Also, sigh and roll your eyes every time the author rearranges history to make Xuande look better. Zhang Fei wasn’t the one who whipped that inspector. :|
Damn you, Luo Guangzhong, and your pro-Shu bias :\
Actor Takeshi Kaneshiro playing Chinese Chancellor and Strategist Zhuge Liang.
Let me introduce you to a little historical figure known as Zhuge Liang - a name that is bound to inspire a lot of thoughts about sheer badassery, which was certainly helped by the fact that actor Takeshi Kaneshiro played Zhuge Liang in John Woo’s Red Cliff.
Zhuge Liang (181–234) was a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. He is often recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era. Often depicted wearing a robe and holding a hand fan made of crane feathers, Zhuge Liang was not only an important military strategist and statesman; he was also an accomplished scholar and inventor. His reputation as an intelligent and learned scholar grew even while he was living in relative seclusion, earning him the nickname “Wolong” (臥龍; literally: “Crouching Dragon”).
The guy is a bit of a living legend when it comes right down to it, although, so are most of the three Kingdoms period players (Take a look at the Romance of the Three Kingdoms books, and you’ll figure out why - they’re basically heroic tales). But still, he did a lot of interesting things with his life.
For example, he married a woman for her brains, and not her looks:
Zhuge Liang also maintained close relations with other well known intellectuals, such as Sima Hui, Pang Degong and Huang Chengyan. Huang Chengyan once told Zhuge Liang, “I heard that you’re seeking a spouse. I’ve an ugly daughter with a yellow face and dark complexion, but her talent matches yours.” Zhuge Liang agreed and married Huang Chengyan’s daughter.
Zhuge Liang started as a lobbyist and strategist, but eventually was given the position of Regent of Wu. (“Marquis of Wu”) As a real person, he often ensured the troops he was overseeing suffered few casualties, and was generally a formidable man on the battlefield.
In terms of legends, things get even more interesting:
He’s credited with basically inventing a fast operating ‘automatic’ crossbow.
Although he is often credited with the invention of the repeating crossbow that is named after him and called “Zhuge Crossbow”, this type of semi-automatic crossbow is an improved version of a model that first appeared during the Warring States Period (though there is debate whether the original Warring States Period bow was semi-automatic, or rather shot multiple bolts at once). Nevertheless, Zhuge Liang’s version could shoot farther and faster.
As well as the Mantou landmine, the Stone Sentinel Maze [“The Stone Sentinel Maze was an array of rocks and boulders thought to be conjured by the Three Kingdoms period strategist Zhuge Liang using the concept of the ba gua.”], and even the Kongming lantern (a sky lantern) is named after him. (Kongming being his style name).
He’s also arguably the author of a few books:
Some books popularly attributed to Zhuge Liang can be found today. For example, the Thirty-Six Stratagems, and Mastering the Art of War (not to be confused with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) are two of Zhuge Liang’s works that are generally available. Supposedly, his mastery of infantry and cavalry formation tactics, based on the Taoist classic I Ching, were unrivalled. His memorial Chu Shi Biao, written prior to the Northern Expeditions, provided a salutary reflection of his unwavering loyalty to the state of Shu.
Perhaps though, the most impressive stories are largely fiction, but interesting nonetheless. Here’s a strategy from the 36 Strategems:
The empty fort strategy (空城計／空城计, Kōng chéng jì)
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretense of military preparedness and act calmly so that the enemy will think are setting an ambush. This stratagem has to be used sparingly and only after one has first developed a reputation for military prowess. This also depends on having a clever opponent who, in perceiving a trap, may over-think his reaction
The story from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel tells a story in which Zhuge Liang resides seemingly alone at a city to greet opposing Wei forces. Instead of appearing ruffled, he greets them by playing his instrument. The enemy Commander Sima Yi becomes paranoid due to Zhuge Liang’s reputation, and retreats, rather than trying to take on a city that had 1/5th og the men their enemy did guarding it.
Of course, that part is fictional, but still, he was the kind of guy who you could believe in a story would scare the ever-loving daylights out of someone by appearing calm on the battle field when he was in actuality totally outnumbered.
Now, he probably didn’t look like Takeshi Kaneshiro either, but hey, I don’t see any reason why not to use the picture! Red Cliff itself was a great film if not totally historically accurate.
Quoted text via Wikipedia.
An artistic representation of Zhuge Liang.
The Battle of Red Cliff, one of the most famous campaigns in Chinese history, is a prime example of how ingenious tactics can result in a brilliant victory out of an outnumbered situation. From the initial marshaling of forces on both sides, to the final decisive pitched battle, the whole sequence of events lasted mere several months, but has since then inspired people’s imagination for over a thousand years, and even well into today. Poets, painters, calligraphers, playwrights, novelists, and many others, all in their various creative ways, join to extol this historical and historic romance of the legendary battle, as well as its constellation of heroes and heroines.
General Guan, or Guan Yu, is a deified general who lived during AD 2nd century in ancient China. He is portrayed as one of the most powerful warriors of the ancient world, and is always depicted with his token weapon, the Guan-dao (or Kwando), otherwise known as the “Green Dragon Crescent Blade.” Historically, General Guan aided in the civil war which brought an end to the Han Dynasty in China. The Han Dynasty could easily be referred to as the “Roman Empire of the East,” and toppling such a well organized and technologically advanced behemoth could only have been done by the greatest of warriors. Well beyond his capture and execution in AD 219, General Guan’s legacy lives on in Chinese folklore, plays, poetry, religion, art, and modern media.
General Guan is said to have been capable of slaying thousands of men single handed, with the sheer might of his Guan-dao. He is often depicted as a symbol of honesty, loyalty, and valor, suggested by red tones on his face in artwork throughout time. Like all legends surrounding warriors of old, he is said to be insurmountable in height, and to have had a fearsomely long beard. It is said that Guan Yu was immune to pain, as he showed none when being pierced through the arm by a poisoned crossbow bolt. When a physician cut open the wound to remove poison which had adhered to General Guan’s bone, the General scoffed at the idea of anesthesia and continued playing board games and drinking tea, as though nothing were happening at all.
For nearly two thousand years, General Guan has been deified in China, and shrines devoted to his worship can be found all over China, Taiwan, and Japan. From the presence of massive statues to small idols, few in East Asia have not heard the name of Guan Yu. Buddhist and Daoist temples alike devote spaces, shrines, and idols to General Guan. Martial arts schools all over China have statues to the General. It is said that organized crime depicts Guan Yu with the Guan-dao in his left hand, to denote their departure from “the Right,” or government control. Large underground crime syndicates and organized police forces have similar temples within their respective barracks.