Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Join the Romance of the Three Kingdoms discussion with our resident Scholars. Topics relating to the novel and history are both welcome. Don't forget to check the Forum Rules before posting.
Kongming’s Archives: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms Officer Biographies
Three Kingdoms Officer Encyclopedia
Scholars of Shen Zhou Search Tool

Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:18 am

Commentary on The Romance of The Three Kingdoms Novel
By : Lord Yang Jiahua

For the interest and feedback from his fellow Scholars of the the-scholars forums and the general viewing of anyone of interest for thoughts regarding the Romance of The Three Kingdoms both fiction and historical.

This writing is using the Moss Roberts translated edition entitled : Three Kingdoms attributed to Luo Guanzhong. Published by Foreign Languages Press, Beijing China, Eighth Edition 2008. (proper bibliographical style omitted for convenience of reading.)

I intend to post these as a series of Posts in a forum thread, I assume this will be appropriate with moderators and administrators, please inform me otherwise, or combine them all into one giant post at some point if that is more appropriate. Please also edit and or re-title this thread/posts if the formatting is somewhat bad, as i have to write these in a word processing program before posting. (I will add page number and citations but only if requested, as i think most people are well aware of the events of the novel.)

Apologies in advance, I have been told by a great many of my teachers over the years that I have quite good writing ability, but if this jars the reader in any way, please note I am aware of it.

The format will be following the novel, sequentially, with a big heading for the Chapter. I will not be commenting on all the events in the chapter, but I am aiming for most, including my thoughts on the various literary notes at the end of the books, and the materials located in the more Appendix type sections of the fourth volume of this version of the novel.(i.e the Afterwards etc etc).
And away we go....


Chapter 1 : Three Bold Spirits Plight Mutual Faith in the Peach Garden
Heroes and Champions Win First Honors Fighting The Yellow Scarves


It must be of note that The novel has only praise for the Han founder Liu Bang, or Han Gao Zu. As noted from the translators Afterward section. Of second note also from the afterwards, the Han Dynasty had a continuous conflict between two rival parties within the government, the party of the Empress, and the party of the Eunuchs, in the Western Han, the former had power, in the Eastern Han, the latter.
These in mind, the reader sees the first episode discounted by the novel, but pointed to heavily in the history, that of Chen Fan and Dou Wu versus the eunuchs. Also according to the translator, apparently Cao Cao tried to have the two posthumously rehabilitated for their actions. (confirmation needed). The novel presents this as able ministers attempting to re-establish good governance.
The problem from this situation, is that though it represents a virtuous move, why should the emperor have to listen to anyone in the first place? Emperors Huan and Ling are characterized as absolutely weak Emperors by the novel. Though, an observant historical reader must wonder, why don't the Emperors exert an absolutist control that our textbooks so often tell they did? The Emperors seems more concerned with the luxuries of being just that, Emperor, than actually ruling anything.
In comparison the Roman Empire was ruled by very able “in the saddle” Emperors, at the exact same moment in History. But when lack there off was the rule, as during the 3rd and some of the 4th centuries, the Empire more or less disintegrated, both administratively and morally. With the military being the main focal point of anything in the Roman Empire period. Conversely, it seems that despite the lack of formal involvement by the Han Emperors, the Empire still functioned quite well, at least up until what is still characterized as the largest Peasant Rebellion in History, the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. This would point to the concept of Wuwei, aloof Emperor, more or less, the problem is that Wuwei becomes something of an excuse for disintegration of Imperial and central authority, as seen with Huan and Ling.

First of Note : (a Pattern repeated in the Wei Dynasty). All the Emperors seem to be quite young at their ascension, quite useless at something of a personal rule, and good at dying rather young as well. Unlike their ministers, who live such as Cao Cao, well into their later years.

Zhang Jue (Zhang Jiao), was presented his book and his subsequent powers by Zhuang Zi, a name which should be significant to those of who have studied something of Chinese mythology. Zhang Jue represents a corrupt priest more or less, who exploits his powers for basically his own gain while using the “saving the people” line as a shield. The Han were indeed becoming decadent and corrupt, but the mystic overstepping the heaven granted good fortune he received and attempting something of a revolution seems to already show his movement as doomed to failure. If somewhat reaffirming of the Imperial system under which China operated for Millennia , also rather jadedly makes the people seem powerless, or easily misled, and properly In need of a paternalistic state system.
Powerless because the people collectively cannot effect change in the Empire, but the ministers apparently only can. As we'll see later on.

The Peach Garden Oath, the most significant portion of Chapter One is commented on in great detail by translator and probably historiographical sources devoted to separating 3 parts fiction and 7 parts truth. (The oft characterization of the entire novel) Therefore I will not commentate it here, except to say that the eventual ascension to Godhood of Guan Yu and his his brothers, was quite positive for the values it represented, and the morals their deities stand for. (even if the concept of sworn brotherhood was appropriated by Jiang Jieshi's Dai Li secret service, as according to the translator's notes.)

Indeed, Cao Cao appears and disappears like the wind, according to Mao's note. As he and Sun Jian do for most of Chapter 1 and 2 fighting the Yellow Scarves.
Of note should be the ages of both Liu Bei and Cao Cao, they are both quite young, Cao Cao is about 30, Liu Bei is around 23. History seems to bear out that most great people do not start on the path to greatness until they are in their mid to late 20's, or even later in the case with many Western Historical figures. (Caesar and Augustus among them.) There's a moralizing argument worthy of an essay there about this regarding ages, and applying it to modern day people and their lives.

We run into Dong Zhuo, a major antagonist for the 1st section of the novel at the end of Chapter 1. Replacing and arresting of all people Lu Zhi, Liu Bei's former instructor. Zhang Fei wants to kill Dong Zhuo, the first time the reader will see Zhang Fei behave this way, but definitely not the last. Historically, Zhang Fei may have been quite different than this, or perhaps more calculated.

The Notes of the Novel for Chapter 1 are particularly Large and longwinded, anyone to read them can gain a great understanding of various intricacies of both the novel, and even Chinese Culture and History to a certain degree, therefore I will not devote time to commenting on them.

Chapter 2 : Zhang Fei Whips the Government Inspector
Imperial In-Law He Jin Plots Against the Eunuchs


Of note to the reader, this chapter more or less sums up events 184-189A.D outside of those in the Imperial Court.
Dong Zhuo is revealed as a massively incompetent field general. A reader not skipping ahead or new to the book, would then immediately wish to discount Dong Zhuo from any proper role in the novel, oh how wrong they'd be.

Sun Jian gets a section in this chapter, devoted to showing his bandit and rebel destroying exploits. Becomes governor of Changsha, lower Jing Province. Why then apparently Sun Ce his son abandons this position In later chapters is a mystery. It must be noted that one of the future conflicts of the novel centers on the province in which Sun Jian receives his office, but curiously the legitimacy of Sun Jian having been a governor there is never used.(more on this in future sections).

The central episode of this chapter, around Liu Bei's tiny official post, despite his apparent exploits fighting the Yellow Scarves, which should have earned him a good reward, is actually historically different. Our translator says Liu Bei does what Zhang Fei does, and that the Inspector was a henchmen of the Eunuch faction at court. Translator and reader agree : who wouldn't want to beat the snot out of such a man who wrongs Liu Bei.

The meat of the Chapter centers around He Jin, the brother of humble origins to the current Empress attempting to take down the eunuchs. If one reads out the just ministers attempting to re-establish virtuous authority, than it looks like nothing more than a political power play to put the Empress' faction behind the throne. He Jin also gets more or less blamed for the collapse of central authority due to his actions.
Practically, his death is a silly one, walks into the palace expecting no one to kill him, gets chopped up by the Eunuch's henchmen. (Chapter 3)
Why the Eunuchs are heeded when they beg Empress He (He Jin's Sister) not to let her brother kill them, is quite the mystery. She is Empress after all, and He Jin is Regent-Marshal after all. Despite a move here appearing rather like a shameless power grab, it might have been well received by the realm at large if presented publicly in a certain manner. Then a general follow up of appointing and reappointing of “good” officials and officials wronged by the Eunuch party would ensure general peace in the Empire. He Jin is an indecisive incompetent at best then. Son of a butcher indeed. Though it must be noted that this depicts common people, or commoner class people (of which He Jin comes from) as useless at government.
To fit that narrative, Cao Cao and Liu Bei are both of a certain kind of aristocratic class of the Han Empire, and Sun Jian though of a minor clan, is also relatively well regarded. All three are quite capable. To simplify, Commoner people, or those of Commoner stock(supposedly) don't fit in a rulership position. Though this would seemingly discount Liu Bei's background, however, his family name makes this otherwise to this author.
Empress Dong, a competing Empress also plays into the Chapter, could she have truly believed she was manipulating the Eunuchs? Or Perhaps neither of the women were smart enough to understand they were being manipulated. It seems very shallow on a whole though, had either faction wanted power, they should have just taken it. Its not like either the Empress Faction(s) nor the Eunuchs were going to do anything useful to benefit the realm apparently. Official positions for what?, money, control, offices, accolades? Its all just waiting for someone more, assertive, to step in...
Of course Emperor Ling keels over, conveniently, In this chapter. He apparently was in his 30's, why does he die so young? It seems Emperor Ling wanted Prince Xie not Prince Bian, to succeed him. And the Eunuchs were backing this. Despite its intrigue value, this seems quite arbitrary, by both Emperor and Empresses (Prince Bian Succeeds after all). Yet, there's nothing to prove who would be a more able Emperor when they're both basically still children, except for the aspect of perhaps how manipulable they are.
A question, how educated actually were the Emperors? And the potential would be Emperors? We see the notion of education play a significant role with many primary and secondary characters throughout the novel, what books they read, who were their teachers,(Ex Liu Bei) etc etc. So, the would be Emperors simply never read things such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, or perhaps studied with great scholars of the day (would be Kingmakers in some right). If they did, then why do they seem so weak to assert their authority, or so in fear of being overthrown(logically). Or perhaps simply direct action, as Emperor Ling could have, provide for the realm? I.e the question becomes, are the Emperors really that weak, or are their managers (like He Jin is, and is first on the list) really that terrible or to be feared.

The Notes on Chapter 2 pick up the above comment on which Inner Court faction was in power and what effects that had on the Han Dynasty.

Chapter 3 : In Wenming Garden, Dong Zhuo Denounces Ding Yuan
With Gold and Pearls Li Su Plies Lu Bu


Chapter 3 opens with He Jin inviting outside forces, I.e the regional garrisons to help overthrow the Eunuch party at court, and with Cao Cao rebuking him for quite the same simple reason observed above. The notes on the chapter also point out that He Jin's ruin and subsequently the Han dynasty's will be because he invites outside forces in, into something that should have been a simple in court political move, turning it into something, worse.
Dong Zhuo is next presented as being one of the regional lords invited by He Jin to the capital. The ministers state their objections, and He Jin (still alive at this point) ignores them. The novel in general picks up after this point, mainly because its not skipping about 5 years as it does from 184-189 in chapter 2. Dong Zhuo's adherents are also named, they will be significant later on.
To the reader that has Dong Zhuo penned as a useless person, they are about to receive a real shock. Popularly Dong Zhuo is painted as a fat, lecherous oaf. One has to wonder if he was really that, or its just to make him more detestable without refraining to a long discussion of what was considered tyrannical about Dong Zhuo besides his conduct in later chapters and this chapter.
The next few chunks of Chapter 3 involve a bloodbath of Eunuchs and their people versus those with regent-marshal He Jin, who include Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu (oddly Chun Yuqiong as well who has a role in future events). A hapless He Jin is chopped up by the eunuch's faking the Empress He's summons, however his arrogance is probably not totally untrue with his “I am the master of the empire” remark. Oddly, He Jin's helpers, who escorted him, armed into the Imperial Compound are reluctant to protect He Jin just before he walks into the trap, and stop before a command by the Inner Bureau that He Jin and only He Jin had been summoned by Empress He.
What does not make sense is that, a) He Jin is Regent-Marshal, he shouldn't have needed worry about court conduct if he was truly “master of the empire”, he could have strode in flanked by Cao Cao , Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu and 500 men, and nobody would have worried in theory.( a discussion on the pre-eminence of Ranks and titles in the Han court can be found in the various notes and afterwards) b) what makes less sense is why the Empress is so easily moved by the Eunuchs into basically setting up this trap that leads to basically the defeat of her faction at court as well, just not in the way the reader imagines. Its something of a genius move by the writer to insert the section about Dong Zhuo, before He Jin's death. As an uninitiated reader would not expect where things are about to go.
The Empress He was not about to order He Jin to kill the eunuchs the first time, despite the fact that it would have given her complete power at court. She was easily manipulated by the eunuchs the second time a similar situation presented itself. Likely, she would have not ordered it the second time around either.
Cao Cao, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu seem to be enjoying themselves, slaughtering Eunuchs and a whole lot of other people at this point. Cynically, perhaps each of them felt they could obtain control of the empire at this juncture. After all, all three of them will attempt to do so as the novel progresses.

The significant section of the chapter, the flight of the Emperor Shao ( Liu Bian or Prince Bian) and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie or Prince Xie) is critiqued for its symbolic foreshadowing. The only comment here should be, that its completely arbitrary that Dong Zhuo, who runs into the Imperial party after the episode, is impressed by Prince Xie's fierceness in making sure the proper ceremony is observed in Dong Zhuo meeting now Emperor Shao. Zhuo considered Prince Xie the stronger of the two, and wishes to depose Emperor Shao and enthrone Prince Xie, whats ignored is pointing out that this is merely pretext for Dong Zhuo to seize power.
The Banquet in Wenming Garden is next, Li Ru pronouncing that Dong Zhuo should “act on his authority” is a very odd statement. Authority of a regional governor? Authority of a general? The three elder lords would have had more authority, at this point, but the threat of troops quartered against the court is enough to cow the court and its courtiers, though this is mentioned very indirectly, its not so clear that something couldn't have been done to stop Dong Zhuo.
Then the question, why place Xie on the throne? If its because Zhuo is impressed with the Prince's ability and forthrightness, wouldn't that make him the less malleable candidate? Do away with Empress He and Shaodi is his.
Theres a relation between the reknowned scholar Cai Yong and Dong Zhuo, Dong Zhuo wanting to kill Lu Zhi for objecting to his Depose the Emperor plot, shows the man doesn't like to be disagreed with. Yet Cai Yong despite his intelligence seems to benefit from Dong Zhuo's Court Administration, as will be shown in later chapter, Cai Yong of course stops Dong Zhuo from killing Lu Zhi.
Ding Yuan, the Governor of Bingzhou, is the only one to step up and challenge Dong Zhuo's power grab. Though, why he didn't kill Dong Zhuo at the banquet, or better yet order the giant of a man, Lu Bu, with him at the banquet, to simply hack the apparently fat bastard down is beyond the thoughts of this commentator. Then Ding Yuan leaves, prepares his army, and prepares to do battle with Dong Zhuo. Though this is very gentlemanly of Ding Yuan, it leaves one wondering, why fight someone who is obviously not a gentleman, or of any morals whatsoever, on such moralistic grounds? I.e taking it outside with armies to do battle as proper generals. One could say, perhaps Ding Yuan did not want to stoop so low as to be like Dong Zhuo, but then, the question becomes, would not the other courtiers with their high offices agreed with Ding Yuan had he indeed chopped up Dong Zhuo then and there?
Lu Bu, to become a pivotal figure for the first 20 or so chapters of the novel, is of course slyly convinced away from Ding Yuan, kills him (obviously showing he lacks something of morals himself, making it more simple as to that he probably would have killed Dong Zhuo on Ding Yuan's order instantly without hesitation at the banquet.) and goes to serve Dong Zhuo. I.e The second part of the chapter, courtesy of Li Su.


The Novel likes to play Host and Guest, to Western Audience this is more like Primary Character and Foil character. Comparing across Chapters, Dong Zhuo serves as a Guest to Cao Cao, who is the Host. However, as we'll see, Cao Cao is more willing to do what Dong Zhuo would not, but Cao seems to do it in a way, less villainous than Dong Zhuo apparently. Or perhaps its simply the bias of the reader (and probably myself)to believe Dong Zhuo way more evil than Cao Cao ever was or could be.

A general note should be that women like Empress He are depicted very incompetently, or as just rather naive. Perhaps because of their luxurious environment didn't see the real politics of the court. Perhaps the thought that Eunuchs=Servant was too overriding to Empress He to make her realize what was going on.
Though, women characters in the novel, bar Empress He, are all rather extraordinary in some way otherwise. (Spoiler). She seems to be the one person purposely depicted as somewhat worthless despite her power. It can be forgiven if the reader believe that Chinese literature is patriarchal and male centric, though it is in most regards, Women in the Three Kingdoms novel at least do play some very key and even heroic roles.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
User avatar
Lord Yang Jiahua
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:24 pm
Location: Well....Not entirely sure if its America anymore

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:09 am

These in mind, the reader sees the first episode discounted by the novel, but pointed to heavily in the history, that of Chen Fan and Dou Wu versus the eunuchs. Also according to the translator, apparently Cao Cao tried to have the two posthumously rehabilitated for their actions. (confirmation needed). The novel presents this as able ministers attempting to re-establish good governance.


Chen Fan's son returned to office in 184 and Dong held ceremonies to them, I don't recall Cao Cao doing much for them particularly

The problem from this situation, is that though it represents a virtuous move, why should the emperor have to listen to anyone in the first place? Emperors Huan and Ling are characterized as absolutely weak Emperors by the novel. Though, an observant historical reader must wonder, why don't the Emperors exert an absolutist control that our textbooks so often tell they did? The Emperors seems more concerned with the luxuries of being just that, Emperor, than actually ruling anything.
In comparison the Roman Empire was ruled by very able “in the saddle” Emperors, at the exact same moment in History. But when lack there off was the rule, as during the 3rd and some of the 4th centuries, the Empire more or less disintegrated, both administratively and morally. With the military being the main focal point of anything in the Roman Empire period. Conversely, it seems that despite the lack of formal involvement by the Han Emperors, the Empire still functioned quite well, at least up until what is still characterized as the largest Peasant Rebellion in History, the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. This would point to the concept of Wuwei, aloof Emperor, more or less, the problem is that Wuwei becomes something of an excuse for disintegration of Imperial and central authority, as seen with Huan and Ling.


I get the impression that Chinese Emperor's didn't often take to the field themselves once land was united, they stayed at court, cultivating scholarship, appointing officers and if they took lead, it was administrative matters. Huan and Ling also had to deal with a gentry that had a crippling control on the country and would remember how bad things were for their predecessors so balancing them off with eunuchs rather then attempting absolute rule was wise. Huan and Ling did get involved in ruling but their interests were more scholarship, artistic as well as luxury and they faced major problems with solutions the gentry would have hated (like an effective tax system)

I think the novel makes clear things were not functioning for years before the Turbans and historically, it was not functioning way before Emperor Huan overthrew the regicide regent Liang Ji and took power

The central episode of this chapter, around Liu Bei's tiny official post, despite his apparent exploits fighting the Yellow Scarves, which should have earned him a good reward, is actually historically different. Our translator says Liu Bei does what Zhang Fei does, and that the Inspector was a henchmen of the Eunuch faction at court. Translator and reader agree : who wouldn't want to beat the snot out of such a man who wrongs Liu Bei.


Well historically the guy was doing his job (the worst crime the guy does is saying he s too sick to meet Liu Bei which might be a tad rude but the punishment is a tad excessive), beating up someone for doing his job speaks ill of Liu Bei. It also speaks ill of the translator who advocates brutality for people doing their jobs

Why the Eunuchs are heeded when they beg Empress He (He Jin's Sister) not to let her brother kill them, is quite the mystery. She is Empress after all, and He Jin is Regent-Marshal after all. Despite a move here appearing rather like a shameless power grab, it might have been well received by the realm at large if presented publicly in a certain manner. Then a general follow up of appointing and reappointing of “good” officials and officials wronged by the Eunuch party would ensure general peace in the Empire. He Jin is an indecisive incompetent at best then. Son of a butcher indeed. Though it must be noted that this depicts common people, or commoner class people (of which He Jin comes from) as useless at government.


The novel mentions "we owe the eunuchs" once or twice, historically Empress He may not have been utterly trusting her half-brothers motives.

While there is some inconsistencies as was meant to be possible to get to high ranks from low birth and they were happy with Sun family despite their low background, there does feel an element of sneering about He Jin's background. Certainly goes in harder on He Jin and makes him a buffoon whereas the historical record is more balanced

Empress Dong, a competing Empress also plays into the Chapter, could she have truly believed she was manipulating the Eunuchs? Or Perhaps neither of the women were smart enough to understand they were being manipulated. It seems very shallow on a whole though, had either faction wanted power, they should have just taken it. Its not like either the Empress Faction(s) nor the Eunuchs were going to do anything useful to benefit the realm apparently. Official positions for what?, money, control, offices, accolades? Its all just waiting for someone more, assertive, to step in...


The battle was to put their own son on the throne. With all the power and security that provides

Of course Emperor Ling keels over, conveniently, In this chapter. He apparently was in his 30's, why does he die so young? It seems Emperor Ling wanted Prince Xie not Prince Bian, to succeed him. And the Eunuchs were backing this. Despite its intrigue value, this seems quite arbitrary, by both Emperor and Empresses (Prince Bian Succeeds after all). Yet, there's nothing to prove who would be a more able Emperor when they're both basically still children, except for the aspect of perhaps how manipulable they are.


34, there is nothing recorded about what killed him. Yes, he wanted Xie instead as he felt Bian was frivolous and he had long favoured Xie who he nicknamed "Little Me". There may also have been a anti-He factor in Ling's feelings as well and Dowager Dong had long cared for Xie.

Dong Z also seems to have felt Bian was not as able as Xie

A question, how educated actually were the Emperors? And the potential would be Emperors? We see the notion of education play a significant role with many primary and secondary characters throughout the novel, what books they read, who were their teachers,(Ex Liu Bei) etc etc. So, the would be Emperors simply never read things such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, or perhaps studied with great scholars of the day (would be Kingmakers in some right). If they did, then why do they seem so weak to assert their authority, or so in fear of being overthrown(logically). Or perhaps simply direct action, as Emperor Ling could have, provide for the realm? I.e the question becomes, are the Emperors really that weak, or are their managers (like He Jin is, and is first on the list) really that terrible or to be feared


Bian was raised by Taoist Master Shi Zhimaio, Xian's education was presumably rather disrupted by his chaotic reign but he was friends with some leading scholars as an adult and one would assume did read the key works. The novel is not really going to concentrate on building up Xian and Bian though whereas they will about the protagonists like Liu Bei and Cao Cao

Bian barely had five minutes on the throne before being overthrown by a guy with an army. Xian was in constant control, despite his able efforts, of armed forces. When you have no army and few loyalists, good luck trying to impose your will on a guy with a massive army.

To the reader that has Dong Zhuo penned as a useless person, they are about to receive a real shock. Popularly Dong Zhuo is painted as a fat, lecherous oaf. One has to wonder if he was really that, or its just to make him more detestable without refraining to a long discussion of what was considered tyrannical about Dong Zhuo besides his conduct in later chapters and this chapter.


Historically, in his early years he was considered a skilled warrior, one of the Han's leading commanders and it even acknowledges some restraint when he first takes power. The fatness and lechery, if true, comes later

What does not make sense is that, a) He Jin is Regent-Marshal, he shouldn't have needed worry about court conduct if he was truly “master of the empire”, he could have strode in flanked by Cao Cao , Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu and 500 men, and nobody would have worried in theory.( a discussion on the pre-eminence of Ranks and titles in the Han court can be found in the various notes and afterwards) b) what makes less sense is why the Empress is so easily moved by the Eunuchs into basically setting up this trap that leads to basically the defeat of her faction at court as well, just not in the way the reader imagines. Its something of a genius move by the writer to insert the section about Dong Zhuo, before He Jin's death. As an uninitiated reader would not expect where things are about to go.


A) A great way to lose support as master of the empire is by coming across as a guy who leads troops into the palace and invading a sacred space. It also sends really bad signal for future B) She sees eunuch as her faction, not He Jin. Potentially the eunuchs in power gives her more control then He Jin in power

The significant section of the chapter, the flight of the Emperor Shao ( Liu Bian or Prince Bian) and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie or Prince Xie) is critiqued for its symbolic foreshadowing. The only comment here should be, that its completely arbitrary that Dong Zhuo, who runs into the Imperial party after the episode, is impressed by Prince Xie's fierceness in making sure the proper ceremony is observed in Dong Zhuo meeting now Emperor Shao. Zhuo considered Prince Xie the stronger of the two, and wishes to depose Emperor Shao and enthrone Prince Xie, whats ignored is pointing out that this is merely pretext for Dong Zhuo to seize power.


On the one hand, you have the Emperor freezing and failing to react to the situation, one the other you have a figure showing boldness and sense of authority. Which is more impressive?

The Banquet in Wenming Garden is next, Li Ru pronouncing that Dong Zhuo should “act on his authority” is a very odd statement. Authority of a regional governor? Authority of a general? The three elder lords would have had more authority, at this point, but the threat of troops quartered against the court is enough to cow the court and its courtiers, though this is mentioned very indirectly, its not so clear that something couldn't have been done to stop Dong Zhuo.


The translation I have may make sense "The government is really without a head; there can be no better time than this to carry out your plan. Delay will spoil all. Tomorrow assemble the officials in the Wenming Garden and address them on the subject. Put all opponents to death, and your prestige is settled."

Then the question, why place Xie on the throne? If its because Zhuo is impressed with the Prince's ability and forthrightness, wouldn't that make him the less malleable candidate? Do away with Empress He and Shaodi is his.


Massive age gap, Bian was in his teens and Xian 9 or so is best I can think of. There does tend to be an element of contradiction in clearly Dong believes Xian is best suited to the job compared to his brother, yet the novel also puts down as ambition and evil. Perhaps simply, deposing the Emperor is just a no no whatever the merits so simply doing it is a sign of evil

Ding Yuan, the Governor of Bingzhou, is the only one to step up and challenge Dong Zhuo's power grab. Though, why he didn't kill Dong Zhuo at the banquet, or better yet order the giant of a man, Lu Bu, with him at the banquet, to simply hack the apparently fat bastard down is beyond the thoughts of this commentator. Then Ding Yuan leaves, prepares his army, and prepares to do battle with Dong Zhuo. Though this is very gentlemanly of Ding Yuan, it leaves one wondering, why fight someone who is obviously not a gentleman, or of any morals whatsoever, on such moralistic grounds? I.e taking it outside with armies to do battle as proper generals. One could say, perhaps Ding Yuan did not want to stoop so low as to be like Dong Zhuo, but then, the question becomes, would not the other courtiers with their high offices agreed with Ding Yuan had he indeed chopped up Dong Zhuo then and there?


The banquet hosted by an armed Dong with his supporters and guards where Ding Yuan can't be sure of the other officers and where murdering a fellow Han officer without authority might be rather looked down on.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15112
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:57 pm

Yay, i finally got some critiques.

Again im doing this solely off of the novels standpoint, and perhaps a little bit of the actual history that i've come across, and they are after all, commentary.

Still think considering how arbitrary Lu Bu is in the novel, he could have quite easily hacked down Dong Zhuo for much the same reason Li Ru is telling Dong Zhuo to seize power, and yes that translation makes alot more sense. If Lu Bu was indeed the super-warrior we are all led to believe he was, i dont think a couple dozen armed officers would have done much good.

Perhaps i am advocating for the tyrants, but as we see with Cao Cao, he comes off as the biggest of them all later on, possibly because defeating all the warlords in the North made the ppl accept that Cao was the best man for the job. Possibly because the novel tries to paint a positive portrait of all three main characters and their houses, except for things like say, Cao Cao getting Emperor Xian's Empress strangled etc.

Dong Zhuo is an example of a more, assertive person,just waiting to steal the show, and does, and despite burning Luoyang and fleeing with the Emperor in custody, there does seem to be less the "lords of the realm" want to do about him or can do to him, then we actually see in the novel. I.e the Coalition may be quite exaggerated.

Noting the academic article in the other thread, the work clearly talks about how there was really lack of a precedent for change of dynasty, and in that regard it seems power concentrated in the hands of single individual other than the emperor, despite this being clearly evil the reader is told, actually keeps everything, especially in the historical context of 2nd century A.D very stable, both at court and in the realm once military control (as done by Cao Cao) over a certain area is established.

The chaos of the Roman Empire during the 3rd century proves that in the West the opposite was true, military control or lack thereof if one interprets that as "military" forces running roughshod over the common populance at large, led to the economic and intellectual disintegration of the Empire, and it took really special individual rulers to gain a grip on things, and even then.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
User avatar
Lord Yang Jiahua
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:24 pm
Location: Well....Not entirely sure if its America anymore

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:24 pm

Lu Bu is meant to be a superwarrior but even so, sheer numbers against him isn't something he is meant to be able to overcome by himself. Even if he could kill all the guards and get to Dong, kill him, the political consequences of murdering a fellow Han officer at his house could be dire

Perhaps i am advocating for the tyrants, but as we see with Cao Cao, he comes off as the biggest of them all later on, possibly because defeating all the warlords in the North made the ppl accept that Cao was the best man for the job. Possibly because the novel tries to paint a positive portrait of all three main characters and their houses, except for things like say, Cao Cao getting Emperor Xian's Empress strangled etc.

Dong Zhuo is an example of a more, assertive person,just waiting to steal the show, and does, and despite burning Luoyang and fleeing with the Emperor in custody, there does seem to be less the "lords of the realm" want to do about him or can do to him, then we actually see in the novel. I.e the Coalition may be quite exaggerated.

Noting the academic article in the other thread, the work clearly talks about how there was really lack of a precedent for change of dynasty, and in that regard it seems power concentrated in the hands of single individual other than the emperor, despite this being clearly evil the reader is told, actually keeps everything, especially in the historical context of 2nd century A.D very stable, both at court and in the realm once military control (as done by Cao Cao) over a certain area is established.


The novel, while it is very fast and loose with details of that camapign, are accurate as to why the Coalition had... limited victory.

Certainly not the intent the novel goes to advocate puppet Emperor's, for though with Duke of Zhou, it was something China was aware could work well. Those that control the emperor are painted as the bad figures throughout whether it be cartoon villain like Dong or complex figures like Cao Cao. Given it also led to Han being overthrown by Cao Cao's son and change of dynasty, ditto when Sima Yi took control of Wei, that is not going to be a good advert for Emperor's not having control.

Power concentrated on variety of factions at various times. Eunuchs like near the end or in-laws tended to be the big ones as Han decline and like the regicide Liang Ji showed, having power concentrated in single figure doesn't always end well.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15112
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:30 pm

Chapter 4: The Installation of The Chenliu Prince Emperor Shao Is Deposed
A Plot Against Traitor Dong, Cao Cao Presents a Jeweled Knife


The chapter opens on the deposition of Liu Bian, Emperor Shao. Yuan Wei, whether coerced, forced, or actually agreeing with Dong Zhuo, (Yuan Wei is Imperial Guardian and of comparable position at court to Dong Zhuo at this point) goes along with Dong Zhuo's move.

The notes record that Yuan Wei was the courtier who led the Emperor down from the throne.

Wu Qiong, advises Dong Zhuo to give Yuan Shao an outside command, calling Yuan Shao basically indecisive and that doing this will buy him off. Odd how Yuan Shao's attitude will become a defining feature later in the novel, but it is foreshadowed here.

Ding Guan's Protest and subsequent execution will be a re-occuring feature of deposed ruler processes throughout the novel.

Queen Mother He now has no power, yet circumstances had changed. A discussion of is “blood thicker than water” could be merited here regarding her attitude towards He Jin. Its somewhat karmic, all her manipulations and supposed power come to naught.

Dong Zhuo treats Cai Yong well, odd considering he opposed Dong Zhuo. Cai Yong must have really been that important of a person. Or Dong Zhuo had an odd regard for him, despite not being able to take criticism as following events will show.

Events conspicuously shift to Wang Yun, it seems the “todays my birthday excuse” has been a feature of human language as old as time.

The reader must understand the entire episode with Cao Cao trying to kill Dong Zhuo with the Seven Star knife, (Wang Yun's Jeweled Knife) is completely fiction. Though a very good plot device, it is entirely the invention of the author.

Cao Cao meeting Chen Gong however is an interesting side event of all this “fiction”. Cao Cao returns to his home district. He goes to a friend of his father's, Lu Boshe, and subsequently ends up killing a whole bunch of “innocent” people(this includes Lu Boshe), whom Cao, of a naturally suspicious nature suspects are trying to capture and turn him in, as of course, attempting to assassinate the man in power, Dong Zhuo, would get one a massive bounty on their head.

The Novel portrays them as innocent, though the notes say that in fact the people Cao kills were attempting to capture him. The notes also interestingly say details of Cao's early life are left out in general, but that the novel's portrait of him is more or less historical. Why? Also, why reinterpret this event? At this point the “protagonist” of the novel, Liu Bei hasn't really done much to merit protagonist, if the original intention was to make Cao Cao antagonist, the author has done a better job of making him Anti-Hero so far. What with his actions against the eunuchs, attempting to assassinate Dong Zhuo, killing people attempting to capture him.

The line is interpreted depending on translator, here it reads : “Better to wrong the world than have the world wrong me.” Chen Gong, accomplice to Cao Cao for the latter half of this chapter, is totally unnerved by this. The notes courtesy of Mao Zonggang a noted commentator of the novel in Chinese, say that he defends Cao Cao's character here, interpreting the Confucian reversal Cao Cao is doing by saying this line. The normal line being , “Better to be wronged than wrong another”, it does sound good, as Mao notes. Mao praises Cao Cao for being bluntly honest with his feelings, perhaps this is cultural context enough to show how Cao Cao is a “bad” person.

Noted, Cao Cao is one of the more complex characters if not the most in the novel, perhaps his initial actions are designed to balance out the reader's perspective of him as the story progresses. Liu Bei going to fight the Yellow Scarves etc, seem to be nothing more than the duty of all good Han loyalists at the time, making his actions not very extraordinary, nor convincing the reader he is the protagonist, so far.

Cao Cao is Anti-hero, in doing what the readership all want (attempting to assassinate Dong Zhuo even if its a fiction) but know they can't do, or the other characters won't do. But other than that, and his ending lines in the chapter, there isn't much to paint him as really anti-hero, or even antagonist so far.

The fact that Chen Gong is unnerved by Cao Cao shows the shallowness of his character, (device of the novel/bias of the novel or not). Future actors will be equally unnerved by Cao Cao's character, but will respond differently, Chen Gong serves as kind of a benchmark for the observant reader, of how deep characters that encounter Cao are.

Chapter 5: Cao Cao Rallies The Lords With A Forged Decree
The Three Brothers Engage Lu Bu In Battle


Our chapter opens with of all people Chen Gong leaving Cao Cao rather than killing him for his “unjust” actions in the previous chapter. Such indecisiveness....

We are introduced to many of Cao Cao's to be principal generals and commanders, and the fact that Cao Cao has rich friends,(Wei Hong). Its good for the reader because now they won't be asking who's who when some more important secondary names start appearing, and the novel does this in a number of places regarding each of the three kingdoms characters/heroes. In contrast, Liu Bei has no rich friends.

The forged decree has Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu both using special titles, court granted titles, wouldn't it have been more symbolic to forego titles appointed to them by Dong Zhuo or around the time of him seizing power. The histories say Yuan Shu decided to get out of the way, rather than mortgage his future with Dong Zhuo, and took over Nanyang, the northernmost part of the Jing Province. Dong Zhuo appoints Yuan Shao governor of Bohai, and then of course gets angry at the man who suggested doing this to mollify Yuan Shao.

Yuan Shao may not have done anything of his own volition, had not Cao Cao's decree appeared, showing he is indeed indecisive.

Gongsun Zan, Governor of You the Northernmost province, brings along Liu Bei and his brothers.
Liu Bei also has friends too, but they aren't as abundant as Cao Cao's.

The next section dealing with the formation of the Coalition armies, and the battle versus Hua Xiong including the second section of how Guan Yu kills Hua Xiong, is somewhat fiction. Especially because history says Sun Jian, defeated in the novel versus Hua Xiong, in fact killed him, and Yuan Shu did not withhold grain from Sun Jian causing him to lose a battle. (This later makes more sense as to why Sun Jian will heed Yuan Shu's request and attack Liu Biao the Governor Jingzhou, the central province of China.)

The Three Brothers fighting Lu Bu, also appears to be a fiction, though a very grandiose fiction, warranting a long poem of its heroics that so many Chinese poets made just for this novel. In fact it seems also to be one of the only points Liu Bei physically engages another fighter. Except for Sun Jian and his sons, it seems the Three Kingdoms rulers themselves don't physically engage in duels, or honorable combat. (Sun Quan kind of wants to at the battle of He Fei but his advisers dissuade him.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
User avatar
Lord Yang Jiahua
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:24 pm
Location: Well....Not entirely sure if its America anymore

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:50 pm

Dong Zhuo treats Cai Yong well, odd considering he opposed Dong Zhuo. Cai Yong must have really been that important of a person. Or Dong Zhuo had an odd regard for him, despite not being able to take criticism as following events will show.


Cai Yong was possibly the famed scholar of his time, it was huge prestige to Dong regime to have him (and Dong seems a genuine fan). I think the novel assumes it's audience know Cai Yong's huge reputation

The Novel portrays them as innocent, though the notes say that in fact the people Cao kills were attempting to capture him. The notes also interestingly say details of Cao's early life are left out in general, but that the novel's portrait of him is more or less historical. Why? Also, why reinterpret this event? At this point the “protagonist” of the novel, Liu Bei hasn't really done much to merit protagonist, if the original intention was to make Cao Cao antagonist, the author has done a better job of making him Anti-Hero so far. What with his actions against the eunuchs, attempting to assassinate Dong Zhuo, killing people attempting to capture him.


Why is Cao Cao focused on? The novel certainly recognises that a epic tale needs one to spend time building up the other side, so we understand them and the conflict better. Unlike superhero films. It also knows the value of the other side involving complex and intresting characters rather then just have Cao Cao kicking puppies and murdering old ladies for fun. There is also the need at this stage for the novel to concentrate on events at the capital, it is vital to tell the events that went on including the Han's collapse into a puppet emperor, the start of the civil war. Cao Cao was there as one of He Jin's men until his flight from Dong, Liu Bei wasn't. It is better to tell the tale with big focus on Cao Cao since he was there and becomes a key figure, it would be hard to tell the tale well from Liu Bei's angle at this stage.

The history records on the incident is... mixed (Book of Wei has Cao Cao defeating robbers, one source has "Cao Cao suspicious" and one "Cao Cao misheard" with heard having "“I would rather betray a man than allow a man to betray me!”) so novel is running with the more likely annotations

The line is interpreted depending on translator, here it reads : “Better to wrong the world than have the world wrong me.” Chen Gong, accomplice to Cao Cao for the latter half of this chapter, is totally unnerved by this. The notes courtesy of Mao Zonggang a noted commentator of the novel in Chinese, say that he defends Cao Cao's character here, interpreting the Confucian reversal Cao Cao is doing by saying this line. The normal line being , “Better to be wronged than wrong another”, it does sound good, as Mao notes. Mao praises Cao Cao for being bluntly honest with his feelings, perhaps this is cultural context enough to show how Cao Cao is a “bad” person.


It is a great line. It is however one that can be taken to be rather.... selfish. He would rather betray the world (aka everyone else) then have something bad happened to him, his reaction to killing innocent people is essentially "well better I jump in and kill people first just in case".

The fact that Chen Gong is unnerved by Cao Cao shows the shallowness of his character, (device of the novel/bias of the novel or not). Future actors will be equally unnerved by Cao Cao's character, but will respond differently, Chen Gong serves as kind of a benchmark for the observant reader, of how deep characters that encounter Cao are.


Shallow seems a bit harsh? Chen Gong has just witnessed Cao Cao kill a bunch of people then brush it off.

Our chapter opens with of all people Chen Gong leaving Cao Cao rather than killing him for his “unjust” actions in the previous chapter. Such indecisiveness....


In fairness, deciding not to murder becuase it is wrong is probably right time to change your mind :wink:

The forged decree has Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu both using special titles, court granted titles, wouldn't it have been more symbolic to forego titles appointed to them by Dong Zhuo or around the time of him seizing power.


Symbolic but would create a lot of headches if one vacated the source of your power

The next section dealing with the formation of the Coalition armies, and the battle versus Hua Xiong including the second section of how Guan Yu kills Hua Xiong, is somewhat fiction. Especially because history says Sun Jian, defeated in the novel versus Hua Xiong, in fact killed him, and Yuan Shu did not withhold grain from Sun Jian causing him to lose a battle. (This later makes more sense as to why Sun Jian will heed Yuan Shu's request and attack Liu Biao the Governor Jingzhou, the central province of China.)


The Coalition vs Dong is probably (bar Nanman and invented camapigns) the most fictional camapign of the novel give how much it changes things.

Just to clarify, Yuan Shu did historically withhold supplies from Sun Jian but the issues (Yuan Shu may have had good reason) were sorted before Sun Jian fought another battle. The dynamics between the two are very different in novel/history

The Three Brothers fighting Lu Bu, also appears to be a fiction, though a very grandiose fiction, warranting a long poem of its heroics that so many Chinese poets made just for this novel. In fact it seems also to be one of the only points Liu Bei physically engages another fighter. Except for Sun Jian and his sons, it seems the Three Kingdoms rulers themselves don't physically engage in duels, or honorable combat. (Sun Quan kind of wants to at the battle of He Fei but his advisers dissuade him.


Yep fiction but an epic duel.

I think it make sense for the rulers not be given duels, they have other attributes that define them whereas for other characters, those duels are a big part of their skillset and how they will be defended. Audience may also not expect rulers to recklessly risk themselves by fighting duels
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15112
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:07 pm

Chapter 6: In Razing the Capital Dong Zhuo Commits Heinous Crimes
By Concealing the Jade Seal, Sun Jian Betrays The Confederation


Chapter 6 opens with a confrontation between Sun Jian and Yuan Shu over last chapters battle where Sun Jian was “defeated”. (correction Historical Yuan Shu did withhold supplies from Sun Jian) Yet once again, there appears to be an inconsistency of the fiction component of the novel, due to the fact that Sun Jian will listen to Yuan Shu later on (fatefully) eventhough Shu and Jian are very much at odds in the novel. Mainly, why would Jian listen to someone who is apparently doing everything to hurt him? Apparently the historical relationship of the two was much different.

Li Jue attempting to persuade Sun Jian into a marriage alliance with Dong Zhuo, why insert this here? Maybe theres a historical relevance, (Cao Cao does later arrange something similar between Cao Ren's daughter and Sun Kuang, Sun Ce's younger brother), but this little episode seems to contribute nothing.

There's always some kind of children's song, prophetic saying, etc going around when something of a turning point is about to happen in the novel. When Liu Bei obtains Zhuge Liang's services, there's one, when he takes Shu there's one. Apparently Cao Cao was foreordained to conquer the Northern heartland, etc.

Dong Zhuo wants to retreat closer to his power base, as he is from Xiliang, the Westernmost Han province, so moving to Chang An from Luoyang is part of this. Yang Biao avoids losing his head once again, though his colleagues aren't so lucky. Dong Zhuo decides to loot and pillage all the people in general in Luoyang, greedy, sure, evil, sure, calculated, yes. Better not to leave all that money for the Confederation's lords to take isn't it now. One wonders in Han dynasty China, didn't people know how to hide there wealth, or put some of it somewhere else so that these things won't happen to them? Normally banditry would be to blame here, but instead its, a more, organized, banditry. Or perhaps things like this were quite rare and didn't often happen. Or perhaps it was pretty commonplace to keep all of ones wealth in one place. Though, its figured the capital city would be pretty safe, so it is heinous what Dong Zhuo is doing.

Cao Cao charges after Dong Zhuo, and is defeated, quite convincingly in the novel. Yet, it seems he really just lost due to lack of men, otherwise he isn't really showing he's a tactical genius like he will be later on. Perhaps Cao Cao pursued half-heartedly expecting a loss, and did this as some kind of rallying gesture for the cause, or perhaps to lose on purpose to get the confederation to break up. The latter would explain is feelings about how the whole Coalition of Lords should have really worked out which he describes to Yuan Shao later in the chapter. In effect, doesn't like how things are going, or went, needed a convincing exit.

A pretty decent history of the Han Imperial Seal can be found here. Along with Sun Jian finding it. An observant reader would at first think, Sun Jian is kind of being an ass for not giving up the Seal. Yet, why should he? Sun Jian, found the Imperial Seal, he doesn't need to give it up to anyone, because there's no one around more legitimate to really have it then him, and its not like he could go to Emperor and just say “here's your seal back”.

Liu Biao was historically appointed by Dong Zhuo's controlled Han Court, as Governor of Jingzhou, the Central Province. Yuan Shao shows he's much better at playing warlord than actually being say a regent for the Han Emperor, or loyalist general. His overbearing entitlement is probably half-ploy for simply wanting to keep the Imperial Seal himself. Yuan Shao as arrogant Noble, mostly sums up his character in the novel. Sun Jian of course gets past Liu Biao here and flees to his home district which he is governor of, Changsha.

Yuan Shao was more than happy to have a Dong Zhuo appointee governor help him out, meaning he doesn't really care about legitimacy, the next chapter will bear this out. Yet perhaps, just perhaps, Cao Cao made this whole coalition to embarrass the two Yuan brothers. Losing It certainly dents Yuan Shao's prestige, and Cao Cao would need that if he were to carve out his own territory, since as a noble, Shao could already possibly command more respect and authority than him. Yuan Shao's indecisiveness certainly plays a role, but had the perception of Shao as capable leader of the realm been established proper, its quite likely many of the regional lords around him would have either gone along with him, or surrendered to him. Note Cao Cao, encounters very little resistance in this, especially when acquiring Yanzhou and Yuzhou, it takes something special to really make a mess for Cao Cao to handle.

Chapter 7: Yuan Shao Battles Gongsun Zan at the River Pan
Sun Jian Attacks Liu Biao Across the Great River


The reader should note that in Chapter 7 we meet a central character to Liu Bei's journey in the novel, and find the root of one of his major conflicts.

Yuan Shao wants to divide Jizhou with Gongsun Zan? Gongsun Zan, accepts sends his men, getting the governor Han Fu to fear him and turn to Yuan Shao. Han Fu's simply incompetence loses him the province, otherwise he could have ignored especially Yuan Shao. The importance of information begins to play a part here, as it will later on in many scenes in the novel. Had Han Fu simply done some scouting, spied out the situation, and gotten the real details of why Yuan Shao was coming, the situation might have played out differently. Or At least, the armies would end up wrecking the province they wanted as prize, making the prize worthless.

Gongsun Zan simply goes right after Yuan Shao, on learning Shao won't give him his share. Plan-less, not very much prepared, gets defeated. Zhao Yun, (Zhao Zilong) a main character of the novel, comes in and saves the day. Yuan Shao nearly gets what for in the next part of the battle, but is himself saved by his generals. A reader should note that Shao is not a brilliant general, he's winning more or less because he has more personnel and more soldiers, not really because he's using them correctly. Gongsun Zan on the other hand has his personnel killed and has less men. This idea will be central to Yuan Shao's main part in the novel later on.

Liu Bei and his brothers, Cameo in and save Gongsun Zan and drive off Yuan Shao, thus ending this part of the chapter. Zhao Yun instantly likes Liu Bei, mainly because Zan somewhat ignored him despite being rescued first by Zhao Yun.The novel doesnt explain why Zhao Yun and Liu Bei seem to get along so very well, that they have a manly tearful goodbye at the end of the episode. Other than to make it obvious that Zhao Yun will be Liu Bei's man and a major character, its not quite convincing, readers are simply being told, not shown.

We now turn to Sun Jian, of all things, at Yuan Shu's goading, moving to attack Liu Biao. Cheng Pu, not for the first time, will properly disagree with a course of action and be ignored. If historically, Yuan Shu and Sun Jian had a better relationship, it makes sense why Cheng Pu saying not to heed Yuan Shu's goading is in fact ignored.

Jian starts off well, kills a few generals, capture a Huang Zu, all round a capable leader, unlike Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan. Throughout his short part in the novel, Jian appears decisive, brave if a little reckless, and a proper leader. Maybe not the most calculated like Cao Cao, but when he has a course of action in mind, he does it with resolve.

This of course if the weakness that gets Jian killed. Sun Jian follows after Lu Gong, Liu Biao's messenger to Yuan Shao (makes sense has Jian is being moved by Shu, so Liu Biao should be appealing to Yuan Shao, as the brothers seem to be at odds with one another). Jian should never have needed to go after Lu Gong, let alone worry about Yuan Shao “sending aid” , he's to far away anyway.
Yet without Sun Jian's death by ambush in pursuit of this, and the total demoralization of his forces due to this, we don't get the next major actor of the Sun Family, Sun Ce.

A central conflict of the Novel will be over the Jing Province. Although, the Sun Family's reasoning is very weak for wanting the province. Okay, yes Liu Biao is responsible for Sun Jian's death, Sun Jian was the one who wanted to attack the province, invaded it, without good reason. (arbitrary revenge sure). So where does the South's Precedent in the novel at least, come from in wanting Jingzhou. It was never their province to begin with, and the never had a real reason to deserve it. Of course the very easy arbitrary line of "Liu Biao killed my Dad so i want his land as payment" is kind of usable, but still sounds really unconvincing.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
User avatar
Lord Yang Jiahua
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:24 pm
Location: Well....Not entirely sure if its America anymore

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:29 pm

Chapter 6 opens with a confrontation between Sun Jian and Yuan Shu over last chapters battle where Sun Jian was “defeated”. (correction Historical Yuan Shu did withhold supplies from Sun Jian) Yet once again, there appears to be an inconsistency of the fiction component of the novel, due to the fact that Sun Jian will listen to Yuan Shu later on (fatefully) eventhough Shu and Jian are very much at odds in the novel. Mainly, why would Jian listen to someone who is apparently doing everything to hurt him? Apparently the historical relationship of the two was much different.


Yes the historical dynamics between the two are utterly different from the novel one, not sure if to ensure Yuan Shu looks worse or to just ensure Sun name isn't damaged by connection.

Li Jue attempting to persuade Sun Jian into a marriage alliance with Dong Zhuo, why insert this here? Maybe theres a historical relevance, (Cao Cao does later arrange something similar between Cao Ren's daughter and Sun Kuang, Sun Ce's younger brother), but this little episode seems to contribute nothing.


It's historical. Possibly included in novel to buff up Sun Jian's reputation by showing even Dong admired him

Dong Zhuo wants to retreat closer to his power base, as he is from Xiliang, the Westernmost Han province, so moving to Chang An from Luoyang is part of this. Yang Biao avoids losing his head once again, though his colleagues aren't so lucky. Dong Zhuo decides to loot and pillage all the people in general in Luoyang, greedy, sure, evil, sure, calculated, yes. Better not to leave all that money for the Confederation's lords to take isn't it now. One wonders in Han dynasty China, didn't people know how to hide there wealth, or put some of it somewhere else so that these things won't happen to them? Normally banditry would be to blame here, but instead its, a more, organized, banditry. Or perhaps things like this were quite rare and didn't often happen. Or perhaps it was pretty commonplace to keep all of ones wealth in one place. Though, its figured the capital city would be pretty safe, so it is heinous what Dong Zhuo is doing.


They may well have wealth outside the capital and I imagine a lot of gentry did but if your in a city which has been shut down by a well organized force, forced out along with everyone else then going to be very difficult to hide your money. Like you say, people would not have expected what Dong was about to do which may have made miliatry sense but is a symbolic disaster and unthinkable

Cao Cao charges after Dong Zhuo, and is defeated, quite convincingly in the novel. Yet, it seems he really just lost due to lack of men, otherwise he isn't really showing he's a tactical genius like he will be later on. Perhaps Cao Cao pursued half-heartedly expecting a loss, and did this as some kind of rallying gesture for the cause, or perhaps to lose on purpose to get the confederation to break up. The latter would explain is feelings about how the whole Coalition of Lords should have really worked out which he describes to Yuan Shao later in the chapter. In effect, doesn't like how things are going, or went, needed a convincing exit.


In fairness, it is Cao Cao's second camapign with, in essence, an inexperienced volunteer army vs the elite Han/Dong army while we see an example of his cleverness in his being the one figure to have a general overall plan. In terms of the battle, I think Cao Cao was simply trying to take advantage of a retreating enemy, I see no sign he went into battle to break up the mass alliances

A pretty decent history of the Han Imperial Seal can be found here. Along with Sun Jian finding it. An observant reader would at first think, Sun Jian is kind of being an ass for not giving up the Seal. Yet, why should he? Sun Jian, found the Imperial Seal, he doesn't need to give it up to anyone, because there's no one around more legitimate to really have it then him, and its not like he could go to Emperor and just say “here's your seal back”.


I don't think Sun Jian looks particularly good the way he handles it, faking an illness to get out of his duty, breaks a solemn oath, tries to murder someone who saw what he did. I do agree it is hard not to see the other warlords doing the exact same thing but he could have given seal to the coalition which would have been the proper thing to do

Yuan Shao was more than happy to have a Dong Zhuo appointee governor help him out, meaning he doesn't really care about legitimacy, the next chapter will bear this out. Yet perhaps, just perhaps, Cao Cao made this whole coalition to embarrass the two Yuan brothers. Losing It certainly dents Yuan Shao's prestige, and Cao Cao would need that if he were to carve out his own territory, since as a noble, Shao could already possibly command more respect and authority than him. Yuan Shao's indecisiveness certainly plays a role, but had the perception of Shao as capable leader of the realm been established proper, its quite likely many of the regional lords around him would have either gone along with him, or surrendered to him. Note Cao Cao, encounters very little resistance in this, especially when acquiring Yanzhou and Yuzhou, it takes something special to really make a mess for Cao Cao to handle.


The novel Liu Biao is an ally of the coalition and thus a legitimate person to ask for help.

Nowhere in the novel accuses Cao Cao of all ill-faith in raising the alliance, Cao Cao is the driving force who tries to make things happen, who tries to destroy Dong. It would take him to know intimately every warlord on the list and amazing foresight for his raising alliance to have "and then we lose and ensure situations remains as is, which allows me to carve out my home base"

=====

A reader should note that Shao is not a brilliant general, he's winning more or less because he has more personnel and more soldiers, not really because he's using them correctly


He did have a clever plan for defeating Zan's famed cavalry and he rallied the troops when defeat seemed set

The novel doesnt explain why Zhao Yun and Liu Bei seem to get along so very well, that they have a manly tearful goodbye at the end of the episode. Other than to make it obvious that Zhao Yun will be Liu Bei's man and a major character, its not quite convincing, readers are simply being told, not shown.


True but I imagine LGZ felt there wasn't time to go into detail about their month together and would have time later to build up their relationship so for now, he goes for the big goodbye to show their bond

We now turn to Sun Jian, of all things, at Yuan Shu's goading, moving to attack Liu Biao. Cheng Pu, not for the first time, will properly disagree with a course of action and be ignored. If historically, Yuan Shu and Sun Jian had a better relationship, it makes sense why Cheng Pu saying not to heed Yuan Shu's goading is in fact ignored.


I think since the novel doesn't want to go down the historical relationships so has to make major changes to keep within "what happened" (like Sun Jian's death), the reasoning for invading Liu Biao makes sense, Yuan Shu proposes the two of them have mutual foes so why not ally, Sun Jian gets chance for revenge and land.

Agree about Sun Jian's characterisation in the battles

A central conflict of the Novel will be over the Jing Province. Although, the Sun Family's reasoning is very weak for wanting the province. Okay, yes Liu Biao is responsible for Sun Jian's death, Sun Jian was the one who wanted to attack the province, invaded it, without good reason. (arbitrary revenge sure). So where does the South's Precedent in the novel at least, come from in wanting Jingzhou. It was never their province to begin with, and the never had a real reason to deserve it. Of course the very easy arbitrary line of "Liu Biao killed my Dad so i want his land as payment" is kind of usable, but still sounds really unconvincing.


In fairness, I think the Suns reasons later is rather different. I do agree there is some unfairness about the Sun's wish for revenge given Sun Jian's behaviour over the seal led to Liu Biao's original attack and that Sun Jian died in battle but none the less, revenge does work as a motive for those vs Liu Biao conflicts
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15112
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: Commentaries by Lord Yang Jiahua

Unread postby Lord Yang Jiahua » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:01 pm

Chapter 8: Wang Yun Shrewdly Sets a Double Snare
Dong Zhuo Starts a Brawl at Phoenix Pavillion

This chapter is part 1 of 2 involving the killing of Dong Zhuo, poor fat basterd.....
Historically speaking, this is mostly fiction, though apparently Dong Zhuo did get killed by his own man Lu Bu, but it was only said to be over a serving girl.

Dong Zhuo is super nepotistic, apparently that's never been a thing, as his whole clan get titles in the government. In Chinese History, whenever anyone other than the Emperor has had a monopoly on power, they tend to appoint their extended family to as many positions as possible. In contrast to Europeans though, this says Chinese families, tended to be, extended.

A quarter of a million people build a whole new palace called Mei for Dong Zhuo, even if this is exaggerated as many of the figures regarding number of people are in the novel, even 1/5 the number is still quite astounding.

Dong Zhuo is definitely evil for totally mutilating and torturing and eventually executing surrendered troops publically in front of all the courtiers, his total relaxed attitude about it makes him into more of a psychopath. Mao notes one of the novel's sources is more graphic about it, quote “,The TS (P 71) is more graphic : “before dying, the victims kept coming back to the wine stands ,struggling for their lives.... After the banquet had adjourned, Dong Zhuo said that there was no cause for alarm as only criminals were being killed””, Putting two and two together, this may be somewhat more graphic, but, I fail to see how the latter on its own is more graphic in its barbarity except that its more detailed about the victims. Dong Zhuo is brutal, as an understatement, but then, if his whole point is to rule thru fear, he's doing a pretty good job.

Diao Chan, as a fictional character, is at the very least more heroic and the first of a couple heroic women in the novel. She's basically repaying the debt she owes her adopted father and in turn his debt to the Han dynasty as its servant but going ahead with the scheme. That scheme being to turn Lu Bu against Dong Zhuo by making Lu Bu fall for her.

Cynically, it says Diao Chan doesn't really have a choice but to follow her father's will, and basically offer herself to Lu Bu. Cynically it also proves a Chinese Historical Cliche that women cause the fall of dynasties, or rulers.

In context though, a reader must remember this is 2nd Century AD China in the novel, there were very very specific norms and expected conduct regarding women and men, and like most places in the world at the time, it was a total patriarchy.(And these norms lasted throughout Chinese History down to even a good part of the 20th century) Diao Chan is heroic because, shes basically going with the plan in order to kill the most evil bastard to take over the Han dynasty and be In power so far.

A reader should focus on the details of how Diao Chan behaves around Lu Bu and Dong Zhuo respectively, that or Lu Bu is just extremely gullible, but therein lies the art and how aware Diao Chan is to actually accomplish the plan to kill Dong Zhuo.

After inviting Lu Bu to dinner, showing him Diao Chan, and promising her to Lu Bu, Wang Yun, Diao Chan's father, and author of the plan, repeats the process to Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun then skillfully convinces Lu Bu that Dong Zhuo made off with Diao Chan, and knows that Dong Zhuo more enthralled with Diao Chan than Lu Bu, will actually antagonize Lu Bu over him believed Diao Chan to be his.

Li Ru, sees through the whole thing, showing at least that Wang Yun isnt as smart as he thinks he is. But Dong Zhuo ignores Li Ru, who correctly predicts in Chapter 9 that Diao Chan is being used to overthrow him and will be his ruin. This shows Diao Chan's skill as courtesan and her beauty as being extraordinary to convince Dong Zhuo.

Another Context for the whole episode: Perhaps Lu Bu actually was aware of what was going on, but went along with it, after all, if hes such a powerful warrior he probably would eventually resent being commanded by someone somewhat inferior to him. Lu Bu is portrayed in the novel as a particularly bad person for especially killing Ding Yuan and than Dong Zhuo his “adopted Fathers” and for being somewhat dumb when it comes to actual strategy and battle tactics, or listening to his advisers later on.

A short weighing of the matter at hand, if Lu Bu believes Dong Zhuo implicitly trust hims, why would Dong Zhuo know that Wang Yun's daughter was “promised” to him, it would say Zhuo was spying on him. That's the first question Lu Bu should have asked. Either implying Zhuo doesn't trust him, or that he can't have his own privacy. Secondly, the fat bastard can basically have anything he wants, so him getting Diao Chan should not be surprising considering his power and position. Showing that Lu Bu is rather dumb to not consider either of these, or perhaps thats just how convincing Diao Chan was to Lu Bu is the art of the storyteller.

Lu Bu could have conceded that latter formality had Diao Chan not been very convincing, he could have conceded the former logic had Zhuo been as suspicious of people as the novel will eventually depict Cao Cao as. However if Lu Bu conceded the former, it would inevitably say his master doesn't trust him, had he conceded the latter knowing the former it would also have the exact same result, he cannot concede both points though, had Diao Chan either not been as convincing as she was, or had Lu Bu been able to resist her charms.

If Lu Bu doesn't fall for Diao Chan, but Zhuo ends up with her, then his master is spying on him. If Zhuo gets Diao Chan because he is simply all powerful, but Lu Bu saw her first but wasn't convinced by her charms, he could have written off the latter possibily but, it still means his master was probably spying on him, and didn't trust him. Either way, Wang Yun's plan plants the seed of distrust between Lord and Vassal. Though, it may have had a less, deadly, result had it not been as particularly effective.
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
User avatar
Lord Yang Jiahua
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:24 pm
Location: Well....Not entirely sure if its America anymore


Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved