Podcast Review – Romance of the 3 Kingdoms Podcast
Episodes Reviewed: 1 – 110
Average Episode Length: 35 Minutes
Release Schedule: Weekly (3 weeks out of every 4)
Formats: Audio Only
The Romance of The 3 Kingdoms is one of the 4 great classics of Chinese Literature. Written by Luo Guanzhong and published in the 14th Century (It is claimed, historians remain unsure if this is actually the case. Either way the book is centuries old) Covering a century of History (The years 180 to 280 A.D.) from the fall of the Han Dynasty through to the reunification of the China. This era is known as the 3 Kingdoms era, as three kingdoms rose from the chaos above all others to vie for control of the empire. It pays to remember that while this was going on in China, the Romans ruled over most of Europe.
Using historical sources, such as The Records of The 3 Kingdoms, the author has created a romanticized retelling of the history of the time. A time full of intrigue, political manoeuvring, assassinations, epic battles, chaos, heroes and villains. Think Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice & Fire only most of this actually happened. Luo Guanzhong takes some liberties with his artistic licence but you’d be surprised by how much of the book is virtually copy and pasted from historical sources. There’s only one problem; the book is notoriously impenetrable due to its matter of fact style. Coming across as very dry and lacking the detail of characters internal thoughts, as is more common in the western style of novel writing, allowing their actions to speak for their mind instead.
This is where our noble podcast host comes to the rescue. John Zhu breaks down the book brilliantly into much more manageable and palatable chunks in the form of this podcast. He takes time to explain cultural references, gives background detail the novel omits and most importantly he cuts out some of the unnecessary detail that isn’t important to the story. Do you need to know the name of the Generals subordinate who jumps into combat only to be cut down almost straight away? Of course not, so they are given the Unnamed Red Shirt treatment, from Star Trek, by John Zhu.
John Zhu has really grown into his role on the podcast. The growth in confidence from the first few episodes is quite apparent when compared. The format of the show was nailed down quite early on and has remained consistent throughout the podcasts run. As of Episode 100 or so, we had reached about 2/3’s of the way through the novel so there is at least another years worth of podcasts to come. Not to mention the extra content in the form of supplemental episodes, which compare fact and fiction of pivotal characters and battles, and the supporting materials posted to the website, including maps, poems etc.
In summary then, if you have any interest in learning a bit about Chinese culture and one of the most famous periods in their history this podcast is for you. I give this one a big 2 thumbs up recommendation. A clear, concise, good humoured retelling of a retelling of History that happened 1800 years ago.
How time flies…