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Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义 – Top 100 Books in China

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The first work of Chinese chapter style historical novels

Overview

Chinese Name: 三国演义

English Name: Romance of the Three Kingdoms

AuthorLuo Guanzhong 罗贯中

Originally Published: AD ?~1398 (Late Yuan Dynasty early Ming Dynasty 元末明初)

Genre: Chapter style historical novels 章回体历史小说

Brief Introduction of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义 is the first work of Chinese chapter style historical novels created by Luo Guanzhong 罗贯中, a novelist in the late Yuan and early Ming Dynasties. According to Chen Shou 陈寿 Records of the Three Kingdoms 三国志 and Pei Songzhi 裴松之 notes and folk stories of The Three Kingdoms 三国 created through artistic processing. Together with Journey to the West 西游记, Water Margin 水浒传 and Dream of the Red Chamber 红楼梦, it is known as the Four Great Classical Novels 四大名著 of China.

The author describes the history of nearly a hundred years in classical Chinese with changeable style and macro frame. The novel can be roughly divided into the”Yellow Turban Insurrectionary Uprising 黄巾起义”, “Dong Zhuo’s Rebellion 董卓之乱”, “Qun Xiong Zhu Lu 群雄逐鹿”, “Three Kingdoms Tripartite Confrontation 三国鼎立”, “Jin Unified the Three Kingdoms 三国归晋”.

It describes the history of nearly a hundred years from the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉末年 to the beginning of the Western Jin Dynasty 西晋初年. It mainly describes wars and tells the political and military struggles among Wei 魏, Shu 蜀 and Wu 吴 in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Eventually Sima Yan 司马炎 unified The Three Kingdoms and established the Jin Dynasty 晋朝. It reflects the transformation of various social struggles and contradictions in The Three Kingdoms period, summarizes the historical changes of this era, and shapes a group of all-powerful heroes of The Three Kingdoms.

The first part describes the corruption of the imperial court at that time, the continuous wars in the border areas, the decline of the national power, and the desperate farmers, under the order of Zhang Jiao 张角, tied yellow turban on their heads and launched a fierce attack on the bureaucrats and landlords, which had a great impact on the rule of the imperial court of the Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉. Although it finally failed, the situation of warlord separatism and the survival in name of the Eastern Han Dynasty was also irreparable, which finally led to the formation of the situation of the Three Kingdoms.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义(三英战吕布)
Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei fought with Lu Bu in the Hu Lao Guan 刘备、关羽、张飞三人在虎牢关与吕布大战

The second part describes that Dong Zhuo 董卓 abolished the Han Dynasty 汉朝, became the prime minister, and took charge of the imperial politics. Finally, Dong Zhuo was killed by Wang Yun 王允 and Lv Bu 吕布. Although the time of Dong Zhuo’s rebellion was short, the political situation of the Eastern Han Dynasty had undergone great changes. It laid the foundation for the separatist regime, which opened the chaotic times of the Three Kingdoms.

The third part describes the continuous scuffle between various forces for separatist rule, and the people’s life is naturally miserable. Among these separatist forces, in addition to the famous forces such as Cao Cao 曹操, Yuan Shao 袁绍, Sun Jian 孙坚 and his father ,and Liu Bei 刘备, it also describes the rise of other forces.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义(刘备三顾茅庐)
Liu Bei went to Longzhong three times to ask Zhuge Liang to assist him 刘备三次到隆中请诸葛亮出山辅佐

The fourth part describes that Cao Cao was defeated by Sun 孙 Liu 刘 allied forces in Chi Bi 赤壁, which laid the prototype of the tripartite confrontation. In 220, Cao Pi 曹丕 usurped the Han Dynasty and became emperor. His country was named Wei 魏, which was called Cao Wei 曹魏 in history. The history of the Three Kingdoms officially began. Liu Bei and Sun Quan 孙权 became emperors one after another, and the three kingdoms were officially established.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义(诸葛亮草船借箭)
Zhuge Liang lured his enemies with a straw boat full of arrows while he remained calm in the cabin 诸葛亮以草船诱敌,船身扎满了箭,而他在船舱内镇定自若

The last part describes that Sima Zhao 司马昭 destroyed Shu 蜀, Sima Zhao died, and his son Sima Yan 司马炎 established the Jin Dynasty 晋朝, known as the Western Jin Dynasty 西晋. In AD 280, the Western Jin Dynasty destroyed the eastern Wu 吴. So far, the Three Kingdoms period ended and entered the Jin Dynasty.

The Romance of The Three Kingdoms vividly introduces the basic spirit of Chinese traditional culture by taking characters as the carrier. It reveals the law of historical development that “the trend of the world is that long periods of unity lead to division, and long periods of separation lead to unity.”

Author of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Luo Guanzhong (c. 1330 — 1400), born in Shanxi Province, was a famous novelist and opera writer in the late Yuan and early Ming Dynasties, and the originator of Zhanghui novels in China.

 

Luo Guanzhong 罗贯中
Luo Guanzhong 罗贯中

When he was 14 years old, his mother died of illness, so he dropped out of school with his father to Suzhou 苏州, Hangzhou 杭州 business. At the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the world was in chaos, and Luo Guanzhong had participated in it. Later, he met Shi Nai’an 施耐庵 in Suzhou and became his apprentice.

The two joined Zhang Shicheng’s 张士诚 rebellion against the Yuan regime and later left. Luo guanzhong once made enemies with another King of Wu, Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋. After the Ming Dynasty was founded, Luo Guanzhong gave up the opportunity to enter the political arena as a scholar and concentrated on writing.

Excerpts From Romance of the Three Kingdoms

天下大势,分久必合,合久必分。

The general trend of the development of the world is that if division continues for a long time, unification will emerge in due course. If unification lasts a long time, it will break up again in due course.

良禽择木而栖,贤臣择主而事。

Smart birds choose places where they can live,Talented people choose wise bosses to work for.

鞠躬尽瘁,死而后已。

Work hard and do your best until you die. Often used to describe a person’s greatness.

Evaluation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

To read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, we should not only look at war and diplomacy, but also look at organization.

Mao Zedong 毛泽东

The social influence of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms far exceeds its literary value. As far as literature is concerned, its characterization is the best, and Chinese novelists of later generations have learned from it.

Jin Yong 金庸

“Romance of the Three Kingdoms” has a dubious banner: loyalty. Two poisonous pills: hypocrisy and Machiavelli. This is my definition of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Yi Zhongtian 易中天

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