Good books about the Three Kingdoms period
February 8, 2009 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Good books about Chinese history during the Three Kingdoms period? I'm getting lost trying to read about it in Wikipedia entries. Something with excellent writing that really captures the scope and complexity like Judt's Postwar does for post-WWII Europe.
posted by schroedinger to Education (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not too many in English, its an incredibly prolific subject in Chinese though, and was especially popular during the T'ang Dynasty.

I would start with Romance of the Three Kingdoms it is considered to be one of the 4 great novels in Chinese literature, and luckily enough fits your criteria.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:24 PM on February 8, 2009

I'm not a Chinese historian, but a friend of mine is. He says that the Cambridge History of China Vol. I (at the end) has a section on the Han that covers the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period and gives a succinct summary.

I learned about the characters by playing the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Destiny of Emperor video games. It really helps to have a familiarity with the names (although you may need to adjust for Wade-Giles/Pinyin difference) before reading the Romance book.

In case you are interested, Romance III for the Super Nintendo (or emulator) is the best.
posted by El_Marto at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2009

"Romance of the Three Kingdoms" has a pretty big cast, and another way to familiarize yourself with the key characters is to watch a recent HK movie called "Red Cliff", which is about the most famous battle during that period. (Though you can expect about as much historical accuracy from that movie as from any other big-budget spectacle-heavy flick.)
posted by of strange foe at 8:23 AM on February 9, 2009

I can't think of a good book to recommend but the China History Forums have a sub-section devoted to the Three Kingdoms. Lots to read there, and I see they recommend the work of Prof Rafe de Crespigny; he has this essay online specifically about the era.
There's also a recommended reading thread in their beginner's forum.
posted by Abiezer at 9:53 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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