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The historical figure Zhuge Liang was born in 181 AD. He was the second of three brothers, but quickly gained reputation among his neighbors and townsfolk as a man of great wisdom and intelligence, earning him the nickname "Sleeping Dragon". At some point prior to 207, he married a woman (popularly known as Huang Yueying) of high birth and learning. It is said that, while Huang Yueying was not an attractive woman, Zhuge Liang was so impressed with her wits that he married her anyway.

In 207, Zhuge was approached by warlord Liu Bei, who at the time was stationed in neighboring Xiangyang under authority of the far more powerful Liu Biao. Legend has it that Zhuge Liang only joined Liu Bei after being visited by the warlord personally three times. Zhuge outlined his Three Kingdoms strategy for Liu Bei and was sent to secure an alliance with the eastern power, Sun Quan, which he succeeded in doing. As a result of this alliance, Cao Cao, the most powerful warlord in China at the time and the ruler of the northern kingdom of Wei, was defeated at the Battle of Chi Bi, cementing the tripartide balance of power. This, coupled with the demise of Liu Biao earlier that year, enabled Liu Bei to begin taking over his own territory. Zhuge Liang was instrumental in Liu Bei's acquisition of the western territories of Shu after the demise of fellow Shu strategist, Pang Tong, and was a founding father of the short-lived Shu Han dynasty.

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