Liu Bei

From Academic Kids

Simplified Chinese:刘备
Traditional Chinese:劉備
Pinyin:Li Bi
Wade-Giles:Liu Pei
Zi:Xuande (玄德)
Other titles:Huangshu
(皇叔, lit. emperor's uncle)

Liu Bei was the founder of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period of China. In the classic novel the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" he was portrayed as a virtuous and charismatic man who rose in status from a humble mat weaver to the King of Shu. In the process Liu Bei was aided by capable generals (especially his Five Tiger Generals) and advisors, including the legendary strategists Zhuge Liang and Pang Tong.


Early life

Liu Bei was born in modern-day Zhuo Zhou, Hebei Province in the year 161. He was a descendant of Prince Sheng of Zhongshan, who was a great-great-grandson of Liu Qi, the fourth emperor of the Han Dynasty. In his youth, Liu Bei scratched a living selling grass mats and straw sandals. At the age of fifteen, he became a pupil of the Han scholar Lu Zhi along with the future warlord Gongsun Zan.

The Peach Garden Oath

According to the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", Liu Bei was the sworn brother of Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, both of whom eventually became his key aides. Historically the three never sworn brotherhood, although they were nonetheless close comrades.

According to the novel, when Liu Bei was tending his store at the market place one day, he was drawn by a huge commotion at a neighboring store that sold pork. As it turned out, the reason for the commotion was that the seller couldn't sell any pork, as his pork was inside a well that was blocked by a large rock. The store owner jested to the crowd, saying that if anybody strong enough to lift the rock would receive the pork trapped in the well.

A well muscled, red skinned man with a long beard, stepped out of the crowd and lifted the rock with ease. This was Guan Yu. True to his word, the store owner offered Guan Yu the pork as a reward, but Guan Yu refused, suggesting that the owner gave it to the customers instead. As meat was an expensive food item, the crowd scrambled forward to get a piece of free meat. Guan Yu noticed Liu Bei was the only one besides him that was not grabbing for the meat.

When Guan Yu went back to his own stall of green mongo seeds, another man came along, having heard of Guan Yu's remarkable strength. This was Zhang Fei. He decided to play a trick on Guan Yu by picking up a handful of the seeds, squeezing them in his hands and showing that the results were just a handful of powder. He then mocked Guan Yu saying that he was selling only powder, of which Guan Yu calmly remarked that it was Zhang Fei who made it so. At this Zhang Fei grew angry and challenged Guan Yu to a fight, which Guan Yu accepted.

Their hand-to-hand duel was so explosive that it supposedly tore the entire market apart, and being evenly matched, they fought for a long time without any clear winner. In the end, it was Liu Bei who stopped the fight. Amazed by the pair's skills, he invited them home and befriended them. On that same day, the three swore an oath of brotherhood to each other, in a peach garden, hence the name the Peach Garden Oath.

Rise to Power

Liu Bei was a very distant relative to the royalty of the Han Empire. With virtually no connection with the royal family, he rose to power by fighting the Yellow Turban Rebellion. When Cao Cao became the prime minister of the Han Empire and the de facto ruler of northern China, he was leading a wandering army around Shu (now Sichuan).

He enlisted Zhuge Liang, the strategist with the highest reputation of the age, as his minister. Zhuge Liang suggested that they ally with Sun Quan, the king of Wu, to resist the power of Cao Cao. This strategy worked most evidently in 208, when the Liu-Sun alliance defeated the invasion of Cao Cao at the Battle of Chi Bi.

With the help of Zhuge Liang, he became a warlord of Shu with the title; King of Hanzhong.

In 220, Cao Pi, son of Cao Cao, overthrew the Han Royals and founded the Kingdom of Wei. Liu Bei dismissed Cao Pi's action as illegal and proclaimed himself an Emperor of the Han Dynasty in 221.However, most Chinese historians regard Liu Bei as the ruler of Kingdom of Shu rather than an Emperor, and term his reign the Shu-Han Dynasty.

After Guan Yu was killed in a battle against the State of Wu (later the Kingdom of Wu) in 219, Liu Bei tried to revenge by leading an invasion in 221 of Wu. He was mostly successful until the Battle of Yiling when he was defeated by the Wu general Lu Yi (Xun).

Kong Ming (Zhuge Liang), who had been against the invasion, was sent for by a wounded Liu Bei from the battle. Kong Ming brought Liu Bei's son Liu Shan, whom Liu Bei named as his successor. He secretly told Kong Ming, however, that if his son proved to be trouble, Kong Ming had his permission to dethrone him and personally lead the kingdom.

Liu Bei died at Bai Di Cheng (present day Chongqing city) due to his wounds and sickness in the year 223.

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ko:유비 ja:劉備 zh:刘备


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