In the final years of the Eastern Han dynasty, treacherous eunuchs and villainous officials deceived the emperor and persecuted good ministers. The government gradually became extremely corrupt on all levels, leading to widespread deterioration of the Han Empire. During the reign of Emperor Ling, the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out under the leadership of Zhang Jiao.
The rebellion was barely suppressed by imperial forces led by the general He Jin. Upon Emperor Ling’s death, He Jin installed the young Emperor Shao on the throne and took control of the central government. The Ten Attendants, a group of influential court eunuchs, feared that He Jin was growing too powerful, so they lured him into the palace and assassinated him. In revenge, He Jin’s supporters broke into the palace and indiscriminately slaughtered any person who looked like a eunuch. In the ensuing chaos, Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu disappeared from the palace.
“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” With this characterisation of the inevitable cycle of Chinese history, the monumental tale Three Kingdoms begins.