Saint Hermit grants Zhang Jue three volumes of the Book of Heaven

Saint Hermit hands Zhang Jue three volumes of the Book of Heaven.

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

The scene goes as follows:[1]

Zhang Jue was an unclassed graduate, who devoted himself to medicine. One day, while culling simples in the woods, Zhang Jue met a venerable old gentleman with very bright, emerald eyes and fresh complexion, who walked with an oak-wood staff. The old man beckoned Zhang Jue into a cave and there gave him three volumes of The Book of Heaven.
This book,” said the old gentleman, “is the Essential Arts of Peace. With the aid of these volumes, you can convert the world and rescue humankind. But you must be single-minded, or, rest assured, you will greatly suffer.
With a humble obeisance, Zhang Jue took the book and asked the name of his benefactor.
I am Saint Hermit of the Southern Land,” was the reply, as the old gentleman disappeared in thin air.
Zhang Jue studied the wonderful book eagerly and strove day and night to reduce its precepts to practice. Before long, he could summon the winds and command the rain, and he became known as the Mystic of the Way of Peace.

Sanguo zhi pinghua comparisonEdit

The Sanguo zhi pinghua (1321-1323) is a predecessor of and source of inspiration for Romance of the Three Kingdoms (mid 14th century). Many fictitious events and characters originate from the Sanguo zhi pinghua and were later taken into the novel. Zhang Jue being given the Book of Heaven is one of those events. In Sanguo zhi pinghua Zhang Jue does not receive a divine text from a Saint Hermit, but from schoolteacher Sun.

Historical comparisonEdit

  • Zhang Jue is historical character.
  • Saint Hermit is a fictional character (though in later translations he is called Zhuangzhi 莊子, who is a historical character).
  • Book of Heaven and Essential Arts of Great Peace are fictional items.

Though the Book of Heaven is not mentioned in history, Zhang Jue is mentioned as having possessed another book, called Taiping qingling shu 太平清領書 (“Book of Great Peace, with Green Headings”), a book commonly identified with the Daoïst classic Taiping jing 太平經.

While in fiction the Book of Heaven is used by Zhang Jue to master elements such as wind and rain, in history it is unclear why and to what extent Zhang Jue used the Taiping qingling shu.[2]


  1. Luo Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Trans. Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor.
  2. Beck, B.J. Mansvelt. "The Date of the Taiping Jing" in T'oung Pao, volume LXVI.


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

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