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Chapter 01.1 - Three Heroes Swear Brotherhood In The Peach Garden

Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu swear an oath in Peach Garden.

A scene from chapter 1 of the fictitious novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Perhaps one of the most famous fictional additions to Luo Guanzhong's novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The scene goes as follows:[1]

Liu Bei was twenty-eight when the outbreak of the Yellow Scarves called for soldiers. The sight of the notice saddened him, and he sighed as he read it.
Suddenly a rasping voice behind him cried, “Sir, why sigh if you do nothing to help your country?
Turning quickly he saw standing there a man about his own height, with a bullet head like a leopard's, large eyes, a swallow pointed chin, and whiskers like a tiger's. He spoke in a loud bass voice and looked as irresistible as a dashing horse. At once Liu Bei saw he was no ordinary man and asked who he was.
Zhang Fei is my name,” replied the stranger. “I live near here where I have a farm; and I am a wine seller and a butcher as well; and I like to become acquainted with worthy people. Your sighs as you read the notice drew me toward you.
Liu Bei replied, “I am of the Imperial Family, Liu Bei is my name. And I wish I could destroy these Yellow Scarves and restore peace to the land, but alas! I am helpless.
“I have the means," said Zhang Fei. “Suppose you and I raised some troops and tried what we could do.
This was happy news for Liu Bei, and the two betook themselves to the village inn to talk over the project. As they were drinking, a huge, tall fellow appeared pushing a hand-cart along the road. At the threshold he halted and entered the inn to rest awhile and he called for wine.
And be quick!” added he. “For I am in haste to get into the town and offer myself for the army.
Liu Bei looked over the newcomer, item by item, and he noted the man had a huge frame, a long beard, a vivid face like an apple, and deep red lips. He had eyes like a phoenix's and fine bushy eyebrows like silkworms. His whole appearance was dignified and awe-inspiring. Presently, Liu Bei crossed over, sat down beside him and asked his name.
I am Guan Yu,” replied he. “I am a native of the east side of the river, but I have been a fugitive on the waters for some five years, because I slew a ruffian who, since he was wealthy and powerful, was a bully. I have come to join the army here.
Then Liu Bei told Guan Yu his own intentions, and all three went away to Zhang Fei's farm where they could talk over the grand project. Said Zhang Fei, “The peach trees in the orchard behind the house are just in full flower. Tomorrow we will institute a sacrifice there and solemnly declare our intention before Heaven and Earth, and we three will swear brotherhood and unity of aims and sentiments: Thus will we enter upon our great task.
Both Liu Bei and Guan Yu gladly agreed.
All three being of one mind, next day they prepared the sacrifices, a black ox, a white horse, and wine for libation. Beneath the smoke of the incense burning on the altar, they bowed their heads and recited this oath:
We three---Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei---though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty; we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts. If we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness, may Heaven and Human smite us!
They rose from their knees. The two others bowed before Liu Bei as their elder brother, and Zhang Fei was to be the youngest of the trio. This solemn ceremony performed, they slew other oxen and made a feast to which they invited the villagers. Three hundred joined them, and all feasted and drank deep in the Peach Garden.

The original goal of the Peach Garden Oath was to protect the Han Dynasty from the Yellow Turbans. This act bound the three key men of the future Shu-Han dynasty and is often alluded to as a symbol of fraternal loyalty.

Sanguo zhi pinghua comparisonEdit

The Sanguo zhi pinghua (1321-1323) is a predecessor of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (mid 14th century). Many fictitious events in Romance originate from the Sanguo zhi pinghua. The Oath in the Peach Garden is one of those events.

Historical comparisonEdit

There is no mention of this event in the official biographies of Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu in Records of the Three Kingdoms.

In fiction the three men meet each other about the time of the Yellow Turban Rebellion, while in history they seemed to have known each other before that. While the Oath in the Peach Garden is never mentioned, the three men are described as "close as brothers" and would even share the same bed.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Luo Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Trans. Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor.

SourcesEdit

  • Luo Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Trans. Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor. sd.

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