ok.. I just watched this insanely-long television series called “King’s War” or “Legend of Chu and Han”.
I’m sure it’s **EXTREMELY** fictionalized, 😀 but it explains the fall of the Qin dynasty and the founding of the Han dynasty.
The budget for this thing had to be a gazillion dollars because there are 80 episodes that are 45 minutes each, which makes sense for a television show because that’s an hour minus commercials.
Basically, the point they were making is that people can’t get along. 😀
Know When To Say “When”
It starts out with one section of China attacking and conquering the other 6 or so sections and unifying the country under the Qin (Ch’in) dynasty.
So then these dudes from one of the losing sections of the country, Chu, are scrambling around and running for their lives and planning to restore the honor of their ancestors who had fought valiantly yet ultimately lost the war.
Seems rather simple. Team up, get these Qin people TF outtaheuh, and then enjoy life without being ruled by some other state.
These dudes go through all the trouble to vanquish the Qin and then instead of enjoying themselves, they immediately go to war against each other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Then, when there’s only one team left, which has now unified the country as the Han dynasty, the leader dude starts killing his friends who fought side-by-side with him AND fought INSTEAD OF HIM throughout the entire 80 hours. :/
Strength Versus Luck
As drawn out as this endless film was, they had some interesting elements.
They made it clear that the overall winner that got to kill all of his friends at the end had won because he was street smart, lucky, blessed supernaturally, and surrounded by people who believed in what he was doing (restoring the honor of Chu) and who were talented at creating strategies and excellent, brave fighters.
His opponent, however, was basically a dumb superhero.
Extremely Strong. Extremely Vicious. One-Man Wrecking Crew.
Honorable guy who stuck to his word **IF** he gave it.
The guy who won was extremely wily and dishonorable, meaning that he would say things to get the advantage he wanted, and then when the time came to make a decision, he just did whatever he wanted to do anyway.
It was interesting to see how they treated the two different styles of leadership.
The winner had the people on his side. Not because of his own decision-making but because his advisors told him how to deal with people respectfully.
The loser had NOBODY on his side because all he wanted to do was win the war.. Which was good while there was still a war to fight, against the Qin, but as soon as they were done off, he was running around killing their own people, which wasn’t gaining him any fans.
It was also interesting to see how they dealt with the barren landscape those people inhabited.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard (meaning READ in the subtitles) the word PROVISIONS so many times in my entire life. 😀
Basically, everybody in the film was starving for the entire 80 hours. o_O
The only people eating actual food were the emperors, kings, etc.
Most of the time, when someone got to eat meat, it was a delicacy.
In fact, now that I think about it, other than when they had to go find this dude who was a shepherd so they could make him a symbolic king and he had a bunch of sheep with him, I don’t even recall seeing deer or anything else in the film.
At one point, they made reference to the warriors running out of PROVISIONS so they were hunting mice on the mountainside.
While the winner was still a local nobody hiding out in the mountains, he had taken his dog with him, which of course turned out to be a major error.
Mostly, you saw people eating some kind of flat bread, fruit & vegetables, and soup.
To drink, they had wine or water.
A lot of the troop movement didn’t have anything to do with military strategy or positioning but rather that they were running out of food and had to go where there was more, whether that meant stealing it from other people or going to some area where they could build up provisions, which they never actually explained. I guess they had money from pillaging locations they took over and they were trading that to the locals for food for the troops.
Instead of storming a city (all of which had extremely high walls around them for miles and miles), you waited OUTSIDE the city so they couldn’t get their provisions and then got desperate when the food was running out.
If you knew where the enemy was, you staked out their paved roads, which was where the wagons were going to have to bring their provisions so you could Robin Hood them out from under their noses.
In fact, a lot of the forces only joined armies BECAUSE they were starving and didn’t have any other way to get food.
It wasn’t like people were all gung-ho (gōng hé) to fight for glory or their state or their families or anything else. Money and Food.
Tag. You’re It.
Another strange element was that armies built up their rosters by conscription.
Not USA conscription like when they used to do a draft and dudes had to go to the army whether they felt like it or not.
Basically, if your team lost to a different team and you weren’t killed but instead you surrendered, they were like ok, you’re on our team now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So you could get in a fight, lose 10,000 fighters, and still have the same number for next time if you captured 10,000 of the other team’s surrendering fighters. o_O
However, this is all dependent on…. Wait for it….. PROVISIONS!!! 😀
The more fighters you have, the more quickly they run through food.
There was one point where the overall loser had defeated a Qin army and somehow took 200,000 prisoners.
That isn’t a typo. Two Hundred Thousand prisoners.
That was all well & good, except dragging those people all over creation, which they called “the world”.. I always enjoy how in these period pieces, they refer to everyplace they’ve personally been to as “the world” 😀 .. They’ll say stuff like “win the world”, meaning win China.
Anyway, these prisoners were moving slowly AND they weren’t being fed the same amounts as the actual troops so they started trying to steal food and revolting and whatnot and the loser dude ended up having them all… meaning 200,000 people… pushed into a ditch with kerosene in it and shot with fire arrows until they all burned up.
Of course THAT didn’t win him any fans, especially with his girlfriend, whose family was Qin, but that was an entirely different storyline.
So yeah, when he wasn’t killing myriad prisoners, dude was adding them to his own army.
Other than that, they would advertise money and food for able-bodied young males to join up.
Totally mercenary. No do this for your country/state/whatever. Just are you starving? Join up!
What’s Your Goal?
The main thing it showed by the end is that these dudes wasted a lot of time.
I suppose attempting to be the king of the world isn’t a waste of time, either in the doing, or especially if you actually win.
However, neither one of them achieved the peace they had in the beginning of the movie.
They were oppressed by the Qin and all that, but they were doing regular things with their lives.
If they would have stopped when they defeated the Qin, it could have been a happy ending movie for all.
Instead, they decided to fight each other all the way to the last man standing.
The loser dude killed at least a gazillion people in the movie singlehandedly. I mean he was surrounded by his teammates, but he was offing like 5 dudes every 3 seconds, like every time he swung a weapon, somebody died.
By the end, I saw him run a spear through three people at the same time like a shish kebab. o_O
That’s all well & good and looked like lots of fun, but he had met a girl he really liked and he started dating her, but he spent about .01 second with her out of the entire 80 hours.
They couldn’t actually GO ANYWHERE because he was always in his army’s camp leading his troops.
Most of the time, he was either killing people or riding somewhere so he could GET TO KILL PEOPLE.
If he would have just stopped after they defeated the Qin (which of course wouldn’t be historically accurate), he could have enjoyed the rest of his days with his girl.
Instead, he was determined to never stop fighting until he won, so instead of continuing to live with her boyfriend dead, his girlfriend killed herself before he did.
After that, he put on quite a remarkable show and killed maybe another 50 dudes before electing to take his own life in an honorable battlefield death.
Having said all that, he DID spare his loyal men who had been with him to the end and got them on a boat back to their hometown and told them to lay low and stay with their families unless conditions under the new Han dynasty became too oppressive, in which case their orders were to take up arms again and defend their village.
He had to beat some of them up to get them to get on the boat instead of dying with him, which was another interesting element.
Ways To Die
There were a lot of death threats in this film.
I mean you could get killed for any reason in this movie.
This dude left the camp to see his father who was sick and didn’t get back in time for roll call, which was punishable by death. o_O
I think they let that particular guy slide. I don’t remember. Either way, it was made clear that if anybody ELSE missed roll call, they were dead men.
Deserters were hunted down and killed.
You could get killed for saying something wrong about some higher-up’s girlfriend.
You could get killed because you told the eunuch that a horse was a horse instead of a stag.. Meaning the eunuch says it’s a stag and everyone agrees with him other than two dudes, so the eunuch ordered that the two dudes who told the truth get put in the cage with the “stag” until they agreed…. Actually, I’m not sure whether those dudes lived through that or not.
You could get killed for WINNING A WAR FOR YOUR EMPEROR. Basically, you didn’t want people to revere you or give you credit for anything, but at the same time, you didn’t want to lose a war, due to embarrassment, death on the battlefield, death by kerosene burning as a prisoner, death of starvation because they didn’t give the prisoners enough rations… So if you win the war like you’re supposed to, you got killed for being too popular.
You could get killed for being an emissary. This is probably where “don’t kill the messenger” came from.
In fact, dudes wanted to kill the messengers ***BEFORE*** hearing what the messengers had to say. (Which they were talked out of)
You could get killed for BEING an emissary when an emissary from another team was there, so your death was the fault of the person you went to see, meaning you needed to make a deal with the living emissary.
You could get killed for being the best friend of the guy who won the entire movie! (Most insane part)
You could get killed for bringing a higher-up bad news, even if that news is true.
You could get killed for not addressing a higher-up properly.
You could get killed for not kneeling in front of a higher-up.
You could get killed because somebody paid like 30 dudes to start the same rumor about you and your leader fell for it.
You could get killed because you’re a chump and tried to make a deal with the other team behind your team’s back.
I mean I don’t even think I hit half the reasons dudes got killed during those 80 hours.
oh wait.. You could get killed if you retreat in battle before you’re ordered to.
So they’re making up these teams of mercenaries, right?.. None of them know each other. They aren’t loyal to ANYTHING. They’re just here for the bread & money. They’re trying not to die before they reach the battlefield because they missed a headcount. They never get to go home. They never have any fun. They walk all over the world if they aren’t in the cavalry (on a horse). They usually aren’t fed enough… And somehow these people amassed armies with 100,000 – 600,000 members.
I would imagine this decimated the male population of their entire country.
Respect was an interesting element.
The dude who ended up winning and establishing the Han dynasty rarely showed respect to ANYBODY and expected respect from EVERYBODY.
I deliberately didn’t look up the actual history about this stuff until I finished the series, but it was pretty clear they were telegraphing who was going to win because he kept winning by being slick, being lucky, and being helped by supernatural forces, which they refer to as “Heaven’s Will”.
You could tell the dude didn’t actually HAVE respect for most people. There were rare times when he showed honest respect, admiration, care, love. Other than that, he was going with the flow.
Someone expected to be bowed to so he bowed to that person if it was advantageous for him.
So there are levels, like there’s no respect at all, then there’s bowing, then there’s bowing with your hands together, then there’s kneeling on one knee, kneeling on both knees, kneeling with your hands together, kneeling with your forehead on the floor, and crawling, which I believe was the worst.
Like basically, people would rather be killed than crawl. o_O
Apparently, this is still a thing. 2013 (four years ago) => kotaku.com/chinese-employees-made-to-crawl-in-public-493335048
Interestingly, there was an instance in the movie where a guy had a sword on him and he still crawled when some local bully told him to.
The local people felt like it was shameful.
That guy ended up working for first the losing Chu team, then the winning Han team (before he was killed by the empress of his own team, of course), and being a great military thinker who was highly responsible for the Han team winning.
I figure they were making a statement with that.
Before that happened, the guy would sit by the river and try to fish for food without bait.
By all appearances, he was a loser, other than the fact that he was walking around with a family heirloom sword which he obviously knew how to use, but I never saw him take a single swing at anyone in the film, including a punch.
What he said was that he wanted to lead troops.
He wasn’t afraid of going to war. He was afraid that there wouldn’t BE any war.
Respect was utilized in tricky fashions by people who didn’t believe in the system, such as how people use “Political Correctness” today. They don’t actually change their minds about anything, they just don’t TELL YOU what they’re actually thinking now that it isn’t in vogue.
Basically, people felt respected until they didn’t.
And if you got to the “didn’t” part, that was often followed by a beheading or imprisonment.
The overall loser lost a lot of support for his style of dealing with vanquished opponents.
Towards the beginning of leading his troops, the Qin were ordered to surrender as soon as they heard his battle drums, and anyone who didn’t would be slaughtered.
This came in handy when he was supposed to be in military jail where his uncle the general had placed him, but instead he came to the battle anyway and as soon as the Qin saw his banners and heard his drums, they surrendered without any fighting at all. After that, the dude went back to jail where he was supposed to have been.
It worked against him when he burned 5,000 captured Qin troops and DEFINITELY worked against him later in the film when he burned 200,000 prisoners.
They also had this thing called Sworn Brothers, which was another one of those odd things like they were brothers until they weren’t.
As soon as there was more advantage to NOT being brothers, somebody got betrayed.
The loser dude respected his girlfriend very much, but he didn’t spend much time with her relative to the time he spent killing people.
The winner disrespected every single girlfriend/wife he had.
That was another thing. The winner was extremely lax about where he left family members.
Something would happen and he had to flee a town and his girlfriend would get captured or his wife would get captured or his father would get captured and it was like la-di-da he was going about his business like he didn’t notice.
It was an interesting contrast how they made the loser ruthless and caring and they made the winner lucky and detached.
Neither one of them spent very much time being happy.
The winner, every time he lost a chick, meaning not that she was dead, just in the enemy’s hands or he just didn’t know WHERE TF she was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ he would meet some other chick and then act like he forgot about the ones before her.
At one point, he took over this Qin emperor’s palace and then bagged two of dude’s concubines and laid up with them for something like 3 days while his soldiers went buck wild looting the town and stealing jewelry and women.
hahaha That subtitle threw me off, actually. 😀 It said something like “stole his woman” and I thought they meant “stole FROM his woman” until they showed the streets and these dudes were literally stealing women out of houses.
So I found it odd the way they dealt with respect in the film.
Mostly, it was respect out of fear of beheading, not respect out of love for the person being bowed to.
I think the most loyally respectful people in the film were the Chu generals who reported directly to the eventual loser. The Han generals were respectful also, but their leader gave them lots of chances to see that he was dealing off the bottom of the deck, and by the end of the film, some of them disappeared (which the winner referred to as “he escaped! :/”) and the others went respectfully to what they already knew when the messenger summoned them was going to be their deaths.
Conquest & Resources
There wasn’t any money anywhere. There was jewelry. They had amounts of silver and gold. No way to easily transport large amounts of wealth, though.
Most things seemed to work on the bartering system. People did jobs for other people in exchange for things. Men had the option of joining the army and sending money to their families from there.
Also, if they were in the army, they got to loot dead bodies and cities they took over.
This made it tough for people to move around because you literally had to bring a pirate’s chest with you containing your riches. 😀
Which means you had to have bodyguards or the bandits would relieve you of all that stuff.
oh, and probably relieve you of your life too.
And then of course even if you didn’t move you had to be concerned that some warlord would take over your town and you got looted anyway.
So interesting thinking about the desperation.
At this point, people have money or credit.
If they want food, they go to the supermarket and trade physical or virtual dollars for pre-packaged items.
You want hamburger? No problem. 🙂 Try that when you don’t even have any cows in the territory.
I think I saw one cow in the film. I don’t remember. I definitely didn’t see anybody drinking milk. Always wine and water.
People were literally going hungry left and right.
Toward the beginning, the eventual winner and his men were hiding on a mountain and starving to death while they were just drinking water, which is why one of the dudes ate the winner’s dog.
Guys were sent to the village to steal from the locals, except they weren’t allowed to harm the people or else….. wait for it….. YOU DIED! 😀
So of course, when they go to steal, this dude accidentally kills a local and they try to lie about it when they come back, but the winner dude had like this natural lie detector where he stared at people a certain way and he could tell whether they were telling the truth or the entire truth.
They fessed up that someone had been accidentally killed and the winner reminded his follower what the penalty was, and then gave the follower the choice of being banished from the group and trying to make it on his own or getting killed.
Dude decided to “set a good example” and he killed himself.
No money. No jobs. No animals roaming the forests. I think at one point, the winner’s men were eating leaves to survive.
Somehow, at one point, the loser got driven out of what appeared to be a desert into a snowy region where his men had to chip ice blocks off of a hill to heat up and make water so their men wouldn’t die of dehydration.
Nobody to work for. No time to work. Nobody sending you money. People were desperate to control resources and people, which is why I suppose there was so much conflict & war.
You Win And All Your Friends Lose
Overall, the series was entertaining, but you pretty much got the idea where the film was going after the first 30 episodes and the remaining 50 were just touching up the same picture you had already seen developing.
Excellent acting by most of the cast, especially the eventual loser, the superhero. Really good range of emotions from hatred to love to disbelief. Quality performance.
Although the winner did a good job also, I enjoyed the writing of his character’s lines more than the acting of them.
He went from being someone who was a low-level constable or something in his local town with his friends and enjoying his life to a freedom fighter against the Qin to someone consumed with becoming the king of the world, which I really didn’t understand.
Dude went from having no ambition whatsoever to wanting errythang.
Although he won in the end and established his dynasty, they showed his character as pretty empty and not trusting anybody, even having had some of his closest friends killed.
I don’t think there was really a winner in this story.
I guess you could say that eventually the people won because when the conflict was over, the war ceased (apparently), so at the end of the film, the only question was whether the Han dynasty was going to be as oppressive as or worse than the Qin dynasty.
Meet the new boss.
Same as the old boss.