When the Yellow Turban rebellion is finally quashed, the many soldiers of fortune who take part in its suppression seize power for themselves, thus precipitating the downfall of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Among these the most shrewd and successful politician is Ts’ao Ts’ao, who already attracted a large following of able strategists and warriors. After the systematic elimination of his many rivals, such as Tung Cho, Lü Pu, Yuan Shao, and Yuan Shu, he rules over North China as the king of Wei, subjecting the Han Emperor and his court to great indignity.
Liu Pei, who also rose to fame during the Yellow Turban rebellion, is for a long time doing very poorly, despite the legendary prowess of his sworn brothers, Kuan Yü and Chang Fei. It is not until he seeks out Chu-ko Liang and makes him his chief strategist that his fortunes begin to improve. In time he rules over Szechwan as the king of Shu.
While Liu Pei is beginning to mend his fortunes, the only man who blocks Ts’ao Ts’ao’s territorial ambitions is Sun Ch’üan, who inherited from his father and older brother the rich kingdom of Wu, south of the Yangtze. When Ts’ao Ts’ao finally decides to cross the Yangtze and subdue Wu, Sun Ch’üan and Liu Pei form an alliance, and the combined strategy of their respective military commanders, Chou Yü and Chu-ko Liang, subject Ts’ao Ts’ao’s forces to a crushing defeat in the Battle of Red Cliff. After this victory Liu Pei goes to...
(The entire section is 597 words.)