A Story of Zhuge Liang - Famous Strategist in Ancient China
Zhuge Liang was a famous strategist in the Three Kingdom Era of China history.
After the publication of the famous classic, Romance of Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, Zhuge Liang obtained a near deity position in the hearts of Chinese readers.
Romance of Three Kingdoms was a novel based on the history of Three Kingdoms Era. The writer, Luo Guanzhong, felt free to add in certain legends and folklores, and to elevate the position of Zhuge Liang to such a lofty near-deity position.
Zhuge Liang was born into well-to-do family. His ancestors hold political positions. Zhuge Liang was an orphan at the age of 12. He had an older brother, a younger brother, and younger sisters. His uncle supported them financially.
Zhuge Liang and his younger siblings moved to Nanyang, a peaceful countryside in year 197. Zhuge Liang was taller than 1.8m.
Two years later, Zhuge Liang and his friends learnt from a famous teacher, Master Shui Jing. Zhuge Liang earned the nickname "Crouched Dragon". According to legend, only Pang Tong, nicknamed "Young Phoenix", could match his intelligence. There was a saying that a ruler needed to obtain either one of them to gain the world.
According to folklore, Zhuge Liang learnt of the reputation of a smart but terribly ugly young lady. Nobody wanted to marry her. Zhuge Liang admired her intelligence and proposed marriage. He rather had an intelligent but ugly wife, than to have a beautiful but stupid wife. His wife was good at mechanical work, able to make mechanical dog, which could bite strangers.
At the age of 27, Liu Bei invited Zhuge Liang to help him. Liu Bei was a relative of the royal family. He wanted to help the royal family get rid of Cao Cao. Cao Cao was holding the real ruling power. The Emperor was just a puppet Emperor.
Zhuge Liang agreed to help Liu Bei. He was touched that Liu Bei made three visits to his hut, and impressed by the ambition of Liu Bei to serve the common folks.
Zhuge Liang predicted the formation of the Three Kingdoms. He advised Liu Bei to capture the western region, built up the arm forces, and to unify China.
Zhuge Liang underestimated the task of unifying China. He was right in the formation of Three Kingdoms, with one strong kingdom (Kingdom of Wei, ruled by descendants of Cao Cao), and two weaker kingdoms (Kingdom of Shu, ruled by Liu Bei and Kingdom of Eastern Wu, ruled by Sun Quan).
While Zhuge Liang pledged to serve Liu Bei, his older brother was serving Sun Quan, the ruler of Easter Wu.
A year later, in the year 208, Zhuge Liang convinced Sun Quan, the ruler of Eastern Wu, to ally with Liu Bei, and war with Cao Cao. The battle of Red Cliffs erupted. The combined armed forces of Liu Bei and Sun Quan had only fifty thousands soldiers. Cao Cao had two hundred and forty thousands soldiers, even though he claimed to have eight hundred thousands soldiers.
The Battle of Red Cliff was a naval war. Even though Cao Cao had more soldiers, these soldiers were skillful in naval warfare. They suffered from seasickness. On the other hand, the soldiers of Eastern Wu were well versed in naval warfare.
The army of Eastern Wu, led by Zhou Yu, defeated the Cao Cao in a naval battle. They burnt the ships of Cao Cao on a windy night.
The army of Liu Bei took part in the land war, capturing cities from Cao Cao. The allied forces of Liu Bei and Shu Quan won the Battle of Red Cliff. This decisive battle led to the formation of the Three Kingdoms. Without this battle, Liu Bei would never have a chance to build up a kingdom.
Six years later, Liu Bei successfully captured the Sichuan Province. In year 221, Liu Bei declared independence, and named his Kingdom as Shu Han. He appointed Zhuge Liang as Prime Minister. Zhuge Liang was 41 years old.
Liu Bei died two years later. His son, Liu Shan, succeed. Liu Shan trusted Zhuge Liang, called him "Prime Minister Father", and let him in charge of the country. Liu Shan preferred to spend time enjoying life.
For the next eleven years, Zhuge Liang successfully pacified the south, the present day Yunnan region. He was less successful in his northern expeditions, against the Kingdom of Wei.
Besides military conquests, Zhuge Liang focus on building the economical and agricultural aspects of the country. He used talented men to rule the country. However, he failed to build up a pool of fighters to serve as generals. After the death of the five "tiger" Generals, the Kingdom of Shu did not have good generals. They had excess of capable men in internal affairs, but no able general to fight the war.
He died in the year 234, at the age of fifty-four years old, while in the midst of northern expedition.
Zhuge Liang invented the kite, the wooden ox and floating horse (an automated device for transporting grain), the Zhuge crossbow and designed various infantry formations.
His military writings survive till our days. Although not as famous as the Art of War by Sun Tze, or part of the famous seven military classics of ancient China, his military writings are read and studied by many military leaders throughout the years.
A translation of his one of his military writings is available for free download. The "24 volumes on military strategy" which he handed to his successor is not available in English. The Chinese version is available for free download.
Zhuge Liang left a few hundred fruit trees to his descendants. For all his hard work, he did not a mass wealth. He was lauded as a loyal servant to his master, Liu Bei.