Ravaging Times

October 10, 2017

“Sima Yi Claimed All Three kingdoms”, by Zhang Zhi Wei

Filed under: Ravages of Time — Tags: , — merc @ 12:53 pm

(page 400 of deluxe edition 1)

Sima is one of many double-syllable surnames in China. There are still many Simas in today’s age. However, the one to raise that surname to unprecedented heights was Sima Yi during the final days of the East Han dynasty. He held power that could make or break a dynasty- he deviced a plan to usurp Wei, then ended the Three Kingdoms period, allowing his descendents to walk a ruler’s path and establish the Jin dynasty that belonged to the Sima clan!

To trace back to the origin of the surname Sima, one must understand the meaning of “Sima”. According to the “Rites of Zhou,” the Zhou dynasty had five specialized departments: Situ (Education), Sima (War), Sikou (Justice), Sikong (Works) and Sishi (Personnel), of which Sima was in charge of the military. During the time of King Xuan of Zhou, a vassal lord of the Zhou kingdom named Chengbo Xiu Fu (Xiu Fu was his courtesy name) reached the rank of Grand Sima. His suppression of the nomadic Xu tribe was such a great achievement that King Xuan permitted him to use his rank as surname. Hence forth he was known as Sima.

Like other famous clans in history, the family tree of the Sima clan began to branch out from the end of West Zhou dynasty to the end of East Han dynasty, widely spreading across China at the time. Sima Qian, the author of “Records of the Grand Historian,” his clan took root at Xiayang, in the western Guanzhong region. Sima Yi, on the other hand, belonged to the clan in Henei. According to citeable sources, his clan’s ancestor Sima Ang was a famous officer of Zhao Kingdom during the final days of the Qin dynasty. He followed Xiang Yu in the campaign against Qin, and was granted land in the eastern region of Yin, with the capital at Zhaoge. And he was given the title “King of Yin.”

Both eastern Sima Ang and Sima Yi had talents in warfare as well as sharing Grand Sima Chengbo Xiu Fu of West Zhou as their ancestor. Different from the western Sima clan’s focus on cultivation in the humanities, the eastern Sima clan focused on a career in warfare. Sima Ang’s tenure as the King of Yin only lasted fourteen months before he was eliminated by Liu Bang. But his twelfth generation grandson Sima Yi, with the help of Cao Cao’s Wei Kingdom, wiped out the empire that was established by Liu Bang.

[The Rise]
During the East Han Dynasty, the Sima clan in the eastern part of the kingdom began to rise in prominence, and a foundation was built for their future generations. Sima Yi’s great great grandfather Sima Jun (钧) served as General Who Conquers the West during the reign of Emperor An. After his rout by the Qiang tribes, he committed suicide while in prison. Even so, the Sima clan still gradually rose to the status of having a household income of two thousand dan, which paved the way for future generations to have a career in the government. His great grandfather Sima Liang served as the Administrator of Yuzhang, and grandfather Sima Jun (儁) served as the Administrator of Yingchuan, and his father Sima Fang served as Prefect of Luoyang (or Intendant of the Capital). Sima Fang once recommended Cao Cao to the position of Commandant of the North District when the latter was nominated for Filial And Incorrupt Conduct.

In “The Ravages of Time,” Chen Mou uses the same technique as “The Romance of Three Kingdoms” has done to reconstruct Sima Yi into the anchor of Henei’s merchant alliance – one who uses business strategies to protect the interest of the Sima clan and its allies, staying unscatched in an era of chaos, as well as planning for the future expansion. Thanks to the Silk Road that was established during West Han, the trade routes through the Central Plain were flourishing during the times of East Han, with nonstop traffic of goods going to and fro. It also led to the birth of many business philosophies.

[Business Advisor]
The Sima Yi in this series has been washed clean of the ruggedness of his ancestors, instead he was immersed in the humanities due to the influence from both his grandfather and father. The depth and breadth of learning material in his youth must have included “The Annals of Lü Buwei,” which was written by a business man who went into politics. The core of that text, as advocated by Lü Buwei, is about Morality, Benefit and Integrity – of how profit seeking relates to social connection. Profit seeking must have a moral and just beginning, and seek long-term benefit if at all.
(not sure about official translation of the cited text)

[Long-term Benefit]
When Henei’s wealthy business clans were facing extortion by Dong Zhuo, Sima Yi, as the head of the merchant alliance, had to take a stand to protect the interest of the alliance. But a year before the assassination, Sima Yi had already planted the wild card Liaoyuan Huo inside the enemy’s camp. He must have foreseen the devastation that would befall the people of Henei if the warlords were to conduct mass extortion for their war chest. That was him making a moral choice. As for the rebuilding of Luoyang after Dong Zhuo abandons the city, that was him seeking the long-term benefit.

[Private Army]
Aside from the growth in the business sector, war was also becoming more frequent by the day. Ever since the Yellow Turban rebellion sparked the ambition within the hearts of provincial governors, there was no place that truly felt safe either inside the capital or beyond. That was why wealthy clans would hire private armies – a practice that began near the end of Wang Mang‘s Xin dynasty when rebellions by farmers prompted wealthy clans to arm their own guards to fight for them. Once the head of the clan passed away, the successor would inherit this private army, which in turn would serve the clan for generations until the end of the East Han dynasty. This trend was very popular at the time.
(not sure, the syntax of this part is confusing)

[Handicapped Warriors]
The Sima clan was no exception. Back when Sima Fang was still alive, they already hired a group of private guards – “the Handicapped Warriors.” Its members honed their individual disabilities into a weapon and carried out many secret missions for the clan. The “One-Eyed Leader” was a symbol for the group, since no one knew who “he” really was. But many people know that those who threaten the interest of Henei will meet an unpleasant end. The existence of the Handicapped Warriors have also been a rumor that circulates around the Yan Province…

[Dream Omen]
Business Strategies and the Handicapped Warriors are two types of capital in Sima Yi’s hands. At the beginning of “The Ravages of Time,” Sima Yi wanted to avoid the political scene but had to prioritize for the benefit of the clan- to protect everything his late father had accomplished. However, as the story progresses he and Liaoyuan Huo will be pulled by the torrents of world-changing events- pushing the Sima clan and him onto history’s stage. “The Sima clan shall claim all three kingdoms;” is that what the omen of the Phoenix Dream means?


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