Graphic Novel Review : FAN LI & XI SHI : Master Strategist and the Beauty

Fan Li & Xi Shi Master Strategist and the Beauty
FAN LI & XI SHI : Master Strategist and the Beauty
Available at AsiaPac Books SGD $
ISBN : 981-229-171-7
Written by : Asiapac Editorial Board
Illustrated by : Terry Lim
Translated by : Geraldine Goh

Amid the turbulent, long-drawn war of the Spring and Autumn Period, Fan Li stood out as an upright man of great political insight.
* He served King Goujian of Yue with absolute loyalty, choosing to remain as a slave to be with his master.
* He mooted the idea of sending Xi Shi, his beloved soul mate, to the enemy’s palace as a spy.
* He rescued Yue from destruction and transformed it into a powerful state.
*Disheartened by the cruelty of war, he retired from his illustrious political career. To hide his true identity, he even changed his name to Tao Zhugong. Nevertheless, his business acumen soon led to many successful business ventures, and he became respected as the founding father of Chinese business strategies!
* In this book, you will get to know the visionary politician, the sagacious strategist, and the innovative business entrepreneur. His achievements, resourcefulness and upright character will inspire you!

Contents: A Scholar's Battle Strategies, First Display of Talent, Suffer Humiliation with the King, Strategise the Revenge, Final Victory, Business Pursuit and Success

I have heard of the story of how the skilled politician Fan Li helped the King of Yue, Gou Jian (Chinese: 越王勾踐) to rise above the dominance of Wu (a state ruled by King Fuchai), but I only knew it vaguely. This book helped me to gain insight of the accurate historical events that occurred during the exact time frame. By reading this book, I get to witness the the fall and rise of a great power, as well as the display of ethical leadership in chaotic times.

First of all, I would like to praise the artist of this comic book, Mr. Terry Lim for his brilliant artwork. Without his captivating and expressive drawings, this book would not be as charming as it is now. I find myself constantly admiring the graphics in this book. The personalities of the protagonists are distinctly displayed - King Fuchai's rage over his father's death and determination to avenge him, King Goujian's arrogance over their initial victory and later humiliation of being a slave to Fuchai, Fan Li's indisputable loyalty towards Gou Jian and his plan to help his master to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix reborn.

One of the four beauties in ancient China, Xi Shi also played an important role in this story. She was offered to King Fuchai as a gift along with another beautiful girl, Zheng Dan. On the outside, it seemed that Yue was willingly offering tributes to Wu, but this was actually a plan to overthrow Wu by using beautiful women. Unable to resist beautiful women, Fuchai soon forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, ordered his best adviser Wu Zixu to perform suicide.

The most popular scene is the one where Goujian returned to his native state and started consuming food suited for peasants and forcing himself to taste bile to remind himself of the humiliations he suffered while serving Fuchai as a slave. He also slept on firewood as he was not used to soft beds anymore. People eventually created a Chinese idiom with the literal meaning sleeping on sticks and tasting gall (卧薪尝胆 Pinyin: wò xīn cháng dǎn), to refer to Goujian's perseverance.

FAN LI & XI SHI is a book which kids and youngsters are bound to love. Through the vivid drawings and easy-to-read descriptions, readers will be transported back to the Spring and Autumn Period as the story unfolds before their very own eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this unique and one-of-a-kind trip, and I'm sure it will be the same for you.

Rating: 5

A Note of Thanks
Many thanks to Jane from Asia Pac Books for sending me a paperback copy of FAN LI & XI SHI for this review. FAN LI & XI SHI is available at AsiaPac Books for SGD $8.50.

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