For our first blog post, our group has chosen the Shu Han state (AD 221-263) during the chaotic period of the Three Kingdoms (AD 189-280). Before continuing to the significance of this period, let us first understand the background of the Shu Dynasty.
The Three Kingdoms is notably one of the bloodiest periods in China history. It is the period where notably three states, Wei, Shu and Wu, fought in attempt to unify as one. Each of the three kingdoms has one political figure head namely Cao Cao from Wei, Liu Bei from Shu, and Sun Quan from Wu. One of the iconic battles is the Battle of Red Cliffs, also known as the battle of Chibi, where the allies (Liu Bei and Sun Quan) won. It is noted that this battle ensured the survival of Liu Bei and Sun Quan, specifically with Liu Bei gaining more from the win.
Last but not least, we have Liu Bei - the founder and the first ruler of the Shu Han dynasty in Three Kingdoms period. His early life was tough working as a weaver of straw mats and shoes after his father’s death. However, that did not hinder his thoughts and vision for the country.
Upon many readings, Liu Bei is often described as the CEO of modern times. This is due to his ability to attract many talented individuals to work for him even though he had no obvious talents like Kongming or Cao Cao. His greatest qualities are his kindness to the people and loyalty to the Han dynasty. It is argued that though he may not be as capable as his “employees”, he managed to bring them all together and work as one. Liu Bei is ambitious and recognizes talents. Shu is famous for having many great generals (Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, etc) and strategists (Zhuge Liang, Pang Tong, etc). All of these talented people are loyal to Liu Bei because they can see his genuine interest in bringing peace to the realm.
It is noteworthy to know that Liu Bei and Cao Cao had much respect for each other. During the meeting between the two at plum garden, Cao Cao said, “The only heroes in the world are you and I.” Both wanted to bring peace to the land and fix the corrupted Han dynasty. However, just that, they had different views on how to do that. Cao Cao had a cold head and heart, which makes him capable of doing anything to get what he want included killing everyone getting in his way. In addition, Cao Cao had a famous saying, ““I'd rather betray the world than let the world betray me.” On the other hand, Liu Bei believed that to have a peaceful and strong kingdom, it must be built on the people. He usually refused to do or listen to any act and advices that he thought were immoral and treacherous. This is why he let a lot of opportunities slip out of his hands or delayed (accepted Tao Qian to take Xuzhou, left his peasants behind during the run from Cao Cao armies).
#1 : Liu Bei holds the Confucian set of moral values and is widely acknowledged as an ideal benevolent ruler.
When one talks about the Shu Dynasty, one would always mention the “guy with a fan” - Zhuge Liang (Kongming). There is no doubt that Kongming played a crucial role in how things rolled out in the Three Kingdoms. He joined Liu Bei as his strategist and lived up to his name of being the most accomplished strategist of his era. He presented the LongZhong plan and followed Liu Bei after the latter’s third visit to invite him to join the team. The LongZhong plan was highly significant then, for it is the prediction of the development of political and military events following with regards to the three kingdoms and what the Shu military would be doing. Indeed, with much accuracy, the prediction that the realms of China would be divided into three domains had actually came true. What a foresight!
It was an impressive feat, for Kongming to be able to foresee and strategize accordingly. Though modern scholars had found the feasibility of an alliance too unrealistic to achieve an idealistic outcome. Besides being an important influencer in his times, he had actually created history with his intelligence and strategies. For one, the three kingdoms were born due to his LongZhong plan.
Other legacies left behind by Kongming includes the famous Kongming lantern which is, obviously, named after him. It was used for military signalling during the Shu Dynasty and ancient China. This invention by Kongming in the Shu Dynasty definitely helped many others after them to communicate efficiently in war. However, in modern times, we can see it appearing in festivals around the world from Taiwan to Thailand and even to Brazil. It is also a tourist attraction in Shifen, Taiwan now.
Other inventions that we are familiar with in today’s times include the “wooden ox and gliding horse” - an efficient automatic transportation device. Kongming invented it in 231-234 where it is used to transport grains, people and for combat usage. Manpower is utilized well with efficiency. It functions like a wheelbarrow in today’s terms.
#2 : Kongming’s name “Zhuge Liang” has actually became synonymous with wisdom in the Chinese Culture.
Guan Yu, one of the best known historical figures throughout East Asia, was a famous general serving under Liu Bei, In addition, he was ranked First of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.
Zhang Fei and him were alongside Liu Bei from the early days and the three of them were sworn brothers. The two of them were part of the “Five Tiger Generals” - the five best military generals serving under the ruler. Indeed, Guan Yu led and won many battles for Liu Bei. It is also indicated that he excelled at naval warfare, playing a major role in the Battle of Red Cliffs.
However, Guan Yu was not unbeatable; he lost a battle and was captured under Cao Cao forces. However, Cao Cao recognised the potential that Guan Yu had and made him a general in his army. Guan Yu was grateful and repaid the gratitude by helping Cao Cao in battle. Although, Guan Yu would later return to Liu Bei and Cao Cao did not pursue him as they had had an honourable agreement. This highlights the code of honour between them.
One can argue that his significance and influence were even more prominent after his death. Guan Yu became a legend, and to an extent - a god, as early as the Sui dynasty (581-618) and is still worshipped today among Chinese people.
In ancient China, Guan Yu was highly regarded in the following dynasties. The following table are selected titles that other emperor’s gave to him. Yes, there were much more titles and emperors that worshipped Guan Yu.
This signifies that many of the beliefs and doings of Guan Yu during the Shu Dynasty is so well known that following Emperors and their citizens worship and used him as a role model. History, and even cultures and religions, may have altered if Guan Yu was not exceptional during his era - the Shu Dynasty.
Guan Yu is also worshipped in many religions, such as Chinese, Taoism and Buddhism. Temples and shrines dedicated exclusively to Guan Yu can be found across many countries, from Mainland China, Macau, Taiwan and and even non-Mandarin speaking countries such as Japan and South Korea. He is widely referred to “Lord Guan” (关公) with respect to the Martial God of Wealth.
#3 : Guan Yu has these elements embodied to him: loyalty, bravery, benevolence and faithfulness.
Group members: Clarence Low, Zenda Soo, Ly Tuan Kiet, Eliza Ng