Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book XLII The Ssuma Family Seizes Power in Wei

While Deng Ai heroically conquered Shu for Wei, the Ssuma family was busy seizing power in Wei. Ts’ao Shaung, who was related to the royal family, gradually reduced the power of the Emperor and the Ssuma family. Eventually, Ssuma I was removed from command and went into retirement. Nevertheless, Ts’ao Shaung’s advisors did not trust the cunning Ssuma I, so he advised Ts’ao Shaung to test him.

When they visited Ssuma I, the latter pretended to listen to the wrong words, vomit and go to the bathroom too often, although Ssuma I was actually in good health. Because of this foolish report, Ts’ao Shaung let down his guard against Ssuma I, who was known as the Imperial Teacher, and thought him sick and near dying.

One day, as Ts’ao Shaung went out hunting with his brothers and closest advisors, Ssuma I seized power with the help of the royal family, who had been oppressed by Ts’ao Shaung in the past. Although Loyang was firmly in Ssuma hands, Ts’ao Shaung’s advisors told him to raise an army elsewhere and seize power from Ssuma I later.

The one problem, however, was that Ts’ao Shaung’s family remained in the capital, so foolish Ts’ao Shaung surrendered to Ssuma I in false hope that he would be spared. Now, Ssuma I was back as Prime Minister, and it was Ts’ao Shaung who was forced into retirement. For many years, Ssuma I allowed Ts’ao Shaung to live but after killing all his close associates and advisors, he executed Ts’ao Shaung himself.

Ssuma I was 71 when he died. He told his sons, “He who controls the heart of a few men can be a bandit leader. He who controls the Emperor can be a successful noble, but he who control the hearts of citizens will rule the land.”

After his death, his eldest son Ssuma Shi became Prime Minister, and his younger son Ssuma Chao became Prince of Chin and Minister of War. The Ts’ao royal family were now mere puppets of the Ssuma. In one instance, the Emperor Ts’ao sought to overthrow Ssuma Shi. Ssuma Shi whispered to one of his generals, “Kill him and you will be rewarded.”

The general charged forward and murdered the Emperor Ts’ao, but during the funeral, Ssuma Shi framed him and had the general slain to demonstrate his loyalty. Such was the cunning of Ssuma Shi. Not long after this incident, however, Ssuma Shi’s mole broke and he perished. Now, absolute power fell to the hands of his younger brother Ssuma Chao.

During the tenure of Ssuma Chao or the Prince of Chin, the Wei army conquered Shu, and Chong Hui’s rebellion hath been put down as described in the previous episode. However, Ssuma Chao was a cautious man, and he chose not to usurp the Wei throne. That would be left to the time of his son, as we shall see in the final episode.

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