In this conclusion to my P3K summary series, I move from review to commentary. My commentary here is indebted come Moss Roberts, the translator of the edition of the novel used in the design of the set, and to CJ Leung, of the Cool history Bros Youtube channel,whose own commentary and video summary of the novel I highly recommend.

Read our interview with collection designer Henry Stern and the earlier entries: Introduction; The Yellow Scarves Rebellion; Dong Zhuo takes Control; The dying Embers the Rebellion; The rise of Cao Cao; Cao Cao Conquers the North; The battle of Red Cliffs; just how the West was Won; The loss of Guan Yu; brand-new Emperors

Sleeping Dragon’s Fire Goes out (228-234 CE)

Zhuge Liang, recognized as Kongming, resting Dragon—despite his legendary ability as a strategist, he discovered his ambitions stymied by negative personnel and also growing decadence and corruption in the second Emperor’s court in ~ Chengdu, the Shu capital. His series of 5 expeditions versus Cao Wei succeeded in beating the Wei army on a variety of occasions, however a absence of food and personnel prevented him from capitalizing on his victories, at some point forcing the Shu troops come retreat to secure much more resources.

You are watching: The empire long divided must unite


In the comes years, Kongming took procedures to mitigate his logistical challenges. After two years that preparation, the resting Dragon released his critical expedition. However, the stress of war and also overwork had taken your toll top top Kongming, and he dropped seriously ill and also died in camp at only 53 year old.

Sima Yi, hearing the the Shu army was retreating, deduced the Kongming had actually died, and quickly pursued. He was met by the rearguard, however, that feigned a counterattack, casting doubt into Sima Yi’s mind regarding whether Kongming was in reality dead. The Wei army halted their pursuit, allowing the Shu army to escape. This one last deception gave rise come the popular saying, “A dead Zhuge (Liang) scared away a living Zhongda.” Sima Yi replied: “I have the right to handle the living however not the dead.”

The Kingdoms’ Virtues revolve to evil (234-280 CE)

With Kongming dead, the the original heroes, just Sun Quan and Sima Yi remained. Sima Yi continued to development in power, overcoming Shu-Han and gathering authority to himself till he had the ability to oust the Wei emperor’s regent from strength in a coup d’etat in 249. Sima Yi passed away in 251, however his coup paved the way for his grandson, Sima Yan, to depose the Wei emperor in 265, and become the an initial emperor the the Jin Dynasty.


Where Shu had been founded on loyalty to the Han and loyalty between Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and also Guan Yu; its autumn was facilitated by blind commitment to poor leaders, and also the very same kinds the court corruption that lugged down the Han empire years earlier.

Aftermath: Ravages of War

The reunification the China under the Jin dynasty was not a repair to the glory that the Han. At its peak, the empire under the Han dynasty had a populace over 56 million. A collection of organic disasters, such together an earthquake and devastating tsunami, the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, and decades the conflict in between feuding warlords carried waves the plague and also frequent famines that were reported by multiple sources to have driven part to cannibalism.

Additionally, the historical Cao Cao was an ext ruthless 보다 his literature counterpart, massacring civilians and prisoners of war, on some occasions tens of thousands at a time. The historic Liu Bei, also much more cunning and ambitious than his fictitious counterpart, to be nevertheless conveniently seen by commonfolk as heroic by comparison, because he no massacre whole towns. Between war casualties, famine, plague, and also refugees fleeing these conditions, the population of China dropped by over 70%—from 56 million come 16 million—in a solitary century.

The three Kingdoms together Literature

As one could expect, the almost 100 year of violence left an impression on those that remained. Romance of the three Kingdoms as we understand it this day is the arsenal of folktales and also official histories that retell the story the this devastating duration of civil war. The proceeding retelling brought ever more changes come the means the story is told. Almost 1000 years later, in the tune Dynasty, these stories had started to characterize Cao Cao—initially framed in official histories as a legit ruler—as villainous, and Liu Bei as an exemplar the Confucian virtue, in part because these features served the understand of the ruling dynasty. Shortly after the loss of the Song empire to the Mongols, the people stories began to watch publication in both written and also theatrical form, adding much more supernatural and fictionalized events.

In the moment of the Ming Dynasty, it’s thought that Luo Guanzhong took from every one of these products to develop the version that would later on be edited by a father and son, Mao Lun and Mao Zonggang, into the variation that i have summarized end the past couple of months, i m sorry is the incentive for Portal three Kingdoms. As CJ Leung comment at Cool history Bros, the synthetic attributed to Luo puts the political and also philosophical concerns of both the peasantry and the ruling course on display, and invites the leader to think about these questions along with them: “Liu Bei to be benevolent and also righteous, but Cao Cao wasn’t without merit . . . Is righteousness worth anything if girlfriend don’t have the power to uphold it?” likewise the sun family, judgment Wu, are in the middle of a Confucian dilemma: if the realm falls to Wei or Shu, the victor will certainly surely come after ~ them. Which is much more important, loyalty to country, or commitment to family?

The editors included the well known line, “The empire, long united, should divide; lengthy divided, have to unite” come the beginning and ending the the novel, placing it within a cyclical notion of time that describes the rise and fall of dynasties. They also strengthened the narrative framework by subtly moving the explicate of just how battles space won throughout the novel. In the beginning, battles are won with martial prowess and heroism. Later, the focus moves come strategy. Together our heroes become generals and kings, the novel focuses much more on their skill in delegation, and as they become emperors with their very own children, we view the challenge of establishing sequence and increasing the next generation to lug on the work.

See more: The T I Got High And Felt Like I Was Dying : Weed, Why Do I Feel Like I Am Dying After Smoking Weed

The variety of definition in romance of the three Kingdoms is component of why that is a true classic, and one of the “Four great Novels the China.” It proceeds to be a living narrative, with new iterations and retellings constantly being published as novels, video games, films, and also comics, and also yes, card games—each with different emphases, finding new ways to ask old questions, and new ways for its audience to relate come old heroes.

Epilogue: For every to ponder

As with countless summaries, Portal 3 Kingdoms omits almost every one of the final fifteen chapters the the Romance. Designer Henry Stern did keep the novel’s epigraph in the flavor message of the “Zodiac” cycle, however. I’ve placed the whole poem below in this galleries, through the bike of creatures in their ideal places. The Chinese zodiac is a repeating cycle of twelve years. Stern’s use of the zodiac in this ar is either a happy accident or extremely insightful: the location of the zodiac pets here evokes universal definition of the 3 Kingdoms, synthetic up elegantly in the cyclical nature the the maxim that starts the novel: “The empire, long united, must divide; long divided, need to unite. Therefore it has ever been.”