The period of the Three Kingdoms, the Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties and the Southern and Northern Dynasties is also called the period of Wei, Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties. It started in the year of 220 when Cao Pi claimed himself emperor of the Kingdom of Wei and ended in 589 when the Sui Dynasty wiped out Chen and united the whole country once more, and it was prolonged more than 360 years.
In 221, the year after the setting up of the Kingdom of Wei by Cao Pi, Liu Bei established the Kingdom of Shu, and in 222 Sun Quail founded the Kingdom of Wu, which formed a situation of tripartite confrontation. The capitals of these three kingdoms were located in today’s Luoyang, Chengdu, and Nanjing, respectively.
In 263, Wei wiped out Shu. In 265, Sima Yan, a Wei minister, seized the throne of Wei, declared the founding of the Jin Dynasty and chose Luoyang as his capital. This is known as the Western Jin Dynasty. In 280, Sima Yan conquered Wu, ending the Three Kingdoms Period, but the Jin Dynasty itself was overrun by nomadic people in 316. China fell into disruption again.
In 317, Sima Rui, a descendant of the royal family of the Jin Dynasty, proclaimed himself emperor of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, whose capital was today’s Nanjing. At the same time, several minority ethnic groups in the Yellow River basin also established many states. For more than 130 years, northern China was chaotically divided, this period is called the period of the Sixteen States.
In 439, the Northern Wei, established by a minority of people, united the north. Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei conducted reforms, decreeing the adoption of native Chinese institutions, language, and costume. This resulted in a great intermixing of different ethnic: groups in the north. Later, the Northern Wei split into the Eastern and Western Wei, and then the Northern Qi replaced the Eastern Wei, and the Northern Zhou replaced the Western Wei. The above five northern dynasties are known as the Northern Dynasties. During the 170 years from 420 to 589, following the fall of Eastern Jin, there appeared four dynasties in succession, namely, the Song, Qi, Liang, and Chen, whose capitals were all situated in today’s Nanjing. These four dynasties are called the Southern Dynasties. The period when the Southern Dynasties and the Northern Dynasties co-existed is called the Southern and Northern Dynasties.
During the Three Kingdoms Period, the social politics, economy, and diplomacy all achieved its unique style, and there emerged a great number of outstanding statesmen and generals, the foremost of whom were Cao Cao and Zhuge Liang. The Three Kingdoms Period, the two Jin dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, produced many famous thinkers, strategists, scientists, literary figures, painters, and calligraphers. Also, a large number of famous works were produced which had a positive influence on the development of the social and natural sciences. These scientific and cultural achievements are gems of the Chinese cultural heritage.
During the Three Kingdoms Period, the two Jin dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the powerful European Rome Empire fell into parts, and the Western Rome Empire drew its last breath as well. The Teutons established their Kingdom in Western Europe, and since then Europe stepped into the feudal society.
Controlling the Emperor and Commanding the Nobles
Xie means “to control,” Tianzi refers to “the emperor” and Zhuhou refers to “dukes” or “nobles.” Toward the end of the Han Dynasty, the imperial family was very weak. In 196, Cao Cao invited Emperor Xiandi to his headquarters at Xudu (today’s Xuchang, Henan Province), where he was put under the protection of Cao Cao’s army. From then on, Cao Cao effectively controlled the state power and issued orders to the other nobles in the name of the emperor. This was what people called “controlling the emperor and commanding the nobles.”
Cao Cao (155-220), who named himself Mengde, was an outstanding statesman, strategist, and man of letters of the late Eastern Han Dynasty.
He was born in today’s Anhui Province. He built up a powerful army in the course of suppressing peasant uprisings.
As a strategist, Cao Cao found great interest in studying military works and believed that one should act according to changing conditions in wars. Devoted to the theory of military strategy, Cao Cao had some resounding successes in warfare. At the Battle of Guandu, he properly analyzed the situation between the enemy and his own forces, thus, with only 20 000 men, he soundly defeated Yuan Shao’s force of 1 000 000 and strengthened his troops. A strong army needed more food. Between campaigns, Cao Cao made his soldiers cultivate the land to supply themselves with food. This policy of “garrison fields” not only solved the army’s food supply problem, but it also improved the economy in the north.
On the political stage, Cao Cao saw the rise of powerful landlords in the late Eastern Han Dynasty as a threat to the unity of the country. Therefore, he paid much attention to the control of the powerful landlords. He once made the local authorities put some big rods in front of the government office and encouraged them to punish magnates who bullied the weak and gave government posts to anti-landlord elements. This was proved to be effective for strengthening his dominion.
In the placement of personnel, Cao Cao held the principle of “employing whoever is a talent.” In fact, Cao Cao insisted on promoting any person of talent, no matter what his background was. Therefore, under his domination, a lot of talented people found their positions in the government. Those people contributed a lot to Cao Cao’s unity of North China.
Because of these advantages, added to the fact that he had the Han emperor Xiandi under his control, Cao Cao put down all the warlords one after another in the north after the Battle of Guandu in 200 and ended the fissioning condition in North China. This not only was advantageous to the social economy restoration in the Central Plains but also built the foundation for the subsequent Western Jin Dynasty as a unified nation.
Then famous litterateur Xu Shao appraised Cao Cao as an able official in governing the country and an insidious hero in the tumultuous times. In the traditional drama, Cao Cao continuously appeared as a disloyal image on the stage. Cao Cao once said, “In this chaotic time, without me, who knows how many people would want to dominate and claim to be the emperor!”
Cao Cao also attached importance to culture. As a multitalented man, he wrote the “The Burial Ground,” “Gazing at the Ocean,” “Short Songs” and “Despite the Tortoise’s Longevity,” and many other immortal epics. His two sons Cao Pi and Cao Zhi were well-known writers as well.
Three Visits to the Thatched Cottage
Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei swore to be brothers, and with a small military bloc, they attached themselves to Liu Biao, the governor of Jingzhou. To expand his influence, Liu Bei began his quest for talents. Liu Bei had heard about Zhuge Liang, knowing he was an outstanding talent, so, together with his sworn brothers, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, Liu Bei visited the thatched cottage in Longzhong where Zhuge Liang was living in obscurity. Zhuge Liang refused to meet Liu Bei the first two times he called, but on the third occasion he was touched by Liu Bei’s sincerity and agreed to meet him. Finally, Liu Bei found a talented adviser.
Zhuge Liang (181-234), who named himself Kong Ming and Wo Long, was an outstanding statesman and strategist.
He was born in Yangdu, Langya (today’s Yinan, Shandong Province), and later settled in Longzhong where he devoted himself to acquiring knowledge, and his reputation for wisdom spread far and wide. Zhuge Liang did not concern himself with doing textual research into every sentence or chapter like most people did at that time, but to grasp the gist of the articles. Through great efforts, he was familiar with astronomy, geography, and well-versed in the tactical arts. He ambitiously hoped to reunify the nation with his own strength. Zhuge Liang also paid great attention to social observation and analysis and accumulated a wealth of experience in running the country.
Meanwhile, after uniting the north, Cao Cao prepared to march south for the dream of a completely united China. At that time, Sun Quan controlled the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and Liu Bei, the weakest of the three antagonists, was stationed in Jingzhou. Liu Bei went to visit the twenty-seven-year-old Zhuge Liang three times to ask for the latter’s assistance. Zhuge Liang analyzed the situation in the country in detail for Liu Bei and recommended that he ally with Sun Quan against Cao Cao. By listening to Zhuge Liang’s incisive analysis, Liu Bei became suddenly enlightened. He thought that Zhuge Liang was a talent hard to come across, and therefore, he earnestly requested Zhuge Liang to go with him, helping him to complete the great cause of vitalizing the Han Dynasty.
Later, Liu Bei adopted Zhuge Liang’s suggestion and defeated Cao Cao in the Battle of the Red Cliff, his forces emerging as a much stronger power.
Not long after he proclaimed himself the emperor, Liu Bei died of illness in Baidicheng. Before he died, he handed over the state power of Shu to Zhuge Liang, to be wielded on behalf of Liu Bei’s son, Liu Chan, the new emperor. The southwestern minorities exploited the situation to start an armed revolt. In 225, Zhuge Liang led an army south and pacified the rebellious tribes there peacefully with his outstanding wit. The leader of the local tribes thus had faith in him. His strategy was to govern through the local chieftains, which greatly improved relations between the Shu government and the minority peoples. Meanwhile, he also carried out far-reaching internal reforms employing people with ability, stressing agricultural production and the construction of irrigation works, and strengthening discipline in the army, which helped Shu quickly overcome a series of crises.
Later, Zhuge Liang launched six expeditions northward in an attempt to overthrow Wei and unify the country but failed. On his last northern expedition, he died of overworking in the Wuzhangyuan military camps (in today’s Qishan County, Shaanxi Province).
In the eyes of the Chinese people, Zhuge Liang is the incarnation of it, and his stories are widespread.
Sun Quan Rules the Roost in Jiangdong
Sun Quan (c.182-252) was born in today’s Zhejiang Province and named himself Zhongmou. After his elder brother Sun Ce’s death, he took over his rule over the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River area. At that time, there were people who looked down on him and rebelled publicly against him. Sun Quan dispatched troops quickly and killed the rebels. Seeing he was so courageous and resourceful, people all admired him very much. Later, Cao Cao proposed that as long as Sun Quan sent one of his sons to Cao Cao as a hostage, Cao Cao would promise to keep good relations with Sun Quan. Adopting Zhou Yu’s advice, Sun Quan did not listen to Cao Cao’s proposal. Instead, he developed and expanded his own power relying on the geographical advantages in Jiangdong (roughly the areas south of the Yangtze River), which finally led to the situation of tripartite confrontation.
The Battle of the Red Cliff
After Cao Cao united North China, he had only two rivals, Sun Quan in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and Liu Bei in what is now the area of Hubei Province.
In 208, Cao Cao led an army of 200 000 men (claimed to be 800 000 men) south. Liu Bei retreated to Wuchang, Hubei. At that time, he only had an army of about 20 000 men. Based on the military strategist Zhuge Liang’s suggestion, he decided to make an alliance with Sun Quan to fight together against Cao Cao. Zhuge Liang argued before Sun Quan that, although Cao Cao outstripped them in the quantity of die army, about 70 000 to 80 000 of his men were soldiers surrendered from Jingzhou. These people were mainly navy soldiers and were the operational main force, and they had no certain loyalty to Cao Cao. Furthermore, the northern soldiers were not good at the battle on the water, and many fell into a bad illness after their long-distance advance. This analysis caused Sun Quan to clearly see the situation, and he agreed to send his senior general Zhou Yu to lead 30 000 sergeants to fight against Cao Cao together with Liu Bei.
Cao Cao anchored at a place called the Red Cliff (in today’s Chibi City, Hubei Province, although it has been alternately located in the northeast of today’s Jiayu County in Hubei). He chained his ships together so that the northern soldiers could walk steadily on them. Both Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu decided to attack Cao Cao with fire. One night, when there was a favorable southeastern wind, Zhou Yu dispatched the general Huang Gai with 10 ships to sail toward the enemy, pretending to be surrendering. The ships were loaded with firewood soaked in oil. When they were near enough to Cao Cao’s fleet, they set their ships on fire and left them to drift into the enemy ships. Because Cao Cao’s ships were chained together and were hard to unite in such a short time, Cao Cao’s fleet was immediately caught in a sea of fire. Later, the fire expanded to the land, and Cao Cao’s troops were severely destroyed.
After the Battle of the Red Cliff, the situation of China changed. Cao Cao retreated back to the north. In 220, after Cao Cao’s death, his son Cao Pi dethroned Emperor Xiandi of the Han Dynasty and proclaimed himself emperor, renaming his territory Wei, with Luoyang as its capital. Following his victory in the Battle of the Red Cliff, Liu Bei occupied most of Jingzhou and then spread his power to the west. In 221, he also proclaimed himself emperor, and named his state Shu, with the capital in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Sun Quan consolidated his power in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and proclaimed himself emperor in 222. He named his state Wu and made Jianye (today’s Nanjing) as his capital. The situation of tripartite confrontation lasted until 280 when the Western Jin Dynasty wiped out Wu.
Eight Kings’ Insurrection in the Western Jin Dynasty
In 265, Sima Yan forced Emperor Weidi to give up the throne and proclaimed himself the emperor. Sima Yan was the Emperor Wudi of the Jin dynasty. The state was called which is known as the Western [in Dynasty history with its capital at Luoyang. The Western Jin Dynasty’s troops wiped out Wu and reunified the country. In the early years of the Western Jin Dynasty, the government implemented a series of policies to encourage farmers’ enthusiasm in farming, raising silkworm, reclamation of wasteland, and increasing production. Over a period of more than two years, the number of households and the total population increased by more than 1 300 000 over two years, and brief prosperity occurred.
In order to keep the world of Sima family, Emperor Wudi of the Jin dynasty reinstated the ancient system of enforcement, and 27 kings from the Sima family were stationed around. Shortly, internal strife arose among the Sima family. The eight kings including Lun (King of Zhao), Wei (King of Chu) and others were fighting for imperial power from 291 to 306, which lasted as long as 16 years. In order to strengthen their own power, the eight kings made use of the northern minority forces. Thus, the Huns, the Xianbei, the Jies and other military forces pushed deep into the Central Plains, and the northern regions experienced unprecedented upheaval.
In 304, Liu Yuan, leader of the Huns, started a war and gradually took control of most of the land of Bingzhou. In 308, Liu Yuan proclaimed himself emperor in Pingyang (today’s Linfen, Shanxi Province), and sent troops to attack Luoyang. In 316, the Hun army overran Chang’an, captured emperor Mindi of the Jin Dynasty. In less than 40 years, the Western Jin Dynasty perished after a brief reunification.
The Origin of “Every Bush and Tree Looks like an Enemy”
During the Feishui campaign, the Former Qin army and the Jin army paddled across the Feishui river, preparing for a decisive battle. One day, Fu Jian boarded the defense wall of Shouyang city to observe the situation of the Jin army. Glancing afar, he found that the Jin army’s tents were arranged in an orderly fashion, studying further, the bushes and trees on opposite Bagong Mountain were shaking, which did not allow one to know how many Jin soldiers were hidden there. He said to his brother, who was just beside him that this was a powerful enemy, how could people say they were weak. After saying that, his face showed an expression of fear, and he ordered the Qin army to keep a close watch. This is the origin of the Chinese idiom of “Every bush and tree looks like an enemy,” which is a metaphor for extreme timidity when one is in extreme fear.
The Battle of Feishui
In 317, Sima Rui, a member of the royal clan, was proclaimed emperor under the support of Wang Dao and set up his capital in Jiankang (today’s Nanjing, Jiangsu Province). This is known as the Eastern |in Dynasty ill history. In the north, the minorities who had moved inward and the Han set 16 authorities in the Yellow River basin, which is called the “16 States”.
In the latter half of the fourth century, Fu Jian, the ruler of the Former Qin Dynasty, united the north. In 383, Fu Jian led an army south hoping to wipe out Eastern Jin in one attack. Before the war, some people firmly advised against Fu Jian doing so, arguing that the Eastern Jin Dynasty, with the Yangtze River as a natural barrier, was very difficult to attack. Fu Jian insisted and said, “We will overwhelm with numerical strength, so long as every one of us throws a whip into the Yangtze River, its water cannot keep flowing!”
Facing the attack from the Former Qin Dynasty’s army, the Eastern Jin Dynasty decided to make concerted efforts to fight against the enemy. At that time, the leaders of the Jin army were Xie Shi, Xie Xuan, and Liu Laozhi. They had an army of only 80 000 men. In the 10th lunar month, Fu Jian’s army captured Shouyang (today’s Shouxian County, Anhui Province). Fujian sent Zhu Xu, a Jin general captured by the Former Qin army, to the Jin army to induce them to capitulate. Seizing the chance of going to the Jin camp, Zhu Xu told Xie Shi that there were only 250 000 Former Qin soldiers in the front line, and he suggested the Jin army launch an attack first.
In the 11th month, Liu Laozhi attacked the Former Qin army with 5 000 crack soldiers and wiped out 50 000 Former Qin soldiers. Xie Shi and other generals advanced on the crest of the victory and confronted the Former Qin army with each army on one side of the Feishui River. One day, Xie Xuan proposed that it was not convenient for the two belligerent parties to fight on different sides of the river, and asked the Former Qin army to draw back. Fu Jian had planned to attack the |in the army with his cavalry when they crossed the river, so he ordered his army to retreat. However, his soldiers did not know the real meaning of the retreat, and many of them thought that they had lost the battle. Just at that time, Zhu Xu shouted loudly, “The Qin’s army has lost the battle! The Qin’s army has lost the battle!” This threw the Former Qin’s soldiers into great confusion at once. The Jin army took advantage of the occasion and crossed the Feishui River. Fu Jian's soldiers fled desperately, and Fu Jian himself got wounded by an arrow. At last, Yu Jian returned to Chang’an with only a little more than 100 000 soldiers.
This was the famous Battle of Feishui in history, in which a small army defeated a big one. After the Battle of Feishui, the Former Qin Dynasty fell, and North China was again rent by independent regimes. Eastern Jin ensured stability in the south. Later, Jin’s authority was taken by the general Liu Yu who founded the Song Dynasty. During the 170 years from 420 to 589, the south went through four dynasties, namely, the Song, Qi, Liang, and Chen, historically known as the Southern Dynasties. In 439, the Northern Wei Dynasty unified the northern regime and entered into a confrontational situation with the Southern Dynasties. Thus, the history entered a period known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties.
The Reforms of Emperor Xiaowen
The Tuoba tribe, who had established the Northern Wei Dynasty and reunified in the north, was an outstanding Xianbei ethnic group. The early Touba tribe lacked housing, language, and the law. During the period of the Wei and Jin Dynasties, they traveled to the nomadic grassland south of the Yinshan Mountains and became the leader of 36 Xianbei tribes, and began to settle in agricultural production and grow up. In 386, Tuoba Gui inherited the crown and changed the name of the country to Wei. In 439, Emperor Taiwu Tuoba Tao unified the north and ended the state of separation that had existed for over 100 years. However, the early Northern Wei Dynasty’s reign was in an unstable condition, and the key to consolidating their ruling was to accelerate the reform of the Xianbei’s customs and learn from the Han people.
Emperor Xiaowen Touba Hong of the Northern Wei was a prominent statesman. He realized that it was necessary to absorb the advanced culture of the Central Plains and reform the Xianbei1 s backward customs in order to consolidate the reign. In 490, Emperor Xiaowen reigned. He continued the reform measures which were put forward by his mother, which speeded up the pace of changing the Xianbei5 sold customs and the comprehensive sinicization.
In 494, Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital from Pingcheng (today’s Datong, Shanxi Province) to Luoyang.
After moving the capital city, Emperor Xiaowen implemented a series of reform measures. The main reform measures included: reforming the civil service system, requiring all the Xianbei people to wear Han clothing, requiring officials under 30 years of age to speak Chinese, requiring the Xianbei people to adopt Han surnames, and encouraging marriage between the Xianbei and the Han people.
Emperor Xiaowen liked reading and advocated the use of Confucian thought to govern the country. Emperor Xiaowen conferred the Confucian offspring and students at the St. Hugh Zonta. He went to the Confucius Temple in Qufu to offer sacrifices, promoted Confucianism and established schools, which won the support of the Han people.
Emperor Xiaowen was very firm in implementing the policy of sinicization, he resolutely suppressed the rebellion against the reform and strictly inspected the implementation of the reform measures. Once in the street, he saw a woman sitting in a coach wearing Xianbei dresses. He blamed the governor Touba Cheng of Rencheng for failure to fulfill his duty as an inspector, and let the historiographer document it.
Emperor Xiaowen’s reform accelerated the localization process of the Xianbei and promoted national integration in the north. Many wastelands near Luoyang were farmed, and the political and economic situation of the Northern Wei Dynasty was greatly developed, and the Northern Wei regime was also consolidated.
Hua Mulan Joined the Army in Place of Her Father
“Click, click, click. Mulan wove cloth in the house. Yet we could not hear the sound of the shuttle, but the sound of Mulan’s sighs…” This is the opening of The Ballad of Mulan, a well-known folk song in north China. The heroine of this ballad was a heroic woman in the north named Hua Mulan. The song tells how Hua Mulan disguised herself as a man and joined the army in place of her father.
It is said that Mulan lived in the Northern Wei Dynasty and that people in the north were fond of practicing martial arts. When Mulan was about ten years old, her father, an ex-soldier, taught her military skills, including martial arts, horse riding, archery, and swordsmanship. Hua Mulan also read her father’s books on military science in her spare time.
After Emperor Xiaowen’s reform, the Northern Wei Dynasty saw a picture of socio-economic development and more stable lives. To ward off incursions by the Rouran nomads, the ruler of the Northern Wei ordered that every household provide a man to join an expedition against them. Mulan’s father was old then, and her younger brother was too young to go and fight. So Mulan decided to join the army instead of her father. Mulan spent 12 years in the army. Fighting at the border is even hard for many men, let alone a girl such as Mulan because she had to conceal her identity while fighting against the enemy together with her partners But Hua Mulan finally completed her mission and returned home with a victory 12 years later. In view of her exploits on the battlefield, the ruler of the Northern Wei offered Mulan a high official position, but she refused it.
Hua Mulan, for her braveness and purity, has been highly respected as a filial daughter by the Chinese people for hundreds of years. In 1998, her story was adapted into an animated cartoon by Disney in the United States, to the acclaim of viewers young and old.
The Inventor of Regular Script
During the period from the end of the Han Dynasty to the beginning of the Wei Dynasty, there was a famous calligrapher named Zhong Yao who gained full mastery of the regular script. He was the first master of the regular script in Chinese history, and his calligraphy helped the transition from official script to the regular script as the ordinary writing system. He also helped set the style of Chinese characters. His representative works Include Statement of Proclamation and Statement Recommending Jizhi.
Wang Xizhi, the Saint of Calligraphy, and Gu Kaizhi, the Matchless Painter
Wang Xizhi (c.303-361) was born in today’s Shandong Province. He was a great calligrapher of the Eastern Jin Dynasty and was called by later generations the Saint of Calligraphy.
Wang Xizhi studied calligraphy under the calligraphy master Madame Wei in his youth. Then he traveled widely to study tablet inscriptions executed by famous calligraphers of older generations. It is said that he used to practice calligraphy by the pond beside Lan (Orchid) Pavilion in Shaoxing, in today’s Zhejiang Province. He worked day and night until the clear pond water turned black from his dipping his inky brush into it so many times. At last, He had finally formed his own unique style. Wang Xizhi’s unique style in both the running hand and cursive script had a great influence on later generations of calligraphers. His famous rubbings of stone inscriptions include the Preface to Orchid Pavilion and the Kuaixueshiqing Rubbing. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty admired Wang Xizhi’s calligraphy and chose 1 000 characters written by Wang Xizhi, which he included in a book titled Ancient 1 000-Character Text to be used as a guide for students of calligraphy.
Gu Kaizhi (c.345-409) was an outstanding painter in the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Later generations grouped him together with Lu Tanwei, Zhang Sengyao, and Wu Daozi, and called them the “Four Ancestors of Painting.” Gu traveled all over south China accumulating rich materials for his paintings.
Gu Kaizhi was especially good at figure painting, and he stressed the “spirit by describing.” He maintained that a subject’s heart could be read through looking deep into his or her eyes. He once worked in a temple on a mural, but he did not finish the figure’s eyes until visitors came. He painted the eyes, and viewers said that the figure’s face suddenly filled with energy and seemed like a real person. Gu Kaizhi’s works have long been lost. What remains today are only facsimiles of his Picture Scroll of Female Scholars, Picture Scroll of the Luoshui River Nymph and the Picture Scroll of Virtuous Ladies.
Zu Chongzhi, the Remarkable Mathematician
Zu Chongzhi (429-500) lived in the period of the Song and Qi of the Southern dynasties. He devoted himself to study in his youth, being especially fond of mathematics. He also liked ancient astronomical research.
Zu Chongzhi’s greatest achievements lay in maths. He calculated a more precise ratio of the circumference of a circle. Pi is the ratio between the diameter and circumference of the circle. The ancient Chinese understood this concept very early, but not too accurately. Zu Chongzhi summed up the experience and decided to use the way of “Cut Circle” pioneered by Liu Hui, who lived in the period of the “Three Kingdoms,” to seek pi. However, the computation tools at that time were bamboo sticks. For the nine-digit arithmetic, 130 times of computation were needed, which was prone to error. Zu Chongzhi repeated each count at least twice until a few calculations got the same results. After working hard on the calculation, he finally reached the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter at between 3.1415926 and 3.1415927.
Zu Chongzhi was the world’s first scientist operator to put pi seven digits after the decimal point. And it was not until the 15th century that an Arab mathematician named Al-Kashi and a 16th-century French mathematician Vieta surpassed him by projecting it to 16 digits after the decimal point. In addition, Zu Chongzhi compiled his major achievements in mathematics into a book called Zhuishu, which became the main textbook on mathematics in China during the Tang Dynasty.