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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:16 pm

I agree with HanXin94 that the Mandate of Heaven didn't exist to establish superiority, though that can be a result of having it.

Jiyuan Yu in Three Kingdoms and Chinese Culture describes it this way:

"When the Zhou house overthrew its predecessor, the Shang dynasty, its justification was that the Shang dynasty had forfeited the Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming) through its misrule. From that time on, the loss of the Mandate of Heaven became the major justification for the change of dynasty. How, then, can one determine where the Mandate of Heaven lies? According to Confucianism, the most decisive clue is to see whether the ruler wins over the hearts of the people."

A ruler who loses the support of the people has lost the Mandate. It doesn't matter how superior they make act; it can be lost if they lack servitude. It's this seemingly antithetical blending of superiority and servitude that defines a Son of Heaven.
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Akirus » Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:24 pm

Jia Nanfeng wrote:I agree with HanXin94 that the Mandate of Heaven didn't exist to establish superiority, though that can be a result of having it.

Jiyuan Yu in Three Kingdoms and Chinese Culture describes it this way:

"When the Zhou house overthrew its predecessor, the Shang dynasty, its justification was that the Shang dynasty had forfeited the Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming) through its misrule. From that time on, the loss of the Mandate of Heaven became the major justification for the change of dynasty. How, then, can one determine where the Mandate of Heaven lies? According to Confucianism, the most decisive clue is to see whether the ruler wins over the hearts of the people."

A ruler who loses the support of the people has lost the Mandate. It doesn't matter how superior they make act; it can be lost if they lack servitude. It's this seemingly antithetical blending of superiority and servitude that defines a Son of Heaven.


That's entirely conceptual. At the root of it, it's a fabrication of the early Zhou kings to convince others to submit to their rule after they displaced the Shang. It was easier for later kings and emperors to use the same line of reasoning than invent their own, whether they're trying to maintain their authority or usurp another. The reality is that you lose your 'Mandate of Heaven' when you lack the influence to exert your fiction against others. The 'definition' is so vague that it can easily be wrought to suit the victor of the conflict. You can make the case the Han lost their mandate in the late 2nd century if the multiple rebellions, famines and constant conflict were any indication (some did; hi Yuan Shu).

I disagree with your statement that superiority is the result of holding the mandate. It's the opposite; the powerful use it as a tool to justify their position on top - again, regardless of whether they're the incumbent or the usurper. Having a 'mandate' with no authority is useless in practice - case in point, Xiandi as an example of an incumbent, or Yuan Shu as an example of a usurper.

Accepting this doctrine wasn't optional at the time and no doubt scholars have come up with plenty of dressing. When you consider its practical utility as a political tool, it's pretty obvious why it was maintained for so long, though. I don't see how one can deny this when it has been the pattern almost since humans started forming civilizations. There are analogues in every part of the world.

If you believe doctrine like this is rooted in some attempt to create a fair system guided by heaven and not an instrument for the ruling class to cement their superiority, we'll probably never agree about this. I'd recommend reading some general history books that discuss the role of religion and mysticism in early civilizations (Ian Morris comes to mind). It has always been much easier to rule when everyone believes they're following the will of a higher power (and that will happens to conveniently align with yours).
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby wk123 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 5:09 pm

It depends what we meant by more intelligent. From the novel? A dodo is more intelligent then the novel Liu Shan :P So in that sense, it is true. However the historical records do indicate Liu Shan wasn't very bright and that officers like Zhuge Liang and Qiao Zhou were aware of it so they kept their memorials with simple, easy to understand concepts for example. He wasn't considered a bad emperor and was considered to be a kind man until far far later his reputation got given a kicking

I have heard there is a theory in China that argues he was really intelligent and foresaw doom?


They really give his ratings a beating in the games too.

Would be interesting to explore whether he was:
1) really that slow with possible mental ailment
2) average, but self-aware, so deferred to smarter folks

In his defense, in almost all media depictions, Liu Shan is shown as extremely filial towards Zhuge Liang and sympathetic towards Li Yan, would almost lean towards #2.
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:24 pm

Akirus wrote:That's entirely conceptual. At the root of it, it's a fabrication of the early Zhou kings to convince others to submit to their rule after they displaced the Shang. It was easier for later kings and emperors to use the same line of reasoning than invent their own, whether they're trying to maintain their authority or usurp another. The reality is that you lose your 'Mandate of Heaven' when you lack the influence to exert your fiction against others. The 'definition' is so vague that it can easily be wrought to suit the victor of the conflict. You can make the case the Han lost their mandate in the late 2nd century if the multiple rebellions, famines and constant conflict were any indication (some did; hi Yuan Shu).

I disagree with your statement that superiority is the result of holding the mandate. It's the opposite; the powerful use it as a tool to justify their position on top - again, regardless of whether they're the incumbent or the usurper. Having a 'mandate' with no authority is useless in practice - case in point, Xiandi as an example of an incumbent, or Yuan Shu as an example of a usurper.


Confucianism isn’t just arbitrary platitudes. Winning over the people was believed to be an indicator of a true Son of Heaven, and this was held in earnest by many – this would require more than mere acts of superiority. Whether or not the Mandate was misused and abused as a tool to gain influence (and it was, a lot) has no bearing on this belief.

I think maybe what’s happening so far in this thread is that we have people addressing the intent of the Mandate as more than a source of superiority, and people addressing the too-often realization of the Mandate as merely a source of superiority. Both can be correct at the same time.

If you believe doctrine like this is rooted in some attempt to create a fair system guided by heaven and not an instrument for the ruling class to cement their superiority, we'll probably never agree about this. I'd recommend reading some general history books that discuss the role of religion and mysticism in early civilizations (Ian Morris comes to mind). It has always been much easier to rule when everyone believes they're following the will of a higher power (and that will happens to conveniently align with yours).


Telling me to read some books seems a tad condescending. I already own and have read several books about Chinese spiritualism and religion. I made a grand total of one post in this thread about the Mandate and most of it was a quotation (ironically from a book!); don’t be so quick to think I need to read or that we’ll never agree. In fact we have already agreed to an extent: I acknowledge fully that the Mandate was used to gain influence, perhaps more often than not. And I’m well aware that religion has been used as a tool by the ruling class for eons; I’m just careful not to mistake a tool’s misuse for its intended use.

I think you are too dismissive of the importance of Confucianism to ancient and imperial China if you don’t believe they tried to use its doctrine to create fair systems in politics and society.

Akirus wrote:If you believe doctrine like this is rooted in some attempt to create a fair system guided by heaven and not an instrument for the ruling class to cement their superiority, we'll probably never agree

To further address this dismissal: If belief in the Mandate wasn't earnest, we wouldn't have had Emperors performing rituals to communicate with the heavens; we wouldn't have had imperial astronomers employed to read the signs of the sky, nor imperial daoists to interpret omens and portents.

Unfortunately, as you've explained, interpretation was open to abuse: an Emperor could hear from Heaven what he wanted to hear, and see what he wanted to see. He could mold Heaven's command to match his own desires.

Mencius wrote at length about this. Such abuse would inevitably lead to misery amongst the populace, and misery amongst the populace was a sign that the present empire had lost Heaven's Mandate, since peace, by contrast, was in its will; furthermore, Heaven allows such abuse to occur so that a poor ruler may reveal himself, and ultimately incite a revolution leading to a new Empire that will hopefully earn the people's favor.

This is why every usurping power believed to have the Mandate. If conditions were such that an empire could be or should be overthrown, then the Mandate must now be with the new rulers, as Heaven had apparently willed the transfer of power. And then we're back to square one with rituals.

Again, this wasn't just a matter of convenience -- most rulers went to great lengths to please the Heavens. The Mandate was a real thing to most Chinese. Of course there were rulers who abused it to gain influence; there were probably even rulers who didn't believe in it at all. This doesn't change the fact that "the Mandate exists to establish superiority" is the wrong way to look at it.
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Akirus » Tue Jul 24, 2018 3:40 am

Telling me to read some books seems a tad condescending. I already own and have read several books about Chinese spiritualism and religion. I made a grand total of one post in this thread about the Mandate and most of it was a quotation (ironically from a book!); don’t be so quick to think I need to read or that we’ll never agree.


I apologize if it felt condescending. I didn't mean to say you need to read more, but rather books discussing world history as a whole may be of interest to you. I'd prefer not step on any more toes so I'll leave it at that.
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:04 am

Akirus wrote:
Telling me to read some books seems a tad condescending. I already own and have read several books about Chinese spiritualism and religion. I made a grand total of one post in this thread about the Mandate and most of it was a quotation (ironically from a book!); don’t be so quick to think I need to read or that we’ll never agree.


I apologize if it felt condescending. I didn't mean to say you need to read more, but rather books discussing world history as a whole may be of interest to you. I'd prefer not step on any more toes so I'll leave it at that.

It's okay, no toes hurt. I'm still willing to hear any response or rebuttal to what I wrote; if not then that's okay too. :mrgreen: I also apologize if I was snippy.

While I'm probably not as well-versed as you are in how religion has influenced the world at large, I feel like I have a good grasp on the role it played in ancient and imperial China; it's been an interest of mine for a while!
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Jul 24, 2018 1:52 pm

wk123 wrote:
It depends what we meant by more intelligent. From the novel? A dodo is more intelligent then the novel Liu Shan :P So in that sense, it is true. However the historical records do indicate Liu Shan wasn't very bright and that officers like Zhuge Liang and Qiao Zhou were aware of it so they kept their memorials with simple, easy to understand concepts for example. He wasn't considered a bad emperor and was considered to be a kind man until far far later his reputation got given a kicking

I have heard there is a theory in China that argues he was really intelligent and foresaw doom?


They really give his ratings a beating in the games too.

Would be interesting to explore whether he was:
1) really that slow with possible mental ailment
2) average, but self-aware, so deferred to smarter folks

In his defense, in almost all media depictions, Liu Shan is shown as extremely filial towards Zhuge Liang and sympathetic towards Li Yan, would almost lean towards #2.


Yeah the ROTK games are not kind to some figures

There is certainly a risk sometimes that, as courts would have the brightest of the brightest, a ruler can look worse. Thinking about it, I would suggest Liu Shan was probably the stupidest of the main (Wei, Wu, Shu) three kingdom rulers (bar possibly Cao Fang and Cao Huan as I don't know enough about them to comment). In fairness plenty of 3kingdom rulers were smart but few in his time or following considered Liu Shan a bright figure, his decision making doesn't seem particularly good. Certainly no mental ailment, he was capable of taking decisions, there wasn't alarm in court or special measures needed to be taken like a regency.

Liu Shan's interests were in things like music, girls and sightseeing, his style of rule tended to be leave to his chief ministers, back them against their critics (which works when it is Zhuge Liang, not so much when it is Jiang Wei) and tended to make the more lenient choice when it came to punishment. The best thing to say about Liu Shan is he did command loyalty even after he surrendered, he was a kindly soul who even the original critics of his surrender felt did it out of good intent for others and he provided stability that rival kingdoms lacked.

Didn't Liu Shan begrudge the Zhuge Liang worship?
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:40 pm

wk123 wrote:
It depends what we meant by more intelligent. From the novel? A dodo is more intelligent then the novel Liu Shan :P So in that sense, it is true. However the historical records do indicate Liu Shan wasn't very bright and that officers like Zhuge Liang and Qiao Zhou were aware of it so they kept their memorials with simple, easy to understand concepts for example. He wasn't considered a bad emperor and was considered to be a kind man until far far later his reputation got given a kicking

I have heard there is a theory in China that argues he was really intelligent and foresaw doom?


They really give his ratings a beating in the games too.

Would be interesting to explore whether he was:
1) really that slow with possible mental ailment
2) average, but self-aware, so deferred to smarter folks

In his defense, in almost all media depictions, Liu Shan is shown as extremely filial towards Zhuge Liang and sympathetic towards Li Yan, would almost lean towards #2.


Given that we have evidence of actual ruler with a mental disability, it is completely safe to say Liu Shan had no mental disorders Hui-di, Sima Zhong, was an Emperor with mental disabilities and it is rather obvious how different he was from Liu Shan. There's the whole "Why do frogs croak?" story, Empress Jia Nanfeng covering up his disability and the fact that no one ever questions why all of the regents controlled him. Liu Shan shows no evidence ever of any disability, and people often question just why he gave free reign of the government to Zhuge Liang and all of his successors.
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby wk123 » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:24 pm

Thank you both Dao and Dong for the expert responses and confirmation that Liu Shan did not have mental ailment.

Agreed that both ZGL and Jiang Wei were warmongers who wasted Shu resources for decades, I think some of the DW iterations referred to that too.

Question: If Liu Bei lived after Yiling, and Liu Shan did not have to rule so early, would Shu's fate be the same?
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Re: Is this forum still active?

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:30 pm

I wouldn't say that Zhuge Liang was any more of a warmonger than anyone else really. He cared about domestic affairs quite a lot, and always made sure the state was maintained well before heading off. The issue always came in execution. Transporting supplies through the gallery roads, the great distance it took, the superior terrain for Imperial Wei, the better generals: there wasn't much he could do to overcome that barring a miracle.

He's not The King of Yan who commands rivers to defeat Wei after all. :wink:

As for Shu's fate if Liu Bei survived, I can't say. I'm not really one for what-if's. Shu may have been in a better spot, it's perhaps possible. But that all depends on how open Liu Bei is to renewing the Sun-Liu Alliance, and if he would entrust someone else more on military matters than Zhuge Liang as he had done previously with Pang Tong, Fa Zheng and Huang Quan. If I recall he named Li Yan as the one to take over militarily after his death and Li Yan was a man of talent, though he had his poor qualities that Zhuge Liang didn't have. It's a complex thing to think about and I'm sure someone more read on Shu might be able to give a better answer.
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