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Subject: An Outline Sketch of the 2010 Chinese TV Series rss

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Jon Snow
United States
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By Chas

This series consists of 95 one hour episodes, which are available on youtube. To have a reference myself, and to break it down for those who might like to try it out, I have done brief summaries of each section during my viewing. This gives a very rough guide to the show. There is a longer and more detailed chronicle of events in the Moss Roberts translation. There is a different summary of the novel itself on wikipedia. There is also an earlier Chinese TV show made in 1994.

Since spoilers are necessary, this is best used either after seeing the show, or if it is not to be viewed in its entirety.

EPISODES 1-10: Three heroes Liu Bei, Lord Guan, and Yide, meet and swear brotherhood under a giant peach tree. They vow to combat the Yellow Turban rebels, bandits, and evil lords who threaten to bring down the Han Dynasty, which has ruled for four hundred years . A confederation of lords, lead by Yuan Shao, combines to fight Dong Zhuo the usurper, who has seized control of the young Emperor and the capital, after being invited in to restore order.

EPISODES 11-20: Dong Zhou is finally defeated, but the ambitious Cao Cao now rises to power in the north. With the dynasty fatally weakened, he will take power himself, in order to provide a strong central state. “I will betray the entire world, rather than let it betray me.” The second half of the story of the great warrior general Lu Bu and his lover the beautiful Diochan is played out.

EPISODES 21-30: The three brothers, separated after defeat in battle, reunite after many trials. Cao Cao faces Yuan Shao for the final time at the Battle of Guandu (200 CE) and removes his greatest rival. Cao Cao wonders why the greatest leaders he respects will not join with him, and tells Liu Bei that they are the only real heroes left. But Liu Bei will not join someone who will not try to revive the Han dynasty, and escapes from the capital.

EPISODES 31-40: Liu Bei sends his genius adviser Kong Ming to ally with Sun Quan (Wu State in the south) against Cao Cao (Wei State in the north). Together they prepare to defend against the onslaught of Cao Cao's giant army and navy, which threatens to take over all of China.

EPISODES 41-50: The Alliance defeats Cao Cao in the decisive Battle of Red Cliff (208 CE). (The Chinese have made the excellent two part film Red Cliff in 2008 about this campaign as well--on its two thousand year anniversary.) Liu Bei remains the third power, though he does not have the resources of a state behind him, because he does not wish to accumulate personal power.. The mysterious Sima Yi is introduced into Cao Cao's court, recognized as a brilliant strategist who must be used but watched carefully .

EPISODES 51-60: Liu Bei marries the sister of Sun Quan, but the alliance is endangered by the enmity of southern Grand Commander Zhou Yu. Homely Pang Tong appears, and becomes the second advisor to Liu Bei.

EPISODES 61-70: Cao Cao narrowly defeats the invasion and coup attempt by northern lord Ma Teng and his army. Liu Bei enters the Riverlands, which becomes the base of his Shu State (West). The Three Kingdoms have now in effect replaced the unified Han Empire with a tripartite division of China, that will last for many years. Cao Cao is declared Prince of Wei; royalty second only to the Emperor. Liu Bei defeats him in five battles, and is declared Prince of Hanzhong.

EPISODES 71-80: Wei and Wu ally against Shu, and Peach Oath Brother Lord Guan is killed. Cao Cao gives him a funeral, but dies soon after. His son Cao Pi succeeds him as Prince of Wei, with Sima Yi as his advisor. Cao Pi forces the Han emperor to abdicate, and declares himself the first Wei Emperor. Peach Oath Brother Yide is killed in his sleep by two of his own officers he has abused. Liu Bei invades the Southland.

EPISODES 81-90: Southern Grand Commander Lu Xun destroys the Shu army by firing their woodland camps at the Battle of Xiling. Lui Bei passes away from a broken heart. Wei attacks Shu but fails. Cao Pi dies, and is succeeded by Cao Rui. Kong Ming leads the Shu army twice against Wei in the north but after defeating Cao generals, is pushed back by Sina Yi. Distrusted by the Wei emperor, Sima Yi is retired twice, but called out yet again after another Cao general's defeat, and finally made Grand Commander of all Wei forces. Sima Yi and Kong Ming meet to trade insults between the battle lines. The tragic theme of great strategists who must be enemies is shown yet again.

EPISODES 90-95: After more battles but an inconclusive campaign, Kong Ming uses his wheelbarrow invention to bring int vital supplies on a mountain road mostly blocked by landslides. These carts in convoy with are captured by Sima Yi and then retaken. Now under great pressure to obtain results, Sima Yi launches a feint along with a concealed real attack. Desperate fighting rages in several locations. Sima Yi seizes the Shu supply dump, but it is booby trapped. Now ill, Kong Ming watches the fiery destruction of the Wei army from a hilltop.

Sima Yi gives his men permission to surrender, but they vow to die with him. They sing their dirge:

“Let us fill our cups and drink to song,
For life's such joys do not last long,
But are ephemeral as morning dew,
Which soon will to the past belong”

Helpless and surrounded by fire, they sing as arrows continue to cut them down. But then, as Sima Yi is about to kill himself, they are saved by a sudden rainstorm! The Wei forces break out, as Kong Ming collapses in frustration.

Although very ill and soon to die, Kong Ming takes measures to ensure an orderly transition and the safety of the Shu state. He wills his military writings to General Jiang Wei, in the presence of Yang Yi, his successor as Shu Chief Military Adviser. He then plans for his loyal followers to arrest the ambitious general of their own elite troops at the right time.

After giving his final instructions to his young Emperor and for his family, Kong Ming passes on. When the general rebels and attempts to seize power at during the funeral, he is seized and executed according to the late Prime Minister's plan.

Now without supplies, the Shu army gives up the campaign, but not the general determination to conquer Wei eventually. As it retreats south, a wooden statue of the late Prime Minister is displayed in his personal travel cart, and it frightens off Sima Yi, who abandons the pursuit. The Wei commander, usually calm and collected, is humiliated when he discovers the truth. But he mourns his great foe privately. Abruptly recalled back to the capital away from the army, he leaves quickly. But his officers follow and swear that they will always be loyal to him personally in the future.

Sima Yi goes home to the capital and plans to marries his faithful maid, given to him years ago by his emperor. The Cao Emperor of Wei will retire him, but himself is now dying of an illness. He offers Sima Yi a regency to test his ambition, but Sima Yi denies it. So the dying emperor orders his own relatives and followers to let him live out his live in peace, even though they have always been suspicious of him. But Simi Yi's wife dies in childbirth, and he suffers a stroke.

With Sima Yi aparently dying and no longer a threat, the Cao nobility marches out of the capital to perform an annual religious rite. But then Sima Yi seizes power in the city, and his family takes over. He has been planning this for over a decade, inspired by something Cao Cao once told him. All along his maid had been an Imperial spy, but he knew about it and they loved each other deeply. However, he sacrificed her for his plot to succeed, and weeps at her tomb.

Sima Yi dies peacefully at home a few years later, with a grandson on his knee reciting a poem. Later on, his family conquers both Shu and Wu, and China is finally reunited under his family, the new Jin dynasty.

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Greg Love
Western Australia
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NINETY FIVE one hour episodes! Wow, this sounds pretty epic, will have to have a look.
Thanks for the outline, Chas.
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