Three Kingdoms’ myth and reality

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Three Kingdoms’ myth and reality

People in many Asian countries, including Korea, are familiar with China’s Three Kingdoms period from reading a translation of the Chinese novel “The Three Kingdoms Story.” The events and figures of the Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 220 to 280) have fascinated millions for centuries, forming the basis of countless plays, operas and folk tales across Asia.
Now, period buffs can see how their imagination compares to reality by visiting an exhibition of more than 350 items ― some relics, some replicas ― from the Three Kingdoms period.
Swords, armor, clothes, porcelain and stamps from the period are on display through June 24 at the Lotte World Folk Museum in Jamsil-dong, southeast Seoul. Most of the artifacts, which were transferred here from 18 museums spread across eight Chinese provinces, were excavated half a century ago.
Ancient weapons used by the historical figures Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu can be viewed. Among the most interesting pieces are armor made from 2,460 pieces of jade and silver threads, which was crafted during the East Han period of A.D. 25 to 220; a 4.2-meter blade used by Zhang Fei; a lion-shaped bronze stamp used by a daughter of Cao Cao; a bamboo pencil case, and a replica of a 46-kilogram (102-pound) blue dragon-carved sword, once a possession of Guan Yu. The exhibition also features a statue of Guan Yu made in the Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1911.
The exhibition offers information on how the “Three Kingdoms Story” differs from actual history. Details are also provided on the Yellow Scarves rebellion, which nearly led to the overthrow of the Han Dynasty.
This tumultuous, gripping event occurred in 184, near the end of the Han Dynasty. Threatened by corruption, regional warlords and the Yellow Scarves revolt, the empire began to splinter into three rival kingdoms.
To the north lay the Wei kingdom, led by Cao Cao, who was described as a cunning, ruthless and ingenious ruler in the “Three Kingdoms Story.” To the south lay the Wu kingdom, led by the wise Sun Quan, who fostered many talented advisers and generals, including the brilliant Zhou Yu. To the west lay the Shu kingdom, ruled by the noble and virtuous Liu Bei, a distant relative of the emperor.
Liu Bei’s strength was also bolstered by his closest comrades, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu. Zhang Fei was the fiercest warrior in all of China, while Guan Yu is worshiped to this day as one of the true heroes of the realm. Countless soldiers lost their lives during this turbulent period of dynastic change.
Visitors can try on replicas of costumes worn by these warriors and kings and get their pictures taken. They can also play a Three Kingdoms video game. The exhibition costs 12,000 won ($10) for adults and 9,000 won for children.


by Limb Jae-un

For more information, call (02) 411-4799, 4791 or visit the Web site, www.samgukji2004.co.kr.
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