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Gao Huan and Yuwen Tai


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#1 wuTao

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 12:51 PM

I've been reading a book called "Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300-900", by David A. Graff. It's a fascinating book, and I've been learning a tremendous amount of the history of China during the period of disunity.

I just finished a sections describing the rivalry between Gao Huan and Yuwen Tai, the warlords in control of Eastern Wei/Northern Qi and Western Wei/Northern Zhou, respectively. From 534-546, these guys fought a series of battles around the Yellow River area where Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Henan meet. Pretty interesting, reminds me of Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin during the Sengoku period of Japan!

Well, just wanted to let people know about these fascinating warlords and a very interesting book!

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#2 Sephodwyrm

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 01:41 PM

What I learnt about Gao Huan (called by Yu Wen Tai as Gou Huan, the wild dog beast) and Yu Wen Tai (called by Gao Huan as Hei Tai, the black otter) is that they are premiers of their respective halves of the former Northern Wei Empire. Both had their own puppet emperors and ran the empire as if its their own. The wars waged were huge in scale and massive. Both sides had heroes and skilled men. Gao Huan had Peng Le and Hou Jing while Yu Wen Tai had Wei Xiao Kuan and there are many many others.

In one particularly instance in a field battle between the 2, Yu Wen Tai's Western Wei troops were overwhelmed by the flanking assault led by Peng Le and 3000 heavy cavalry. The whole army broke and the Eastern Wei troops under Gao Huan led a great assault that slew 30000. Yu Wen Tai himself was chased down by Peng Le, but Yu Wen Tai said: "Oh, aren't you Peng Le? What a dumb man. Go back to your lord and claim your price! What good is it for you to capture me?" And Peng Le really did go back. Gao Huan was so furious he heaped Peng Le's reward of 3000 pi of silk on him.

In another battle, Yu Wen Tai lost the field. The Eastern Wei soldiers were almost catching up. One of his commander had Yu Wen Tai get off his horse and started whipping him with his horsewhip, shouting: "d**** good for nothing lowly soldier! Where is your captain?" The Eastern Wei troops thus abandoned the officer and Yu Wen Tai and gave chase to other more worthwhile prisoners of war...(or so it seems).

So many heroic actions and excitement. But lotsa people died. Eventually, the sons of Yu Wen Tai and Gao Huan would usurp and ascend as the emperors of Northern Qi and Northern Zhou respectively.
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#3 wuTao

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 03:05 PM

What I learnt about Gao Huan (called by Yu Wen Tai as Gou Huan, the wild dog beast) and Yu Wen Tai (called by Gao Huan as Hei Tai, the black otter) is that they are premiers of their respective halves of the former Northern Wei Empire.

So I can take it that, unlike Takeda and Uesugi, Gao and Yuwen had no respect for each other? :lol:

So more info I've learned from the book:
They both came to prominence soon after the rebellion of the Six Garrisons of 523. Gao Huan was descended from a Han Chinese (his grandfather was a Han Chinese official of the Wei court sent to Huaishuo garrison as a punishment for an offense), but assimilated into Xianbei culture and married a Xianbei wife. He came to power after taking control of Ge Rong's rebel army in the Hebei plains and defeating the Erzhu clan (who were the warlords in control of the Wei court at the time). Though he was Han, and used his Han descent to get the support of the Han aristocratic families in Hebei, he had little faith in the fighting abilities of the Han Chinese, and relied mostly on North Asian cavalry, mixing in Han infantry sparingly.

Yuwen Tai, on the other hand, was a man of Wuchuan garrison, sixty five miles east of Huaishuo. He was descended from a Xiongnu group that had recieved "compatriot" (guoren) status from the Touba Wei early on. Yuwen came into power after being sent by Erzhu Rong to take control of the Wei River Valley. Unlike Gao, Yuwen was only sent on this expedition with a few thousand North Asian cavalry, with only a few thousand more sent as reinforcements. After the the Wei were split between Yuwen and Gao, Yuwen had no more access to anymore of the steppe warriors. Thus, Yuwen was forced to rely on the Han Chinese and ethnically mixed people of Guanzhong as the foundation of his troops. He recruited from the private militias of Guanzhong (who were hardened by years of protecting private estates and fortresses), which became known as "xiang bing". Yuwen also had the powerful "Twenty-four Armies", which was the ancestor of the famous "fubing" system in Sui and Tang times. Some theories hold that the Twenty-four Armies developed from regularizing the xiang bing from militia to professional troops; another holds they were recruited directly from the Chinese farmers of Guanzhong.

#4 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 11:17 AM

Here is a brief history of this period of time:

In 534 AD, the northern Wei was splitted into two: Eastern Wei and Western Wei.

Although both the states were still under the rule of the Yuan family of northern Wei, both states were controlled by two people respectively: Gaohuan and Yuwentai.

Gaohuan (高欢) was a xianbeinized han-chinese. He was basically the prime minister and established the Eastern Wei who's capital is at Ye city. He too had his own puppet emperor

Yuwentai (宇文泰) was a sinifized xianbei. He was a general and established the Western Wei who's capital is at Chang'an. He too controlled a puppet emperor.

Gaohuan and Yumentai were both loggerheads and fought against each other for years. Both were great military strategists, very resourceful, and it was difficult to tell who will win.

In 550 AD, Eastern Wei became Northern Qi, after Gao Yang (高洋) force the emperor to abdicate, he himself became the emperor.

In 557 AD, Yuwenjue(宇文觉) forced the emperor to abdicate and founded the Northern Zhou.

In 577 AD, Northern Zhou conquered Northern Qi, but Northern Zhou became Sui in 581 AD, after Yang Jian (扬坚) came into power.
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#5 Yun

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 12:11 PM

Graff's book is a good place to start in researching the military history of the Age of Fragmentation period. I've actually written a review of it on Amazon.com - you can go check it out! ;)

Here's another favourite story of mine: Wang Sizheng and Cai You almost singlehandedly covering the retreat of the Western Wei army from Luoyang in 538, after Yuwen Tai had been defeated by Gao Huan.

Commander-in-Chief Wang Sizheng: He dismounted and fought on foot, wielding an iron spear. With one sweep he would strike down several men, but he was completely surrounded by the pursuing Eastern Wei army and his bodyguard was wiped out. Anyway, he fought until he passed out from blood loss - but somehow he wasn't captured because he always wore a battered suit of armour in battle, so none of the enemy knew he was a general! At sunset, the Eastern Wei army withdrew, and one of Wang's subordinates scoured the battlefield and retrieved the semi-conscious Commander-in-Chief.

General Cai You: He, too, fought a rearguard action dismounted, but with a bow and arrows as his primary weapon. His officers advised him to stay on his horse so as to preserve the option of withdrawing, but he roared, "The Prime Minister (Yuwen Tai) loves me like a son, so what makes you think I have any intention of saving myself?" Leading ten to twenty of his officers, he charged the Eastern Wei army yelling battle cries and killing numerous men. The Eastern Wei surrounded him more than ten men deep, but Cai You continued shooting in all directions with his bow. The Eastern Wei offered a reward for Cai's head, so a soldier with heavy armour and a two-handed sword challenged him in single combat. He charged at Cai and when only about thirty paces away, Cai's officers cried out to him to shoot. Cai replied, "Our lives depend on this one shot, so I'm not loosing it lightly!" At the distance of ten paces, Cai loosed his arrow, and the Eastern Wei champion fell dead - shot right in the face. The Eastern Wei army drew back in fear, and Cai withdrew calmly from the battle.
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#6 wuTao

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 12:18 PM

Wow Yun, that was you who wrote that review?!?! :ph43r: I bought the book from Amazon.com also, and my purchased was based on reading your review and the excerpt provided! :lol: You should have given the book 5 stars tho! :P

#7 Yun

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 12:27 PM

Well, I have pretty high standards :P Graff is a pioneer in writing the military history of this period in English, but I intend to one day do a better job than he did! Especially when it comes to the maps.
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#8 thirdgumi

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 02:42 AM

It was said during the winter, the West Wei army would break the ice on the river for they feared an East Wei invasion. It pretty much showed Gao Huan had advantage.
Yuwen Tai didn't have access to an abundante Xianbei population and other stepp people to conscript them. To compensate this disavantage, Yuwen Tai incorporated the Han people into his army, his system (the so called "Fu Bing Zhi"/府兵制) was actually an emulated stepp military system.
Gao Huan on the other hand, had access to abundante Xianbei populance, so he relied on a "division of function" system for different people. He made the Xianbei the warrior caste and the Han the production caste. Gao Huan once said to his Xianbei subjects: - the Han are your working force, their men provide you with foods and their women provide you with cloth, why would you want to opress them?- Then he said to his Han subjects: - the Xianbei are your fighting force, they fight wars for you and protect you, why do you hate them? -
On the long run, Yuwen Tai's system proved to be superior, during Norht Zhou and North Qi period, it was North Qi (former East Wei) who started to break ice of river during winter for thay feared an North Zhou (former West Wei) invasion.
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#9 Sephodwyrm

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 01:37 PM

Well, you would probably find all that in Chinese in Zi Zhi Tong Jian. I am actually continuously disappointed that its western authors that have to do the translations. We Chinese should really do the translations as well.

As for the heroes, I can never forget about the part in Sha Wan Battle in which Peng Le rode into battlet drunk. An enemy soldier slashed his abdomen, and his intestines flowed out. But he simply stuffed them back into his abdomen and readjusted his armor, and continued fighting.

Some years later he's still around fighting like a mad man. Guess all that alcohol in his guts saved him from infections! :D
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#10 esse

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 11:58 PM

Was Huan Chinese or Xianbei? He had a Chinese last name, and took great pain to fabricate his ancestral link to some Han official, but his son was cursed by contemporary Hou Jing "that damned Xianbei" probably suggested otherwise. Also, he addressed his troops and generals in Xianbei tongue.

Yuwen Tai died young, he entrusted the care of his young sons into the hands of his cousin, Hu -- who engineered the usurpation of Western Wei. What interesting was Hu deposed and did away with the first 2 Northern Zhou emperors (Tai, though the facto ruler, only became an emperor posthumously) before being killed by the third. Probably the only instance something like that happened in Chinese history, or even world history.
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#11 esse

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 08:08 PM

Who was this Pang Le character? Could you shed some light onto him (more than what you've already did :D ), also a certain ever-victorious Yang Bao of Western Wei who had to surrender to Northern Qi in an illthought invasion led by Yuwen Hu. What happened to Bao afterward? Was he ever returned home or killed in reprisal?
"When all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".

#12 Sephodwyrm

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 02:32 PM

Peng Le is very similar to Xu Chu...that is the closest analogy I have.

Big, tough guy, probably hairy. Drinks a lot of alcohol. Invincible in combat, but dumb as hell.
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#13 warlordgeneral

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Posted 26 November 2005 - 04:33 AM

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Edited by warlordgeneral, 31 March 2013 - 04:53 AM.


#14 Sephodwyrm

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 10:39 PM

Erm...Zhang Fei, however, is not as dumb as hell.
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