Battle of Xiyuan

Feb 2019
472
Thrace
I came across two accounts regarding the events prior to this battle concerning general Guo Ziyi.

From wiki:

When news of the Tibetan attack reached Emperor Daizong, he dispatched Guo Ziyi to defend the Tang with only few thousand men. When Guo was within a day's march from the enemy, he decided to go alone to see the Uyghur chieftains. His officers and son Guo Xi (郭晞) were so dismayed and panicked by his intention that they would not let go of his horse's reins, declaring such an act would be suicide. Guo laughed and convinced his officers to let him go, but his son would not. Angered, Guo whipped his son's hand so that he released the reins, reprimanding him and telling him that this was a life and death situation for the empire; their force was small and if they fought the Tibetans alone, both father and son, and their troops, would die. If he succeeded in his plan the empire would be defended, but if it failed only his own life would be lost.

When Guo arrived at the Uyghur's camp, he did not reveal his identity and appeared to be a messenger who had been sent to tell them that Guo Ziyi was coming to see them. The Uyghur chieftains, many of whom had joined the rebel side in the An Lushan Rebellion, were surprised and panicked to hear that Guo was alive, deciding that they had to meet with him. Guo laughed at them and asked them why they would want to face Guo Ziyi again after their defeat at his hands during the An Shi Rebellion. The Uyghur chieftains replied they had been told that he was dead, but if they met with him and saw he was alive, they would retreat. Guo, however, insisted that Guo Ziyi did not seek their retreat but instead wanted them to join him against the Tibetans. The Uyghur chieftains, saying they had been deceived by the Tibetans about Guo's death, agreed to break the alliance with them. They even claimed that shamans had foretold that a great man would lead them to victory and that they now believed this man must be Guo, and agreed to join forces with the Tang.


From an article:

Guo’s most important non-battle took place two years later. A treacherous Marshal, Pugu Huai’en, seized a troublemaking opportunity, coaxing the Uyghurs and Tibetans to again invade Chang’an. Three hundred thousand enemy soldiers were about to descend. Ziyi, with only 10,000 troops, was sent to stop them.

At nearly 70 years of age, Ziyi decided the best solution was simply to go to the Uyghur commander and discuss the matter. His own officials thought it too risky — but Ziyi went ahead. Guo’s son pleaded that “you will be feeding yourself to the tigers.” Ziyi responded: “Our country is in a life and death situation. If I can convince the Uyghurs to side with us, the country can be safe. What else is there to consider?” He whipped his son’s hand free from his horse, slapped the reins, and galloped forth.

The Uyghur commander, wary, ordered his soldiers to continue preparing for battle. Ziyi, seeing this, tossed aside his armor and weapons as he rode closer. Ziyi already knew these troops: They had served under him during actions when he put down other rebels. Ziyi, gracious and generous to the Uyghurs, had become a father figure to them. Recognizing him, the Uyghurs knelt.


Neither wikipedia nor the article provide a source for their accounts and most likely there isn't any English translation of primary sources anyway. This seems like a masterclass of post-battle stratagem so I'd like to know what the real account says in detail.
 

heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,507
China
no detail to my knowledge.
weak nation does not have history records, chaotic nation does not have history records.
 
Sep 2012
1,116
Taiwan
Neither wikipedia nor the article provide a source for their accounts and most likely there isn't any English translation of primary sources anyway.
The sources are the Jiu Tangshu, Xin Tangshu and Zizhi Tongjian. None have been translated in full, but it's not my area, so I don't know if any of his biographies have been subject to a partial translation. There are other users here better versed than I in Classical Chinese, if you really do need the exact sections translated, but I'd go out on a limb and guess the above descriptions are probably accurate enough. And I wouldn't place too much faith in Chinese accounts of these kind of things ('masterclass' etc); these things are often very biased and exaggerated.
 
Feb 2019
472
Thrace
The sources are the Jiu Tangshu, Xin Tangshu and Zizhi Tongjian. None have been translated in full, but it's not my area, so I don't know if any of his biographies have been subject to a partial translation. There are other users here better versed than I in Classical Chinese, if you really do need the exact sections translated, but I'd go out on a limb and guess the above descriptions are probably accurate enough. And I wouldn't place too much faith in Chinese accounts of these kind of things ('masterclass' etc); these things are often very biased and exaggerated.
But the account of him meeting with the Uyghurs is a bit different. So I wondered which one is based on the primary source.
 
Sep 2012
1,116
Taiwan
As I say, it's not my area. Parts of the second explanation look like they're lifted from the ZZTJ, but I don't work with any of these texts very often, and I don't know how liberal the above descriptions are. Vaderfan would be the guy to ask about these things, he's a lot better at mining these sources.
 

heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,507
China
frankly, except from some unnecessary decorations by the translation, i don't see an actual difference on the meeting by the two sayings.

apparently, guo had earned special respect. on another hand, huihe (Uyghur ) did see chances to backstab tubo (Tibetan ) either on their own idea or inspired by guo.
unlike their previous robbing in changan, whether it is still a good place for huihe to gain profit is in question, tubo is their better candidate to pay the money of war than tang.

surely, major part of the battle capture should be counted for the huihe army, who is more powerful in all sense and who should be more initiative.
as such, also due to the chaotic times of tang, it is difficult for tang to have detailed records.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2016
570
天下
The second excerpt is most certainly based on the account in Zizhi Tongjian, scroll 233. I'm not sure what the Wikipedia article is based on, as neither Old nor New Book of Tang claim that Guo Ziyi impersonated a messenger.
 
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heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,507
China
apparently, the old tang book says, before people know it is THE GUO in the front line, guo appeared in battle field for several times in person, and yes, he did not shout out "i am guo zi yi", according to old tang book

some would translate that as he went to Uyghur's camp.

that is the unnecessary decorations.

either way, it also certainly would not be the simple case that he decided "go to the Uyghur commander and discuss the matter" as presented in another translation, which part is also unnecessary decorations.

last, unfortunately, zizhitongjian itself has unnecessary decorations in 223, such as vows and two shamans.

a true error, not decoration, is that the huihe/uyghur did not side with anlushan. in fact they were hired to fight with an rebels.

nevertheless, this kind of thing is filled with stories.
those does not actually tell how a general under guo defect hundreds of thousands of tubo, and headed tens of thousands of them.
anyway, those things are not important.
historical books are not for accurate reproduction of history. as they are aimed for future, decorations are allowed.
 
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