Heroes immerge in troubled time: Moses took the people out of Egypt to escape the slavery of Rameses; Napoleon built the Napoleonic Empire to unify Europe; even ordinary people turned heroes to retreat soldiers from the crisis in Dunkirk……
There was a period of time in Chinese history where the land was split. Power was everything. It was the darkest of times, you could smell blood in the wind as you walked on the buried bones of soldiers. However, it was also one of the brightest times to be alive, as legends were written by heroes and wisdom was sung by the wise.
The Three Kingdoms existed during the period from 220 A.D. to 280 A.D. in China’s history. Just like in the show Game of Thrones, political regimes were fiercely divided at that time. The great Han Empire could no longer hold its own, and as a result, 3 new powers grew across the land. They were the kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu. Each Kingdom was governed by a capable governor and they each had the ambition to unite the whole of China. The war between the three kingdoms lasted for half a century.
【The Kingdom of Shu】
The Kingdom of Shu, governed by Liu Bei, occupied the south-west part of China. The capital was today’s Chengdu city where people relied on industries such as salt manufacturing, iron smelting and brocade. The Kingdom of Shu had a population of 940,000 and an army of 100,000 soldiers. With the smallest force of the three kingdoms, Shu’s power still can’t be underestimated because of its mythical leader.
Zhuge Liang was the renowned ruler of the Shu Kingdom. He was known as one of the smartest individuals in Chinese history. Chinese people usually describe smart people as “Alive Zhuge liang”. This gifted man was a politician, military strategist, diplomat, and an inventor as well.
Zhuge Liang invented the machine crossbow, which was a crossbow that could shoot 10 bolts at the same time. It applied very complicated mechanical theory in the bow’s body and was a remarkable development in combat effectiveness.
As a brilliant military strategist, Zhuge liang knew very well how to use simple solutions to solve challenging problems. When the Kingdom of Shu had an alliance with the Kingdom of Wu against the Wei in the battle of Chibi, he accepted the mission to make 100,000 arrows within three days. Liang surmounted all odds to complete the task in time. He sent 20 boats covered in thatches to secretly approach Wei’s camp at dawn, with the protection of a heavy fog. Wei’s governor, Cao Cao, was a cautious man, and he ordered that bowmen only shoot the boats they can see clearly through the fog. The fog eventually cleared and the 20 boats had escaped, with the 100,000 arrows Zhuge Liang needed.
【The Kingdom of Wei】
The Kingdom of Wei was the most powerful kingdom during that time, not only because of its massive population but also due to its economic and military strength. Its governor Cao Cao, as a debated historical figure, Cao Cao’s legacy is a mixed one.
Cao Cao never proclaimed himself king, he just occupied the premier’s position. After the Han Empire collapsed, Cao Cao started to act as the “protector” of the Han Emperor. With this role, he gained justification when warring against other military forces. All the while, his personal wealth kept growing. Hijacking the position of emperor and satisfying his own will in the name of the emperor, without receiving any of the responsibility and blame that would inevitably accompany such a position of power, seemed to be what Cao Cao really wanted.
People who don’t like Cao Cao usually criticize him for being cruel and heartless. He once massacred Xuzhou. According to Romance of the Three Kingdoms, were so many dead bodies in the river that the river stopped flowing. A bit exaggeration, of course, but people’s fear of him was well-founded.
What’s more, he is a man suspicious his surroundings. After failing in assassination, he’s on the way to escape from the enemy. A loyal old friend of his father sheltered him. Cao Cao overheard people talking in lower voice “Bound down and kill!”. Without hesitation, he lifted his sword and killed the entire family. It was too late when he saw a pig tied up in the kitchen and realized that’s what “Bound down and kill!” meant. The family was trying to prepare a feast in his honor.
People who admire Cao Cao normally appreciate his art of management. He was good at distinguishing loyal persons and treated those loyal and capable persons very well, even if they were from the enemy’s camp.
【The Kingdom of Wu】
The Kingdom of Wu was located in South-east China. It had existed the longest time among three kingdoms and had gone through four emperors in total.
It was not only about heroes and battles in the Three Kingdom period. Mention the Kingdom of Wu and most people will tell you story about the beautiful sisters from Qiao’s family. Nobody really knows these two girls’ real names but can only refer to them as Big Qiao and Little Qiao. Both of these women were said to possess immense beauty.
Big Qiao married Sun Ce, the brother of Wu’s governor Sun Quan. Sun Ce was known as a brave tiger general and the key figure who built the foundation of the Wu Kingdom. Little Qiao married Sun Ce’s best friend, Zhou Yu, another excellent general of Wu. Zhou Yu was not only brave in battle but also popular as a handsome man gifted in the arts of music.
According to unofficial accounts, Cao Cao had been attracted to the Qiao Sisters and planned to steal them from Wu. He even built the famous Bronze Swallow Terrace for the girls, which enraged Zhou Yu and solidified his determination to participate the epic battle of Chibi.