The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

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Re: The Scholars' Book Club

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:43 pm

Good choice, the key professor about the era, probably not a book most have read but a very good one that helped evolve my opinions on key figures leading to fall of Han. Might I suggest having book title at top of the topic and then change said title every time we change book so people can see such a change and join in if they have the book or it interests them or we doing seperate threads?

Thanks for map Daolun, does help. Even with the bridge and detail in chapter 1, I can never quite decide how to image the covered walkaway

It is a bit dry at this point but put that down to the focus on administrative, geographical, architectural matters, important details that taught me a lot, set a tone and sense of the city including things like the dust and climate, whereas the sense of personality and politics comes into it more in later chapters. De Crespigny's observation for human nature and humour still flickers through like in the discussion about hygiene

thoughts and discussions points
Intro: -I like De Crespigny carefully defending Gibbon's comment about Rome as he wouldn't have known about China's grand history at the time and the reasoning for the book title is poetic.

-Uses Rome comparisons well, doesn't overdo it but to give a sense of the mighty empire then using it to show contrasts on the very structures, land, culture and even art (in chapter 1) at the right time

Chapter 1
-Never knew Wan was so powerful as to be a second capital or fashion centre or heard of some of the Ceremonies like Entertaining the Aged

-Recently I discussed on tumbler Cao Cao not being recorded mourning Cao Ang didn't mean he didn't mourn his son, just way history was written. Was intresting seeing examples here that makes fire numbers and how ceremonies were carried out impossible to fully know

-Seeing Ying Shao and Cai Yong mentioned as source a few times for the city and ceremonies respectively, helps highlight the importance of their work

-Never heard of the Mohocks, can think of a few other versions of what he means by rich, well connected bored youths causing trouble

-Interesting De Crespigny's comments (and the quote from Hans Bielenstein about Confucian gentry being pedant killjoys) about the hunting parks built by Emperor Huan and Ling, that two emperors who are so attacked for extravagance would have been seen as lacking excessively few by rulers of Europe.

-If only there had been pictures of Liang Ji's mound

-I had always assumed wealth was displayed at capital, just kind of how things always seem to be. You make your flaunting at the height of culture, the heart of the country with some back home and in Confucians case, keeping the right side of the modest line. Makes sense to do it other way round though and flaunt away from Emperors eyes

-That none ever saw the sea is somewhat sad (and Ling was certainly a homeboy)

-Wish we had a fully copy of Ban Gu's Rhapsody on the Two Capitals
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Re: The Scholars' Book Club

Unread postby Sun Fin » Wed Feb 27, 2019 9:05 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Might I suggest having book title at top of the topic and then change said title every time we change book so people can see such a change and join in if they have the book or it interests them or we doing seperate threads?


Good thought, I've added the book to the top. I had presumed it would all be one thread, but I'm open to other opinions on that!

Dong Zhou wrote:It is a bit dry at this point but put that down to the focus on administrative, geographical, architectural matters, important details that taught me a lot, set a tone and sense of the city including things like the dust and climate, whereas the sense of personality and politics comes into it more in later chapters. De Crespigny's observation for human nature and humour still flickers through like in the discussion about hygiene


Absolutely, it is quite difficult to discuss the topics he has in this chapter and not be a bit dry!

Dong Zhou wrote:Intro: -I like De Crespigny carefully defending Gibbon's comment about Rome as he wouldn't have known about China's grand history at the time and the reasoning for the book title is poetic.


I also thought the way he shows clear contrasts between the two was artfully done. Too much literature about Han China is comparing it to Rome when, in lots of the ways, they were incomparable. I also hadn't made the connection of fire being the element of the Han and it ruling over the city. I had just always thought of the chaos angle.

Dong Zhou wrote:-Interesting De Crespigny's comments (and the quote from Hans Bielenstein about Confucian gentry being pedant killjoys) about the hunting parks built by Emperor Huan and Ling, that two emperors who are so attacked for extravagance would have been seen as lacking excessively few by rulers of Europe.


Yeah, that stood out for me too. Instead there was greater expectation of investing in structural work, like the canals. I do like elements of Confucian teaching.

Dong Zhou wrote:-I had always assumed wealth was displayed at capital, just kind of how things always seem to be. You make your flaunting at the height of culture, the heart of the country with some back home and in Confucians case, keeping the right side of the modest line. Makes sense to do it other way round though and flaunt away from Emperors eyes


I missed that on my read through, but I guess that is logical. No-one could have a more impressive home than the Emperor so they had to keep it toned down in the capital. Completely alien to what we'd expect based on our European expectations though!
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:33 pm

Yeah, that stood out for me too. Instead there was greater expectation of investing in structural work, like the canals. I do like elements of Confucian teaching.


Even those could be controversial (particularly when done by Bi Lan). I wonder how much of the park spending by the latter two was, at well as wasteful luxury, about another area where they could be away from the gentry they hated, a chance to jjust get away from what must have been a court that could get on top of the Emperor.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:13 am

I'm still hung up on the Covered Walkway. There were two separate walk ways on the bridge. A higher raised one for the Emperor, and a lower one for the subordinates on either side. :shock: What does this monster look like?!
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:50 am

I know right! I wonder if that is where I got the idea of the bridge just being a raised mound. I'm presuming it is one, very wide bridge with the central bit raised higher for the Emperor. Is that what you're thinking?
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:03 pm

Yeah, this is the sort of thing I am thinking. Excuse my awful MS paint drawing, I have zero talent.
Image

The main part has to be wide enough not only for the Imperial Carriage, but also to support a gazebo as there was said to be one at the halfway point. This thing must've been a massive monster. Not only that, but then the two lower halves on either side that were wide enough to support the escorts.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Feb 28, 2019 2:19 pm

Do you think the side paths would need to be wide enough to have carriages on as well? Some of the Emperor's entourage might be important enough in their own right to have one but not to use his special walkway?
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby DaoLunOfShiji » Thu Feb 28, 2019 2:26 pm

I would think so, yeah. Say for example the Grand Tutor was present with the Emperor. I highly doubt he wouldn't be in a carriage of his own, but I don't think he'd be allowed on the Emperor's pathway, so the side paths would have to be wide enough for that carriage as well as the flanking guards and ministers.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby zirroxas » Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:40 pm

The first chapter is something of a high barrier of entry. It took me few rereads before I felt like I was getting a complete picture due to the density of information and how it hops from subject to subject. That being said, when the barrier is breached, what's on offer is pretty interesting and important.

One of the things that struck me is how defensible Luoyang is. I always used to associate it with the topography of Zhengzhou, with the mountains and their passes to the west, the river to the north, and plains to the south and east. Until I saw the map and the details of the defense of the passes, I didn't realize that Luoyang is actually encircled by high ground, with the only approaches being through the passes or over the river, each of which was well understood by the capitol defenders.

That being said, the actual manpower on the defenses seems light. 5000 men under the Northern Army and some further 10,000 under various imperial guard and city defense units (if my memory is correct) would be rather anemic for a city of around a quarter of a million. The expectation would probably be that only one sector of the pass defenses would be under threat at any given time and that local militia would fill any gaps in personnel. Still, given that it was the capitol region, I would've expected a more substatial home guard.

I confess that the most entertaining part of the chapter for me was the consternation over figuring out which element of the cycle each dynasty was going to fall under. The other deliberations on temple and burial protocol were similarly amusing and I wish more of the substance of the debates had been conveyed. The arguments on each side always seem to have such huge amounts of thought put into them by very prestigious individuals despite the effects appearing very esoteric.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Mar 01, 2019 9:20 am

zirroxas wrote:
That being said, the actual manpower on the defenses seems light. 5000 men under the Northern Army and some further 10,000 under various imperial guard and city defense units (if my memory is correct) would be rather anemic for a city of around a quarter of a million. The expectation would probably be that only one sector of the pass defenses would be under threat at any given time and that local militia would fill any gaps in personnel. Still, given that it was the capitol region, I would've expected a more substatial home guard.


Yeah I know right! I find it difficult to get my head around too! I do wonder if the passes had additional soldiers that aren't included in our general numbers? The strategy was by not giving anybody control over a large body of men no one in the region became a threat - almost nuclear disarmament logic - and it seemed to have worked well until a large frontier army was summonsed back from the front and upended the balance of power!
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