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World's Greatest General - Part II: The Far East

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  • World's Greatest General - Part II: The Far East

    Best Generals Throughout Different Ages of Far East

    Notes by ER Chaser:

    Hereby I will attempt to list a few famous military figures throughout the history of several countries in Asia. It will be very interesting to notice that for different cultures and nations, people’s values differ greatly. Some figures I included here sometimes may not qualify as a “good general” in today’s (esp. western) sense, nevertheless the fact that their names live in their people’s heart generation after generation gives us a good insight into their culture and tradition. I hope the readers will enjoy those brief stories as much as I did when I edited them.

    For each figure, the following information will be given: name, nation, era, achievement, and reference. For some, “nation” will appear as nation1/nation2, where nation1 is the historical name at that time and nation2 is the current recognition of nationality. In case of multiple references, only the major one (the one I quoted most) will be given, for simplicity.


    Minamotono Yoshitsune
    Heian/Japan
    Kamakura era, around 1192 AD
    The warrior of the Heian last stage. He was the famous general who excels in archery, horsemanship and was rich in wit. He annihilated the political rival Heike family in the battle of Dannoura for helping his elder brother Minamotono Yoritomo, who later established the Kamakura shogunate. However, the excellent talent invited the jealousy and distrust of Yoritomo, and finally he was killed as Genji’s enemy.
    In Japanese legends, Yoshitsune becomes an idol of wisdom, bravery, and even good looks - partly due to his deeds, but more thanks to the sympathy toward his unfair and sad fate at the hands of the Japanese culture.

    Japanese Heroes(Heroines) by asahi-net.or.jp

    Oda Nobunaga
    Japan
    Warring Era, 1534-1582 AD
    In his youth, he was thought a great idiot with many eccentric conducts. But actually it meannt that he was too great to be understood easily by common people. He had many competent and faithful subordinates by nature of his charisma, and excelled at decisive strategic movements in war.

    At the battle of Okehazama, he broke the ranks of the great Imagawa by surprise with a small force. He was also probably the first Japanese samurai who welcomed western technology and weaponry. By utilizing a considerable amount of firearms in his battles, he changed some tactical aspects of war in ancient Japan. However, he was murdered by one of his subordinates, Akechi Mitsuhide in Honnouji.

    The Japanese Art of War, Thomas Cleary, 1992

    Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    Japan
    End of Warring Era, 1536-1598 AD
    He was a common foot soldier from a poor peasant’s family. On a cold day, he was holding Nobunaga’s sandals against his chest to warm them up. Seeing that, Nobunaga liked him and promoted him from the ranks. Since then, he fought and rose to equal the fame of Akechi Mitsuhide, when both of them were deployed by Nobunaga to fight a daimyo to the west. Mitsuhide, however, secretly returned and murdered Nobunaga. Hearing that at his post, Hideyoshi immediately returned and destroyed Mitsuhide and his army. He then succeeded Nobunaga to rule his clan. After many wars thereafter, he literally unified Japan under his control, though he never took the name of “shogun”.
    Unlike Nobunaga, Hideyoshi was more willing to use political tricks than direct military assaults. He would rather force his enemies to term by showing off his military might.
    In his late years, however, he led Japan into a doomed adventure to conquer the mainland of Asia, the still mighty Ming Dynasty of China. The battle took place in Korea; while his troops enjoyed some initial successes, his army was soon checked on land, and his navy mostly destroyed by the Korean fleet under the famous Yi Sun-shin. The war ended with his death. He would be considered a war criminal in Korea and China, despite his great fame in Japan since then.

    A History of Japan, Mason & Caiger, 1997

    Ulchi Mundok
    Koguryo/Korea
    End of Sixth Century, China’s Sui Dynasty.
    This cunning genius of a general led his troops and struck the Chinese pre-emptively, and then held off a retaliation attack of 1,130,000 troops. He employed head-on attacks when he could not lose, but otherwise preferred guerrilla tactics, strategic retreat and deception. At one point, he feigned surrender and entered the enemy camp to get a better assessment of their weakness. The Chinese accepted his peace offer and let him go. It was a costly error. The crafty general thought that the Chinese troops looked hungry so he ordered his men, once the war started, to pretend to lose each battle, to lure them deep into the peninsula and stretch their supplies thin. “Thus the Chinese won seven battles in a day” says an old account. A force of 305,000 Sui went confidently for the capital, Pyongyang, but were stopped. Short of supplies, they turned and retreated. The Koguryoans pursued them mercilessly. According to records, only 2,700 survived.

    The Koreans, Michael Breen, 1998
    (ER: the author of this book put doubts on the numbers exhibited here. However, from ancient Chinese history sources, I confirm these figures are at least of the correct scale. It is interesting to notice that the opponent of this Korean legend was one of the worst Emperors ever in China, namely Sui Yang Di. The deadly shortage of supply was partially caused by the cunning Koreans, yet mostly due to the stupidity of this great Emperor. However, it is even more interesting to notice that as a person, Sui Yang Di had a very high IQ; he was a very smart person and talented in many respects. If anyone is interested in learning more about this figure, please let me know. I think he fits perfectly for the recent poll of “worst general” in the ACG forum. )


    Yi Sun-shin
    Korea
    ? – 1598 AD
    Admiral Yi, Sun-shin, now revered as one of the greatest heroes in Korean history, was a commoner who failed his first attempt to pass the military officer exam when he fell off his horse during one test. When the infamous Hideyoshi landed his vast army of 160,000 soldiers at Pusan in 1592, a bitter struggle against Japanese invaders began both on land and in the sea. The victory finally reached the Korean hands; not, however, from the traditional land army but through their new navy. Admiral Yi designed a special “turtle ship”, which is believed to have a spiked, iron-plated cover over the deck to prevent boarding, to attack the Japanese fleets. Cannons fired from holes in the side and clouds of sulphurous smoke poured out of the dragon shaped bow of the vessel both terrified the enemy and provided further cover for the seamen. The Japanese were defeated and their supply route was cut. Their land attack was thus finally pushed back. By 1598, Hideyoshi died and his intruders went into a full withdraw. However, Yi was also killed by a stray bullet while chasing the beaten enemy at the same time.

    The Koreans, Michael Breen, 1998

    (ER: the following part will cover 5 generals I picked from the long history of China which spanned over 5000 years. While during the casual “research” for this tiny project, I read quite a few books on the subject of east Asian history, mainly about ancient Japan, Korea and India. The more I read, the more I felt the history of the entire Far East before industrialized Japan was more or less simply the history of China. India is different, however, as I stated in my email to Shane, they had a special “peaceful” value and books I read about them did not even make efforts to cover their military successes. Thus it had been a rather hard yet “fruitless” work for me to dig out many non-Chinese military legends. And as for the Chinese generals, it is another difficult job to pick up merely 5 --- I could only try my best to be “comprehensive”. However, I am afraid many true experts on Chinese history will differ from my opinions.
    For the following Chinese figures, I do not put down references anymore, as all quotes are made from ancient Chinese history archives directly; mainly a book named “Zi Zhi Tong Jian”, a major history survey completed by a group of scholars led by Shima Guang in the Song Dynasty. There are also quite a few other official history books that I used to cover different periods. Yet I do not know any English version of those sources, thus I consider it rather meaningless to put down the exact names of each book).


    Sun Tzu
    Wu Kingdom/China
    Spring and Autumn, 535 ? – 478 ? BC
    Probably the most famous military book in our world is Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. The shining wisdom that guided human military practice for more than 2500 years alone could put this genius into the immortal hall of fame. The military operations directly under his command, however, comparing to the other Chinese legends on the list, were relatively small, yet still very impressive. Around 500 B.C., he, together with another great general at that time, Wu Zixu, led the army of Wu Kingdom (200,000 men strength) in a grand campaign of about 10 years and finally destroyed the much stronger force of Chu Kingdom (more than 600,000 strong). Wu Kingdom thus became the "Ba Zhu"(lord) of all the kingdoms due to this success.
    22
    Minamotono Yoshitsune
    4.55%
    1
    Oda Nobunaga
    9.09%
    2
    Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    4.55%
    1
    Ulchi Mundok
    0.00%
    0
    Yi Sun-shin
    4.55%
    1
    Sun Tzu
    27.27%
    6
    Zhuge Liang
    18.18%
    4
    Li Shimin
    0.00%
    0
    Genghis Khan
    27.27%
    6
    Mao Zedong
    4.55%
    1
    "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

    Winston Churchill

  • #2
    Zhuge Liang
    Shu Kingdom/China
    San Guo Era, 180 - 234 AD
    This name has become a synonym of wisdom in Chinese since probably the time when he was still alive. He, together with the rest of Chinese I listed below, were not merely tactical genius, but rather strategic visionaries. At the age of 27, he was a farmer in a village called Long Zhong in central China. After being visited 3 times by Liu Bei, the later emperor of Shu nation, Mr.Zhuge granted to talk with him. Within the next few hours, he analyzed the strategic situation of then splitted China, categorized existing and emerging powers on this land, defined the role of power of Liu, plotted a full picture of future China and made a corresponding strategic plan for Liu's power. After Liu's repeated invitation, he served as the prime minister for Liu, a then very weak faction. The numerous victories under his leadership, military or political, finally helped this weak faction to become one of the major power for the next 50 years. The overall development of political/military struggle of entire San Guo Era almost completely fit his prediction --- even after he died at the age of 54, the story still continued on "his path" for more than 40 years. "Long Zhong Dui", the famous conversation he made with Liu at the very beginning marked a highest achievement in strategic thinking. He also had several important books, including "24 Chapters on Art of War", a military masterpiece though less famous than Sun Tsu's work.

    Li Shimin
    Tang/China
    Tang Dynasty, 598 - 649 AD
    Also known as Tang Taizong (his title as the second Emperor of Tang Dynasty), he was the son of Li Yuan --- a governor of Sui Dynasty. At the age of 18, after carefully observing and analyzing the situation of deeply troubled Sui, he managed to persuade his father to join the rebels to overthrown the corrupted dying regime. In the next 6 years, he was to defeat all the rivals across the vast land of China, including many opponents which were multi-folds stronger than his Tang faction. The last decisive victory during his civil war to reunify China was a true legend. The Tang army led by him was laying siege on the stronghold of Wang Shichong, who still had almost twice the number of troops. At the same time, Wang successfully invited the then strongest warlord Dou Jiande to attack the rear of Tang army. The massive army of Dou was almost 3 times of the Tang troops. Many of Li's subordinates paniced when they learned that they were surrounded by such powerful enemies. Li was happy and told them that it was just a great chance to destroy two powerful foes at one single time. Everybody was scared and skeptical. Yet after a series of masterful maneuver, a precise combination of defense and offense and a great timing, Li achieved a miracle by totally destroying the grand army of Dou and thus forced Wang to submit his sword unconditionally. At the age of 28, succeeding his father, Li became the second Emperor of Tang Dynasty. From then on, he led China into her greatest glory ever. The numerous military conquests over many minor nations around Tang, including the powerful Turkish tribes and some ancient civilizations deep into today's mideast, were only a very small part of his achievements. The structure and value setup by him guided Tang Dynasty to shine for the next 200 years, Tang was leading the world by many years in almost every aspects. China had never reached such height in civilization again.
    It is, however, very interesting to notice that in Li's last years, he personally led a strong force of about 200,000 troops to invade Korea and yet was checked at a town called An Shi. He failed to crush the defense of the Korean general and called off the entire offense. He highly praised the Korean general who checked him with minimum force --- he even awarded this general with gold and silk for his great performance. Unfortunately, throughout all the references I read, Chinese or English, on Chinese or Korean history, I could not find the name of this great Korean warrior. Otherwise he probably should also be listed here, as this was the only time Li Shimin was stopped by his enemy.

    Genghis Khan
    Mongol,Yuan/China
    Yuan Dynasty, 1154 - 1228 AD
    He is so famous that my introduction here will probably be unnecessary. If counted by land conquered, casualties inflicted and odds defeated, no one in human history can even match this genius grew up on the vast grassland of Mongolia. The Mongol cavalry probably marked the peak of combination of military technology, doctrine and tactics before sophisticated firearms made their appearance. It is well-known how many enemies were destroyed by the Great Khan, how much land were captured by the racing Mongol horses and how many men and women suffered during the terrible period of Mongol expansion. However it might not be as well-known that Genghis Khan did all that with merely 100,000 Mongol cavalries at most. To add more flavor to the tale, the Great Khan was illiterate. But his great wisdom and talent in organizing and provoking people allowed his successors to continue his legend into a full Yuan Dynasty in Chinese history, rather than a mere overlord as many tactical genius did before him.


    Mao Zedong
    China
    1893 - 1976 AD
    The most colorful and controversial figure in modern China. Born in a farmer's family in Shao San village of Hunan province, the little Mao spent his childhood to accept the traditional Chinese education in the most miserable time of China. When he decided to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921, the Young Mao had decided China could only be "saved by armed struggle". And this armed struggled must base on countryside and gradually surround and capture major cities and industrial centers. This was not the Soviet model (which claims the worker's class must be the leaders and cities must be the centers of revolution) and thus was rejected by the Party at first. But soon reality proved Mao was correct and thus he was re-established as a leader. From 1927 to 1934, the tide inside CCP turned a few times as Mao were flipped in and out of the leadership circle, with only one thing being constant: when CCP followed Mao's suggestions, it won; when it did not, it lost. And time came to the critical point of 1935 during the famous Long March, when the communist red army was cornored by large KMT forces at a town called Zun Yi in Guizhou province, the CCP had no options but to welcome Mao back into the highest command. The Long March continued, but from then on, the red army not only jumped out of the encirclement of the KMT forces, but also started to score victories again. By the end of this trip, Mao established his absolute control over everyone in the red army by one simple fact: survival. In 1937, Japanese Imperial Army fully invaded China. Mao wrote his most famous military paper, "On Lasting Warfares", during this time. In this masterpiece, he completed his theory of people's war, which guided the operations of the Chinese communist forces since then. After WWII, China was once again into a full scale civil war. From 1946 to 1949, the communist forces, now known as People's Liberation Army (PLA), fought against KMT armies all across mainland China, grew from an initial strength of 800,000 normal troops plus 1.2 million militia to about 6 million formal soldiers at the end of the war, destroyed more than 6 million KMT troops and completed wiped them out from mainland. Mao directly involved in most of the strategic campaigns, esp. the 3 most decisive ones in 1947-1948, during which over 2 million KMT elite forces were disarmed. It is particularly remarkable that in all 3 campaigns, the PLA was under numerical inferiority. And of course, the PLA has always been worse-equipped, probably even till today. After the birth of People's Republic of China (PRC), Mao was yet to encounter another most serious challenge ---- to face the UN army in the Korean War 50-53. However, this time he was far less involved as a field commander, but rather a political leader in the rear.
    His political and economic failure of leading PRC into her greatest disasters in the next 30 years damaged China so deeply that it will take generations for the Chinese to recover. Yet this has little to do with his military records.
    "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

    Winston Churchill

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    • #3
      My thanks to ER_Chaser for putting this together! :thumb:
      "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

      Winston Churchill

      Comment


      • #4
        A reminder - I've allowed multiple votes, but please don't vote for more than 3 in any given poll.

        Thanks!
        "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

        Winston Churchill

        Comment


        • #5
          Most excellent, dude! Great format, too. I'll have to match the WWI Generals to this.
          Stay Alert, Stay Alive!

          Comment


          • #6
            Looks like we are having a run on Genghis Khan!
            Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

            I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

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            • #7
              I have to admit that my knowledge of the majority these leaders is little to nonexistant. With that being said I voted for Ghengis Khan. As you have stated he conquered a greater area than anyone else and did it with a relatively limited number of soldiers.
              While you meantion how ruthless he could be, his ruthlessness was usually for a military purpose (to scare future opponents), rather than just a desire to wantanly kill a people (ala Hitler).
              If an opponent submitted to the Khan they were not harmed and their culture/religion was respected. In fact one of Ghengis Khan's greatest abilities was to integrate and learn from the skilled artisans he had conquered and more importantly use their talents in his war machine.

              Also, thanks for the GREAT tutorial on the subject!!!
              Lance W.

              Peace through superior firepower.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Jim H. Moreno
                Most excellent, dude! Great format, too. I'll have to match the WWI Generals to this.
                You have 3 weeks.
                "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

                Winston Churchill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lance Williams
                  I have to admit that my knowledge of the majority these leaders is little to nonexistant. With that being said I voted for Ghengis Khan. As you have stated he conquered a greater area than anyone else and did it with a relatively limited number of soldiers.
                  While you meantion how ruthless he could be, his ruthlessness was usually for a military purpose (to scare future opponents), rather than just a desire to wantanly kill a people (ala Hitler).
                  If an opponent submitted to the Khan they were not harmed and their culture/religion was respected. In fact one of Ghengis Khan's greatest abilities was to integrate and learn from the skilled artisans he had conquered and more importantly use their talents in his war machine.

                  Also, thanks for the GREAT tutorial on the subject!!!
                  I've found that this is a region few westerners know much about. But there was a certain series of wagames by Koei back in the 8 and 16 bit days including Romance of the Three Kingdoms (China), Nobunaga's Ambition (Japan), and Genghis Khan (self-explanatory). These games featured very strongly the 'leader' system, whereby strong leaders and personalitites would have huge impact on the game. Prominent individuals stood out. Aside from being very entertaining wargames, I can't recall when I've ever learned so much while having so much fun!

                  Koei is still going strong, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms was recently announced, you can read about it here!
                  "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

                  Winston Churchill

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have played Kingdoms and Ambition, two very good games as I remember. The PC had one called Temujin, but had nothing to do with military history. Know if that Gengis Khan game is still around?

                    And I'll have that list ready for you before my three weeks are up, Shane! Tally-ho!
                    Stay Alert, Stay Alive!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Far East generals

                      I may be mistaken, but I thought I had read that Sun Tzu was actually a theorist/ strategist, not a battlefield commander.
                      Mens Est Clavis Victoriae
                      (The Mind Is The Key To Victory)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Far East generals

                        Originally posted by hogdriver
                        I may be mistaken, but I thought I had read that Sun Tzu was actually a theorist/ strategist, not a battlefield commander.
                        As related above by ER, Sun Tzu actually commanded forces in the field. His thoughts on war, as told in "Art of War", is his true legacy.
                        Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks, Shane. I am glad that my "little research" is catching you gentlemen's attention here :bowdown:

                          I hope this simple list would be more helpful than misleading.

                          But read my descriptions with this in mind please: I have very limited knowledge on Japan, Korea; nearly no knowledge on other Asian countries. In order to provide a comprehensive list of "far east", I read several books (around 6) very briefly and picked out what *I* felt like good. Given this very limited scope, the list on the top won't be really robust. It is probably more entertaining than educational.

                          For those with better knowledge of Asian nations (I am sure we have plenty here ), please feel free (.. no, ... obliged ) to provide your thoughts and correct me for us. We thank you. Esp. in the case of India, my search had been a complete failure. So any input in this area will be particularly appreciated.
                          Attn to ALL my opponents:

                          If you sent me your turn and after 24 hours, you still did not get anything from me, please be sure to post in the forum to ask for what is going on.

                          Remember, I ALWAYS reply within 24 hours, even if I do NOT have time to play my turn, in which case I will at least send you email to tell you that I will have to play it later, but I DO receive your turn.

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                          • #14
                            it is apparently very significant here ---- KOEI really did a great job in spreading the legends of Asia

                            And a good proof that gaming is good ---- it is a learning process just like going to schools, right, Shane?
                            Attn to ALL my opponents:

                            If you sent me your turn and after 24 hours, you still did not get anything from me, please be sure to post in the forum to ask for what is going on.

                            Remember, I ALWAYS reply within 24 hours, even if I do NOT have time to play my turn, in which case I will at least send you email to tell you that I will have to play it later, but I DO receive your turn.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              You know it. That's the only reason I actually knew some of the more obscure names you selected. Anyone interested in the wars of the era is strongly recommended to have a peek at some of the Koei titles!
                              "When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

                              Winston Churchill

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