The Three Kingdoms (221-280 AD)

Introduction

This is the most exciting epoch of the whole Chinese history. It is full of romance and heroism and hard fighting and great generalship such as have never been exhibited since then. It is to us what King Arthur and his knights of the round table are to the English. To the Western it suggests the great age of chivalry in medieval Europe. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the most popular classic novels in China, gives a most vivid description of the struggles of this period.

The first and the largest of the three kingdoms, the Wei, embraced the central and northern provinces with its capital at Luoyang. The second, named the Wu, controlled the province of south of the Yangtze, with its chief city at Nanjing. The third, called the Sichuan Han, ruled over the large Province of Sichuan, having the seat of government at Chengdu.

The Three Kingdomsexisted side by side. Cao Cao cleared off Yuan Shao's remaining forces and brought the entire middle and lower Huanghe River valley under his control. The southern-based Sun Quan, who had carried on the cause poineered by his father and elder brother, was claimed to be connected with the Han royal house, was also preparing for a bid for power.

In 208, Cao Cao led a massive force southward to capture Jingzhou, chase Liu Bei around, and pose a direct menace to Sun Quan. At Zhuge Liang's advice, Liu Bei and Sun Quan decided to put up joint resistance to Cao Cao. The allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei launched an all-out attack and crushed Cao's hostile army which was much advantageous in number. After Cao Cao pulled back to his northern base, Sun Quan consolidated his position in the south while Liu Bei seized Jingzhou Prefecture and later took Yizhou in the west. And so a situation arose in which the country was divided and ruled by the three feudal lords.

After Cao Cao's death in 220, his son Cao Pi, proclaimed himself Emperor of Wei, with Luoyang as his capital. The following year, Liu Bei declared himself Emperor of Han with Chengdu as his capital. In 222, Sun Quan called himself Emperor of Wu with the capital at Jianye. Three kingdoms-- Wei, Shu and Wu-- are known as the Three Kingdoms in Chinese history.