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It was an age of confrontation and rivalry among heroes. They were all best of the best. Their vivid persona and dynamic talents marked an era full of great tension, momentum, and drama. Before and after the Battle of Red Cliff, and into the times of the Three Kingdoms, the leaders of Wei, Shu, and Wu did all they could to entice the best over to their camps from all possible sources, to the extent that Cao Cao once made three consecutive "Talent Scout" announcements explicitly looking for talents regardless of the candidates' character. It was a controversial move; however, the motivation was really no different from Liu Bei's paying three persistent visits to Zhuge, both indicative of an urgent "thirst" for talents.

The roll call reveals a list of unforgettable names: Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Kongming, and Zhao Yun from Shu; Sun Quan, Zhou Yu, Lu Su, and Lu Xun from Wu; Cao Cao and his sons, Xun You, Jia Xu, and Sima Yi from Wei. These larger-than-life historical figures, either in their dashing, heroic acts, or poetic mood of utterances, each with his unique talents exemplified classical paragons for us to admire. Is it the Times itself helping perpetuate the Heroes, or the Heroes themselves helping glorify the Times? In Three Kingdoms we might divine some inspirations.

Profound and grand are the crossroads of history, a feast of epics and legends. Tidal waves of talent. Enter the heroes.

Liujia wenxuan (Anthology of Six Great Writers)
Compiled by Xiao Tong (501-531) of Liang dynasty
Annotated by Li Shan, et al. of Tang dynasty (618-907)
Ming imprint by the Yuan family's Jiaqutang of Wu county in the 28th year of Jiajing reign (1549)

Liujia wenxuan (Anthology of Six Great Writers) (New Window)Generally referred to as the "Anthology of Six Great Writers", and is the earliest selection of poetry and literature still existing today. It was jointly compiled by Xiao Tong, the Prince Zhaoming of the Liang Period, with his literary officials, and included more than 130 authors and 700 works from the East Zhou to South Liang Period. It was subsequently annotated by numerous commentators, amongst whom the "Six Great Writers" were the most notable. The "Six Great Writers" referred to Li Shan, Lü Yenqi, Liu Liang, Zhang Xian, Lü Xiang and Li Zhouhan of the Tang dynasty. Li Shan's annotations were particularly revered by the academia, however the annotations by the other five masters are appreciated for their interpretation of the text.

 

"The Red Cliff Mountains"
Mingshanshengaiji fumingshantu (Illustrated Travels among Mountains)
Edited by He Tang of Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Ming imprint during the Chongzhen reign (1628-44)

The Red Cliff Mountains (New Window)This is an illustration from the "Illustrated Travels among Mountains", in the style of ancient records. The top of the volume was annotated by Mohui Printhouse of Hanzhou in 6th Year of Chongzhen (1633), stating "Red Cliffs and Fucha was painted by Lan Tiensun and Sun Zizhen". Lan and Sun are both landscape artists of the Ming dynasty. In the illustration the rapids flow between steep cliffs that seem to be implanted in the waters like a giant nose; two small fishing vessels hover by the stone cliffs. This illustration adopts stronger and thicker strokes that are not as delicate as the "Compilations".

"The Sovereign and His Ministers: a Happy and Compatible Company"
Dijiantushuo (Illustrated Sayings on the Mirror of Ruling)
Edited by Zhang Juzheng (1525-1582) and Lü Diaoyang (1516-1580) of Ming dynasty
llustrated by Shen Zhenlin with additional text by Pan Zuyin, Ouyang Baoji, Yang Sisun, and Xu Pengshou, Qing dynasty (1628-1644)
Qing court painted manuscript edition in red-lined columns
The Sovereign and His Ministers: a Happy and Compatible Company (New Window)
Written by the Ming dynasty imperial scholar Zhang Juzhen, this book is a compilation of examples of moralistic and conscientious acts by emperors of past, as well as examples to the contrary, which were prepared for study by the Emperor Shenzong of the Ming dynasty. This chapter entitled "The Sovereign and his Ministers: a Happy and Compatible Company" refers to the story of Liu Bei visiting Zhuge Liang's straw cottage three times in order to win Zhuge's cooperation, and Zhuge reciprocates by giving "Suggestions in Longzhong". Liu Bei treated ZhuGe Liang as a most honoured guest, which attracted the disapproval of Liu's two sworn brothers, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. Liu Bei advised Chang and Guan not to persecuted with Zhuge. Zhuge ultimately gave his life in thanks for Liu Bei's trust.