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Zhuge Liang

zh-cn:诸葛亮 zh-tw:諸葛亮

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

Table of contents
1 Various names in different forms
2 Early Life
3 Rise to prominence
4 The Six Expeditions
5 Legacy
6 Related Articles

Various names in different forms

Family name and given name

Courtesy name

Other names

¹ 臥 can be translated as "Crouching" or "Sleeping" depending on the reader's perspective.

Early Life

Zhuge Liang was born in Yangdu County in Longya Commandry, nowadays Yishui County, Shandong Province. He was the middle 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. His uncle sooned died of illness.

For ten years he resided in Longzhong Commandry (in nowadays Hubei province) with his younger brother Zhuge Jun 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. Meanwhile he married a daughter of another renowned scholar, Huang Chenyan.

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 only after Liu visited him in person three times. In reality, one of Zhuge Liang's works accounted for three visits. We may as well take this as the truth as seeing that he has no reason to lie. Zhuge Liang soon presented his 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.

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 also defeated in the ensuing Battle of Yiling 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 Chen, Liu Bei's son, and renewed the alliance with Sun Quan.

The Six Expeditions

Zhuge persuaded Jiang Wei, a general of Kingdom of Wei, to deflect 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.


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 cow and floating horse" (木牛流馬). He is also credited for inventing the wheelbarrow.

He was also the subject of many Chinese literary work. A poem by Du Mu, a poet in the Tang Dynasty, was written in remembrance of Zhuge Liang:


Where is the temple of the famous Premier?
In a deep pine grove near the City of Silk,
With the green grass of spring colouring the steps,
And birds chirping happily under the leaves.
...The third summons weighted him with affairs of state
And to two generations he gave his true heart,
But before he could conquer, he was dead;
And heroes have wept on their coats 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.

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