Historical Yuan Shao

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Historical Yuan Shao

Unread postby James » Mon Dec 08, 2003 7:58 am

We all know the SGYY Yuan Shao, the fellow who seemed to be brave enough on his own, but once he got conflicting advice from those he cared for he seemed to lose himself, unsure of what to do, and eventually letting things get worse through inaction.

What of San Guo Zhi Yuan Shao though? The historical one? I read his San Guo Zhi and I can find absolutely no reference to this, but I lack Pei Songzhi’s notes. I would actually like to know as much as possible about what sort of person he really was, and where Luo Guanzhong might have gotten his ideas for the Yuan Shao we see in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Edit: And do feel free to debate/discuss Yuan Shao in this context.
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:10 am

mayb the historical info on Yuan Shao's personality that lead to him being portrayed that way in SGYY is hidden in the bio's of some of his advisors, Tian Feng or Ju Shou, if they had bios for those people.
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Unread postby Kong Wen » Mon Dec 08, 2003 4:32 pm

I am always sceptical to what degree that kind of characterization is accurate. It seems like Luo Guanzhong had an "incompetant ruler" archetype on which he liked to rely. You can see the same thing in Liu Biao, and even sometimes in Cao Cao (which leads me to believe it's not entirely historically accurate).

One theory could be that, since Luo Guanzhong wanted to make Cao Cao look as bad as possible most of the time, he needed to take away from Cao's victory over Yuan Shao somehow. If Yuan Shao is portrayed as a bumbling fool, then Cao's victory doesn't seem as sweet. This would also explain why Yuan Shao didn't seem to be a bumbling fool until he was set up in opposition with Cao Cao.
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Unread postby Koichi » Mon Dec 08, 2003 5:19 pm

The follow passages I found from Yuan Shao's SGZ bio gave some clues to his personality:

Not long after, Dong Zhuo wanted to discuss with Yuan Shao regarding his plan to force Shao Di to abdicate in favor of the King of Chen Liu (Liu Xie). Yuan Shao was reluctant and gave the excuse that he needed to discuss the issue with his father, who was holding the highest appointment (Tai Fu) in the Han Court. When both of them could not see eye to eye for that matter, Yuan Shao left in a huff and fled to Yi Zhou (the northern province of China).


During that time, Guo Tu (who hailed from Ying Chuan), advised Yuan Shao to receive the Han Emperor in the capital city of Yuan Shao’s northern empire, the city of Ye. However, Yuan Shao objected to it. Subsequently, Cao Cao received the Han Emperor at Xu Chang and acquired the area south of the River. It was then that Yuan Shao regretted for not listening to Guo Tu’s advice.


In the 5th year of Jian An, Cao Cao personally led an eastern expedition against Liu Bei. Tian Feng advised Yuan Shao to take this opportunity to attack Cao Cao’s rear but Yuan Shao rejected his advice giving the excuse that his son was sick. Tian Feng was so frustrated that he lamented continuously for the lost of that golden opportunity.


At that time, Yuan Shao dispatched Chun Yuqiong with 10,000 troops to secure the supply train from the north. Ju Shou advised Yuan Shao to send Jiang Qi as reinforcement in case of attack by Cao Cao but Yuan Shao rejected his advice again.


During the beginning of Yuan Shao’s southern expedition, Tian Feng advised him against it due to various reasons such as Cao Cao’s military prowess, the weariness of the populace, etc. However, Yuan Shao was adamant about it and when Tian Feng repeatedly begged Yuan Shao to accept his advice, he was imprisoned by Yuan Shao on the account of disrupting the army’s morale.


When Yuan Shao was subsequently defeated by Cao Cao at Guan Du, Tian Feng was told that he might be given greater recognition for correctly predicting the failure of the expedition. To this, Tian Feng objected and he said that had Yuan Shao returned in triumph, he might overlooked the past but now that Yuan Shao was soundly defeated, it was not likely that Yuan Shao would let him live. True enough, Yuan Shao ordered Tian Feng to be executed on returning north and this was one example showing how Yuan Shao’s supposed generosity was merely an act while deep inside him, he was in fact a very narrow-minded person.


Hmm I guess this SGZ bio doesn't indicate an INDECISIVE personality just a stubborn, intolerant one that was responsible for a myriad of bad decisions.
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Unread postby Cao Zhi » Mon Dec 08, 2003 7:00 pm

If Benchu was such an incompetent fool, why did notable and talented men like Tian Feng, Ju Shou, and Zhang He serve him? Was it merely due to the Yuan family name and reputation, or was there some other reason?

Furthermore, one wonders why the intellegent and ambitious Mengde would ever hang around a loser like Benchu during their youth...
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Unread postby Koichi » Mon Dec 08, 2003 7:29 pm

Cao Zhi wrote:If Benchu was such an incompetent fool, why did notable and talented men like Tian Feng, Ju Shou, and Zhang He serve him? Was it merely due to the Yuan family name and reputation, or was there some other reason?

Furthermore, one wonders why the intellegent and ambitious Mengde would ever hang around a loser like Benchu during their youth...


The Yuan family were a clan of noblemen whose service to the Han dynasty date back to the Chu-Han war. As such, folks like Yuan Shao get dibs on the finest land, resources, as well as people to serve them. Yuan Shao had a lofty position in the Han army before the Dong Zhuo incident. About Yuan Shao's personality:

All the subsequent decedents of Yuan An were also given the appointment of one of the 3 Dukes, and the Yuan family had a powerful influence in China. Yuan Shao had a handsome face and he was able to mingle with his subordinates well. Cao Cao was one of those who befriended Yuan Shao. At that time, Yuan Shao was holding the appointment of Zhong Jun Xiao Wei (or something like the Captain of the Middle Army).


So it might be the case that Yuan Shao was not a bad person he was just a bad leader.
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Unread postby James » Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:00 pm

Two add-on questions: How much did his advisors historically bicker with each other, SGYY has them fighting with each other and attempting to one up each other at every turn. And if someone knows off the top of their head, the historical reasoning for Zhang He’s defection.
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Unread postby Lady Zhuge » Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:15 pm

James wrote: And if someone knows off the top of their head, the historical reasoning for Zhang He’s defection.


At Guan Du, Yuan Shao took Guo Tu's advice(which was to attack Cao Cao's main camp) instead of Zhang He's(which was to send reinforcements to aid Chunyu Qiong) and ended up losing to Cao Cao. After that defeat, Zhang He feared Yuan Shao and defected to Cao Cao. "Fear" is the word used in Zhang He's SGZ bio, but I personally believe that Zhang He didn't want to waste his talents working for someone like Yuan Shao any longer and that he would be better appreciated elsewhere.
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Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Tue Dec 09, 2003 5:33 am

James wrote:Two add-on questions: How much did his advisors historically bicker with each other, SGYY has them fighting with each other and attempting to one up each other at every turn. And if someone knows off the top of their head, the historical reasoning for Zhang He’s defection.


The advisors bickered enough to divide themselves into two factions, one that was proactive about attacking Cao Cao, and another that believed Yuan Shao was underestimating Cao Cao or overextending his army. The agressive side (Guo Tu, other advisors and generals that blank) won over Ju Shou, Tian Feng, and others that blank although since Ju Shou and Zhang He were buddies, I imagine he was on their side. Also, wasn't there some kind of personal resentment between Ju Shouo, Tian Feng, and Guo Tu and Friends about how they rose in ranks and authority so quickly whereas they were seasoned and should get seniority in terms of weight of their opinions? Again, Zhang He entered when Ju Shou did, so it could be for him when regarding his defection.

As for Zhang He's leaving, assuming he defected right after learning that the supply depot was burned. . . I wonder if Guo Tu actually slandered Zhang He, or if Yuan Shao would have truly just pulled a Tian Feng on Zhang He and even if Guo Tu did slander him, it wouldn't have been necessary. Either way, He had reason to fear/scoff at the fact/believe that he would be executed for being right when Yuan Shao was wrong. He could look back on the decision and see it was the right one. However, back to buddy-with-Ju Shou-thing, it would suck to see Ju Shou. . executed anyway. However, using that, one can probably tell that Ju Shou had more of a loyalty or connection or something to the Yuan family than Zhang He did, but that kind of leads nowhere.(Ha. I will NEVER get over Zhang He's name and the ability to use it as a proper noun and a pronoun at the same time. That makes my LIFE.)

Gah, either way, the top of my head just says that he defected with Gao Lan because the both of them were absolutely going nowhere in the attack on Cao Cao's main encampment, the supply depot was burned - something bad enough to begin with - but since Zhang He offered advice that was to precisely not place him where he was, Yuan Shao's army was going to be scattered and the morale would lower tremendously (especially now that Zhang He's morale was lowered), there was no food and there was no Chunyu Qiong, that was it. I think it was less having to do with Zhang He being right and defecting because he wasn't listened to than Zhang He being right and defecting because his army everywhere else was utterly destroyed, and, where was he? Conveniently in front of the gates of Cao Cao's main encampment.

I think that Yuan Shao was aggressive, and swordhandle-happy when angered or proved wrong. Obstinate, perhaps. If channeled in the right direction, it would be a positive trait, but if he's heading down the wrong path or following the wrong idea or desicion, the results were phenominally disastrous.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Tue Dec 09, 2003 9:08 am

James wrote:Two add-on questions: How much did his advisors historically bicker with each other, SGYY has them fighting with each other and attempting to one up each other at every turn.

I find two passages from Pei's notes on this: (extremely rough translation! Sorry I'm sleepy!)

Biography of Emperor Xian wrote:Shao was about to march south, and Ju Shou and Tian Feng admonished him against it saying, "[blahblahblah, read the novel...] After 3 years, we can be sure of victory." Shen Pei and Guo Tu said, "According to the manuals of war, blahblah if we don't attack now we'll never make it." Ju Shou said, "We don't have righteousness on our side, Cao isn't like Gongsun Zan, we're gonna die!" Tu and company said, "Yeah but we do have an excuse to fight him, and all our guys are eager for battle already. We can't just sit and wait." Shao agreed with him. So Guo Tu and company maligned Ju Shou, saying that he was getting too powerful and there's no saying where his loyalties lie. So Shao got worried and split Ju Shou's post (army overseer) into three, making Guo Tu and Chunyu Qiong each take one third of the job


[Really sorry for that non-translation! But you can find the details in the novel... basically they disagreed with the plan of action, and Guo Tu ended up slandering against Ju Shuo]

Acts of the Former Sages wrote:...Peng Ji was afraid of Tian Feng's uprightness, and so he slandered against him several times in front of Yuan Shao, and caused Shao to be suspicious of Tian Feng. [...] Shao said to Peng Ji, "When the people of Ji hear about the defeat of my army, they would think about me. But Tian Feng, unlike the others, had warned me against [the action] before, and I'm ashamed to see him now." Peng Ji said, "When Feng heard that you retreated, he clapped his hands and laughed, delighted that his words were right."...


So yes. Guo Tu and Peng Ji were pretty awful.
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