From Peasant to Emperor: The Life of Liu Bang
Xiong does an impressive job of piecing together historical places, people, and events in this fictional, yet very realistic, story about Emperor Liu Bang. Liu Bang is a forty-seven-year-old drunk. The story of Liu Bang demonstrates how one thing leads to another and the Han Dynasty is created. Battle after battle, Liu Bang defeats his enemies not only through battle but also by outsmarting them.
When we meet Liu Bang, he is finagling his way into a big party thrown by the county magistrate. He buys his way in with money he doesn’t have. This gives us an idea of what type of person Liu Bang is. He is a risk-taker and very sneaky. He is also known as a womanizer who seems like he has slept with half the town. Liu Bang’s good looks tend to both get him perks as well as in trouble. For much of the book, Liu Bang is traveling and he hardly sees his children, until one day his entourage finds the children, and the mother has been taken away. I found this part of the book to be interesting, since Liu Bang did not know what to do with two small children and did not seem particularly happy about taking care of them. His mind was more on conquering the next piece of land or making agreements with different leaders so that they would be allied instead of fought against when Liu Bang decided to attack his main enemy, Xiang Yu. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Liu Bang is the Lord of Pei and says to Zhang Liang, whom he is trying to recruit for his own army, “I am not a man of superhuman strength…Nor do I possess great wisdom like you. …I surpass everyone else in respect: I am a great listener and readily take the advice of others.” Battle after battle, Liu Bang demonstrates these strengths. Perhaps the most impressive is when he handpicks his generals, troops, and advisors and decides whom he feels is loyal to him and who may be a traitor. His advisors are not your run-of-the-mill advisors. This instinct is very strong with him throughout the story, until he is on his death bed.
One of the things I liked about the book is the author’s authentication of the people and the land. The maps the author included showing the provinces, kingdoms, and attack routes were particularly interesting. They were useful especially since I found many of the names of the kingdoms and provinces to be similar and challenging to remember. Overall, the story of The Life of Liu Bang is an excellent story of a man who, although benevolent, is also ruthless in every way.
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