Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Lord Yang Jiahua
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Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

Unread post by Lord Yang Jiahua »

Notes to Three Kingdoms Moss Roberts Translation

The aim of these notes is to provide both my own observations, jottings and thoughts on
Three Kingdoms as well as some academic prompts and thoughts and literary critiques.
Our forum is quite full of things, but I have not actually seen a topic like this. I encourage all our membership to partake and offer their own responses, opinions, etc as I explore the “standard” version of the novel. As I am not writing an academic paper here so I will limit most of my writing to the novel, with exceptions to major historical figures and incidents of the novel, ex The Yellow Scarves Rebellion.
Some chapters, such as the 1st one, I have only written general notes, but more integral parts of the novel where few things are occurring in one chapter will be given more technical looks at.

The notes follow the novel format and chapter respectively, all page numbers and chapters are respective to the Moss Roberts Translated Edition of The SGYY. (If your edition has a different event or an event not being told or something wildly different, it would be interesting to compare.)

Edit:Citation of General Event and Year or period will be posted at each note where possible along with citation of page number and paragraph relevant in the chapter. General Event of the note will be italicized Ex. The Oath in The Peach Garden.
Responses to the chapter notes (at the back of each book) will be placed with Chapter and note number it has.
Quotations and or responses to specific dialogue will be cited similarly. I believe this will allow our fellow Historians and people with different editions to more easily access the topic in reference. Actual Chapter Titles will be bolded and italicized.

Chapter 1: Three Bold Spirits Plights Mutual Faith in the Peach Garden,
Heroes and Champions Win First Honors Fighting the Yellow Scarves


(1) Note to Pages 1-4 Chapter 1 170-184A.D Fall of The Han, The Reign of Emperor Ling, Portents and Omens, The Yellow Scarves Rebellion

Due to the novel setting the stage for the characters versus events, as the entire work is character driven the opening stage is glossed in, the reader is being told what is going on. Portents and omens do play a role throughout the novel, as they did anywhere in the ancient world of 180 A.D. The portents described such as a “secondary rainbow”, and “chickens to hens,” here in the novel's opening can have decidedly scientific or even practical explanations, the latter notably could have been a plant by a chicken farmer simply wanting to make news.

The most notable implication of the opening of the novel, which took me some time perceive was the idea of common consciousness. What I mean by this is the idea that, all the people, the average everyday persons of the nation, are all somehow very in tune, convinced or aware of each other's troubles in a large, spacious, and disconnected world. This is less a modernist error and more one of asking the question ,“Does the masses exist?”. Three Kingdoms at least would have us believe the masses do exist. Only one character however seems to regard the masses throughout the novel in benevolent and kind terms.

Was the Yellow Scarves Rebellion due to Zhang Jiao's organizing and fanaticism, possibly. Did the people have justifiable grievances and problems, certainly. Half a million peasant rebels spread out over China however, is much easier to deal with than half a million peasant rebels in front of the imperial capital. How much was the rebellion due to Zhang Jiao, or mostly just people taking advantage of the situation to cause chaos and theoretically enrich themselves? Are the people that easily blinded, scammed, and misled, and then fired at an enemy that humanity has been continuous repeating this cycle throughout history, that is the question.

We tend to believe what happens in our lives happen in some kind of individual vacuum directed solely and specially at or around us regardless of our awareness. Yet without knowing the general thoughts of the masses, their verifiable and direct intentions, (regardless of say modern technology) historians always feel shaky, never being able to give a perfect answer to certain historical events, especially ones like the Yellow Scarves Rebellion. Was there a break down in Imperial Administration of the Han Dynasty, yes, do we know for certain how much de facto control they had over the everyday lives of the common people, not really, we can only imply based on the historical data.

(2) Notes to The Oath in The Peach Garden184 A.D Spring, Character Introductions of The Three Brothers Chapter 1 Pages 6-12

The first character driven event of the novel is very straightforward and moving, we are introduced to our first three principal characters, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, “The Three Brothers.”

Any first time reader is almost immediately going to point to that these are the “good guys”, that could reflect the author Luo Guanzhong's bias, or just the general intention that these three have to be the good guys. Liu Bei's entry in the Sanguozhi (One of the novel's sources for material)at the opening is also very flattering, however that could also be simply because its author Chen Shou had both a personal motivation (is ex-Lord's father/Emperor was Liu Bei) and was quite possibly directed by the Jin court to write positive rendition of the three major dynastic founders of the Three Kingdoms. A normal reader has no reason to doubt this section of the novel and yet because of that lack of doubt in the portrayal, a problem is created. If one reads the novel in a manner of rooting for a character, or a team, then the good team, qualitatively has already been defined.

(3) Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei fight The Yellow Scarves, Their First Battle.184 A.D Notes to Chapter 1 Pages 13-15

Fighting men who actually know how to fight is enormously more difficult than slaughtering defenseless peasants, as the Yellow Scarves find out. Of note, being for the masses and then proceeding to slaughter the masses, is a good way to say you actually aren't for the people but are simply manipulating them. This would lean the argument of “mass-consciousness” on its more negative aspects. What was running through the mind of the average Yellow Scarves rebel soldier, who wasn't devoted to slaughtering the average other commoners, or who felt like if they wanted revolution, why slaughter all the rest of the people and automatically make enemies of them? Leaving the army was probably not an easy option depending on their comrades and officers, who may kill them, or be able to coerce them by force to stay. In that case, the average scarve could be said to have been stuck into being a Yellow Scarve.

Very conveniently, Lu Zhi who is introduced here as a commanding military general also happens to be one of Liu Bei's teachers when he was younger, how convenient!, yet nothing seems to really come of that connection, why? Later on Lu Zhi will be removed from command, yet that does not make him a less influential person, either at court or in the army.

(4) Character Introduction of Cao Cao, Cao Cao the Han Official early years, Participation against the Yellow Scarves Notes to Chapter 1 Pages 15-17

Here we are introduced to Cao Cao, in very neutral terms, government general, capable commander, brilliant person, lies to his father! In Chinese culture this would be considered most wrong for a dutiful son, a good Confucian etc. Even then this particularly lacks context against Cao Cao's familial relationships which appear otherwise sound. The only alarming part to Cao Cao's character is Xu Shao's character judgment of him:
treacherous villain in a time of chaos.
However, the next paragraph details his handling of an uncle of the Palace eunuch Jian Shuo, with no repercussions except to possibly have hived Cao Cao off to an appointment outside the capital district and none too far away regardless. A normal reader however, lacking context for the villainy and seeing the Yellow Scarves and or the eunuchs as the bigger enemies will probably ignore Cao Cao or even consider him necessary and probably justified, even sympathetic and useful, is he a hero?

(5) Note #30 to Chapter 1 (Mao Zonggang's take on Cao Cao's character Introduction)

Mao Zonggang, who later annotated, critiqued, edited and published a more standard form of the Three Kingdoms novel in Chinese, critiques Cao Cao for being a deceiver, (notes 29 and 30), maybe in this one instance, but a good reader could look for where Cao Cao patently lies to someone in the novel, and actually find it difficult. Some of Mao's notes need to be taken with some hesitation on the part of a reader.

(6) Cleaning Up The Yellow Scarves, Arrest of Lu Zhi and his replacement by Dong Zhuo 184A.D Notes to Chapter 1 Pages 17-19

Liu Bei and his brothers head back to help Lu Zhi, after being moved around from battle to battle, camp to camp, they run into Lu Zhi under arrest, and Dong Zhuo the general sent to replace him, already causing a problem for them, being ungrateful for their help in battle. Zhang Fei wants to immediately kill Dong Zhuo. The first time reader is being told to agree with this, as there is a general lack of context. Zhang Fei's bloody response though, almost feels correct, too, we later find out that this pattern will repeat with both brothers in the novel, as Liu Bei will prevent Zhang Fei from killing Dong Zhuo and freeing Lu Zhi here.

One should note a very simple fact that tends to be lost on the modern reader : the only barrier to killing a person back in ancient times, was could you get away with it/ were you skilled enough to do it. Zhang Fei feels no compunction over law, order, rank or army, he sees something unjust, is unhappy, and wants to deal with the problem, and distinctly feels he can get away with it. Weapons were all sword, spear, bow and arrow, nobody was technically unequal, and the demonstration of power and authority was almost always at the point of a sword, or fist. This then makes the warrior the standard, and the intellectual the secondary in terms of characters in the novel. A reader will always wish to follow what the martial character is doing and less so the intellectual one, this will be abruptly reversed later on.

(7) General Note to Chapter 1:
The Land belongs to no one man, but to all who live in it
, or some such variation (I.e realm for land, or to all vs all who live in it )of this line occurs six times throughout the novel and is struck out six times throughout the novel. Mao Zonggang disliked this line and threw it out, and the English translator did not re-add them.
Oddly, this is a populist sounding line, that definitely contrasts heavily in a reader's mind with the idea of China, Emperors, All under Heaven etc. If the line was not tossed, the Yellow Scarves could be seen sympathetically. If the line was not tossed, fighting over the land of Han would not seem justifiable. If the line was kept, the reader may have a different take on a good number of figures, events and politics as told by the novel. Case and point, the Yellow Scarves are a very large chunk of “all who live in it”, do they not belong in the land, of course after destroying the general livelihoods of a large section of fellow commoners, they do not, but what about if they did not do that, or before they rebelled?
Last edited by Lord Yang Jiahua on Sun Jan 22, 2023 7:36 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

Unread post by Dong Zhou »

Great idea. If I might suggest a tweak, instead of page numbers (or as well as), maybe what bit is being covered.

I also share a "need to be wary" with some of Mao Zongang's commentary though I don't think Cao Cao the deceiver is unfair. Land belongs to no on man is not one I was aware of, so thank you
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Very cool idea! I agree.

Also agreed on the page number note. For broader digestion, if that is the goal, some other means of reference makes sense. Simply because different prints of the translation in different forms have wildly varied page counts.
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Chapter 2: Zhang Fei Whips The Government Inspector
Imperial In-Law He Jin Plots Against The Eunuchs


(1) Note to Chapter 2 , A.D 184-85, Pages 20-26, The End of The Yellow Scarves Rebellion , Sun Jian Character Introduction
Chapter 2 opens by very straightforwardly finishing off the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, and Liu Bei's participation against the rebels. It also introduces Sun Jian, father of Sun Quan and founder of one of the Three Kingdoms. Sun Jian's credentials are established, pirate killer, rebel slayer, recommended for appointment to the Imperial Court and made prefect of multiple towns. It seems everyone but the person a reader would expect (Liu Bei) benefits from their accomplishments, or recommendations or connections.

An interesting aside for the historian, and something reader is generally unaware of if they just read the novel, is that the Han dynasty was not all peace and prosperity. Sun Jian's activities point to him quelling a rebellion which the chief rebel had declared himself “The Sun Emperor”. The Han dynasty actually had a good number of small uprisings and rebellions where people did these sorts of things prior to the Yellow Scarves. This is interesting due to the fact that future dynasties, Liu Bei's character, and general propaganda surrounding the greatness of China, will always point to the Han Dynasty as the ideal model of state. Ironically, its decline was rife with corruption and misrule, which resonates with every dynasty that unifies China, so this type of logic becomes a weird truism that both its glory and fall are repeated/are cyclical. For a nation to have grasped this and be aware of it with theories like “Five Elements Theory” and a general awareness that dynasties rise and fall, and their reasons, yet nobody seems to ever break the cycle except by rising a new dynasty as it were is a true novelty among humans.

(2) Note to Chapter 2 A.D 185/186 Pages 26-31, Liu Bei Assumes Office in Anxi County, Zhang Fei Whips the Government Inspector
Poor Liu Bei, he gets passed over continuously and gets minister Zhang Jun fired for vouching for him! Liu Bei also immediately assumes office and does a wonderful job, only to then be purged, very conveniently due to being appointed as a reward for military service. This kind of flip-flopping from the Ten Eunuchs, who oversee all this back and forth is ridiculous.

Before mentioning the actual beating of the inspector (A famous scene in Three Kingdoms storytelling), it should be noted that the inspector wants a bribe apparently, to allow Liu Bei to keep his tiny job. The thought of a bribe is not in and of itself interesting, what is interesting is that the bribing is brought up when Liu Bei is directly involved. The reader has just been bombarded with the competence of Cao Cao and Sun Jian, and them both getting rewarded, mostly due to military service, but Liu Bei not so. Is it because Cao Cao and Sun Jian have access to financial means and can grease some wheels in order to get things done? In Sun Jian's case, is it just because he seems too far away from the capital to bother not appointing him to an official rank? Singularly ignored throughout the novel except perhaps regarding Cao Cao, and then only in one specific instance, is the ability of any of its main characters and their main-secondary characters access to physical wealth.

In class-ist terms, if Cao Cao is essentially the wealthy millionaire who can pay to play in the world, Liu Bei is the dirt poor proletarian with nothing but his wits and arm strength. Until much later in the novel, Liu Bei is almost always depicted as being poor, or of little means, financially, militarily, etc. Despite this, the economic aspect of wealth is not in fact explicitly mentioned in the various situations Liu Bei will find himself in. The reader is told he is poor, not being able to bribe the inspector is part of this narrative. Yet, Liu Bei's lack of means, will almost always be coincided with his generalized “goodness”, even in 14th Century (or 3rd Century Sanguozhi) apparently being poor and good line up. It would seem then that being wealthy and a good person is some kind of modern invention.

Of course Zhang Fei whips the inspector for being a general bastard to both his elder brother and the people of the county. It is romantic and sympathetic because this type of behavior is totally impossible in a lawful modern society, but who wouldn't want to beat up a bully and a thief sent to steal money from the poor through “lawful” means.

(3) Chapter 2 Chapter Note #7
“There are other versions of this well-known scene. In the SGZ (“Xianzhu zhuan”) the beating is administered by Xuande himself. In the PH (p. 23-24) Zhang Fei kills the local leadership and then beats the inspector to death in front of Xuande; afterwards, the corpse is dismembered.”
I have deliberately included the full note quoted here for our members to view and any readers to note the scene between Liu Bei and the Government Inspector is a well-known dramatic sequence in both the SGZ, which is the historical source, and the PH, which is essentially a manual for the Chinese Opera performances of The Three Kingdoms. It would seem, if the stage-play PH version is any indication, normal audiences were all for blood, guts and gorey sequences of petty villains getting their just desserts. The SGZ, historical source has a fair treatment because it attests directly to Liu Bei's strength of character and justice as a leader.

It would be incredibly interesting if a translator were to make a more fictionalized version of the Three Kingdoms text, by changing episodes like this one into their more opera based sequences. Of course this would lead to some problems in future events, where the folk-tale tradition has some essentially magic-based sequences for characters, though the book would be fun to read no less.

If a translator had changed this sequence, to the bloody one with Zhang Fei, it might actually succeed at painting Liu Bei in a more neutral light, or at least genuinely shifting the incident onto Zhang Fei. As it stands, Liu Bei's reluctance to do anything, adds gravity to his goodness and gentle nature. The incident as currently written into the translation, makes Zhang Fei, rash, but justified, and Liu Bei as sort of indecisive. This is notable because these character attributes will repeat later on. Of note, Lord Guan has so far not factored in much, and he is mostly standing by in these opening sequences. As the reader progresses, this will become important to overall depictions of characters and motivations.

(4) Note to Chapter 2 A.D 185-188 Pages 31-34 Doings of the Ten Eunuchs, Court Corruption and Zhang Ju and Zhang Chun's Rebellion in Youzhou, Ou Xing's Rebellion in Changsha, Jingzhou.
A rather straightforward section detailing a catalog of events much to the effect of the heading. Liu Bei will assist Liu Yu in defeating Zhang Ju and Zhang Chun, and finally manages to get a major appointment as magistrate of Pingyuan, also majorly due to Liu Yu's recommendation, as well as that of Gongsun Zan who takes over in Youzhou and was a former classmate of his in school.

Zhu Jun and Huangfu Song, the two generals majorly responsible for defeating the Yellow Scarves earlier, are removed from their positions, this section opens with this statement. Their ranks and lordships are given to one of the Ten Eunuchs.

A first-time reader wouldn't think much of this development, someone who has read the work many times would know something important in this development. Due to Zhu Jun and Huangfu Song being loyal subjects, and lacking any desire for major power, they did not use their post-Yellow Scarves, military rank (General of Chariots and Cavalry) and fame to simply march into the palace and slaughter the eunuchs and name either of them, Prime Minister or some such power grab. As events unfold, future leaders will have no such scruples appropriating the wheels of government for their own usage.

(5) Note to Chapter 2 A.D 188-189 Pages 35-42 The Death of Han Emperor Ling and enthronement of Emperor Shao (Liu Bian), He Jin's failure To Act Against the Ten Eunuchs

On the death of Emperor Ling, He Jin brother to the Empress He, contrives to have his nephew and Empress He's child Liu Bian enthroned. The Han Dynastic history is rife with disputes over which prince should actually succeed to the Imperial Throne, something that in other nations may tear it apart but curiously not in Han China.

By enthroning Liu Bian, He Jin is all-powerful, and he is immediately advised by Cao Cao, and Cao Cao's friend Yuan Shao, himself a powerful and influential person in the court, to eradicate the eunuchs. The eunuchs side-step this by getting Empress He to get He Jin to back down. He Jin then proceeds to murder Empress He's rival Empress Dong, who is guardian to Liu Bian's rival prince, Liu Xie, and mother to the previous Emperor Ling, making her Empress Dowager/Queen Mother. In theory, Empress Dong should have been the most powerful individual at court, but she apparently lacks a faction able to make any headway in this.

Why the indecision from He Jin? The eunuchs have no military strength, the troops seem very loyal to their commanders, versus the eunuchs, just march into the palace, slaughter them en-masse and declare that He Jin is now the regent. We are told He Jin is indecisive, why leave out any external factors affecting He Jin's decision making? The novel does this at a number of points with characters, though this is not necessarily bad storytelling, it gives the reader a very bland portrait of certain situations.

Historical arguments to this situation, run along that the eunuchs and the Empress factions cooperation or non-cooperation made for the running of the court and the nation. This arguments was always very weak in my view, outside the Capital districts, and immediate vicinity, it seems central authority was really subjective to simply who was willing to organize and challenge it. Appointed officials could be corrupt, people could be harmed, the day to day running of ground level administration almost entirely depended on the local officials in charge versus some sort of consultation with the court. One problem that He Jin does unleash is provincial military forces. Apparently the Han did not have localized military forces until this time, like Rome and its Legions with their various bases around the empire. This was definitely intentional to prevent any one military prefect from challenging central authority and the throne, and would explain the Yellow Scarves disparate organization( having to attack in many places to overextend the government response, rather than going for one point). It also seems troops sent to put down rebellions, like Ou Xing and Zhang Ju's are directed from the capital to the locales. The novel makes no mention of these developments, which then leads a reader to wonder where all the troops of future chapters materialize from. {I would appreciate a correction here from our fellow community members, but this is the gist of what I have read was the situation at the time, and that He Jin is responsible for unleashing the chaos of the realm.}
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Lord Yang Jiahua wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 7:35 am The reader has just been bombarded with the competence of Cao Cao and Sun Jian, and them both getting rewarded, mostly due to military service, but Liu Bei not so. Is it because Cao Cao and Sun Jian have access to financial means and can grease some wheels in order to get things done? In Sun Jian's case, is it just because he seems too far away from the capital to bother not appointing him to an official rank? Singularly ignored throughout the novel except perhaps regarding Cao Cao, and then only in one specific instance, is the ability of any of its main characters and their main-secondary characters access to physical wealth.
Moss Roberts outrights translates it as Sun Jian benefits from connection to Zhu Jun (something Mao also plays into). Think the issue is less wealth and bribery, more who had connections at this point with Zhu Jun a patron for Sun Jian. The novel could play into wealth more but it does occasinnly bring up Liu Bei's background and figures like the Yuan's wealth making them out of touch
Why the indecision from He Jin? The eunuchs have no military strength, the troops seem very loyal to their commanders, versus the eunuchs, just march into the palace, slaughter them en-masse and declare that He Jin is now the regent. We are told He Jin is indecisive, why leave out any external factors affecting He Jin's decision making? The novel does this at a number of points with characters, though this is not necessarily bad storytelling, it gives the reader a very bland portrait of certain situations.
becuase it makes it easier to ensure entire blame is on He Jin, to make shots at his lowly background if he is made arrogant and focus is on indecisive, it makes him look more inept? The novel does choose to omit certain things to keep it's focus fairly narrow and for narratives on human failings
Lord Yang Jiahua wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 7:35 am One problem that He Jin does unleash is provincial military forces. Apparently the Han did not have localized military forces until this time, like Rome and its Legions with their various bases around the empire. This was definitely intentional to prevent any one military prefect from challenging central authority and the throne, and would explain the Yellow Scarves disparate organization( having to attack in many places to overextend the government response, rather than going for one point). It also seems troops sent to put down rebellions, like Ou Xing and Zhang Ju's are directed from the capital to the locales. The novel makes no mention of these developments, which then leads a reader to wonder where all the troops of future chapters materialize from. {I would appreciate a correction here from our fellow community members, but this is the gist of what I have read was the situation at the time, and that He Jin is responsible for unleashing the chaos of the realm.}
So the Han had a very small army at the capital but with their border troops and camp at Liyang, could have around 13-15,000 troops overall. If an internal matter, local troops would be raised and if problem was too big for a grand administrator, an inspector could levy troops from across the province. If that weight of numbers and whatever equipment they had didn't work then someone from the capital might be sent to draft levies from other provinces and with a regiment from the capital to bring a professional backbone, troops from other peoples might also be hired. Generally this worked well, having the only professional force in town gave the Han an advantage over localised revolts. The problem for the Han with the Turbans was weight of numbers and spread it but even then, once the Han (historically) regrouped, it put down the revolt fairly smoothly.

In terms of where warlords got their men from, the change to governorships allowed tighter central grip in last years of peace, family retainers who had been used for abusing power locally for decades could suddenly be used for troops and followers, a broken tax system meant gentry families had wealth to fund troops when system broke down. Plus a lot of desperate people who could be hired

In terms of how much He Jin is to blame historically, he gets traditional blame becuase 1) they can't believe he refused to just attack the eunuchs with his army and lost with his advantages, 2) calling in the experienced frontier general Dong Zhuo (with his own companions). It was a bad call to levy troops elsewhere becuase He Jin's strength was his popularity with the troops at the capital and given DZ promptly seized control in the chaos, that summons was never going to look good. To be honest the biggest mistake He Jin made was agreeing to Yuan Shao's call to oppose the eunuchs, it undermined the He's and resulted in violent bloodshed that left the Han powerless but obviously "let the eunuchs alone" is not the argument the novel wants to sell
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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About the PH, an English translation Records of the Three Kingdoms in Plain Language is available, but it did not seem to get many discussion here.

https://www.amazon.com/Records-Three-Ki ... 1624665233

Operas/Dramas tend to have different plots and settings, pretty much like how modern tv show or films do the original. Also, one of the reasons why the novel emphasized dueling could be from the influence of on-stage performance as well.

PS: If you are going to keep on writing as reply, you may want to include links to later parts at the beginning post.
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Dong Zhou wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:03 am
In terms of where warlords got their men from, the change to governorships allowed tighter central grip in last years of peace, family retainers who had been used for abusing power locally for decades could suddenly be used for troops and followers, a broken tax system meant gentry families had wealth to fund troops when system broke down. Plus a lot of desperate people who could be hired

In terms of how much He Jin is to blame historically, he gets traditional blame becuase 1) they can't believe he refused to just attack the eunuchs with his army and lost with his advantages, 2) calling in the experienced frontier general Dong Zhuo (with his own companions). It was a bad call to levy troops elsewhere becuase He Jin's strength was his popularity with the troops at the capital and given DZ promptly seized control in the chaos, that summons was never going to look good. To be honest the biggest mistake He Jin made was agreeing to Yuan Shao's call to oppose the eunuchs, it undermined the He's and resulted in violent bloodshed that left the Han powerless but obviously "let the eunuchs alone" is not the argument the novel wants to sell
A very good answer, Thank you Dong Zhou.

Liu Bang, a commoner, from the "black-haired masses", an everyman's man in some way, founded the Han. The likes of the Yuan Clan and Cao Cao and Dong Zhuo would pick it apart, rich, well-connected, power-brokers, patrons.

Chapter 3 is quite dense, and I have a few things to do this week that are occupying my time, I'll probably post it up some time Thursday or Friday.
The novel Chapter 3 covers the fall of He Jin and the Ten Eunuchs, the flight of the Emperor and the Prince of Chenliu,(itself turned into a historical trope in China synonymous with fallen empire/power) the arrival of Dong Zhuo, his proposed and eventual deposition of Emperor Shao, and the entrance of Lu Bu as a character.

I will eventually Link posts in the Thread first post, as soon as we get to a second page, I'm pretty sure we can still do that and it isn't going to do something weird when done. Thank you TigerTally for mentioning it.
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Lord Yang Jiahua wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 3:05 amI will eventually Link posts in the Thread first post, as soon as we get to a second page, I'm pretty sure we can still do that and it isn't going to do something weird when done. Thank you TigerTally for mentioning it.
Just reach out if anything has stopped working and I will have a look.
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Lord Yang Jiahua wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 3:05 am Chapter 3 is quite dense, and I have a few things to do this week that are occupying my time, I'll probably post it up some time Thursday or Friday.
The novel Chapter 3 covers the fall of He Jin and the Ten Eunuchs, the flight of the Emperor and the Prince of Chenliu,(itself turned into a historical trope in China synonymous with fallen empire/power) the arrival of Dong Zhuo, his proposed and eventual deposition of Emperor Shao, and the entrance of Lu Bu as a character.
When he wrote chapter 3, the author had no consideration for anyone doing future projects involving that very busy chapter
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Re: Novel notes To The Moss Roberts Translation by Yang Jiahua

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Chapter 3: In Wenming Garden, Dong Zhuo Denounces Ding Yuan
With Gold and Pearls Li Su Plies Lu Bu


(The Chapter title leaves a lot to be desired with what actual events occur in this chapter)

All Events In Chapter 3 Apparently Occur in 189-190 A.D

(1) Chapter 3 Page 43 Opening Paragraph On Dealing With the Ten Eunuchs
“He Jin will be the one to undo the empire!”
Cao Cao, characteristically just states it right there for the reader. This is notable for being the first instance he does this, and he will very frankly say many things throughout the novel, that even a skilled reader or student of Chinese Culture would never hear directly spoken.

(2) Chapter 3 Page 43-45 Dong Zhuo and His Clique, The Ten React
John Keay defines Dong Zhuo as “truculent” Truck-U-Lent, as I say it. This is an amazingly apt definition for someone who certainly will be, barbaric, fierce, savage, cruel, uncompromising, and also was probably the size of a small truck himself.(Keay, John. China:A History. Page 184)

Dong Zhuo's faction is abruptly introduced here. His arrival outside the capital Luoyang, immediately alerts the Ten Eunuchs. How on earth did He Jin believe the ten would not learn of the arrival of outside forces? Cao Cao had previously advised just to eliminate the eunuchs with the troops present in the capital. This is significant because He Jin was given every opportunity and advise to do things in a number of ways that would have brought about the end of the eunuch faction, yet he chooses the absolute worst one. He could have, upon having his nephew on the throne, immediately ordered as Regent, the arrest and execution of the Ten Eunuchs, its highly unlikely anyone would have opposed it, especially if done with lightning speed. He could have ignored his sister telling him to desist and simply done it anyway. He could have ordered loyal commanders within the ranking military to do it. He Jin could have ordered Yuan Shao to do it; in the previous chapter, Yuan Shao arrests the eunuch Jian Shuo, but the Ten skillfully deflect that they are involved by getting Empress He to tell off He Jin and Yuan Shao.

It could be said that Yuan Shao, not He Jin, undoes the empire. The reasoning for writing this, is that it is Yuan Shao's idea to field outside forces, and his indecision to kill the eunuchs. He could have killed the eunuchs before consulting He Jin, and perhaps even have seized the regency for himself, but he refused to. If a reader, reads out He Jin's incompetence, which is tremendous, one could imply it was Yuan Shao plotting to take over the reins of state, his uncle being Imperial Guardian, essentially the highest Civil Office of State, adds weight to this implication.

Is there an authorial motivation to portray Yuan Shao like this? Certainly. Is a normal reader going to seize on this, most definitely not. Until the narrative gets close to the Battle of Guandu in A.D 200, Yuan Shao's character is not really talked about at length. He exists, he is a powerful influential figure, he gets a good deal of “screen-time” as it were, but the reader is asked to reserve judgment. On the contrary, Liu Bei has already been asked to be judged, as good, and Cao Cao, at least as neutral.

Empress He should bear a good portion of the blame for the destruction of central authority here at the end of The Han Dynasty. As matron-in-chief, someone above the affairs of state, but intimately in control and legitimization of them, simply ignoring the eunuchs and ordering her malleable brother to take over the central government and kill all the eunuchs would have been very easy. If the eunuchs retaliated and killed her, they'd have been signing their own death warrants. The fact that they appeal to her twice to get He Jin to desist , once in Chapter 2 and again in Chapter 3, are evidence of her immense authority.

(3) Chapter 3 Page 45-46 Death of He Jin

He Jin's stupidity knows no bounds, he is told not to go talk to his sister, not to enter the palace, make the Ten Eunuchs come out to receive him, but he walks in with unbridled arrogance that somehow he is untouchable. Only Empress He would have been untouchable in this case, unless of course the eunuchs felt they could somehow gain control of the military. If the Ten had eliminated the Empress, or worse, eliminated Emperor Shao in favour of Liu Xie(his brother), there is no telling what chaos they would have unleashed, but at least then they'd have been responsible for the fall of the empire and not He Jin. He Jin's objective is to destroy the Ten, execute them, they are aware of this,yet he says they cannot touch him. Either they are the enemy or they are not, He Jin seems to subscribe very easily to cognitive dissonance.

(4) Chapter 3 Pages 46-48 The End Of The Ten Eunuchs, Abduction of The Emperor Shao and Prince of Chenliu

This section is very straightforward, the Ten are destroyed by the avenging Cao Cao, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu and their men, after their patron of patrons, He Jin, has been killed by the eunuchs. Of note, Duan Gui attempts to kidnap or kill Empress He, only to be thwarted by Lu Zhi. If He Jin had been alive, and Empress He removed, the eunuchs would have unleashed a problem and chaos. With He Jin dead however, and the problem already unleashed, the Ten have no use for the Empress. The novel's quick elimination of Empress He as someone needed to be consulted after this moment is evidence to her complete loss of power.

He Jin was already beyond the Ten Eunuchs reach, but not when he serves himself up, alone and isolated to them to be killed. Empress He was beyond the Ten Eunuchs power because her brother and his men always were holding a veritable sword over the eunuchs head with the power of the military. Without one, the other is meaningless!

How the eunuchs could in fact command anything within the capital is beyond me as a critic. Up until this point, there are so many moving parts and factions, not to mention the general authority of the bureaucracy and appointments of the Han, it seems impossible beyond some vague idea of patronage that the eunuchs had control. More logically, the eunuchs had control of the levers of power and the word of the Emperor Ling, when Ling died, all their power was theoretically gone, and their patronage rendered insecure and meaningless. The Ten had no earthly way of defeating He Jin and his faction, nor controlling any outside force that had no scruples or deference to them. The only way the Ten could have commanded power was by the collusion or inaction of the actual controllers of state, that being Emperor, Empress, and the Regent, and the Sangong, the Three main Civil Ministers. (Minster of Works, Grand Commandant and Minister of the Interior).

Regardless, Liu Bian and Liu Xie end up kidnapped by Zhang Rang and Duan Gui. A hostage perhaps? Had they just killed the two kids, the state could have simply selected a new emperor from among the Imperial family, or the Han empire may have truly fallen apart at the seams. Keeping them both alive creates a new problem of them being seen has manipulable and controllable figureheads for any enterprising would be tyrant.

(5) Chapter 3 Pages 48-49 Flight of The Han Princes
John Keay in his work China:A History notes that the flight of Liu Bian and Liu Xie from the eunuchs, guided by fireflies, to a farmstead where they are then brought back to the capital in a farmers cart, becomes the trope of “fallen majesty” repeated throughout Chinese history. (Keay, John. China:A History. Page 185)
Commander Min Gong retrieves the two royals, and they are eventually reunited with Yuan Shao and his company of Han loyalists. This entourage is almost immediately overtaken by Dong Zhuo.

(6) Chapter 3 Pages 49-51 Dong Zhuo Meets the Emperor, Proposed Deposition of Liu Bian (Emperor Shao)
Dong Zhuo is almost immediately shouted down by Liu Xie, the Prince of Chenliu, for overtaking the Imperial entourage upon its return to Luoyang. This leads Dong Zhuo to wanting to enthrone Liu Xie and depose Liu Bian. Where is this assertive Liu Xie the future Emperor Xian later in the novel?

Dong Zhuo's idea of deposing the Emperor Shao is presented as a liking for the younger Prince, and thrown around as such by the novel for the rest of this chapter. This is manifestly dishonest to the reader, who, not looking for a political motivation and blindsided by the abrupt changes of characters and situation in this chapter, would probably not detect the real motivation behind Dong Zhuo wanting to depose the Emperor.

Emperor Shao, represents both the power of the Yuan Shao/He Jin faction, the power of Empress He, and a legitimate opposition to Dong Zhuo seizing power. Liu Xie is comparatively uninfluenced, and has no controlling figure behind him, getting rid of Emperor Shao and placing Liu Xie on the throne, makes Dong Zhuo the kingmaker. This also means Yuan Shao and all the remaining court opposition have no legitimate reason to stay behind in the capital, and with the presence of hostile troops,would likely be forced to leave, or bend the knee.

(7) Chapter 3 Pages 52-53 Debate in the Wenming Garden, Lu Bu's Introduction

Dong Zhuo of course puts his foot in it by proposing to depose the Emperor, and is opposed by Ding Yuan the Regional Governor of Bing Province. Lu Bu's presence behind Ding Yuan deters Dong Zhuo from brazenly killing Ding Yuan. The assembly disperse, Ding Yuan brings in his troops to oppose Dong Zhuo.

(8) Chapter 3 Pages 54-59 Ding Yuan vs Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu Defects and Kills Ding Yuan

Lu Bu will get more screen-time in the following chapters, but his introduction is important because he is directly accepted as being overpowering, and greater a warrior than everyone around him, without any real need to verify this.
Li Su spends a lot of time convincing Lu Bu to betray Ding Yuan, but Li Su does peg him correctly, as being opportunistic and shallow. (This may come back to bite someone, but a reader won't notice this and simply be concerned that Dong Zhuo will have such a powerful servant.)

In practical terms, Dong Zhuo is much more powerful than a Ding Yuan, Lu Bu would probably be aware that Ding Yuan's entire ability to fight in the field is based on his unsurpassed might. Dong Zhuo also has access to the Han court, and would have more power with a puppet Emperor, as Lu Bu was present for the debate about changing the Emperor. Lu Bu was probably looking out for himself a lot more than being a good vassal.
Due to Confucianism emphasizing the Lord-Vassal relationship a lot more, therefore loyalty and Lu Bu's actions are directly proscribed by it, especially his killing of Ding Yuan, Lu Bu is already in a negative light. It would have been at least honorable to leave Ding Yuan alive, but killing him sets a precedent for Lu Bu's actions, and immediately earns the suspicion of anyone looking to employ him, except apparently Dong Zhuo. Killing Ding Yuan, earns Lu Bu the mistrust of the world.

As stated in earlier posts, academics tend to debate the prevalence of Confucianism in 2nd Century Han China. Due to our novel being written from the 13-14th Century perspective and corrected and annotated at far later dates, it is possibly the infer a modernism error on the writing. This error being that Lu Bu's action would be seen as wholly negative, and him being untrustworthy.
Lu Bu's action, is almost universally a immoral action, but this is the first instance we see of an active character changing loyalties in some way in the novel. Characters throughout the novel will change loyalties, make an excuse for it, or be forced into it, but only Lu Bu's stands out as particularly bad. Yes, Ding Yuan didn't deserve to be killed, yes Lu Bu sneaked up on him and assassinated him; no this is not particularly unusual in history, or society at least until the last 100 years up to our present.

Due to Lu Bu's exceptional skill and power, and general mightiness as a warrior, this is what makes it stand out. This is implied, not proven, yet. Lu Bu's ability is implied as to why this makes his action exceptional. Contrast Lu Bu's actions with other defections and changes of loyalty of characters in the novel, and there isn't much difference if it was not for this.
Lu Bu's action isn't exactly a negative, to the wrong persons. A good Confucian person, would of course be grossly offended, but someone with no such scruples, or values, or who has odd morals, may not be. Dong Zhuo does not have these, and therefore does not understand that if Lu Bu could be made to betray one Lord, he could be made to betray his new lord. This directly blinds Dong Zhuo to any future problems with Lu Bu, because he does not see anything wrong with this, after all if Ding Yuan could not trust Lu Bu, why should Dong Zhuo?
"We Will Show Wu The Meaning of Fear!"-Cao Cao in DW6
"Politicians Are all the same all over, They Promise to build a bridge even when theres no river"-Nikita Khrushchev
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