Waiting for Liu Shan to die...

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Waiting for Liu Shan to die...

Unread postby ZhangBaihu » Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:59 am

Assuming the goal of Shu was to overthrow Wei and Wu and unite China, might it have been prudent for Shu to have waited a generation for Liu Shan to expire naturally?

Liu Bei on his deathbed, instructed Zhuge Liang to overthrow his son Liu Shan if he proved incompetent. Zhuge Liang struggled to further the restoration of the Han(/destruction of the Cao) despite his incompetent emperor. Jiang Wei, with even less clout than Zhuge, struggled with Liu Shan even more in this same goal. Yet Han loyalists would never dream of overthrowing the spawn of Liu Bei.

I have read arguments that Zhuge Liang's campaigns against Wei weakened Shu, and other arguments that say the campaigns were an "offensive defense" that prolonged Shu's survival for another generation. Jiang Wei spent over a decade marshaling the Shu armies before he set out to try and conquer the north. That may seem like a long time, but lately I wonder if maybe he didn't wait long enough. Maybe he should have accepted that conquest of Wei wasn't achievable in his lifetime and developed an infrastructure for the next generation to invade Wei. I know the idea of a waiting game that goes beyond one's own lifespan could hardly seem desirable. I mean we all want to live to see the fruits of our struggle.

The genius of Zhuge Liang was his extreme foresight. Even from his thatched cottage he envisioned the 3 Kingdoms division of the land far before it came to be. His military operations involved extensive multi-stepped planning to try and account for numerous contingencies. Jiang Wei, although gifted in military operations and planning, seemed to be deficient in far-sighted planning.

Thus should the goal of dynastic restoration be an extremely far-sighted plan that stretches across many generations? Should the Three Kingdoms period have lasted longer for Shu to have had a chance to achieve its goal?
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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Thu Jul 01, 2004 10:39 am

No waiting for Liu Shan to die would have been a mistake. Jiang Wei was Shu last viable hope to conquer the north and if he went, then Shu was doomed. Besides theres no evidence that Shan's son were capable to take on the job of ruler and theres even less evidence to suggest that there other than Jiang Wei capable generals of taking on the burden of challenging Wei
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:04 pm

Zhuge and Jiang both recognized that Shu was essentially a warlord state without the talented men to establish itself permenantly, and was not attracting much in the way of new talent (and unfortunately a lot of their good talent died before their times were really up - Fa Zheng, Guan Xing, Wei Yan). The longer they waited, the more certain the destruction. Liu Shan lived until 271 - that's another 8 years. Even Jiang Wei might have been gone by then. While a whole new crop of genius commanders and administrators might have come to power, or one of Shan's sons gave the eunuchs a boot and searched high and low for men of ability, I suspect instead the opposite would have occurred and had Jiang Wei repelled Deng Ai, the inevitable follow-up invasion would have been even more of a problem.

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Unread postby phenomenal17 » Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:23 pm

I agree- nearly all of Shu's really good officers were gone by the time Jiang Wei started going north, and the trend wasn't reversing itself. While the guys he had were undoubtedly talented, the era wasn't one where men and women who were just talented could hope to stand out. Barring a sudden reemergence of exceptionally talented leaders, I don't think waiting would have done much to preserve Shu.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:59 pm

I'm wondering why it is assumed that there wouldn't be other talents in the area. Both Wu and Wei/Jin managed to find new blood; though Shu is smaller in area than the two, it's not *that* small, and even durin *Liu Zhang's* rule there were talented men who served the state. If Zhuge Liang (and Liu Bei) were so righteous and honourable, shouldn't they have inspired learned people to work for them? (yes, to the end I will blame Shu's downfall on Zhuge Liang's reluctance to discover local talents and alienating the original Yizhou officers)

Furthermore, Wei/Jin's original plan was to annex Wu first and then take Shu later. Cao Pi, Cao Zhi, and Cao Rui all saw Wu as their chief enemy that must be annihilated first (probably because they got fooled by Wu's submission), and Shu was of little importance. Sima Yi also outlined a plan to Cao Pi in which Wu was taken before Shu. I would argue that if Jiang Wei hadn't drawn so much attention to the west, Deng Ai and Zhong Hui would be sent to the East, not to the west, and Wu would have fallen first.

Regarding the original question: given the above, in hindsight it would have been best for Shu to wait for Wei to serious engage Wu first and attack only when Wei was weakened, and in the meantme strengthen the court and attract more talented men to service. However, at the time of, there's no way to tell when Liu Shan was going to die, or how much longer Jiang Wei was going to live (he was what, in his 70's when Shu fell?). I would say that Jiang Wei's campaigns were valiant and a good move, but not the best or most informed move.
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Thu Jul 01, 2004 9:26 pm

Even if we assume that Zhuge/Jiang weren't looking as hard for talent as they should have been - which seems reasonable - waiting for Liu Shan to die seems a secondary strategy to, say, actually looking for more talent. And while Wu on the defensive could potentially have weakened a Wei offensive, I wonder if it would have made much difference. Communication was not instant then as today, and by the time Shu found out Wu was being attacked, the situation may or may not have still been favorable for launching another attack while Wei was otherwise occupied. Further, how much did Zhuge's failed campaigns really weaken Shu? not a lot; each time he was subsequently able to launch an even better, more prepared attack; so launching a failed, lengthy offensive doesn't necessarily translate into a weakening of the state. If Shu can't get the timing just right and hit Wei while everyone is along the Yangtze or else trying to invade Jing, Wei may very well have suffered little in the way of long-term damage from a failed ttack on Wu.

As Lady Wu has noted, and as I overlooked, talent seems to be the key. Had there been someone to succeed Dong Yun, for example, the Huang Hao nonsense could have been avoided. Without a doubt, though, by the 250s and 260s Jiang Wei would have had to be doing his own recruiting. Even had Zhuge found talented people in their twenties shortly after Liu Bei's death, by that time they all would have been in their fifties. And while history does record some valiant, still-strong generals at that age - Zhang He, Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong (whose age I'm reconstructing as conjecture based on the parallel exaggeration of Zhao Yun's age in SGYY) - really you need younger men than that. Edit: Really they should have been looking even earlier than then, which would make it even more imperative for Jiang to find new blood. Had Zhuge found them later, it would depend on the age of the new admins/generals, at the time of their recruitment.

And out of fairness to Zhuge let us also remember that had he not gotten sick and died, or had he devised his supply solution earlier - the former being out of his control, the latter not - he may have cracked Sima Yi and made big gains without any new recruiting. And, it is important to note that, population-wise, Shu had not grown any since the census of 140, as opposed to Wu which added a tremendous number of new counties between 140 and 280. And Wei was far more populous than either of them. So looking for talent should have been a higher priority, but Shu did have fewer people than either of the others.

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Unread postby Exar Kun » Fri Jul 02, 2004 12:31 am

Wu first.
Shu first.
It matters little.In fact it matters not at all.All it does is delay the ineveitable.
Shu falls first,Wei/Jin have access to new river routes that they can run their navy through.
Wu falls first,Wei/Jin can easily hit through Yong An.
I really wonder what the Lady Wu thinks can be achieved by surviving a few more years outnumbered even more.Shu policy was always to win the war,not to sit around in what they had and hope all the war went away.

It makes little difference anyway.By the time it was even possible to start taking Liu Shan dying as a possibility the war was for all intents and purposes lost for both sides in the first place.

I've said it so many times I ought to keep it on record for easy pasting:
The only they had had a chance was either to ensure they have talent of the highest quality all the time or to even the resource war.Once exceptional talent disappears it's certainly the end as greater numbers crush you.

Waiting for Liu Shan to die certainly was NOT an option.Firstly there's no reason to outside of blind hope.Liu Shan himself never did anything that significantly affected Shu's military one way or the other.So what's the point?As far as you know the next Emperor might want to lead from the front or something stupid or simply call off campaigns altogether.

And of course when Liu Shan died(271) there'd probably be no one left who could command Shu's army.Jiang Wei could very possibly be dead.Liao Hua and Zhang Yi are sure dead.Fu Qian would still be kicking and Luo Xian.That's not much of a force to batter down Wei with.

And to the person who wonders aloud why Shu couldn't find more talent(yes I know who you are :wink:),I might remind her that finding talent ain't like dusting crops.
It isn't just going to appear out of nowhere.Despite your assurance Wu certainly didn't not break open a goldmine of talent.Lu Kang and Bu Xie were both sons of former officers and unless you count finding out that these guys had sons as a discovery they didn't really find jack.
While it might seem like a quick way out blasting Zhuge Liang,it might have occured to you that the man was only in charge for 11 years before he died.Additionally policy from the 220s need not affect policy in the 240s or 250s especially since it isn't an imperial order,just a Prime Minister personal work.

I would also remind her that waiting for Wei to engage Wu is not an option either.Considering the mammoth resources Wei had,and more importantly that the eastern and western garrisons were separate and independent,there's not much to be gained by waiting other than perhaps confusing where the reinforcements went.More than likely though something like that would simply cause a withdrawal and then they pound Shu like they were going to do anyway.
Of course waiting for a serious engagement with Wu on the offensive would be nice but of course in that case they'd have to start planning in advance where they intend to drop their atom bomb since we all know how long Wu would take to make a serious attack.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Jul 02, 2004 3:09 am

Well.

To be honest, neither Shu nor Wu had a chance against Wei/Jin, after the north recovered from the battles at the end of the Han. Nowhere in Chinese history did anyone from the south rebound and conquer a united north. Wei/Jin just simply had too much land, population, and natural resources and if nothing else can wear out Shu and Wu by attrition (which is in effect what happened). Hindsight tells us that much.

Therefore, for either Shu or Wu to have a chance to conquer the north, some drastic measures are required. Either there had to be some big change in the northern regime that opens up opportunities for the two kingdoms, or the two must coordinate some very clever attacks and overwhelm Wei/Jin by good strategy. I think this much is indisputable.

Honestly, I don't think Wu ever had a chance of defeating Wei, and the only chance Shu had was Wei Yan's plan during the first campaign--the element of surprise was necessary. Of course, that was a risky move, and if Wei Yan failed all would have been shot to heck, but after that Shu really had no chance because Wei was ever on guard.

Of course, surviving a few years more wasn't necessarily going to do anything, but it certainly increases the chances of opportunities coming up. If Sima Zhao/Yan decided to overthrow the Wei throne early, it would have been possible to coordinate with dissendents and Wei loyalists and launch some kind of punitive action. Again, the success potential of this is unknown, but at least this is an opportunity. Dying early doesn't help you much.

I'll take advantage of Exar Kun's offer of "easy pasting":

Exar Kun wrote:The only they had had a chance was either to ensure they have talent of the highest quality all the time or to even the resource war.Once exceptional talent disappears it's certainly the end as greater numbers crush you.

I agree wholeheartedly. The exceptional talent has already disappeared in Shu. Jiang Wei is only one man, and none of the later generals are brilliant per se (compaired to Guan Yu etc). Wu wasn't chock-full of talents either, which was why Lu Kang kept petitioning to stay way from engaging in serious battle with Wei/Jin. Sun Hao ordered attack after attack and he was an idiot.

Regarding talents: You should really read up on the Shu bios, especially books 10 and 12. Unfortunately I don't have my SGZ with me over the summer, and I don't have much time to do translations either, so you'd have to ask your Shuists friends to help you with that one. I agree with LiuYuanTe and others above that Shu had fewer people than Wei or Wu, and statistically speaking, should have fewer talented people. Which is more the reason that Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang should have been on the lookout for talents. In the years Liu Bei was lord over Shu, the original Yizhou officers were mostly neglected. His policies alienated Liao Li, Peng Yang, and Liu Ba in the least (book 12), who were all known figures in the state. When they criticized the state, they were either exiled or executed. Fei Shi admonished against Liu Bei's claiming the imperial title and was demoted. Li Yan, who otherwise showed potential, was exiled. With a track record like that, it's little wonder that no one wanted to work for Shu, and all the Yizhou officials counselled Liu Shan to surrender! When you compare that to Sun Quan's forgiving Pan Zhang and Gan Ning, the difference between the HR policies in the two states is clear.

Also note how Jiang Wei had no designated heir. Zhuge Liang at least passed on his knowledge and aspirations to Jiang Wei.
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Unread postby Liu Yuante » Fri Jul 02, 2004 3:41 am

I agree on the other Yizhou officers, but Li Yan deliberately withheld grain, causing zhuge Liang to retreat, to cover up his own mistakes. Li Yan's bio makes it clear that initially Zhuge Liang considered him to be very talented and a good officer; only after that monumental act of selfishness did he get exiled.

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Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Jul 02, 2004 4:47 am

Heh, fine. Li Yan did deserve exile for his actions, but it was a pity that Zhuge Liang couldn't show him some clemency. Shu was understaffed as it was already.
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