Zhuge Liang

From Academic Kids

Missing image
An artist impression of Zhuge Liang holding his trademark feather fan.

Zhuge Liang (181 - 234) was one of the greatest strategists of post-Han China, as well as a statesman, engineer, scholar, and legendary inventor of baozi. Zhuge is an uncommon two-character compound family name.


Various names in different forms

Family name and given name

Courtesy name

Other names

  • Crouching Dragon Xiansheng 臥龍先生
  • The Crouching or Sleeping Dragon 臥龍
  • Hidden Dragon 伏龍
  • Pinyin: Wòlóng Xiānsheng or Wòlóng
  • Wade-Giles:Wo-lung Hsien-sheng

Early life

Zhuge Liang was born in Yangdu County in Langya Commandery, at present-day Yishui County, Shandong Province. He was the second of three brothers and orphaned early; his mother died when he was nine, and his father when he was twelve. His uncle raised him and his siblings. When Cao Cao invaded Shandong in 195, his family was forced to flee south, and his uncle soon died of illness.

Although both his sisters married into important families with numerous connections in the area, for ten years he resided in Longzhong Commandry (in present-day Hubei province) with his elder brother Zhuge Jin in a simple peasant life - farming by day and studying by night. He got to know a group of friends among the intellectuals of the area. His reputation soon grew, and he was named the Crouching (or Sleeping) Dragon, wise among his peers in many areas. At the meantime, he married the daughter of another renowned scholar Huang Chenyan. His wife's name is rumored to be Huang Yue Ying. The Huang Family was also connected to several other well established clans in the region.

Rise to prominence

The warlord Liu Bei harbored in the neighboring city Xiangyang under his distant relative and the governor of the Jing Region, Liu Biao. Legends recounted that Zhuge Liang joined Liu Bei in 207 only after Liu visited him in person three times. In reality, one of Zhuge Liang's works accounted for three visits. Zhuge Liang soon presented his famous Longzhong Plan before Liu, and he travelled in person to the Kingdom of Wu and formed an alliance with its ruler Sun Quan.

His elder brother, Zhuge Jin (諸葛謹), served as a high official in the Kingdom of Wu.

In the Battle of Red Cliff of 208, the allied armies of Liu Bei and Sun Quan defeated Cao Cao, thus enabling Liu Bei to establish his own territories. It is popular mythos that Zhuge Liang called forth a southeastern wind to sweep Huang Gai's fire-attack throughout Cao Cao's ships, however, in reality it was Zhou Yu, a rival of Zhuge, who masterminded the wind attack. In folklore, the wind is attributed to Zhuge Liang's magic.

The union with Sun Quan broke down when Guan Yu retaliated on the Kingdom of Wu in 219 after the surprise attack of L Meng. Guan Yu was defeated and decapitated. Liu Bei, infuriated with the execution of his longtime comrade, ignored all arguments of his well-meaning subjects and turned on the Kingdom of Wu, leading a huge army to seek revenge. He was defeated in the ensuing Battle of Yiling by Lu Xun and died in a lone fortress of "Baidi Cheng" (literary meaning: "the White Emperor Fortress") after a hasty and humiliating retreat to his own borders. After the death of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang became the prime minister under Liu Shan, Liu Bei's son, and renewed the alliance with Sun Quan.

Zhuge Liang persuaded Jiang Wei, a general of Kingdom of Wei, to defect to the Kingdom of Shu. Jiang would be one of the important generals to continue to carry on Zhuge Liang's ideals and fight for the Kingdom of Shu after Zhuge Liang's death in 234.

The Southern Expeditions

Before Zhuge Liang would embark on his Northern Expeditions he would face great opposition. He had to repel 5 armies of approximately 100,000 which marched against him after Yiling. These armies belonged to Wei and a new threat in the South, the Nanman people. Here are the armies that Zhuge Liang held off:

1.) 100,000 troops from Wei marched to attack Yangping Pass

2.) 100,000 troops under Meng Huo a Nanman army attacks Southern Shu

3.) 100,000 troops from Wei attack Hanzhong

4.) 100,000 troops of the Qiang tribe attack Xiping

5.) 100,000 troops from Wu come after the battle of Yiling

All these invasions were countered however Zhuge Liang saw the attack in the South as a threat. Zhuge Liang felt that in order to march North he would first have to unify Shu completely. If he fought against the North while the Nanman people rebelled then the Nanman people would march further and perhaps even press into areas surrounding the capital. So rather than embarking on a Northern Campaign, Zhuge Liang sent a large force of 500,000 men to pacify the south first.

Ma Su (Ma Liang's brother) proposed the plan that Zhuge Liang should work toward getting the rebels to join him rather than killing all of them and he took this plan. Zhuge Liang defeated the rebel leader, Meng Huo, seven different times. During this campaign he got sick from the poison marshes in the area (according to the novel). Luckily he was healed to good health. Finally Meng Huo agreed to join Zhuge Liang and Zhuge Liang made Meng Huo king of the area again so he could govern it and the people would be happy. After this Zhuge Liang made his moves North.

The Northern Expeditions

Zhuge Liang persuaded Jiang Wei, a general of Kingdom of Wei, to defect to the Kingdom of Shu. Jiang would be one of the important generals to continue to carry on Zhuge Liang's ideals and fight for the Kingdom of Shu after Zhuge Liang's untimely death in 234.

In his latter years, he launched invasion of the Wei six times, but all failed. On the seventh time, he died of overwork and illness in an army camp in Battle of Wuzhang Plain. Zhuge Liang passed "The 24 Volumes on Military Strategy" (Bing Fa Er Shi Si Bian) to Jiang Wei at the eve of his death.


His name is synonymous with wisdom in Chinese. He was believed to be the inventor of the landmine and a mysterious automatic transportation device described as a "wooden ox and floating horse" (木牛流馬). He is credited with the invention of a repeating crossbow which is named after him, called Cho-ko-nu (Zhuge Nu). He is credited for inventing the wheelbarrow as well. A type of hot air balloon used for military signalling is also named after him.

Some books rumored to be written by Zhuge Liang can be found today, for example the Thirty-six Strategies of Zhuge Liang, and Mastering the Art of War are two that can be bought.

He is also the subject of many Chinese literary work. A poem by Du Fu, one of the most prolific poets from the Tang Dynasty, was written in remembrance of Zhuge Liang:

Where to seek the temple of the noble Premier?
In the deep pine forest beside the City of Silk,
Where the green grass of spring cover the steps,
And songbirds chirp happily between the leaves.
Triple summons weighted by affairs of the State
To two generations he served with his true heart,
To die before completing a lifetime of achievement,
Always have heroes weep on their fleece ever since.

Pai Chung-hsi, a military leader of the Republic of China and warlord from Guangxi province, earned the laudatory nickname "Little Zhuge" due to his tactical decisions in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Related articles

fr:Zhuge Liang ko:제갈량 ja:諸葛亮 zh:诸葛亮


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