One of the great classics in Chinese, the Romance of the Three Kingdom (三國演義 Sānguó yănyì, attributed to Luo Guanzhong 羅貫中 1330?-1400?) has entertained generations of adults in all Far and South East Asia and, in this century, also entered the global youth imaginary, thanks to its transposition into video games and animated films. The present study tries to shed light on the specific depiction of war and heroism found in the story of the Battle of Red Cliffs (赤壁 Chì Bì, 208 CE), narrated in chapters 43-50 of the Romance. This paper also highlights how this Chinese classic underlies a concept of war extraneous to the fascination of warfare found in Western epics, showing that the Chinese notion of èpos privileges the virtues of strategy and intelligence over heroism and military prowess. Based on McLaren (2006), the paper highlights that the Romance represents the outcome of the deviation from official historiography during the Song, a transformation which reached full maturation thanks to the imperial imprimatur of the first Ming. The study focuses on the identity forging role of the Battle of Red Cliffs, which heralded the Han empire’s collapse and the first interregnum in imperial China, and shows that the Manchu translation of the Romance, immediately after the establishing Qing dynasty in 1644, opened the trajectory towards a transnational dimension throughout the region. The narrative of an “intrastate battle” marking the collapse of the Han empire thus offered a powerful catalyst for the Battle of Red Cliffs to be included in the “transnational past” shared by East and Southeast Asian traditions to the point of being celebrated in the pan-Asian colossal movie production Red Cliff (2008). A movie that played a significant role in constructing a discourse on Chinese identity targeted at a global audience.

The Battle of Red Cliffs: From History to Transnational Identity

Sparvoli, C.
2023-01-01

Abstract

One of the great classics in Chinese, the Romance of the Three Kingdom (三國演義 Sānguó yănyì, attributed to Luo Guanzhong 羅貫中 1330?-1400?) has entertained generations of adults in all Far and South East Asia and, in this century, also entered the global youth imaginary, thanks to its transposition into video games and animated films. The present study tries to shed light on the specific depiction of war and heroism found in the story of the Battle of Red Cliffs (赤壁 Chì Bì, 208 CE), narrated in chapters 43-50 of the Romance. This paper also highlights how this Chinese classic underlies a concept of war extraneous to the fascination of warfare found in Western epics, showing that the Chinese notion of èpos privileges the virtues of strategy and intelligence over heroism and military prowess. Based on McLaren (2006), the paper highlights that the Romance represents the outcome of the deviation from official historiography during the Song, a transformation which reached full maturation thanks to the imperial imprimatur of the first Ming. The study focuses on the identity forging role of the Battle of Red Cliffs, which heralded the Han empire’s collapse and the first interregnum in imperial China, and shows that the Manchu translation of the Romance, immediately after the establishing Qing dynasty in 1644, opened the trajectory towards a transnational dimension throughout the region. The narrative of an “intrastate battle” marking the collapse of the Han empire thus offered a powerful catalyst for the Battle of Red Cliffs to be included in the “transnational past” shared by East and Southeast Asian traditions to the point of being celebrated in the pan-Asian colossal movie production Red Cliff (2008). A movie that played a significant role in constructing a discourse on Chinese identity targeted at a global audience.
Transnational East Asian Studies
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5011101
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