The Three Kingdoms period (Chinese: 三國時代; Pinyin: Sānguóshídài) was a period in ancient China that lasted 60 years, from 220 A.D, when Wei was founded, until 280 A.D., when the last remaining empire, Wu, was conquered by Jin. Many historians, however, date the starting point of the Three Kingdoms back to 184 A.D., when Zhang Jue launched the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Other arguable starting points are 189 A.D., after the extermination of the eunuchs and power seizure of Dong Zhuo or 168 A.D., when the eunuchs first took indirect power.
When the Golden Age of the Han was crumbling, warlords rose with the ambition of taking the Empire of China for themselves. Following several civil wars, three forces emerged as the most powerful ones and they eventually established the three empires Wei, Shu and Wu.
The Three KingdomsEdit
Fall of HanEdit
The fall of Han can be dated back to The Yellow Turban Rebellion in the year jiazi, 184 A.D. This revolt was instigated by the religious leader Zhang Jue and his two younger brothers Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang. Having gathered over 200.000 followers through their teachings, The Way of Great Peace, they launched their attack in the spring of 184 A.D.
Before this, the people of China suffered from floodings along the Yellow River, rains of hailstones as big as hen's eggs and various other natural disasters along with several epidemics. The Han did nothing to help its empire and farmers were forced to seek employment in the south, away from the Yellow River, where they were exploited by large landowners.
Because of this, the people had lost all hope for a better world. Farmers often became ill or were underfed and because most of their money had gone to taxes or rebuilding their property they visited Zhang Jue's doctrine in hopes of treatment. The Zhang brothers often accepted patients without charge and because of this their popularity rose quickly.
The Yellow Turbans had some initial successes against the much more experienced forces of the Han, but eventually the tides changed. Zhang Jue fell ill and died and not long after his two brothers had fallen in battle against Huangfu Song. The Han was victorious and despite their swift response, they paid a heavy price for their victory. Moreover, rebel groups such as the Rice Rebels, Liang rebels and Black Mountain bandits had risen among the turmoil of the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
On 13 May 189 A.D. Emperor Ling passed away and his son Liu Bian, became Emperor two days later. The eunuch Jian Shuo, however, had plans to set Liu Xie, upon the throne and plotted to kill He Jin, bringing tension between the General-in-Chief and the Imperial eunuchs to a whole new level. Jian Shuo sought the help of several Regular Attendants from Zhang Rang's faction, but his letter was given to He Jin, who promptly had him executed. Later that year He Jin had an audience with his half-sister, Empress-Dowager He and proposed to have all eunuchs executed. He was overheard, however, and Zhang Rang's eunuch Qu Mu beheaded him.
When He Jin's officers heard of the death of their general, they stormed the palace and massacred all eunuchs. After two days of slaughter no eunuch was left alive. Zhang Rang and some eunuchs had fled the capital and held Liu Bian and Liu Xie hostage. Lu Zhi and Min Gong chased them and caught up with them at the Yellow River. Zhang Rang released the emperor and prince and drowned himself in the Yellow River.
Peace, however, would not yet return to the Empire. It was Dong Zhuo from the west, summoned by He Jin to assist in his campaign against the eunuchs, who deposed Emperor Shao and set the young Liu Xie upon the throne, only to manipulate him for his own gain. He further strengthened his influence by obtaining the services of the then already famous fighting man Lü Bu from Wuyuan commandery. In the meantime the warlords Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu and Cao Cao had fled the capital and an edict was sent to various warlords across the empire. Their call was heard and the Guandong Coalition was formed to end the tyrannical reign of Dong Zhuo.
In 192 A.D., Dong Zhuo was assassinated by his oath-son Lü Bu. With the coalition having already fallen apart China fell into civil war.
Many warlords had gained fame, officers and territory during the past wars. Instead of uniting under the Han, they sought to fulfill their own ambitions.
The Yuan family was an established and esteemed name and the beginning of the civil war period marked the struggle between the northern warlord Yuan Shao and his jealous kinsmen Yuan Shu. Both had capable officers under their command, but in 192 A.D. Yuan Shu lost the Battle of Xiangyang and with it, his finest general Sun Jian and Yuan Shao came in conflict with his former ally Gongsun Zan.
Three Kingdoms in FictionEdit
- Main article: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
14th century writer, Luo Guanzhong wrote a novel called, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Arguably the most popular Three Kingdoms work to date and base for many TV series and movies. The book is a fictional variation on Chen Shou's Sanguo Zhi.
SourcesEditAfter the conquest of Wu by Jin, former Shu loyalist Chen Shou was assigned to write Records of Three Kingdoms, using the Book of Wu and the Book of Wei. Shu, however, did not have its own book and Chen Shou based Shu's history on his own mind as well as various documents such as Zhuge Liang's works.
Back then, however, there was no such thing as an 'official history', and throughout the records bias can be found towards Shu and against Wei, and particularly Wu.
List of Historical SourcesEdit
- Book of the Later Han
- Book of Wei
- Book of Wu
- Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government
- Records of Three Kingdoms
- Timeline of the Three Kingdoms
- List of Fictional Items and Terms
- List of people of the Three Kingdoms
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- Records of Three Kingdoms