun Yu wasn't approached to join the plot, as he was very much linked with Cao Cao.

But the fact that Xian wasn't removed or deposed in favour of another child, who would have allowed the maintenance of the power dynamics at play in court, must have led Xun Yu and other loyalists to conclude that Cao Cao did really try to see out the restoration of the dynasty.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby ivolga » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:21 pm

Xu Yuan wrote:...

Concerning Xun You: I was referring to this.


I'd like to say that I wasn't trying to enforce my opinion, and I'm not going to stubbornly cling to it: I'm well aware that my knowledge of this history period is insufficient, so I was trying to understand.
And thanks to this discussion I was able to finally form a consistent picture of Xun Yu's story. :)
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:01 pm

That's referring to novel and mentions Xun You was dead historically

I know your not trying to force your view, you were asking questions to try and understand, that is a good thing. I hoped we helped
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Xu Yuan » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:44 am

I apologize if I tried to stress my points too strongly. No harm in it all and I'm glad to see the discussions allowed you to better understand on an individual level, this fascinating man.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby ivolga » Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:22 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:I hoped we helped


Oh, you definitely helped! :D (I'm glad this forum exists)

I think my confusion stemmed mostly from assuming that being a Han loyalist is equal to smth like "Give the emperor the real power NOW!!!111". While in fact it could just mean the desire to preserve the dynasty, nothing more.
Last edited by ivolga on Sat Jan 21, 2017 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:35 am

I can see that, it would be the natural assumption for us and it is only something we pick up over time that the emperor himself was important but doesn't mean giving him real power was a demand for loyalists.
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Re: why the sudden change in loyalty by xun yu

Unread postby lorindir » Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:55 am

Hi people.
I must say that I am very happy that this forum still lives! usually, I come here just to visit (without log in), so I was unsure if the people continue to post (most of my visits were to topics that haven't replied a LONNG TIME), but I finally decided to log, so I was very happy to see that some debate still going on.
The thing that I found most fascinating about this forum is that I can read a lot of divergent opinions and most of them are so well done that I can't help but agree with both! (lol, thats very confusing, but it is good, is that the idea of debating).

I could use a lot of what has already being written by you my friends, but to not being unfair to anyone, I will only say that most of you are right in your view and the reason is very simple, the novel just did a good job in using some qualities and flaws from the historical person (perharps like Cao Cao [Hero / Usurper], Liu Bei [moral ruler / Hypocrite]) and most of times multiples views of one same person can be right!

In Xun Yu 's case, the point is that he was a humble person, he believed that a hero shouldn't take high titles to himself, he should just guide his people throughout dangerous times and have the authority to do so (without the need of "pompous" titles). In his view, the position of Prime minister already gave Cao Cao all the power he needs to do his job, he should just stop there, but the point is that (in my humble opinion), the thing that Cao Cao worried night and day is that as the years went, his position couldn't have being passed over to his son without political instability (Prime Minister isnt't an hereditary position) and the work that he spended his life to build could have been under test, if he ascended in position, he could pass his authority in a more safe way (as he did as king). The point is that Xun Yu was (perharps) the most loyal officer that Cao Cao ever had in his service, but for being humble, he could put everything that he worked so hard to build at risk, Cao Cao knew that and in respect for his loyal service, only ascended in position after Xun Yu died.
The novel uses this point in his personality so brillant that this have become a point where every "han loyalist" could rally and say: he was a loyal man to the emperor! But that wasn't the case, Xun Yu was loyal to Cao Cao without a doubt, but also, he was so humble that he would put his effort at risk just to avoid his lord being called a "pompous traitor".
Ok your majesty, now, back to your room!
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