The Oath of the Peach Garden

“Three Heroes of Three Kingdoms” by Sekkan Sakurai

The next day the three men had a black bull, a white horse, and other offerings brought to the peach garden. Amid the smoke of incense they performed the ritual prostration and took their oath:

We three, though of separate ancestry, join in brotherhood here, combining strength and purpose, to relieve the present crisis. We will perform out duty to the Emperor and protect the common folk of the land. We dare not hope to be together always but hereby vow to die the selfsame day. Let shining Heaven above and the fruitful land below bear witness to our resolve. May Heaven and man scourge whosoever fails this vow.

So swearing, Xuande became the eldest brother; Lord Guan, the second; and Zhang Fei, the youngest. After the ceremonies they butchered the bull and spread forth a feast in the peach garden for the three hundred local youths they had recruited; and all drank to their heart’s content.

—from p. 11 of Moss Roberts’ translation of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms