Chapter 1035: Troublemakers at Court! (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"In the sixth month of the twenty-third year of the Sage Emperor's reign, the Beiting Protectorate employed soldiers against the Western Turks and lost seventy-nine thousand men. In the third month of the twenty-fourth year of the Sage Emperor's reign, the Andong Protectorate employed soldiers against the Xi and Khitans and lost thirty-five thousand men. In the seventh month of the same year, it lost sixty thousand men against the Goguryeo Empire. In the first month of the twenty-fifth year of the Sage Emperor's reign, the Qixi Protectorate employed soldiers against Ü-Tsang and lost twenty-four thousand men. In the same year, it was resupplied with forty thousand soldiers. In the ninth month, it was raided by Dusong Mangpoje and lost around fifty thousand men. In the twenty-sixth year of the Sage Emperor, the then-Annan Protector-General Zhangchou Jianqiong employed troops against Ü-Tsang's Ngari Royal Lineage and lost forty-nine thousand men. Sixty thousand commoners were conscripted as labor, and they suffered seven thousand casualties.
"This year, in the war of the southwest, the total casualties amount to one hundred and forty-three thousand people, and now, after not even a year has passed, another battle is beginning at Talas.
"In these few short decades, battles have never ceased! Your Majesty, now is the time to bring this to a stop!
"Talas is not the territory of the Great Tang, but a land outside the borders of our civilization, a barren land. Fighting on the borders is understandable, but should we also send our soldiers to perish on foreign soil as well? Moreover, the Western Regions is populated entirely by Hu. To maintain the Great Tang's rule over the Western Regions, countless soldiers, money, and grain are sent each year. This is nothing more than a bottomless hole. But in contrast, the Western Regions offers barely any benefit to the Great Tang. Is it the grapes? The pomegranates? Or is it the Hu merchants that throng the capital?
"Your Majesty, this lowly subject should not have spoken, but this battle at Talas truly must be put to a stop!"
With these last words, the white-bearded old official standing by a cinnabar pillar clasped his ceremonial tablet and bowed. Half the hall was serene, all the civil officials staring at this elder with great respect.
Grand Scribe Yan Wenzhang was responsible for recording historical events and writing state histories, and was also one of the individuals who took part in drafting the court's documents. All the nobles and officials, even the Imperial Princes, had their words recorded and entered into historical record by Yan Wenzhang. Amongst the numerous civil and military officials of the Great Tang, Yan Wenzhang occupied a most unique position.
This was because anyone who spoke inappropriately, whether civil or military, might have their words recorded by the Grand Scribe to be scorned at for generations. No one wanted this fate.
Similarly, if an official wanted to leave a good reputation in history, no matter how well they did, they could not record their own deeds. Only the Grand Scribe's brush could do this.
The Grand Scribe was the recorder of history, a spectator, not a participant, so he rarely offered his opinion in court debates of his own volition. But the Grand Scribe was still an official. For certain important matters, the Grand Scribe would also step forward and carry out his duty as an official of the court.
A Grand Scribe was only allowed to volunteer his opinion three times over his career. If he exceeded this count, he would have to immediately resign and hand his position over to his successor. This was to ensure that the Grand Scribe was fair and objective, so that the historical records could remain as unaffected by emotion as possible.
This was only the second time Yan Wenzhang had spoken up in court. The first time was when the late Emperor had died of illness.
Quarrels between civil and military officials were not unusual throughout history, but rarely were they this intense. It was clear that even the Grand Scribe had been alarmed into action.
The Grand Scribe was from the Confucian school, and everyone knew that the Confucian school emphasized ruling the country and pacifying the world through cultivating oneself. At its very root, it emphasized peace. Yan Wenzhang was naturally a firm supporter of the anti-war faction. With his approval, the words of the civil officials instantly held more weight. And as could be expected, when Grand Scribe Yan Wenzhang had begun to speak, the entire hall had fallen silent and all the military officials clearly became much more apprehensive.
'With a single brush, a civil official can kill and leave no trace.' If one offended the Grand Scribe, one was highly likely to end up recorded in the annals of history as an 'illustrious' general who misled the country. This was a consequence that everyone had to consider carefully.
At this moment, loud laughter broke the silence. From the center of the ranks, an old general of fifty-some years stepped forward.
"Minister Yan, this old man must press his luck. Record it if you want. This old man doesn't even fear death, so why should he fear your cinnabar brush and eternal infamy?
"For matters of previous governments, we military officials can't compare to you brush-holders, but for matters of this government, this old man still remembers them well. In the twenty-third year of the Sage Emperor's reign, the Western Turks had raided the border repeatedly, plundering and slaughtering innocents, even managing to reach as far as the Guannei and Hedong Circuits. The war of that period was precisely to stop them. Although we lost seventy-nine thousand soldiers in that war, the Western Turkic Khaganate lost one hundred and eleven thousand elite soldiers. More importantly, after this war, the Western Turkic Khaganate finally became too fearful to advance southward.
"The deaths of seventy-nine thousand men were exchanged for twenty-some years of peace for the Guannei and Hedong Circuits. Did the number of civilians saved amount to only a mere seventy-nine thousand? This old man remembers that battle clearly because this old man took part in it!" Beacon General Jiang Yunrang sternly said.
Although his official status was not high, Jiang Yunrang was a veteran in the army who had participated in numerous battles. At a time like this, when everyone else was fearful of Grand Scribe Yan Wenzhang, only military veterans like Jiang Yunrang were willing to take their chances.
"…What exactly is it that our soldiers sacrifice their lives and shed blood for on the battlefield? Is it so that all of you in the rear can censure them, denouncing them with both brush and tongue? Without that war in the twenty-third year of the Sage Emperor's reign, do you think that the losses would have been that small?
"In the twenty-fourth year of the Sage Emperor's reign, the Andong Protectorate employed soldiers against the Xi and Khitan and lost thirty-five thousand men. But do you know how many people the Great Tang would have lost without that war? The Xi and Khitans are pugnacious people who delight in plunder, and they lacked any reverence for the Great Tang. Before this war, the Xi and Khitan would often invade Youzhou, taking women and children and slaughtering civilians. Many of the people in Youzhou began to flee into the interior out of fear of the Xi and Khitans. In ten years, the population of Youzhou went from five hundred thousand to only eighty-thousand-some, and this number was continuing to drop.
"If not for this battle, the territory of Youzhou would already be Hu territory. Moreover, the Xi and the Khitan had thriving ambitions and were secretly colluding with Goguryeo. In the three raids of the interior before the twenty-fourth year, the losses in Youzhou could be counted in the hundreds of thousands. But the war in the third month with the Xi and the Khitans and the war in the seventh month with the Goguryeo Empire completely altered the balance of power in the northeast. The alliance between the Xi, the Khitans, and Goguryeo was broken, and their offensive posture was shattered, allowing the Great Tang to firmly take control over the northeast. In addition, it also allowed the people to thrive, and in the coming years, they flourished and multiplied. The population in Youzhou rose from eighty thousand to the current eight hundred and seventy thousand, even more than before the war!
"As for the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth year, which wars of which year did not have their own causes? And which war did not bring long peace?"
Jiang Yunrang's expression became extremely agitated as he finished.
"That's right! And with the war of the southwest, Mengshe Zhao King Geluofeng was incredibly ambitious, secretly colluding with Ü-Tsang Great General Huoshu Huicang and Dalun Ruozan into forming an alliance. If not for the bloody battle fought by the Young Marquis and the Annan Protectorate army, the hundreds of thousands of soldiers of the Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army would have advanced north past the Erhai. Do you know what would have happened then? The nearly one million civilians of the southwest would have already been massacred by this army. How could it possibly be as peaceful as it is now? Talas is currently in dire peril. The Young Marquis and Lord Gao Xianzhi have not retreated after their victory because they follow the policy of 'opposing the enemy on the outside'. They did not wish for the civilians of the Great Tang and the Western Regions to be threatened by Arabia, Ü-Tsang, and the Western Turks. 'I am willing to give my life for the good of the country, or is it that one should flee in the face of disaster and approach in times of blessing?' This was the couplet hanging in the Young Marquis's study. Just who in the capital does not know of this matter by now? Is this loyal subject and excellent general that bloodthirsty warrior who cares not for the lives of civilians like all of you make him out to be?
"Speed is paramount in war. There are still tens of thousands of Tang soldiers waiting in Talas for reinforcements. This lowly subject requests that reinforcements be immediately dispatched!"
Another general was inspired by Jiang Yunrang's words to speak, the Assistant Minister of War, Cao Qianzong.
Who cared if the Grand Scribe gave him an infamous reputation in the annals of history? If these words were not said today, there might be no chance to say them in the future.
"This subject agrees!"
"This subject agrees!"
"This subject agrees!"
The words of Jiang Yunrang and Cao Qianzong were a rallying cry to the generals in the hall, and they all began to voice their agreement. Civil officials did not grasp for wealth and generals did not fear death. The generals that could stand here were all devotedly loyal to the country. The battle at Talas appeared to be some local conflict, but in reality, the safety of the entire northwest and the Great Tang itself were in question. No one could truly remain a bystander.
As the military officials stepped forward, all the civil officials were stunned, including Grand Scribe Yan Wenzhang. As far back as Taizong's era, whenever a quarrel between the civil and military officials broke out, the military officials would usually yield.
No one had expected the generals to be so staunch in their positions this time. The Grand Scribe was present, and all of them knew that they might end up being noted as warmongers in the historical records and castigated by future generations, but none of them backed down.
"Your Majesty, this subject wishes to speak."
A rich and mellow voice echoed through the hall. At these words, all the civil and military officials, even Grand Scribe Yan Wenzhang, instantly fell silent. All of them turned to the speaker as if that man's body possessed some magical power.
Minister of War Zhangchou Jianqiong, the previous Annan Protector-General, was a supreme existence in the military. His words held an entirely different weight from those of the other military officials.
"In the twenty-sixth year of the Sage Emperor's reign, this lowly subject was Annan's Protector-General. It was this lowly subject's idea at the time to employ soldiers in the southwest against Ü-Tsang, so this lowly subject has a right to speak on this incident."
Dressed in a violet robe, Zhangchou Jianqiong stepped forward from the ranks. His head was lowered, his ceremonial tablet grasped tightly in his hand as he solemnly spoke.
"Before this battle, your lowly subject's scouts reported that Dalun Ruozan and Huoshu Huicang had gathered a large army on the plateau, preparing to strike against the Great Tang. Ever since the reign of the late Emperor, Ü-Tsang had been constantly raiding the border. In the sixteenth year of the late Emperor's reign, a war broke out in the southwest which resulted in the deaths of one hundred and thirty thousand civilians. In the twenty-first year of the Yuanwu Era, two hundred and ten thousand civilians were caught up in a war and suffered severe casualties. In the twenty-ninth year, the thirty-fifth year, all the way up to the few years before this lowly subject took command, the civilians were caught up in every war.
"It was precisely for this reason that when this lowly subject perceived that Dalun Ruozan and Huoshu Huicang were preparing to strike, this lowly subject decided to strike first, employing troops against Ü-Tsang and opposing enemies at the border so that the civilians would not be forced to abandon their homes in flight. Although the Annan Protectorate army suffered significant casualties in this war, the civilians were unharmed. More importantly, so many Tibetan soldiers were killed in this war that in the following ten-some years, Ü-Tsang's Ngari Royal Lineage did not have the ability to engage in any large-scale invasions of the southwest."