Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) poster
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 69 users
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Ranked #84624
Popularity #16770
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In an age of turmoil, heroes will rise... It is the end of the 2nd Century, and China is in a state of turmoil. The land is divided by warlords, and the country is facing famine, droughts, and invasion from bordering tribes. On top of the problems the country is facing, Zhang Jiao and his brothers begin to rebel against the Han while advocating the arrival of a new era, the era of the "Yellow Dragon," implying that if people followed him, they would lead prosperous lives. Thousands of desperate villagers flocked to follow Zhang Jiao as they raided government offices and plundered towns and villages alike in protest of heavy taxation, wearing only a "yellow turban" on their heads. As their strengths and numbers grew, the "Yellow Turbans" overthrew some of the Imperial Court's best generals and strongest forces. Concerned for their capital in Luo Yang and for the Han empire, the Imperial Court immediately constructed an "alliance" by requesting volunteers across the country to settle the rebellion. Three distinct generals were recruited - Liu Bei, Cao Cao, and Sun Jian. Together with their own officers, the Yellow Turban rebellion was quickly laid to rest, and each of the men involved immediately gained popularity and power with the people. As their powers grew, however, each continued to seek more control of their territories and unite all of China under one rule. One fought for hegemony. One fought for ambition. One fought for righteousness. Veteran officers and generals who shared the same visions swarmed under each leader. These stalwart souls waged war across the vast expanse of the land and, like bloodthirsty demons, cut down any and all that stood in their way. Thus, the romance of the Three Kingdoms begins. (Source: IMDb) Edit Translation

  • English
  • magyar / magyar nyelv
  • dansk
  • Norsk
  • Country: China
  • Type: Drama
  • Episodes: 84
  • Aired: Mar 17, 1994 - Oct 26, 1995
  • Original Network: CCTV
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Score: 7.4 (scored by 69 users)
  • Ranked: #84624
  • Popularity: #16770
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Where to Watch Romance of the Three Kingdoms

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Cast & Credits


Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994) photo


3 people found this review helpful
Jun 6, 2022
84 of 84 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Must watch for any fans of Three Kingdoms

Storyline: There is no other tv series/film that comes close to this version in terms of providing the most full account of the Three Kingdoms. It begins with the crumbling Eastern Han dynasty and ends with beginning of the Jin Dynasty. As a result, the audience clearly sees why warlords rose up and why the kingdoms fell. This drama will complete your Three Kingdoms fantasy by having the characters appear in person, and it is likely that your favourite historical figure will appear, no matter how little known they are (e.g. Qin Mi, Kan Ze, Liu Ye) because this drama just covers so much with no useless plot.

Pacing: Although this drama covers a lot, this does not mean that the events are rushed through. The director knows when to slow down and dig into the atmosphere (e.g. the meeting of Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang). There is no weird delay in pace due to random romantic plot lines, while also not cutting out the female characters because they actually contribute to the plot and have a life outside of romance.

Potential con: As a history buff, I absolutely loved the event-focused, macro-history approach, but I can see how that can be less of an appeal for others. No one from the beginning lived till the very end, so you will have this very weird sense of attachment to a certain kingdom while the reasons you like it might have disappeared long ago (a bit like Theseus' ship). However, this is the appeal of history, and if you are considering watching it, this should be no problem at all!

Acting: I find no problems with the acting at all, like there are some S-tier acting and some A-tier, but there is no bad acting whatsoever. I absolutely loved the casting for Cao Ca and Sima Yi:

This is difficult to explain without providing snippets of the video, but what I liked about Bao Guo'an's Cao Cao was that he was neither shown as a sociopath nor had a villain-downgrade. We see him as a man who was initially loyal to the Han and slowly grew disillusioned with the coalition (hence his poem Hao Li Xing). When Cao Cao massacred cities (no one else in the Three Kingdoms did it on the scale as he did), you don't see a sociopath (a version of 3k I won't name has Cao Cao act nonchalantly or childishly when seeing brutal things) but a human being who chose to go down that path, which is more chilling.

Wei Zongwan's Sima Yi is my favourite portrayal of the character both in the novel and history. Sima Yi is not meant to be a person who is immediately suspicious (e.g. Littlefinger from GoT), he is someone who impeccably served Cao Cao, Cao Pi, Cao Rui, and appointed as the entrusted minister to oversee the succeeding young emperor by Cao Pi and Cao Rui. Loyal Wei ministers like Jiang Ji vouched for Sima Yi until he executed the 3 clans of Cao Shuang. As a result, I love how Wei Zongwan was able to show Sima Yi as a minister when he was around Cao Rui with a face that is 10% appeasing, 50% honest, 20% genuinely concerned, 20% unknown (hard to describe a person's face). He is also a man who constantly has the long vision: when he realised that he was intimidated by a dead Zhuge Liang, you see that split second of shock before he pities Zhuge Liang for trying so hard because he still has the upper hand in the war (instead of, you know, losing your shit and rolling around in bed from a certain 3k adaptation).

Problem with casting: A regret about the drama is that a character will have two or three actors (whether it's because they aged or there's a schedule clash for the original actor), which might influence its consistency. There will be no problem with recognising them because the subtitles will indicate who they are whenever they appear. I personally don't find it as big of a problem because, as a fan familiar with the Three Kingdoms, I can see the different ways that the actors saw in the character. But this can be a problem for someone who is less familiar with the story and cares more about having the same reading of a character.

The songs are beautiful, they are either made up of lines from a poem (e.g. Cao Cao's Short Song Style), or are written by the production team that are clearly fluent in writing in either vernacular or lyrical Classical Chinese depending on what the song is about. The character song for Liu Bei that was playing when he did not abandon the people can function as a poem by itself. It was brilliant.

Zhuge Liang's theme song (guqin cover) was sometimes used as a soundtrack during emotive scenes that showed the dwindling state of Shu (e.g. Zhuge Liang's unsuccessful northern campaigns or Jiang Wei's retreat iirc).

Clothes: Before I fangirl over the historically accurate props that appears, I will first note the historically inaccurate clothing. The clothes for the soldiers and generals are not accurate. The court uniform is semi-accurate: the hats are accurate and it's true that the martial officers wear red and the civil officers wear black, but the civil uniform is not supposed to have red linings or inner-sleeve. But apart from that, it's highly accurate. The costumes the dancing people wore after Cao Mao's death is inspired by this mural they found around the 3 kingdoms period, so yes, as weird as those cone hats look, they are legit.

Props: most of the props that appear are dated from the Warring States to the Han Dynasty, so they are objects that the (rich) people can very well be using. I remember there was that weird incense box that kept appearing that's supposed to be from the Tang Dynasty, but apart from that everything seemed right. The patterns of the tapestries, sword holders and some clothes are patterns archaeologists have dug up around that time. The red and black lacquer wine bowls, bronze palace-girl lamp, bronze insulated soup tub etc. are all artefacts that you can find in museums. My archaeology friend is very pleased with the show in this aspect, so they are surely doing something right?

Screen-writing: absolutely stunning. First they have the titles right (depending on how they addressed each other, you can pick out who is close with whom). Then there is the style that is not in modern Chinese so it is not out of place. Also, the essay written that Cao Cao read at the Bronze Bird Terrace was written by the screen-writer in fill classical Chinese, so kudos to whoever wrote that! Whenever white subtitles pop out in the drama, that is when it's full on Classical Chinese (so that the audience can understand). Notable moments include Zhuge Liang debating with the Wu officials, Qin Mi's discussion with the Wu ambassador, or Zhuge Liang roasting Wang Lang.

It has so much re-watch value, whether it's for the plot, acting, noticing the props etc. There is always something new that I will notice when I rewatch. I gave this a 9.5 overall because I think the problems with the changes in casts is still an issue that doesn't interfere but is there. But apart from that, literally everything else is god-tier and no adaptations will ever come close to this version in every other area.

(This show really does not deserve to be rated so low...)

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3 people found this review helpful
Jul 13, 2019
84 of 84 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers
Why did I watch this? I haven't even watch the entire Red Cliff movie (Zhao Wei, Takeshi K., Tony Leung, Lin Chiling). But I saw the "Stealing Arrows" scene and it was so brilliant! I wanted to see how they did this particular scene in the older version. Turns out I actually like the older version so much more (although Tekeshi is very handsome), the older actor Zhuge Liang is just phenomenal. It kept making me watch backward until I gave up and watched from the beginning to the end. I had no more energy after this to watch the newer 2010 version with Lu Yi, as I am already very satisfied with this 1994 version. The casting is nothing but really old men, but the purpose of the story is not about beautiful people. Aside from the story, I also really enjoy the traditional music. The lyrics are really good, I revisit the opening and closing music themes so many times.

I will recommend my favorite scenes. There are lots of good and interesting scenes, these are just going to be my favorites!

Sitting through the whole thing is not going to happen, this is like a full historical documentary. It can get so boring and hard to watch. I skipped a lot, whatever I did not understand, I did a little research on it and just read the explanation online. So all I watched is only whenever I see these main characters:
- Liu Bei
- Guan Yu
- Zhang Fei
- Zi Long aka Zhao Yun
- Cao Cao
- Zhu Ge Liang (of course)
- Sima Yi

Episode 1:
I have to watch the first part of course. Liu Bei meets Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, and they promise to become brothers. It starts out very slow, and it's confusing too. I got to admit I did not even understand all the dialogues. The reason why I like part 1 is when the brothers made the oath, the music there is very nice.
I pretty much skip through anything beyond episode 1 until episode 16. In between that, I watch a little bit of the Dong Zhuo, Diao Chan, Lubu story. The mini story is quite worth while. Diao Chan's acting was great, it is very funny how she seduced both men.

Episode 16-20
Guan Yu is a legendary one so I tried to stop for his scenes. If you watch lots of Chinese dramas, Guan Yu is so famous that lots of time people will mention him in the drama. 16-20 became one of my favorite sections, it is really worth it. I love how they portray his loyalty to his brother, it is extremely touching. Guan Yu is stuck with Cao Cao because Cao Cao wants Guan Yu for himself. He even allows Guan Yu to stay by his side without having to follow his orders. He can remain loyal to Liu Bei as he wishes. They lure and test Guan Yu many times, but he knows their plans and always passed all of them without swaying at all. He earns everybody's respect each time. It was interesting, I nodded and admire him as well. There is a scene where he goes to war and hears Liu Bei's voice but didn't find him, it is very touching, I love the music they played during that part. Really great bromance. Guan Yu leaves Cao Cao, and Cao Cao chase and chase after Guan Yu. He didn't kill Guan Yu but sets him free like a bird, and the sad expression on Cao Cao's face is so priceless! In the future (ep 39 )
when Cao Cao was being chased by soldiers, Cao Cao will arrive at a dead end where Guan Yu is supposed to capture him, but sets him free as well. That will be a really great scene too, Cao Cao lands in a funny and hopeless situation (because of Zhuge Liang) and tries begging Guan Yu. Cao Cao's acting is again very priceless. Guan Yu is in his armor with very long mustache flying, he really looks like a godly warrior.

After Guan Yu runs away from Cao Cao, the three brothers reuniting is another great scene. They play the Peach Blossom song again like part 1, kind of corny but I do love all the songs.

Episode 24-26
The story with Xu Shu. A divine man tells Liu Bei that he lacks a lofty wisdom man, Liu Bei realizes it and yearns for one greatly. He soon found Xu Shu, and Xu Shu's great ideas did helped for a while. Cao Cao and his team devise a plan to make Xu Shu surrender over to their side, and their plan works. The scene where Xu Shu leaves Liu Bei is touching, I don't know why I like this scene so much. Liu Bei cries so badly. Poor guy, he always cries! I don't see him weak for crying, but he's a really nice person. Just too humane. He even wants to cut off all the trees so it wouldn't remind him of the scenery when Xu Shu leaves him LOL! That is a bit too romantic. Xu Shu is leaving, but he suddenly remembers something awesome and returns back to talk to Liu Bei. Thank God, he reveals to Liu Bei, that there is a Master Sleeping Dragon (Zhuge Liang) who is so much more smarter and Liu Bei should go find him. I think I like this scene so much because of Liu Bei's great acting in crying and Xu Shu introducing us to Zhuge Liang, making it very intriguing before we meet him.

27 - 29
Liu Bei begs Zhuge Liang 3 times. This is where the game starts! Everything is very awesome once Zhuge Liang joins in. Zhuge Liang leaving his hometown to join Liu Bei is very touching. The Wolong music is my most favorite tune out of all. I listen to the tune a lot! Zhuge Liang proves to be very intelligent, it is very interesting to see how he brings them lots of victories.

Zi Long alone saves Liu Bei's son, A Dou from tons of soldiers from Cao Cao. A true warrior. Cao Cao sweats and admires him so much and wants to capture him alive. I like the music there again, some people might find it cheesy.
He is not a sworn brother of Liu Bei, but very loyal. Poor A Dou, he must have suffered brain damage from all the fightings, or Liu Bei throwing him, he grew up to be a dimwit.

30 - 46
Zhuge Liang goes over to Sun Quan so they can combine forces against Cao Cao. The Red Cliff story starts here. There is an interesting scene where Zhuge Liang argues with a bunch of scholars.
I love How Zhou Yu tries to plot against Zhuge Liang and ends up in anger each time. Zhuge Liang also tries to hide his abilities to make Zhou Yu stop being jealous. I love all the time Zhuge Liang spends with Lu Su. He tricks Lu Su to go steal arrows with him and frightens him so much.
All the military tactics in these episodes are so interesting. Zhou Yu pretends to torture one of his general in public, it is very touching. Zhuge Liang and Lu Su watches the sunset together in a boat, and the music starts playing, it's very mesmerizing.

The battle of Red Cliff is a success, so Cao Cao runs away and Guan Yu sets him free (ep 39). Zhuge Liang wittingly leaves Sun Quan before Zhou Yu is able to kill him. He reunites with Liu Bei.

Zhou Yu devise a beauty trap for Liu Bei. Zhuge Liang also devise a plan for Liu Bei to obtain the beauty and also flee safely from Zhou yu at the same time. I like how Zhuge Liang always make his soldiers jointly sing and ridicule the enemy:

So I skipped alot after Zhou Yu died. At ep 49, Sun Quan wants to capture Liu Bei so they devise a plan to make Liu Bei's new wife (Sun Quan's sister) to return home with A Dou. Zi Long once again went to rescue A Dou. It's intensive seeing Zi Long stuck on the ship trying to steal A Dou back. Zhuge Liang already knew the plan, had Zhang Fei ready blocking their way and goes to help Zi Long.

Ep 50 is a bit boring, but near the middle is a very important scene. I love that scene so much and rewatch it many times. I believe it is the last time Zhang Fei and Guan Yu see each other. Zhuge Liang gives Guan Yu an advice and hands over him a very important task, I love the music there! Very touching! Then Zhang Fei leaves, it is so tear jerking!

57 is a little boring too but I like when Zhuge Liang makes the soldiers play drums and horns at night to scare Cao Cao and make him retreat from camping close to them. At the end of 57, it's amazing when Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang meets Cao Cao face to face at the battle field though. There is lots of soldiers and horses.

59 - 62
59 is extremely sad. Don't know why I love watching sad stuff, but I love this episode. Guan Yu gets to a very desperate situation, he has to flee. I like that part where it is snowing beautifully at night. Guan Yu's interactions with his generals and soldiers is so tear jerking. You can really feel how caring they are about each other. I tear up when he goes to hug his dear friend. Even the horse is crying.

Guan Yu gets captured and later beheaded. Cao Cao greets Guan Yu's severed head, then he suddenly got scared. He gets haunted since then and die at the end of Ep 60.
In Ep 61, I like the 7 step poem and song they play for Cao Zhi.

I really love this part at the end of 62 where Guan Yu's son saw his picture inside a peasant's home. The crying sounds too real. And the music!

Zhuge Liang uses words to kill an enemy to death, it was funny.

He knows Sima Yi is a smart guy and tries to not let him get restore into high position. Sima Yi is really good at acting too, I fast forward a lot but I would pause to watch all scenes with him in it. Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang battlings and plottings against each other is really fun to watch.

I love this part very much in Ep 71. I rewatch this a lot because I love the Wolong music. This is where Zhuge Liang plays the guqin (Wolong tune) to scare Sima Yi.

Continuing, it is all full of fun! Sima Yi keeps losing a few times straight so he goes into a funny defensive mode. He wouldn't come out to attack. Zhuge Liang wants them to attack so they will fall into his traps, so he orders his soldiers go insult them to draw them out. But Sima Yi already knows so he turns deaf ears and just go to sleep peacefully. So, Zhuge Liang came with a new plan where he keeps retreating further and further away. Sima Yi gets worried and comes out to fight and fall into the trap.

I love this part from 4:00 - 5:30
One thing is they put on the Wolong music. The acting here is touching and sad. A soldier brings Zhuge Liang food, he looks very happy that he gets to serve him. But seeing that Zhuge liang is working himself up and ignoring his health, he starts to cry for Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang prays to Guan Yu and Zhang Fei to help him, and the tear falling from his eye without blinking is too realistic and sad. He always remembers the time when he was with Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zi Long.

I like this part so much too. Zhuge Liang hides really up high in the windy mountain. When Sima Yi comes into the trap of getting burn to death, they all cry for rain to help them. All the acting there is really good. It rains, and Zhuge Liang closes his eyes and soaks himself in the rain.

It gets sooo sad but I like watching these parts at the end where he die. More of the Wolong music playing. It gets very depressing. You see the once youthful Zhuge Liang turning to look so old on his death bed. He gets imageries of people in war, riding horses at very fast speed. He goes see the soldiers the last time, the sunset there was beautiful. He dies beautifully, his fan drops to the ground. Sob. Tears.

His funeral is really sad too, it's amazing how big it is. The song is nice like always. I didn't continue this drama after his death.

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  • Drama: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
  • Country: China
  • Episodes: 84
  • Aired: Mar 17, 1994 - Oct 26, 1995
  • Original Network: CCTV
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated


  • Score: 7.4 (scored by 69 users)
  • Ranked: #84624
  • Popularity: #16770
  • Watchers: 262

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