Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Guan Yu riding his horse.

A mural of Guan Yu's 'Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles' in the Summer Palace, Beijing. (Image: via Wikipedia)

I once again carefully read Romance of the Three Kingdoms during my summer vacation. I was captivated by the vivid characters in the book. I also gained a renewed understanding of life. Specifically, everything that happens on Earth is designed by divine power. Just like Sima Yi, the well-known general and politician, said during the Three Kingdoms period:

“You can fight against anything, but not against Heaven. Human beings should also follow gods’ arrangements, play out their roles, and leave this world.”

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Zhuge Liang, chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period.
Zhuge Liang, chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ period. (Image: via Wikipedia)

‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ is based on historical people and events

Romance of the Three Kingdoms includes many historical figures and events from China’s history. Let’s examine the chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang had many rare talents. He could see through good and evil on Earth and calculate one’s failures and successes in life. He knew for sure that the heir to the throne was not meant to be the emperor, but he remained a loyal servant to him until his dying day. He exemplified the loyalty of a courtier to his emperor.

Liu Bei.
 Liu Bei was a warlord who founded the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period. (Image: via Wikipedia)

What a hero Guan Yu was! He was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei. With a sharp sword, he fought heroically in many battles and earned the respect of his enemies.

The warlord Cao Cao, one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, was so impressed by him that he offered money, women, and official posts to lure Guan Yu to his side, but to no avail. Nevertheless, Guan Yu kept his promise to defend Liu Bei even if it meant he had to give up his life. Such righteousness was why people had admired him for generations.

Guan Yu captures Pang De.
Guan Yu captures Pang De, as depicted in a Ming Dynasty painting by Shang Xi, c. 1430. (Image: Wikipedia)

Let’s talk about Cao Cao, who was knowledgeable, resourceful, and a military strategist. One of his memorable remarks was:

“Life is short; let’s drink wine and sing.”

He was always on the lookout for talented people. His motto was:

“I would rather hurt everyone on Earth than let one person hurt me.”

He was also very cunning. Although he often sought out talented people from other kingdoms, none would serve him. Xu Shu, an official of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period, and General Guan Yu were good examples. The lesson that we can learn from Cao Cao’s experience is that what is not yours will remain that way because even if you do gain it, it will be worthless.

Cao Cao cites a poem before the Battle of Red Cliffs.
Cao Cao cites a poem before the Battle of Red Cliffs, a portrait at the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace, Beijing. (Image: Wikipedia)

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the Four Great Classic Novels. There are so many stories about fascinating people in this book. If you can find the time to read it, you will likely find hidden meanings.

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