Hello again. I appreciated your very in-depth analysis about Yang Jun, very good! I never really invested in the Book of Jin even though I ought to so some of the information here is new to me, though I knew the one about Yang Jun trying to eliminate Sima Liang through Shi Jian.Jia Nanfeng wrote: ↑Tue Aug 15, 2023 12:24 pm tl;dr:
Yang Jun and Empress Dowager Yang Zhi are the worst traitors in my opinion.
not too long; did read:
Not Three Kingdoms era proper, but my vote goes to Yang Jun. He forged Emperor Sima Yan’s deathbed will, then encouraged the passing of an edict requiring an empress dowager to obtain signatures from the dying emperor, which meant his (obviously very influential) daughter Yang Zhi could trick the old bastard into signing it…
…then Jun was promoted into pretty much every position known to mankind (Grand Commandant, Grand Tutor, Commander of all military affairs, Palace Attendant, and Chief of the Masters of Writing), and so he sent Sima Liang (who was supposed to be regent prior to the forgery) far away so he couldn’t do anything about it…
…then when Sima Yan, prior to kicking the bucket, asked for Sima Liang, Yang Jun lied and said he didn’t show up at all, then Yang Jun occupied the Taiji Hall (front hall of the palace) and surrounded it with 100 guards because that’s totally what an innocent person does, which discouraged a lot of people (including Liang) from even attending the Emperor’s mourning…
…then Yang Zhi ordered Shi Jian to hunt down Sima Liang just to make super-duper sure he won’t seek revenge for their treason (and Shi Jian ended up not carrying through with it, which ends up being a double-edged sword because much later Liang gets involved with the whole Princes thing)…
…then Yang Jun occupied the Basilica of the Supreme Ultimate, which is where the Emperor’s edicts were written and discharged, which means he now was able to choose which edicts from the Emperor actually went in and out. He was basically imposing his will onto the Emperor at this point.
For fear that the people would revolt against Yang Jun, he then tries to win them all over by promoting a ton of people and officials. (Perhaps learning nothing from Cao Rui and Ming of Wei.) Fu Zhi greatly admonished this, saying that this is no time to speak of merits so soon after the Emperor has died. (Yang Jun ignored this. He also ignored the subsequent petition from the officials.)
At this point, who is left who could take on Yang Jun? The Emperor is too dim-witted to do so. That leaves just one: the Empress.
So Yang Jun decides to completely remove all power from the Empress and give it to his daughter, the Empress Dowager Zhi, instead. Which meant none of the Emperor’s edicts were valid, and shall be outright ignored, unless they also displayed Yang Zhi’s stamp.
(There’s also a possibility that Yang Zhi tried to assassinate Empress Jia around this point, if Xu Yi’s epitaph is to be believed — I personally think it is.)
I often wonder if Sima Yan hadn’t, many years prior, promoted Yang Jun to general (in direct opposition to petitions against the promotion), if the Jin would have collapsed from within as quickly as it did. This promotion caused a domino effect to an Empress leading a rebellion against her palace’s occupiers (which isn’t really a “rebellion,” if you think about it).
And this in-fighting, of course, did not bode well for the Western Jin empire. And it didn’t help that Emperor Sima Zhang was mentally incapable of doing anything about any of it.
I am curious why you did not put Sima Lun as a bigger traitor. In my view, Yang Jun’s vile acts were not as politically destabilizing and militarily destabilizing than what Sima Lun did.
Sima Lun usurped the throne. Usurping the emperor’s throne greatly sends a message of political instability through the whole empire and Sima Lun’s politically novice acts that were on level or exceeded those of Yang Jun's during his reign didn’t help either (the story about the marten hats is in my mind). While Yang Jun used the emperor to his advantage with bogus edicts, Sima Lun chose to usurp the throne. What Sima Lun did was symbolically worse. This led to a bunch of independent princes with massive armies marching onto the capital and each believing they can achieve their ambitions which only broke apart the empire. While Empress Jia Nanfeng (the historical one) was able to stabilize what Yang Jun did through able ministers (such as Zhang Hua and Pei Wei), the people after Sima Lun could not, even in times of peace. Sima Lun left a worse legacy than Yang Jun.
It seems Yang Jun was the only guy during his regency doing incompetent things. Sima Lun I believe was worse, entrusting people with no political experiences such as Sun Xiu with major responsibilities and executing ministers (the aforementioned ministers) for petty reasons. In contrast, it seems Yang Jun never went that far to actually kill people.
I personally believe that even with Jia Nanfeng running the show after Yang Jun's actions, there was a sense of normalcy as she was a capable ruler and the officials were comfortable with her while waiting for Sima Yu to become emperor (which never happened). The aftermath of Sima Lun was anything but normal.
As I see it, Yang Jun was bad but not so bad as Jia Nanfeng could clean up his mess. I hope my theory has shared some knowledge with you!