enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


The Appeal of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Yoshihiro Watanabe
Director in Charge of Cultural Advancement
  Romance of the Three Kingdoms tells the story of an age of conflict between three states in third-century China: Wei, Shu, and Wu. Luang Guanzhong, who lived from the end of the Yuan dynasty to the early Ming dynasty, is believed to have edited the Annals of the Three Kingdoms. The version commonly read in China was edited by Mao Zonggang in the Qing dynasty and is known as the Mao Zonggang Commentary Edition of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In Japan, however, the most commonly read edition of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms is based on the Li Zhi Critical Edition of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms, which was completed prior to Mao’s work in the Ming dynasty. This is because it was used as the source for the Common Version of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms, which was translated by Konan Bunzan during the Edo Period, which in turn was used as the source for Yoshikawa Eiji’s Sangokushi (Annals of the Three Kingdoms). Due to this, fictional works such as Han Shou Ting Hou (漢寿亭侯) by Guan Yu are famous in Japan but unknown in China.
  The age of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms lasted no more than a mere sixty years. However, during this period the Han Empire—which was comparable to the Roman Empire—collapsed, serving as a major turning point in Chinese history that ushered in a new age of war. This was the age of Himiko in Japan, which was also considered to be a time of great change in the country.
  Numerous leaders, military commanders, and military strategists in this period of turbulence clashed as a result of various beliefs in an effort to realise their aspirations. Their way of life did not take a single form but instead showed a great deal of variety. We, their descendants, should be impressed with the life of, for example, Zhuge Liang—the incomparably resourceful military strategist—who was loyal to Liu Bei. Indeed, the relationship between Liu Bei and both Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, whose friendship exceeded the typical relationship between monarch and vassal, can still bring tears to our eyes. Moreover, we would do well to applaud the abundant talents and decisiveness that existed simultaneously with the extraordinary villainy of Cao Cao. We champion the characters we are fond of as a result of our individual sensibilities, which in turn leads us to create our own unique version of the tale. It is this openness to interpretation that ensures that the Annals of the Three Kingdoms remains fascinating to us.