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This fictionalized biography, allegedly written by the first-century historian Ban Gu, tells one of the least likely rages-to-power stories, in which a penniless peasant rose to become the founder of the mighty Han dynasty that rivaled Rome as one of the two great powers of Eurasia.
When the eponymous protagonist, Liu Bang, launched a rebellion in 209 BCE, he was a poor peasant of 47 with a reputation as a ne’er-do-well, a womanizer, and a drunkard. He seemed to have a slim chance at success at a time when all the heroes in the realm contended for power and dominance. Against all odds, however, he trounced his rivals to found the Han dynasty and went on to quell numerous rebellions that challenged his rule. By the time of his death, a solid foundation had been laid for a great empire that was to last 400 years.