Romance of the Three/Four Kingdoms

My first taste of a Dynasty Warriors game was the fourth entry in the series. After that I avidly played and completed 5, 6, 7 and most recently I’ve gotten my hands on 8. I have a penchant for what I call unintentionally educational games, I’ve mentioned before that I enjoyed the Civilisation series and it’s thanks to them that I’m not completely lost watching historical documentaries when they mention places like Carthage. The Dynasty Warriors series is (loosely) based the Three Kingdoms Period in China. The characters and the actions are all based upon historical information and the heavily biased Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, though they all receive a very ‘colourful’ redesign and interpretation. One wonders what the real life Zhang He would think of his modern day interpretation.

Jin WallpaperThe Three Kingdoms Period is so called, quite simply, because at that time China was divided into three kingdoms, Wu, Wei and Shu. The period ends when a new kingdom, Jin, emerges and conquers the land. In fact Wei finally conquers Shu, changes its name to Jin and then conquers Wu. The Jin kingdom was introduced into the game series with Dynasty Warriors 7 and curiously enough is composed of officers who served Wei, almost none of whom survive to see the creation of Jin. The reasoning is simple enough, Jin represents the end of the Three Kingdoms Period. The characters chosen for the Jin faction are selected because they assisted and created the foundations for what would eventually become the kingdom of Jin. Despite this it’s hard to imagine they felt a greater loyalty to the Sima clan (Founders and Rulers of Jin) than to their current rulers the Cao clan (Rulers of Wei).

The questionable connection to Jin along with the inherent fascination I have with the histories of these characters, and that others might be interested in, has prompted me to describe what I know of each one (from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms book and the internet). I’ll start with those who I feel have the least connection to Jin and move onto those with the most, meaning the Sima’s will be at the end of the list. If you’re interested in knowing who survived into the creation of Jin, it was started by Sima Yan in 265AD.

Guo HuaiFirst up, it’s Guo Huai. Portrayed in the game as permanently ill and sporting an arm mounted cannon to fight his enemies with, there seems to be no historical basis for the design, other than dying of illness which was actually a pretty common way to go despite the warring times. Rising up the ranks he ended up serving Xiahou Yuan and regrouped his forces after the latter was slain. He participates greatly in the battles against Shu on the Shu-Wei border with Sima Yi as commander. In the novel he is slain by Jiang Wei of Shu, in history he dies of illness in 255AD, ten years before Jin.

Deng AiNext it’s Deng Ai. Rising through the ranks and receiving the notice of Sima Yi, Deng Ai came up with a lot of intelligent ideas and tactics that furthered the Wei battles against Shu. He repeatedly defended Wei against Jiang Wei’s attacks and displayed a habit of predicting the actions of others. Ultimately responsible for the final defeat of Shu, Deng Ai was able to lead an army to Shu’s capital, Chengdu, and receive the surrender of the Shu emperor, Liu Shan. Shortly afterwards Deng Ai is executed due to the machinations of Zhong Hui, which I’ll go into more detail with in a moment, in 264AD. One year before Jin.

Zhong HuiZhong Hui. Like Deng Ai, Zhong Hui major contribution was in the final battles against Shu. His is represented as being an intelligent and talented man but one who created distrust amongst others with his arrogance. He also held a fierce rivalry with Deng Ai over the rewards for their efforts. After the surrender of Shu, Zhong Hui develops a friendship with Jiang Wei who is still intent on reviving Shu. Together the pair incriminate Deng Ai and steal his forces. Zhong Hui declares independence and at Jiang Wei’s suggestion intends to execute the Wei officers under his command. On discovering this the officers kill Zhong Hui and Jiang Wei, unfortunately Deng Ai is still executed when he attempts to return due to the officers fears of being involved in his incrimination. Zhong Hui died in 264AD, one year before Jin.

Zhuge DanZhuge Dan, suggested to in some way be a relative of Zhuge Liang, held a fair few important posts in Wei and was mostly involved in fighting against Wu, where he suffered a few defeats. He was invited by Wen Qin and Guanqiu Jian to join their rebellion but refused and assisted in subjugating them. However, as the Sima clan began to rise in power he rebelled against them fearful either of his life or for the future of Wei. He received assistance from Shu and Wen Qin. When he executed Wen Qin, Qin’s son Wen Yang returned to Wei. Zhuge Dan’s rebellion was soon defeated and he was killed in 258AD. Seven years before Jin.

Xiahou BaThe son of Xiahou Yuan, Xiahou Ba served Wei his family being long standing supporters of the Cao rulers. Like Zhuge Dan, Xiahou Ba’s actions are actually against the potential formation of the Jin kingdom, but in the same way help to highlight its imminent creation. After the execution of Xiahou Xuan by the Sima clan Xiahou Ba flees for his life. He is welcomed into Shu due to distant relations by marriage and ends up fighting Wei under the command of Jiang Wei. He dies in 262AD, three years before Jin.

Wen YangOne of the new characters and a playable officer that actually served Jin. Wen Yang as already mentioned was part of his father’s, Wen Qin’s, rebellion. He was said to be a great warrior, though the rebellion failed, he, his father and brother then joined Wu. They were ordered to assist Zhuge Dan’s rebellion and after the death of Wen Qin, Wen Yang defected back to Wei. He was saved from execution, due to his father’s rebellion, by Zhong Hui’s recommendation and went on to serve well under Jin rule. I don’t feel Wen Yang contributes to the rise of Jin but he certainly gets bonus points for actually being a Jin officer. He was executed in 291AD after an accusation from Zhuge Dan’s grandson. 26 years of service in the Jin dynasty.

Sima YiSima Yi is widely credited as laying the foundations of the Jin dynasty with his usurping of Cao Shuang as regent. Portrayed as having a rivalry with Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi was Wei’s strategist with several victories under his belt. Once he had installed himself as regent he set about removing supporters of the Cao clan and placing the Sima’s in position of power, particularly his sons Shi and Zhao. In previous Dynasty Warriors games he has been part of the Wei playable characters. The grandfather of Sima Yan, he died in 251AD, fourteen years before Jin.

Zhang ChunhuaThere’s not much to say of Sima Yi’s wife Zhang Chunhua, given the reduced role of females in history. Portrayed in the games as the woman behind the man, Zhang Chunhua was actually largely ignored by Sima Yi and starved herself in one incident where she had been reprimanded by him. Sima Yi apologised after being convinced by her sons. She gave birth to Shi and Zhao among others. She died in 247AD, eighteen years before Jin, but was posthumously named empress by Sima Yan.

Sima ShiFollowing on from Sima Yi, Sima Shi took over control. He furthered the Sima clans power and put down several rebellions in Wei. It was during his short period of power that many, including Xiahou Ba and Zhuge Dan, grew to fear the Sima clan. He Died shortly after quelling Wen Qin’s rebellion, 255AD. Ten years before Jin.

Sima ZhaoThe next Sima to assume control was Sima Zhao. He spent a lot of time building his power and preparing to usurp the imperial throne. Though never actually doing so, his intentions were obvious. Eventually the current emperor, Cao Mao, attacked Sima Zhao to stop him gaining the throne but was killed and replaced with Cao Huan. Sima Zhao was in charge of Wei during the conquering of Shu and it is his son Sima Yan that formed Jin. He died in 265AD, Yan founding Jin shortly after his death.

Wang YuanjiWang Yuanji, wife of Sima Zhao and mother of Sima Yan. She was said to have predicted Zhong Hui’s revolt. In the games she supports Sima Zhao and encourages him to take on the responsibilities his talents grant him. Like many of the female characters in the games Wang Yuanji doesn’t have a particular role and is often there just because. It’s the unfortunate combination of historical source material in which women were not considered equal to men and modern values which strive for some level of equality. I enjoy the inclusion of the female characters in the games though as they bring some much needed diversity. She died in 268AD as empress dowager, three years into Jin rule.

Jia ChongFinally we have another new character to the series, Jia Chong. Whilst the game does little to introduce him it does well to represent him as a behind the scenes manipulator who mentors Sima Zhao on the mercilessness necessary to cement rule. Jia Chong, aside from the Sima’s themselves, is the character who most supported the rise of Jin. He assisted Zhao well and predicted Zhuge Dan’s rebellion. It was his subordinate, Cheng Ji, who killed Emperor Cao Mao and he continued to politically serve Jin under Sima Yan’s rule. What I find most interesting is that it is his daughter, Jia Nanfeng, who would go on to be a primary cause of the next period of civil unrest, The War of the Eight Princes. He died in 282AD, serving Jin for seventeen years.

I find the whole period fascinating and thoroughly recommend reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms for yourself, which has a more romanticised approach than the actual histories but is correct enough for a passing interest. I also welcome any discussion about it so feel free to comment.


2 thoughts on “Romance of the Three/Four Kingdoms

  1. hungryandfit says:

    Love this post, thank you!

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