The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Mar 01, 2019 5:03 pm

My guess with the calculations for defence force is that they would get warning at which point they hold the passes and send word out to others to raise local forces (or get one of the frontier generals to help) and levy the capital region. The sheer equipment quality and training/expirence of that 5,000 would give them an advantage in the battles, holding the passes till help arrived. If the entire frontier forces near Liang attacked, then there might well be a problem but otherwise, the Han probably would have advantage against whoever attacked the capital suddenly.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Sun Mar 03, 2019 6:23 pm

*walks in late, sweating profusely* Am I late? What did I miss? I brought some Doritos. I got stuck in traffic. I promise I was gonna be here on time. I got a flat tire. I also got stuck in snow. I forgot my book and had to go back home to get it. There was an explosion. I... I will do better next time... :oops:

So my forte is definitely Late 3K and Western Jin, so I think most of this book will be new information for me. (Or review of forgotten information.) I agree with others that this chapter was dry, but that was sort of to be expected. In lieu of listing everything I found to be new information, because I'd pretty much just be copy/pasting three-quarters of the chapter, I'll just mention the stuff I found to be super-de-duper interesting.

1. Luoyang is much smaller than Chang'an. I don't know why but I always pictured Luoyang as the largest city in medieval China. I suppose this shouldn't be all that surprising, though, considering even today's nation capitals aren't necessarily the largest city either.

2. Emperor Ping causing the Yellow River to flood, leading to revolt, is reminiscent of the Turbans' revolution, which was also sparked (in part) by a flooded Yellow River. Though it sounds like the former was mostly due to perceived incompetence, compared to the sign from Heaven of the latter.

3. The secret Stone House that held portentous texts; if only I could've been one of its attendants. I find it intriguing that it was rarely visited, and even more rarely mentioned in historical texts. I suppose it'd be to avoid purposeful fulfillment of portents.

4. Emperor Wu performed a ceremony at an altar with his harem in order to bear a son, and eventually he did so. RdC mentions that, despite many later Emperors having problems bearing a son, they didn't perform the ritual. I wonder why they wouldn't emulate Emperor Wu's ceremony, given its apparent success.

5. The suburbs weren't protected from flooding. In a culture that saw natural disasters as an omen against the ruling parties, you'd think they'd take greater precautions against exposing the people to such signs. Though I suppose it'd be expensive and unsightly.

6. I didn't know Cao Cao liked falcons.

My main takeaways: (1) There have been questions here in recent years regarding the sincerity of the imperial family's "faith" in the Heavens. This book has given me another source showing just how in-depth the rituals were. (2) The thorough explanation of the various prefects and inspectors and ministers; I could've used such descriptions a long time ago when I was trying to keep track of everyone's responsibilities in the ZZTJ and Jinshu. :lol: I'll have to remember this chapter offers a quick lookup. (3) Cao Cao likes falcons.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Sun Mar 03, 2019 6:33 pm

In response to a couple things others have mentioned:

- The comparisons and contrasts to Rome. They are very useful!... to people who know things about Rome. I know barely a thing. I've never been interested in its history or the city's structure itself. :lol: Why couldn't RdC make comparisons to Minneapolis? :lol:

- The Beast of a Bridge. DaoLun's illustration is how I picture it as well. There's many smaller walking bridges that appear that way -- a roofed center portion that has a higher apex, and narrower, lower side walkways. I figure this Beast is indeed a much larger version of this sort of bridge.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Sun Fin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:51 am

Chapter 2

You posted just in time Jia! Today we move on! Confession time, I have exams for the next 3 days and haven't read this chapter as a result. I will catch up then, but please start the conversation without me :lol:.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:06 pm

I spent weeks ensuring Jia Nanfeng would not get here in time, weeks. Next time I fake a broadcast that giant cheeto's have invaded. Agree with 1 and 3

4. Emperor Wu performed a ceremony at an altar with his harem in order to bear a son, and eventually he did so. RdC mentions that, despite many later Emperors having problems bearing a son, they didn't perform the ritual. I wonder why they wouldn't emulate Emperor Wu's ceremony, given its apparent success.


Maybe it was looked down upon? Maybe there was something a bit embarrassing about the idea of requiring a ritual becuase youu can't get ladies pregnant?

(1) There have been questions here in recent years regarding the sincerity of the imperial family's "faith" in the Heavens. This book has given me another source showing just how in-depth the rituals were.


I tend to assume it was true but usually in a vagueish "oh gods, it is Sunday church" type thing but your right, it does show how seriously ritual was taken

Jia Nanfeng wrote:- The comparisons and contrasts to Rome. They are very useful!... to people who know things about Rome. I know barely a thing. I've never been interested in its history or the city's structure itself. :lol: Why couldn't RdC make comparisons to Minneapolis? :lol:


In England, not sure you can avoid it. There are TV shows and cultural stuff on it all the time
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:39 am

Sun Fin wrote:Chapter 2

You posted just in time Jia! Today we move on! Confession time, I have exams for the next 3 days and haven't read this chapter as a result. I will catch up then, but please start the conversation without me :lol:.


Possible talking points

-Kings interest in occult

-Family squabbles

-Eldest not being heir as policy

-Policy towards the tribes

-Buddhism's arrival

Edit:

-The deadly but closed off haremn
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby zirroxas » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:56 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:-Kings interest in occult

-Family squabbles


These seem to be pretty intertwined. The fascination of the other princes with strange cults and soothsayers seems to be a symptom of dissatisfaction with the place they were afforded by the more mainstream institutions of the state. Whether they were hoping for supernatural backing to claim political power or they just wanted their own sect in which that they could feel important and in charge is difficult to say.

Either that or boredom. I've learned to never discount that possibility with relatives of ruling houses.

Dong Zhou wrote:-Eldest not being heir as policy


It certainly seems that the eldest son of the principal wife was still supposed to be heir, but the political maneuvering in the harem and the infertility of certain empresses muddled the situation. It's worth remembering that the Han dynasty had been this way from the beginning. Emperor Gaozu's oldest son was made King of Qi rather than emperor because Lady Cao was never empress.

The issues of succession that a lot of us are familiar with during the 3K era were more caused by succession either being confused for poor reasons or vacillating and scandal-ridden in its entirety. Jia Xu's advice was prudent, but not necessarily comprehensive.

Dong Zhou wrote:-Policy towards the tribes


For whatever reason, it seems that the later dynasty forgot the difference between conquering a place and ruling it. It's military adventures to the west and north might've looked very prestigious on paper, but it's inability to control the areas that connected those regions doomed any success there to be ephermeral and costly.

The interesting thing is how the treatmen of the Qiang and Xiongnu diverged drastically, but ultimately had similar results. The Qiang were treated too harshly and started rebelling, while the southern Xiongnu were treated too conciliatorily and interfered with policy in the north. Both ended up eroding Han authority in the area, but perhaps the Xiongnu's preferential treatment was a result of their inheritance of a more prestigious legacy.

Dong Zhou wrote:-Buddhism's arrival


I recently got into a debate in another venue about the direction of Buddhism's arrival in China. It was the old northwest-land vs southeast-sea route debate. My understanding is that the overland route through the Silk Road is better attested by history and archaeology, and that the sea route through Southeast Asia is missing several steps. If I'm mistaken there, please let me know.

Nonetheless, it's interesting that Buddhism seems to be syncretic with Taosim at this moment in history. It would certainly fit its pattern.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:09 pm

Chapter 2 covers Emperor Ming and Emperor Zhang, the golden Ages of the latter Han (not a good sign for the Han) and sets up the regency for Emperor He.

Best of luck with the exams Sun Fin! Zirroxas, will respond to your excellent points tomorrow

Less dry, get a mix of miliatry matters, ritual, scholarship issues of the time, politics and De Crespigny knowing when to unfold the next bit of explanation about the way the Han worked/culture so something for all. Due to nature of work, there is lack of detail on things like what went on in miliatry camapigns as De Crespigny looks at the longer term overview of the miliatry efforts and there are other works for that level of detail. Only once on a law reform did I feel "that could have done with a note to explain".

The bits that shone tended to involve things going wrong or downfalls. This may well be less about the work, more about me being a monster :wink:

Emperor Ming

-Detailed about the funeral of Emperor Guangwu, I like the touches of chaos and confusion as everyone was so out of practise

-Fascinating how the eldest legitimate child was not the first two successive Emperors but the eldest child of whichever leading lady had the most powerful connections. So unused to that, might make a certain practical sense in retaining gentry support but clear issues with how that could go wrong

-A month seems a long time to wait to bury the Emperor though it certainly would seem to take awhile to prepare all the regalia and logistics required

-Things must have been really awkward for both Emperor Ming and the former heir Liu Qiang even before Liu Jing's interventions. I wonder if those that pushed for change of Empress ever realized how awkward and horrible this must have been for all the sons, woman and Guangwu despite Guangwu's best efforts to keep things happy. Sad case with Liu Jing, I can understand why Emperor Ming... clamped down on those that consulted with the occult (I liked De Crespigny's note it may simply have been a way to make life more intresting), credit to Liu Cang for way he managed to carve out a rule via knowledge of helpful but not harmful subjects and knowing when to keep head down.

-Hadn't realized Emperor Ming had pushed filial piety into being such a central tenant, can see what he was going for with the cultural/political impact of his scholarly moves and does seem to have been very successful

-The tribes and depopulation of the frontier, amazing how far back problems that plague Han right to the end go

-Interesting see Buddhism embraced by a King so early and Emperor Ming not being hostile to it and how it got confused with Taoism. I hadn't thought it was still new in Zhai Rong's time

Emperor Zhang

-Blimey at the losses of Further Jushi

-Ban Chao does like to kill as part of diplomacy

-Good point that those being praised for spreading Confucianism were trying to stamp out local culture

-Why restrict executions to winter months? I looked up Emperor Zhang's entry in encyclopaedia, seems to be related to the seasons and that winter was the right time (though not exactly practical). I'm not sure if a note should have been added to explain that one to the audience

-Gained respect for Emperor Zhang, clearly worked hard, active in getting out of the capital, tried practical infrastructure improvements, tried to rule with kindness, a patron of scholarship (even if that went awkwardly).


Emperor He build up

-I had not realized that, in effect, the position of Empress was a closed shop for a few select families. It made sense for such marriages (and of imperial princesses) to connect to leading families to keep their support and favour but one would expect some new families to slip in as time passed. De Crespigny builds into well to show the political interests between the super elite and the usual gentry conflicted so led to factions and the need to pretend this was not happening

-Love the way Dou Mu's abuse of power got discovered

-Feel sorry for the Song sisters

-Dowager Dou clearly a great political player at a young age, intelligent and ruthless but the cost was ugly (though, had she fallen, so would have been the cost to herself and to her clan)
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Jia Nanfeng » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:17 pm

I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I wanted to say the description near the beginning of the chapter of the Emperor’s funeral procession was amazing. I especially liked the robed, armed exorcist in a carriage that cleared evil spirits out of the way of the path. I wonder who played that role and if they had any other positions — probably a high-ranking daoist, though given the intimidation factor perhaps it was a warrior?

I will add to my will a request to mimic Liu Xiu’s funeral. Including the orphans.
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Re: The SOSZ's Book Club - Fire Over Luoyang

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Mar 06, 2019 8:47 am

Jia Nanfeng wrote:I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I wanted to say the description near the beginning of the chapter of the Emperor’s funeral procession was amazing. I especially liked the robed, armed exorcist in a carriage that cleared evil spirits out of the way of the path. I wonder who played that role and if they had any other positions — probably a high-ranking daoist, though given the intimidation factor perhaps it was a warrior?

I will add to my will a request to mimic Liu Xiu’s funeral. Including the orphans.


True, that was detailed and gave a sense of a great ceremony, a great show. The exorcist was my favourite bit, I want to be him when I grow up

zirroxas wrote:
These seem to be pretty intertwined. The fascination of the other princes with strange cults and soothsayers seems to be a symptom of dissatisfaction with the place they were afforded by the more mainstream institutions of the state. Whether they were hoping for supernatural backing to claim political power or they just wanted their own sect in which that they could feel important and in charge is difficult to say.

Either that or boredom. I've learned to never discount that possibility with relatives of ruling houses.


Fair point.

I was going with boredom (they have to be restrained due to their officials and reputation, they can't enter public service, they have to be careful to avoid anything controversially political, life outside capital might be less exciting then in it). I can certainly see the importance element you mention

It certainly seems that the eldest son of the principal wife was still supposed to be heir, but the political maneuvering in the harem and the infertility of certain empresses muddled the situation. It's worth remembering that the Han dynasty had been this way from the beginning. Emperor Gaozu's oldest son was made King of Qi rather than emperor because Lady Cao was never empress.

The issues of succession that a lot of us are familiar with during the 3K era were more caused by succession either being confused for poor reasons or vacillating and scandal-ridden in its entirety. Jia Xu's advice was prudent, but not necessarily comprehensive.


My knowledge of the Han before the Huan years is limited, I have read Northern Frontier and picked up a few things here or there, so this book is filling in a lot of gaps.

It is something that surprised me. Possibly due to western culture but yes, the reaction to the succession errors of Yuan, Jing and Wu help sell the idea of "why not eldest son" and has been a sense that they were meant to go for eldest son as a pattern. My thinking had been that the Han lack of sons had meant warlords hadn't had recent examples but the latter Han history being more complex then "first son simples", I have a better understanding of why they felt younger one was option. Even if they bungled it

Jia Xu was just going "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" :P

For whatever reason, it seems that the later dynasty forgot the difference between conquering a place and ruling it. It's military adventures to the west and north might've looked very prestigious on paper, but it's inability to control the areas that connected those regions doomed any success there to be ephermeral and costly.

The interesting thing is how the treatmen of the Qiang and Xiongnu diverged drastically, but ultimately had similar results. The Qiang were treated too harshly and started rebelling, while the southern Xiongnu were treated too conciliatorily and interfered with policy in the north. Both ended up eroding Han authority in the area, but perhaps the Xiongnu's preferential treatment was a result of their inheritance of a more prestigious legacy.


I think it happens throughout history, conquest cost is thought of but discounted for the glory and other factors, the hard grind afterwards isn't calculated. The outter reaches became a sucker of resources but one that any time some suggested pulling out, reactions were really hostile.

I wondered if the Han was seeking to do the opposite of Wang Mang with the Xiongnu and the opportunity for a client state must have appealed. I never got the impression the Han was consistent with how they handled tribes, it could depend on the Emperor and who was the frontline commander/governor at the time

I recently got into a debate in another venue about the direction of Buddhism's arrival in China. It was the old northwest-land vs southeast-sea route debate. My understanding is that the overland route through the Silk Road is better attested by history and archaeology, and that the sea route through Southeast Asia is missing several steps. If I'm mistaken there, please let me know.

Nonetheless, it's interesting that Buddhism seems to be syncretic with Taosim at this moment in history. It would certainly fit its pattern.


I'm afraid I'm the wrong person to ask

Agreed.
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