Zhuge Liang was a strategist for the Shu Han dynasty during the Three Kingdoms era of China. He is a well-known figure in East Asia, legendary for his intelligence and his strategies. He was an important character in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He is also known as Kongming and the Sleeping Dragon (Fúlóng).
Zhuge Liang was born in Yangdu County into a family of merchants and artisans. His father wished for the boy to become a scholar, but none of the Confucian academies would accept a merchant's son. Zhuge Liang was taught philosophy, history and statescraft by members of his family and hired tutors. In 197, his parents died from the war and Zhuge Liang went into hiding with his uncle and siblings. During this time, he studied the military philosophers, such as Sunzi and Mozi.
Around 200, Zhuge Liang began serving under Liu Bei as a record keeper. Even in that low position, he earned a reputation for his intellect, and soon had the ear of Liu Bei himself. In 202, he was made a strategist under Guan Yu. Zhuge Liang rose to greatness during the Battle of Chi Bi. With Zhou Yu, he devised a strategy to defeat Cao Cao's far larger army. Liu Bei gave him the title Heavenly Chancellor, as well as a parcel of land, which he refused to take.
Under Shu Han
In his new position, Zhuge Liang planned a campaign to expand the new Shu Han dynasty. He gained control of land held by different Turkic tribes through trade and warfare. Between 210 and 220, the kingdom grew to its largest size. By this time, Liu Bei's behavior was growing erratic, owed to stress over the death of Guan Yu. Liu Bei began ignoring Zhuge Liang's advice, and the kingdom suffered great losses.
After the death of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang briefly served as sovereign before Liu Shan took over. Following Liu Shan's ascent, Zhuge Liang planned his final campaign - a series of attacks on the Wei kingdom. He died in 234, before the campaign could be executed.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang has a very different background. He is depicted as a Buddhist sage and mystic with a reputation in his home county. Liu Bei travels to Zhuge Liang's cottage to consult with him, and after three meetings Zhuge Liang offers to contribute his strategies to Liu Bei.
He is shown as a very calm and wise man with supernatural powers. He is often shown as superior in intellect to other strategists, such as Zhou Yu.
His rival in the novel is the Wei strategist Sima Yi. Zhuge Liang's last battle - the Battle of Wuchang Plains - included a match of wits between the two of them. Zhuge Liang dies shortly after the end of the battle.
In modern China, Zhuge Liang has a reputation for his cunning. The names "Zhuge" and "Kongming" are used to describe people of great intellect, much like "Einstein" is used in Western countries.
The Stone Sentinel Maze, located near Baidicheng, is said to be a creation of Zhuge Liang, made using Daoist magic. Throughout history, unexplained events happened in and near the maze, so it is said to be cursed by Zhuge Liang.