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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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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.
Top customer reviews
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The action here, as in the entire book, concerns the deeds of three great heroes, a great sage-strategist, a classic villain and many others who are somewhere in between. All live in a time when the world is in constantly at war. There is not a moment when plots are not being hatched, cabals and alliances made and undermined, battles fought, murders planned, ways to seize power calculated.
The pursuit of dominance distorts all traditional values and shapes the psychology, virtuous or otherwise, of every single person in the book. Hock is faithful in conveying the devastating impact of this great classic in which no amount of goodness, wisdom, elegance, guile, or valor can enable one to escape from endless and unrelenting violence.
Ultimately however, it's an incredibly compelling story about a battle between three kingdoms led respectively by Bei, Cao, and Quan. Although there are many characters, you do get to know very well about seven or so characters and become very attached and want to know more about their story. It starts to pick up a lot before about page 100, and by about the halfway point, I could not stop reading!
I love books where I actually can learn something by reading it, and this is a great example. I love learning the Chinese ancient culture. I thought this was very well translated and I love the language of it. The descriptions were poetic and beautiful.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It does take some time to get into, but it is well worth it!
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. Cao's plan was to become the new unifier of China, but his ambitions disqualified him in the eyes of the other two leaders. A third realm, the Wu led by Sun Quan, lay on the fringe of what was called All under Heaven, a name, says Tjoa, that equates to a Greco-Roman term, "the whole known civiilized world." An interesting pattern emerges in the novel's three-part structure. To my eye, a dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis unifies the diversity of the structural components as well as underlining the clash of cultures. The dynasty's decline is vividly characterized by its eunuchs, warlords, and rebels.
I became engaged in the story also through the spare, dramatically staged dialogue and the pleasing literary elements. The title of Chapter 8 ("Like Fish Seeking Water") is one example of how metaphor and poetry are used to illustrate what is going on. Here's another: "Screens, decorated with feathers,/Divide the space inside/Bamboo fences and fragrant flowers/Define the space outside."
A new world order emerges from the divisiveness, and though the country is no longer unified, neither is it so insularly focused. At the end of the day, Tjoa's work is historical romance in the most classic sense of the term. It would certainly lend itself to screen adaptation.
Anne Carlisle, Ph. D., reviewer and author of "Home Schooling: The Fire Night Ball"
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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The Battle of Chibi is the translation of the well-known Chinese epic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.Read more