Zhugeliang was not a “virtuous Prime Minister”: the burden of the people under his rule was heavy

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Portrait of Zhugeliang

Zhugeliang was the Prime Minister of Shu during the Three Kingdoms period. He could be called the most admired and legendary politician and strategist in ancient China. In the romance of the Three Kingdoms, he was also described as a god of wisdom who could divine and predict. He assisted Liu Bei to establish the kingdom of Shu. With his conscientious and dedicated life and character, he is the most perfect image of prime minister in people’s minds, and has become a hero in the Chinese ideal of “self-cultivation, family harmony, governance and world peace”. The image of Zhugeliang has been deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and plays a very important role in the history of Chinese political thought. So, does the real Zhugeliang in history conform to this image? If there is a considerable gap, why should people deliberately create this perfect idol? What does this idol symbolize or mean in Chinese traditional political and legal culture Do not underestimate these problems, which can hide many secrets of traditional political culture.

It should be admitted that Zhugeliang was a historical figure with considerable wisdom and achievements. He had seen a spot of Longzhong Dui when he was 27 years old. Later, he also had brilliant strategies or extraordinary courage in assisting Liu Bei to establish the kingdom of Shu. However, from the overall situation of the history of the Three Kingdoms, Shuhan was a defeated country. Many strategic and tactical mistakes were also related to Zhugeliang. For example, Guan Yu’s careless loss of Jingzhou is not only Guan Yu’s responsibility, but also the result of Zhugeliang’s almost inaction. After the death of Liu Bei, Zhugeliang also had many problems in the management of Shu, such as the reserve of talents, the improvement of national strength and so on. In particular, the lack of collective wisdom and strength of the strategy, often go their own way, and have prejudices against general Wei Yan, so that Liu Chan became unable to support a Dou, and even the kingdom of Shu soon perished. However, from the annals of the Three Kingdoms to the romance of the Three Kingdoms, too many people are whitewashing Zhugeliang’s image project, promoting it to the highest level, and even shaping it to be almost perfect, from deification to demonization, and fabricating legends such as Dongfeng and empty city plans, which makes history more and more out of line.

The question is what is the reason and purpose of creating such a tall official image in Chinese culture? Zhugeliang was able to ascend the altar, first of all, because he was loyal to his master. Under the condition that he could completely replace him, he was still able to “devote himself to death”. When Liu Bei was in charge of the Yongan palace, he made it clear that “if you are ten times as talented as Cao Pi, you will be able to settle the country and eventually decide on major events. If your heir can help you, you can help him; if you are not talented, you can help yourself.” This kind of imperial edict is almost unique in Chinese history. It enabled Zhugeliang to take the throne of Liu Chan in a fair way. At the same time, after Liu Bei died, Zhugeliang had integrated military, political, financial and literary power for nine years. However, he never had this “evil idea” and remained loyal. Compared with Cao Pi and simayan, the contemporaries, who finally usurped the throne after holding the military and political power, there seems to be a world of difference. Although Cao Cao, Sima Yi, Sima Zhao and others did not usurp the throne, a series of acts of forcing the palace, killing and coup d ‘é Tat at the palace also made Zhugeliang’s loyal life more attractive. In addition, his official slave personality fully meets the needs of the supreme ruler and the system culture. It is the support point to maintain the stability of the rule and the lubricant to ease various social contradictions. In short, such officials in ancient China were rare and valuable. On the standard of loyalty, Zhugeliang’s family and children and grandchildren were also flawless. Although his son zhugezhan had no generalship talent, he failed to use the favorable terrain to resist the attack of the Wei army, resulting in the direct entry of minister Deng AI of the Wei army. However, he inherited his father’s “loyalty” mantle, rejected the temptations of Deng AI to confer “King Langya” and other high-ranking officials, killed the envoys to show his determination, and died in Mianzhu for the Shu Kingdom. He became benevolent heroically without humiliating his father’s day. His grandson, Zhuge Shang, also “galloped to the Wei army to die” and added to his grandfather’s reputation of “loyalty”. If they are loyal ministers and their descendants, the rulers and cultural people of later generations should certainly highly praise them. Zhugeliang became a banner of the ruling class and traditional culture.

However, if we take a closer look at the Shu Kingdom under the rule of Zhugeliang, there are serious problems in many aspects. First, the huge state apparatus and the heavy burden of the people. In Shu, a country with a population of only 900000, there were more than 40000 officials and more than 150000 troops. On average, 27 people supported one official and nearly five soldiers. The people not only provide for this huge state machine, but also the young and middle-aged are mainly in the front-line army, and the front-line workers in the rear are mostly women, children, old and children. The huge state machine has become a sharp sword hanging over the heads of the people. The second is to exercise strict control over the people and rule by severe punishment and laws. According to the five stories of GuoChong cited in the book of Shu, Zhugeliang believed that when Liu Zhang governed Shu, the criminal law was too light, which led to the Shu people forgetting the way of monarchs and officials. Therefore, he wanted to “use the law as a means of prestige, and know kindness as a result of the law; use the law as a means of restraint, and know honor as a means of justice; use both honor and kindness as a means of justice, and have integrity from top to bottom.” Its purpose is to maintain the way of monarchs and ministers and maintain the stability of rule. The fifth biography of Zhugeliang in the annals of the Three Kingdoms states that “those who are strict in punishment and administration but have no complaints should use their intentions to admonish the Ming Dynasty”. Although he used both morality and punishment without complaint from the people, he could not cover up the fact that the law was severe. In short, in the age of Zhugeliang, Xishu was a typical wartime economic system. Its characteristics were that everything served the front line, everything was for the war, and people’s suffering and life and death were basically ignored. The relevant records do not mention the war sufferings suffered by the people, nor the fact that the population of Shu fell sharply.

Zhugeliang’s scheming life is most talked about by people, who think that he is resourceful and unparalleled in the world. However, few people think about the intention and purpose of the scheme? Because of Zhugeliang’s brilliant plan, the world often shed a handful of sad tears, and the country often has more pieces of scorched earth. In addition to using the people’s flesh and blood to integrate the warlords’ sphere of influence, how valuable is his brilliant plan? Why do people worship that they use strategies to calculate others all day long, to kill each other, to fight for power and land, to burn fire, to drown… Even he himself said, “although I have made contributions to the country, I will lose my life!” Why did Zhugeliang worry so much? The problem is that the war has brought great disasters to the people, with thousands of bodies buried, rivers of blood flowing, and damage to the environment and culture. Zhugeliang is a little clear in his heart, but later generations seem to have no feelings. Of course, some people will say that this is the result of the times, and there is no need to criticize individuals. The question is why do future generations still worship these war killing schemes? The most puzzling thing is that the civilians who have suffered from it, or even been used as cannon fodder, are voluntarily praising and worshiping these God of war who won by stratagem. Is this a morbid state of a nation or a cultural degeneration?

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