Monday, January 26, 2009

Red Cliff -- How the movie differs from the chronicles of the Three Kingdoms & the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Here are substantial differences between the movie, "Red Cliff" and the historical chronicles of the Three Kingdoms:

* The Battle of the Red Cliffs did not actually occur at the Red Cliffs. In fact, Cao Cao's battleships were burnt down at Wulin.

* It should be noted that the primary cause for Cao Cao's withdrawal in history is still an open topic in the academia. In fact, more professional historians are biased towards the theory that the epidemic that plagued Cao Cao's naval camp was the primary cause and not the fire attack itself.

* Kong Rong was sentenced to execution by Cao Cao after he spoke ill of the latter before an emissary from Sun Quan, whereas in the movie he was executed for openly challenging Cao Cao and denouncing him as a traitor with the intention of usurping the throne before the Emperor Xian.

* Lady Gan of Liu Bei's two wives survived the Battle of Changban unlike in the movie where she was killed by enemy soldiers amidst the chaos. In addition, Liu Bei had numerous sons, and the son portrayed in the story was not his only "remaining bloodline" (though he was the most conspicuous and significant in the novel because he was Bei's first non-adopted son). In reality, his two daughters were captured in the battle.

* Zhou Yu and his generals did not visit Liu Bei's camp. In fact, Liu Bei attended Zhou Yu's camp, and according to the fictional account in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhou Yu attempted to have Liu Bei assassinated.

* Cai Mao and Zhang Yun had surrendered to Cao Cao before the Battle of Changban along with their lord Liu Cong but in the movie they did so after the battle and even decided to serve Cao Cao.

* Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang did not become enemies in the future as Zhou Yu had replied towards the end of the film. However, in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhou Yu was jealous of Zhuge Liang's intelligence during the planning before the Battle of Red Cliffs. Zhou Yu knew that Zhuge Liang would become a formidable foe in the future and attempted to kill Zhuge several times.

* Sun Shangxiang had not met Liu Bei before their marriage, which was a politically-arranged marriage to strengthen ties between Liu Bei and Sun Quan. In the movie, Sun Shangxiang met Liu Bei at the banquet to celebrate the victory.

* The battle scene in which the army led by Zhang Fei used reflective shields were not mentioned either in novelization or factual history. It was also far too impracticable because glass mirrors had not been invented yet at that time and copper was too expensive to be largely deployed.

* Jiang Gan was not killed on Cao Cao's orders. In the movie, he was poisoned on Cao Cao's orders after he made the blunder which fooled Cao Cao into killing Cai Mao and Zhang Yun.

* Sun Shangxiang did not participate in the battle at all in history. In the movie, she fought alongside her comrades and even disguised herself and infiltrated Cao Cao's camp to act as a spy.

* Xiao Qiao was not present in the battle at all. In the movie, she accompanied her husband Zhou Yu to the main camp and provided him with moral support. Towards the end of the movie, she even ventured into Cao Cao's camp to persuade Cao Cao to give up his ambitions. When Cao Cao refused, she attempted suicide but was stopped by Cao Cao. Later, she distracted Cao Cao by having a conversation with him on the art of tea, in order to buy time for the allied forces to launch their attacks.

* Sun Quan did not participate at all personally in the Battle of Red Cliffs. In the movie, he joined in the battle and fought alongside his men together with Zhou Yu and Sun Shangxiang.

* Liu Bei's forces did not launch any offensive on Cao Cao's camp during the Battle of Red Cliffs as in the movie. In fact, they set up ambushes on Cao Cao's retreat journey, hoping to capture him alive along the way.

* The main battle was fought in this order: Huang Gai feigned surrender and launched the fire attack on Cao Cao's navy, the forces of Eastern Wu launched their main assault on Cao Cao's forces, Cao Cao retreated and fell into ambushes set up earlier by Eastern Wu forces along the retreat journey.

* Cao Cao did not stay behind and fight the enemy after his defeat, as in the final scenes in the movie. He fled after his defeat and managed to make his way back to his territory despite falling into several ambushes along the way.


And the difference between the movie and the novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms":

* Zhang Fei and a few soldiers met Cao Cao's troops at a bridge where Zhang Fei bellowed at the enemy, striking fear into them such that they did not dare to advance. In the movie, Zhang Fei led an army of 1000 to engage the enemy head on.

* Guan Yu only arrived to reinforce Liu Bei's retreating army after Zhao Yun had rescued Liu Shan. He did not stay behind to hold off the enemy forces alone like in the movie.

* Zhuge Liang met Sun Quan personally and discussed about the alliance with him in a private conversation unlike in the movie where the duo met during an assembly of all the subjects of Wu.

* Zhou Yu was training his troops at Chaisang prior to the Battle of the Red Cliffs and not at the Red Cliffs.

* Zhuge Liang first met Zhou Yu at the latter's residence through Lu Su's introduction, unlike in the movie where they met at the military training grounds.

* Cao Cao had never met Xiao Qiao before in his entire life. However, in the movie he gazed with lust at a drawing of her, mentioning that he had "never forgotten her" since he had first seen her with her father Qiao Xuan and that he intended to claim her for himself after defeating the warlords.

* The battle scene in the movie with the Eight Trigrams Formation was a fictional one. The forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei did not fight side-by-side with each other in any battle.

* Zhou Yu led Jiang Gan on a tour of his camp to show the prowess of his army and held a Heroes' Banquet after. He passed his sword to Taishi Ci, ordering him to kill anyone who spoke of military affairs with the sword, as a plan to shut Jiang Gan out. Later that night, Zhou Yu pretended to vomit and mumble in his sleep to incur Jiang Gan's suspicions. Jiang Gan crept to Zhou Yu's desk secretly and discovered the fake letter by Cai Mao and Zhang Yun. He stole the letter and secretly made his way back to Cao Cao's camp. In the movie however, the letter was first revealed to be hidden inside the scabbard of Zhou Yu's sword and fell out when Zhou was performing swordplay. Zhou hid the letter in his sleeve and Jiang Gan stole it from him during his sleep after eavesdropping on a conversation and overhearing something about Cai Mao and Zhang Yun planning to betray Cao Cao.

* Huang Gai suggested the Self-Torture Ruse to Zhou Yu in which he was flogged on Zhou's orders for apparently showing disrespect. This convinced Cao Cao further to believe that his surrender was indeed true with the help of Kan Ze's tongue. In the movie, this section had been omitted but Huang Gai did propose the Self-Torture Ruse to Zhou Yu, who did not heed his suggestion.

The above two excerpts are copied from Wikipedia, "Substantial differences between the movie, the novel and the chronicles".

Wonderful, Wikipedia! It really saves the trouble from rereading the chapters. For those who are interested to find out themselves, you may want to read the following Red-Cliff-related chapters from Luo Guanzhong's version of Romance of Three Kingdoms:

- Chapter 42. Screaming Zhang Fei Triumphs At Long Slope Bridge; Defeated Liu Bei Marches To Hanjin.

- Chapter 43. Zhuge Liang Disputes With The Southern Scholars; Lu Su Denounces The Majority Opinion.

- Chapter 44. Zhuge Liang Stirs Zhou Yu To Actions; Sun Quan Decides To Attack Cao Cao.

- Chapter 45. At The Three Gorges, Cao Cao Loses Soldiers; In The Gathering Of Heroes, Jiang Gan Is Trapped.

- Chapter 46. Using Strategy, Zhuge Liang Borrows Arrows; Joining A Ruse, Huang Gai Accepts Punishment.

- Chapter 47. Kan Ze Presents A Treacherous Letter; Pang Tong Suggests Chaining The Ships.

- Chapter 48. Banquet On The Great River, Cao Cao Sings A Song; Battle On Water, Northerners Fight With Chained Ships.

- Chapter 49. On Seven-Star Altar, Zhuge Liang Sacrifices To The Winds; At Three Gorges, Zhou Yu Liberates The Fire.

- Chapter 50. Zhuge Liang Foresees The Huarong Valley Episode; Guan Yu Lifts His Saber To Release Cao Cao.

Update on 29/01:
1. I just realized Pang Tong was not identified in Wikipedia article for Red Cliff. In the novel, it's he who suggested to chain or secure the ships together as to create more stability so that Cao Cao's men won't suffer from motion sickness. In the movie, it's Cai Mao (Cao Cao's general) who suggested the securing method (not using a chain).

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