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San Guo Yan Yi and The War of the Three Kingdoms


When one of your enemies declares that your family no longer controls the house, the only way to answer is by arguing that you're the head of your family now. At least, that's what Liu Bei thought he should do when Cao Pi declared that the Han Dynasty was over.

The Three Kingdoms period was a period in Chinese history, part of an period of disunity called the "Six Dynasties". It was written about in a book called the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or San Guo Yan Yi, which was written in the Ming Dynasty. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms period occurred after the loss of de facto power of the Han Dynasty rulers. 


In a way, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms refers to the period of time between the foundation of the state of Wei in 220 AD and the conquest of the state Wu by the Jin Dynasty
 in 280.  However, many historians claim the starting point of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period back to the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184.


Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the 3 Kingdoms
The earlier, "unofficial" part of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period, from 184 to 220, was marked by chaotic infighting between warlords in various parts of China.

The middle part of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period, from 220 and 263, was marked by a more militarily stable arrangement between three rival states, Wei, Shu, and Wu.


The later part of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period was marked by the collapse of the tripartite situation: first the conquest of Shu by Wei (263), then the overthrow of Wei by the Jin Dynasty, 265, and the destruction of Wu by Jin , 280.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms period was one of the bloodiest in Chinese history.  A population census during the late Eastern Han Dynasty reported a population of approximately 50 million, while a population census during the early Western Jin Dynasty reported a population of approximately 16 million. However, the Jin Dynasty's census was far less complete than the Han census, so these numbers are in question.

This is a cartoon (Chinese) version of the War of the Three Kingdoms. While you may not understand it, there are no English versions yet - if there are, please comment to let us know.


The Three Kingdoms of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period were Wei (魏), Shu (蜀), and Wu (吳). Wei is also known as Cao Wei (曹魏), Shu is also known as Shu Han (蜀漢), and Wu is also known as Dong Wu or Eastern Wu (東吳). Wu traded with Japan, and formed the Japanese language.


Wei used to be one of the smallest country, controlled by Warlord Cao Cao. Cao Cao seized power by "protecting" the Emperor, and because the Emperor was in his control, Cao Cao could do whatever he wanted, with the Emperor's approval.

Cao Cao died, and his son forced the Emperor to abdicate power to him. Cao Cao's son created the Wei Dynasty, which was soon followed by Warlord Liu Bei's declaration of Independence, and he created the Shu Han dynasty, named after the original Han Dynasty. Liu Bei created his dynasty after starting a coup d'etat to kick out the current warlord. The Wu Dynasty had also expanded, like the Wei Dynasty.

In the end, the Wei Dynasty sended troops to Shu, which surrendered, despite having an advantage of 7 to 1, and having better equipped troops. The reason for this, was that their tactician, Zhuge Liang, had died; the general in charge has simply defend several forts on the border, yet the Wei sacrificed soldiers to get across. With the combined amount of troops from the Shu Dynasty and the Wei Dynasty, they overwhelmed the Wu Dynasty, and formed the Jin Dynasty, ending the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period.
  1. Map of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Digital image. Stmartin.edu. Saint Martin's University, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
  2. Luo, Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms. N.p.: n.p., 1321. Print.

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