Romance of the Three Kingdoms with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments


Sanguo yan yi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), written by Luo Guanzhong (circa 1330–1400), a late-Yuan and early-Ming author, is a historical novel set in the third century, in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. The part-historical, part-legendary, and part-mythical story chronicles the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who vied with each other to restore or replace the declining Han Dynasty. The novel follows literally hundreds of characters, with plots, personal and army battles, intrigues, and struggles, but its focus is mainly on the three power blocs that emerged from the remnants of the Han Dynasty and eventually formed the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu. With a total of 800,000 words and nearly 1,000 dramatic characters, in 120 chapters, it is acclaimed as one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature and is widely read in China. Numerous editions have appeared. This one, containing the commentaries of Li Zhuowu, is unique. Li Zhi (1527–1602), style name Zhuowu, a native of Jinjiang (present-day Quanzhou), Fujian Province, was not only a thinker and historian, but a master of popular literature who devoted considerable effort to producing and annotating such literature. Among the novels for which he prepared notes and commentaries and provided punctuation are Shui hu zhuan (Water margin), Xi you ji (Journey to the west) and Huan sha ji (Tale of washing dress). In this edition, Li’s commentaries are found on the top of each page and a shortened running title and page numbers are provided. At the end of each chapter is an overview comment. The work has three prefaces, one by Li Zhuowu, the others by Jiang Daqi and Miao Zunsu. Two essays are appended to the end of the work: Du Sanguo shi wen da (Questions and answers on the history of the Three Kingdoms) and Sanguo zhi zong liao xing shi (Names of officials of the Three Kingdom period). Each chapter has a subtitle, which is also the title of the preceding illustration. The illustrations are exquisitely executed.

Last updated: January 3, 2018