Liu Bei and the Longzhong Plan: a fundamental conflict?

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Liu Bei and the Longzhong Plan: a fundamental conflict?

Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:35 am

Could Shu's ultimate failure be traced to an inherent incompatibility between Liu Bei and the Longzhong Plan?

There are three main steps to hegemony, according to Zhuge Liang's plan. First, Liu Bei must secure Jing and Yi provinces. Then, he must secure peace with the southern tribes while keeping an alliance with Sun Quan. Only after that, and maintaining good government in his land, can he look for an opportunity to attack Cao/Wei in the north.

This is why I say the Plan is inherently incompatible with Liu Bei. Liu Bei, having little claim to power or land, relies on being Legitimate (i.e. a scion of the imperial house and a virtuous one who follows the laws of propriety and benevolence) and Good to the commoners. He couldn't bring himself to take over Liu Biao's territory after Biao's death, nor take Pang Tong's advice and devour Yizhou at his first opportunity. To do either would mean betrayal to his family and losing popular support. Thus, indecisive at Liu Biao's death, he lost Jingzhou to Cao Cao; tarrying in Yizhou, he lost Pang Tong and Zhang Song, a lot of troops, and Zhang Lu's land went to Cao Cao. Neither could he fulfill the second prerequisite--friendship with Wu. After Guan Yu's death, he had no choice but to attack Wu, since he was bound by the same honour that he wished to use to impress the world with.

The Longzhong plan was designed to be flexible and pragmatic, whereas Liu Bei felt the need to put up a idealistically virtuous front, which made him very inflexible in certain things. He couldn't both be virtuous and honourable, and take Jing, Yi, and suck up to Sun Quan. Nor could he get the legitimacy for his enterprise if he wasn't virtuous and honourable. He tried to do both at the same time, which led to disaster.

Does this then make Liu Bei a tragic hero--one who strives for some ideal but who's doomed from the start? If he had embraced Zhuge Liang's plan wholeheartedly and forget about that righteousness junk, would he have succeeded (despite the lack of popular approval)? Was there any other way other than Zhuge Liang's?
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Mon Jan 12, 2004 1:21 pm

I dont think Liu Bei and the Longzhong plan clashed that much, rather i say that the Longzhong plan was flawed to the extent that it was doomed to failure anyway. Firstly, the plan was flawed using the assumpation that Wu was a trustworthy ally, which as we all know wasnt a good assumpation. Now Guan Yu's attack on Fan may have been the intitial phase of the Longzhong plan. Capturing Fan, Liu Bei has direct access to all of Wei's vital cities. Now it fails not because of Liu Bei's 'incompatibility' with the plan, but rather due to Wu's 'betrayal' of the alliance. Liu Bei had been pretty much sucking to the Wu, giving half of Jingzhou already to Sun Quan before Lu Mengs successful invasion of Jing.
This leads to Liu Bei trying to save the Longzhong plan by invading Jingzhou, which ultimately fails. Thus Liu Bei is indeed a tragic hero, by following a plan that couldn't succeed
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Unread postby Lu Wei » Mon Jan 12, 2004 3:39 pm

Oh please. Wu not a dependable ally indeed. Maybe Lu Meng was thinking of the quote in your sig, eh?
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon Jan 12, 2004 9:18 pm

Six_and_Up wrote:Now Guan Yu's attack on Fan may have been the intitial phase of the Longzhong plan. Capturing Fan, Liu Bei has direct access to all of Wei's vital cities. Now it fails not because of Liu Bei's 'incompatibility' with the plan, but rather due to Wu's 'betrayal' of the alliance.

Well, don't forget the prerequisites to the attack phase: Shu must be on friendly terms with Wu; Shu must be in peace and strong, the main force must go through Qinchuan to meet up with the force going through Jing, whose purpose was to engage the enemy and draw them away from their western defences. Regardless of whether Wu was right in claiming Jing, the fact that Liu Bei abandoned his northwestern attacks to fight over the 3 commanderies with Wu means that the first prerequisite was not fulfilled. Yizhou wasn't as strong as it should be either, since the prolonged Yizhou campaign caused a heavy toll on the citizens, and having failed to secure Hanzhong as soon as possible, Liu Bei gave Cao Cao the time to force the relocation of all the people in Hanzhong to the central lands. Shu hasn't had time to rebuild its strength yet, and thus the second prerequisite wasn't satisfied either. Third, Guan Yu's attack was not coordinated with a main force in the west--he went too quickly and rashly. It's not a problem with Wu. If Shu really wanted to implement the Longzhong plan, they should have _really_ sucked up to Wu (i.e. let them keep the 3 useless commanderies, or at least make an effort to be friendly after the Xiang River Treaty), or at least wait for tempers to cool a bit first and seek a better time.

But what I had in mind when I first posted was whether Liu Bei's inability to control Jing and Yi earlier on made a negative impact on Shu's destiny. Like I said, he almost couldn't get central Jing back after Liu Zong's surrender, and he lost a lot of resources to Cao Cao in Hanzhong (the beginning of the Han dynasty by Liu Bang was based on a strong Hanzhong). The Longzhong Plan, I still maintain, is opportunistic, while Liu Bei wanted to be upright and moral and stuff. The time he wasted not being able to decide whether to attack his kin spelled the downfall of Shu.
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Unread postby n06guy » Mon Jan 12, 2004 9:20 pm

Does this then make Liu Bei a tragic hero--one who strives for some ideal but who's doomed from the start? If he had embraced Zhuge Liang's plan wholeheartedly and forget about that righteousness junk, would he have succeeded (despite the lack of popular approval)? Was there any other way other than Zhuge Liang's?


I suppose you could say he'd look more like the everyday warlord of that time without the righteousness badge. Doubtful he'd get as many quality people around him, but if he took the plan without thinking like a nice guy, I dont think he would not have succeeded.
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Unread postby Elven Fury » Mon Jan 12, 2004 10:00 pm

I think that this plan was flawed in thinking that Wu was a faithful ally for the attack, if this had been so then as soon as wei had bee taken, Wu would have turned on Shu in a heart beat, the same Shu turning on Wu, it would have been a great battle to see who was the best, Zhuge Liang V Lu Xun, so i mean it was flawed and it wouldnt have worked in the long run, boy i can get off topic sometimes...
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Unread postby Mega Zarak » Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:11 am

Elven Fury wrote:I think that this plan was flawed in thinking that Wu was a faithful ally for the attack, if this had been so then as soon as wei had bee taken, Wu would have turned on Shu in a heart beat, the same Shu turning on Wu, it would have been a great battle to see who was the best, Zhuge Liang V Lu Xun, so i mean it was flawed and it wouldnt have worked in the long run, boy i can get off topic sometimes...


Long Zhong plan didn't assume that Wu was a faithful ally. Long Zhong plan simply states that one of the pre-requisites was to maintain a good relationship with Sun Quan (refer to the extract below).

extracted from Zhuge Liang's SGZ bio wrote:外结好孙权


That was obviously something that Liu Bei didn't do right from the start (shortly after the battle of Chi Bi). He deceived Sun Quan not long after Chi Bi regarding the Yi Zhou issue, despite having just borrowed Jiang Ling from Wu (refer to Liu Bei's and Lu Su's SGZ bios).

In that sense, there might be a conflict of interest here with respect to two requirements from Long Zhong's plan => to get Yi Zhou, Jing Zhou, and to maintain a good relationship with Sun Quan. Liu Bei managed to satisfy the first requirement but because of that, his relationship with Sun Quan went on a speedy decline.

In any case, I don't think it's really the problem of any compatibility issue but rather, the presence of some inherent conflicts among the different requirements and the abilities of those involved in implementing the plan.
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Tue Jan 13, 2004 3:33 am

Well i still view Guan Yu's invasion of Fan as stage one of the Longzhong plan. If Wei still held Fan then the Longzhong plan was never going to go off because the defense at Fan would greatly slow down the invading army and give Wei time to gather their forces. If they take Fan, then the northern plains are directly accessible without the need to bypass a strong fortification.
On the idea that Liu Bei didnt take the right action at the right time, i would argue that for taking Jingzhou, yes Liu Bei was slow in taking his time. For one it gave Wu a legit reason to have at least some ownership of Jingzhou and lead to Wei having control of Fan. However, taking control of Yizhou, Liu Bei was right in not following through with the hasty idea of killing off Liu Zhang. Doing that will turn all of the generals in Yizhou against you and cause a fight to the bitter for Yizhou. This leads to Liu Bei taking over Yizhou maybe a bit quicker, but it also ends in him losing possibly some of Yizhou's best talents i.e Yan Yan.
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Unread postby Mega Zarak » Tue Jan 13, 2004 5:21 am

Six_and_Up wrote:Well i still view Guan Yu's invasion of Fan as stage one of the Longzhong plan.


If Liu Bei shared your view and he intended Guan Yu's expedition to be the first stage of Long Zhong plan, then he would have neglected two very important conditions stated very clearly in Long Zhong's plan.

1) The northern expedition from Jing Zhou could only take place if and only if there was a major change in the current situation (more likely refering to major instability in the north). (from Zhuge Liang's SGZ bio => 天下有变,则命一上将将荆州之军以向宛、洛,)

2) Following the launching of the expedition of Jing Zhou, a second expedition should be launched at the Han Zhong region. This expedition would be led by Liu Bei himself and it would comprise of the troops from Yi Zhou. (from Zhuge Liang's SGZ bio => 将军身率益州之众出於秦川)

During 219A.D., the north was relatively stable and Cao Cao was still in power despite the conspiracy of Wei Feng and gang. Hence, condition (1) would not be met. As for condition (2), when Guan Yu was up north, Liu Bei didn't lead an army from Han Zhong but instead, he went back to Cheng Du.
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:08 am

I dont mean that Guan Yu's attack on Fan was the beginning of the full-scale Longzhong Plan. Rather the invasion was supposed to be the prelude. While Cao Ren is holding the vital cities of Jingzhou that are above the river that runs through Jingzhou, the Longzhong plan will never work properly. The well defended cities can hold off an invading in time for Wei to regather itself and remake its defences. Thus even if there was some turbulent event in the Wei kingdom that could lead to its fall, i doubt it would speard to Fan. So while the interior of the Kingdom is weak, the exterior is still strong. If Shu did a two prong invasion, Fan could hold off the invading force long enough for Wei to regather itself, something which they did not want. However if Shu had control of Fan, this gives them what would be a relatively short marching time to Xuchang, Luoyang or Changan, three of the most vital cities to Wei. Now Guan Yu's invasion of Fan is the first move to starting up the Longzhong plan. Fan is to Wei what Hanzhong was to Shu, it was the pathway into the north. If Fan was taken, Wei is in big trouble and the Longzhong plan could be properly put into effect.
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