The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

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

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:39 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:-Wow that heir situation was open to abuse. De Crespigny seems to being careful to give Dowager Deng benefit of the doubt, one can see why ignoring Liu Sheng was a problem even if the Dowager had good reason


Lady Yan showed just how open to abuse the system was, in comparison it's no surprise that Lady Deng 's actions look okay.

Dong Zhou wrote:-I see why the ranks and how they were kept limited but still leaves an uneasy feeling while I think telling military rather then civil ranks were for sale.


It clearly sets a dangerous precedent. One that kicked later.

Dong Zhou wrote:-That was one horrible rebellion for the Han, the length, the expense both of the war and the rebuilding afterwards, the loss of prestige, strain on everyone else. Was a bad error to let the army get in such disrepair and as funny as the bronze mirrors story is, that is really bad equipment situation. Did feel like defeats were less the commanders but the situation on the ground as the professor notes. The withdrawals both of initial western regions then in front line areas both felt disorganized, miscommunicated and spiralled out of control.


Yeah, I felt sorry for the generals who were dismissed, it seems pretty clear that the problem wasn't to do with their capacity, or at least not exclusively so.

Dong Zhou wrote:-That is a lot of tax gathering problems. Felt De Crespigny set out the tax system fairly clearly and how it’s inability to really respond to fluctuations in farmer life led to people seeking patrons who had clout to use against local officials, making it getting government’s share of tax harder and harder.


Also led to the dependants system that made it so easy for the likes of Yuan Shao to rise an army!

Dong Zhou wrote:-Utter foolishness to depose of a Crown prince with no replacement, leaves a vacuum and damages the son if he ever becomes Emperor. I do question Emperor An’s failure to have Liu Bao’s household under control to prevent the intrigues


Biggest indictment of his rule for sure. He does not come across as a competent Emperor in the slightest.
Have a question about a book or academic article before you buy it? Maybe I have it!
Check out my library here for a list of Chinese history resources I have on hand!
User avatar
Sun Fin
Librarian of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 7715
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:20 pm
Location: Vicar Factory

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:36 pm

Until more people (hopefully) join in I'm going to continue with this, but might be less often than once a week, if that's okay with you Dong Zhou?

Chapter 5

- Again, we see the advantages of a strong Eunuch faction. They supported the rightful Emperor and allowed him to claim the throne. With no Dowager (and clan) around this was perhaps the Later Han's best chance to reassert itself with a strong Emperor? I also liked how they only punished "the closest adherents of the Yan group".

- Was interesting to learn more about Cao Cao's grand father (p240-1).

- Also, Liang Shang seems like stand up guy. Prevented his family from taking up to much rank, encouraged leniency to those who plotted against him and asked for a modest funeral. Literally no black marks against his name!

- Reading an ancient Chinese official described as playing both "football" and "board games" amused me. :lol:

- This is more a note for myself, but I wonder if the skirmish in 141 where Ma Xian died was the last time the Northern Army saw action? (p247)

- I have to say, I found the longish section on population the dullest part of the book so far.

- Sadly, my comment about the chance for the Later Han's fortunes to turn around didn't happen. Emperor Shun was sadly disinterested in the running of the country itself. Also unhelpful for the country that although he lived till 29 and had had a harem for more that half his life he only had one, one year old child at the time of his death. Therefore the pattern of strife was set to continue.
Have a question about a book or academic article before you buy it? Maybe I have it!
Check out my library here for a list of Chinese history resources I have on hand!
User avatar
Sun Fin
Librarian of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 7715
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:20 pm
Location: Vicar Factory

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:11 am

No problem Sun Fin

- Again, we see the advantages of a strong Eunuch faction. They supported the rightful Emperor and allowed him to claim the throne. With no Dowager (and clan) around this was perhaps the Later Han's best chance to reassert itself with a strong Emperor? I also liked how they only punished "the closest adherents of the Yan group".


All hail the eunuchs

- Also, Liang Shang seems like stand up guy. Prevented his family from taking up to much rank, encouraged leniency to those who plotted against him and asked for a modest funeral. Literally no black marks against his name!


Liang Shang does come across as a good man, it is unclear how effective he was but given the sheer temptations his posts held, he showed great restraint and set an example for others. It might not have been followed but that isn't Shang's fault.

Sun Fin wrote:- I have to say, I found the longish section on population the dullest part of the book so far.


The arguments of census, other then how history gets shaped, wasn’t of the greatest interest for me and elements of the population is stuff I have read before in Generals of South and the like so that didn't grab my attenton either. However the tax problems, how the country got wealthy but the centre got starved (while officials protested at court more then about their own tax dodging) was more to my taste

Sun Fin wrote:- Reading an ancient Chinese official described as playing both "football" and "board games" amused me. :lol:


It was a good way into Cao Cao's heart as well if Kong Gui is any guide :wink:

=====

Not as good as past chapter for me, the two key figures lack a certain pull of Deng Sui and Emperor An or the drama of the big revolts of old but still learned a lot. Opens well with the regency, De Crespign makes some interesting observations about the practicalities of Emperor Shun’s situation. I liked reading about the court affairs and foreign affairs was solid, the census wasn’t my thing.

Dowager Yan

-Chariot fighting!

-The thing that struck me in the early segments with ranks and so on after Emperor An’s death was “they are being too slow”. I’m not saying the appointments were bad or the plans were but in such circumstances, one has to move quickly before opponents can fill the vacuum, particularly with a rival candidate around.

Other times they were unlucky, the Emperor dying before they could get replacement candidates in, security forces failing to pick up plot but also self inflicted errors, Yan Xian’s drinking, failure to win over troops (though this seems a common issue and the one in-law that won troops loyalty got slagged off by the gentry), keeping Liu Bao in capital (yes under arrest an easy rallying point rather then outside, away from unreliable court)

-I do wonder if Dowager Yan was too eager to dismiss old allies and create further resentment while relying so much on family who, in one case at least, was not suited to task.

-Choice of Yan forces rallying point seems odd

Emperor Shun

-Clever handling by the controllers of Emperor Shun, the rewards, the soothing and blaming problems on the mistaken Emperor to enhance legitimacy, “healing the division” between Emperor and Dowager before killing him

-I was impressed by Emperor Shun making his power felt early when still young, I think he was right to act against Sun Cheng for forcing an issue when he had tried to get time to consider. I did lose track of time so when there were complaints about lack of children, I was initially shocked then realized years must have past.

I understand where the clinging onto his friends and favourites came from given what happened as Liu Bao. Seems to have an interest in scholars and willing to listen but perhaps lacking the energy and inclination to push through reforms or really take control since his officers seem to have managed without him. Not something one should encourage in one’s subject, nor should “choose my Empress”. The Professor’s summary of him seems fair

-Tactless by Zhang Heng to suggest the Gengshi Emperor. Fair possibly but never going to go down well. A very impressive man with his work on cartography, astronomy and the ancestor of seismographs

-Reformers… some questionable moves like the sheet extent of Yu Xu’s purges, the “not till 40”, the “there are so many evil doers…. Um…. Uh… um… I can think of one guy to sack” but generally there idea’s seem to have good even if they struggled to get them implemented beyond who they could sack. Reform requires will from those at the top to push it through and Emperor Shun lacked that drive.

-I wonder if one of the constant problems for Imperial University and for luring famed scholars was the lack of real reward. If you went to the University, what was the point? More likely to get fame and connections studying in other places or other tutors then at least get an invite even if Emperor Shun wasn’t the most generous with hiring packages. There doesn’t seem to have been a clear path for great students or great teachers to then get a boosted lift up the imperial rungs.

-They really piled it on with Empress Liang Na stereotypes. Credit to Liang Ji for overcoming stammer to become a man of presence, clearly a talented manoeuvred

-Zhang Gang’s point was amusing and true but still, should have gone. The Commission of Eight seems a great idea but it is, again, one of those were the Emperor needs to put force behind it. Emperor Shun seems well intentioned but his failure to throw support behind them when they implicated Liang family and favourites meant it was of limited use

Border trouble and land

-What was Yu Xu on? Liang Prosperous and defendable?

-It seems like the Han armies were well led with some problems when resources were lacking like the unfortunate Ma Xian but errors of policy like overreach, taking too much (which generals were prone to), punishment of Ban Yong for minor error and Chen Gui’s mistakes kept setting them back or stirring up trouble. Expensive trouble

-The scale of the revolts on the borders, troubles like Zhang Heng and Taishan (both something one sees again in the three kingdoms), the impressive resistance in Wuling and the finical desperation were new to me.

-Ouch on Sima Biao
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 16867
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:11 am

Chapter 6

I know I said this would be less often than weekly but... I have time today and don't know if I will do later this week and this chapter was FAR more interesting to me than the last one...

- If only Liu Suan had been chosen to be Emperor, maybe the Han could have been saved. Surely here we see a downside to the Empress Dowager having the power to choose.

- Interesting to see rebels announcing themselves as Emperor starting here. It seemed by the Three Kingdom’s period that it was almost normal for bandits to claim just grandiose titles.

- Having the wife of the Emperor being a member of the Dowager’s family was a stroke of genius by the Liang clan. I had questioned the rational in going for the rank a chapter or two earlier as it always led to their families disgrace but this could have been away to ensure continued prominence.

- It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Buyi had been the older sibling.

- I appreciated the ingenuity of Yuan Zhu, even having his own funeral to avoid Liang Ji’s attention.

- Also from what RDC has said I get that Nuying is worse than her sister had been, but I don’t see why Na was seen as ‘virtuous’. (p284)

- I wonder if the Lady Sun’s name has the same character as the Sun clan of Wu. If so, I’m surprised none of their rivals/enemies tried to associate them with her.

- I found the yearly routine of those from moderately affluent families interesting on p298. I can’t imagine that the great families, like the Yuan clan, were concerned about working in the fields in the summer months.

- I found the idea of revenge being celebrated being painful to read, much like how duelling and the like were accepted in the West.

- The Liang collapse was incredible. With so much power in their hands they should have been able to put up some kind of fight you’d have though… I found it interesting that there was no note or hint that they hadn’t won the loyalty of the Northern Army!
Have a question about a book or academic article before you buy it? Maybe I have it!
Check out my library here for a list of Chinese history resources I have on hand!
User avatar
Sun Fin
Librarian of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 7715
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:20 pm
Location: Vicar Factory

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:32 am

That's fine, I had read it over the weekend anyway

- If only Liu Suan had been chosen to be Emperor, maybe the Han could have been saved. Surely here we see a downside to the Empress Dowager having the power to choose.


Someone has to make the choice, there are dangers with any option. Yes with Dowagers it risks they choose who will let them keep power but in theroy they will know the past Emperor's mind, know the eunuchs and provide care for the new Emperor. Though I don't blame Dowagers for not wanting to surrender power

Also from what RDC has said I get that Nuying is worse than her sister had been, but I don’t see why Na was seen as ‘virtuous’. (p284)


A contrast in restraint I guess, understood the classics and so on, urged Shun to spread the love and was said to have done her duties diligently.

- I wonder if the Lady Sun’s name has the same character as the Sun clan of Wu. If so, I’m surprised none of their rivals/enemies tried to associate them with her.


Given the Sun's lack of status going into the civil war, I would say no

- I found the idea of revenge being celebrated being painful to read, much like how duelling and the like were accepted in the West.


Very much agreed. Suppose attitude was better to celebrate murder then pay your taxes :roll:

Sun Fin wrote:- The Liang collapse was incredible. With so much power in their hands they should have been able to put up some kind of fight you’d have though… I found it interesting that there was no note or hint that they hadn’t won the loyalty of the Northern Army!


I think generally, General in Chief's (apart from one that got slated) simply didn't win over the army, they didn't really try and I think De Crespigny just isn't repeating the same things he could say for the other failed chieftains who, when push comes to shoe, couldn't call on the army

====

I liked that chapter, the look into the finances, the (all too brief) glimpse at provincial life and dynamics, Liang Ji comes across as a very interesting figure. Professor De Crespigny has an eye for propaganda and tropes, where celebrated events may have been a problem, he observes the practicalities behind events.

Liang Ji

-Seems like some poor luck with Emperor Shun’s tomb being robbed casting a cloud, one early death though Emperor Zhi’s death must have been damaging for legitimacy of regency as was the utter blatant choosing of lesser relations who happened to be children. Liang’s at least seem to have their act together, moving quickly against foes while keeping an eye for PR implications (bar the way they handled Emperor Zhi), tending to be prepared if things look bad, willing to make their stands in court.

-Horrible way for Emperor Zhi to go. I can see how it might not be murder, Liang Ji may have learnt giving water didn’t work for the youngster, if sickly he may have kept Liu Zhu in reserve as a just in case. Such a public death (though a private one...) was awkward but blocking investigation is extremely suspicious

-De Crespigny is practical about how sexual tastes influenced matters of state, how Empress Liang Nuyang was (I’m thinking Catherine of Aragon here) the mature interesting woman who fascinates young male then loses control of her younger husband as her allure wanes

-Liang Boyu tale seems questionable given “oh and then he is never heard of again” which seems unlikely given Liang Ji’s fame/notoriety. Does feel like a mistake by Liang family for not keeping united, stand and fall together important for Imperial in-laws.

-Not only time “so corrupt and oppressive”=”um where are the revolts”, see Cao Shuang. De Crespigny has an eye for propaganda and hatchet jobs, it seems like Liang Ji was subject to that. He may well have been a ruthless player of the game and a master of patronage that Yuan family and Sun Quan also used, enjoying luxury and making a show of his wealth, loving nature and beauty. He may well have treated foes ruthlessly but not to the extent claimed, he may well have put his hegemony and riches clearly above the Emperor since his control of family and state was so strong and so long but again, historians may have gone overboard.

-Sun Shou and Liang Ji seem to have had an interesting, if possibly exaggerated, relationship seeking to one-up each other (may be an element of “look at Liang Ji, can’t control his household”). The smile sounds weird and I wonder if the descriptions are meant to be insulting. I wonder if Qin Gong three way relationship added or caused relationship problems

-Note to self: never enter pact with Emperor Huan, he is bitey

-De Crespigny well sets out how bad the Empress death was for Liang Ji, the loss of the controller of the Emperor’s household, the loss of eyes and ears within Emperor Huan’s house which gave Emperor Huan some freedom. The strikes against Deng’s family are odd and De Crespigny is probably right, Liang Ji saw danger in adult Emperor Huan without a control and made desperate moves to seal the danger quickly.

Feel that desperation led to rashness, Emperor Huan had not been acting against Liang Ji despite clear tensions but now his favoured lady was under threat and he himself may well be under threat. Emperor Huan was forced to act because Liang Ji went with the hammer rather then something more gentle

-Eunuchs like Teng Heng (if he had got one such recommendation wrong…) and Xu Huang were clearly effective in their rescue act, kept it fairly quiet, moved quickly when danger occurred by using Liang Ji’s move against him and had clearly found support.

-The collapse of Liang Ji’s position yes showed the power of the Emperor, he and his allies could still call on officials and when faced with a direct clash, Liang Ji’s support frittered away but I would also suggest the Liang family repeated the mistakes of old, not winning over the army. Rag tag troops at the capital was enough as Northern Army did not rally to the Liang (or particularly to the Emperor).

-Misc: Lady Yu must have hoped for more with her son being heir, Yuan She is clearly a dream neighbour, nasty little insults of Liang Yin. Ouch Fan Ye, ouch.

Powerful gentry and non Liang things

-That is a lot of revolts in the south and the tap into rival Emperors, as well as reflecting the attitudes of the region, suggest the Han’s sense of invincibility was badly fraying.

-Often when we see the mystic, it is either soothsayers, mystics or “trouble” like Zhang Jue, Zhang Lu, Gan Ji. It is nice to be remembered simply such beliefs in magic was a part of fabric of life at the time

-Interesting meaning behind the geese at a wedding

-I love Cui Shi’s phrase about authority and interesting arguments he makes about the loss of authority and the practical impact it was having

-Some decent foreshadowing in the powerful gentry section.

-How crippling that the Han had to try to force donations from private granaries and had so little they could offer the devastation in Ji because of the bad state of finances, must have cost public support. Why is “we should have less, the central government have more” not part of suggested reforms?

-I wish he had delved into the powerful gentry situation more but he gave a glimpse into life of the those on the ground, ritual, schooling, the increasing inequality, the vicious circle that harmed the Han’s power and those at the bottom while increasing gentry families local strength. The violence, the “heroes” (and heroines) who broke the laws and committed great crimes but became celebrated and protected, the thuggery behind the noble sounding “knight-errants”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 16867
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Aug 31, 2019 9:57 am

Dong Zhou wrote:
Someone has to make the choice, there are dangers with any option. Yes with Dowagers it risks they choose who will let them keep power but in theroy they will know the past Emperor's mind, know the eunuchs and provide care for the new Emperor. Though I don't blame Dowagers for not wanting to surrender power


That’s fair, whoever makes the decision will want to do so in a way that allows them to hold on to power… but maybe there needed to be a balance and check, that whoever made the decision wouldn’t get to be regent. Would be hard to implement though.
Have a question about a book or academic article before you buy it? Maybe I have it!
Check out my library here for a list of Chinese history resources I have on hand!
User avatar
Sun Fin
Librarian of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 7715
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:20 pm
Location: Vicar Factory

Previous

Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests

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