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Ancient Chinese military tactics

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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Ancient Chinese military tactics
    Posted: 18-Jan-2007 at 22:30

I was going to mention Red Cliffs when I saw this thread. Sickness and the famous fire attack got the better of Cao Cao's fleet. Ya beat me to it guys. :x

Zhuge Liang was a master of ambuscades. What he would do, for instance at Mumen, is retreat, set up an ambush and then attack with massed crossbow fire whoever pursued him. His forces killed Zhang He at the aforementioned Mumen using this tactic. On other occassions, Zhuge Liang would try to lure Sima Yi to engage Shu in a field battle, and Sima Yi would lose. Fortunately for Wei, Sima Yi was clever enough to realize when to avoid conflict, and eventually he learned to adopt a more defensive policy whereby he kept Wei castles more fortified and avoided field battles.
 
The tactics of Hao Zhao at Chen Kuang Castle are also interesting. This was during one of Zhuge Liang's early invasions of Wei. Zhuge Liang attempted to take Chen Kuang, but all his tactics failed and eventually he was forced to leave because he began to run low on supplies. Hao Zhao countered tunnelling with counter tunneling, burned siege ladders so the Shu army couldn't scale the ramparts and attached large boulders to ropes (or something like that?) to destroy Kongming's siege towers.


Edited by Slick - 25-Jan-2007 at 02:32
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jan-2007 at 19:37
Zhuge Liang was a brilliant tactican.... but that's really exaggerated. His accomplishments seem impressive when he wins... but interesting enough, that's only when the opponents are thick-headed warriors. When Sima Yi stayed defensive, a simple tactic when one faces someone who excels in offense.... Zhuge Liang could not do a thing about it. The brilliant tacticans should be able to pull that off, especially when both sides had similar amount of forces.
 
Look at Rommel. He was able to beat the Allies numerous times, when Allies attacked or stayed defensive. He only pulled back when he ran out of manpower, and when his superior decided not to follow Rommel's advice.
     
   
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  Quote Siege Tower Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2007 at 16:03
Zhuge liang was actually more of a politician than a general, it is very common that people compare him with Bismark.
 
 
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2007 at 16:07
Originally posted by Siege Tower

Zhuge liang was actually more of a politician than a general, it is very common that people compare him with Bismark.
 
 
 
Well said, Siegetower! His biggest accomplishment, after all, is to convince Shu to join the battle against Wu.
     
   
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  Quote jiangweibaoye Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2007 at 22:56
Pekau,

Zhugeliang was a brillant tactican.  However, he was overratted.

Correction, Zhuge Liang armies was outnumbered by Sima Yi.   I recall reading that Sima Yi army was about fifty to sixty percent larger than Zhuge Liang.

Also, Sima Yi had more resources (like food) versus Zhuge Liang.

All that and Zhuge Liang was always on the offensive.  He was also the Prime Minister so he had military and domestic duties to deal with simultaneously.  No small feat and a testment to his abilities.

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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2007 at 02:42
I disagree...Zhuge Liang was a great tactician.
 
He won battles, but lost wars. To me, he's like McClellan of the American Civil War. He was too cautious to engage in a decisive conflict with Wei that might decide the fate of the two kingdoms. As it turned out, this was good for Shu, as Jiang Wei's more bold yet reckless way of campaigning would result in defeat after defeat for Shu-Han.
 
Overrated? Perhaps. But he deserves his fame. Wei had many competent officers, as did Wu, but Zhuge Liang was definitely the most talented man that Shu-Han produced. He was both a good leader and a good "politician." Before his Northern Campaigns, he worked himself to exhaustion with the details of governance. During his Northern Campaigns, he worked himself to death with the details of campaign strategy. His style of waging war was gradually progressive, but slow. Had he been able to live much longer, I think he would have found much more success in his war against Wei.
 
Even though he was Prime Minister, he told Liu Shan that he could leave matters of governance in the hands of Fei Wei, Guo Youzhi and Dong Yun. After Liu Bei's death, he did a lot to repair Shu's military, economy, etc. and restore the faith of Shu's populace. But afterwards he became, essentially, the commander-in-chief of Shu-Han. Except for the first and second northern campaign, he was victorious in battle in nearly all of his other campaigns. He was too cautious to follow up victories with a drive into Wei, however. Some say this was a bad thing, but I consider it to be one of his better points. Better to be cautious than reckless if you are at a disadvantage against a stronger enemy country.
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2007 at 14:15
Originally posted by jiangweibaoye

Pekau,

Zhugeliang was a brillant tactican.  However, he was overratted.

Correction, Zhuge Liang armies was outnumbered by Sima Yi.   I recall reading that Sima Yi army was about fifty to sixty percent larger than Zhuge Liang.

Also, Sima Yi had more resources (like food) versus Zhuge Liang.

All that and Zhuge Liang was always on the offensive.  He was also the Prime Minister so he had military and domestic duties to deal with simultaneously.  No small feat and a testment to his abilities.

Jiangwei
 
I never argued that he was a terrible tactican. He was brilliant. I am merely pointing out that his true importance was his capability to adapt to situatuon and his understanding of diplomacy.
     
   
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  Quote jiangweibaoye Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2007 at 15:09
Pekau,
 
I agree with you.
 
Just that I think Kongming's hands were tied due to being outnumbered and outresouced.  Hence, his flexibility was limited.  I think if Sima Yi and KongMing had the same amount of each, Kong Ming would win.  Hands down.
 
But you have to hand it to Sima Yi.  He knew he was inferior (or at least not as smart as Kong Ming) hence he played the waiting game to his advantage.  It takes a man of great ability to know one's limitations & utilize it to the fullest.
 
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2007 at 20:43
Originally posted by jiangweibaoye

Pekau,
 
I agree with you.
 
Just that I think Kongming's hands were tied due to being outnumbered and outresouced.  Hence, his flexibility was limited.  I think if Sima Yi and KongMing had the same amount of each, Kong Ming would win.  Hands down.
 
But you have to hand it to Sima Yi.  He knew he was inferior (or at least not as smart as Kong Ming) hence he played the waiting game to his advantage.  It takes a man of great ability to know one's limitations & utilize it to the fullest.
 
Jiangwei
 
Once again, history is not always improved by the intelligence. It's amazing how many intelligent people made the situations even worse, when all it takes is a simple common sense. For instance, UN provided with an expensive cooking room full of advance machines for Indian students... but the Indians could not use it because 1. The power voltage was different and 2. They found it pointless to use that for cooking when they used different equipment and practiced different style of cooking in their homes.  
     
   
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  Quote Siege Tower Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2007 at 15:37
Once again, history is not always improved by the intelligence. It's amazing how many intelligent people made the situations even worse
 
well said.
 
 
Zhuge Liang might be a brilliant tactician but he never had any major breakthrough in the war against Wei 
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2007 at 17:09
Originally posted by Siege Tower

Once again, history is not always improved by the intelligence. It's amazing how many intelligent people made the situations even worse
 
well said.
 
 
Zhuge Liang might be a brilliant tactician but he never had any major breakthrough in the war against Wei 
 
I understand what you are getting at, but I do think Zhuge Liang made huge accomplishments against the Kingdom of Wu. Wei could not hope to launch another aggressive attack since Zhuge Liang's successful alliance with Kingdom of Shu prevented Cao Cao to freely attack to the South. Furthermore, Zhuge Liang's brilliance helped to push Wu back to North, though the advance was not that significant since Wu still dominated much of China. Because of his brilliance, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms endured much longer than it should have.
     
   
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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jan-2007 at 17:54
Pekau, Cao Cao wasn't even alive at the time that Zhuge Liang sent Deng Zhi to re-affirm the alliance between Shu-Han and Wu. Nor was he, of course, alive when Zhuge Liang began his Northern Campaigns. During Zhuge Liang's first Northern Campaign, Cao Pi had even died and been succeeded by Cao Rui.
 
Zhuge Liang achieved very little against the kingdom of Wu either. He merely restored the peace that the two kingdom had before Wu took Jingzhou from Liu Bei.
 
Wu did not dominate most of China. Wei had nearly equal to or more land than Wu (although as far as land goes, the two kingdoms may have been pretty close). Wei had a significant population advantage against Wu, however, and the combined amount of territory that Wei and Shu had outmatched that of the territory that Wu held.
 
The concluding statement you made might be true. Shu needed all the good leadership it could have, and Zhuge Liang was definitely the greatest mind in the kingdom. His policies, both civil and military, made Shu-Han a much larger threat to Cao-Wei.
 
What Siege Tower says is mostly true though. Zhuge Liang's policies were progressive, and he was slowly gaining ground as he won more victories, but he never did have a major breakthrough against Wei.


Edited by Slick - 27-Jan-2007 at 17:56
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jan-2007 at 19:13
Originally posted by Slick

Pekau, Cao Cao wasn't even alive at the time that Zhuge Liang sent Deng Zhi to re-affirm the alliance between Shu-Han and Wu. Nor was he, of course, alive when Zhuge Liang began his Northern Campaigns. During Zhuge Liang's first Northern Campaign, Cao Pi had even died and been succeeded by Cao Rui.
 
Zhuge Liang achieved very little against the kingdom of Wu either. He merely restored the peace that the two kingdom had before Wu took Jingzhou from Liu Bei.
 
Wu did not dominate most of China. Wei had nearly equal to or more land than Wu (although as far as land goes, the two kingdoms may have been pretty close). Wei had a significant population advantage against Wu, however, and the combined amount of territory that Wei and Shu had outmatched that of the territory that Wu held.
 
The concluding statement you made might be true. Shu needed all the good leadership it could have, and Zhuge Liang was definitely the greatest mind in the kingdom. His policies, both civil and military, made Shu-Han a much larger threat to Cao-Wei.
 
What Siege Tower says is mostly true though. Zhuge Liang's policies were progressive, and he was slowly gaining ground as he won more victories, but he never did have a major breakthrough against Wei.
 
Lol, I am slipping... But didn't Zhuge Liang organized an attack to Wu? It was just a castle, but he still got it? Can't remember what name of the city was... but he invaded shortly after he captured Wei's capital, he attacked since people feared that the capital could be attacked by Wu easily.
     
   
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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jan-2007 at 20:13

He never captured Wei's capital. He never even captured Chang'an, which was his first goal during his Northern Campaigns. And I don't know of any attempts by him to take a Wu city...

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  Quote Siege Tower Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2007 at 13:39
Zhuge Liang's plan was to take Long Zhong( 陇中), which was famous for its wheat production and wait a few years hope to prepare enough food to wage the war. At the same time , work out the relation with Wu so that Wu would attack from the other end. His next step would be caturing Chang'an. I think the reason for his failure would be Shu's relationship with Wu, because as you know, Liu Bei invaded Wu and lost most of his army(you know how people say that the reason of his invasion on Wu was because of the assasination of Zhang Fei, i think it's because he was tired of waiting).
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  Quote Siege Tower Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2007 at 13:49
Wei actually occupied 2/3 of China, but less than 1/3 of Chinese population. Out of the three kingdoms, Shu governs about 2/5 of the entire population including minority races from south. During pre-three kingdom period, most of Chinese population live in Jing Zhougoverned by Liu Biao.
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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2007 at 14:34
Suffice it to say, Zhuge Liang did not ultimately achieve his goals, though was slowly inching towards them.
 
Anyways, to get this back on track, my points were that Zhuge Liang was a decent early tactician. His ambuscades are what he's most famous for, and he invented a formation called the 'eight-gates' formation that allowed him to effectively make use of crossbowmen in ambushes. When retreating, for instance after the Battle of Chen Kuang and at Mumen, he'd leave an army detachment in ambush so that officers who pursued, as Wang Shuang and Zhang He would do, would be caught in Zhuge Liang's trap.
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2007 at 21:35

Mein Gott, I have to reread the Three Kingdoms of Romance...

     
   
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  Quote Slick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2007 at 22:45

Well, Romance of the Three Kingdoms does contain a good deal of fiction. If you want to learn more about the actual period, you should try reading some translated SGZ bios around the web or find a good book on China.

http://www.kongming.net is a good source for translated bios and such. Sanguo Yanyi bios are bios of characters from Luo Guanzhong's novel, so avoid reading those and read some of the SGZ and Comprehensive bios instead.
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  Quote Siege Tower Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Jan-2007 at 07:17
hey pakau, i strongly advise you to read the history of three kingdom by  Cheng Tao, it's more historically accurate and it is unbiased. Romance of the Three Kingdoms which was extremely biased on Cao Cao, who was one of the greatest leader of all time and a brilliant writer.
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