In defence of Sima Yi.

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In defence of Sima Yi.

Unread postby Han Xin » Sat Jun 15, 2002 3:59 am

Many people critised Sima Yi for not been a good field strategist, and that he was always on the defensive. Sima Yi like Zhuge Liang are not what one would call a field strategist, therefore he could be excuse for being on the defensive.

The way I see it, Sima Yi had a harder time in Wei than that of Zhuge Liang in Shu. When Liu Bei die, he made his son to treat Zhuge Liang as a father figure, this mean that many people in Shu could disagree with Zhuge Liang, but they could not undermind his authority. Sima Yi was not that lucky, even when he was given high rank, his had to thread very carefully to not allowed his political rivals to destroy him. Not only that, he had to defend two fronts from a two fierce rivals in Wu and Shu.

Most people excuse Zhuge Liang failure in his northern campaigns due to internal politics at home and a weak ruler, then how about Sima Yi? Cao Hui was not what one could call an ambitious ruler, and that Sima Yi never had any real power during the time of Cao Hiu, the Xiahou clan rely on the long service of their ancestor always wanted more power in Wei and usually oppose to whatever Sima Yi do.

That basically my thought about Sima. Any other criticism? :roll:
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Re: In defence of Sima Yi.

Unread postby Dennis » Sat Jun 15, 2002 4:40 am

Han Xin wrote:The way I see it, Sima Yi had a harder time in Wei than that of Zhuge Liang in Shu. When Liu Bei die, he made his son to treat Zhuge Liang as a father figure, this mean that many people in Shu could disagree with Zhuge Liang, but they could not undermind his authority. Sima Yi was not that lucky, even when he was given high rank, his had to thread very carefully to not allowed his political rivals to destroy him. Not only that, he had to defend two fronts from a two fierce rivals in Wu and Shu.


I have to disagree.

Not fundamentally though, just that Kongming's situation was no where near picture perfect. Imagine having a little inept king summon you back from your expeditions time and time again, or have a supplier Li Yan screw up your food order, or have fools like Gou An sell their immortal souls to Sima Yi because they were disciplined, and ruin Shan's trust in Kongming. All these factors didn't make Kongming's chances that much better than Zhongda's. I agree for the most part that Kongming had less work to do defending boarders. Shu and Wu being allies after all. Though when Kongming calmly settles five attacks in SGYY he does a pretty masterful job of defending a strengthened Sima Yi when Xuande was ill and Shu in turmoil.

Of course this is all based on SGYY. Curse my chinese being so poor.
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Unread postby Kleist » Sat Jun 15, 2002 3:09 pm

Personally, I dont think Zhongda did that bad against Kongming, or rather, let me say that somebody else could have done a lot worse. Even if you say that they both were plagued by the actions of idiots, there is still the issue of Kongmings basic mastery of all things strategic, and, perhaps more-so, his reputation as a god-like figure on the battlefield. In light of this, I think that Sima Yi lasting as long as he did was no small acheivement.
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Unread postby Anshi » Sat Jun 15, 2002 5:41 pm

First of all, historically the difference between the two men is that Zhuge Liang doesn't know when to attack and when to defend, Sima Yi does. Sima Yi knew that if he attacked Shu, the attack would probably fail (not because of Zhuge Liang, actually, but because Shu has lots of resources and Wei Yan, who is a much better tactician than Zhuge Liang.) In Hanzhong, Wei Yan had set up these defensive forts meant to stop anyone from coming into Shu, and Sima Yi knew that it was unlikely he was going to push his army through them....not because he lacked talent as a general, but simply because it was difficult for anyone to get through them. Deng Ai and Zhong Hui were not able to either...luckily for them, Jiang Wei simply took down those defenses Wei Yan had set up, and soon Shu was overrun.
Zhuge Liang just keeps attacking, and attacking, and attacking and losing to Sima Yi every time. In fact, the only campaigns Zhuge Liang even stood a chance of winning were the first two...the others were just wastes and effort. Sima Yi recognizes that Shu has a leader that is going to take all of its resources and flush them down the toilet, so when is the best time to attack a country: when it's stronger, or weaker? Duh, when it's weakest...it's just than Sima Yi wasn't alive when Shu was at it's weakest. If Sima Yi was alive in 263 he could have conquered Shu...that is exactly what he was setting Shu up for.
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Unread postby Dennis » Sat Jun 15, 2002 5:53 pm

Anshi wrote: In fact, the only campaigns Zhuge Liang even stood a chance of winning were the first two...the others were just wastes and effort.


Well his last campaign with the water horses actually seemed to have been doing fairly well from what SGZ said. The whole "Water Horse" thing, and when he had his soldiers till the land with the peasants, and make temporary farms. It seemed like a brillant idea to me, and to Sima Yi who in SGZ said that Kongming's camp was immaculate. Too bad he died from illness.
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Unread postby Anshi » Sat Jun 15, 2002 6:04 pm

Zhou Lide wrote:Well his last campaign with the water horses actually seemed to have been doing fairly well from what SGZ said. The whole "Water Horse" thing, and when he had his soldiers till the land with the peasants, and make temporary farms. It seemed like a brillant idea to me, and to Sima Yi who in SGZ said that Kongming's camp was immaculate. Too bad he died from illness.


All that suggests is that he could keep a good camp...if he would have stood a chance of winning, he would have called him a genius before he died, on the battlefield. After all, they did meet many many times...but this was the first time Sima Yi called him a genius. To me, it reflects more on Zhuge Liang's administrative capabilities than military capabilities.
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Unread postby James » Sat Jun 15, 2002 6:15 pm

Zhuge Kongming faced many problems in his northern campaigns. Cooperation from Wu was taken care of by Wei without too much difficulty, supplies were very hard to transport, and there is the basic matter of resources. By this point it is unlikely that anyone could have saved Shu considering the fact they were missing Fa Zheng and Pang Tong.

I do feel, however, that Zhuge Kongming made the best choice by staying on the offensive. It would have been advisable to clean up the internal problems first though. Having no civil issues at home would have made the northern campaigns much more efficient.
Zhou Lide wrote:Well his last campaign with the water horses actually seemed to have been doing fairly well from what SGZ said. The whole "Water Horse" thing, and when he had his soldiers till the land with the peasants, and make temporary farms. It seemed like a brillant idea to me, and to Sima Yi who in SGZ said that Kongming's camp was immaculate. Too bad he died from illness.

Supplies were well in order during the last campaign, but I am afraid that is probably only because Kongming dedicated so much time to monitoring it when a subordinate should have handled it. It is a shame Shu lost Pang Tong, he would have been a great choice for the front line and would have been perfect to execute Zhuge Kongming's plans.
Anshi wrote:
Zhou Lide wrote:Well his last campaign with the water horses actually seemed to have been doing fairly well from what SGZ said. The whole "Water Horse" thing, and when he had his soldiers till the land with the peasants, and make temporary farms. It seemed like a brillant idea to me, and to Sima Yi who in SGZ said that Kongming's camp was immaculate. Too bad he died from illness.

Sima Zhongda also went on to say he was a "true genius of the empire", something that goes beyond his camp.
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Unread postby Anshi » Sat Jun 15, 2002 6:20 pm

Zhuge Kongming wrote:Sima Zhongda also went on to say he was a "true genius of the empire", something that goes beyond his camp.


I said that Sima Yi was saying that Zhuge Liang was a genius of keeping his camp orderly...maybe even one of the best. But many people can be geniuses, even a "genius of the empire," and never even serve on the battlefield or in civil government. It seems like more of an ornamental title to me...the fact that he was not moved to say it until he was in his camp suggests it was not until then that he saw Zhuge Liang's area of genius: civil administration, NOT military.
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Unread postby Dennis » Sat Jun 15, 2002 6:26 pm

Anshi wrote:
Zhuge Kongming wrote:Sima Zhongda also went on to say he was a "true genius of the empire", something that goes beyond his camp.


I said that Sima Yi was saying that Zhuge Liang was a genius of keeping his camp orderly...maybe even one of the best. But many people can be geniuses, even a "genius of the empire," and never even serve on the battlefield or in civil government. It seems like more of an ornamental title to me...the fact that he was not moved to say it until he was in his camp suggests it was not until then that he saw Zhuge Liang's area of genius: civil administration, NOT military.


Altough you could theoretically argue that calling your nemesis "the genius of the empire" on open battle ground would be demoralizing for your own troops. Sima Yi may have thought this all the time but had to use his words sparingly so his men didn't think they were facing some sort of god, (which Guo Huai obviously thought, when Zhuge Kongming sent out his general he fled.) and had waited for Kongming to die or lose a battle and then utter the words: "Genius of the empire"
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Unread postby James » Sat Jun 15, 2002 6:27 pm

Anshi wrote:I said that Sima Yi was saying that Zhuge Liang was a genius of keeping his camp orderly...maybe even one of the best. But many people can be geniuses, even a "genius of the empire," and never even serve on the battlefield or in civil government. It seems like more of an ornamental title to me...the fact that he was not moved to say it until he was in his camp suggests it was not until then that he saw that his genius lay in keeping supplies in order.

That is perhaps a very good point, and certainly a possibility. Still, I feel we do not really have enough evidence to determine his exact meaning. It could have been honest admiration for him in every way, or it might have just been admiration directed to his ability to hold a military camp together. Personally, I fee it was really somewhere in the middle. I suspect Sima Yi not only admired his camp, but also admired him as an enemy.
Zhou Lide wrote:Altough you could theoretically argue that calling your nemesis "the genius of the empire" on open battle ground would be demoralizing for your own troops. Sima Yi may have thought this all the time but had to use his words sparingly so his men didn't think they were facing some sort of god, (which Guo Huai obviously thought, when Zhuge Kongming sent out his general he fled.) and had waited for Kongming to die or lose a battle and then utter the words: "Genius of the empire"

I had never thought of it this way. I must certainly agree with this possibility, before Zhuge Liang's death it would have been very bad for Sima Yi to speak of him in such a way.
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