How important was Emperor Xian to Cao Cao?

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

How important was Emperor Xian to Cao Cao?

Unread postby Exar Kun » Wed May 12, 2004 3:40 am

I've noticed over my time in the online community that many people believe that Xian was in fact an integral part of Cao Cao's fight for the control of China and that the legitimacy that Cao Cao received really made a huge difference to his cause.

Well,surprising no one,Exar Kun begs to differ. :lol:

I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on this matter.My own?

I believe that Emperor Xian really did not add much to Wei.
The power of the Emperor was really limited to a few things:

1)Legitimacy.He who controls the Emperor can claim to be following a righteous cause.

Well this is all wrong at the start since the entire reason that the dynasty fell apart in the first place was because the regional leaders began to distrust the orders coming out of Luo Yang since the new Emperor was placed there by their biggest adversary.Really,sure you can shout it to the heavens and all that you're in the right,but who really cares?
Perhaps some might think that Xian would do some good as it came to recruiting officers but that won't be the case.Worthy minds would already know what's going on and would be joining to fight under the individual warlord rather than for the illusion of legitimacy of the Emperor.The only people who might be fooled are the peasants and really,they're just going to follow who runs their land anyway.

2)Other warlords are susceptible to the will of the Emperor.

This one is really a laugh.This stems from the supposed divine will of the Emperor and the power of an imperial edict.Well we already know that the warlords are fully prepared to accept edicts as they come...as long as the edict is giving them a promotion.
Titles.They accept titles from anybody who sounds legit.But anything other than that and they'll laugh in your face.If the Emperor was really so important to everybody why didn't they surrender to Cao Cao?It sure never affected the way people allied against him.
Once again the power of Xian seems to fail.

3)The Han dynasty.Controlling Xian givies one access to all the bureaucracy and giverning power of a 400 year dynasty.

Now I can't argue with this.I think that this would have a been a strong point for Cao Cao.Being able to have a ready made government for himself rather than having to try to set up some makeshift system to run things.No doubt Cao Cao benefitted greatly by having Han officials to run the affairs.
Course really,the question is,did these people even really count on Xian in the first place?

Course my answer is no.While the high officials will more than likely be loyal to a fault and be unwilling to carry out any sort of duties without the Emperor there,what of the more important people.?The mid level workers who make everything happen.
High officials can be replaced,but if there's a general strike you can't get anything done.I submit that these mid level workers would have been working due to their geographical location and would owe allegiance to their jobs rather than to a Son of Heaven.
If Cao Cao took Chang An without Xian in it I'm sure he'd still get an operational government to use for his own purposes.


So really I think that when Cao Cao took Chang An,the real prize he got wasn't some weakling named Liu Xie,it was in getting a city that had the old Han government tied to it.Notice that unlike other northern warlords,Cao cao actually seemed to have civil plans in place.Though his genius would have something to do with it,not having to set up his own governance would have helped immensely.

So,thoughts?
"Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it."
-Creed of the New Sith-
User avatar
Exar Kun
Dark Lord of the Sith
 
Posts: 3344
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Cruising the Nether

Unread postby Six_and_Up » Wed May 12, 2004 4:18 am

Xian was vital early for Cao Cao to establish himself in the north. Like it or not, the Han dynasty thereotically still existed and thereotically most warlords were still loyal to the han (but more like they use their loyalty to kill off everyone else :lol: ). Being in control of the emperor still held to be useful as the time had not come for warlords to openly go against the Han. The Chinese were still extremely superstitous at the time and the belief in the mandate of heaven still held in some official's mind, look at Zhuge Liang, he still held to the belief that the mandate had not passed onto Wei but still resided on in Shu-Han and thus his goal to take Changan was a righteous and worthy one. Cao Pi was careful when he forced Xian off the throne, to make the succession from Han to Wei to appear to be as legit as possible. Now this could only be to calm down his own ministers fearing a revolt within Wei. As long as the belief in the mandate of the Han to rule held in peoples mind's, having the emperor could prove to be useful on your side. The arguement to an opposing general 'i control the emperor, side with me' was used often by Cao Cao's sweettalkers into getting able men to join his military forces.

Secondly Cao Cao needed the emperor for a far more important thing: prestige. Cao Cao prior had no great family name, being the adopted grandson of a enunch. The fact that you have other men in the north whom have far greater well-known clans such as the Yuans is a setback to you, as people would rather serve a man of noble birth than a man related to a enunch. Having the emperor at Cao Cao's side greatly improved his social standing and his prestige. Granted he well men of noble birth since he mingled in the courts, but he would have always lacked respect in the courts due to his origins. Now being known as the man whom saved the emperor greatly increased Cao Cao's name in the north and the people willing to serve him increase as well
Currently playing: Dragon Quest VIII
User avatar
Six_and_Up
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Thu Oct 16, 2003 10:35 am
Location: Sydney Australia

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Fri May 14, 2004 2:18 am

While I do believe that Cao Cao milked his control of Xian for all it was worth, or tried to at least, I agree that in the end it was not so important. None of the folks opposed to Cao Cao were in any way dissuaded from doing so due to the supposed legitimacy of his rule granted by controlling the Emperor, and by the time of post-Chibi it is definitely a non-issue, Liu Bei's novel-only protestations regarding becoming Prince of Hanzhong aside. The fact that everyone knew he was basically a puppet undermined most of the beneficial effect such control could have had. Not to mention that in some cases it was even a negative, such as the plot hatched by Dong Zheng.

I can think of only three positives, none of them massive, but perhaps part of Cao Cao's thinking in taking control of the Emperor in the first place. First, contrary to Exar Kun, I think controlling the Emperor may have attracted some officers and administrators to Cao, simply because, while as we've noted controlling Xian wasn't that big of a deal, it probably seemed like it to some people at the time. Even if they realised that it didn't make him more legitimate, they may have said to themselves "Hey, this guy controls the _Emperor_, he's probably the best bet for who I should fall in with." I think it may have influenced some people to feel like he was the likely pick to emerge victorious, simply from an aura/prestiege standpoint. And able/talented but not very ambitious administrator types would probably prefer to work somewhere with an established foundation and administration rather than build something from the ground up.

The second reason why it might have benefitted Cao slightly is regarding the people. Having a settled territory that really functions as a seperate civil nation unto itself was key to the period. Wu excelled at this, and in my opinion only failed in defeating Wei/Jin because they screwed up the alliance with Liu Bei and militarily were overmatched by Wei/Jin in pretty much every respect; at least Shu had Hanzhong. But I'm getting off-track; Wu was excellent regarding civil administration and developing their land and population; Shu was pretty lousy at it, and was one of the lethal flaws in their kingdom, because Zhuge Liang couldn't do it himself, and he/they were so single-minded in trying to crack Wei they never really settled and developed a foundation/base properly in their kingdom. So this was a critical key to success during the period; would Wei have been able to develop and establish itself so rapidly and solidly without the ready-built structure of the dead Han dynasty? I doubt it, but I also agree with Exar that, technically speaking, the infrastructure was not specifically reliant on Xian himself, so if we interpret the topic totally literally, this doesn't exactly count.

Lastly, it helped give Cao Pi some continuity in the assumption of the throne. Yeah, Xian was forced out, and, in truth, hadn't really been the Emperor for about 20 years, but like a fake professional wrestling title exchanging hands in some controversial event, in the eyes of some folks it undoubtedly helped legitimise his rule.

Adrian
User avatar
Liu Yuante
绯红王
 
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2004 12:20 am

Unread postby Exar Kun » Sat May 15, 2004 1:49 am

Good responses both of you.Nice to get away from simple who is best debates a little no?

Six_and_Up
You mention warlord loyalty to the Han but really exactly how loyal were they?No warlord uses his resources to make a push to save the Emperor.Even the vaunted Dukes Alliance didn't care for the Emperor.Byt stopping at the politcal goal of Luo Yang despite minimal fighting,the Dukes showed that they were more interested in showing Dong Zhuo his own fallibility rather than in saving the Emperor.As such,where really is their loyalty?We see them having no trouble accepting titles but other than that they don't really seem to care for Xian.
Cao Pi's caution in getting Xian off the throne I think can be attributed to the same reason Cao Cao or Sima Zhao never too the throne,they wanted to appear loyal in history.Emulate King err...Wen I think it is of Zhou.

About the generals,this is a commonly made point.But exactly who important did he recruit after getting Xian?There are very few if you think about it.Zhang Liao is one but he joins due to Cao's compassion :roll: .
I doubt you can think of any examples yourself.

Your point about prestige is well taken.But wouldn't being in control of the three capitals give him the same prestige?Or his defeats of great opponents?While Cao Cao may not be a Yuan,he certainly has prestige having been part of the alliance.Also again,the majority of Cao Cao's top officers join even before he gains Xian.

LiuYuanTe
As I've mentioned to Six,if you really lok at Cao Cao's people,all his major officers joined before he formally took control of the Emperor.Others who joined later on,like Zhang He,joined due to circumstance rather than loyalty to the throne.

Your final point,while it does give some sort of continuity,such things are only for historians to argue about thwne they debate who was the legitimate successor.Xian's physical act of abdication would have made no difference were it not present.Wei was already settled and also Liu Bei and Sun Quan both prcclaimed themselves Emperors without any arguments in their territories.
"Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it."
-Creed of the New Sith-
User avatar
Exar Kun
Dark Lord of the Sith
 
Posts: 3344
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Cruising the Nether

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sat May 15, 2004 2:26 am

Regarding officers, while it is true that most of his crucial officers were serving him before Xian was solidly and 'officially' under his control, I think it is important to remember that a couple dozen generals and advisors do not in themselves form the army or the administration. There are a lot of nameless faces of the time not recorded in history that were crucial in carrying out the orders of the head guys. I think that some of these folks may have been attracted to Cao Cao because of the skill and foresight that taking control of the Emperor may have implied, especially as many of these people were probably not personally loyal to Cao in the way of a Xiahou Dun or Guo Jia. But I don't maintain that this was a huge effect or something he couldn't have done without; merely that it was probably not so small as to be negligible.

As far as continuity goes, my point was sort of along the lines of the wrestling analogy. The common people are certainly not, by and large, going to be sophisticated folks, and most of the soldiers in the army probably were not either (though the soldiers' loyalty was more due to their generals than anything Cao Cao himself was or wasn't); just as backwoods rednecks who think professional wrestling is real will debate, get angry, have fights or form strong opinions on the transmission of fake titles and the like, the passing of the throne from Xian to Cao Pi, in a more or less official-looking fashion, probably had a similar effect on many common people. In the long run, would it have mattered if it didn't? Probably not, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Adrian
User avatar
Liu Yuante
绯红王
 
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2004 12:20 am

Unread postby Six_and_Up » Sat May 15, 2004 11:09 am

Exar, the point i was making in regards to han loyalty and warlordism was that at this point, no warlord was going to oppose the han in the open at the moment. Cao Cao thus getting the emperor at the early stage of the game was good. He automatically gains control of the figure everyone wants on their side and if nothing more, the emperor would be ultimate morale boost for the warlords troops. Cao Cao needed the emperor to portray the image that he was a protector and not an invader. Thus Cao Cao can validate in some way his invasion of xuzhou, his wars with Zhang Xiu and Yuan Shao, his reclaiming the empire from the rebels, not winning land for himself. So Cao's conquest is validated early on with the emperor as its seal of approval.

Another point you make is Cao Cao had control of the big cities xuchang, luoyang and changan etc and that alone should give him prestige in his time. Not really, considering that at the time those cities are ruined from years of war and hardly anyone wanted to take on the reconstruction of those cities. Burned palaces, ruined buildings, it was a complete mess in the capitals from the years of war surrounding the region. Partly why Cao Cao moved the capital to Xuchang, Changan and Luoyang were ruined and he could not afford to reconstruct the cities in good time and fight for a empire as well.

Lastly Cao Cao gained Jia Xu and Zhang Xiu post-control of emperor and Zhanfg Xiu was swayed partly by the fact that Cao Cao had the emperor under his control
Currently playing: Dragon Quest VIII
User avatar
Six_and_Up
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Thu Oct 16, 2003 10:35 am
Location: Sydney Australia

Unread postby Song Jiang » Sun May 16, 2004 3:46 pm

ha, i agree with exar supprisingly enough. I feel that the only integral part the emperor had was how cao cao got to the capital. HE fought to save the emperor at first and than after that, the Emp had little to no effect. Besides the Liu Bei fighting Cao Cao fact.
When i sit in class at school, and people dont know the difference between Teddy and Roosevelt and FDR, it makes me sad, i almost want to cry.
Song Jiang
Initiate
 
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Apr 19, 2004 3:09 am
Location: The marsh of course.

Unread postby Lu Kang » Sun May 16, 2004 9:49 pm

The Emperor was of utmost importance to Cao Cao starting up. By ChiBi and beyond it didn't matter but he wouldn't be there without previously having the Emperor. Remember what happened to Yuan Shu when he declared himself Emperor? Everyone closed in on him and he was utterly defeated. Cao Cao not having the Emperor does 2 things, takes away his validity and makes him a target. If the Emepror says, "Cao Cao is a traitor" there is a good chance there would be an allaince that rises up against him like Yuan Shu in 200. Cao Cao used the Emperor to give himself fame.

As someone else noted people surrendered instead of fighting because of the Emperor such as Zhang Xiu and Liu Zong. If Liu Zong and his 100,000 man army had not surrendered things would be different, if Sun Quan and Liu Zong with their combined 230,000+ soldiers went to attack Cao Cao just from Jing and Yang that would be a very strong attack. Not to mention that Liu Zhang, and imperial relative, would fight for the rights of the Emperor and he too would most likely attack with his army (not sure how big but most likely greater then 50,000 and potentially greater then 100,000. Now that's 330,000 troops attacking Cao Cao before he has stabilized the north completely. Through Ma Chao in the mix, maybe Zhang Lu, Gongsun's, and Cao Cao will fall. Not even Wei could withstand an attack from all directions.
无口为天,有口为吴,君临万邦,天子之都
Historical Post
Lu Kang
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 789
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:04 am

Unread postby Exar Kun » Sun May 16, 2004 11:14 pm

I hope no one is losing interest,I find this is going really well. :D

LiuYuanTe
Your point about the mid level administrators is true.But there is also another truth to be considered about these lower level people.The fact that they serve a geographical location.They don't stray out of their city and go cross country hunting for a lord to serve since they need to be able to feed their families.
The higher level guys can afford to be picky about who they serve if they so choose but mid level people by virtue of the fact that they aren't eaxctly people to be clamouring for,have to serve whoever is most convenient.

Well it's true that the event did exist :lol:
But what I'm saying is that comparing to Shu and Wu,the lack of Xian to abdicate made to difference in the population's response to the coronation.

Six_and_Up
Yet this seal of approval was never needed by any others.Liu Bei and others never suffered because of the lack of the Imperial rubber stamp.

The idea of warlords not wanting to engage the Han openly is a commonly misinterpreted idea in my opinion.What the warlords were not willing to tolerate was overly egotistical and ambitious warlords.Yuan Shu,by virtue that he in effect said that he was better than the rest of them,got the cold shoulder.It so happened that then his ambitions became too large and he was beaten.
But look at Dong Zhuo,he most certainly was opposing the Han yet the alliance was not concerned in the slightest with the welfare of the Emperor,only in demonstrating to Dong his own fallibility and hoping to make him realize that he was not all powerful over them.
Cao Cao moving against Chang An was not considered a bad cat despite the fact that he was moving 'against the Emperor'.Also Yuan Shao,Zhang Xiu,Liu Bei,Sun Quan,Liu Biao and others never suffered any ill effects from the perceived notion that they were moving against the Han.
If any warlord truly had respect for the Han itself then they would follow the orders coming from the court without prejudice.And not one of them did that.

About the cities,Luo Yang was certainly a mess but Chang An was still strong,the only ill effects being from the battles with Li Jue.But with the geographical control of these cities Cao Cao becomes the foremost power in the central plains.
About Zhang Xiu,that's true.Jia Xu does make that point.But if Cao Cao did not have the Emperor how likely was it that he'd go to Yuan Shao.The far more pertinent point practically was how Zhang Xiu would be received and the point about Cao Cao's lesser forces would certainly still make him the better received.

Lu Kang
I dealt with the idea of 'opposing the Han' in my post to Six above.
The entire idea about Xian saying Cao cao is a traitor is not a danger.Xian's edicts to Cao cao regularly labelled anyone who was in Wei's crosshairs a traitor and yet no popular uprising happened to overthrow these regimes.

our second point is a very good one but looking at timing things don't look bad for Cao Cao.Certainly if all those people attacked there would be trouble.
But Ma Chao's attack didn't happen until 211,4 years after Cao Cao campaigned against Jing.Secondly,at this point Ma Teng was still in charge and not Chao,Ma Teng had very good relations with Cao Cao.
Sun Quan at this point certainly did not wish to provoke a military response from the overwhelmingly powerful Cao Cao.Note that despite Liu Biao being shattered and Quan;s own deigns on Jing,he never sends any troops in to occupy Jing and neither does he consider military action against Cao Cao until Liu Bei is sent fleeing at Dang Yang.
And about Liu Zong,while rebellion to the court is all fine and dandy the fact is that we know that no one gave a damn about chastising any supposed rebels.Ma Teng had been in revolt for 20 years by this point and still no one had come after him.The real danger was the other listed,Liu Zong simply cannot beat Cao Cao and even with Liu Bei he would be in a bad position.[/quote]
"Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it."
-Creed of the New Sith-
User avatar
Exar Kun
Dark Lord of the Sith
 
Posts: 3344
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Cruising the Nether

Unread postby Liu Yuante » Sun May 16, 2004 11:49 pm

Point taken regarding mid-level officers and administrators. Regarding the abdication, I'm not really comparing it to Shu and Wu, I'm comparing it to what it would have been in Wei without it; prior to the development of Wu, the South was not very populous and Shu never was, before or after Liu Bei. But the North and the areas around the old capital cities were huge population centers, and most of these people had probably lived there, on what might be regarded as the imperial vicinity, for generations, and of course, through all of those generations were the Han emperors. I'm of course waist-deep in speculation at this point, but I think one could make a case that the people in those areas might feel more loyalty to the Han. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing what the response might have been had Cao Pi's assumption of the throne occurred differently, since, well, it didn't. I think, though, that in terms of practicality, it wouldn't have mattered much, i.e. it would have taken a massive popular uprising to cause any real damage, larger than the Yellow Turbans/Scarves (who really didn't do much); events probably would have unfolded similarly to actual history, but the people, in their hearts and minds, may have felt differently about it.

Adrian
User avatar
Liu Yuante
绯红王
 
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2004 12:20 am

Next

Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

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