Biography (COB): Zhuge Liang

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Zhuge Liang (Kongming) Zhuge Liang (Kongming)
諸葛亮 (孔明)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Yangdu, Langye (Presently Yinan, Shan Dong Province)
Lifespan: AD 181 – 234 (53 years)
Titles: Great Commander–in–Chief, Prime Minister, Lord of Wu Xiang, Loyal and Martial Lord
Family: Zhuge Gui (father), Zhuge Xuan (uncle), Zhuge Jin, Zhuge Jun (brothers), Zhuge Qiao (adopted son), Zhuge Zhan (son), Zhuge Pan, Zhuge Shang, Zhuge Jing (grand sons) Zhuge Ke, Zhuge Rong (nephews), Zhuge Zhuo, Zhuge Song, Zhuge Jian (grand–nephews)

Zhuge Liang was a Taoist scholar also known as Wo Long, or Sleeping Dragon. In his younger days, Zhuge Liang lived as a hermit after escaping his original home with his younger brother, Zhuge Jin.

Upon leaving Liu Bei’s service, the hermit Xu Shu recommended Zhuge Kongming to Liu Bei. When Xuande was stationed in Xin Ye, he paid three visits to Zhuge Liang to invite him into becoming his key advisor (1). Moved by Liu Bei’s sincerity, virtue and morality, Kongming then assented to serve Liu Bei.

When Liu Bei was being pursued by Cao Cao, Zhuge Kongming devised a plan to withstand Cao Cao. He personally traveled to Wu and formed and alliance with Sun Quan, through mediation of Lu Su, and fought together with them against Cao Cao (2).

During this period, Zhuge Liang advised Liu Bei to conquer as much territory in the southland as possible (3). In this way, Liu Bei had a shelter from which he could build up further campaigns.

In the nineteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquility, (AD 214) Zhuge Kongming took up the post as Master of the Forces (Commander General) and assisted Liu Xuande in taking Yi Zhou, along with its Capital, Cheng Du. In Liu Bei’s absence, Zhuge Liang would always assume the position of absolute authority and personally commanded Liu Bei’s army and generals (4).

In the year AD 219, the twenty–fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility, Zhuge Liang persuaded his master Liu Xuande to assume the position of King of Hanzhong, after recently defeating Cao Cao in the battle for this strategic city. And two years later, in AD 221, Kongming feigned illness and recommended the position of Emperor of Shu to Liu Bei.

With Liu Xuande’s significant rise in rank, Zhuge Liang was also promoted to Prime Minister as well as Commander–in–Chief. After the assassination of Zhang Fei, Kongming also took up the post of Commander of the Capital Districts.

In the year AD 223, when Liu Bei’s son Liu Shan, succeeded the throne, Zhuge Liang retained his position as Prime Minister and was additionally made Protector of Yi Zhou, and Lord of Wuxiang.

As Prime Minister of Shu under the new Emperor, Zhuge Kongming took charge of all government affairs. Between the years AD 225 and 230, Zhuge Liang led the armies of Shu to pacify the Nanman tribe in the south of Yi Zhou. This rich new land became as a lifeline to Shu’s later campaigns.

As Great Commander-in-Chief Who Pacifies the North, Zhuge Kongming marched north and launched five long campaign against Wei. However, due to problems with food supplies and conspiracies against Zhuge Liang in the Imperial court, none of the campaigns was successful. Wei’s Prime Minister Sima Yi took full advantage of the corrupt palace situation in Shu by organizing a strong defense against Kongming (5.

In the year AD 234, Zhuge Liang passed away at Wu Zhang. From the beginning to the end of his career, Zhuge Kongming proved to be a master of politics, strategy and astronomy. He was buried at Mount Dingjun and titled Loyal and Martial Lord posthumously.

(1) Historical sources contradict this story by saying that it was Zhuge Liang who went to visit Liu Bei in Xin Ye and offered his services. <return>

(2) Added by the author, Lu Su was not mentioned in the original text but deserves to be mentioned based on historical information that clearly points out Lu Su’s effort in Shu–Wu relations. <return>

(3) The original text suggests that Liu Bei advised this while Wu was preparing for Chi Bi. Since I cannot be sure of this fact and to avoid suggestive comments, I have decided to reword the sentence. <return>

(4) Added the word “absolute” for clarity. To support the choice of this word, we come back to how Liu Bei trusted Zhuge Liang with matters of authority. In Sanguo yanyi Chapter 39, we find this: “I fear your brothers will not obey me,” said Zhuge Liang. “Wherefore, if I am to direct the campaign, you must give me a seal of office and a sword of authority.” So Liu Bei gave him both. Armed with these ensigns of power, Zhuge Liang assembled the officers to receive their orders.– <return>

(5) Sima Yi was not mentioned in the original text, but I decided to add his name to pay proper credit to Sima Yi’s defence against Shu. <return>

Copyright © 2002 – 2003
A Kongming’s Archives Exclusive Production
Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu – Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)
Hou Han shu (Fan Ye)
Ancient Chinese History and Emperors (Brian Williams)