Greg Inamine

Date of Award


First Advisor

Chris Coggins

Second Advisor

Brian Conolly


My thesis is an exploration of a particular epoch in the history of China known as the Three Kingdoms Period, a time during which the country was divided between three competing states: Shu, Wu, and Wei. The period is unique in that it followed the collapse of the first great imperial dynasty, the Han, and was marked by the fracture of an empire that had been unified for nearly four centuries. The reign of the Han had been supported by the widely accepted state philosophy of ConfucioLegalism, which had served the realm well during its union but which caused a confluence of centrifugal forces as it began to fragment. Tenets of this ideology which were compatible and even symbiotic during times of order and peace became contradictory forces during the chaos that was the Three Kingdoms Period (220263 C.E.) and its fourdecade prelude of de facto warlordism during the end of the Han Dynasty (206220 C.E.). This thesis offers a coherent framework for understanding and assessing the actions of the rulers, statesmen, and generals of this period, and in doing so deviates first from (a) the fictionalized account of events popularized by Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its associated media, and second from (b) a onedimensional interpretation of events that the historical record itself may lend itself to. As I believe that the context required for an informed perspective on the ethics of political decisionmaking during the period has yet to be coherently articulated, I therefore both provide such context and offer my own interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of the individuals and states who operated within the ethical frameworks and moral values particular to the time.