Three Kingdoms
Zhuge Liang, (A.D.181 - 234) Shu Force prime minister ϸ
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An artist impression of Zhuge Liang holding his trademark feather fan.
An artist impression of Zhuge Liang holding his trademark feather fan.

Zhuge Liang (181 - 234) was one of the greatest strategists of post-Han China, as well as a statesman, engineer, scholar, and legendary inventor of baozi. Zhuge is an uncommon two-character compound family name.


Various names in different forms

Family name and given name

  • Traditional Chinese characters: T
  • Simplified Chinese characters: :
  • Pinyin: Zhge Ling
  • Wade-Giles:Chuko Liang

Courtesy name

  • Chinese characters:
  • Pinyin: Kngmng
  • Wade-Giles: K`ung-ming

Other names

  • Crouching Dragon Xiansheng P
  • The Crouching or Sleeping Dragon P
  • Hidden Dragon
  • Pinyin: Wlng Xinsheng or Wlng Wade-Giles:Wo-lung Hsien-sheng

It is noted that , Crouching Dragon or Sleeping Dragon is his Taoist name.

Early life

Zhuge Liang was born in Yangdu County in Langya Commandery, at present-day Yishui County, Shandong Province. He was the second of three brothers and orphaned early; his mother died when he was nine, and his father when he was twelve. His uncle raised him and his siblings. When Cao Cao invaded Shandong in 195, his family was forced to flee south, and his uncle soon died of illness.

Although both his sisters married into important families with numerous connections in the area, for ten years he resided in Longzhong Commandry (in present-day Hubei province) with his elder brother Zhuge Jin (who later served the Wu Kingdom) in a simple peasant life - farming by day and studying by night. He got to know a group of friends among the intellectuals of the area. His reputation soon grew, and he was named the Crouching (or Sleeping) Dragon, wise among his peers in many areas. At the meantime, he married the daughter of another renowned scholar Huang Chenyan. His wife's name is rumored to be Huang Yueying. The Huang Family was also connected to several other well established clans in the region.

Rise to prominence

The warlord Liu Bei harbored in the neighboring city Xiangyang under his distant relative and the governor of the Jing Region, Liu Biao. Legends recounted that Zhuge Liang joined Liu Bei in 207 only after Liu visited him in person three times. In reality, one of Zhuge Liang's works accounted for three visits. Zhuge Liang soon presented his famous Longzhong Plan before Liu, and he travelled in person to the Kingdom of Wu and formed an alliance with its ruler Sun Quan. His elder brother Zhuge Jin served as a high official in Sun's administration.

In the Battle of Red Cliffs of 208, the allied armies of Liu Bei and Sun Quan defeated Cao Cao, thus enabling Liu Bei to establish his own territories. It is popular mythos that Zhuge Liang called forth a southeastern wind to sweep Huang Gai's fire-attack throughout Cao Cao's ships, however, in reality it was the Wu general Zhou Yu, a rival of Zhuge, who masterminded the wind attack. In folklore, the wind is attributed to either Zhuge Liang's magic or his ability to predict the weather.

The union with Sun Quan broke down when Guan Yu retaliated on the Kingdom of Wu in 219 after the surprise attack of L Meng. Guan Yu was defeated and decapitated. Liu Bei, infuriated with the execution of his longtime comrade, ignored all arguments of his well-meaning subjects and turned on the Kingdom of Wu, leading a huge army to seek revenge. He was defeated in the ensuing Battle of Yiling by Lu Xun and died in a lone fortress of "Baidi Cheng" (literary meaning: "the White Emperor Fortress") after a hasty and humiliating retreat to his own borders. After the death of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang became the chancellor under Liu Shan, Liu Bei's son, and renewed the alliance with Sun Quan.

The Southern Expedition

Zhuge Liang felt that in order to march North he would first have to unify Shu completely. If he fought against the North while the Nanman people rebelled, then the Nanman people would march further and perhaps even press into areas surrounding the capital. So rather than embarking on a Northern Campaign, Zhuge Liang led an army to pacify the south first.

Ma Su (Ma Liang's brother) proposed the plan that Zhuge Liang should work toward getting the rebels to join him rather than killing all of them and he took this plan. Zhuge Liang defeated the rebel leader, Meng Huo, seven different times, but released him each time, in order to achieve his genuine surrender.

During this campaign he got sick from the poison marshes in the area (according to the novel). Luckily, he was healed to good health, but possibly the effects of this sickness continued to ail him later, during the Northern Expeditions.

Finally, Meng Huo agreed to join Zhuge Liang in a genuine aquiescence, and thus Zhuge Liang appointed Meng Huo governor of the region, so he could govern it as he already had, keeping the populace content, and keeping Southern Shu border secure to allow for the future Northern Expeditions. Zhuge Liang obtained resources from the South, and after this, Zhuge Liang made his moves North.

The Nothern expeditions

Main article: Northern Expeditions

Zhuge Liang persuaded Jiang Wei, a general of Kingdom of Wei, to defect to the Kingdom of Shu during his first Northern Expedition. Jiang would become one of the prominent Shu generals, and inheritor of Zhuge Liang's battle strategies. Jiang Wei continued to carry on Zhuge Liang's ideals and fight for the Kingdom of Shu after Zhuge Liang's death in 234.

In Zhuge Liang's latter years, he launched expeditions against the Wei five times, but all failed, most often due to palace intrigue causing him to return to the capital, rather than failure on the battlefield. his only permanent gain was the addition of the Wudu and Yin Ping prefectures as well as relocating Wei citizens to Shu on occasion.

On the fifth expedition, he died of overwork and illness in an army camp in Battle of Wuzhang Plain. Zhuge Liang passed "The 24 Volumes on Military Strategy" (Bing Fa Er Shi Si Bian) to Jiang Wei at the eve of his death.


His name is synonymous with wisdom in Chinese. He was believed to be the inventor of the landmine and a mysterious automatic transportation device (initially used for grain described as a "wooden ox and floating horse" (ľţR), which is sometimes identified with the wheelbarrow. He is credited with the invention of a repeating crossbow which is named after him, called Zhuge Nu. An early type of hot air balloon used for military signalling is also named after him called "Kongming Deng" ().

Some books rumored to be written by Zhuge Liang can be found today, for example the Thirty-six Strategies of Zhuge Liang, and Mastering the Art of War are two that are generally available. Supposedly, his mastery of infantry and calvary formation tactics based upon the Taoist I-Ching were unrivaled.

He is also the subject of many Chinese literary works. A poem by Du Fu, one of the most prolific poets from the Tang Dynasty, was written in remembrance of Zhuge Liang:

Where to seek the temple of the noble Premier?
In the deep pine forest beside the City of Silk,
Where the green grass of spring cover the steps,
And songbirds chirp happily between the leaves.
Triple summons weighted by affairs of the State
To two generations he served with his true heart,
To die before completing a lifetime of achievement,
Always have heroes weep on their fleece ever since.

Pai Chung-hsi, a military leader of the Republic of China and warlord from Guangxi province, earned the laudatory nickname "Little Zhuge" due to his tactical decisions in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Zhuge Liang's Wife Huang Yueying

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According to some Chinese folklore Zhuge's wife Huang Yueying was hideous in appearance, while Zhuge was considered handsome. Legend says that Huang had dark skin, red hair and blue eyes -- characteristics that would be thoroughly unlikely for Chinese.

According to the same legends, Zhuge married her because she was intelligent and wise. It appeared that Zhuge had no other wives or concubines even when he became prime minister of Shu Han, even though powerful men of the time were generally polygamists. Together, Zhuge and his wife had a son, Zhuge Zhan (Tհ), who served Shu Han until his death in battle in defending the empire.