Liu Shan – Romance of the Three Kingdoms

刘禅 - 《三国演义》

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Liu Shan, also known as Liu Chan, was a historical figure and a character in the Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” He was the second emperor of the Kingdom of Shu and the son of its founder, Liu Bei. Liu Shan’s reign was marked by political turmoil and military conflicts, but also by significant cultural achievements and the development of the kingdom’s bureaucracy.

Liu Shan was born in 207 AD and was the eldest son of Liu Bei and Lady Gan. He was initially named Liu Shan, which means “mountain,” but his name was later changed to Liu Chan, which means “silk.” As a child, Liu Shan was known for his timid and weak personality, and he was not considered a suitable heir to his father’s throne.

After Liu Bei’s death in 223 AD, Liu Shan became the emperor of the Kingdom of Shu. His reign was plagued by political infighting and military conflicts, particularly with the Kingdom of Wei, led by the powerful warlord Sima Yi. Liu Shan lacked the military and political skills of his father and struggled to maintain the stability of the kingdom.

During his reign, Liu Shan relied heavily on his advisors, particularly Zhuge Liang, who had been a close advisor to Liu Bei. Zhuge Liang was known for his strategic thinking and his ability to predict the future, and he played a significant role in many of the kingdom’s military campaigns. However, Liu Shan’s reliance on Zhuge Liang also created a power struggle between the two, and there were frequent clashes over political and military decisions.

Despite the challenges of his reign, Liu Shan was a patron of the arts and oversaw the development of the kingdom’s cultural and intellectual life. He supported the creation of new works of literature and sponsored the construction of temples and shrines to honor the kingdom’s ancestors. He also established the Bureau of Merit and Virtue, which was responsible for selecting and training officials for the Shu government.

Liu Shan’s reign came to an end in 263 AD, when the Kingdom of Shu was conquered by the Kingdom of Wei. Liu Shan surrendered to the Wei forces and was allowed to live in retirement in the Wei capital. He spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity and died in 271 AD.

Liu Shan’s legacy is mixed. On one hand, he is remembered as a weak and indecisive ruler who was unable to maintain the stability of the kingdom. On the other hand, he is also remembered for his patronage of the arts and his efforts to promote culture and education. Despite his weaknesses, Liu Shan played an important role in the history of the Three Kingdoms and his story continues to be retold in popular culture.

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