"... I find myself unable to understand how can this stupid henpecked husband (Lau Bong) who blames it all on Hon Sun alone can actually govern a dynasty? Why would anyone listen to him since he has no opinion to offer?"
MAJOR SPOILERS! MAJOR SPOILERS! MAJOR SPOILERS!
Deciphering The Title
I was rather confused whether it is The Conqueror's Tale, A Conqueror's Tale or The Conqueror's Story. The working title was Proud Warriors Of Chu And Han. Quite obviously it was a much grander title but didn't quite fit the series. The subsequent English title is very telling on the outcome, if you are not familiar with the history already. The Chinese title all along is in Cantonese, Chor Hon Kiu Hung, which if translated into English is ermm like the working title, except it is not quite as honourable sounding. Almost romanticising the whole event, giving it a very proud arrogant yet dreamy feel to it. Didn't sound like some war or strategy series. But still a good title.
I will be using the Cantonese versions of the name. I will try to the best of my ability to give you the Mandarin version in the cast list because the historical section is 100% mandarin based.
This review is disgustingly long and I am horrified by its length but had little choice because the length in part is caused by the historical facts/fiction section which is at the bottom after Verdict. I myself am not very familiar with the historical aspects and I believe many may not be either so it is essential part of this review so as to give you a better understanding of the contents of this series. I apologise for giving you a headache but I am sure you will know how to pick and choose to read.
It begins from the fall of Qin to the formation of Han Dynasty, or to be more precise the Western Han dynasty. That is just a technical term and you can read all about Han Dynasty and why it is Western Han and Eastern Han somewhere at the bottom of this ridiculously long review (thanks to the historical facts/fiction/speculation section). I would take the timeline as somewhere before 206 B.C. and that is way wayyy wayyyyyy back in time. You may be very familiar with Qin Shi Huang, the first self proclaimed Emperor of China and his great wall of China. This series takes place after his death and somewhere along the way there was revolt and this series began with the 2 most popular figures during those times and the circumstances that led to the formation of one of China's longest dynasty (could be the longest so I stand to be corrected), the Han dynasty where the subsequent Chinese descendants are I believed called the people of Han. This was also the time that featured two very popular figure, one of whom is in fact often sung in operas, such as Farewell To My Concubine. Point is it is a very old dynasty but not mythical.
Thanks to Elizabeth and Kidd for the long and I believe most complete list. Further thanks to Kidd for classification of certain characters under the categories you see below. Any error would probably be due to the pinyin thingy. The first name is the cast name, the second is the Cantonese version and the third the Mandarin version to the best of my knowledge.
Adam Cheng - Lau Bong / Liu Bang
Maggie Cheung Hor Yee - Empress Lui Zhi / Empress Lu Zhi
Cerina Da Graca - Chik Gei / Consort-Concubine-Lady Qi
Angela Tong Ying Ying - Bok Gei / Consort-Concubine-Lady Bo
Lo Chun Shun - Siu Hor / Xiao He
Ai Wai - Fan Fai
Chan Wing Chun - Ha Hau Ying
Yu Tze Ming - Lee Yik Kei / Li Yiji
Former advisors of Chor turned Han
Cheung Chi Kwong - Cheung Leung / Zhang Liang
Gilbert Lam - Chan Ping / Chen Ping
Wayne Lai Yiu Cheung - Hon Sun / Han Xin
Wong Chun Tong - Ying Bo
Kong Wah - Hon Yu / Xiang Yu
Melissa Ng - Yu Gei / Yu Zhi
Law Lok Lum - Fan Zhang / Fan Zheng
Chan Hung Lit - Hon Bak
Kong Hon - Hon Leung / Xiang Liang
Wong Chak Fung - Hon Zong
Wong Ching - Song Yi
Ngo Ka Nin - Prince Mai Sum
Former advisors of Han turned Chor
Cheng Chi Shing - Yung Chi
Gregory Lee Wing Ho - Ying Hu Hai
Law Gwun Jor - Chiu Go
Lee Wing Hon - Ying Chi Ying
Sherming Yiu Lok Yee - Heung Gei (1st wife/lover of Hon Sun)
Eileen Yew - Yan Cheung (2nd wife of Hon Sun)
And many many more people.
If you know of any other names/cast/characters or errors in the list above, please do not hesitate to use Post A Comment. Thank you.
As with Timeline. The story of Lau Bong and Hon Yu and the formation of Han Dynasty and the downfall of the Chor country, so to speak. If you're unfamiliar with the history, this summary is the dead giveaway of who is the victor and who is the loser in this sense.
I missed the first few episodes of this series and began to seriously watch this series when Wayne Lai appeared as Hon Sun having defected to the Hon side. That I thought was when the story actually began. I am a sucker for historical series or rather series based on historical facts plus a bit more fiction to become a sensationalised historically based factual with a touch of fiction series, so to speak. But this series annoyed me at the beginning because I thought some characters were misinterpreted and some actors a miscast. I do not profess to know everything about the history of Hon and Chor and the individuals in them but I have a fixed perception of Lau Bong and Hon Yu thanks in part to other movies made of them, of the story of Farewell To My Concubine and word of mouth. In my fixed opinion, Hon Yu was gallant and honourable military man whose love for Yu Gei was unsurpassed that he could even die for her whilst Lau Bong, ably assisted by his cunning wife was a shrewd politician coming from a less stellar pedigree than Hon Yu. Everybody else didn't quite matter except that Hon Yu never listen to his advisors and therefore made fatal political mistakes whilst Lau Bong listened and emerged the winner. I also know Hon Yu killed himself and he was only 30. Imagine that; 30 years old and he achieved so much. His legendary reputation far outlives and definitely overshadow perhaps the real man. Lau Bong too was hailed as one of best emperors of China and the fact that he founded an empire although he was a nobody at first, he must be someone great.
That was my fixed perception. This series more or less confirm the above towards the end but the beginning was so different I felt rather disgusted but yet it has its purpose; this is a 30 episodes series but each episode is jam packed with so much information that this series is like a journey of these 2 men and the people who influenced their lives and destinies. I felt the same way as I watched HBO's Rome and the portrayal of Mark Anthony as an arrogant twit but nevertheless loyal to Ceaser whilst Brutus was actually a gentleman pushed to commit the act he regretted. I was shocked but realised there may be truths in different interpretation.
So if you're that kind of person as I who have this fixed perception of the people in the stories of Hon and Chor, perhaps it is best to heed my advice that this series is no more than an interpretation of the historical facts; it may be the way it was told, it may be sensationalised or quite simply it may not be as portrayed but there may be some truth in them. As a historical series, each episodes began with an introduction of the wisdom, strategy and proverb we now use so often but never quite know where they came from. This series will explain that some of the most famous ones, such as "Sei Min Chor Kor" (Surrounded by four corners of the song of Chor) came from this period of time as was the famous board game we all play now, Chor Hor Hon Kai (the river dividing Chor and Hon), and how it came about. It actually referred to the brief divide and rule between Chor and Hon before Hon broke the treaty and attacked Chor. Why the attack came about has its interpretation in this series. It is in the end a very educational series but you must wonder how is it for pure entertainment value? How was the acting? The first part of this review will concern itself with reviewing the series only whilst only in the historical facts section will I offer my own interpretation based on the text I have read and the comparisons with this series. But I can't help but give a bit of comparison with the real historical figures of Lau Bong and Hon Yu because these two are the driving force behind this series, Without them, there is no The Conqueror's Taleand without this analysis I could not point out the weaknesses of this series.
Hon Yu In The Series
If you have watched A Step Into The Past, treat this as the sequel because in that series it ended with Louis Koo realising his son will become the future Chor Pa Wong (literally the Great Conqueror Chor). He spoke of this fact in shock and in awe. No wonder. The text you must have read about this man may have given you an idea how respected and beloved he was, in this time. In part thanks to the romanticised versions of this man. There is no doubt he was a great general, commanding his almost invincible army and winning battles after battles, I am not sure if spoken in the same breath but certainly quite the same league as General Ngok Fei (Yue Fei), the one with the most famous tattoo in Chinese history. Hon Yu is almost legendary and his stories almost mythical. Even versions of his death are disputed although it was not disputed how he died. He killed himself and to me even in death he dictated his own rules and lived by it. This man is further much beloved because of his love and total devotion to Yu Gei whose devotion to him is also legendary as she killed herself so as not to burden him anymore. It is this love story that propelled him into such a famous figure, also thanks to his famous poem sang now in operas (you can download the song somewhere at the bottom of this review). It is well documented that he was a strong guy, fearsome and as such any future portrayals of this man must be someone fierce looking with a booming commanding voice, except when he was speaking to his beloved Yu Gei, there was a certain gentleness and affection.
But what about the one depicted in this series?
I am not sure if he was married to someone else but this series showed he wasn't, I think since I missed the first few episodes. Kong Wah appeared at first as a miscast because he was too tiny and his voice not too booming enough to be the believable Chor Pa Wong. But as the series went on and on, for whatever he lacked in authority and commanding presence that one would expect in Hon Yu, Kong Wah simply made the cut by virtue of his gentleness with Melissa Ng's Yu Gei, his last moments on Earth and more precisely, his intergrity and honour as quite simply a very flawed human being. Historically what was described of him in text were less flattering. In truth, I got used to Kong Wah as Hon Yu although earlier parts he was rather forcing the commanding fierce presence part. His ending was done well with such dignity that I can't help but felt sorry for his character. What is great about this Hon Yu is that as one of the elders who scolded Lau Bong said "Hon Yu may be a tyrant but at least he was an honourable man". Kong Wah never made Hon Yu into a faceless fearless unreasonable tyrant. He is a direct contrast to Lau Bong but in this series he may appear as a very harsh man but you must see his background; he is a military general having not lost a single battle before he went again Hon Sun. He is proud, he is arrogant and he is a disciplinarian which explains a lot why he killed the enemies' soldiers and defied many advice of his trusted advisor, Fan Zhang when it comes to administrating his province. It is hardly surprising that he held very little regard for his enemies, that being a military man he is less about diplomacy and more about crushing threats. And yet time and time again he failed to kill Lau Bong mainly because in this series at first he viewed Lau Bong as a non-threat and silly with his obssession with wine, dining and women rather than ruling a country. In the end he failed to kill Lau Bong because he got tired of killing and he viewed again Lau Bong as a non-threat because he thought Lau Bong as a brother and a man of his words when both agreed to divide and rule. He miscalculated all his moves, did not listen to advice however mad or crazy they may have been, never really used the talents of others well like Hon Sun as he mistrusted them. I must stress this series never really said he mistrusted Hon Sun because of his talents but rather he did not even view Hon Sun as his equal and that makes him an arrogant twit, in the beginning. There wasn't so much as with mistrust that the historical accounts like to emphasise but rather many missed opportunities simply because he did not view these people or events as important or urgent. But there is never a doubt that he is a loyal man, to his love and to his men. A pity that as this series illustrated, Hon Yu is a man with very little diplomatic skills or even governing skills. He will do well as the General of a commanding army but never as a Chief in Command because he appears to have very little tact and his policy of governance is akin to Qin, that is rule with fear. But there is no denying, although there may be fear, his enemies accorded him a certain amount of respect because this series shows very clearly in my opinion when it comes to warfare his talent is undisputed.
A few but I like his death scene where he was down to 28 men and he was misguided by some villagers who were on Lau Bong's side. He got lost, his entire army killed and he was left alone when he reached the river, despondent. An old man saw him and asked "Are you the Great Conqueror Chor? I am here to be of your service. There is still time, get on the boat and get to the other side" and he looked at the old man and without much expression he asked "Why? It is too late, I have failed my men" and the old man said "No you have not. You're still young, you still have the influence to raise an army and fight again, we still support you". At this point I must stress his people still support him and being only 30 he could have raised a new army and fight again. But Hon Yu sighed and said "It is against the will of the heaven if I did that. The heaven did not even help me and I know the sign. I began with nothing, forged a fearless army of thousands of men, fought many battles only to see my men die or deserted me. There is nothing more for me to fight and I feel nothing but shame to return to my people without a single man. I thank you for your kindness but I must decline. My only worry is my horse who has followed me into countless battles. If you promise to take good care of him, I shall be without worries". And then the Hon army came and he very stylishly strode to the front raising his sword as he faced the Hon army and the man on the horse fell out of fear. He looked at that man who fell and asked "Do I know you? You look very familiar" and the man said "I am from the same village as you. I used to serve under you until I deserted for the Hon army" and Hon Yu smiled a cynical smile and said "I heard there is a huge bounty on my head, and since you're from the same village as I, I shall give you this honour of bringing my head back to the despicable Lau Bong". And he cut his own throat, knelt and then fell. Then the mob frenzy began as everybody wanted a piece of him.
Come to think of it it was a very sad scene but akin to the legends of his death as can be read in the historical section of this review. But I can't help but remember his cynicism and that he may have died on his own terms, he basically killed himself because he had no face left to return home. He basically died a broken man.
The actor Kong Wah
Last scene alone is great enough for me to say he may not be my idea of Hon Yu the fearless and magnificent, he did give a very convincing portrayal of Hon Yu the honourable. And Kong Wah when speaking gently has this effect on me, that I am mesmerized by his soft intonation. I can understand why Yu Gei fell for him. BUT I can't stand his big eyes, some movements whilst talking and his forced booming voice. At first he reminded me of the opera show itself but as he settled down and soften those hard looks and all, I actually enjoyed his performance. Of course he didn't look 30 but I guess people aged faster in the ancient times. I do have one complain though which is against the series rather than him. At times I thought I was only observing the downfall of this character, I am not involved. I am like a detached bystander, and I will explain more on the technical side later.
Hon Yu's advisor, Fan Zhang
The historical account of Fan Zhang is not as loyal or as concerned as depicted in the series although the real Hon Yu may have regarded him as a respected father or rather he is called the lesser father. No offense but whenever I see Fan Zhang talking, he reminded of someone who looks a bit loony. He advises Hon Yu to kill kill and kill and yet Hon Yu rather foolishly never listen. Hon Yu did regret at the end of not listening to him and even after Fan Zhang's death where Fan Zhang advised him to kill Lau Bong and Hon Sun, he still failed to do as directed. Fan Zhang may be a good advisor, genuinely concerned about Hon Yu, but this series made him look like a desperate old lunatic whose advice are often ignored. One wonders why he is even still there with Hon Yu? He comes across as neurotic even. Frankly never liked the character Fan Zhang but many times I pitied him; he always say "Yu yi, kill Lau Bong" and Hon Yu never did. Never.
The actor Law Lok Lum
In terms of neurotic loony old man, yeah he did well. But imagine having this neurotic old man who panics whenever he sees the signs in the sky as against his master, how can he fight with the ever cool Cheung Leung or over confident Hon Sun? I didn't like his portrayal. Too painful to watch and when he died, although it will mark the downfall of Hon Yu, I was glad to be rid of this character. I was beginning to question will this man ever lighten up?
I think the scene where Hon Yu was tricked by Hon Sun's army if I remembered correctly and this old man just laughed and laughed and then ate and ate because he predicted the entire event and Hon Yu refused to listen to him.
Hon Yu's lover, Yu Gei
Hated Hon Yu at first because she misunderstood him but later fell for him and then killed herself after performing the sword dance because Hon Yu knew he lost and he wanted to send her away to Lau Bong to become his concubine so that she could live but she rather die with him than live the rest of her live alone. Quite sad if not for the fact that for someone cutting her own throat, she had very little blood. And that the tent was so small when she performed the dance it was too restricted and I kept hearing the shuffling of her long dress and the chah-chah-chah of the floor which was pretty distracting. I would have preferred this scene done in the open with the wind blowing strongly against the violenty shaking trees and a bit of rain for dramatic effect.
The actress Melissa Ng
Very pretty but doomed with over the top wigs. A bit too old for this role, but as always she looks good with Kong Wah although they didn't look as compatible compared to before. Perhaps the rumour that Kong Wah screamed at her was true? Anyway whilst Melissa had the grace and beauty to take on this role, I thought perhaps Anne Heung would be much suited as the tragic beauty although acting wise Melissa is the better actress. But yet I didn't enjoy her performance. She was more like a bystander, to support Hon Yu and when on her own she is terribly boring without any personality. Soft, kind hearted and gentle, compared to Maggie Cheung's Lui Zhi, this Yu Gei was bland to the core. She doesn't seem involved and the entire point of her character is to love Hon Yu, stop him from killing people and then committing suicide. And the suicide scene was not dramatic enough, too little blood, not so sudden and not sad enough. Like way too rushed. And it is true; Yu Gei in this series did contributed to Hon Yu's downfall and Fan Zhang was right to want to kill her.
Had to be this scene where the Chor army heard their song played by the hidden Hon army and they all were deserting Hon Yu when Hon Yu stopped one of them and almost killed him as the soldier begged "Please let me live, please! I want to go home, I want to see my mother and my father..." and Yu Gei held Hon Yu's hand and desperately cried "Please stop, please stop! No more killings, no more...". Her only best scene if you ask me.
Lau Bong In The Series
I don't know whether to call this Lau Bong dumb or plain naive or simply overly optimistic or soft or a pushover or weak or henpecked or he can be all these or a better word, he is a simpleton. I find Lau Bong is one character in this series seriously flawed even if I didn't look at this character from a historical viewpoint. How can someone so soft, weak and dumb be the founder of one of China's most powerful and longest dynasty? How can he be the founder of the very dynasty that Chinese from then on identified themselves as in the name of the Dynasty? I have a very strong reason to hate the characterisation of this character.
I remember watching the original version made years ago and I think Lau Bong was depicted as a womaniser who likes to have fun all day. Perhaps somewhere down the road he realised his gift and burden that he actually bucked up and became a better person and in the end the good emperor we all know of.
But this series doesn't seem to support that change. ONLY towards the end, in the final episode where Cheung Leung said he had learned to become a great Emperor that I saw the tiniest change and even that whatever happened after simply didn't show to me a changed man. As this series depicted, everything that this man achieved was by pure good luck. He was quite simply Forest Gump of the ancient times. It was his good luck he got involved in a successful campagin during the uprising and others saw him as a hero simply because he was the leader and he was a man. It was his good luck he married a very intelligent, shrewd, persistent and ultra ambitious wife. It was his very good luck that he had good men serving him, loyal to the extreme and very good advisors that Hon Yu simply couldn't keep. And in the end it was his good luck Hon Yu killed himself because Hon Yu until the final moments of his death was still a threat to well..I can't even say his ambition since this Lau Bong had no ambition. All his ambition seemed to be forced upon at first by his wife, then his advisors, then his soldiers, then his generals, then by circumstances. The entire series never once depicted he had any ambition whatsoever. I have issues with this Lau Bong even if I thought Adam Cheng did a fantastic job in portraying this character within the limitations imposed by this series. Never once did I have any indication he is doing anything he is willing to do.
But I have a theory, several in fact.
1. You could say his wishy washy ways may be a direct contrast of the man and the emperor he will become later on. But for the entire 99% of the time he was wishy washy and then suddenly last 10 min when he was facing Hon Sun he wasn't, kinda stretching this a bit.
2. You could say his wishy washy ways may be an indication that he is a soft hearted man, and people loyally served him because he is at the end of the day quite simply a good man. Maybe, I say maybe. I have no doubt his success over Hon Yu, other than the fact he had good advisors and also because he played dirty tricks though he didn't want to, this man is willing to listen and reason it out. And when he can't reason it out, he listens and do as he is advised. He simply didn't have an opinion of his own and it is his good luck the opinion of others are made in part with good intentions and in the other sincere and beneficial to his campaign to form a dynasty, which by the way he didn't want to.
3. Or quite simply, it is to show a contrast between Hon Yu the hard military man who believes in discipline and war as a means to end disputes and therefore feared and Lau Bong, the soft friendly guy who believes in friendship/brotherhood above others and diplomacy to end all disputes and therefore well liked. In a way it is very obvious that Lau Bong will be the better emperor as in better leader since a good leader must listen and a good leader must have good PR skill. Hon Yu can be a very good dictator but how long can dictatorship last? The end where the villagers duped him to the wrong path is a clear indication his reputation as a dictator and a tyrant precedes his real persona; that Hon Yu isn't so bad. Lau Bong isn't bad too, just too weak.
So how can a weak guy like this form an empire? My answer is to ask TVB and their own special brand of logic. I do not like extremes to show contrast. I like the movie version better where the Lau Bong, though a simpleton but not stupid. Wife was as cunning as ever but this Lau Bong was shrewd, ambitious and is like someone who jumps at an opportuniry which he will quietly wait for. Hon Yu on the other hand is that kinda guy who will crash a party as loud as he can, announcing his name along the way, as he is undoubtly arrogant. Lau Bong is that kinda guy who quietly walks into the party and waits for the right time to make an appearance that will benefit him. Hon Yu is a showman, Lau Bong the consummate actor so to speak. In other words, Hon Yu is Tom Cruise and Lau Bong is Christian Bale. You know what I mean?
But this TVB's Lau Bong is just so wrong. Like I said before, it seems most decision are made without him actually wanting to. Of course it is nice to see him getting on very well with his generals and advisors, like buddy-buddy type but when it comes to making decision, it seems like "Nah! This is the proposal. Chop on it!" . It's like he's the rubber stamp. We all know he is going to reign supreme and he didn't want to destroy Hon Yu but with his wife pressuring him, and everybody else pressuring him, he buckled under pressure and said yes. And in the end he blamed Hon Sun for making him do things he didn't want to do, breaking promises he didn't want to break. One ridiculous scene had Lau Bong being held captive in his own house as the others whom he once trusted did not want him to inform Hon Yu of the impending breaking of promise that will destroy Hon Yu's army. That to me is convenient storytelling but very irresponsible. You may argue he had no choice but to agree at that point since his bargaining power is low and he quite shrewdly in his own way used Hon Sun's power to gain more power by destroying his biggest threat that is Hon Yu (but my view is his biggest threat was his own people) so as to destroy Hon Sun later on when he has that power to do so. I was wondering, how can Lau Bong go on to trust his men and his wives after what happened? And yet he never blamed them. He blamed Hon Sun.
But that is like blaming your assistant for all the wrong/right decisions that you ultimately sanctioned yourself, whether you like it or not. I understand why this version is as such. It is to make Lau Bong faultless, blameless. His only crime was his womanising way. Everything else, he was forced to do it. In fact how he got his concubine was in a way forced on him as the woman seduced him and he can't control himself. Even getting his general was like pre-destined. He didn't really have the choice to say yes and say no. This to me is offensive. Give him a bit of shrewdness I say, a bit of intelligence. How can Hon Sun bear all the blame although I too hated Hon Sun but to dump all the charges on him and Lau Bong actually blamed Hon Sun for everything is like so naive storytelling. I would prefer an alternative type of story.
I do not think Lau Bong and Hon Yu were sworn brothers or good friends though I believe they admired one another, maybe more of Lau Bong admiring Hon Yu because let's face it, Hon Yu was a great general. But if I were to adopt TVB's version, ok, let's make Hon Yu and Lau Bong good friends and sworn brothers although I will argue Hon Yu in this version didn't think much of Lau Bong anyway. Let's make him break his promises because he was forced. But let's also make him realise there can only be one supreme ruler and a kingdom cannot be shared between two individuals, one of whom possessess every ability to destroy you. Let's make him knowingly taking out Hon Yu, because all is fair in war. Then like in real history, let's show him bury the body of Hon Yu with dignity and that of a respected man, show him bow before Hon Yu's grave to honour his brother whom he had no choice but to destroy because "one mountain cannot have 2 tigers". In a way this will show how Lau Bong changed for the stronger and became more decisive and actually involved himself in the forming of his dynasty. On the other hand by respecting Hon Yu (which in real historical account, Lau Bong did pay respect to Hon Yu in a grave built by Lau Bong) it will redeem his character and shows that really, no hard feelings but destiny sealed their fate and their friendship and they were meant to be enemies because they have different ideals but the same ambition neither was ready to let go. I will respect this Lau Bong more. And then show Lau Bong distance himself away from Hon Sun. And follow the true historical account, that I think it was after Lau Bong's death that his wife who became the cruel Empress Lui Zhi that got rid of Hon Sun. Or even if change history, show Lau Bong destroy Hon Sun not to avenge for Hon Yu's death but to destroy what is a potential threat and an uncontrollable arrogant force that can cause imbalance to the empire. In a way we can then forgive Lau Bong because Hon Sun was getting too big for his own good and that everything he did was to then preserve the empire for the future generation.
BUT we don't have all that and however much I appreciate Adam Cheng's fine performance, I find myself unable to understand how can this stupid henpecked husband who blames it all on Hon Sun alone can actually govern a dynasty? Why would anyone listen to him since he has no opinion to offer? That I cannot understand and that is the single biggest flaw of this series that has the potential to kill this series if you do not have other reasons to continue watching. You have of course, but from thereon it is no longer a strategy war games between two individuals but rather watch it for the strategy war games between the advisors of these 2 individuals. In a sense Hon Yu is more believable as the flawed man than Lau Bong as the perpetually dumb idealistic man.
The actor, Adam Cheng
Whatever may be my feeling about Lau Bong in this series, strictly speaking within the limitations and characterisation in the series itself, Adam Cheng gave an excellent performance. He was very expressive, he looks good for his age although he was a tad too old for this role and he gave to us a sympathetic portrayal of Lau Bong, debunking the general conception of him, for better or for worse.
Three from the many best scenes.
One where Hon Yu threatened to boil his wives, parents and children to death and he mocked Hon Yu and said "Do it! Like I care!" and immediately he went behind the walls his legs shaking and he told Cheung Leung "If they die, I shall not want to live" as he cried and cried. Cheung Leung then said I think "You did well your majesty; we are in no position to bargain but with this, we may have a bigger bargaining power..". I will explain more on this in my review of Cheung Leung.
One more is towards the end when news came that Hon Yu killed himself and everybody was rejoicing but Lau Bong eyes was welling up and the prime minister asked "Your majesty, why are you crying?". In his heart he was crying for Hon Yu as he did not want to kill him or even break the treaty but was forced to do so, and he forced himself to smile and cry as he said "I am crying because I am happy. At last no more war, Hon Yu is dead!" but his eyes looked more dead than happy. Excellent performance.
The last is the confrontation between him and Hon Sun many years after Hon Yu died. He had Hon Sun arrested and demoted on the charge of mutiny and treason. Hon Sun was shocked as he was held down by 4 of his trusted generals whom earlier he sent letters to revolt against Lau Bong and he said "How could you betray me!" and the generals said "We may respect you and admire you for your strategies but you have forgotten, we serve only one person and that is our Emperor". Hon Sun challenged Lau Bong by saying "I help you to build this empire. Without me you're nothing! If you kill me, the people will say you kill a loyal minister with merits! You will be opposed! Your action will create havoc!" and Lau Bong tearfully said "You forced me to do many things I didn't want to; your actions caused the death of Lau Yik Kei, you forced me to break the treaty I didn't want to break and caused me to carry with me the charge of going back on my words and you forced my brother, Hon Yu to his death when I was too happy to share my empire with him so that we can be brothers again. I was never this shrewd but you taught me..you taught me well...I believe and I still believe that justice lies in the hearts of men and now is the time for me to give justice to my brother, Hon Yu" and Hon Sun angrily said "I help you to build this empire!" and Lau Bong smilingly said "And over the years I have govern it well. No one wants a war anymore because everybody is happy, only you want a war and no one wants to fight in your war" and Hon Sun said "You can't kill me! You will bear the charge of killing a trusted and loyal minister who has served his country well!" and Lau Bong smiled shrewdly and said "I never said I would kill you...send him to the Empress!".
Ahhh at last he learned to be shrewd! One of my most favourite scenes although that scene kinda showed Lau Bong pushing all the responsiblities on Hon Sun. Shall comment more on that later.
The advisor of Hon, Cheung Leung
Not much is said of this man except for one standout factor; he is a man of principle, shrewd without being malicious. He is my most favourite character in this series because his temperament reminded me of Zhuge Liang. Brilliant tactician, he is not really a military strategist but rather a very good administrative strategist. He excels in diplomacy, tricks and policy of governance. He was never involved in the assasinations of many but he is often helpless as he could not stop the death of Lee Yik Kei and some others. He often offered very sound advice to Lau Bong and it was him who discovered the talents of Hon Sun and also pacifying many dangerous situations. At the end when Lau Bong forged Hon Dynasty, he chose to retire and travel instead of staying back for fame and glory. In fact before he left he gave Lau Bong a 20 year governing and economic plan. I don't know what more to say than to say this man was selfless, loyal and served Lau Bong selflessly. Hon Yu would not have managed to keep this man simply because Hon Yu refused to listen. Lau Bong if one could praise him is that he listens. Anyway he was the one who advised Lau Bong to not let Hon Yu threaten him with his wives and children so as to get a bigger bargaining power. If they just submitted to Hon Yu, then they have to listen to all of Hon Yu's rules but if they stood out longer and refused to budge, Hon Yu may feel he had no choice but tor bargain for a peace treaty.
The actor, Cheung Chi Kwong
Excellent is the only word to describe his performance. I love his intonation, the soft spoken way he spoke and yet with conviction and with firm belief that it is for Lau Bong's good. If anything this series must be watched for is this man's multi layered performance of a very selfless character.
Every scene he appeared in and many were quote worthy. Let me think if I can remember some of them ...
The scene where Hon Yu gave Lau Bong a secluded and small province to govern and this was after Cheung Leung managed to pacify Hon Yu from killing Lau Bong. Lau Bong's wife was insulted without knowing the full facts and dragged Lau Bong to see Hon Yu to demand that Hon Yu surrender the city they captured where the previous Emperor agreed that the first to enter the city will become the ruler of that city and Lau Bong was first, reluctantly whilst Hon Yu was busy fighting elsewhere and delayed his own entry. When Hon Yu came back and due to Lau Bong's lack of bargaining power (since Hon Yu had a more fearless and bigger army), Lau Bong relinquished his position and Fan Zhang was advising Hon Yu to kill Lau Bong and Hon Yu wanted to because he was very angry as he thought Lau Bong usurped his rightful place in the city. Anyway, as she was dragging him along, Cheung Leung intercepted and stopped them and as she raged on and on Cheung Leung with some tears in his eyes whispered gently "My lady, if my Lord goes to Hon Yu now and demands for his position back, my Lord will be killed! My lord has to do as told by Hon Yu, only this way can My Lord survive this to fight another day, so as to appease his anger can we all survive this". Very hard to describe that scene which must be watched to know what I meant but it was one of the best scene to show the urgency of the matter. It is all about diplomacy and learning to control oneself for a brief moment for the glory of a lifetime, something Hon Yu failed to master throughout.
Another would be the scene where Cheung Leung tried to slow Hon Yu's army down and he paid off a lot of people to create lies about Fan Zhang dying, etc. Very interesting scene of how one small rumour can turn into a huge undisputable fact that almost destroyed an army, but Fan Zhang wasn't stupid either. In fact this scene clearly illustrates that the war between Hon Yu and Lau Bong is fought betwen the wits of Cheung Leung and Fan Zhang.
The scene where Lau Bong was deciding whether to break the treaty as he was very reluctant to do so and he wanted to warn Hon Yu but everybody was intercepted by his wife and Hon Sun. Then he saw Cheung Leung and he was glad to see him as he thought Cheung Leung was killed by his wife. Then he begged Cheung Leung to warn Hon Yu and Lau Bong said "I can't kill him, I'd rather share this with him than break the treaty" and Cheung Leung said "However much I disagree with their plans, it is not without its merits. Do you still believe justice lies in the hearts of men? Your majesty, I served you so as to assist you to forge an empire, you must know it is inevitable that it would lead to this end. Your majesty, I must go, I must visit the villages to inspect the situation to present to you the plans of governance". Lau Bong was reluctant to let him go and Cheung Leung said "Your majesty, I can't stop it even if I wanted to because it is the wills of the Heaven" and Lau Bong cried "I don't care about the wills of the heaven" and Cheung Leung sighed and said "If that is the case your Majesty I pray to take my leave" and off he went. He has got his priorities right though he in a way resigned to the fact that he can not help Hon Yu probably because he didn't want to. Cheung Leung is a man of wisdom and practicalities.
The scene where Lau Bong agreed to kill Hon Yu and even helped Hon Sun gladly though he pretended to be and at first I was confused why. Then there was this scene where he sat down with Cheung Leung who wanted to retire and travel the world and Lau Bong sighed "I wish you do not leave. I need your wisdom and your guidance, more so now when the empire will be established soon" and Cheung Leung said "But your majesty, I have nothing more to teach your majesty, nothing more to guide you. You will be able to defend yourself because your majesty has learned the ultimate rule of governance...to use the talents of others to ones own advantage. Your majesty need not worry anymore" and Lau Bong sighed and said "I had no choice. I had to break the treaty and break my promise to my brother Hon Yu. I am not in the position to bargain any further. But when this is over, I shall be in that position and then I shall correct the wrongs, I refuse to believe that justice lies not in the hearts of men but in circumstances. I refuse to believe that..." and Cheung Leung nodded. I may have added my own words but basically that was what was said. Very deep and often I find their conversation enlightening.
The strategist of Hon, Hon Sun
Whether accurate or not, I find Hon Sun one of the more interesting and believable character in this series when he began his military campaign against Hon Yu. Whilst he may be arrogant, he hated Hon Yu more and so time and time again he led a campaign against Hon Yu who years before did not believe in his talent and basically Hon Sun wasted away in the Chor army until Cheung Leung and Siew Hor came along. He had many ideas and earlier on in this series he was a smart and shrewd character who went through many degrading situations and emerged a winner by simply no acting rashly. There is no denying he is a very arrogant man and even towards the end I was kinda influenced by his arrogance to demand for his comeuppance that he got later into the series although not as dramatic as I hoped for. I can understand his arrogance because he always thought without him, there wouldn't be Emperor of Hon. But he always forgot he is the servant, Lau Bong the master. This series clearly depicts that he dug his own grave.
The actor, Wayne Lai
Looking rather dashing later on in his general costume, he reminded me so much of that same arrogant general in Journey To The West who became a pig. Anyway that was comedy, this was serious drama. But not as serious as I would want it to be, because in the tradition of all TVB series serious or not serious, some characters have the misfortune of being silly at some point. Hon Sun is that one character. Wayne Lai portrayed both faces of Hon Sun well. The first was a total nobody who was too smart for his own good. He has the potential but none of the luck.The second was the one that was the most interesting to me, up until the last episode. That was the hard displinarian general who was bent on fulfiling his ambition, one to become a great general/strategist and the other to destroy Hon Yu whom he felt by ignoring his talent was insulting him. Even from the start when he was a nobody, he was arrogant because he was smart. Then he met the love of his life (Sherming Yiu's Heung Gei) who kinda humbled him for awhile. I missed the episode where she died. Anyway then when she died, his arrogance escalated. Although I can't deny he practically help Lau Bong build his empire, he always forgot who was the servant and who was the master. This series showed Lau Bong already wanted him dead because he blamed Hon Sun for everything. I suspect in real life, if you believe the stories, there are 2 Hon Sun.
One is the Hon Sun who knew gratefulness and who died because he was accused of an act of treachery he never did as he was loyal to Lau Bong.
Two is the Hon Sun who became much too smart and much too arrogant that when he felt insulted, he thought he can pull down who he helped put up there, high in the pedestal. Basically he dug his own grave.
I personally believe the 2nd story is more accurate but you never know. One thing undeniable is that this man was smart and shrewd.
Wayne Lai possessed that shrewdness to portray this character effectively. He gave Hon Sun a very feared disposition. At least when Hon Yu snapped, you know what he will do. But this Hon Sun is more secretive although later into the series he became too unbearable that I thought if I were Lau Bong, I too will kill him. Wayne's interpretation has a sense of realness to this famed historical character. Whether you hate or believe the Hon Sun portrayed in here, it doesn't matter. Wayne Lai to me next to Cheung Chi Kwong was the reason to watch this series. The best parts are the ones where he became the general/strategist. Everything before that was boring. Everything after was intelligent, brilliant and very logical. Wayne's performance definitely lived up to my expectation of this very versatile actor. You will hate his Hon Sun but admire his intelligence and shrewdness and I think in the end if his performance achieves that, he has succeeded.
One of my most favourite ones was earlier on as the general of the Hon army, ministers opposed his proposal to destroy the enemies and wanted to opt for diplomacy. Lee Yik Kei, who hated him and was a firm believer of diplomacy said he could convince a certain lord to pledge his loyalty to Hon and thus gain an advantage over Chor without a single bloodshed but Hon Sun knew if a man's loyalty can be so easily turned, that lord might turn against Hon later. So as Lee Yik Kei went on and on about diplomacy and how well he knew this lord, Hon Sun snapped and arrogantly said "Good, good. Ok, you go and do your diplomacy. But you need only persuade one man to surrender and there would be no more war, that I guarantee" and they were wondering who and he said "Hon Yu". That meant no diplomacy. Quite a witty scene.
Continuing from above where Lau Bong said to send Hon Sun to the Empress. What transpired next was well acted and quite a powerful scene that a servant can never rise above his master. Hon Sun faced the empress and he jeered that "Lau Bong that hen pecked coward, using a woman to do a man's job!" and Empress said "Of course my husband can't dirty his hands by killing you, I will gladly do it for him" and Hon Sun saw Siew Hor there and he tearfully said "You were the one who chased me under the moonlight to obtain my services on behalf of Lau Bong, you were the one who gave me my career and now you were the one who tricked me into coming here and to my certain death! It is indeed live by Siew Hor and die by Siew Hor!" and he laughed as he was dragged away whilst Siu Hor looked very guilty and his eyes downcast. What to do? Lau Bong is the master and Hon Sun forgot that repeatedly.
The other women in this series
Generally, there are quite a lot of women who were very influential in the lives of several great men in this series. I've mentioned Yu Gei but that one woman who singularly has the most power over her man, except for the affairs of the heart is Lui Zhi played to almost delicious wickedness by Maggie Cheung. How I wish TVB actually followed history and make an entire series on this woman's life because even in this series, she is so much more interesting than Lau Bong whilst in real life, let's just say fact is so much more fascinating than fiction when it comes to Empress Lui Zhi. We see a bit of indication of her cruelty in the last episode where she ordered for Bok Gei to be strangled to death. Earlier on we see a bit of her steely determination when she agreed certain men who have served her husband long and loyally to be killed. Somewhere in the middle we see how her ambition was taking over her and towards the end we see how truly ambitious she was. But all that being said, there was no denying she never hampered her husband's career, she in fact helped to make it a dream come true, whether he wants to or not. She did everything to help secure her husband's impending fate as the emperor of China so to speak. She was ready to sacrifice herself and her children, not once but many times although she feared death. She dared to speak up to Hon Yu and even broke protocal and negotiated for the division between Chor and Hon. Ok, you may feel too much credit given to her but well, if Hon Sun can be blamed for everything, then surely Lui Zhi can take credit for everything thus rendering Lau Bong both blameless (as in Hon Sun's case) and useless (as in Lui Zhi's case). But one thing you can't deny; as ambitious as she was, she was still a woman. The scene where she cried when she found out her husband slept with Chik Gei and how she later calmed down and accepted that woman, and even turning that union into an advantageous political propoganda was pure genius on her part. You know from thereon this woman is capable of anything as long as she achieves her ambition; to become empress. However I would have love to see a more mutual respect between her and Hon Yu. I remember the movie version where Lui Zhi envied Yu Gei because Hon Yu was willing to run into a burning house for her, and she realised her own husband may not be able to do that. In a way she desired Hon Yu, admired him but knew it was an impossibility because he was the reason that her ambition may be curtailed. I would have love to see this conflicted side of her rather than TVB's version where she became more and more and more power hungry. Maggie Cheung faltered a bit in certain more demanding scenes where she had to act angry and demand things to be done her way. Her acting in those parts were a bit too forced, her voice too dragging and high pitched that it was kinda annoying. I guess that must be her purpose. Other than that, I love the scenes where there was a hint of cruelty in her and I would have loved to see her as a villain without a conscience. Overall her performance could be said as the best female performance in here because her character is not as boringly docile as Yu Gei and her performance not as straightforward as Melissa Ng's.
Chik Gei is like Lau Bong, a simpleton and naively dumb but very loyal to her husband and very obedient to the first wife. Hard to believe this character, who actually existed suffered a fate far worse than death, all of which you can read in the historical section. In fact I was shocked to have read Maggie Cheung was playing that one character who committed that infamous act that I am sure all first wives would love to do to their husband's beloved mistress, and I knew of this fate of hers but always wrongly assumed it was Empress Dowager Cixi who did it first. You must read the historical section because this woman really did suffer before she died. Anyway Chik Gei is a fairly straightforward character to play since she had very little to do than to be her husband's cheerleader and sometimes become the comif relief. In that sense Cerina Da Graca did a good job in potraying the lighter moments. Good job as in don't expect too much. But in other scenes, although her lines may be limited but she is always there in the background and I find her more dramatic moments awful. I won't say she can't act, she can't seem to act standing still. Maggie at long last has cut down a lot on her Parkinson-like bobbing of her head and pointing left right and centre when she talked but now we have Cerina Da Graca swaying left and right when she talked, like she can't balance herself. That to me is annoying. Then you have her poor Cantonese which kinda killed the mood, thanks in part to her monotonous voice. But the worse was her inability to emote anything but dumb surprise which you know can get a bit limited after a while. The idea someone as young as her with Adam Cheng who is I believe 3 times her age surprisingly never once crossed my mind though. It was just that her bad performance in dramatic parts that annoyed me.
Bok Gei is an interesting character in so far as in the historical account. In this series though she had little to do than to become a pawn between Hon Sun and Lau Bong, more like being shifted back and forth between Hon Sun and Lau Bong. Hard to believe she will become the future empress dowager of one of Han Dynasty's most reverred Emperor who by the way was rumoured to be a homosexual or at least bisexual. Spicy stuff and none in this series. Anyway Angela Tong was very pretty, very vixen-ish and her heart to heart talk with Hon Sun on women having to depend on men for their survival was true and sadly, even exists today. I remember Hon Sun was insulting her as she was seducing him, calling her in a way a prostitute for selling her body to any man to ensure her survival and she said something like "I am but a woman. As a man I could at least join the army and serve my country but as a woman, what could I have done? This is a woman's fate, to rely on men for their survival and the choice is not mine, it is my fate" which melted Hon Sun's heart a little as she mentioned his late wife where I think she knew her as she said "At least she had your love. She may not have lived to see your achievements but she has your heart and you remembered her and by honouring her memory with your love and achievements, I believe she would have died a happy cotented woman". Angela Tong was effective by the way and I have no further comments.
Heung Gei is the so called first wife of Hon Sun who never lived to see him achieve success but believed that he could. Can't remember much of her since I didn't watch most of the beginning. I haven't seen Sherming Yiu in a whole lot of series lately and definitely not in prominent roles. This one included. Her character is just tragic but no more beyond that. I honestly can't comment on her performance because I saw not much of her in this series.
Yan Cheung is the educated, well mannered and connected concubine of Hon Sun. Not much about her, she seems wise as she gave her husband advice that he can't be above that of his master but he ignored her. Other than that, she seems to appear perpetually with a scowl on her face. Since she had very little to do, can't comment also on Eileen Yew's performance. What I don't understand is why is she in those ancient series where your intonation is very important? She was definitely so not eloquent. To me a poor performance of a poorly written and underdeveloped character that serves no purpose than to just appear.
The other men in this series
Of all a few stood out.
For one Gilbert Lam stood out because he looked quite handsome in the ancient costume although he plays quite essentially a traitor to Chor. Anyway his character Chan Ping is actually rumoured to be very handsome in real life, very smart and was one of those who helped bring back the order as in a male emperor when Empress Lu Zhi died. Quite an accomplished strategist who together with Cheung Leung negotiated many many deals that you will see in this series although this series made it like Cheung Leung alone did it. Of course that's how much do you believe those websites. Unfortunately his character in TVB's version seems petty and doesn't do much. He however has the honour of being in one of the funniest scene in this series where he went to find Hon Sun who was then having a very cold relationship with Lau Bong. He saw Bok Gei there and unknowingly took Bok Gei home as he knew Lau Bong met her previously and missed her. What he didn't know was Bok Gei just slept with Hon Sun and Hon Sun liked her. Next thing when with Lau Bong and Bok Gei serving Lau Bong, Hon Sun refused to attend some meeting I think and Cheung Leung, Chan Ping and gang were there and they were wondering "What now this petty small minded man wants?" and I think it was in this scene Lau Bong said "What more can he want that I haven't already given except for my head?!" and Cheung Leung looked at Bok Gei who was laughing with Lau Bong and he looked at Chan Ping and asked "Did you happen to take something from him?" and Chan Ping looked at Bok Gei and his expression was classic as in like "Oh sh*t". It was an innocent mistake but very funny.
Chan Hung Lit is mentioned simply because I have a certain affection for him after War And Beauty, his best performance todate. Here he played a very honourable advisor to Hon Yu, maybe too honourable. Other than that no comment.
Fan Fai, the loyal servant and commander of the army of Lau Bong before Hon Sun came along is part comic relief and part cast with nothing substantial to the story except for the later parts. His is one of those characters that are often in amusing circumstances. I refrain myself from saying he is one of the funniest characters because I do think although this series has its funny moments, it is in the end a very serious drama and the characters in this series are not funny but rather in funny situations. I especially like the rapport between Fan Fai and Lau Bong and their buddy-buddy relationship. Ai Wai as always shines in his role.
Siu Hor is actually very well respected and highly admired real life historical person, for his skills in governance and strategy. He will become Lau Bong's Prime Minister and in this series, not much is about him as in historical aspect but you will see his determination, his loyalty and his simpleness as a man who serves his master well. He is neither arrogant nor blinded by prejudice but the last scene of him as Hon Sun confronted him clearly shows he is not beyond trickery for the sake of the empire and for the sake of his master. Hon Sun always forgot who is his master but Siu Hor knows who his master is but that doesn't mean he is a yes-man. He was the one responsible for chasing after Hon Sun and acquiring his service and in one of the best scene with regards to this character was when Lau Bong refused to give Hon Sun the job as the commander of the army and Siu Hor actually told Hon Sun he will resign if Lau Bong refused and he actually did but Lau Bong diffused the situation and shooed him out of the room. It was also funny and shows the intimacy and the trust between Lau Bong and his trusted advisor. Lo Chun Sun the actor gave this role an honourable disposition despite his betrayal towards Hon Sun in the end. I understand why he did what he did after all a loyal servant will not defy his master, moreover Hon Sun was getting way to big and way too troublesome. I just wished I could see more of this character towards the end. Anyway Lo Chun Sun looked mighty dashing in his costume although a bit effiminate. I love his performance and I thought he is one of the highlights of this series.
Ngo Ka Nin, Gregory Lee and the younger ones did their roles justice especially Ngo Ka Nin who plays an emperor in a very difficult position. I am impressed with all of them though I did not know their fate in this series.
The rest of the team, mostly from the Hon Yu camp are not familiar to me but the actors who played the characters who are loyal to their respective master did them well. I couldn't say more since the casting of this series is mostly brilliant, right down to the foot soldiers.
Apart from the performances, there are many other eye openers from this series.
The costumes for one shocked me because they were so beautiful and so detailed and simply so gorgeously ancient looking. If anything you must watch this series for is the costumes. The costumes for the men and the women later on became more elaborate as Lau Bong became the Emperor and his wife the empress but seriously, even the costume for the soldiers looked authentic and believably from that era.
The dialogue may be difficult to understand at first, but it is real in the sense they don't adopt modern words which is great for me. I'd rather not understand a single word rather than them speaking modern lingo. I suspect there were some modern lingos but mostly the rest of the dialogues are intelligent and witty, especially the scenes involving Hon Sun and Lee Yik Kei.
There are a lot of people in a single scene but of course still not many enough as in the LOTR scale. So when they say 100,000 strong men, and you see maybe less than a hundred, just assume there are 100,000 strong men. 100 in any given scene is already a big scale production for TVB standards. Not as much as War And Beauty which is a pity. I would have wished for bigger budget for this series because only then will the battle scenes or those stand off kinda scenes be a bit more pressing, more urgent, more lethal. This is the impression one must get when you see Hon Yu and his army. They're fearsome even before they appear in a scene but the magic kinda got lost when they do appear with less than a 1000 men when it should have been 100,000 men.
The strategies as explained in the beginning of each episode which would become Chinese proverbs and tactics in modern lingo is the best aspect for this series. It is deep and ultimately very intelligent and very engaging. Which is why I enjoyed the scenes where Hon Sun began his campaign against Hon Yu, because those scenes were the ones where you will see the strategy at work, that can be employed even in today's commercial world. Even Cheung Leung's tactic of spreading rumours are so true in today's context, more so then when there's no TV and radio. This is one series where you'll hate Hon Sun for his arrogance and applaud his brilliance. The real man is even more brilliant from what I read and even Hon Yu wasn't stupid either. If you don't like the theme or the costumes or the actors, watch it for the mind games, word plays and strategies. Absolutely engaging and brilliant. I must comment though, the one failure of Hon Yu's camp is that he is surrounded by good hearted kind people who could not bring themselves to kill. Hon Yu did kill off the entire enemy army but that was bad judgment in my opinion when he could have shown a bit of mercy towards these people. You must understand he is a military man, so he must believe in "cutting the grass must also pull out the roots" so to speak. Lau Bong may have went back on his words and therefore not honourable, I must agree his was a campaign with the least amount of blood shed. One funny scene earlier on had him attacking an enemy fort and his men began to charge and the fighting was fierce and suddenly Lau Bong cried "Stop! Retreat" and Fan Fai and gang rushed to him and asked him why he cried stop and Lau Bong said he didn't want to have more bloodshed and his men were like "But my Lord, there were only 2 dead". I think there was only 2 or less dead and Lau Bong was like "Really?". It was so funny.
I like the interaction between masters and their servants. In Hon Yu's camp, there was obviously respect and admiration but also a certain amount of fear. Hon Yu after all govern with fear but not really evil fear just disciplinarian fear. I am sure the real man was much more fearsome. This series made it that Hon Yu was an arrogant harsh man who had never lost a battle therefore an egomaniac. But deep down like Yu Gei discovered and so did we, beyond the facade of this egomaniac which is true, he is a gentleman in the sense he is a man of his words. Later on he will display a certain amount of gallantry where he not only did not kill Lau Bong's family eventhough he threatened to do it, he even released them and shared with them half his empire. Lau Bong eventhough he didn't want to was more despicable and less honourable although this series will explain why he did what he did which I didn't buy it. Lau Bong's camp is more intimate, friendlier, more buddy-buddy-ish and this is because Lau Bong rule with mercy or rather he basically can't make up his mind, so he listens to his advisors who are all luckily likeable, nice and merciful although they're no pushovers. Hon Yu's advisor, Fan Zhang is like a crazy old man but he does make some good points about killing Yu Gei, Lau Bong and especially Hon Sun. In real life Hon Yu rewards his family and not those who were loyal to him but in this series I didn't quite see that. Whilst the harshness of this series' Hon Yu did irked me a bit since I was influenced by the romanticised version of him, I must agree TVB may have got the characterisation right because after all a man capable of ordering for the mass killings of enemy's soldiers who surrendered or rather defeated couldn't be as nice as we may like to think of him. Put it this way; Lau Bong won hands down in the PR dept. And this is why this series is interesting because you see cause and reaction to each action, whether you agree with it or not.
I like the idea that every great man is one good woman. Lau Bong had 2. However much you hate Hon Sun, he loved only one woman. However much you may fear Hon Yu, his gentleness and his love for Yu Gei is touching and empowering. However you may think Lau Bong is a terrible henpecked husband, the fact that his wives were willing to die for him may prove that he may have been a good husband. He did love both his wives, but not on the scale of how much Hon Yu loved Yu Gei and vice versa. I am sure you'll love the idea of that, more so when Hon Yu was in trouble, Yu Gei refused to leave his side, he simply and quite manly carried her to the carriage with her crying "No! No! No!" and asked his men to escort her to safety. However much you despise Yu Gei for being such a burden and his downfall (well technically his own arrogance, his trust in Lau Bong and his unwillingness to go home and face his people due to shame were his ultimate downfall but Yu Gei did contribute to his downfall in a way), when she was kidnapped and Hon Yu could have escaped Hon Sun's trap but he rode back into Hon Sun's trap much to Hon Sun's delight and Lau Bong's dread, I can't help but curse Yu Gei and admire his love for her. It was also very touching when he asked Yu Gei to surrender to Lau Bong eventhough he hated Lau Bong because he wanted her to live whilst she refused because she would rather die than to leave him and be another man's woman is really even now very romantic. Of course her death scene was not much as I have explained above but the circumstances leading to that is well explained. In fact this series really explained the outcome of the characters by justifying it, BUT whether you agree or not is another matter.
In a way the script is smart and well written for the later parts and annoyingly fluffy for the earlier scenes. I didn't like the first few episodes. And for a 30 episodes series, it is really jam packed with events after events. It could do more with a few more episodes for the ending to end properly though.
Some characters become rather underdeveloped or in the end forgotten. Like no more use to them, so we don't need to know what happened to them. I don't like that. I got more involved with the secondary characters in this series than the main characters so damn hell I want to know what happened to Siu Hor, Cheung Leung and gang.
Some characters as a bridge to certain events but no more and in the end seems rather pointless because quite simply I didn't care about them. Most notably Hon Sun's wives. But I do wonder what happened to Hon Sun's 2nd wife? Was she killed too? We know nothing in the end of her fate in this series.
You've got to hand it to TVB to end a series terribly. It has been such a long time I have seen a series ended either with a bang or properly, like War And Beauty. This series didn't know how to end. If this series began with Lau Bong and Hon Yu, perhaps the ending should have been when Lau Bong formed Han Dynasty after Hon Yu's death and then just end it with narration as to what happened to the main characters. But it didn't. It went on and showed to us a very old Lau Bong speaking to his son about governance. Like as if we need to hear this from him since he was so wishy washy. I would have loved an ending where he remembered Hon Yu in his prime and their friendship and he just drop dead. And the facts about Empress Lui Zhi's reign so to speak and the subsequent empress dowager that is Bok Gei were simply glossed over and nothing much came out of it. Like they were trivial, that they didn't matter but at least at the very least Empress Lui Zhi mattered because she mattered throughout and she suddenly become more secondary than everybody else in the last few minutes. I find that disgustingly inadequate writing. I wanted a better ending than this series offered and honestly speaking, the ending screwed up the entire series as was the earlier parts. What's worse was the narration of Bok Gei being empress dowager was so ineffective and so unclear I didn't even know that was it, that her son became the Emperor and I was like "HUH?". Luckily with modern technology that is the Internet you can search the historical accounts and fill in the blanks but why was TVB in such a rush to end it and to end it badly? If this series were given more budget, more people, more scenery,a great big ending, perhaps it could have been a classic because TVB at least tried to get the casting right.
The themesong was just ok. The end song sung by Kong Wah and his wife was a good song but badly sung by Kong Wah. It is time we should just beg TVB to stop letting their actors butcher the songs and stop the singers from butchering their series. My fear has been realised; I don't think TVB has any intention of ever asking Jacky Cheung to sing another themesong since most series now are sung by the main actors in the series and they can't sing. Ok they can sing, karaoke sing but they can't sing, as in JSG sing eventhough singers themselves can't sing well. Some actors can sing, but that was because they were good singers but most can't sing. And then we have their fans going "Wow! He sang so well! She sang so well!" kinda sealed the fate of professional good singers never again singing the themesongs. Imagine Francis Ng singing the themesong for Triumph In The Skies instead of Eason Chan? Adam Cheng is a great singer though because people back in those days can sing, act AND dance. Nowadays one actor seems to be able to do one thing at a time only. And some couldn't even do it well! I wonder why?
There were times I thought this series didn't know whether it wants to be funny, cute or serious. At times I felt so disoriented and sometimes I felt like giving up because I was so fed up with the cuteness of the characters. So I skipped a few episodes. When I really started to watch, that was when everything became serious BUT still witty at times and that to me is great. But even then sometimes when I missed an episode I didn't feel like jumping out of the window (eventhough the TV is on first floor of my house so that won't kill me actually) which means this series when you sit down to watch for an entire episode it is addictive but when you don't, it's ok. The failure is I guess it didn't end with intrigue in each episode and perhaps during that 1 hour, the one single event featured in this series is much too long. You see each episode is compartmentalised into one famous proverb so to speak, or rather strategy so it was kinda long to see that happen as in explaining how that proverb/strategy came along and how it is used. But in retrospect like I said for 30 episodes this series is jam packed but looking at each single episode, it didn't feel that way. I was also bored with the whole Lau Bong-Hon Yu feud. You must know the entire series is about Lau Bong-Hon Yu feud. So my advice is watch each episode from the very beginning and try not to skip an episode because like Winter Sonata, I didn't feel like catching up on the series until again I was to sit down from the beginning of one particular episode and just watch.
Get ready with your Chinese dictionary because the dialogue in some parts is very deep. But not as deep as TVB's Justice Bao series, the one with Ti Lung I think and an overworked Felix Wong as well as a very good Liu Kai Chi. That was the deepest. 10 words and I understood only at most 2. But it was a good series, although Felix Wong looked like dead man walking if you get my meaning.
What more can I say? I didn't follow this series religiously but somehow still managed to follow the story when I watched somewhere quarter into this series. The story is fascinating because it is real history, with some salt and pepper plus some chilli added into it. It took some time for me to adjust to the characterisations in this series and after a while I had no problems with them except for the character of Lau Bong because his characterisation though serves a more romanticised and idealistic point of view to the plot, I seriously doubt such a man could even govern, more so govern well. His character doesn't suit the philosophy of the story unless you say the story is about brotherhood but I can't see such connection there. Whilst some characters may have been junk-a-sized a bit like many complaint about Hon Sun or the lack of characterisation for some key characters in history, I do feel there may be some practical truth in some changed characterisation. It fits the plot whilst Lau Bong's didn't.
But in the end this series is about two men, Lau Bong and Hon Yu and sometimes I thought this series simply had too much of them. I kinda find the other smaller characters more interesting, and a great pity the focus was not on everyone. I mean the focus of this series was obviously those 2 men, but the title suggests it may be about the war, division and subsequent usurpation of it all. So in a way Lau Bong represents one side, and Hon Yu the other. But this series made what I felt is a fundamental mistake by focussing on these two characters, especially Lau Bong AND YET gave much too much credit to the others or rather gave too little to Lau Bong that made him seem incompetent and in the end the story felt loopsided. I didn't quite care about Lau Bong really.
As for Hon Yu, sometimes I felt too much focus on him but in a way it was good because I cared for him and got more involved with his end scene than I was with Lau Bong's. This series could have been a classic, because it had strong performances from most of the leads. You can see very careful consideration were given to the casting, especially the male characters. You could also see great expense was spent on the costumes to make them look ancient and yet gorgeously detailed. Unfortunately the set was not as great, at times felt under decorated and sometimes the scripting was either confusing, too deep, too cute-sy or taking itself way too seriously. The beginning of this series was all over the place but once it settled down, the seriousness of it may seem a bit daunting but it is a learning experience as we learn a tiny bit about our culture and the stories of such heroes and villains or rather demi-villains, semi-heroes. What spoilt it all for me was the awful, unfocused, rushed and inadequate ending. I have given to you my preferred ending as I have written above and TVB has a knack for killing the suspense with anti-climax and in this case, confusing ending. It felt like the ending was not important. I mean end must end with a flourish, or memorable but to end it the way it was with rushed narration was like as if the production was running over time and they were in a rushed to just wrap it up. Try not to let the ending kill your experience and if the history or the costumes do not entice you or even entertain you, I am sure the fine perfomances especially by the secondary actors such as the usually amazing and reliable Wayne Lai, Cheung Chi Kwong (who in my opinion in his long illustrous career gave possibly only one awful performance and I think that was Life Before 40 or something like that) whilst it is great to see a total miscast such as Kong Wah who somehow manages to give a good performance eventhough I wasn't convinced he was Hon Yu. Fans of Adam Cheng will not be disappointed too because though his character was awful, his performance wasn't.
I do not believe what the fans forums said that this series was mostly accurate. I believe the depiction of events may be as accurate as one could get from the text or folklore but the characterisations are open for interpretation although there are some expected standard characterisation. This series is simply an interpretation of people we heard about but could only speculate on. If you're a history buff but don't mind a bit of TVB's twist to it, this is the series for you. I definitely recommend this series but I stop short of saying it was great. Ugly truth is, it wasn't because the ambition was there but the resources and the heart wasn't in it totally. A pity really.
The History, The Facts & The Myth
A great thing of watching historical series is learning how much TVB deviated from it. Well, TVB did stick mostly to the known facts but yes, they couldn't help but change it here and there. I find myself fascinated with the text I could find on the Internet about the characters in this series and it is quite funny to realise that FACT in this case is so much more interesting than TVB's version. It was more coherent, more dramatic and more scandalous in some case. After much reading, I realise TVB basically white wash certain characters to make them more palatable and make some villains out of some characters so as to allow the story to flow towards one end and that is to make Lau Bong look good. I totally disagree with that but well, forget TVB. Just check out the following awesome articles that I have found. There are a lot more but I chose those that I thought was an enjoyable read.
The following are categorise into the following categories:-
>> THE MAIN PLAYERS : Hon Yu & Lau Bong
>> THE WOMEN : The wives, concubines and lovers of Lau Bong & Hon Yu
>> THE ADVISORS, GENERALS & CONFIDANTES : The men (& horse) behind the success of Hon Yu & Lau Bong
>> THE CHU-HAN WAR
>> THE DYNASTY : Specifically Han Dynasty as in Western Han and Eastern Han Dynasty plus timeline
>> THE STORY AFTER : A bit on the successors of Lau Bong & their history
>> THE FAMOUS POEM : The poem recited by Hon Yu during his downfall, translation as well as a sample clip (in Mandarin)
>> FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING MATERIALS : exactly as the name suggests.
>> THE MAIN PLAYERS
HON YU AKA XIANG YU
Can't really find a good painting of him but found two; the left one is supposed to be him and I checked that the painting was supposed to be the Hon Yu we are talking about but he doesn't look like you know, the Hon Yu I thought. I doubled checked the website ... Anyway, the right one is the one from the opera ...
He must have been fearsome, awe inspiring and egoistically arrogant but darn brilliant in military strategies but darn naive when it comes to politics.
Anyway, some interesting facts about this beloved hero in Chinese folklore famed for his love for Yu Ji;
Xiang Yu: Utterly Isolated
[Source : http://www.chinavoc.com/history/xihan/talent.htm]
Xiang Yu presented a striking contrast to Liu Bang. Xiang was robust and strong in physique, but was narrow-minded. According to historical records, he was self-willed, and jealous of the talented, and so appointed people according to favoritism. Those he trusted and employed were either members of the Xiang clan or his wife's brothers. Zhang Liang and Han Xin had both been subordinates of Xiang Yu, but deserted him because they saw no hope of being promoted. Other talented people who deserted Xiang Yu to serve Liu Bang included Chen Ping, Ying Bu, and Shu Suntong.
The main planners of the decisive battle between Chu and Han -- the Battle of Gaixia -- were Zhang Liang and Chen Ping, and the chief commander was Han Xin. In this battle the Chu troops were wiped out, and Xiang Yu was forced to commit suicide by the Wujiang River. Until the moment he died, Xiang maintained that his death was the will of Heaven.
Liu Bang once remarked that Xiang Yu had a wise and resourceful adviser named Fan Zeng, whom Xiang called respectfully "Lesser Father," but that he neither gave him any real power, nor acted on his advice. Liu Bang was twice almost killed by Xiang Yu, and was able to flee both times only because Xiang Yu had not taken Fan's advice. One occasion was at the Hongmen Feast, when a meeting was contrived as a trap after Liu Bang had been forced to go to the Chu camps to make an apology. Fan Zeng and Xiang Yu had decided to kill Liu Bang during this meeting, and Fan Zeng signaled Xiang Yu to take action three times, but Xiang did not respond. As a result, Liu Bang fled. After the banquet, Fan Zeng was furious, saying, "This mean fellow is not worthy of my service. It should be Peigong (Liu Bang) that defeats Xiang Yu and conquers the country."
During the Xingyang Battle, Liu Bang's troops were besieged and ran out of ammunition and provisions, and as a stratagem to gain a respite, Liu sued for peace, to which Xiang Yu agreed, but Fan Zeng opposed strongly. At this time, Chen Ping contacted his old acquaintance in the state of Chu and used the stratagem of sowing distrust between Fan Zeng and Xiang Yu. As a result, Xiang Yu became suspicious of Fan Zeng and discharged him from his post, and Liu Bang thus avoided another disaster. Fan Zeng, at age 73, knowing that he was unable to save the situation, bid Xiang Yu farewell and left for his hometown, but died of disease on the way. After Fan Zeng's death, Xiang Yu had no more capable men left on his side, and a year later, the Chu came to an end.
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiang_Yu]
Xiang Yu (232 BC - 202 BC) was a prominent general during the fall of the Qin Dynasty. His name was Ji, Yu was his courtesy name. He was a descendant of Chu nobility. A great general, it took him only several years to put a giant empire effectively at his whim -- but no diplomat or statesman, his impetuous nature and inability to realize his shortcomings doomed him to failure. He is commonly known by his self-styled title of Xichu Bawang (Overlord of Western Chu).
Xiang was born during a period when Qin -- the first regime that had tried to unify China -- was completing its conquests of the other kingdoms of the Warring States period, which it accomplished in 231 BC under its emperor Ying Zheng (later known as Qin Shi Huang). How his childhood was like is not known, although it is clear that as a member of a family privileged in the now defunct kingdom of Chu, it would not be comfortable under Qin rule. He was raised by his uncle Xiang Liang, which suggested that his father, and possibly both parents, died early. After Qin Shi Huang's death in 210 BC, however, there were revolts everywhere against his incompetent son and successor Yin Huhai (Qin Er Shi). Many of these revolts claimed to be attempts to restore the kingdoms that Qin had conquered two decades earlier.
One of these rebellions started in 209 BC, under Xiang Liang. At that time, the Xiangs were living in the region of Wu (modern southern Jiangsu). Xiang Liang was well known as the descendant of the Chu general Xiang Yan, and people of the Wu region quickly coalesced about him in resistance to Qin. After one of the first and strongest rebel generals, Chen Sheng, then styling himself the Prince of Chu, was assassinated by one of his guards, Xiang Liang assumed leadership of a coalition of rebels. Serving under his uncle, Xiang Yu showed quickly both his military ingenuity and his impolitic cruelty. For example, when his uncle commissioned him to attack the Qin stronghold Xiangcheng (in modern Xuchang, Henan), he conquered the city despite its strong defenses, and after it fell, he slaughtered the entire population.
In order to coalesce the forces against Qin, Xiang Liang made a member of Chu royalty, Mi Xin , the Prince of Chu in 208 BC. Initially, under Xiang Liang's control, Mi Xin was more or less a puppet prince. However, when Xiang Liang died in battle later that year, there was no single general who took his place, and the rebel Chu's generals and the Prince became an effective collective leadership, with the Prince gradually asserting his authority. A demonstration of this was that, against Xiang Yu's wishes, in winter 208 BC, he sent Xiang Yu as the second-in-command to Song Yi in an expeditory force to relieve Zhao Xie (??), the Prince of Zhao, who was then under resurgent Qin siege by Qin general Zhang Han (??) in his capital Handan (in modern city of the same name in Hebei) while putting Liu Bang in command of another expeditory force (which Xiang had wished to command) against the heart of Qin itself. Around this time, Prince Xin also created Xiang the Duke of Lu.
The Battle of Julu and Xiang's rise to military supremacy
Song Yi was a general who appeared brilliant while talking but was fairly incompetent. Believing that Qin and Zhao forces will wear each other out and not realizing that Zhao was in danger of being destroyed soon, Song stopped some distance away from Julu (??, in modern Xingtai, Hebei), where the Prince of Zhao and his forces had retreated to, and did not proceed further. Xiang, analyzing the situation correctly but unable to persuade Song, took extreme measures. At a military conference, he surprised and assassinated Song. The other generals, who were already intimidated by his military capabilities, offered Song's command to him, and Prince Xin was forced to retroactively approve it.
Xiang proceed with due haste to Handan. At the time of his arrival at the battlefield, the city of Julu and the Zhao forces within had been nearly starved by the seizing Qin forces, under general Wang Li , the assistant to Zhang Han. Xiang understood the importance of reducing the Qin forces' effectiveness first, and he accomplished this by cutting of Wang's supply lines. He then ordered his forces to carry three days of supplies and destroy the rest -- in other words, making his forces having no real possibility of retreating alive -- before engaging Wang in battle. Still, no other relief force sent by other rebel principalities dared to engage the Qin forces, and Xiang attacked them alone. He fought nine engagements before the Qin forces collapsed and Zhang was forced to retreat. Wang was captured. After the battle, all other rebel generals, regardless of whether they came from Chu or not, were so awed by Xiang, that they voluntarily came under his command, and Xiang then prepared for a final confrontation with Zhang.
That confrontation would not happen, however. The Qin prime minister, the eunuch Zhao Gao, had become jealous of Zhang's success up to that point and was concerned that Zhang would replace him. He falsely accused, before Qin Er Shi, Zhao of military failure and conspiracy with the rebels. In fear, in summer 207 BC, Zhang surrendered to Xiang without a fight. Again demonstrating his cruelty, Xiang slaughtered the surrendering Qin army except for Zhang and a few other generals, and he, ignoring Prince Xin's authority as his prince, created Zhang the Prince of Yong (a region within Qin proper (i.e., the former territory of Qin during the Warring States period before its expansion), modern central Shaanxi), even though he had not yet captured Qin proper.
Entry into Qin proper and Xiang's jealousy of Liu Bang
Xiang then prepared an invasion against the heart of Qin, to wipe Qin out. He was unaware that, by this point, Liu Bang had already proceeded deep into Qin and was near its capital Xianyang (near modern Xi'an, Shaanxi). Xianyang and Qin's final ruler, Ying Ying, surrendered to Liu's forces in winter 207 BC, ending Qin Dynasty. When Xiang arrived at Hangu Pass (in modern Sanmenxia, Henan), the gateway into Qin proper, he found the pass guarded by Liu's forces, and in anger, he sieged it, even though Liu was a fellow Chu general. He then approached Liu's forces, which he outnumbered three to one. At a famous event later known as the Feast at Hong Gate, Xiang required Liu, under duress, to attend a feast he put on and considered executing Liu at the feast. His advisor Fan Zeng strongly encouraged him to do so. However, Xiang listened to his uncle Xiang Bo , a friend of Liu's strategist Zhang Liang and spared Liu, although he would continued to bear grudge against Liu for robbing him of the glory of destroying Qin.
Under a promise issued by Prince Xin of Chu earlier, Liu Bang had assumed that he, as the one who entered Xianyang first, would be created the Prince of Guanzhong (which includes the capital Xianyang and most of Qin proper). He had also planned to make Ying Ying, whose wisdom and knowledge he admired, his prime minister. Xiang paid no attention to Liu's presumptive title to Qin, and he, in another act of deliberate cruelty, killed Ying Ying and burned down the Qin palace, which contained a large royal library commissioned by Qin Shi Huang. The unique copies of many "forbidden books" were then lost forever. Despite advice from one of his advisors to set his own capital at Xianyang, Xiang was intent on returning to his home region of Chu, and instead engaged in a three-month systematic destruction of Qin buildings and institutions.
Xiang's deposition of Prince Xin of Chu and division of the empire
Xiang, jealous of Liu, suggested to Prince Xin of Chu that while Liu should be made a prince, he should not be given Guanzhong. Instead Qin proper were seperated into three and divided amongst Zhang Han and his two deputies, their territories were to known as the Three Qins. Prince Xin responded that he was inclined to carry out his promise. Xiang, now firmly in control, in response, deposed Prince Xin. While ostensibly offering Prince Xin the even more honorable title of "Emperor Yi," he in fact put Emperor Yi's "empire" in the then-uncivilized region around Chencheng (in modern Chenzhou, Hunan) and exiled him there. In spring 206 BC, Xiang divided the former Qin empire into 18 principalities (in addition to Emperor Yi's "empire"):
It should be noted from this list several phenomena. Xiang, based on the fact that several generals from the rebel coalition states supported him in the campaign against Qin, supplanted their princes and put those generals in the original seats of the princes who sent them. He also left several important figures who did not support him without principalities, despite their contributions to the effort against Qin. Soon after this division, further, he would have Emperor Yi murdered and Han Cheng executed (seizing Han territories and merging them into his own principality in the process). This greatly alienated a great deal of people and left his confederation of states without legitimacy. As a result, several months after his division of the empire, Xiang was facing enemies on several different fronts; Tian Rong , the prime minister of Qi, angry that not only was he left out of the division but that his former subordinate had been promoted over him, resisted the division and conquered the three Qis, initially putting Tian Fu back on the throne but eventually killing him and taking over after Tian Fu displayed fear of Xiang. Similarly, Chen Yu, a former co-prime minister of Zhao, who was also left out of the division, led an uprising against his former colleague Zhang Er, taking back Zhang's territory and reinstalling Zhao Xie as the Prince of Zhao. However, the enemy that would prove to be the most formidable for him was Liu Bang, who resented not only the fact that he was robbed of what he viewed as his rightful division as the Prince of Qin, but that he was "exiled" to the then uncivilized region of Han.
Xiang and Liu would fight a five-year war known as the Chu Han Contention. Initially, Xiang had all the advantages -- he had the much larger territory, the larger army, and the greater number of allies. He was also a far superior general to Liu. However, his lack of political skills, the inability to accept criticism, and his inability to listen to wise advisors would eventually lead to his downfall. He also paid little attention to supplies for his army -- a fatal error, as Liu set up an efficient army supply system to keep his army well-fed and well-clothed with food and clothing shipped to the front from his heartland, while Xiang's army eventually fell into hunger and lack of weaponry. As he got bogged down to wars on different fronts, Liu, along with his very able general Han Xin, was able to gradually absorb many of the principalities into his territories or alliance. By 203 BC, Xiang was caught in an unwinnable war. He sued for peace, which Liu granted, but Liu quickly changed his mind and abandoned the treaty. In 202 BC, his forces, under Han Xin's command, had Xiang trapped at Gaixia (in modern Suzhou, Anhui), where Xiang's beloved concubine Yuji committed suicide after presenting him with one final dance. (The title of the famous Chinese opera "Farewell My Concubine", as well as the 1993 film based on the opera, comes from the aria that Xiang Yu sings to Yuji before his last stand.)
Xiang still enjoyed support in his homeland in the Wu region, south of the Yangtze River. He broke out of the Gaixia pocket and headed for the river, intending to cross it at Wujiang (in modern Chaohu, Anhui). The fordsman at the river encouraged him to cross, telling him that the people of Wu were still intent on supporting him as their prince. Xiang felt ashamed, and instead committed suicide.
There are many different stories about Xiang Yu's suicide. One famous example is when he was surrounded by Han cavalry, he saw an old friend and said "Are you Lü Matong? I heard the Prince of Han has a great reward for my head. Here let me give you this..." After saying these words, he killed himself. (A legend indicates that he decapitated himself with his own sword, although many dispute whether such a thing is possible.)
Although Liu Bang was a bitter rival, he made a grand funeral (with the ceremony befitting that of a duke) and graveyard for Xiang Yu and had it maintained regularly. Also, Liu spared many of Xiang Yu's relatives and rewarded Xiang Bo, who saved Liu Bang's life during the Feast at Hong Gate incident, by creating him and three other relatives of Xiang Yu marquesses.
Impact on Chinese history
Xiang's heroism on the battlefield and his death at the hands of Liu Bang has been immortalized in the Shi Ji ("Records of the Grand Historian") has made him a cultural hero in Chinese folk tales and poetry. However, he is also viewed as having bravery but no wisdom, as summarized in the Chinese idiom "youyong wumou". His military tactics were required learning for generals, while his political blunders were also required learnings for emperors as to what not to do as leaders. An idiom that referred to his being surrounded at Gaixia is "surrounded by Chu music" (simian Chuge), which refers to a desperate situation without allies -- based on Xiang's lament at Gaixia that he heard Chu songs coming out of Liu's surrounding camps, implying that Liu had conquered all of Chu. Yet another idiom that refers to the inability to listen to advice is, "having a Fan Zeng but unable to use him" , referring to Xiang's reliance on Fan but actual inability to listen to Fan's advice, which came out of Liu's critique of Xiang after his final victory.
Liu Bang and Xiang Yu
[Source : http://www.asiawind.com/pub/forum/fhakka/mhonarc/msg00710.html]
The following is more on Hon Yu than Lau Bong. The text in here closely resembles the events depicted in the TVB version so it is an interesting read.
Ying Zheng founded the Qin Dynasty (221BC to 207BC). He adopted the mtitle of the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang Di). He died in 210BC and the centralized power he created collapsed. His second son Hu Hai succeeded him as the Second Emperor (Qin Er Huang Di).
The Second Emperor was an idiot, unable to control the situation. Riots broke out every where throughout the empire because the vast majority of the people had suffered too much under the severe rigidity of the Qin government. People were deserting the Qin Government en masse. Everywhere, soldiers were mutining against their superiors and the authorities.
The remnant aristocrats living in those States, which were formerly conquered by Qin, began to revive their former States and established their own Governments.
Xiang Yu was an unknown person who lived during the time of unrest. He was the grandson of a famous aristocratic general in the former State of Chu which was conquered by Qin in 223BC. Taking advantage of the turmoil in the land, Xiang Yu killed the local official in his home town. With the help from his uncle Xiang Liang he organized an army with the intention of destroying the Qin Government. In 208BC he installed the grandson of the late ruler of the former State of Chu as the King of Chu, using him as a puppet to attract the patriotic remnants of the former
State of Chu; thousands of men heard his call and joined his army.
Altogether this newly formed army was about eight thousand strong. From the region of Dong Jiang in Jiangsu province they marched Northwest and occupied a large terroritory in the Qin Empire.
Liu Bang was a peasant. He joined the Qin army as an ordinary soldier. He rose to the rank of an officer in charge of a town called Si Shang in Jiangsu province. One day he was ordered to escort a group of conscripted workers to march North to help build the tomb for the First Emperor. En route to the tomb site, many conscripted workers ran away, leaving very few workers to escort. He thought that by the time he reached the North all of them would have run away, and the Qin Authority would punish him. If he could not reach the destination on time he would also be punished for insubordination. Since he would most probably be punished one way or another, he decided to rebel against the Qin Authority.
He established a base in the bush and became a bandit. Many country folk joined him. Most of his followers were rough plebeians*. With his followers he joined Xiang Yu's army. Hoping to destroy the Qin Authority as quickly as possible, the King of Chu encouraged every one to march West to Xian Yang, the capital of the Qin. He also proclaimed that whoever captured the Qin capital first would become the ruler of that region.
It was a free for all. Liu Bang went to the Qin capital and swiftly captured it before any of the other groups, whilst at the same time inflicting no damage to the capital.
Xiang Yu, while marching westward towards Xian Yang, received news that his uncle Xiang Liang was wounded in the battle with the Qin army at Ji Yang, dying soon after. Xiang Yu turned North to meet the Qin army which was commanded by Zhang Han who was the general in charge of building the Great Wall.
With victory in sight the Qin general Zhang Han pushed Northward in order to destroyed the Kingdom of Zhao, another rebellious State formed recently by the royal remnants of the former State of Zhao. The Qin army surrounded Ju Lu the main city near the Zhao capital of Han Dan. Xiang Yu ordered general Bu Ying to relieve the siege, an effort which was unsuccessful.
Xiang Yu decided that he should personally lead the rescue expedition. After crossing the Zhang He River he gave the following orders:
1) All the boats were to be scutted and sunk in the river,
2) All the cooking vessels to be destroyed,
3) All the houses along the river bend to be burned.
He told his troops that they were going to a battle of no return. They were either going to win or die. Each soldier was only allowed to have three days worth of provisions.
They fought battle after battle with the Qin army. After the 9th battle Xiang Yu finally defeated them. Thus Xiang Yu's march to Xian Yang was delayed.
On hearing that Xiang Yu was approaching the capital, Liu Bang, taking all the treasures that he could find from the Qin's treasury, led his troops North from the capital in order to avoid a collision with oncoming Xiang Yu.
Xiang Yu eventually arrived at the capital. He was very angry as he missed the fame for being the first to capture the Qin capital. He was further infuriated by the news that all the treasure was taken away by Liu Bang. He ordered his troops to kill all the royal members of the Qin Court. Even the infant ruler of the Qin could not escape the butchering by the victors. Xiang Yu also ordered all the buildings in the capital, including the palaces, to be set ablaze. The capital was razed to the ground and thus marked the fall of the Qin dynasty.
After this, Xiang Yu ordered his troops to prepare to attack Liu Bang. Knowing that Xiang Yu was furious and planned to attack him, Liu Bang brought the treasure back to the capital and asked him for forgiveness. Xiang Yu forgave him. After the transfer was completed, Xiang Yu intended to take all the treasures back to the East, his home base.
A few months later, after the situation had quietened down, a brilliant officer of Xiang Yu advised him to settle down there and use Xian Yang as the capital. He told Xiang Yu that the area had many unique advantages. The only way that it could be accessed was through the narrow strip of land between the hills and the Yellow River. Under these conditions it was very esay to defend that region and he could sally forth at will from there to wage war on any eastern rivals.
Xiang Yu ignored his advice. He wanted to go back to the East where his home base was. He further emphasised that he wanted to go home in triumph to show his hometown folks of his success. Not doing so to him was like "to dress up with silk gowns to walk in the dark and where no one can see me well dressed". This officer was annoyed and started telling other officers that Xiang Yu was like a "just freshly bathed monkey wearing a crown, which does not look like human being at all but an animal. No wonder people are saying that Chu people are like monkeys wearing hats. Once they take off their hats they reveal their true identity, the monkeys".
Somehow Xiang Yu heard about the comment by this officer. He went berzerk, ordering the arrest and execution of the officer for rumour mongering.
In 206BC he returned to the East. He established his capital in Peng Cheng (present day Tomg Shan city in Jiangsu province). He installed the King of Chu as Emperor Yi and entitled himself the West King of Chu. He also rewarded titles of Kings and Dukes to eighteen of other generals who had helped him to destroy the Qin Empire. He posted them as rulers to different parts of the country.
Liu Bang was "honoured" as King Han, delegated to rule the wild-west Sichuan province. Getting sick of the puppet Emperor Yi, in 205BC Xiang Yu murdered him. Liu Bang was furious. He called upon all the other Kings and Dukes to revolt against Xiang Yu and avenge the death of Emperor Yi. A civil war had begun, that lasted five years. The war mainly consisted of battles between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu.
At the beginning of the civil war Xiang Yu was winning - he was a brilliant military strategist. Liu Bang lost many battles to Xiang Yu and it seemed that Xiang Yu was going to crush his rival who was no match with him (as far as military tactics were concerned). However, Liu Bang had under his command many good military commanders.
With his rude manners, arrogance and lack of political vision, the tide turned against Xiang Yu. In the end he lost the war to Liu Bang.
In 202BC Xiang Yu was surrounded by Liu Bang's army at Gai Xia (present day Lin Pi district in Anhui province). His army was routed. However, Xiang Yu managed to escape.
With only about one hundred riders left he arrived at Wu Jiang (present day Wu Jiang River in He district in Anhui province). Liu Bang's cavalry were on his heel. Xiang Yu continued to fight. Finally he had only two riders left with him; Xiang Yu dimissed them and told them to go their own way. There was a boat waiting to take him across the river. The boat man was a headman of a village. He requested Xiang Yu to get into the boat. But Xiang Yu refused and said him,
"I started the revolution with eight thousand men from Dong Jiang. There is not a single man with me now. They all died in the battle fields fighting for me. I am ashamed to face the Dong Jiang folks".
The boat man replied:
"Dong Jiang is not a little place. There are several hundred thousand people living here. You still can be our King. You still can stage a comeback".
Xiang Yu responded:
"No thank you. I am too ashamed to go back to face the parents of his dead comrades".
After saying this he took out his sword cut his own throat. The year was 202BC. Shortly after his death Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty. Many years later with the help from his henchmen and these plebeians he founded the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD). He was the first commoner to become an Emperor in Chinese history.
Lau Bong's Opinion Of Hon Yu
Interesting stuff. Did he say this? Did he? How are we to know?
While Liú Bang might have been deliberately derogatory of Xiang, he was not particularly off the mark when he commented on the reason why he was successful and Xiang was not:
"The most important reason is that I know how to use people and Xiang Yu did not. As to being able to set out a strategy in a tent but determining success or failure in the events a thousand miles away, I am not as good as Zhang Liang. As to guarding the home base, comforting the people, and supplying the army so that it lacked neither food nor supplies, I am not as good as Xiao He. As to leading untrained large forces but always being successful whether battling or sieging, I am not as good as Han Xin. These three people are heroes among men, but I know how to use them, so I was able to conquer the lands under heaven. Xiang Yu only had one great advisor, Fan Zeng, but was unable to use him properly, and so was defeated by me."
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Gao_of_Han#Personality]
LAU BONG AKA LIU BANG
The facts about this man does not resemble the man in TVB's version except the benevolent part. The factual Lau Bong is definitely more decisive, great at governance and more shrewd.
[Source : http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/han/liubang.htm]
Emperor Gaozu, also known under the name Liu Bang, was the first emperor of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD). He was born into a peasant family in Pei (present Pei County in Jiangsu Province), and was once one of the leaders of the peasant insurrections in the late Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).
Having suffered a lot under the despotic rule, Liu Bang rose against it at the end of the Qin Dynasty together with Xiangyu. The two of them became two important leaders of the peasant uprisings which were taking place at the time. In 206 BC, Liu Bang started by breaking the capital city of Qin, Xianyang, thus putting an end to the notorious Qin Dynasty. He abandoned the harsh laws, reduced taxes and instituted three regulations in order to protect the interests of normal people. These actions made him popular with the people.
However, Liu Bang's actions and fame were the source of Xiangyu's envy. Xiangyu had the intention of becoming an emperor with control over the entire country. When Xiangyu proclaimed himself the King of Chu, Liu Bang realized that he was inferior to Xiangyu and adopted the suggestions of Xiaohe to move to Hanzhong (present Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province) with the title "King of Han" which was conferred by Xiangyu.
In Hanzhong, Liu Bang focused his efforts on developing the agriculture and training an army, through which he reinforced his material accumulation and military power. Before long, Liu Bang left Hanzhong and stationed in the Central Shaanxi Plain, where he launched a war now known as the Chu-Han War, against Xiangyu.
The war lasted four years (206 - 202 BC) and ended with Liu Bang's victory. Having defeated Xiangyu, Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty in 202 BC and made Chang'an (present city of Xian) his capital city. Liu Bang became historically known as Emperor Gaozu.
During the time Liu Bang was in power, he continued to use the centralism created by Qin, replaced original vassals and granted lands to his relatives. In economy, he reduced taxes and corv¨¦e and developed agriculture, but he restricted the commerce. Emperor Gaozu's efforts laid a solid foundation for the over four-hundred-year reign of the Han Dynasty.
Chinese History – Liu Bang (256 - 195 BC)
[Source : http://millennial-fair.com/literature/liubang.html]
A pleasant and broad-minded man, well known for his generosity and willingness to help others was Liu Bang. Liu Bang (memorable name Wei) was born to peasant parents in Pei County of Jiangsu Province during the late Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). As an adult, Liu Bang served as an official, responsible for the Sishui River.
In the year 209 B.C., the Qin Emperor Ying Zheng passed away and his second son Hu Hai took over the throne. Emperor Hu Hai was even of inferior quality than his late father. He neglected his responsibilities as emperor and allowed the eunuch Zhao Gao to govern the country on his behalf.
Not long after Emperor Hu Hai’s ascension, an uprising began, led by Chen Sheng and Wu Kuang. Xiang Liang and Xiang Yu from Jiang Dong, Ying Bu from Po Yang and Peng Yue from Yu Je all joined the uprising against the Qin Dynasty.
Liu Bang could no longer stand by helplessly. He returned to his hometown, and with the help of Xiao He, Cao Can, Fan Kuai, and Zhou Bu managed to round up three thousand volunteer troops. He bestows the title of Pei Gong and led his army to capture Hu Ling and Fang Yu.
In the later part of the year 209 B.C., Cheng Sheng was killed and Xiang Liang took over his armies. Later on in Xue Di, Xiang Liang made the Prince of Chu's grandson the new leader of Chu.
Liu Bang moved his forces to Xue Di and aligned himself with the Chu forces. Xiang Liang welcomed him and enlarged Lui Bang’s armed forces to five thousand men.
Xiang Liang was killed while on a reinforcement mission in the north. The Prince of Chu sent Xiang Yu to help in the north, and sent Liu Bang to attack the Qin from the west.
Liu Bang, with the help of his advisors Zhang Liang and Li Shiqi easily captured Wan castle, and later Wu pass. His armies marched through to Xian Yang (Chang An). In the Qin Palace, the eunuch Zhao Gao killed the Emperor Hu Hai. However, Zi Ying succeeded the throne after taking revenge for the late Emperor by killing Zhao Gao.
In the year 206 B.C., Liu Bang breaks through the forces at Xian Yang and Zi Ying surrendered the palace. Liu Bang abandoned the harsh Qin laws, reduced taxes, and instituted three regulations to protect the common people; this made Liu Bang very popular with the people.
After Liu Bang’s victory over the Qin, Xiang Yu arrived at Xian Yang and with an army of four hundred thousand troops, camped at Xin Feng and Hong Meng. Xiang Yu’s advisor Fan Zheng secretly plotted Lui Bang’s assassination by requesting Xiang Yu to invite Liu Bang for a banquet at Hong Meng.
Liu Bang refused the invitation, but Zhang Liang told Liu Bang that he must attend due to the size of Xiang Yu’s armed forces. Liu Bang accepted the invitation. At the banquet, Xiang Yu’s cousin Xiang Zhuang tried to assassinate Liu Bang, but was stopped by Xiang Yu’s uncle Xiang Bo and Fan Kuai.
In the same year, Xiang Yu proclaimed himself Prince of Western Chu (Xi Chu Ba Wang) and entitled eighteen Warlords of Chu. Liu Bang was given the title Prince of Han (Han Wang) and moved into the lands of Ba-Shu (Yizhou). Liu Bang left behind his father and wife who were captured by Xiang Yu.
Xiang Yu did not stay in Xian Yang; he left three former Qin Generals: Zhang Han, Sima Xin, and Dong Yi to guard the Liang and Yong provinces, and returned to his Capital: Peng.
When Liu Bang entered Ba-Shu, he ordered his men to burn the Jian path to show that he would not return to Xian Yang.
In Han Zhong, Liu Bang focused his efforts on developing new agricultural methods for the people and trained his troops. He accumulated vast wealth and used it to increase his military power.
Zhang Liang, Han Xin, and Xiao He helped form a plan of attack for Liu Bang. When Liu finished his preparations, he sent his armies secretly past Chen Chang and launched a surprise attack on the Liang and Yong provinces.
Zhang Han, Sima Xin, and Dong Yi surrendered to Liu Bang, and the Han forces reclaimed Xian Yang. At the same time, Tian Rong was dissatisfied with Xiang Yu and started a revolt; he joined forces with the Prince of Zhao and attacked Chu.
Xiang Yu led his forces east to crush the revolt. In the meantime, he ordered the Prince of Jiu Jiang, Ying Bu, to escort the Chu Emperor (former King of Chu) to Peng and assassinated him along the way.
When news spread that the Emperor was dead, Liu Bang used it as excuse to ally with the Warlords against Xiang Yu.
In the year 205 B.C., Liu Bang attacked Peng with 560,000 troops while Xiang Yu was battling against the traitors in his Kingdom. Xiang Yu quickly returned with his army and slaughtered the Han army.
During the escape from Peng, Liu Bang had two of his children with him, an older daughter, and a younger son. Fearing that Xiang Yu would capture them, Liu Bang pushed them out of his cart and ordered the driver, Xiao Ying, to go on with the retreat. After a while, Xiao Ying saw that the Chu armies were not chasing Liu Bang, so he turned around to rescue the two children.
Liu Bang escaped to Rong Yang, and Xiao He quickly sent reinforcements. Liu Bang realized that he could not match Xiang Yu’s strength and ability, and thus sent Han Xin to attack Wei, Zhao, Yan, and Qi.
Within a year, Han Xin conquered four new territories and surrounded the remaining Chu army. Ying Bu and Peng Yue both left Xiang Yu and joined Liu Bang, causing Xiang Yu to lose his power in the east. During the siege on Xiang Yu’s camp, Xiang Yu used Liu Bang’s wife and father to force Liu Bang to surrender. However, Xiang Yu was deceived by Liu Bang’s offer of peace and foolishly returned the captives to Liu Bang.
In the year 202 B.C., Liu Bang signed a treaty with Xiang Yu. They agreed that the west would belong to the Han, and the east belongs to Chu. With this agreement, Xiang Yu lead his troops back to Peng, but Liu Bang who sent Han Xin and Peng Yue to trap his army betrayed him.
Liu Bang’s army then trapped Xiang Yu at He Xia, but Xiang Yu was able to make a desperate escape. He finally committed suicide at Wu Jiang and ended the four-year war between Chu and Han.
Shortly after, Liu Bang proclaimed himself Han Emperor and took Xian Yang as his new capital, then renamed it Chang An. He wanted it to become the grandest city in the world and invested many funds in building a palace.
After establishing the Han Empire, Liu Bang’s fight for power continued. He fought numerous small wars against former allies: Han Xin, Chen Xi, and Peng Yue, in order to consolidate power in west China.
Another power that threatened Liu Bang’s supremacy was a confederation of northern tribes lead by a Turkish speaking tribe called Xiong Nu. The Xiong Nu people were nomadic herders with supplementary agriculture and slaves. The Xiong Nu warriors had been making raids into China for a few years.
Liu Bang knew that his military was not strong enough to defeat the northern tribes, so he bribed the Xiong Nu with food and clothing in exchanged for a peace treaty. He also sent a young woman, who he claimed was a Chinese princess, into marriage with a Xiong Nu prince.
In an effort to create a centralised management for his empire, Liu Bang needed an army of civil servants. Moreover, for reliable control of the empire, Liu Bang installed his brothers, uncles, and cousins as regional princes.
Liu Bang continued to support of the warlords that were in his coalition against the Qin, and made them lesser nobles. Local Qin administrators who supported Liu Bang were left in place, and some friendly nobles were given back their lands.
Drawing on his peasant origins, Liu Bang expressed his discontent with scholars by urinating into the hat of a court scholar. However, he later came to see the benefit in the use of scholars and he made peace with them. Many scholars were Confucianists, and Liu Bang began treating them with greater tolerance, while he continued to outlaw Confucianist denunciations of the legalist point of view.
Besides the Confucianists, Liu Bang kept looking for good civil servants and he found them in families of a new class of farmers called the gentry. Liu bang rejected military men for civil positions, and Liu did not have any trust in merchants, whom were used by pervious Emperors to do administrative tasks.
Instead, he turned to men from landowning families, mostly families that had grown wealthy in recent generations. This new class (the gentry) was to send its most able sons into government careers and let its less able sons run the farms. Additionally, with new interests in opportune marriages, the new class began treating its females with more respect.
Before Liu Bang’s death, he wanted his second son to become the heir to the throne, so he asked his Crown Prince to become a Commander and fight Ying Bu. Knowing that Liu Bang wanted to hill the heir, Empress Lü used a trick to stop her son from going into war. Because of this, Liu Bang was forced to fight Ying Bu himself as Commander of his armies. During this attack, an arrow struck Liu Bang, resulting in a severe injury.
Liu Bang plotted the assassination of Empress Lü and his oldest son but died at the age of sixty-one, when he suffered a relapse from his former injuries, the order for the assassination was therefore never sent out. Liu Bang was immortalized as Emperor Gao-Di.
The Rise Of Liu Bang
[Source : http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_aboutchina/2003-09/24/content_22859.htm]
A bit of repetetive facts but less dramatic and emotional account of the rise of Lau Bong than the rest above.
The Qin Dynasty (221-206BC), the first to unify China under one ruler, collapsed amid peasant revolts, civil war and natural disasters in 210BC after the death of its First Emperor (Qin Shihuang). Many factions emerged and warred with each other incessantly, devastating large parts of China: one led by Chen Sheng and Wu Kuang, Xiang Liang and Xiang Yu of Chu regime from Jiang Dong, one led by Ying Bu from Po Yang, and one by Peng Yue from Yu Je. Liu Bang managed to round up three thousand volunteer uprising troops in his hometown Pei County of Jiangsu Province. Later, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang became the most prominent among the risers.
In following years, Cheng Sheng, Wu Guang and Xiang Liang successively died in the fight, and Xiang Yu took over the armies in the north. Liu Bang moved his forces north and aligned himself with the Chu forces.
In 206BC, Liu Bang was the first to enter the capital city of Xian Yang and ended the rein of the Qin Dynasty. Liu Bang abandoned the harsh Qin laws, reduced taxes, and instituted three regulations to protect the common people; this made Liu Bang very popular with the people.
But because of his lack of soldiers, Liu Bang could not fight against Xiang Yu and was forced to withdraw his forces to Ba Shang, left behind his father and wife who were captured by Xiang Yu. After Xiang Yu proclaimed himself Prince of Western Chu (Xi Chu Ba Wang) and entitled eighteen warlords of Chu, he named Liu Bang Prince of Han (Han Wang).
Liu Bang was twice almost killed by Xiang Yu, and was able to flee both times only because Xiang Yu had not taken his consultant Fan Zeng's advice. One occasion was at the Hongmen Feast after Liu Bang first entered Xian Yang. At the Hongmen Feast, a trap was planned after Liu Bang had been forced to go to the Chu camps to make an apology. Fan Zeng and Xiang Yu had decided to kill Liu Bang during this meeting, and Fan Zeng signaled Xiang Yu to take action three times, but Xiang did not respond. As a result, Liu Bang fled. After the banquet, Fan Zeng was furious, saying, "This mean fellow (Xiang Yu) is not worthy of my service. It should be Peigong (Liu Bang) that defeats Xiang Yu and conquers the country."
During the Xian Yang Battle, Liu Bang's troops were besieged and ran out of ammunition and provisions, and as a stratagem to gain a respite, Liu sued for peace, to which Xiang Yu agreed, but Fan Zeng opposed strongly. At this time, Chen Ping, who was helping Liu Bang, used the stratagem of sowing distrust between Fan Zeng and Xiang Yu. As a result, Xiang Yu became suspicious of Fan Zeng and discharged him from his post, and Liu Bang thus avoided another disaster. Fan Zeng, at age 73, knowing that he was unable to save the situation, bid Xiang Yu farewell and left for his hometown, but died of disease on the way. After Fan Zeng's death, Xiang Yu had no more capable men left on his side, and a year later, the Chu came to an end.
When Liu Bang entered Ba Shang, he ordered his men to burn the Jian path to show that he would not return to Xian Yang. In Han Zhong, Liu Bang focused his efforts on developing new agricultural methods for the people and trained his troops. He accumulated vast wealth and used it to increase his military power. Also, he had Zhang Liang, Han Xin, and Xiao He as his most trusted strategists, helping form a plan of attack of Xiang Yu.
Within a year, Han Xin conquered four new territories and surrounded the remaining Chu army. In the year 202BC, Liu Bang signed a treaty with Xiang Yu. They agreed that the west would belong to the Han, and the east belongs to Chu. With this agreement, Xiang Yu lead his troops back to his camp, but Liu Bang's army then trapped Xiang Yu at He Xia. Xiang Yu finally committed suicide at Wu Jiang, and thus ended the four-year war between Chu and Han.
At the same year, Liu Bang established the Western Han Dynasty with its capital at Chang'an (formerly Xian Yang). He was the first commoner to become emperor in Chinese history.
After establishing the Han Empire, Liu Bang's fight for power continued. He fought numerous small wars against former allies: Han Xin, Chen Xi, and Peng Yue, in order to consolidate power in west China.
Another power that threatened Liu Bang's supremacy was a confederation of northern tribes lead by a Turkish speaking tribe called Hun. The Hun people were nomadic herders with supplementary agriculture and slaves. The Hun warriors had been making raids into China for a few years. Liu Bang knew that his military was not strong enough to defeat the northern tribes, so he bribed the Huns with food and clothing in exchanged for a peace treaty. He also sent a young woman, who he claimed was a princess, into marriage with a Hun prince.
In an effort to create a centralised management for his empire, Liu Bang needed an army of civil servants. Moreover, for reliable control of the empire, Liu Bang installed his brothers, uncles, and cousins as regional princes.
Liu Bang continued to support the warlords that were in his coalition against the Qin, and made them lesser nobles. Local Qin administrators who supported Liu Bang were left in place, and some friendly nobles were given back their lands.
Liu Bang ruled for less than a decade, and his main contributions were to consolidate the dynasty. He ruled by Confucian principles, changing the old system of legalism. Because he was the first emperor of Han, he was known as the High Emperor of Han (Han Gaozu). He learned the lesson from the cruelty of Qin, and set laws that reduced slavery and encouraged production. The Han Dynasty lasted for 400 years, and Liu Bang was named Han Gaozu.
[Source : http://www.chinavoc.com/history/xihan/talent.htm]
More on Liu Bang's style of rise and governance. Very very interesting read although repetetive.
Liu Bang: A Magnanimous Ruler
Liu Bang and Han Xin had long been suspicious and envious of each other. During the war between Chu and Han, a councilor under Han Xin named Kuai Che urged him to make himself king and to apportion the country between himself, the Chu and Han. Kuai knew that Han Xin had outstanding military talents and that the reins of military power were in his grasp. As Liu Bang did not totally trust Han Xin, an enormous potential crisis loomed. Kuai pointed out, "If you go over to Chu, you will not be trusted; if you continue to serve Han, you will be perceived as a threat to its monarch. You enjoy such a high reputation that I am truly worried about you." Han Xin believed Kuai to be correct, but although he was on his guard against Liu Bang, he still did not take Kuai's advice. Later, as Kuai predicted, he was killed. Before being executed he sighed, "I regret not taking Kuai Che's advice." On hearing of this, Liu Bang had Kuai Che arrested. Kuai admitted that he had offered advice to Han Xin, and that had he taken it, Liu Bang's fate would have been very different. Liu Bang was incensed, and wanted to kill Kuai, but Kuai argued, "Jie's dog barks at Yao, that is to say, every one acts according to the nature of the one he serves. As an advisor to Han Xin, it was my duty to be loyal to my master." After considering this carefully, mulling it over time and again, Liu Bang pardoned Kuai Che. Later, when Liu Bang's son succeeded him as emperor, Kuai Che served as adviser to Prime Minister Cao Shen, and rendered outstanding service in maintaining the rule of the Liu clan. There is a Peking Opera called "Ten Elderly Pacify the Liu Regime," which tells of how Liu Bang's wife, Empress Lu, usurped the throne, and began killing off the Liu descendents. Kuai Che risked his life to go to Huainan and persuade Liu Chang to launch an attack against Lu, which ultimately preserved the Liu rule. This story might have been fabricated by later generations, but Liu Bang's pardoning of Kuai Che was recorded in historical documents. There are also many other examples of Liu Bang's tolerance and magnanimity.
Officials Came from among Commoners
Liu Bang never recruited personnel on a sectarian bias, paying more attention to a person's actual ability and level of learning. Many of his officials and generals came from poor families, and some were even former bandits and convicts, such as his generals Peng Yue and Qiong Bu. Fan Kuai, who defended him at the Hongmen Feast, was originally a butcher. Most of the early generals and ministers of the Han Dynasty came from common families, and their family backgrounds and experience had great impact on their political decisions. At the initial stage of the Han Dynasty, therefore, the ruling class kept to a simple and frugal way of life and work, thus forming the foundations for the Han Dynasty prosperity that occurred during the reign of Liu Bang's son and grandson, known as "Governance of Emperors Wendi and Jingdi."
As Liu Bang had realized the importance of employing talent during the Chu-Han War, after the founding of the Han Dynasty he made "recruiting talents" a basic state policy, thus institutionalizing it.
Zheng-Pi (soliciting) was a system of selecting talents from among the common people during the Han Dynasty. Zheng refers to the system whereby the emperor either directly solicited prominent and worthy personages, or accepted those recommended by officials at the imperial court. Such people were bestowed the title Boshi (an erudite official of special broad skill and knowledge) or Daizhao (expectant official), and served as the emperor's advisers. Pi refers to the system whereby dukes, ministers, prefects and other high officials solicited aides and staff. Zheng-Pi was a polite invitation, not a compulsory measure, and those solicited had the right to accept or refuse such invitations. The envoy would welcome those solicited in a deluxe chariot, so as to express sincere respect for their talent.
Cha-Ju (investigation and recommendation) was another measure through which to select officials during the Han Dynasty. Dukes, ministers, marquises and regional inspectors conducted investigations to select people of talent and recommend them to the imperial court. The scope of those investigated was wide, and included able, virtuous, eloquent, and outstanding xiucai (scholars who had passed imperial examinations at the county level), and xiaolian (those filial and honest in performing official duties). Before being recommended to the imperial court, they were first selected and investigations made into their ability, level of learning, and character. Those who passed this examination were recruited as officials according to their abilities. Local officials who concealed facts and did not recommend talent were dismissed from their posts.
Zheng-Pi and Cha-Ju played positive roles in selecting talent from among the common people and in creating an atmosphere of respect for knowledge and talent. During the Han Dynasty, therefore, people of talent emerged in large numbers. Their contribution to the prosperity of this era of the Han Dynasty is ineffaceable.
Enlist Talents: A Prerequisite to Winning the Country
[Source : http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_aboutchina/2003-09/24/content_22859.htm]
In the late Qin Dynasty numerous talented people rose in revolt, and descendants of the rulers of the six states restored their spheres of influence. Among the six states, that ruled by Xiang Yu was the strongest. Emperor Yidi had only an empty title and no real power, and was supplanted by Liu Bang, who had been a petty official before joining the revolt. He was able to defeat Xiang Yu and unite the country due to two reasons. First, he knew how to choose the right person for the right job; and second, he made his capital in Guanzhong, where there was freedom to advance or retreat without any fear of attacks from the rear. Xiang Yu, on the other hand, fought in two lines, one in the east and the other in the west, and could not attend to one line without neglecting the other. This is why Liu Bang was able to defeat Xiang Yu.
It was actually Liu Bang that, prior to any historian, personally summarized these two points. Soon after Liu Bang ascended the throne, he held a banquet at the South Palace in Luoyang, and said to his ministers warmly, "Today we are gathered here happily under the same roof, and you need have no fear of speaking your mind. How did I win the country, and how did Xiang Yu lose it?" Gao Qi and Wang Ling, two ministers, said, "Your Majesty rewards the officers and men who have performed meritorious service, so we are all willing to serve under your leadership. Xiang Yu lost the country because he did not give rewards to those who deserved them, and was suspicious and jealous of the talented." Liu held that the two of them still did not grasp the fundamental reason, and stated that he had been able to win the Chu-Han War because he chose the right people for the right jobs. He told his ministers, "I am inferior to Zhang Liang in that he could sit within a command tent and devise strategies that would assure victory a thousand li away; I am inferior to Xiao He in that he could reassure and pacify the public and guarantee a supply of troops; and I am inferior to Han Xin in that he can command a million soldiers, win every battle, and capture every city he attacks. All three are outstanding. I could conquer the country because all three are within my recruitment. Xiang Yu had Fan Zeng, but did not use him, which is why he was captured by me." Liu Bang's words were true and honest. The three people he mentioned played important roles in the establishment and administration of the Han Dynasty, and became known as the "Three Persons of Exceptional Ability of the Early Han."
When studying the process of the Chu-Han War it is plain to see that from the very beginning Liu Bang realized the importance of recruiting talent. Among the monarchs of feudal China, Liu Bang was outstanding for recognizing and recruiting talented people, treating them with kindly tolerance, and skillfully manipulating them.
>> THE WOMEN
It is rather strange to read such bizarre and tumultous time the women of Lau Bong led during those days. And stranger still, there was hardly any full article about Yu Gei which made me wonder, did she exist or was she just a story in the romanticised version of Hon Yu? Was Hon Yu married at all? No answers to that. Yu Gei is not featured here but you could read a one line mention of her in the info on Hon Yu. Read on, I am sure you'll be very interested in a TV version of the women of Han Dynasty.
EMPRESS LU ZHI AKA LUI ZHI
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_L%C3%BC]
I was very shocked to have learned that this was the woman who infamously (notoriously I mean) chopped off the hands and legs and tongue and gouged out the eyes and stuff the remaining and very much alive body of her late husband's favourite concubine into a pot and fed her feaces for her remaining life, and I was told for 2 days but 2 days is awfully long for such an awful fate. You won't see this in the series though and Maggie Cheung kinda made her into quite a sympathetic character albeit a bit power crazy towards the end but probably as ambitious as the real person. Whether her obviously manic and angry jealousy and hatred towards this woman merit such an obviously over-kill type of action is up to debate, whether her ruling behind the veil was what built the empire rather than set it back and whether a woman scorned is indeed a woman you must never cross is up to debate. I myself is of the opinion I would have killed that woman's son since he was more favoured than her own but to chop off legs and to feed your enemy feaces clearly indicates this woman has psychological issues although from the text I read, she seems to be rather ok to her children and supporters. Which means only one thing; she is cruel to her enemies and she is especially cruel to Chik Gei because quite simply she hated her. A very intriguing woman indeed. Read more about her here...
Empress Lü Zhi, commonly known as Empress Dowager Lü (pinyin: Lü Taihou) or formally as Empress Gao (pinyin: Gao Huánghoù) (d. 180 BC) was the wife of Emperor Gao of the Han Dynasty. They had two known children -- the eventual Emperor Hui and Princess Luyuan. After her husband's death, she carried on a lengthy affair with one of his officials, Shen Yiji, the Marquess of Piyang, which lasted until her death.
Emperss Lü is often criticized for being a power-hungry woman. According to traditional historians, she conspired against Han Xin, the Prince of Chu, and Peng Yue, the Prince of Liang; both were prominent generals and major contributors to the founding of the Han dynasty and were awarded principalities for their achievements. Allegedly at Empress Lü's suggestion, Emperor Gao removed Han from his principality of Chu, and she executed Han in Emperor Gao's absence after accusing him of treason. Similarly, allegedly at her suggestion, he had Peng arrested, charged with treason, and executed. Despite her reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty (which is probably well-deserved), she appeared to be genuinely devoted to her husband and the safety of the empire -- so much so that long after Emperor Gao's death, she, then firmly in control, continued to carry out his instructions on the succession of ministers. Despite her cruelty, she was also known as an able administrator, and she (other than the instances of nepotism) generally promoted capable officials. During her regency, therefore, the people of the empire enjoyed a measure of rest from the turmoils of the destruction of Qin Dynasty and the wars of Chu Han Contention. However, due to her inexplicable trade embargo against Nanyue, Nanyue made repeated attacks against the Principality of Changsha (modern Hunan) and the Commandery of Nan (modern Hubei). As far as the relations with Xiongnu to the north, there was a famous episode in which the Xiongnu chanyu Modu wrote her a mocking letter proposing marriage. She wrote back a humble letter proposing instead that a princess be given to him as part of the heqin system.
After Emperor Gao died in 195 BC, Empress Lü received the title of Empress Dowager and became immensely powerful. She murdered Concubine Qi's son Liu Ruyi, the Prince of Zhao, and she then tortured Concubine Qi by cutting off her limbs and blinding and deafening her, leading to her death. Her inhumane treatment of Concubine Qi depressed the gentle but weak Emperor Hui. She also starved to death another son of her husband's -- Liu You, the Prince of Zhao -- whom she felt had slighted his wife, the Princess of Zhao, who was a niece of hers. Emperor Hui's infant sons, Emperor Qianshao and Emperor Houshao, were installed as her puppets on the throne after Emperor Hui's death in 188 BC. Thus, real power rested in her hands for sixteen years.
During her regency, members of the Lü clan gradually took over important posts in the government; however, upon her death, officials that previously served under Emperor Gao, including Chen Ping, Zhou Bo and Guan Ying, eliminated the Lü clan and placed Emperor Wen on the throne. In this way, Empress Dowager Lü's devotion to her husband's wishes oddly enough led to her own clan's downfall, as Chen and Zhou were named by her to their posts long after Emperor Gao's death pursuant to his instructions on ministerial succession.
Family background and marriage to Liu Bang
Lü Zhi's father Lü Wen was the county magistrate for Danfu during late Qin Dynasty. When her eventual husband Liu Bang, then a roving bandit, once carried out a raid in Danfu, he had an opportunity to meet Lü Wen, who was surprised at his appearance and behavior and thought he would eventually be a great man, and so married Lü Zhi to him despite his being a bandit. She bore him a daughter, the later Princess Luyuan, and then bore him a son, Liu Ying, in 210 BC.
Despite their marriage, Liu Bang did not settle down but continued his life as a bandit. When Chen Sheng rose against Qin rule in 209 BC, Liu gathered his band of bandits and joined the rebellion. For the next few years, Lü appeared to reside with Liu's father, Liu Zhijia, only seeing Liu Bang on the occasion when he would be home.
Life during Chu Han Contention
In 207 BC, after the fall of Qin, in which Liu Bang played a major role but in doing so offended Xiang Yu, who wanted the glory for himself, Liu became the Prince of Han (modern Sichuan, Chongqing, and southern Shaanxi). However, Lü, her children, and her father-in-law did not go to the then-remote Principality of Han, but stayed in Liu's home county of Pei (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu), either because of Han's remoteness or because they were prevented from doing so by Xiang, whose Principality of Western Chu included Pei.
Late in 207 BC, Liu would break out of the isolation that Han was in by attacking the three Qins -- three principalities that Xiang set up to prevent Liu from receiving the territories of the former state of Qin, which had been promised to Liu, starting a four-year war known as the Chu Han Contention. Despite this, however, Xiang initially took no action against Lü or her father-in-law.
In 205 BC, while Xiang was occupied in a separate war against Qi, Liu took the opportunity to attack his capital Pengcheng (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu), capturing it in summer 205 BC. Xiang quickly withdrew from the Qi campaign and staged a counter-attack that nearly annihilated Liu's forces and recaptured Pengcheng. In the aftermaths, as Liu tried to retreat back to his territory, he went through Pei and tried to take his father, wife, and children with him. In the confusion the family members became separated. Liu was able to take his children back to the safety of his own territory, while his father and his wife Lü were captured by Xiang's forces and held thereafter as hostages, along with Liu's official Shen Yiji. (It has been speculated that the romantic relationship that Lü later had with Shen started to develop at this stage, as they were probably imprisoned together by Xiang.)
Near the end of the war, when there was a temporary truce between Liu and Xiang, Xiang transferred Liu Zhijia and Lü to Liu. Lü was then honored with the title Princess of Han. The truce, however, did not last long, as at Zhang Liang and Chen Ping's suggestion, Liu broke the truce and defeated Xiang in 203 BC. Soon thereafter, Liu claimed the title of emperor (later known as Emperor Gao of Han). He created Princess Lü empress, and created her son Ying as crown prince.
Despite Emperor Gao's victory over Xiang, there would still be many unpacified areas of the empire for years, requiring the new emperor to engage in many campaigns thereafter. He put Empress Lü and Crown Prince Ying in charge of the capital Chang'an and key decisions in home territories, assisted by Xiao He and Zhang Liang. It was also during this time that Emperor Gao began to favor one of his younger concubines, Consort Qi, who bore him a son, Ruyi, who was created the Prince of Zhao in 199 BC, displacing Empress Lü's son-in-law (Princess Luyuan's husband) Zhang Ao. Consort Qi yearned to have her son displace his older brother Prince Ying as the heir to the throne, and would often beg Emperor Gao to make her son the crown prince, drawing resentment from Empress Lü.
During this period, however, Empress Lü proved herself to be an able administrator of the home territories, and quickly built a strong working relationship with Emperor Gao's officials, who admired her for her capability and feared her for her ruthlessness. She would, indeed, be most known as an empress for her hand in the deaths of Han Xin and Peng Yue -- whose military capabilities both she and her husband had been apprehensive of. In 196 BC, while Emperor Gao was away trying to suppress a rebellion by Chen Xi (??), the Marquess of Yangxia, it was alleged that Han, a friend of Chen's who by then had been demoted to a powerless marquess in Chang'an, conspired to start a rebellion in the capital. Empress Lü, after consulting with Xiao, had Xiao summon Han for a meeting, at which Empress Lü's guards surprised Han and captured and executed him. She also slaughtered Han's clan.
Later that year, Peng would suffer the same fate. Emperor Gao had summoned Peng and his forces to join him in the campaign against Chen. Peng, then the Prince of Liang, however, did not do so, claiming illness, and Emperor Gao, angry, sent a messenger to rebuke him. An official of Peng's encouraged him to rebel, but Peng refused to do so. Despite this, Emperor Gao surprised Peng and had him arrested and stripped of his titles. He then exiled Peng to Qingyi (in modern Ya'an, Sichuan). On Peng's journey to the southwest, however, he encountered Empress Lü. He pleaded to her, claiming his innocence. Empress Lü agreed to intercede on his behalf, and they returned to Luoyang, where Emperor Gao was at then, together. Peng thought that Empress Lü was in fact going to beg Emperor Gao for his freedom. Instead, she told Emperor Gao that Peng, being as capable as he was, would create a threat if exiled, and Emperor Gao agreed; she then found an informant to falsely report that Peng was about to start a new rebellion. Peng was executed, as was his clan.
Empress Lü's own son Crown Prince Ying, however, would be in a precarious position himself, as Emperor Gao, unimpressed by his kind but weak character, continued to consider replacing him with Prince Ruyi. With officials having strong rapport with Empress Lü, however, they generally opposed the move, and Emperor Gao had to abandon it. After he died in 195 BC, Prince Ying succeeded him as Emperor Hui. Empress Lü became empress dowager.
As empress dowager
Empress Dowager Lü quickly exerted even more influence on the reign of her son than even she did as empress. The first targets that she had were Consort Qi and Prince Ruyi (who by then had gone to his Principality of Zhao, in modern central Hebei). She placed Consort Qi in prisoner clothes and stock and forced her to conduct hard labor -- grinding rice. She also summoned Prince Ruyi to the capital, intending to kill them together. Prince Ruyi's prime minister Zhou Chang, whom Empress Dowager Lü respected because of his stern opposition to Emperor Gao's proposal to make Prince Ruyi crown prince, temporarily protected him by refusing to allow him to go to Chang'an. Empress Dowager Lü got around Zhou by first summoning him to the capital, and then, once he left Zhao, summoning Prince Ruyi.
Emperor Hui tried to save Prince Ruyi's life. Before Prince Ruyi could get to the capital, Emperor Hui intercepted his young brother at Bashang (in modern Xi'an) and received Prince Ruyi into his palace, and they dined together and slept together. Empress Dowager Lü wanted to kill Prince Ruyi, but was afraid that any attempt might also harm her own son, and therefore could not carry out her plot for several months.
Empress Dowager Lü got her chance in winter 195 BC. One morning, Emperor Hui was out hunting and wanted to take Prince Ruyi with him. The young prince was then only 12 years old and refused to get up from bed, and Emperor Hui left for the hunt on his own. Empress Dowager Lü heard this and immediately sent an assassin into the emperor's palace to force poisoned wine down the prince's throat. By the time that Emperor Hui returned, his brother was dead. She then tortured Consort Qi inhumanely -- by cutting her limbs off, gouging our her eyes, cutting her tongue, deafened her anc fed her human feaces -- and Consort Qi would eventually die from the torture. When Emperor Hui saw Consort Qi in her tortured state, he cried outloud and became ill for about a year, complaining to his mother that he felt that he could no longer govern the empire, given that he, as the emperor, could not even protect the concubine and son so loved by his father. From that point on, Emperor Hui indulged himself with wine and women and no longer made key governing decisions, leaving them to his mother.
Emperor Hui would have to protect another sibling of his from Empress Dowager Lü. In winter of 194 BC, when Liu Fei, Prince of Qi -- his older brother by Emperor Gao's mistress Consort Cao -- made an official visit to the capital, they both attended a feast put on by Empress Dowager Lü. Emperor Hui, honoring the prince as an older brother, asked him to sit in a seat at the table even more honored than his own. The empress dowager was greatly offended and instructed her servants to pour a cup of poisoned wine for Prince Fei and then toasted him. As Prince Fei was about to drink the poisoned wine, however, Emperor Hui, realizing what was happening, grabbed the cup as if he was able to drink it himself. Empress Dowager Lü immediately jumped up and slapped at the cup, spilling it. Prince Fei was able to get out of the situation by offering an entire commandery from his principality to Princess Luyuan as her realm. Empress Dowager Lü, who greatly loved her daughter as well, became pleased and let Prince Fei return to his principality.
In 192 BC, Empress Dowager Lü (who by that point had began (or reassumed?) her affair with Shen) would receive a most unusual marriage proposal. The Xiongnu chanyu Modu sent her a letter stating the following, intending to intimidate and mock her:
I am a lonesome ruler who was born in the northern wilderness and had grown on plains full of livestock. I often got to your borders and wanted to tour the main territories of Han. You had just lost your husband, and I imagine you cannot endure the loneliness. Since neither of us can gratify ourselves in our loneliness, marry me, and we will exchange what we do not have for what we do have. What do you think?
Empress Dowager Lü was greatly offended, but could do nothing due to Xiongnu's military strength. She instead offered a daughter of an imperial prince to Modu in marriage (as part of the heqin system) and wrote back a humble letter, seeking peace.
In 191 BC, at Empress Dowager Lü's insistence, Emperor Hui married Princess Luyuan's daughter Zhang Yan -- his niece -- as empress. The marriage would be a childless one. It was alleged that Empress Dowager Lü told Empress Zhang to take eight boys from others and execute their mothers, and then adopt the children as her own. (There is a dispute whether these children were Emperor Hui's; traditional historians believed that they were not, while modern historians generally believe that they were, by his concubines.)
In 188 BC, Emperor Hui died. One of the children that Empress Zhang adopted, Liu Gong, became emperor (as Emperor Qianshao). However, now-Grand Empress Dowager Lü would be the one who actually and formally ruled over the empire, and traditional historians did not even consider Liu Gong a true emperor, often omitting him from the list of Han Dynasty emperors.
As grand empress dowager
Quickly, Grand Empress Dowager Lü tried to carry out something that Emperor Gao had prohibited -- making her kin princes. (Emperor Gao had decreed that no non-imperial clan members could be made princes -- a rule that Grand Empress Dowager Lü herself had a hand in creating.) This was opposed by the right prime minister Wang Ling but accepted by the left prime minister Chen Ping and the commander in chief of the armed forces Zhou Bo. When Wang rebuked Chen and Zhou in private for going against Emperor Gao's rule, they rationalized that their compliance with the grand empress dowager was necessary to protect the empire and the Lius. Grand Empress Dowager Lü then promoted Wang to the honorary position of the emperor's teacher (taifu); Wang declined and claimed illness. Lü then removed him from the position and had him (as the Marquess of Anguo) returned to his march (in modern Baoding, Hebei) and promoted Chen to right prime minister ("right" being the more honored direction) and her lover Shen Yiji to left prime minister.
She then proceeded to create her family princes. She preceded the creation of the Lüs by first creating her grandson by Princess Luyuan, Zhang Yan (different intonation than his sister the empress), Prince of Lu. She eventually created these family members princes.
Sometime in or before 184 BC, Emperor Qianshao discovered that he was not in fact now-Empress Dowager Zhang's son and that his mother had been put to death. He made the mistake of remarking that when he grew up, Empress Dowager Zhang would pay for this. Grand Empress Dowager Lü, once she heard of this, had him secretly imprisoned within the palace and publicly announced that he was severely ill and unable to receive anyone. After some time, she told the officials that he continued to be ill and incapable of governing, and that he had also suffered a psychosis. She proposed that he be deposed and replaced. The officials complied with her wishes, and he was deposed and put to death. He was succeeded by his brother Liu Yi, whose name was then changed to Liu Hong (as Emperor Houshao).
In 180 BC, Grand Empress Dowager Lü was making sacrifices to the gods at Bashang. As she was returning to the capital after the sacrifices, she saw something that appeared to be a blue-haired dog charging her armpit and then suddenly disappearing. A warlock informed her that the object was Prince Ruyi's spirit. She became apprehensive and began to suffer pain in her armpit, which eventually became a major illness. She died later that year and was buried with her husband.
In the aftermaths of her death, the officials would plot against the Lü clan and have Grand Empress Dowager Lü's family members overthrown and executed. See Lü Clan Disturbance for more details.
CONCUBINE QI AKA CHIK GEI
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concubine_Qi]
Awful fate, an awful cruel and very painful way to die if you ask me. It is indeed not a blessing to be loved by the Emperor more so if he has a healous cruel vindictive and very creative (that I must admit) wife.
(d. 194 BC), also known as Lady Qi or Consort Qi, was the favoured concubine of Han Gaozu (personal name Liu Bang), the first emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. She was called by some as Qi the Benign.
She was born in Dingtao , Shandong. Liu Ruyi, later entitled Prince of Zhao, was their son. Liu Bang considered the heir apparent Crown Prince Liu Ying (his eldest son) to be an unsuitable leader. He tried several times, fruitlessly, to acknowledge Liu Ruyi as the Crown Prince instead, as his desire was objected to by Liu Ying's biological mother, Empress Lü Zhi. Because of this, Lü Zhi hated Qi deeply. Nevertheless Liu Bang ordered Liu Ruyi to proceed to his entitled land, the Principality of Zhao (capital in modern Handan, Hebei) on his deathbed. Qi did not accompany Liu Ruyi.
Lü Zhi, now declared the empress dowager as her son became emperor after Liu Bang's death, commenced an inhumane plot against Qi and Ruyi. She first arrested Qi and put her in prison garbs (shaved head, confined by stock, and wearing red clothes). She then summoned Ruyi to the capital -- an attempt that was initially resisted by Ruyi's chief of staff Zhou Chang, whom she respected because he was one of the officials who insisted on Liu Ying being the rightful heir. Instead of directly moving against Zhou and Ruyi, though, Lü circumvented Zhou by first summoning him to the capital, and then summoning Ruyi. She then consummated her plot to put Qi and Ruyi to death, which was documented:
Emperor Hui (Liu Ying) resided Ruyi in the palace and checked for poison in any aliment delivered to him. Ying also brought Ruyi with him wherever he went. In one early morning in the twelfth month of the first year of Emperor Hui, the emperor had to attend a shooting ritual; this time Ruyi was left alone since he could not wake up early. Ying supposed his mother would not plot against his brother as several months had passed without incident. Nevertheless Dowager Lü had someone force venom down Ruyi's throat....She then chopped off Qi's hands and feet, blinded her by scooping out her eyes, cut out her tongue and abandoned her to live in a toilet, and insulted her as "the Human Pig". Several days after, Empress Dowager Lü recalled Emperor Hui to have a look of "the Human Pig". After he realised who "the Human Pig" was, the weak emperor was so sick of Lü's cruelty that he virtually relinquished his authority, withdrew himself to carnal pleasures. (Paraphrased quotation from the Records of the Grand Historian, chapter 9)
Qi died in the first year of Liu Ying's reign.
Her connection to the game of Go
Qi had a maid who escaped and later married to Duan Yu from Fufeng Prefecture (West of Xian in Shaanxi Province). She described Qi as a very beautiful woman, a great singer, dancer and Go player. On the fourth day of August every year (which did not mean August 4; China was using a different calendar at the time), Qi would play a Go game with Liu Bang in the bamboo forest on the north side of the palace. The winner would make a wish that they believed to come true. Qi won every year and wished for good fortune. Obviously this graceful aspiration did not work or her life would not have been so tragic.
EMPRESS DOWAGER BO AKA BOK GEI
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Bo]
Empress Dowager Bo, known as Consort Bo when her husband was alive, and more formally as either Empress Dowager Xiaowen or (rarer) Empress Gao (d. 155 BC) was an imperial concubine for Emperor Gao of Han (Liu Bang) who would, unanticipated by her, become the mother of an emperor.
According to the Book of Han, Lady Bo was, when she was young, a concubine of Wei Bao, the Prince of Wei. After Han Xin conquered Wei, she became a seamstress, and on one occasion when Liu Bang, then the Prince of Han, saw her among the group of seamstresses, he made her one of his concubines. However, it appeared that she was not much favored, and rarely saw him. On a rare occasion when he had sexual relations with her, she became pregnant and bore him Prince Liu Heng, whom he created the Prince of Dai in 196 BC, a few years after he declared himself emperor. After Emperor Gao died in 195 BC, because Consort Bo had a son, she, unlike many other concubines, was not confined to the palace, but accompanied her son to the remote Principality of Dai (modern northern Shanxi and northwestern Hebei) to be the princess dowager. Dai was not a rich domain, but as the princess dowager, she would have had a comfortable life. She probably did not live a luxurious lifestyle, for her son would not either later when he became an emperor.
In 180 BC, after the death of her mistress, Emperor Gao's wife Grand Empress Dowager Lü, and after the officials then slaughtered the Lü clan, they offered the throne to Prince Heng over his nephew Emperor Houshao -- whom they accused of not being imperial blood. Prince Heng consulted Princess Dowager Bo, who could not decide either. It was later, after they dispatched Princess Dowager Bo's brother Bo Zhao to the capital Chang'an to observe the situation and to ascertain the officials' good faith that Prince Heng chose to accept the throne.
After Prince Heng took the throne as Emperor Wen, Princess Dowager Bo was honored as empress dowager, even though she had not previously been an empress. She was largely unassuming as empress dowager, and did not exert anywhere close to the influence that Empress Dowager Lü asserted over Emperor Hui or even her daughter-in-law, Empress Dou, would later assert over her grandson Emperor Jing. The one major instance in which she asserted her influence was in 176 BC. At that time, Zhou Bo (??), who had been instrumental in Emperor Wen's becoming emperor and who had by that time retired to his march, was falsely accused of treason and arrested. Empress Dowager Bo, believing in Zhou's innocence, famously threw her scarf at Emperor Wen, stating:
Before you became emperor, Zhou was in control of the imperial seal, and commanded the powerful northern guards. How ridiculous is it that he did not commit treason then, but now plans to use his small march as the base for a rebellion? It was at least partly due to her influence that Emperor Wen eventually released Zhou.
She either did not try to intercede similarly (as appears more likely) or was ineffective in her intercession, when her brother Bo Zhao killed an imperial messenger -- a crime far more serious than ordinary murder -- in 170 BC. Even though Bo Zhao was her only sibling, Emperor Wen, although not having the heart to execute him publicly, eventually pressed him into committing suicide.
Empress Dowager Bo married one of her relatives' daughter to her grandson, then-Crown Prince Qi, during her son's reign. After Emperor Wen died in 157 BC and Crown Prince Qi succeeded him as Emperor Jing, Empress Dowager Bo became grand empress dowager. There was no recorded instance of her trying to assert political influence after that. She died in 155 BC. (This would prove disastrous for Empress Bo, Emperor Jing's wife, as she, now without support, was soon deposed.)
After she died, she was enshrined in a temple of her own, not in her husband's temple, because only one empress could be enshrined in an emperor's temple, and Empress Lü was already enshrined in Emperor Gao's temple. However, later, during Emperor Guangwu's reign, he effectively reversed their positions by enshrining Empress Dowager Bo as "Empress Gao" and demoting Empress Dowager Lü to a separate temple.
YUJI AKA YU GEI
The love and light of Hon Yu's life, the woman who rather kill herself than to leave her man or rather than to burden her man in his ambition to become Emperor. Is she fact or is she fiction? The only text I have on her is a one line description from an article which is based on the famous opera and nothing else. Is she just a romanticised version we hope to believe exists for Hon Yu? From what I could gather though, she definitely killed herself. Movies and TV series showed dramatically she killed herself in front of him but in the text you'll read below she killed herself after Hon Yu killed himself. I wonder which is which? If she did live, their love story is truly very touching, doomed and rather romantic. But please don't start doing Romeo And Juliet type of ending for your doomed love.
In 202 BC, his forces, under Han Xin's command, had Xiang trapped at Gaixia (??, in modern Suzhou, Anhui), where Xiang's beloved concubine Yuji (??) committed suicide after presenting him with one final dance. (The title of the famous Chinese opera "Farewell My Concubine", as well as the 1993 film based on the opera, comes from the aria that Xiang Yu sings to Yuji before his last stand.)
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiang_Yu]
Overwhelmed with sadness, Xiang Yu sat late into the night drinking with the lady Yu and singing a melancholy song with his own words ...The Chinese traditional opera Xiang Yu the Conqueror Bids Farewell to his Concubine is based on this incident. There is no record of what happened to Lady Yu. One legend has it that after him, she sang a song which echoed the line about Chu songs and killed herself.
[Source : http://www.britishbornchinese.org.uk/pages/culture/legends/xiang.html]
>> THE ADVISORS, GENERALS & CONFIDANTES
Can you believe it? I found a snippet on Hon Yu's horse! That's the confidantes so to speak. This is my most favourite section as I read a variety of advisors and strategists these two men. Very little on Hon Yu's side though, like Fan Zhang, just a mere mention. I can't find full text on other significant advisors like Li Yiji, Chan Ping & others but you will read about them in the write up on Cheung Leung.
ZHANG LIANG AKA CHEUNG LEUNG
[Source : http://www.answers.com/topic/zhang-liang]
Fascinating humble man. He is the perfect ideal advisor who bows away when he has finished his job. Or rather may he was smart enough to never let arrogance get to his head and therefore he lived on to perhaps record the history himself. Did you know he organised a botched attempt to assassinate Qin Shi Huang? It shows he was no pushover! This article also has a bit info on Chan Ping.
Zhang Liang (d. 189 BC) (meaning Zhang who is of good conscience), courtesy name Zifang, was a descendant from a noble family of State of Han during the Warring States Period. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all officials of the State of Han . Zhang Liang had once planned an assassination against Qin Shi Huang but the employed assassin mistakenly destroyed the decoy vehicle. Zhang was then forced to flee. The attempt was the origin of a famous Chinese four-character idiom, ????. He later joined Liu Bang in 208 BC to rebel against the rule of Qin and helped him to establish Han Dynasty. He soon retired and became a practitioner of Taoism.
Legends recounted that Zhang Liang had once helped an old man to put on his shoes and was rewarded a book on military strategy and tactics known as The Grand Duke's Art of War, with which he advised Liu. The same legends indicated that the old man, when he departed, told Zhang that after 13 years, he would see a strange yellow boulder, and that he was the yellow boulder. After 13 years, Zhang did see the unusual yellow boulder; he took it home and built a shrine for it. When he died, he was buried along with the yellow boulder.
The assassination attempt against Qin Shi Huang
As forementioned, Zhang once planned to assassinate Qin Shi Huang -- to avenge the emperor's destruction of Hán in 230 BC -- and in planning so, he spent his entire family fortune hiring assassins. In 217 BC, the plan was carried out, involving an assassin carrying heavy hammers, but it failed. The surprised emperor made orders that the persons responsible be captured, but Zhang eluded the dragnet. It was during this period of flight that Zhang, according to legend, met the old man who taught him military strategies.
Meeting Liu Bang and divided loyalties between serving him and restablishing Hán
Zhang continued to have plans to restablish Hán. After Chen Sheng started a rebellion against Qin Dynasty in 209 BC, Zhang gathered about a hundred men and planned to join Chen's temporary successor as Prince of Chu, Jing Ju, when he met Liu Bang at Liu (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu). He was impressed by Liu Bang, and chose to join him. When Zhang discussed military strategies with Liu, Liu often understood and accepted his suggestions, while those strategies were lost on other generals that Zhang talked with, which further impressed Zhang.
Despite Zhang's good impression of Liu, his priority remained the reestablishment of Hán, and after Xiang Liang overthrew Jing and replaced Jing with a member of the Chu royalty, Mi Xin as Prince Huai of Chu in summer 208 BC, Zhang managed to persuade Xiang that it would be advantageous to do the same with Hán. Xiang and Zhang found Hán Cheng, a descendant of Hán royalty, who previously had the title the Lord of Hengyang, and Xiang created Hán the Prince of Hán. Xiang also named Zhang Hán's prime minister, and Hán, assisted by Zhang, set out to try to recapture former Hán territories, but without much success, so they engaged in guerrilla warfare against Qin forces for a while.
In summer 207 BC, after Xiang Liang's death, Liu, then commissioned by Prince Huai of Chu to command an expeditionary force against Qin proper (modern Shaanxi), temporarily joined forces against with Zhang and his prince, Hán Cheng. Together, they recaptured the old Hán capital Yangzhai (in modern Xuchang, Henan) for Hán to stabilize his newly reestablished principality at. With Hán's blessing, Zhang rejoined Liu as his strategist on the expedition against Qin proper. Zhang would contribute many winning strategies on the way into Qin proper during the campaign of 207 BC. For example, when Liu's forces arrived on the heavily fortified Qin stronghold of Yao Gate, close to the Qin capital of Xianyang, Zhang provided him the strategy of first promising a ceasefire, and then, as the Qin forces became unprepared, bypassing Yao Gate and attacking Qin forces from the rear, which led to the total collapse of Qin forces and the surrender of its last king Ying Ying in winter 207 BC.
When Xiang Yu also arrived and nearly destroyed Liu out of jealousy, Zhang was instrumental in preventing total disaster for Liu at the Feast at Hong Gate, by first saving Liu from military annihilation and then from assassination, by obtaining the assistance of Xiang's uncle Xiang Bo.
Death of Hán Cheng and Zhang's subsequent permanent allegiance to Liu
Xiang, however, denied Liu the Principality of Qin, which should have been his under the promise by Prince Huai of Chu that whoever entered Qin proper first would be made the Prince of Qin. Instead, Xiang Yu divided the former Qin empire into 19 principalities, giving Liu the then-remote Principality of Han. Zhang's prince, Hán Cheng, was supposed to retain his Principality of Hán under this arrangement. Zhang, as Hán's prime minister, bid goodbye to Liu and returned to the Principality of Hán. As a parting gift, Liu gave him 120 kilograms of gold and two urns of pearls, all of which he gave to Xiang Bo.
Xiang would continue to bear a grudge against Zhang and Prince Hán Cheng, however, for having assisted Liu. Although Xiang's division of the empire involved Hán retaining his principality, Xiang did not actually permit Hán to govern it, but forced him to accompany Xiang back to the capital of Xiang's Principality of Western Chu, Pengcheng (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu). Not long after that, Xiang demoted Hán to Marquess of Rang, but soon, for an unknown reason, had Hán executed. He made one of his associates, Zheng Chang, not related to Hán royalty, the new Prince of Hán. Zhang remained titular prime minister of Hán under this arrangement, but aware of his own precarious position and cognizant how Xiang had effectively destroyed his hopes of a restored Principality of Hán, escaped and joined Liu in his Principality of Han in winter 206 BC. Liu created him the Marquess of Chengxin.
Contributions to Liu Bang during Chu Han Contention
During the subsequent four-year war between Liu and Xiang, known as Chu Han Contention, Zhang continued to offer Liu many strategies that contributed to the eventual Han victory. One of the most immediate ones involved a (temporary) restoration of the Principality of Hán. Probably advised by Zhang in this, Liu created Hán Xin, also a member of Hán royalty (not to be confused with Liu Bang's general of the exact same name), the new Prince of Hán and sent him to attack Zheng Chang. Hán easily prevailed, and for the rest of the war old Hán territory was in Liu Bang's camp.
Other key strategic moves that Liu Bang made at Zhang's suggestion during the war include:
The persuasion of Ying Bu , the Prince of Jiujiang to join his side, to Xiang Yu's detriment (winter 205 BC)
Immediate halt from implementing Li Yiji's strategy of recreating other former Warring States principalities (spring 204 BC)
Forcing himself to, despite injuries, visit soldier camps to show that, in fact, his injuries were not that severe (winter 204 BC)
(Along with Chen Ping) Agreement to create Han Xin the Prince of Qi, to prevent any possibility of Han declaring independence (spring 203 BC)
(Along with Chen Ping) Decision to make final assault against Xiang Yu despite a negotiated peace treaty, leading to Western Chu's destruction (autumn 203 BC)
Promise to create Han Xin the Prince of Chu and Peng Yue the Prince of Liang, to persuade them to join the final campaign against Xiang Yu (winter 203 BC)
Taught Liu Bang many times how to win supporters' hearts. It was Zhang's advice not to take up the palace residence during the Xianyang campaign, and suggested that Liu Bang leave the citizens in peace.
Contributions after the establishment of Han Dynasty
Liu was finally victorious in winter 203 BC, and he declared himself emperor (later known as Emperor Gao) in 202 BC, establishing Han Dynasty. After Han Dynasty's establishment, Zhang did not take on formal responsibility, but continued to be a key advisor to Emperor Gao. In summer 202 BC, he concurred with Lou Jing's suggestion for Han to set its capital at Chang'an rather than Luoyang. He also began to follow Taoist disciplines, choosing to disengage himself from most governmental affairs. In winter 201 BC, when Emperor Gao created many contributors to his victory marquesses, Zhang was created the Marquess of Liu -- initially, Emperor Gao wanted to give him a larger march, but Zhang chose Liu to commemorate the fact that the two first met there. At Zhang's suggestion, Emperor Gao finished the creation of the marquesses in an expedious manner, to prevent generals who were not initially given marches from conspiring against him out of resentment and fear.
Zhang had no involvement in the subsequent deaths of Han Xin and Peng Yue, but when Emperor Gao set out to combat Ying Bu, who rebelled out of fear of suffering the same fate as Han and Peng, at Emperor Gao's request, in winter 196 BC, Zhang temporarily came out of retirement to assist Emperor Gao's son, Crown Prince Ying, in governing home territories. After Emperor Gao's victory over Ying Bu, during which he suffered an injury that would eventually lead to his death, he wanted to replace Crown Prince Ying with his youngest son, Liu Ruyi, the Prince of Zhao. Zhang tried to persuade him otherwise, but was not listened to, so Zhang claimed an illness and re-retired. (Eventually, however, other officials would be able to convince Emperor Gao to keep Prince Ying crown prince, and after Emperor Gao's death in summer 195 BC, Prince Ying ascended the throne as Emperor Hui.) Zhang appeared to have no involvement with the administration of Emperor Hui, and he died in the summer of 189 BC.
Impact on Chinese history
Zhang was regarded as one of the greatest strategists in Chinese history, and the legends regarding how he received his strategies, as well as his later employment of Taoist disciplines, added mysterious and supernatural elements to later views of him. In traditional Chinese historians' view, he is usually applauded for how he managed to disassociate himself with political intrigue after the Han victory that he contributed much to. It should also be noted that Zhang always had the good of the state, not personal agenda, as his highest priority. He was not jealous of Emperor Gao's other strategists, Li Yiji, Chen Ping, and Lou Jing; rather, he evaluated their strategies in an even-handed manner, supported them when their strategies were correct, and was not afraid to oppose them when their strategies were not. In this way, modern managers may also have much to learn from Zhang.
XIAO HE AKA SIU HOR
[Source : http://www.answers.com/xiao%20he]
Another amazing minister/advisor/strategist. Lau Bong was very blessed to be surrounded by such intelligent, interesting and so very loyal humble man!
Xiao He (d. 193 BC) was a key figure in Liu Bang's rise to power after the fall of the Qin Dynasty.He remained loyal to Liu Bang throughout his life and later became prime minister of the Han Dynasty. He was born in the same place, Pei County (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu) as Liu Bang. Based on his contributions during the Chu Han Contention and administering the empire, he is generally considered one of the greatest statesmen in Chinese history.
He was instrumental in recommending the great general Han Xin to Liu; he was also instrumental in orchestrating Han Xin's death, along with Liu's Empress Lü Zhi.
Life and career before Liu Bang's establishment of the Principality of Han
Not much is known about Xiao's life before he became a follower of Liu Bang. He was, as referred to above, born in the same county as Liu and presumably had become acquainted to Liu early. Xiao and a later general of Liu's, Cao Can (??), were friends in their youths, although later their relationship was at best cool.
At the time that Liu released the prisoners he was to escort to Mount Li and then became a fugitive himself, Xiao was serving as a secretary to the county magistrate of Pei County. When Chen Sheng started his rebellion, the county magistrate considered joining the rebellion, and at the advice of Xiao and Cao (who was then a county police official), he sent Liu's brother-in-law Fan Ceng (??) to invite Liu and his company of bandits back to Pei County to support the rebellion. Fan found Liu, but on their way back, the magistrate changed his mind and closed the city gates against them, and also, afraid that Xiao and Cao would open the gates themselves, wanted to execute them. They jumped off the city wall and joined Liu. Liu, apparently at Xiao's suggestion, then sent letters to city elders urging surrender into the city by shooting them in on arrows. The elders agreed, and they assassinated the county magistrate and opened the gates to let Liu in, offering him the title the Duke of Pei. Xiao and Can both became key figures in the Liu camp.
Career as chancellor of the Principality of Han during Chu Han Contention
After Liu Bang's success in extinguishing the remainder of Qin Dynasty by capturing its capital Xianyang in winter 207 BC, Xiang Yu, jealous of Liu, nevertheless refused to obey the promise by Mi Xing, Prince Huai of Chu to create Liu the Prince of Qing. Rather, Xiang gave Liu the remote Principality of Han (modern Sichuan, Chongqing, and southern Shaanxi) in 206 BC. Liu was extremely angry and wanted to attack Xiang, and was joined in this opinion by his generals Zhou Bo , Guan Ying, and Fan. It was Xiao who persuaded him that this was an unwise course, for Xiang's army was much stronger than his at this time and would surely destroy him. Rather, Xiao showed him that while Han would be a remote principality, it had great economic potential and would permit him to get ready for future military actions Liu appreciated the advice and made Xiao his Chancellor.
While serving as prime chancellor at the Han capital Nanzheng (in modern Hanzhong, Shaanxi), Xiao befriended Han Xin, who was then a minor official. He realized that Han Xin had excellent military instincts and would make a great general, and repeatedly recommended Han Xin to Liu, but Liu did not take any action. In disappointment, Han Xin chose to desert, and Xiao, when he heard that, chased after Han Xin during the night on a horse, and only after two days -- during which Liu was in extreme panic without him -- did he return with Han Xin and explain the situation to Liu. This time, Liu listened to him, and made Han Xin the commander of the armed forces. With Han Xin as his general, Liu easily conquered the three Qins (modern Shaanxi) in winter 206 BC and added them to his principality.
As Liu continued east against Xiang's Principality of Western Chu, he left Xiao in complete charge of his principality. Xiao was very effective not only at governing these territories, but in supplying Liu's army with food, supplies, and new soldiers. His abilities allowed Liu Bang's forces to survive defeat after defeat and to replenish itself, while Xiang's forces, even though Xiang was an excellent general, were eventually worn down by attrition, leading to Xiang's final demise in winter 203 BC.
Career as Chancellor of the newly established Han Empire
After Liu Bang's victory, he declared himself emperor (later known as Emperor Gao), establishing Han Dynasty. Xiao was naturally named Chancellor, and Liu publicly praised him as one of the three pillars of his victory, along with Han Xin and Zhang Liang. In addition to his responsibilites in governing the empire, he also was given the responsibilities of revising the strict Qin laws to reflect the times. In winter 202 BC, when Emperor Gao created many marquesses according to their contributions, Xiao was created the Marquess of Zan. He was also listed first among 18 men that Liu declared to have had the greatest contributions. His father, sons, and brothers were also given smaller fiefs. Xiao was further given the special privilege -- rarely conferred in later history, and usually to powerful officials ready to usurp the throne -- of being allowed to enter the imperial palace with his sword and wooden shoes, and not being required to trot into the palace (as is required of all others) but permitted to walk in at normal pace.
In 200 BC, Xiao constructed Weiyang Palace for Emperor Gao in the capital Chang'an, and the palace would serve as the main imperial palace throughout the Western Han Dynasty and the temporary Xin Dynasty (to 23).
In 196 BC, while Emperor Gao was away from the capital on a campaign against the rebel Chen Xi , Han Xin, then already demoted to Marquess of Huaiyin (from his original creation as Prince of Chu), was accused of conspiring Chen and getting ready to start an uprising in Chang'an. Xiao, in conjunction with Emperor Gao's wife Empress Lü, set a trap for Han Xin by announcing false news of victories over Chen. When the marquesses and the officials all arrived at the palace to congratulate Empress Lü, she and Xiao had Han Xin bound and executed.
In 195 BC, an incident occurred that would test the Liu-Xiao relationship but also show the nature of Emperor Gao's reliance on Xiao. Xiao saw that Chang'an was becoming congested, and that the imperial garden was full of uncultivated land, and he suggested that parts of the imperial garden be carved out and be given to farmers as farmland. Emperor Gao accused Xiao of being bribed and dishonoring imperial authority, and had him arrested and thrown into prison. A few days later, after a General Wang discussed with Emperor Gao how Xiao was only thinking of the people, and Emperor Gao saw his errors and had Xiao released. When Xiao arrived at the imperial palace to beg forgiveness, Liu, in half jest and half embarrassment, responded:
"The Chancellor was asking for the fields in the imperial garden out of interest for the people, but I did not approve. This showed that I am only like Jie and Zhou, and that you are the most understanding prime minister. Therefore, I intentionally imprisoned you to show the people that I am a tyrant."
After Emperor Gao died later that year, Xiao continued to serve his son Emperor Hui as prime minister. He died in 193 BC. Before he died, he recommended Cao Can as his successor, even though their relationship had become rather poor later in their lives after having been very friendly early, and after his death, Emperor Hui did name Cao to be the next prime minister.
Impact on Chinese history
Xiao He was one of the most highly regarded statesmen in Chinese history, and often emperors aspired to be able to find "the next Xiao He." He was so regarded not only for his achievements as prime minister, but also for his work ethic and thriftiness, both traits that the Chinese mindset find highly virtuous characteristics. His contributions to the establishment of Han Dynasty was considered so great that, as an exception to the general rule that marches would lapse upon the marquess not having a proper heir (i.e., a son born to his wife -- a son born to a concubine is considered to be inappropriate for this purpose under Han laws), Xiao's March of Zan was permitted to pass to collateral lines multiple times, until the end of Han Dynasty.
Two Chinese proverbs make references to Xiao He. "Chasing after Han Xin in the moonlight" was a reference to his tracking down of Han Xin when Han Xin deserted, and refers to an action that is so urgent that it must be carried out immediately. "Cao following the rules of Xiao" (????) refers to the fact that, after his death, Cao did not change his rules at all, but followed them to the letter, and (both melioratively and pejoratively) refers to following and honoring the rules set by your predecessors to avoid changes.
The Proverb, "Xiao He Pursues Han Xin by the Moonlight"
[Source : http://www.britishbornchinese.org.uk/pages/culture/legends/xiao.html]
The tale of Xiao He pursuing Han Xin in the moonlight has been used throughout the ages to stress the idea of appointing capable persons to official positions.
In his youth Han Xin didn't give much indication of competence. A poor commoner, he could find nobody to recommend him as an official, and he was unable to make a living as a merchant. So he relied constantly on the generosity of others. He moved in with the family of the head of the imperial courier station in his home town, Huaiyin (now in Jiangsu province). But after several months the station head's wife let him know he wasn't wanted and he left.
He tried living on fish he caught in the river. An old woman who came there to wash and bleach silk took pity on him and fed him for many days until her bleaching was finished. Han Xin was most grateful. "I promise to repay you handsomely" he said. The old woman became angry.
"Young man, I gave you food because I felt sorry for you, not because I expected repayment".
Han Xi joined a peasants uprising against the Qin, but after it was defeated he became a guardsman to Xiang Yu, an aristocrat from the former State of Chu. Xiang Yu led a rebel army, one of two, the other being led by Liu Bang.
Han Xin made several suggestions on strategy to Xiang Yu, but the latter didn't pay any attention to him. So Han Xin left and went over to Liu Bang's forces in the west. He didn't cut much of a figure there either, for Liu Bang gave him only a lowly position as an official who received guests.
Han Xi became caught up in political scandal and was sentenced to death - thirteen men had been beheaded before him and his turn was next. Seeing some important people in the audience, he shouted, "Doesn't our prince want to conquer the empire? Then why behead a brave man?" He was released and Liu Bang made him a middle-ranking official in charge of army grain, where he cam to the notice of the advisor Xiao He. Han Xin became depressed, feeling that he would never be recognised, and deserted Liu Bang's army. When Xiao He hear of this he decided to go after him. He rode and rode till the moon came up. Finally he caught up with Han Xin on the banks of a river. Tired and breathless, he pleaded with Han Xin to return with him and Han Xin did.
On learning that his closest advisor (Xiao He) had disappeared, Liu Bang was very irritated. When Xiao He came back, he said, "Why did you leave without telling me?". " I had no intention of leaving you" replied Xiao He, " I was after a rare treasure and I pursued it for the defence of your rule. Han Xin would make a commander unparalleled in your whole army. If you want to march east and master the empire, Han Xin can be of great value to you. But if you do not use him properly he will leave again".
Liu Bang agreed to make Han Xin a general just to please Xiao He, but that was not enough for Xiao He. He insisted that Han Xin be made chief Marshal. Liu Bang finally agreed and prepared to call Han Xin in.
"That's just the trouble" Xiao He said. "You are too offhand about these things, appointing a chief marshal as if you were calling for a child." He urged that the investiture be done with ceremony after fasting and purification. Xiao He chose an auspicious day, an altar was built, and to the roll of drums Han Xin was presented with the seal and certificate giving him power over the army.
Having formely served Liu Bang's enemy, he was able to point out some of his weaknesses. Xiang Yu, he said, had a reputation for courage and magnanimity, but all this amounted to nothing, for he was incapable of employing wise generals; when someone did render service he hesitated to compensate him with a fief, "playing with the seal until the corners were rubbed smooth before he could bring himself to part with it". Instead he awarded his favourites. With this he was sowing the seeds of his destruction. This is related by the historian Sima Qian, who wrote from the viewpoint of the Han dynasty which was established by Liu Bang.
Liu Bang got the message. With Han Xin's help, he built an army of high combat effectiveness and gradually established his rule over the whole country as first emperor of the Han dynasty. There are several tales of the military strategies by which Han Xin distinguished himself, and when his armies came back to Huaiyin, he did reward the old washerwoman. He accepted the title Marquis of Huaiyin and he and Xiao He, who became prime minister, were two of the three outstanding personalities of the early days of the Han dynasty ( 206 BC - AD 24).
The story of Xiao He's pursuit of him was made into an opera in the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) which has remained popular to this day.
LI YIJI AKA LEE YIK KEI
[Source : http://www.threekingdoms.com/note.php?p=11920]
I can't find a full article on him, likewise with Fan Zheng and Chen Ping. But an interesting blurb below ...
Li Yiji was diplomat and adviser of Liu Bang. Li Yiji went on mission to discuss peace between Liu Bang and King Tian Guang of Qi. Li Yiji demanded a ceasefire as condition for talk. Tian Guang complied. While the discussion was going on, Liu Bang attacked. Tian Guang enraged and threw Li Yiji into boiling oil.
HAN XIN AKA HON SUN
[Source : http://www.answers.com]
Absolutely amazing read. You can read differing accounts on the man, one implying he dug his own grave and another was he was framed. What is common though was the fact that he was undisputedly one of the most military strategist to have ever lived, I guess the other must have been Yu Fei/Ngok Fei, he had a poor childhood, he was at first underappreciated & he must have been a very patient and yet ambitious man. Was Lau Bong jealous of him? Wary of him? Or simply psychotic in his later years to distrust this man who helped him establish his empire? Anyway definitely TVB version did some tweaking (I won't say fine tuning because it really depends if you believe he was loyal or arrogant) on this character.
Han Xin (?-196 BC), also known as Marquess of Huaiyin, was a capable Chinese general under Liu Bang.
Early life and career
Han's father died early, and he had a poor childhood. It was said that one time when he was alone playing, he was confronted by a couple of hoodlums. They wanted to make fun of him that they made him crawl under their crotch. Han Xin knew at that time that if he were to combat them, he would be at a great disadvantage. So instead of putting up a fight, he did as he was told. This incident as he recalled later on was the best thing that happened in his life, because instead of letting his misfortunes handle his life, he used this event as a stepping stone to achieving his ambitions. After a couple of years of striving, he was able to master the art of war and, not long after, become one of the greatest strategist at that time. "Restraint," as he said, "must be practiced as a child; deny it, will cause your downfall." Once, when he was very hungry, an old lady gave him a meal. He promised to repay her for her graciousness when he would become powerful — a suggestion she laughed off.
During the rebellion against Qin rule, he initially served as a common soldier under Xiang Liang, then under Xiang Liang's nephew Xiang Yu, who was then the most powerful general in the war of resistance against Qin. Although he showed great military abilities, he was not trusted or promoted by Xiang, so he left Xiang's forces. After Qin fell and Xiang divided the former Qin territories among many princes, Han Xin joined Liu Bang (who was made the Prince of Han under Xiang's division)'s forces in 206 BC. Once, he had violated an unspecific law and was about to be executed, but the army commander in charge of the execution, Liu's friend Xiahou Ying felt there was something special about him and spared him, and in fact recommended him to Liu. Liu was not impressed by Han, and made him in charge of the army food storage. It was during this time that Han got acquainted with Liu's prime minister Xiao He, who became very impressed with him.
Most of Liu's forces were from the region of Chu (modern Jiangsu and Anhui), and they were not happy about following Liu to his Principality of Han (modern Sichuan, Chongqing and southern Shaanxi). Many deserted. Later in 206 BC, after not being promoted by Liu despite multiple recommendations by Xiao, Han decided to desert, too. Xiao heard that Han had deserted and immediately chased after him, and returned only after two days with Han — and during those two days, Liu, who was heavily dependent on Xiao for administration and advice, was extremely panicked. Xiao, after his return, made another recommendation of Han, and Liu accepted this time, making Han the commander in chief of his armed forces.
Han's masterplan for Liu Bang
Han recommended a plan to step-by-step strangle Xiang's Principality of Western Chu into submission. Under Han's recommendation, Liu got ready for war against Xiang. Liu's first aim, under this plan, were the three Qins — the Principalities of Yong, Sai, and Zhai, which Xiang had created for three surrendered generals of Qin out of former Qin territory. In the autumn and winter of 206 BC, Liu's forces, under Han, made surprise attacks against the three Qins and easily conquered them.
For a while, under Han's plan, Liu feigned satisfaction merely with the original territories that he was promised by Xiang's predecessor Emperor Yi of Chu -- the former lands of Qin. However, that did not last long. Once Xiang was occupied with a war of resistance by the Principalities of Qi (modern Shandong) and Zhao (modern central Hebei), as part of Han's masterplan, Liu fostered a resistance by remnants of the Principality of Han (modern western Henan — same pinyin spelling, but different character than Liu's own principality — same character as Han Xin's family name) and conquered the Principalities of Western Wei (modern southern Shanxi) and Yin (modern northern Henan and southern Hebei). Instead of following Han's plan of eventually strangling Western Chu into submission, however, Liu decided to make a full frontal assault on the Western Chu capital of Pengcheng (in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu), capturing it in summer 205 BC. Xiang, who was occupied in a war with Qi, quickly withdrew and attacked Liu's forces, nearly annihilating it. Liu barely escaped with his life.
After this near disaster, Liu decided to further implement Han's plan, which was concurred in by Liu's trusted military strategist Zhang Liang. He commissioned Han with a large force with the goals of conquering the principalities to the north of Western Chu and/or forcing them to join Liu's coalition against Western Chu. Under this masterplan, after those principalities either were conquered or became allies, Western Chu would be facing warfare on every side and would be strangled.
Han's forces left Liu's territory proper in the autumn of 205 BC. His first target was Western Wei, which by that point had again rebelled and aligned itself with Western Chu. Han devised the strategy of confusing Western Wei forces into concentrating itself on the border while making a surprise attack on the capital of Western Wei, Anyi (in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi), in a strategy that would later be echoed by German World War II strategies in the Battle of France. Western Wei fell easily.
Han's next targets were the Principalities of Zhao and Dai (modern northern Shanxi and northwestern Hebei), which were in a close alliance -- with Chen Yu, the Prince of Dai, serving as the prime minister of Zhao. In late autumn 205 BC, Han defeated Dai forces, and then got ready to invade Zhao. In winter 205 BC, Han, at the Battle of Tao River, employed another unusual but brilliant strategy -- the dangerous tactic of pitching camp with a river behind his forces. It caused his forces to have nowhere to retreat and fight to the death, and they routed Zhao forces, killing Chen and capturing Zhao Xie, the Prince of Zhao. With Han's recommendation, Liu created Han's second-in-command, Zhang Er, the new Prince of Zhao, and promoted Han to prime minister (sharing the post with Xiao). The Principality of Yan (modern Beijing, Tianjin, northern Hebei, and western Liaoning) was intimidated into submission as well.
In autumn 204 BC, under Liu's orders, Han prepared for an invasion of Qi. Even though Liu's diplomat Li Yiji had already persuaded Qi to join Liu's coalition, Han, jealous of Li's ability to convince Qi to capitulate without a fight, decided to attack Qi anyway. In winter 204 BC, Han defeated Qi forces, which were caught unprepared, at Lisha (??, in modern Jinan, Shandong). Belatedly, Xiang sent his general Long Qie to come to Qi's aid, but Han defeated joint Qi and Western Chu forces at the Battle of Wei River (in modern Gaomi, Shandong), killing both Long and Tian Guang , the Prince of Qi, in battle. (At that battle, Han used another revolutionary strategy -- he used a temporary dam to lower the water level of the river to trick the arrogant Long into crossing the river to attack him, and then, as Long's forces were on the riverbed, opened the temporary dam and drowned Long's forces.) Han then requested Liu to create him the Prince of Qi. Reluctantly (concerned that Han may rebel), Liu agreed.
Liu's concerns might have been partially correct. Xiang had sent his diplomat Wu She to try to persuade Han to disassociate himself from Liu and form an alliance with Xiang instead. Still bearing a grudge over Xiang's earlier refusal to promote him, Han refused. Further, however, Han's advisor Fou Che also tried to persuade him to become independent of Liu, reasoning with him that he has shown himself to be so brilliant militarily that he could not be possibly trusted. Han, however, was grateful of Liu's trust in him thus far and unwilling to rebel. Fou left, disappointed.
Participation in the campaign of Xiang Yu's destruction
Han then continued to lead his forces to press Xiang. According to a hypothesis by David H. Li, during a lull in the fighting in the winter of 204 BC-203 BC, Han developed the earliest form of the board game Xiangqi to prepare for an upcoming battle against Xiang (this game, Li argues, led to the origins of chess).
With the severe defeats that he suffered on multiple fronts, Xiang sued for peace. In autumn 203 BC, he reached a peace treaty with Liu, setting the boundary of their principalities at Hong Canal (modern Jialu River), ceding the territories to the west of Hong to Liu, and returning Liu's father Liu Zhijia and wife Lü Zhi (whom he had captured in the Battle of Pengcheng) to Liu. Persuaded by Zhang and another strategist Chen Ping , however, Liu reneged on the peace treaty only two months after it was signed and summoned Han and Peng Yue to join him. Neither Han nor Peng immediately arrived, however; Liu was forced to sweeten the order by promising to create Peng the Prince of Liang and giving large portions of Western Chu territories to Han. Both then joined the campaign.
Under Han's command, in winter 203 BC, Liu's forces surrounded Xiang's forces at Gaixia (in modern Suzhou, Anhui). Xiang fought his way out of the pocket, but eventually committed suicide at Wujiang (in modern Chaohu, Anhui). In 202 BC, according to his promise, Liu, who would soon proclaim himself Emperor of Han Dynasty (later known as Emperor Gao), created Han the Prince of Chu, giving him the majority of Xiang's former territory.
As Prince of Chu, Han showed both gratefulness to those who had shown him kindness and graciousness to those who had previously offended him. For the old lady who had previously given him a meal, he gave her a gift of 240,000 Chinese ounces (liang, roughly 2,500 pounds) of gold in gratitude. For the hoodlum who had forced Han to crawl under his crotch, Han commissioned him as the police chief of his capital (in modern Huaian, Jiangsu).
Demotion and death
After Liu became emperor, he began to become paranoid about the powerful princes -- all who were considered a threat to the Han empire just had to be removed, including Han Xin. In winter 202 BC, under the guise of an imperial gathering at Chenqiu (in modern Zhoukou, Henan) he was summoned to a meeting and captured, and then stripped of his principality and demoted to Marquess of Huaiyin with no military authority.
In 198 BC or 197 BC, Liu commissioned Chen Xi , the Marquess of Yangxia, a friend of Han's, to be the commander of the northern border forces to defend the empire against Xiongnu. Once Chen got to the borders, however, he rebelled. Liu left the capital to lead an expedition force against Chen. While he was not at the capital Chang'an, in 196 BC, Empress Lü received rumors that Han was involved in Chen's conspiracy and was ready to raise a rebellion against her. Lü acted preemptively and had Han executed, along with close relatives of his father's, his mother's, and his wife's clans.
Impact on Chinese history
Despite his tragic death, Han was regarded as one of the greatest generals in Chinese history, often invoked in future generations as a comparison to when generals were praised. His strategies were required studies for generals.
Two commonly known Chinese idioms are derived from Han's career. The idiom "secretly passing Chencang" refers to a surprise attack Han made against Yong and is now commonly used for "secret conduct" (usually with a sexual liaison connotation). The idiom "Han Xin's army headcount" , usually then followed by "the more the better" , refers to a conversation that Han had with Liu sometime after his demotion to the Marquess of Huaiyin. Liu was asking Han how large of a force, in Han's opinion, Liu could personally command. Han noted that Liu was capable of commanding 100,000 men. Liu then asked Han how large of a force Han could personally command. Han said, "for my army headcount, the more the better." Although Han then qualified his remarks by noting that Liu's strong point is "commanding the generals" (i.e., administration and decision-making), Han's remarks did not make Liu any more comfortable with him, and might have eventually contributed to his demise.
In The Romance of the Three Kingdoms which is set during the fall of Han Dynasty, Cao Cao is said to be an incarnation of Han Xin just to fullfill the revenge circle and Liu Bang incarnated into a weak Han Emperor (while Sun Quan and Liu Bei are incarnation of Ying Bu and Peng Yue claiming their rightful kingdom).
When Han Xin become a successful general he returned back to the old woman who gave him food and rewarded her and he also rewarded those bullies that forced him to crawl under their legs, claiming that "Without them, I wouldn't be who I am today".
Li YIJI AKA LEE YIK KEI
That poor old man who incurred the wrath of Hon Sun and was boiled to death in this series. What a horrible way to die. So did he exist? Of course but can't find much text of this somewhat celebrated strategist in free sites.
Han Dynasty founder (Han Emperor Gaodi, Liu Bang) was never fond of Confucians. When receiving a 60-year-old confucian by the name of Li Yiji, Gaodi deliberately had two maids wash his feet; when Li Yiji challenged Gaodi on the matter of not showing respect for the old confucian, Liu Bang called the name of 'shu ru' (i.e., damned confucian); Liu Bang did not show respect for Li Yiji till Li Yiji cited successes and failures in history as examples for Liu Bang to win the war against Qin Empire.
[Source : http://www.uglychinese.org/threereligions.htm]
HON YU'S HORSE
Even a horse has an honourable mention.
Of course Xuzhou boasts historical treasures other than Han tombs - one such being the Ximatai or Horse Training Terrace where General Xiang Yu inspected his soldiers and cavalry. Liu Bang and Xiang Yu battled to fill the empty throne of the Qin Dynasty. Xiang Yu met a tragic end and his last months are aptly described in a small exhibition hall at this site. A stone stake and manger for Xiang Yu's famous horse Wuyu were still visible for many years...the stake has finally disintegrated, but a replica stands as praise to Wuyu.
[Source : http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/English/p62.htm]
>> THE CHU-HAN WAR
[Source : http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/qin/chu_han.htm]
I believe the board game with the tigers an drats and elephants I believe originated from this Chu-Han division. Very interesting as many modern Chinese references came from that era. Read more about this infamous war that made Liu Bang an Emperor and Hon Yu a hero sung in operas.
It refers to the war between Xiangyu and Liu Bang.
After the collapse of the Qin Empire, the country fell apart again. A new round of power struggle broke out in 206 BC between two leaders of rebellion army.
One of the rivals was Xiangyu, who was born in an aristocratic family of former Chu State in present Jiangsu Province. He received martial arts training from childhood and was versed in military matters. At the end of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC), he rose up and led his men to defeat the main body of Qin army, proclaimed himself King Of West Chu. The other was Liu Bang, who was also from present Jiangsu Province. It was his army who first broke into the Qin capital in 206 BC and abolished all the harsh laws set by the Qin, which help him won popularity among local people.
However, Liu Bang realized that he was inferior to Xiangyu in military force. So when he felt the jealousness by Xiangyu, he decided to beat a temporary retreat in Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province with the title King of Han authorized by Xiangyu.
Liu Bang fostered his force secretly in Hanzhong. Soon he got a better hank over Xiangyu. The tug of war lasted four years. Due to his blind arrogance and blindness to men of ability, Xiangyu lost the battles at last and committed suicide at Wujiang River in present Anhui Province. Liu Bang became the founder of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD) in 206 BC, the second empire in imperial history after Qin.
>> THE DYNASTY
Specifically, the Han Dynasty which is actually made up of (if I am not mistaken) Western Han and Eastern Han with a break in power in between.
I could never really realise how old a dynasty is until I look it from the Tang or Qing timeline eventhough it is written BC or AD over there. So if you're like me, here below is a chart of the Chinese dynasties and you will realise Han is quite old. By the way from the chart it is Former Han (Western Han) and Latter (I think the chart meant Later) Han (Eastern Han).
Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD)
[Source : http://www.worldclass.net/China/han.htm]
Accession of Liu Bang: When Liu Bang took the throne, the famous city of Changan [Annapolis] in the west became for the first time the capital. The new dynasty he thus founded was the Han Dynasty, in memory of whose greatness, the Chinese of north China still call themselves "the Children of Han."
To his credit, most of the unjust laws of the preceding dynasty were repealed, though Liu Bang did nothing to exalt his own position. "I have never realized the dignity of an emperor, until today," exclaimed he; and this is sufficient to give us an idea of the character of his court. He revived the ancient law authorizing the conferring of a posthumous name on the emperor. As his temple names Gao Su, or "Supreme Ancestor," we shall thereafter speak of him by this name.
Revival of feudalism: We must not think that Gao Su ruled as large an empire as that of Shi Huangdi (The First Emperor). The provinces south of the Great River were virtually independent, and his authority was by no means supreme in the north, where the many feudal states gave nothing more than nominal submission at best. These feudal states maybe divided into two classes; those held by members of his house, and those held by others. The latter were the outgrowth of the previous troubles, but the former were a necessity under the system of checks and balances. Thus after a comparatively short time the old feudal system was again an established fact.
The reign of Gao Su was principally occupied with putting down rebellions headed by Han Xin [Oleksy-Beecham], Peng Yue [Gaskill-Peabody], and other feudal lords, most of whom had been his best generals. In several cases his ingratitude was the actual cause of the rebellions. Towards the end of his reign, all the feudal states, with one or two exceptions, were held by members of his own house.
An encounter with the Xiongnu: While China was again splitting herself into petty states, the Xiongnu in the north had arisen to the height of their power. Under the leadership of their chief, named Mouton, they not only conquered many of the neighboring tribes, but were also in a position to measure strength with China---terrible and civilized China, the builder of the Great Wall.
At the head of a great horde, Mouton ravaged the northern part of the empire. The cause of this invasion was that the chief of the feudal state of Han was suspected of disloyalty, and was driven to cast his lot with the northern tribes. Gao Su now led an army to check the advance of his enemy; but he was outgeneraled and, falling into an ambuscade, lost the greater part of his army. In the hour of misfortune, he sought refuge within the walls of the city of Ping Cheng, which was closely besieged. It was only through judicious bribes that he succeeded in making good his escape under cover of a dense fog.
The experience was enough for him, and he never again took the field himself against the Xiongnu. He gave a beautiful lady of his harem in marriage to Mouton and endeavored to keep friendly with him by occasional presents. His original plan was to give his own daughter to Mouton, but owing to the objection raised by his wife he sent a substitute. A dangerous precedent was thus established.
Gao Su's immediate successors: Gao Su died 195 BC, and left the throne to his son, Emperor Hui. This feeble monarch died in 188 BC, and his mother, Empress Lu [Luther], placed an adopted son on the throne. In the following year, she caused the boy to be murdered and began to reign in her own right, thus becoming the first woman ruler in China. Many princes and nobles of her husband's house were mercilessly executed and members of her own family appointed in their stead. The empire was on the point of falling to pieces, when death removed her. The next two successors to the throne improved significantly the conditions of the empire.
Emperor Wu: The next reign of Emperor Wu, comprising the years 140 to 87 BC, was one of the most important periods in Chinese history. It was an age of great generals, brilliant statesmen, and people of letters.
During this reign, the Han Dynasty reached the zenith of its power, and the empire was greatly enlarged. In the south it included Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and northern Vietnam; in the southwest, all the tribes that had held sway in Yunnan and Guizhou now acknowledged the supremacy of the Han emperor; while in the north, the power of the Xiongnu was shattered, and the boundary of the empire included what is now Inner Mongolia, the northwest Xiliang, and the northeast Liaodong, and north Korea.
The usurpation of Wang Mang [Frederick-Gorman]: The cause of the downfall of the Han Dynasty is to be traced to the ambition of its imperial women. In a country like China, where the separation of the two sexes is a matter of fixed custom, even an empress could not make friends among her husband's ministers. Therefore when power fell into her hands, she knew of no one in whom she could place her confidence except her own people and the eunuchs.
The fact that Emperor Wu caused the mother of his son to be put to death before he appointed him heir, is sufficient to show that the interference of an empress dowager in affairs of state had long been a matter to be dreaded. It was the undue influence of the imperial women that finally brought the house of Han to ruin.
Wang Mang, the notorious usurper, was the nephew of one empress and the father of another. The mother of Emperor Cheng (32 BC-7 AD) was from the Wang family; and when her son came to the throne, her brothers were at once raised to positions of great influence. Every one of them abused the power that fell into his hands. Wang Mang, who was then a mere lad, was the reverse of his uncles in his private character. He did everything he could to conceal his true character and to cultivate the friendship of the literary class. As a result, he was as popular as his uncles were unpopular.
It was not long before he succeeded to a most important position which had been held by one of his uncles. During the short reign of Emperor Ai (6-1 BC) he was obliged to retire; but upon the accession of the next emperor, Emperor Ping (1-5 AD), he returned to office, for this emperor was his son-in-law. His ambition, however, knew no relative; and when his time arrived, he showed his true character by murdering the emperor, forcing him to drink a cup of poison on New Year's day. A lad was then placed on the throne, with Wang Mang acting as an "Assistant Emperor." Two years later the "Assistant Emperor" became a full emperor, and the Han Dynasty was no more.
>> THE STORY AFTER
So what happens after Empress Lui Zhi's death? Who succeeded her and was he a good Emperor?
EMPEROR WEN OF HAN
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Wen_of_Han]
He was the son of Bok Gei. And he was considered as one of best emperors of China who led by example though I think someone mentioned he may have been a homosexual. Aiyah, so what? Even Roman emperors led a "double" life.
Emperor Wen of Han (202 BC–157 BC) was an emperor of the Han Dynasty in China. His given name is Heng.
Liu Heng was a son of Emperor Gao of Han and Consort Bo, later empress dowager. When Emperor Gao of Han suppressed the rebellion of Dai, he created Liu Heng Prince of Dai.
After Empress Dowager Lü's death, the officials eliminated the powerful Lü clan, and deliberately chose the Prince of Dai as the emperor, since his mother, Consort Bo, had no powerful relatives, and her family was known for its humility and thoughtfulness. His reign brought a much needed political stability that laid the groundwork for prosperity under his grandson Emperor Wu. According to historians, Emperor Wen trusted and consulted with ministers on state affairs; under the influence of his Taoist wife, Empress Dou, the emperor also sought to avoid wasteful expenditures.
Historians noted that the tax rates were at a ratio of "1 out of 30" and "1 out of 60", corresponding to 3.33% and 1.67%, respectively. (It should be noted, however, that these rates are not for income taxes, but property taxes, as the only ancient Chinese attempt to levy an income tax would come in the time of Wang Mang.) Warehouses were so full of grain, that some of it was left to decay.
In a move of lasting importance in 165 BC, Emperor Wen introduced recruitment to the civil service through examinations. Previously, potential officials never sat for any sort of academic examinations. Their names were sent by local officials to the central government based on reputations and abilities, which were sometimes judged subjectively.
Early life and career as Prince of Dai
In 196 BC, after Emperor Gao defeated the Chen Xi rebellion in the Dai region, he created Liu Heng, his son by Consort Bo, the Prince of Dai. The capital of the principality was at Jinyang (modern Taiyuan, Shanxi). Dai was a region on the boundaries with Xiongnu, and Emperor Gao probably created the principality with the mind to use it as a base to defend against Xiongnu raids. For the first year of the principality's existence, Chen, whose army was defeated but who eluded capture, remained a threat, until Zhou Bo killed him in battle in autumn 195 BC. It is not known whether at this time Prince Heng, who was then seven years old, was already in Dai, but it appeared likely, because his brother Liu Ruyi was the only prince at the time explicitly to have been recorded to be remaining at the capital Chang'an rather than being sent to his principality.
In 181 BC, after Prince Heng's brother, Prince Liu Hui of Zhao, committed suicide over his marital problems, Grand Empress Dowager Lü, who was then in effective control of the imperial government, offered the more prosperous Principality of Zhao to Prince Heng, but Prince Heng, judging correctly that she was intending on making her nephew Lü Lu prince, politely declined and indicated that he preferred remaining on the border. The grand empress dowager then created Lü Lu Prince of Zhao.
During these years, the Principality of Dai did in fact become a key position in the defense against Xiongnu, and Prince Heng became well-acquainted with Xiongnu customs and military strategies, although the extent of his own participation in military actions was unknown.
Ascension to the throne
In 180 BC, after Grand Empress Dowager Lü died and the officials made a coup d'etat against her clan and slaughtered her clan (during the Lü Clan Disturbance), after some deliberation, the officials offered the imperial throne to Prince Heng, rather than Prince Liu Xiang of Qi, the oldest grandson of Emperor Gao. The key to their decision was that Prince Xiang's maternal clan was domineering and might repeat the behaviors of the Lü clan, while the clan of Prince Heng's maternal clan, the Bos, were considered to be kind and humble. After some hesitation, Prince Heng, then 23-years-old, accepted the throne as Emperor Wen. His nephew, Emperor Houshao, viewed as a mere puppet of Grand Empress Dowager Lü and suspected of not being actually a son of Emperor Wen's older brother Emperor Hui, was deposed and executed.
Emperor Wen quickly showed an aptitude to govern the empire with diligence, and appeared to be genuinely concerned for the People's welfare. Heavily influenced by his wife Empress Dou, who was an adherent to Taoism, Emperor Wen governed the country with the general policies of non-intereference with the people and relaxed laws. His personal life was marked by thriftiness and general willingness to forgive. He was initially very deferential to Zhou Bo, Chen Ping, and Guan Ying, who were instrumental in his accession, and they served as successive prime ministers.
Examples of Emperor Wen's policies that showed kindness and concern for the people include:
In 179 BC, he abolished the law that permitted the arrest and imprisonment of parents, wives, and siblings of criminals, with the exception for the crime of treason.
In 179 BC, he created a governmental assistance program for those in need. Loans or tax exemptions were offered to widowers, widows, orphans, and seniors without children. He also ordered that monthly stipends of rice, wine, and meat be given to seniors over 80 years in age, and that additional stipends of cloth and cotton be given to seniors over 90 years in age.
In 179 BC, he made peace with Nanyue, whose king Zhao Tuo Empress Dowager Lü had offended by an economic embargo and which therefore engaged in raids against the Principality of Changsha (modern Hunan) and the Commandery of Nan (modern Hubei). Emperor Wen accomplished this by writing humble yet assertive letters to Zhao offering peace with dignity and by caring for Zhao's relatives remaining in his native town of Zhending (in modern Shijiazhuang, Hebei).
In 178 BC, after a solar eclipse (then viewed as a symbol of divine displeasure), he requested that officials give him honest criticism and recommend capable individuals for governmental positions. He also tried to decrease mandatory taxes and hard labor.
In 179 BC, after some hesitation (during which he, apparently influenced by the theory of chanrang, thought that maybe it would be more proper for him to find the wisest person in the empire and offer the throne to him, or that he should consider offering the throne to his uncle Liu Jiao, the Prince of Chu; his cousin Liu Pi, the Prince of Wu; or his younger brother Liu Chang , the Prince of Huainan), he made his oldest son Liu Qi (later Emperor Jing) the Crown Prince and Prince Qi's mother, Consort Dou, Empress.
In addition to Empress Dou, Emperor Wen also favored Consort Shen. Despite her favored state, however, she only wore simple dresses rather than elaborate designs, as a means of savings.
Emperor Wen, during the early part of his reign, was often impressed with suggestions tendered by a young official, Jia Yi , but opposed by senior officials, he did not promote Jia to particularlly high positions; rather, Jia was put into a rotation as a teacher for various princes. Jia proposed dividing the larger principalities ruled by branch lines of the imperial family, a proposal that Emperor Wen agreed with but hesitated to actually carry out, and he did not actually implement Jia's proposal, which later might have prevented the Rebellion of the Seven States.
An incident otherwise uncharacteristic of Emperor Wen occurred in 176 BC. Zhou Bo, who had been instrumental in Emperor Wen's becoming emperor and who had by that point retired to his March of Jiang (?, in modern Linfen, Shanxi), was falsely accused of treason. Instead of doing initial investigations first, Emperor Wen had Zhou arrested and incarcerated. It was only with the intercession of his mother Empress Dowager Bo and his daughter Princess Changping (Zhou's daughter-in-law) that Zhou was released, and the charges against him dismissed.
In 175 BC, over the objections of Jia Yi, Emperor Wen issued an edict permitting any person to mint money (then only in the form of coins) out of copper and tin. The main beneficiaries of this policy were those with access to copper, including the court official Deng Tong (see also below), to whom Emperor Wen had given a major copper mine in Yandao (in modern Yaan, Sichuan), and Liu Pi, the Prince of Wu, whose principality had a major copper mine at Yuzhang (in modern Nanchang, Jiangxi).
In 174 BC, a major incident occurred involving Liu Chang, the Prince of Huainan, who was then Emperor Wen's only surviving brother. Emperor Wen had great affection for him and did not punish him for using styles and ceremonies that only emperors were supposed to use. Also, contrary to imperial laws, Prince Chang issued edicts within his own principality and also commissioned his own prime minister. He also carried out executions and created titles for people -- two powers that were also reserved to the emperor. Emperor Wen constantly excused him for his indiscretions -- which included assassinating Shen Yiji, the Marquess of Piyang -- but eventually became unhappy. He asked his uncle Bo Zhao to write a letter to Prince Chang to try to change his ways. Instead, Prince Chang was offended and planned a rebellion. When the conspiracy was discovered, Emperor Wen stripped Prince Chang of his title and exiled him to Yandao -- with the intent to teach him a lesson and then summoning him back. However, on the way, Prince Chang died -- probably by suicide. In 172 BC, Emperor Wen, missing Prince Chang dearly and still lamenting his death, created his sons Liu An, Liu Bo , Liu Ci , and Liu Liang marquesses, again over Jia Yi's objection.
Also in 174 BC, when Xiongnu's new chanyu Laoshang came to power, Emperor Wen continued the heqin policy by giving him a prince's daughter in marriage.
In 170 BC, Emperor Wen's uncle Bo Zhao, who had been instrumental in his administration, killed an imperial messenger. Emperor Wen forced him to commit suicide. This incident drew criticism from later historians, who believed that he should have curbed Bo's powers in earlier and saved his life in that manner.
In 169 BC, Chao Cuo, then a low level official, offered Emperor Wen a number of suggestions at dealing with Xiongnu. Emperor Wen was impressed, and made him a member of Crown Prince Qi's household. At Chao's suggestion, in 168 BC, Emperor Wen instituted the policy that if people contributed food for use by the northern defense force against Xiongnu, they could receive titles or have their crimes pardoned.
In 167 BC, Emperor Wen banned the corporal punishments of facial tattoo and cutting off the nose or a foot, and replaced them with whipping. These punishments would not be instituted against as a matter of formal legal sentencing for the rest of Chinese history. (However, as was later noted, this actually caused more deaths, and so the amount of whipping was further reduced in 156 BC by Emperor Jing.)
Later in his reign, Emperor Wen became superstitious and started search for supernatural events. In 165 BC, at the instigation of the sorcerer Xinyuan Ping, he built a temple north of Wei River dedicated to five gods. He then promoted Xinyuan and awarded him with much treasure. At Xinyuang's suggestion, Emperor Wen planned a thorough revision of the governmental system and the building of many temples. In 164 BC, Xinyuan Ping had an associate place a jade cup outside the imperial palace with mysterious writings on them, and also predicted a regression in the path of the sun. (This phenomenon has never been adequately explained, but might have been actually a partial solar eclipse.) In response, Emperor Wen joyously proclaimed an empire-wide festival and also restarted the calendering for his reign. (Therefore, the years 163 BC and on, for the rest of his reign, was known as the later era of his reign.) However, in winter 164 BC, Xinyuan was exposed to be a fraud, and he and his clan were executed. That ended Emperor Wen's period of supernatural fascination.
In 158 BC, when Xiongnu made a major incursion into the Commanderies of Shang (modern northern Shaanxi) and Yunzhong (modern western Inner Mongolia, centering Hohhot), Emperor Wen made a visit to the camps of armies preparing to defend the capital Chang'an against a potential Xiongnu attack. It was on this occasion when he became impressed with Zhou Bo's son Zhou Yafu as a military commander -- compared to the other generals, who, upon the emperor's arrival, dropped all things and did what they could to make the emperor feel welcome, Zhou remained on military alert and required the imperial guards to submit to proper military order before he would allow the imperial train to enter. Later, he would leave instructions for Crown Prince Qi that if military emergencies arose, he should make Zhou his commander of armed forces -- instructions that were heeded during the Rebellion of the Seven States.
Emperor Wen died in summer 157 BC. He was succeeded by Crown Prince Qi. Emperor Wen, in his will, reduced the usual mourning period to three days, contrary to the previous lengthy periods of mourning in which weddings, sacrifices, drinking, and the consumption of meat were disallowed, thus greatly reducing the burden on the people. He also ordered that his concubines be allowed to return home. (Before and after Emperor Wen, generally, imperial concubines without children were required to guard the emperor's tomb for the rest of their lives.)
Impact on history
Emperor Wen was considered one of the most benevolent rulers in Chinese history. His reign was marked by thriftiness and attempts to reduce burdens on the people. His reign and that of his son Emperor Jing were often collectively known together as the Rule of Wen and Jing, renowned for general stability and relaxed laws.
As noted above, Emperor Wen greatly favored Deng Tong, for no particular apparent reason, and he gave Deng much honor and wealth despite Deng's apparent lack of ability. This, coupled with later references by officials trying to persuade Emperor Ai against giving his lover Dong Xian too much authority -- during which those officials analogized Dong's position to Deng's -- has led to speculation that Emperor Wen had a sexual relationship with Deng. It should be noted that in 162 BC, Emperor Wen permitted the prime minister Shentu Jia to discipline Deng for his arrogance and threaten him with death, before pardoning Deng. In Emperor Wen's request to Shentu asking Shentu to be lenient with Deng, he called Deng his "jester." This would appear to be contrary to an indication of a romantic relationship, but when China's Grand Historian, Sima Qian, wrote about the first five Han emperors, he included Emperor Wen amongst the others who had intimate male favorites.
>> THE FAMOUS POEM
GAI XIA SONG (GE)
I think this is the one, I hope to which the opera is based on or rather maybe the opera wrote that poem. Who knows? I would very much appreciate anyone's help in ripping Kong Wah's recital of this poem in Cantonese. It is in the last episode, right after their wedding and right before Melissa Ng killed herself in the tent. Thank you.
NOTE : When downloading the audio clip, for IE users, RIGHT CLICK the link and choose Save Target As and for Firefox users LEFT CLICK the link and choose to download the song. Or copy and paste the URL to your download managers. If the link doesn't work, the URL is always the correct and accurate. Do not listen to the clip online.
URL : http://media.point2e.com/clip_xiangyu.ram
Xiang Yu sat late into the night drinking with Lady Yu and singing this melancholic song:
My strength uprooted mountains,
My spirit overstepped the world;
But the times are against me,
And my horse can gallop no more
When he can gallop on more
What can I do?
And what is to become of Lady Yu.
He sang it repeatedly until tears ran down his retainers’ cheeks. He then dashed out of the tent and gathered his remaining forces in an attempt to break through enemy lines.
[Source : http://www.kongming.net/novel/han/xiangyu.php]
DAFENG (GREAT WIND) SONG
By the way, even Liu Bang had his own poem which from the website it wrote that he wrote at wine party he gave in his hometown after putting down Ying Bu's armed rebellion in 195 B. C.
URL : http://media.point2e.com/clip_liubang.ram
A great wind rises,
Clouds fly and scatter;
With power over the four seas,
I return to my homeland;
Where shall I get brave warriors
to safeguard the four qrarters?
>> FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING MATERIALS
1. Artefacts, relics, policies, art and etc from the Han Dynasty era at svam.org
2. A well written intro was found at National Geographics' website but alas I do not have that particular issue. If you have, try looking for February 2004 issue. A snippet below ...
"At last the whole world is mine," the first Han emperor, Liu Bang, is said to have declared as he claimed the imperial throne in 202 B.C., the first of 27 Lius to reign. Far from the whole world, his writ extended across a territory only about half as large as today's China. Tough, and common as his surname—China swarms with people named Liu—he despised learned Confucians, whom he readily identified by their distinctive peaked hats. According to an incident recounted by a famous Han historian, Sima Qian, when Liu Bang encountered one of these worthies he "immediately snatches the hat from the visitor's head and pisses in it."
Liu Bang had been a minor official in the previous dynasty, the Qin (or Chin, from which "China" derives). The Qin was the first dynasty to weld China's oft-warring kingdoms into a single state. It was also cruel and soon collapsed. With the throne up for grabs, Liu Bang raised an army. His most formidable opponent, a general named Xiang Yu, captured Liu Bang's father and sent Liu Bang an ultimatum: "Surrender or I will boil your venerable sire alive!"
Liu Bang replied merely: "Send me a cup of the soup."
Bravado won out; Dad wasn't stewed, and Liu Bang finally crushed Xiang Yu, who then, to deal with the humiliation, committed suicide with his one remaining concubine.
The victor put his capital in the city of Changan ("eternal peace"), whose ruins lie today in the suburbs of its bustling, tourist-packed successor, Xian ("western peace"). In those ruins on a June afternoon, I stood atop a mound 50 feet (20 meters) high—the site of Liu Bang's palace. Portions of Changan's city wall, which encompassed 13 square miles (33 square kilometers), poked from fields where peasants were reaping wheat, some with scythes, some at the wheels of combines.
Liu Bang, also known as Gaozu, "high ancestor," (symbolic names were often posthumously conferred on emperors) called his palace Lasting Joy. Joy? I thought I heard screams from the ruins. After his death in 195 B.C. his empress, Lu Zhi, tried to hijack the empire for her own family. She had several Liu Bang sons born to concubines murdered and for good measure mutilated his favorite mistress and had her tossed into a privy.
Routing other Liu kin and loyal generals from their fiefdoms—the spoils of rulership—she replaced them with her own relatives. Fifteen years passed before the Liu clan managed to regain control, enthroning a surviving Liu Bang son, Emperor Wen. The Lius then wiped out all the empress's kin they could get their hands on.
Oh, the Han women! This wouldn't be the last time an empress or concubine colluded in a dangerous political game.
3. Comparisons between Han Dynasty and Roman Dynasty. A very interesting read.
PHEW! YOU MADE IT! YEAH! BUT ONE LAST PARAGRAPH ...
Never thought you made it to the bottom of this review eh? If you have read every word, please allow me one last paragrph of this insanely long review to give my thanks for your support whether you agree or not with the contents. Do let me know using Post A Comment if you find the historical section engaging. It was a lot of effort to edit which essays to include and which not to because every essay I came across may be similar in contents but the writing styles are so different. It is a great wonder that a similar facts can be used for or against that particular historical event or person and I was tempted to include all but if that is the case, this review will never ever end. I hope I have exercised my discretion which text to include wisely and that you have learned a little about the great people during that era. It is funny though that I often read of heroism and brotherhood in most text about the Three Kingdoms ear where ordinary men are made extraordinary through their skills, unfailing loyalty and their concept of brotherhood. Wars were still won by trickery back then but not as bloody and heartless (in a way) as depicted in the essays and this series about the Chu-Han war which was more about strategies and winning at all cost. There are moments of loyalty but not as greatly emphasised as in the Three Kingdoms. I am also quite surprised to see a very different side of Hon Yu and the text although involving the same text either confirms the romanticised version or debunked it but there was no doubt he was truly a very interesting historical figure, and so was the real Lau Bong. This TVB series should be taken as point of reference but not the be all and end all. Even the essays are not the ultimate source on the real men behind the history and legend. I am convinced though they must have done something so great and so marvellous, whether such actions are justifiable or not is debatable, to merit a place in history and allow us modern people to look back into the bloody, at times turbulent and yet glorious past of Chinese history and marvel at our ancestors and what they were capable of doing. It was this past that made our present and our appreciation of the Chinese culture possible.