Why did Cao Cao bury troops alive after Guan Du?

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Unread postby James » Sun Feb 29, 2004 11:55 pm

Exar Kun wrote:Also I'll mention Cao Cao burying Yuan Shao's soldiers after Guan Du.Brutal yet again but necessary due to the inherent threat those soldiers represented.

I recall he buried those troops alive, unless I’m mistaken. The tactic applied in Xu Zhou I agree would have had a tactical significance but I still suspect it was a result of Cao Cao having lost his temper as well. What was the tactical significance of burying troops which had surrendered at Guan Du alive when they could have simply been executed though (and I imagine he might have even had the option to bring them into his own districts and integrate them into his forces, perhaps)?
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Unread postby Exar Kun » Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:29 am

I recall he buried those troops alive, unless I’m mistaken. The tactic applied in Xu Zhou I agree would have had a tactical significance but I still suspect it was a result of Cao Cao having lost his temper as well. What was the tactical significance of burying troops which had surrendered at Guan Du alive when they could have simply been executed though (and I imagine he might have even had the option to bring them into his own districts and integrate them into his forces, perhaps)?


*shrug*
I suppose he'd have to bury them one way or the other so he'd might as well bury them straight and cut out the middleman i.e. the executioners :twisted:
I suppose executing them before burial was simply seen as a waste of time plus it would take hella long to execute 80K men yes?

I don't think he wanted them brought into his own forces or released though.The men would undoubtedly hold some semblance of loyalty to the Yuans even if solely because their families still lived under Yuan rule.
If he sent them back the Yuans would simply be regaining their soldiers,if he integrated them or sent them to fields then he has a ready made rebellion on his hands,any revolt could have trained troops in it,a point that motivated the Later Han dissolve the practice of compulsory armed service.
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Unread postby James » Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:42 am

One would imagine burying the troops alive would have been more efficient than executing them in some way or another, but I suspect in a way that would require their cooperation. I wonder whether or not it would be easier to simply execute an unarmed man via weapons than it would be to get them into mass graves and keep them there while they were buried alive. It would take a heck of a lot of time to execute so many men, but would it really save time over trying to bury so many alive? That also requires graves for them.

Perhaps if he had brought them home to his own territory and divided them among his troops any organized loyalty to the Yuans could have been resolved. Perhaps there are other areas in his territory they could have been used without placing them in conflict with the Yuan clan? Of course sending them back was out of the question though. How many troops did he have himself? If he was outnumbered by his surrenders he may have fears being overthrown by them, but it still leaves me a little curious about his choice to bury them alive instead of taking some other means to dispose of them. Finally, he was concerned about how he was seen by others. I wonder if burying so many troops alive is a good way to be seen in a positive light, or to encourage surrender from enemy forces down the road…
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Unread postby Exar Kun » Mon Mar 01, 2004 1:02 am

One would imagine burying the troops alive would have been more efficient than executing them in some way or another, but I suspect in a way that would require their cooperation. I wonder whether or not it would be easier to simply execute an unarmed man via weapons than it would be to get them into mass graves and keep them there while they were buried alive. It would take a heck of a lot of time to execute so many men, but would it really save time over trying to bury so many alive? That also requires graves for them.


How many swords would it take for that?
Cao's resources weren't very impressive at this point.A sword can only hew so many necks before needing to be tossed.How many executioners would he employ?And also,would it be more likely that the Yuan soldiers would revolt if they openly knew they were going to a slaughterfest?
The thing about burying them alive is that it took very few resources for Cao Cao.Though we have no details all Cao would need to contribute are the guards.The POWs could dig their own graves and then be forced in by the guarding force.


Perhaps if he had brought them home to his own territory and divided them among his troops any organized loyalty to the Yuans could have been resolved. Perhaps there are other areas in his territory they could have been used without placing them in conflict with the Yuan clan? Of course sending them back was out of the question though. How many troops did he have himself? If he was outnumbered by his surrenders he may have fears being overthrown by them, but it still leaves me a little curious about his choice to bury them alive instead of taking some other means to dispose of them. Finally, he was concerned about how he was seen by others. I wonder if burying so many troops alive is a good way to be seen in a positive light, or to encourage surrender from enemy forces down the road


The notion of him taking them to his home is one in error.Remember firstly the policy of the Later Han as I mentioned.Keeping the peasants untrained means that trained troops won't be revolting with the peasants.In this turmoiled time,revolt is an even larger issue for Cao than for the Han.I'm sure no one had forgotten Zhang Jue.
Relocating them was also impossible.These people would have families,all of whom would be in the north.They would not abandon them to go to Cao's agricultural colonies or a commandery.At best,he'd have thousands of people sneaking back into the north to be with their families,at which point they'd be easily drafted by the Yuans.
I think also that considering his image for the future was on the back burner compared to not slipping the noose around his own neck at this point.
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Unread postby Separation Anxiety » Mon Mar 01, 2004 1:13 am

My guess as to why he buried them is that it would be sort of difficult to kill that significant amount of troops. Well not difficult, just time consuming for his own men. He could have made the surrendered troops dig the hole, then have his own men fill the hole. His men would only be doing work for about ten minutes.
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Unread postby EERman » Mon Mar 01, 2004 2:24 am

And also,would it be more likely that the Yuan soldiers would revolt if they openly knew they were going to a slaughterfest?


but wouldn't they know they were going to be buried alive if they are all told to dig a grave? or maybe not, suppose they just told them to dig a big hole and made them all go in.

never heard of this story before.
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Unread postby didier » Mon Mar 01, 2004 3:42 am

Yeah, this is a quandary. Maybe you need to look further into the source from where you heard this to find the most likely answer.

I highly doubt that thousands of men would resign to be buried alive together, whether they dug their own graves or not. They would likely resist and any of such would make it easier to just KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM, as Cao Cao once said.

I remember seeing the movie Atilla the Hun, when they had to execute thousands of prisoners they just got them to kneel in lines and leaders would cut their throats with daggers. That's probably the easiest way to do it. With a small metal blade you can stab or slice, so it would only take a small number of knives to do the grisly job.

Remember that they only have to cut of the head if it's to be exposed or delivered as a trophy. Cutting throats is much easier for mass execution.

Likely this story has been exaggerated and CC did bury alot alive for a frightening rumour, but it's unlikely that historically they would even try the method on such a large number.
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Unread postby Separation Anxiety » Mon Mar 01, 2004 5:43 am

Well one way to do it is separate them. Bury about 100 at a time, away from where the rest were, then bring in more. It would be time consuming but its possible to do without going through the uprising that would be possible if it was a mass burial.
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Unread postby Devilrai » Mon Mar 01, 2004 7:23 am

To bury them alive seems to cruel, but thats Cao Cao for you. He could have used many other methods of execution like the firing squad or make them jump off a boat in the middle of nowhere though all of those are very cruel but to bury them alive, screaming, kicking, alone, dark...its a sad way to die. I just think that Cao Cao could have come up with something else.
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Mon Mar 01, 2004 8:07 am

Burying alive is the most quick and efficent way of getting rid of unwanted troops. Cao Cao had the ends jutisfy the means type mentality, so to him morales and ethnics werent really a question
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