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In 220 EC, the 400-year-old rule of the mighty Han dynasty came to an end and three kingdoms contested for control of China. Liu Pei, legitimate heir to the Han throne, elects to fight for his birthright and enlists the aid of his sworn brothers, the impulsive giant Chang Fei and the invincible knight Kuan Yu. The brave band faces a formidable array of enemies, foremost among them the treacherous and bloodthirsty Ts'ao Ts'ao. The bold struggle of the three heroes seems doomed until the reclusive wizard Chuko Liang offers his counsel, and the tide begins to turn.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is China's oldest novel and the first of a great tradition of historical fiction. An Introduction to this reprint by Robert E. Hegel, Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Washington University, provides an insightful commentary on the historical background to the novel, its literary origins and its main characters.

This epic saga of brotherhood and rivalry, of loyalty and treachery, of victory and death, and the deeds of its heroes and villains during one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history, forms part of the indelible core of classical Chinese culture and continues to fascinate modern-day readers.
Published: Tuttle Publishing on
ISBN: 9781462902804
List price: $27.95
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I didn't think I would enjoy a book about power, diplomacy and war, but I did. Not sure whether it was spending long days in a quiet Mexican city with very little in the way of English-language reading material or the narrative itself, but I burned through the book in a week and found that I genuinely enjoyed it (just not enough to lug it to the beach with me).more
I tried rather hard to get through the book, but after the first 17 chapters (of over 100), I have to admit defeat. It was interesting at first, especially since I enjoy history, but as things progressed, it got more and more tiresome to read. The book introduces a myriad of characters who fight with each other, plot against one another, and in many cases die. After these 17 chapters, I couldn't reliably tell you what exactly happened and who is who; it's just a mess of seemingly endless battles and plots against the Emperor. I can definitely see the value of reading the book for its historical information and as one of the Chinese classics, but it was just extremely daunting.more
At four volumes, this is a lot of book. I decided to read it around the time that Beijing was making news for their Olympic preparations, as Three Kingdoms is a beloved classic there and reputedly informs much of Chinese culture. After making my way through this epic, I can certainly see why, though I personally felt that it was a little more military history than novel.Trying to pay attention to the particulars of Three Kingdoms can be a daunting task; there are literally hundreds of characters, many with similar names, and a majority of the novel is dedicated to descriptions of battles and their outcomes. Between the multitude of characters and the multiple repetitions of specific military stratagems, many parts of the story began to blur together for me. During the third and fourth volumes, I had to resist the temptation to skip forward and just read the chapter names in order to get a summation of events, passing over all of the lengthy battles and strategic discussions between generals and their subordinates. The translation doesn’t make things easier; though Roberts’ translation is heralded as the best, it is still rife with errors, and it feels like there is some specific cultural significance lost reading it in English, making certain scenes and actions seem somewhat incomprehensible to me as a Western reader.The beauty in Three Kingdoms, though, is in the big picture. I often struggled to understand what was going on in a specific chapter, but the more I ruminated on the myriad power shifts, alliances, betrayals, ascents to power, and tragic falls that link together throughout the course of the book, the more fascinated I became with the entire story. The characters, too, are impressive; despite their numbers, each character is distinctly defined, with their own mannerisms, motivations, and personalities. At first, I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that almost everyone seems to be a scheming bastard who is not above compromising their own ethics and committing reprehensible acts, including the “good guys” (the only standout exception in my mind is Zhao Zilong). However, in context with the whole story of the fall of the Han and warring of the three kingdoms, this only serves to highlight both the complexity of the characters themselves and the harsh realities of their situation.Even though I struggled at times to finish this dense, complicated book, I think anybody who is a fan of Asian culture or military history should give it a read. Especially if they have been exposed to and were intrigued by the multiple references to Three Kingdoms in modern movies, comics, and video games.more
Lively popular quasi-historical novel based on strggle at the end of the Han dynasty. The stories provided the basis for many plays etc.more
Read all 4 reviews

Reviews

I didn't think I would enjoy a book about power, diplomacy and war, but I did. Not sure whether it was spending long days in a quiet Mexican city with very little in the way of English-language reading material or the narrative itself, but I burned through the book in a week and found that I genuinely enjoyed it (just not enough to lug it to the beach with me).more
I tried rather hard to get through the book, but after the first 17 chapters (of over 100), I have to admit defeat. It was interesting at first, especially since I enjoy history, but as things progressed, it got more and more tiresome to read. The book introduces a myriad of characters who fight with each other, plot against one another, and in many cases die. After these 17 chapters, I couldn't reliably tell you what exactly happened and who is who; it's just a mess of seemingly endless battles and plots against the Emperor. I can definitely see the value of reading the book for its historical information and as one of the Chinese classics, but it was just extremely daunting.more
At four volumes, this is a lot of book. I decided to read it around the time that Beijing was making news for their Olympic preparations, as Three Kingdoms is a beloved classic there and reputedly informs much of Chinese culture. After making my way through this epic, I can certainly see why, though I personally felt that it was a little more military history than novel.Trying to pay attention to the particulars of Three Kingdoms can be a daunting task; there are literally hundreds of characters, many with similar names, and a majority of the novel is dedicated to descriptions of battles and their outcomes. Between the multitude of characters and the multiple repetitions of specific military stratagems, many parts of the story began to blur together for me. During the third and fourth volumes, I had to resist the temptation to skip forward and just read the chapter names in order to get a summation of events, passing over all of the lengthy battles and strategic discussions between generals and their subordinates. The translation doesn’t make things easier; though Roberts’ translation is heralded as the best, it is still rife with errors, and it feels like there is some specific cultural significance lost reading it in English, making certain scenes and actions seem somewhat incomprehensible to me as a Western reader.The beauty in Three Kingdoms, though, is in the big picture. I often struggled to understand what was going on in a specific chapter, but the more I ruminated on the myriad power shifts, alliances, betrayals, ascents to power, and tragic falls that link together throughout the course of the book, the more fascinated I became with the entire story. The characters, too, are impressive; despite their numbers, each character is distinctly defined, with their own mannerisms, motivations, and personalities. At first, I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that almost everyone seems to be a scheming bastard who is not above compromising their own ethics and committing reprehensible acts, including the “good guys” (the only standout exception in my mind is Zhao Zilong). However, in context with the whole story of the fall of the Han and warring of the three kingdoms, this only serves to highlight both the complexity of the characters themselves and the harsh realities of their situation.Even though I struggled at times to finish this dense, complicated book, I think anybody who is a fan of Asian culture or military history should give it a read. Especially if they have been exposed to and were intrigued by the multiple references to Three Kingdoms in modern movies, comics, and video games.more
Lively popular quasi-historical novel based on strggle at the end of the Han dynasty. The stories provided the basis for many plays etc.more
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