Of kingdoms, brothers and beans

Continuing from the previous on mongolian imperial brotherhood and betrayal, here looking at one of the more fascinating periods in military history, the richly-dramatic and scintillating Three Kingdoms Period, towards the end of the Han Dynasty.

As the dust settled at the end of this relatively short 60-year threeway tussle for the realm (though the ending was never really in doubt, even by the reckoning of THE military strategist par excellence from the losing side, the Hidden Dragon himself — Zhuge Liang), it was the House of Cao (of the Regent-General Cao Cao) that assumed/usurped the throne and one of Cao Cao’s sons, Cao Pi, who reigned as emperor.

Cao Pi’s persecution of his many brothers are legendary, but it was the following poignant run-in with his talented and poetic brother Cao Zhi, that is remembered by history and culture.

The Seven Step Verse (The Quatrain of Seven Steps) ,
where the emperor Cao Pi condemned his brother Cao Zhi to the death sentence, unless he is able to convince the emperor otherwise with a worthy poem composed within 7 steps.

Cao Zhi rendered:

煮豆燃豆, Zhu3 Dou4 Ran2 Dou4 Qi2,
豆在釜中。 Dou4 Zai4 Fu3 Zhong1 Qi4.
本是同根生,  Ben3 Shi4 Tong2 Gen1 Sheng1,
相煎何太?   Xiang1 Jian1 He2 Tai4 Ji2?

[Rough transliteration]:

Cooking-the-beans (by) burning-the-beanstalks(in the stove),
The-beans in-the-pot weeps.
We-are born-of the-same-root ,
Why so-impatient/intent/firm (for) mutual-destruction ?

[the main alliterative scheme and phonemes in bold]

And a rendition of the possible scene:


One thought on “Of kingdoms, brothers and beans

  1. Pingback: A Humanocentric Perspective: Unity in Diversity (and of maps, RTK, and Yang Xiu) « Late Monsoons…

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