The Halberd at Red Cliff is a cultural study of the construction of the imaginary of Jian'an (196–220) and the Three Kingdoms (220–280). The book is divided into three major parts: “The Plague,” “The Bronze Bird,” and “The Red Cliff.” The introduction discusses the structure of the book, introduces key terms such as Jian'an and the Three Kingdoms, and states the book's purpose:

This book is an attempt to tell that story in Chinese cultural history, a story that is as important to its literary tradition as it is dear to the heart of all those who know it. It is concerned with both the writings of the period and the writings about the period. It shows that the imagination about the period influenced the preservation of its writings, which were edited and anthologized in such a way as to instantiate the cultural image. (4)

Chapter 1, “Plague and Poetry:...

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