Liu Bei (161–223) was a general, warlord, and later the founding emperor of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms era of China. He was the main character in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Due to the popularity of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei is widely known as the ideal ruler who cared for his people and selected good advisors for his government.
Liu Bei was a distant descendant of the Han emperor Liu Bang, but was born very poor. He first gained notice as leader of a volunteer force in the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Afterwards, he was made Governor of Pingyuan County. He had difficulty protecting the land from warlords, and in 196 he surrendered his land and his post to the Emperor. Liu Bei and his generals wandered the land for several years after that. In 202, he received a land grant from his uncle Liu Biao, but the next year he was attacked by Cao Cao and forced to retreat.
In 209, Liu Bei had his first formal meeting with Zhuge Liang. On his advice, Liu Bei took his men and recaptured the land he lost to Cao Cao. From there, he made trading relationships with the Turkic tribes of central Asia to get weapons and mercenary warriors. He invaded other warlords and used their land to create the Shu Han empire, which was a key part of Zhuge Liang's Three Kingdoms strategy. After the Battle of Chibi, he formally declared himself emperor and declared war on the Cao Wei empire.
Late years and death
He was allied with Wu emperor Sun Quan for most of this period, but ended the alliance after finding Wu assassins in the his palace in 218. After the death of Guan Yu, he had a dream in which Guan Yu told him that he should conquer Wu and defeat Sun Quan once and for all. He abandoned the Shu Han capital and attacked Sun Quan with all available men. After weeks of battle, Liu Bei challenged Sun Quan to a personal duel at Yiling. Sun Quan arranged an ambush, and Liu Bei was forced to retreat. He survived his injuries, but became ill and died in 223.
After he died, his men hid the body so that his enemies could never find it. Though there is some speculation, the exact location of Liu Bei's grave is not known today.
He was very well respected, even by his enemies. After learning of his death, Cao Pi wrote an homage to him. Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty staged a funeral procession for Liu Bei and was the first to acknowledge him as a true emperor.
Although the Shu Han was weakened by Liu Bei's death, it lasted for more than 20 years under the rule of Liu Bei's son Liu Shan.