An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sanguozhi 三國志

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Sanguozhi 三國志 "Records of the Three Empires" is one of the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史). Together with its predecessors Shiji 史記, Hanshu 漢書 and Houhanshu 後漢書 it is one of the "Four [Great] Histories" (sishi 四史) of ancient China. It describes separately the history of each of the so-called Three Empires 三國 (220~280 CE; instead of this traditional translation, the term "Three Empires" would be more appropriate). The book is compiled in a biographic-thematic style (jizhuanti 紀傳體).

The author was Chen Shou 陳壽 (233–297, courtesy name Yongzuo 承祚) and the first commentator Pei Songzhi 裴松之 (372–451, courtesy name Shiqi 世期).

The Weishu 魏書 "Book of Wei" (sometimes also called Weizhi 魏志 "Records of Wei"—this part of the Sanguozhi must not be confounded with the official history of the Northern Wei dynasty 北魏, 386-534, also called Weishu 魏書), with a length of 30 juan, contains the imperial and normal biographies of the empire of Wei 曹魏 (220-265) that was ruled by the family Cao 曹, the Shushu 蜀書 "Book of Shu" (Shuzhi 蜀志), 15-juan long, that of the empire of Shu 蜀漢 (221-263), ruled by the family Liu 劉 that claimed to be the rightful successors of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), and the Wushu 吳書 "Book of Wu" (Wuzhi 吳志), with a length of 20 juan, that of the southeastern empire of Wu 吳 (222-280) that was ruled by the family Sun 孫.

All three parts make for a total book length of 65 juan.

Chen Shou was originally a high official at the court of Shu before he entered the service of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420). It is not known when he completed his history of the Three Empires period. The Shuzhi was the first history of the Liu-Shu dynasty in Sichuan, but for the other two empires there existed already two histories, on which Chen certainly relied. These were Wang Chen's 王沈 (d. 266) Weishu (48-juan) and Yu Huan's 魚豢 Weilüe 魏略 "A concise [history] of Wei".

The bibliographic chapter Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the dynastic history Suishu 隋書 lists a few more history books of the Three Empires: Wushu 吳書 (25 juan, originally 55) by Wei Zhao 韋昭 (who also commented the old history book Guoyu 國語), a book of which only fragments were surviving into the early Tang period 唐 (618-907), Wuji 吳紀 (9 juan) by Huan Ji 環濟, and Wulu 吳錄 (30 juan) by Zhang Bo 張勃 (already lost in the 7th cent.).

From the Jiutangshu 舊唐書 bibliography on these texts are sorted into the chronicles section (Biannian 編年). The chronicles section in the Suishu bibliography includes three texts on the Three Empires period, namely Weishi chunqiu 魏氏春秋 "Spring and Autumn of the Wei dynasty" (20 juan, in the Xintangshu 新唐書 called Wei-Wu chunqiu 魏武春秋) by Sun Sheng 孫盛 (author of the chronicle Jinyang qiu 晉陽秋), Weiji 魏紀 (12 juan) by Yin Dan 陰澹, and Han-Wei chunqiu 漢魏春秋 (9 juan) by Kong Shuyuan 孔舒元. The bibliography in the Jiutangshu knows two more chronicles on the Three Empires period, namely Liang Zuo's 梁祚 Guoji 國紀 (10 juan; the title shows that it was written when the Wei dynasty still ruled; in the Xintangshu called Weishu guoji 魏書國紀), and a 3(4)-juan long book (anonymous) of imperial annals of Cao Cao 曹操 (155–220), Wei Wu benji 魏武本紀.

The concurrent existence of three empires on Chinese soil posed a problem for historians: Which one was the righteous dynasty to which Heaven had bestowed the so-called Heavenly Mandate? The answer to this question was of far-reaching consequences for the calendar and and the claim of legitimation for the subsequent dynasties. In the eyes of the Jin dynasty the Cao-Wei family was accepted as the legitimate rulers, first because they ruled in the ancient cultural and political centre of China, the Yellow River plain, and secondly, because the founder of the Jin dynasty had been regent for the Wei emperor, and "inherited" the latter's claim for the throne.

The events in the states of Shu and Wu are not dated with their own calendar but with the calendar of Wei, using the reign mottos of Wei.

The lords of the two other empires, therefore, could not be called "emperor" (di 帝) but were only given the title of "ruler" (zhu 主). Chen Shou therefore speaks of "emperor" Wei Wudi 魏武帝 (i.e. Cao Cao), but only of the "Former" and the "Later Ruler" (Xianzhu 先主, Houzhu 後主) of Shu and the "Ruler" of Wu. The last ruler of Wu submitted to the Jin dynasty and could therefore not be called "emperor": Sun Hao 孫皓 (r. 264–280) is only called sizhu 嗣主 "the heir-ruler".

Similarly, the wives of the rulers of Wei are called houfei "empresses and consorts", while that of the others are called feizi 妃子 resp. feibin 妃嬪 "consorts".

Of the three parts of the Sanguozhi, the first can be seen as the central one, with the Wei dynasty as the rightful successor of the Han. It therefore also includes all collective biographies, namely one of magicians and diviners (29 Fangji 方技), and one on foreign peoples and countries (30). The last part of chapter 30 has often attracted attention because it is the earliest extant description of Korea and Japan (the latter informally called /Wajin den 倭人傳). For the imperial consorts, collective biographies are provided in all three parts of the Sanguozhi (5 Houfei 后妃 [Wei], 34 Erzhu feizi 二主妃子 [Shu], 50 Feibin 妃嬪 [Wu]), similarly for the imperial houses (19-20 [Wei], 34 [Shu], and 51 and 59 [Wu]).

There was unsubstantiated criticism against Chen Shou to have omitted a biography for Ding Yí 丁儀 and his son Ding Yì 丁廙 from Shu, and to have written only a very short biography for Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181–234), Counsellor-in-chief of Shu and successful military leader. The latter is indeed true but the biography (35) contains a lot of praise for Zhuge Liang.

Yet what is surely not appropriate is Chen's overt praise for the founders of the Jin dynasty, the family Sima 司馬. Compared to the other three of the "Four Histories" the Sanguozhi is rather short and lacks substance, especially in those matters going beyond the purely biographical accounts. Treatises, for example, are totally missing.

The commentary of Pei Songzhi tried to solve some of the problems. He added missing information from more than 140 other sources, of which far the largest part is lost today, and corrected errors.

The Republican period scholar Lu Bi 盧弼 (1876–1967) collected all surviving commentaries to the Sanguozhi, added his own remarks and published it as Sanguozhi jijie 三國志集解. The collection Ershiwushi bubian 二十五史補編 contains a few supplementary chapters to the Sanguozhi, mainly tables, imperial genealogies, and treatises (geography and literature).

Table 1. Chapters of the Sanguozhi 三國志
魏書 Weishu The Book of Wei
1. 1 武帝曹操 Emperor Wu Cao Cao (ruled as king of Wei 215-220)
2. 2 文帝曹丕 Emperor Wen Cao Pi (emperor r. 220-226)
3. 3 明帝曹叡 Emperor Ming Cao Rui (r. 226-239)
4. 4 三少帝 The three Minor Emperors (Cao Fang, Prince of Qi 齊王曹芳 [r. 239-253], Cao Mao, Township Duke of Gaogui 高貴鄉公曹髦 [r. 254-259], Cao Huan, Prince of Chenliu 陳留王曹奐 resp. Emperor Yuan 魏元帝 [r. 260-265])
5. 5 后妃 Houfei Imperial consorts [Empress Xuan, née Bian, of Emperor Wu 武宣卞皇后; Empress Zhao, née Zhen, of Emperor Wen 文昭甄皇后, Empress De, née Guo, of Emperor Wen 文德郭皇后; Empress Dao, née Mao, of Emperor Ming 明悼毛皇后, Empress Yuan, née Guo, of Emperor Ming 明元郭皇后]
6. 6 Dong Zhuo 董卓 (Li Jue 李傕, Guo Si 郭汜), Yuan Shao 袁紹 (sons Yuan Tan 袁譚 and Yuan Shang 袁尚), Yuan Shu 袁術, Liu Biao 劉表
7. 7 Lü Bu 呂布 (Zhang Miao 張邈, Chen Deng 陳登), Zang Hong 臧洪 (Chen Rong 陳容)
8. 8 Gongsun Zan 公孫瓚, Tao Qian 陶謙, Zhang Yang 張楊, Gongsun Du 公孫度 (sons Gongsun Kang 公孫康, Gongsun Gong 公孫恭, Kang's son Gongsun Yuan 公孫淵), Zhang Yan 張燕, Zhang Xiu 張繡, Zhang Lu 張魯
9. 9 Xiahou Dun 夏侯惇 (Han Hao 韓浩, Shi Huan 史渙), Xiahou Yuan 夏侯淵, Cao Ren 曹仁 (brother Cao Chun 曹純), Cao Hong 曹洪, Cao Xiu 曹休 (son Cao Zhao 曹肇), Cao Zhen 曹真 (sons Cao Shuang 曹爽, Cao Xi 曹羲, Cao Xun 曹訓; He Yan 何晏, Deng Yang 鄧颺, Ding Mi 丁謐, Bi Gui 畢軌, Li Sheng 李勝, Huan Fan 桓範), Xiahou Shang 夏侯尚 (son Xiahou Xuan 夏侯玄)
10. 10 Xun Yu 荀彧 (son Xun Yun 荀惲, grandsons Xun Han 荀甝 and Xun Yi 荀霬), Xun You 荀攸, Jia Xu 賈詡
11. 11 Yuan Huan 袁渙, Zhang Fan 張範 (brother Zhang Cheng 張承), Liang Mao 涼茂, Guo Yuan 國淵, Tian Chou 田疇, Wang You 王脩, Bing Yuan 邴原, Guan Ning 管寧 (Wang Lie 王烈, Zhang Zun 張臶 ), Hu Zhao 胡昭 (Jiao Xian 焦先)
12. 12 Cui Yan 崔琰, Mao Jie 毛玠, Xu Yi 徐奕, He Kui 何夔, Xing Yong 邢顒, Bao Xun 鮑勳, Sima Zhi 司馬芝
13. 13 Zhong Yao 鍾繇, Hua Xin 華歆, Wang Lang 王朗
14. 14 Cheng Yu 程昱, Guo Jia 郭嘉, Dong Zhao 董昭, Liu Ye 劉曄, Jiang Ji 蔣濟, Liu Fang 劉放
15. 15 Liu Fu 劉馥, Sima Lang 司馬朗, Liang Xi 梁習, Zhang Ji 張既, Wen Hui 溫恢, Jia Kui 賈逵
16. 16 Ren Jun 任峻, Su Ze 蘇則, Du Ji 杜畿, Zheng Hun 鄭渾, Cang Ci 倉慈
17. 17 Zhang Liao 張遼, Yue Jin 樂進, Yu Jin 于禁, Zhang He 張郃, Xu Huang 徐晃
18. 18 Li Dian 李典, Li Tong 李通, Zang Ba 臧霸, Wen Pin 文聘, Lü Qian 呂虔, Xu Chu 許褚, Dian Wei 典韋, Pang De 龐德, Pang Yu 龐淯, Yan Wen 閻溫
19. 19 Cao Zhang, Prince Wei of Rencheng 任城威王曹彰, Cao Zhi, Prince Si of Chen 陳思王曹植, Cao Xiong, Prince Huai of Xiao 蕭懷王曹熊
20. 20 武文世王公 The princes and dukes (i.e. the sons) of the emperors Wu [Cao Ang 曹昂 (Prince Min of Feng 豐愍王), Cao Le 曹鑠 (Prince Shang of Xiang 相殤王), Cao Chong 曹沖 (Prince Ai of Deng 鄧哀王), Cao Ju 曹據 (Prince of Pengcheng 彭城王), Cao Yu 曹宇 (Prince of Yan 燕王), Cao Lin 曹林 (Prince Mu of Pei 沛穆王), Cao Gun 曹袞 (Prince Gong of Zhongshan 中山恭王), Cao Xuan 曹玹 (Prince Huai of Jiyang 濟陽懷王), Cao Jun 曹峻 (Prince Gong of Chenliu 陳留恭王), Cao Qu 曹矩 (Prince Min of Fanyang 范陽閔王), Cao Gan 曹幹 (Prince of Zhao 趙王), Cao Shang 曹上 (Duke Shang of Linyi 臨邑殤公), Cao Biao 曹彪 (Prince of Chu 楚王), Cao Qin 曹勤 (Duke Shang of Gang 剛殤公), Cao Cheng 曹乘 (Duke Shang of Gucheng 穀城殤公), Cao Zheng 曹整 (Duke Dai of Mei 郿戴公), Cao Jing 曹京 (Duke Shang of Ling 靈殤公), Cao Jun 曹均 (Duke An of Fan 樊安公), Cao Ji 曹棘 (Duke Shang of Guangzong 廣宗殤公), Cao Hui 曹徽 (Prince Ling of Dongping 東平靈王), Cao Mao 曹茂 (Prince of Leling 樂陵王)] and Wen [Cao Xie 曹協 (Prince Ai of Zan 贊哀王), Cao Rui 曹蕤 (Prince Dao of Beihai 北海悼王), Cao Jian 曹鑒 (Prince Huai of Dongwuyang 東武陽懷王), Cao Lin 曹霖 (Prince Ding of Donghai 東海定王), Cao Li 曹禮 (Prince Ai of Yuancheng 元城哀王), Cao Yong 曹邕 (Prince Huai of Handan 邯鄲懷王), Cao Gong 曹貢 (Prince Dao of Qinghe 清河悼王), Cao Yan 曹儼 (Prince Ai of Guangping 廣平哀王)]
21. 21 Wang Can 王粲, Wei Ji 衛覬, Liu Yi 劉廙, Liu Shao 劉劭, Fu Gu 傅嘏
22. 22 Huan Jie 桓階, Chen Qun 陳群, Chen Jiao 陳矯, Xu Xuan 徐宣, Wei Zhen 衛臻, Lu Yu 盧毓
23. 23 He Qia 和洽, Chang Lin 常林, Yang Jun 楊俊, Du Xi 杜襲, Zhao Yan 趙儼, Pei Qian 裴潛
24. 24 Han Ji 韓暨, Cui Lin 崔林, Gao Rou 高柔, Sun Li 孫禮, Wang Guan 王觀
25. 25 Xin Pi 辛毗, Yang Fu 楊阜, Gaotang Long 高堂隆
26. 26 Man Chong 滿寵, Tian Yu 田豫, Qian Zhao 牽招, Guo Huai 郭淮
27. 27 Xu Miao 徐邈, Hu Zhi 胡質, Wang Chang 王昶, Wang Ji 王基
28. 28 Wang Ling 王淩, Guanqiu Jian 毌丘儉, Zhuge Dan 諸葛誕, Deng Ai 鄧艾, Zhong Hui 鍾會
29. 29 方技 Fangji Diviners and magicians [Hua Tuo 華佗, Du Kui 杜夔, Zhu Jianping 朱建平, Zhou Xuan 周宣, Guan Lu 管輅]
30. 30 The Wuhuan 烏丸, Xianbei 鮮卑, and the eastern barbarians 東夷 (Fuyu 夫餘, Gaogouli/Koguryŏ 高句麗 [northern Korea], the Eastern Woju 東沃沮, Yilou 挹婁, Hui 濊, Han 韓 [southern Korea] and Wo 倭 [Japan])
蜀書 Shushu The Book of Shu
31. 1 The Regional Governors (mu 牧) Liu Yan 劉焉 and Liu Zhang 劉璋
32. 2 先主劉備 The Former Ruler Liu Bei (r. 221-222)
33. 3 後主劉禪 The Later Ruler Liu Shan (r. 223-263)
34. 4 二主妃子 Er zhu feizi Consorts and sons of the two rulers [Empress Gan of the Former Ruler 先主甘后, Empress Mu of the Former Ruler 先主穆后; Empress Jing'ai, née Zhang, of the Later Ruler 後主敬哀張后, her sister Empress Zhang of the Later Ruler 後主張后; Prince Liu Yong 劉永, Prince Liu Li 劉理, Crown Prince Liu Xuan 後主太子劉璿]
35. 5 Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮
36. 6 Guan Yu 關羽, Zhang Fei 張飛, Ma Chao 馬超, Huang Zhong 黃忠, Zhao Yun 趙雲
37. 7 Pang Tong 龐統, Fa Zheng 法正
38. 8 Xu Jing 許靖, Mi Zhu 麋竺, Sun Qian 孫乾, Jian Yong 簡雍, Yi Ji 伊籍, Qin Mi 秦宓
39. 9 Dong He 董和, Liu Ba 劉巴, Ma Liang 馬良, Chen Zhen 陳震, Dong Yun 董允, Lü Yi 呂乂
40. 10 Liu Feng 劉封, Peng Yang 彭羕, Liao Li 廖立, Li Yan 李嚴, Liu Yan 劉琰, Wei Yan 魏延, Yang Yi 楊儀
41. 11 Huo Jun 霍峻, Wang Lian 王蓮, Xiang Lang 向朗, Zhang Yi 張裔, Yang Hong 楊洪, Fei Shi 費詩
42. 12 Du Wei 杜微, Zhou Qun 周群, Du Qiong 杜瓊, Xu Ci 許慈, Meng Guang 孟光, Lai Min 來敏, Yin Mo 尹默, Li Zhuan 李譔, Qiao Zhou 譙周, Que Zheng 郤正
43. 13 Huang Quan 黃權, Li Hui 李恢, Lü Kai 呂凱, Ma Zhong 馬忠, Wang Ping 王平, Zhang Ni 張嶷
44. 14 Zhang Wan 蔣琬, Fei Yi 費禕, Jiang Wei 姜維
45. 15 Deng Zhi 鄧芝, Zhang Yi 張翼, Zong Yu 宗預, Yang Xi 楊戲
吳書 Wushu The Book of Wu
46. 1 Sun Jian 孫堅, Sun Ce 孫策
47. 2 吳主孫權 Sun Quan, the ruler of Wu (r. 222-252)
48. 3 三嗣主 The three succeeding rulers (Sun Liang 孫亮 [r. 252-257], Sun Xiu 孫休, Emperor Jing 吳景帝 [r. 257-263] and Sun Hao 孫皓 [263-280])
49. 4 Liu Yao 劉繇, Taishi Ci 太史慈, Shi Xie 士燮
50. 5 妃嬪 Feibin Consorts [Sun Ponu's (i.e., Sun Jian) Lady Wu 孫破虜吳夫人, her younger brother Wu Jing 吳景; Sun Quan's Lady Xie 吳主權謝夫人, Sun Quan's Lady Xu 權徐夫人, her grandfather Xu Zhen 徐真, her father Xu Kun 徐琨, Sun Quan's Lady Bu 權步夫人, Sun Quan's Lady Wang 權王夫人, Sun Quan's Lady Pan 權潘夫人; Sun Liang's Lady Quan 孫亮全夫人, Sun Liang's Lady Zhu 孫亮朱夫人, Sun Liang's Beauty He 孫亮何姬; Sun Hao's Lady Teng 孫浩滕夫人]
51. 6 宗室 Zongshi The ruling house [Sun Jing 孫靜, Sun Fen 孫賁, Sun Fu 孫輔, Sun Yu 孫翊, Sun Kuang 孫匡, Sun Shao 孫韶, Sun Huan 孫桓]
52. 7 Zhang Zhao 張昭, Gu Yong 顧雍, Zhuge Jin 諸葛瑾, Bu Zhi 步騭
53. 8 Zhang Hong 張紘, Yan Jun 嚴峻, Cheng Bing 程秉, Kan Ze 闞澤, Xue Zong 薛綜
54. 9 Zhou Yu 周瑜, Lu Su 魯肅, Lü Meng 呂蒙
55. 10 Cheng Pu 程普, Huang Gai 黃蓋, Han Dang 韓當, Jiang Qin 蔣欽, Zhou Tai 周泰, Chen Wu 陳武, Huang Xi 黃襲, Gan Ning 甘寧, Ling Tong 淩統, Xu Sheng 徐盛, Pan Zhang 潘璋, Ding Feng 丁奉
56. 11 Zhu Zhi 朱治, Zhu Ran 朱然, Lü Fan 呂範, Zhu Huan 朱桓
57. 12 Yu Fan 虞翻, Lu Ji 陸績, Zhang Wen 張溫, Luo Tong 駱統, Lu Mao 陸瑁, Wu Can 吾粲, Zhu Ju 朱據
58. 13 Lu Xun 陸遜
59. 14 吳主五子 The five sons of the ruler of Wu (Sun Quan) [Sun Deng 孫登, Sun Lu 孫盧, Sun He 孫和, Sun Ba 孫霸, Sun Fen 孫奮]
60. 15 He Qi 賀齊, Quan Cong 全琮, Lü Dai 呂岱, Zhou Fang 周魴, Zhongli Mu 鍾離牧
61. 16 Pan Jun 潘濬, Lu Kai 陸凱
62. 17 Shi Yi 是儀, Hu Zong 胡綜
63. 18 Wu Fan 吳範, Liu Dun 劉惇, Zhao Da 趙達
64. 19 Zhuge Ke 諸葛恪, Teng Yin 滕胤, Sun Jun 孫峻, Sun Chen (Lin) 孫綝, Puyang Xing 濮陽興
65. 20 Wang Fan 王蕃, Lou Xuan 樓玄, He Shao 賀邵, Wei Yao 韋曜, Hua He 華覈
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