The (Much Abbreviated) Life and Times of Zhuge Liang

Think of the Three Kingdoms period in China as roughly analogous to Arthurian legend in the West. Like King Arthur and his knights, the central actors in the Three Kingdoms lived in the first few centuries A.D.. In the same way Sir Thomas Mallory romanticized and popularized Arthur, Lancelot and Percival in Le Morte d’Arthur in 1485, Chinese novelist Luo Guanzhong glamorized Zhuge Liang and his contemporaries in Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the late 1300’s.

And while Romance of the Three Kingdoms is much more historically accurate than Le Morte d’Arthur (the third century Chinese kept far better records than the pre-Saxon Birts), it serves much the same purpose culturally. Over the centuries it’s spawned folk tales, books and operas. More recently it’s been the inspiration for comics, websites, video games, cartoons and full-length Lord of the Rings-style feature films. There are Three Kingdoms fan fiction books, role playing games and figurines, and heaps of miscellaneous merch. So while on the one hand it’s legitimate culture and history, on the other it’s nerd heaven.


Qin Hui, Lady Wang and the Murder of Yue Fei

Chinese history, being long and populated by thousands of characters, gets very confusing very quickly. Still some stories from Chinese history do manage to stand out brightly in modern Chinese culture. One of them has to do with an evil minister, his evil wife and the murder of one of China’s greatest heroes. Sounds not unlike the story of MacBeth, no? The great stories are like that…they have resonance across cultures. But before I go all Joseph Campbell on you, let’s get to the story. Since it’s China, we need to back up a little since there’s always, always a backstory in Chinese history…even to the backstory.


Who invented Baozi?

Legend has it that baozi (the earlier kind without baking powder) were invented way back in the 3rd century A.D. by a Chinese military strategist, inventor and writer by the name of Zhuge Liang who lived during China’s famous “Three Kingdoms” period. As the story goes, Liang was engaged in a military campaign in southern […]