Chinese Name: 三国
English Name: Three Kingdoms Period; San Guo
Duration: About 220 AD – 280 AD
King: Cao Pi 曹丕( Cao Wei 魏国); Liu Bei 刘备( Shu Han 蜀国); Sun Quan 孙权( Sun Wu 孙吴)
The Three Kingdoms Period 三国时期 (220-280 years) is a historical period in Chinese history after the Eastern Han Dynasty and before the Jin Dynasty. During this period, there were three main regimes: Cao Wei 曹魏, Shu Han 蜀汉, and Sun Wu 孙吴.
In 190, the centralized power system of the Han Dynasty collapsed, warlords rose everywhere, and the world was in chaos. The battle of Chibi 赤壁之战 took place in 208. Cao Cao 曹操 was defeated by Shu Han and Sun Wu, which laid the prototype of the tripartite confrontation.
In 220, Cao Pi 曹丕, the Prime Minister of the Han Dynasty, forced Emperor Xian of the Han 汉献帝 to abdicate to the throne. He made Luoyang 洛阳 his capital and changed the country’s name to “Wei 魏”, which was called Cao Wei in history, marking the end of the Han Dynasty. In 221, Liu Bei 刘备 became emperor and made Chengdu 成都 its capital, which was called Shu Han in history. In 229, Sun Quan 孙权became the emperor, with the capital Jianye 建邺, the country name “Wu 吴” and the history of Sun Wu.
Major Historical Events
Yellow Turban Rebellion 黄巾起义
It refers to the peasant uprisings in the late Eastern Han Dynasty, which were twice larger. That is the yellow scarf army rebellion led by Zhang Jiao 张角 in 184 and the other uprising in 188 which is scattered and difficult to attack. Because the insurgents are tied with yellow cloth strips on their heads, this uprising is called the yellow scarf uprising.
At the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, because of the chaos of the imperial court and local decrees, farmers lived in poverty. Seeing this, Zhang Jiao, Zhang Liang 张亮, and Zhang Bao 张宝 brothers used spells to cure people everywhere. After drinking his rune, many sick people healed without medicine, and Zhang Jiao was regarded as a living immortal by the people.
Therefore, there were more and more followers in Zhang Jiao, even hundreds of thousands, accounting for almost three-quarters of the country at that time. In order to follow Zhang Jiao, many people did not hesitate to sell their family property. They rushed all the way and were crowded along with the disciples. It is said that more than 10000 people were trampled to death on the way.
It rapidly developed into millions of followers, causing nationwide war. Emperor Ling of Han 汉灵帝 sent the central army to suppress it and ordered the local state and county governments and powerful landlords to recruit troops to help. Finally, although the main force of the yellow scarf army was quickly defeated, the rest were still scattered everywhere. With the emergence of bandits everywhere, the central army of the Han Dynasty was exhausted.
Due to the policy of decentralization, the local army supported the soldiers and respected themselves, and the vassal states attacked each other. Even the emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty was like nothing in the eyes of warlords.
Therefore, the yellow scarf civil uprising was the fuse that led to the demise of the Eastern Han Dynasty and the prelude to the era of the Three Kingdoms.
Dong Zhuo’s Rebellion 董卓之乱
Dong Zhuo’s rebellion occurred from 189 to 192. It refers to Dong Zhuo‘s 董卓 dictatorship and tyranny after dealing with the government. Dong Zhuo was originally a powerful man in Longxi 陇西. He had many contacts with the general of Qiang 羌族. Once suppressed the uprising of Qiang people and yellow scarf. In the process of suppressing the uprising, an army that only obeyed its orders was gradually established.
Most of the members of this army are from Kansai. The people of all ethnic groups in Kansai have suffered repeated wars and are used to martial arts. Women can also fight with bows, so the Kansai army has strong combat effectiveness.
In order to seize power, Dong Zhuo began to eradicate the opponents, with cruel means, which caused a lot of dissatisfaction. He urged Lv Bu 吕布 to kill Ding Yuan 丁原, who was in charge of the capital guard and take control of the army. Yuan Shao 袁绍, Cao Cao, and other generals who had previously mastered military power fled the capital Luoyang one after another.
Finally, Dong Zhuo deposed and killed Emperor Shao of Han. Liu Xie 刘协 was renamed emperor, known as Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty. So far, Dong Zhuo has completely mastered the imperial court.
The Battle of Guan Du 官渡之战
The battle of Guandu was one of the “three major battles” in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. And it was also one of the famous battles in Chinese history to win the strong with the weak. In 200 AD, Cao Cao and Yuan Shao held a stalemate in Guandu and launched a strategic decisive battle here. Cao Cao raided Yuan Shao’s granary in WuChao 乌巢, and then defeated Yuan Shao’s main force. This war laid the foundation for Cao Cao to unify northern China.
After the war against Dong Zhuo, local warlords ignored the orders of the central government of the Eastern Han Dynasty and developed their own forces. Yuan Shao and Cao Cao made the most outstanding achievements in this period.
In the first year of Jian’an (196), Cao Cao welcomed the emperor and moved his capital to Xuxian county. From the beginning, the emperor was coerced to order the princes, which greatly increased their prestige. He defeated Lv Bu and Yuan Shu successively and occupied Yanzhou 兖州, Xuzhou 徐州, and other places. In the fourth year of Jian’an (199), Yuan Shao finally defeated Gongsun Zan 公孙瓒 and occupied Youzhou 幽州, Jizhou 冀州, and other places in Hebei, aiming to fight for the world to the south. Thus, a decisive battle is inevitable for the two most important political and military blocs in North China.
After more than a year of confrontation, the battle of Guandu ended with the overall victory of Cao Cao. Cao Cao defeated yuan’s army by surprise with about 20000 troops. This war case has become a typical war case in Chinese history that which the weak win the strong and the few win the many. With his extraordinary intelligence and courage, Cao Cao wrote down the most brilliant page of his military career.
Battle of Chibi 赤壁之战
The battle of Chibi refers to the battle of the joint forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei against the Cao Cao army in the Chibi area of the Yangtze River in the 13th year of Jian’an (A.D. 208).
This is one of the most famous battles in Chinese history. It was the most famous of the “three battles” during the Three Kingdoms period, and it was also another large-scale river battle in the Yangtze 长江 basin after Helu broke the Chu.
“To borrow arrows with thatched boats 草船借箭”, “Everything is ready except one key element 万事俱备只欠东风” both come from here.
So far, the tripartite confrontation in the three kingdoms period has officially taken shape.
Natural disasters and wars and economic decline
Because of natural disasters and wars, society was damaged, resulting in economic recession and a large number of agricultural land abandoned. Due to the collapse of the Eastern Han Dynasty, no one recast the worn copper money, plus a large amount of private money. During the three kingdoms period, the newly issued copper coins could not be widely used, so they had to officially take physical objects such as cloth, silk, valley, and chestnut as the main currency.
During the Three Kingdoms period, due to the need for war, the strategy and tactics of attacking cities and regions, as well as the manufacturing of offensive and defensive equipment and weapons, developed to varying degrees. In terms of offensive and defensive equipment, during the battle of Guandu, Cao Cao ordered the manufacture of stone carts and destroyed yuan Jun’s building carts. This kind of stone car was called the “Thunderbolt car 霹雳车” in the three kingdoms period.