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The Battle of Chibi (Red Cliffs): selected and translated from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms Paperback – August 4, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453751858
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453751855
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Fascinating insight into a whole new world of thought."  Hasan S. Padamsee, Professor of Physics, Cornell, NY.

"Lively and entertaining translation of a Chinese classic that deserves a wide audience."  Beryl S. Slocum, Salve Regina University, RI.

"Excellent translation, faithful to the spirit of the Romance as I recall from reading it many times (in Korean)."  Seung-il Shin, formerly Professor of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY.

"Opens new vistas of fascinating history and thought."  Susan Wilson, Sierra College Library, CA.

About the Author

Hock G. Tjoa was born in Singapore to Chinese parents. He studied history at Brandeis and Harvard and taught European history and Asian political thought at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He has published George Henry Lewes, a Victorian Mind, "The social and political ideas of Tan Cheng Lock" and various articles in the Newsletter of the China History Forum. He is married and lives with his family in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.

More About the Author

Hock G. Tjoa was born in Singapore to Chinese parents. He studied history at Brandeis and Harvard and taught European history and Asian political thought at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He has published George Henry Lewes, a Victorian Mind, "The social and political ideas of Tan Cheng Lock" and various articles in the Newsletter of the China History Forum. He is married and lives with his family in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.

In the last decade he has turned his attention to Chinese history, literature, and genealogy,working on translating and adapting selected works of Chinese history and literature so these might reach and inform a wider audience. The Battle of Chibi is the first of these projects to be published (2010) although he translated what became Heaven is High and the Emperor, a Play (published shortly thereafter) before that in his study of Mandarin.

In 2013, Hock published the first volume of The Chinese Spymaster and The Ingenious Judge Dee. "Agamemnon Must Die," a retelling of Aeschylus" Oresteia and dedicated to students of the humanities who like Greek myth and drama, especially from the Trojan War era, will be published in November 1, 2014.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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He simplifies the story in a way that makes it easy to digest and worthwhile to read.
R. Bryant
There is a long introduction which references the context of the original work, translations of some terms and even suggestions on how to read the book.
Marie-Anne Mancio
Those who enjoy tales of schemes within plots veiled in subterfuge will love this book.
Ubiquitous Bubba

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By wabooks on December 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Battle of Chibi (Red Cliffs) is the compelling introduction into an important period of Chinese history. Professor Tjoa has captured the epic nature of this historic battle with his accessible translation, one that will benefit both scholars and the general reader for years to come. I anxiously await Professor Tjoa's next project.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By P. L. Steele on September 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
It took me a bit to get into it, it felt a bit like when I read an ancient piece of Greek literature that has been translated... it just didn't flow for me right out of the gate. Once I was able to get the characters squared away and into the flow of the story, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it. I particularly enjoyed the intrigue and strategies employed by the different parties in the story and then I have to remind myself that this isn't entirely fiction, the battle of Chibi really took place.

I admit that prior to reading this, I knew very little about Chinese history or culture beyond the last 50 years or so. This has definitely piqued my interest and I hope to find more about the great nation of China and how it came to become what it is.

This was a First-Reads selection from Goodreads
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anne Carlisle on October 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
What makes "The Battle of Chibi," a 300 pager,such a worthwhile read is a feeling of global impact. Here is a mythos/history of ancient China worth absorbing. The world view of the most populous nation on earth and one that retains much of its ancient heritage should interest us, yet Western readers know little of its evolution. In this fascinating novel, which is part history, part fiction, part drama, and part poetry, Hock G. Tjoa ably takes on the mantle of translator and literary interpreter for a battle along a river that determined four hundred years of ancient Chinese history.

Tjoa does an excellent job at meeting his goal of providing the original in a more "readable and lively language as well as internal consistency." It's a worthwhile though not an easy read. As a boy in the book says, "I cannot remember all the names."

At the outset, the author provides useful background. The historical events were originally recounted in a classic Ming novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," written in 1400 by Luo Guanzhong. In turn the "Romance" was a compilation of work by writers living in the third and fourth centuries AD. (The Arthurian legend immediately comes to mind.) Luo's version is in four volumes of 120 scenes/chapters, the first 80 of which is about the decline of the Han Dynasty and the rise of three kingdoms, a period of transition from 184 to 280 AD. Tjoa characterizes the divergence as one "between imperial unity and fragmentation."

The selections chosen from the "Romance" center on the Battle of Chibi (Red Cliffs), dated 208AD, which Tjoa points out was "the tipping point" between the Han and Three Kingdoms periods. One of the three realms, the Shu, was led by Han loyalist Liu Bei. A second, the Wei, was led by Cao Cao the Usurper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Whatever the origin of the saying “All politics is personal,” it makes an apt description of the series of quicksilver alliances and multi-layered betrayals depicted in THE BATTLE OF CHIBI (RED CLIFFS), as translated and retold by Hock G. Tjoa.

Whether it was the vastness of the Chinese countryside, its majestic beauty, its immense wealth or a peculiarly Chinese penchant for all-or-nothing gambles, the characters we meet in these ancient tales of conquest are compulsively driven to seek glory in battle. As such, they stop at nothing to map their personal vendettas onto “the will of the gods” or “the good of the people.”

While accounts of such exploits can make for gripping reading, the ancient texts this retelling is based on share characteristics with other epics of similar vintage. Undoubtedly first heard in poetry and song, this saga spins out an unending stream of events without the shaping structures of metacommunication and summation we take for granted in modern prose.

As a result, many segments of this epic trace a familiar cycle as:

“A smites B, who is avenged by C, who is dissuaded from further retribution by an alliance with D, who earns a jump in rank and privilege for his leadership in a time of crisis.”

From that point on all is well—until E besmirches the honor of D and the cycle begins again. Despite the action, gore and high-flown emotion they imply, a lengthy series of such cycles can have a numbing effect on the imagination.

That said, you only need to adjust your expectations to appreciate Tjoa’s work on its own terms.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amber on August 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The Battle of Chibi is an historical war novel much in the spirit of the Old Testament. It is written in such a way that the tone is indistinguishable from books like Chronicles and Kings. Since I don't normally read books like this, I am going to review it on the merit of the writing and the story, as reviewing it on my emotional experience while reading would be unfair.

The beginning was slow, laborious, and frequently pointless. Too many extra characters were named who did not need to be named, the history of Chinese names could have been drastically shortened, and the explanation of characters (as at the beginning of a play) could have been easily left out, as it was meaningless since we didn't yet know the characters.

At about the 25% mark, and then again at the 50% mark, it picked up quite a bit and became pretty epic. Most of the characters named were side characters and so it took a while to figure out who actually mattered and how they related to the story; I'm still not sure on several accounts. However, it felt very grand, and it was interesting and even at times fascinating to watch how these major storylines and battles unfolded through deceit, trickery, familial obligation, magic, and a certain prophetic Daoist. By the end of the story I felt pretty connected to half a dozen of the characters. I loved the way the woman warrior at the end handled herself and the obvious emphasis on family and honor, which felt authentic instead of obnoxiously stereotypical (as one would expect from a native writing an actual legend, as opposed to an old white guy writing about ninjas).

If you like historical legends or war novels, pick up this unique epic. You're sure to enjoy it.
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