Liu Pei, the legitimate heir to the Han Dynasty, the founder of one of the Three Kingdoms, and the exalted lord of a great people. His deeds are legend. Although history does not altogether bear out his nobility, in this involved tale he is a patriarchal warrior, noble and amiable, loyal to his friends, and terrible in battle. These attributes lie under a calm exterior, a dignified carriage, and eyes that supposedly can see from the back of his head. He is commonly called Liu Yuan-te. His rise from protector of a widowed mother, shoemaker, and able scholar to a leader in the rebellion occurs before he is twenty-eight years old. Wherever he goes, he inspires confidence, and with the help of his two friends, he conquers two of the Three Kingdoms and makes it possible to fuse the three before his death and the passing of his reign to a weakling son.
Kuan Yü, a clear-headed strategist; he is handsome, dignified, and somewhat aloof but awe-inspiring. So daring and resourceful a leader is he that he is revered as a war god and his deeds are still passed along in oral tradition. Determined to defend his sworn brother Liu Pei, he becomes second in command. A learned man, quick of wit, and austere, Kuan, or Yun-ch’ang (meaning “long as a cloud”), is the idealized Chinese scholar-gentleman-warrior. He antagonizes a rival leader, however, when he is recalled from the wars and made governor of a province; hence, he is killed. Liu Pei and Chang Fei avenge his death as they had sworn to do but thereby weaken the alliances.
Chang Fei, the first to recognize Liu but the least learned and most blunt of the triumvirate. He is an extremely elemental and realistic man. Rather short, with a bullet head,...
(The entire section is 733 words.)