One hundred and twenty chapters of Chinese Game of Thrones

Written by

Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century AD

Who doesn’t love Game of Thrones? Well, OK, The Boss doesn’t, because it’s too damn complicated, apparently. She’s also asked me a million times why winter only comes in A Dance With Dragons. Sadly, I couldn’t explain it very well. However, if you thought that Game of Thrones was complicated, wait until you give Romance of the Three Kingdoms a shot.

Of the four great Chinese classics, Romance of the Three Kingdoms is likely to be the longest and most difficult to read, in terms of numbers of characters, as well the amount of territory and length of time in which the story is set. Set in what is probably one of the bloodiest periods of history, the book tells of the fall of the Han Dynasty, one of the greatly revered houses of Imperial China, through eighty years of civil war to the establishment of the short-lived Jin Dynasty, which reunified China.

We begin with the events of the Yellow Turban Revolution, late in the reign of the Han Dynasty, which is put down over a few years successfully. However, the weakness of the emperor has been clear, subsumed long ago by eunuchs and advisors. Therefore, plots are in place amongst the military and nobles to assassinate the eunuchs. While initially successful, those who did the assassinating decide that they have somehow inherited the power the eunuchs previously enjoyed. Thus begins the end of the dynasty.

The first quarter or so of the story deals with the formation of the Three Kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu, amidst the chaos and brutality of civil war between various factional warlords. When I say brutality, the warlords throw armies of tens and hundreds of thousands at each other constantly. I have no idea just where all these people come from, but I suspect that tens of millions died in the conflicts during this period.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a complex look at the Three Kingdoms period in China, including all of the major personalities of the era. It’s part history, part fantasy and the action comes thick and fast. If you want an interesting look at an important period in Chinese history, look no further than this book.


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