Preface

by C. H. Brewitt-Taylor and Snow N. Snow.

Sun Ce was so formidable. After having Zhou Yu, he laid the foundation of his great design by a cluster of successful battles.

Shown here: Sun Ce combats with Taishi Ci (who has two darts on his back).

The San Guo (Three Kingdoms) is distinctly eastern, a book adapted forthe storytellers; once can almost hear them. It abounds in names andgenealogies, which seem never to tire the readers or listeners.

Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Malay, Indonesian, and possible otherversions of the San Guo have been made, and now to these I have attemptedto add one in English. With what measure of success I leave to curious readersqualified to compare my rendering with the original.

In conclusion, I wish to put on record my gratitude to Mr. Chen Ti Tsen, whotyped the text, and Mr. E. Manico Gull, who has read the proofs.

C. H. Brewitt-Taylor

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Romance of Three Kingdoms gives us a world of versatility in fullscale---a rolling panorama of human passions and ambitions. What makes the book fascinating is itswide appeal to many kinds of readers. In Asia, children read the book like theydo with fairy tales, whereas politicians embrace it for strategies, scholars wisdoms,parents guidelines, everyday people entertainment. A Korean saying goes: "Youcan discuss life after reading Romance of Three Kingdoms." And themost famous Chinese commentator, Mao Zonggang, who lived in the 17th century atthe start the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), had chosen "Seven BeautifulBooks", and he ranked Romance of Three Kingdoms the first amongthem.

Several reasons can be explained here on why the historical novel has such alarge group of fans.

Romance of Three Kingdoms is based closely on historical events (7parts of facts and 3 parts of fiction); it is considered a mainstream historywork, not a product of pure imagination or fabrication. Hence, it isextraordinary by itself, because history is the best storyteller.

But, one may ask, China with its rich and widespread civilization hasproduced many historical novels, why is Romance of Three Kingdoms thefirst masterpiece among them all?

First, the strife for mastery over the empire in the Three Kingdoms period isthe most outstanding struggle. Never before has the worldseen so many talents appearing in one same era; a large number of them areimportant figures who have left permanent impressions in several fields such asmilitary, politics, literature, morality, and pop culture; their names are mentionedin numerous records.

Second, the author of the book is one of the most talented novelists Chinahas ever had. Writing a novel with a main theme is much more difficult thanwriting the annals. In the annals, each topic is dealt with separately; but in Romanceof Three Kingdoms, arranging a huge amount of details into acontinuous epic, and the epic being consistent and captivating, is the author'sgreatest achievement.

According to tradition, Luo Guanzhong is the author of the modern edition ofthe book. Born at the beginning of the 14th century, he was a scholar in theMing Dynasty (1368-1644), but did not take office. Instead he traveledthroughout with the tittle "The Man of All Lakes and Seas". Some threehundred years after Luo Guanzhong, Mao Zonggang edited the original work andmade popular the new edition. This English translation is based on the Maoedition, which is also the most widely read edition in China and Asia.

But the birth of the book can be traced back to the Jin dynasty (265-316 AD).Chen Shou was believed to be the first to pen Romance of Three Kingdoms.He was an official in Shu-Han court, and later worked for Jin as historian afterShu-Han's submission. This first edition had 61 chapters---26 stories of Wei, 15stories of Shu, and 20 stories of Wu. A century after Chen Shou, Emperor Wen ofthe Liu-Song dynasty commissioned Pei Songzhi to edit the work. Pei Songzhicollected a great amount of tales and historical facts and added them to thebook, and this new edition of 65 chapters became mainstream history source forthe Three Kingdoms period. The book went through various minor changes andinventions, until Luo Guanzhong combined the many sources and rewrote themasterpiece that gave birth to the Mao edition, which has been handed down untiltoday.

Not only does Romance of Three Kingdoms has a rich history in themaking, but indeed is it picturesque in contents. Its concepts and executionexact human notions of what are beautiful. Reading it is like contemplatingclouds passing through mountains or storms pouring down the forest, the moonglowing in autumn or flowers blooming in spring. The evolution of all elementsis infinite. Sometimes, the writing is as serene as a shooting star; othertimes, it is as rousing as tidal waves or earthquakes.

Romance of Three Kingdoms is cherished also due to its perfectcause-and-effect technique. Before a storm, thunders must be heard; after it,cold air can be felt. Every detail is traced to its origin and projected beyondits conclusion; one thing leads to another, so the various focuses relate toeach other, making the main theme whole. The author did not merely recordevents, but he helped explain them in a style that all readers love.

Tradition has several guidelines for reading the masterpiece. To avid fans ofhistory, being able to identify who had a legitimate claim to the empire isessential. But opinions vary and are subject to changing believes. Some agreewith the ancient, whereas others have their own conclusions. As the result, thisonline edition of Romance of Three Kingdoms tries to give the readers as much information as possible, so that they can judge for themselves.

However, we encourage the readers to do a few things before reading thenovel. First, take a look at the small and big maps of ancient China. Beingfamiliar to the maps is important for appreciating the many military campaignsin the book. Second, you can warm up by reading the outlines of Chinese historyfrom mythology to Three Kingdoms. This section of about 60 pages will acquaintyou to the ancient society and its customs and thoughts.

After that, readers can choose either to read the lecture of Dr. Rafe deCrespigny about Three Kingdoms, or begin to read the book. The lecture of Dr.Rafe de Crespigny (about 30 pages) is the most informative writing about Romanceof Three Kingdoms on the Internet. It will give you a complete understandingof old society in the Three Kingdoms period. This commentary can also serve as a perfect afterword. The main book has 120 chapters (about 1,400 pages).

Having finished the book, readers can enjoy the many other writings about Romanceof Three Kingdoms in the Discussion section. You can also enjoy the wisdomof war strategy through a reading of The Art of War by Suntzu (or Sunzi), a13-chapter treatise of military methods, famous for its brevity and wideapplications.

With all these writings, we believe you will come to understand andappreciate the First Masterpiece.

The online Romance of Three Kingdoms is the collaboration of manypeople. We want to thank them all for their contributions in writings, ideas,energy, and resources. Special thanks to:

          ?Christopher G.Parent, Ellen Xue, Kathryn Goodell, Jonathan P. Voth, Ma Teng, Oliver Pierce,Corey Quilliam, Brian Swift, Richard Yip, Nuttasit Boonplang, Jack Yuan, and Jason Ngfor your shaping the directions and other contributions;
          ?George Koo, Rafede Crespigny, Li Ung Bing, Yan Zhang, Peter Konieczny, Bu Ching, Timothy Chiang,and Ryan Youngsaye for your writing contributions.
          ?Joseph Whiteside,Yin Yang, Khue Nguyen, Budihardjo Budi, Gloria Wu, Kyle Ishida, CJ Sephiro, ShouTsurugi, Steven Prabowo, Roy Padgett, and Stanley Hendoro for your editing and design supports;
          ?Sangdo Ha and the"World of Computer" radio program (Voice of America) for sending free the book on floppydisks to readers around the world, who do not have Internet access.

This online Romance of Three Kingdoms is in its third edition. We have the zip file available for you to download the whole book toyour hard drive. There are readers in the countries where Internet connection isexpensive. Reading offline is therefore a good option. A zip file will simplifyyour download to one instead of 150+ files.

In this edition we include a sound feature into the book. Now you can have a computervoice read the book for you. Some of the friends told us when they werechildren, they listened to Romance of Three Kingdoms on radio, and theyenjoyed this format. So, we implement the audio feature. The visually impaired cangreatly benefit in this feature, too. And those who want to learn English willfind this feature very helpful. In order to use the audio feature, users willneed Microsoft Internet Explorer. You will download the audio softwarefrom Microsoft.com web site. Microsoft makes this technology free to Internet users, and we want to thank them for that. See Help.

ThreeKingdoms.com makes the novel available to all readers, to whom we dedicate.

Snow N. Snow

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