Choukakou, which is also known as Chang Ge Xing, Chang Ge’s Journey or Song of the Long March, is an ongoing manhua (Chinese comic) series by Xia Da. Volume one collects the first four issues.
Seeking to succeed to the throne in the newly born Tang Dynasty, Li Shimin murders his brothers Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li. To prevent future unpleasantness, Li Shimin has his brothers’ families massacred as well.
Later centuries will remember Li Shimin as Emperor Taizong of Tang, one of China’s most capable emperors. Mission accomplished! Save for one small detail.
Princess Li Chang Ge fled. Assassins pursued her but failed to strike her down.
They told the emperor that she died in a fall from a tall cliff into a river. Her body was not recovered … because she had survived.
Chang Ge is determined to kill the man responsible for the death of her family. This seems an impossible task. She still has contacts in the imperial court, courtiers and bureaucrats who are willing to protect the secret of her existence. However, these contacts are also loyal to Li Shimin. They will let her live; they will even kill anyone who might threaten her; but they will not turn against the emperor.
Nothing for it but disguise herself as a man and flee to the provinces, where she hopes to recruit an army. She ends up in Shou Province, where she quickly earns the trust of Governor Gong Sun Heng. (Easy enough; just set up a kidnapping, then rescue the governor’s wife and child.)
Her timing could not be better. The Eastern Turkic Kaganate has its eye on Shou Province. The capable and utterly ruthless Ashina Sun and his army are marching toward Shou’s provincial capital. It’s an unparalleled opportunity for Chang Ge to prove her tactical and strategic genius to the governor. Or die trying.
This is a straight historical manga. The only supernatural elements are the court astronomers. How seriously one wants to take them is up to the reader. The author appears to be doing their best to tell Chang Ge’s story within the limits of what is known about Chinese history.
Li Shimin killed his brothers in 626, became emperor soon after, and then ruled until 649 before dying from causes that may or may not have been entirely natural but which do not appear to have involved the intervention of irate princesses. Perhaps it will turn out the medical treatments that may or may not have killed Li Shimin were all part of a cunning ruse by Chang Ge, although I would bet against it. Regardless, it does not seem as if Chang Ge’s victory (whatever form it takes) will come soon. Based on other Chinese works I have seen, I surmise that victory or even a happy ending of some sort is not at all a given.
Still, before we get to the long run we have to deal with the short run. So far, that is entertaining. Chang Ge shows herself to be an engaging combination of determination and ruthlessness.
To deal with some inconvenient guards, for example, she offers them poisoned candy. To prove that it’s safe. she eats a piece herself. An unpoisoned candy? Well, we know how that works out.
Chang Ge takes no chances. She poisons every piece of candy and keeps the antidote handy.
Her direct approach is of great service in dealing with challenge after challenge. She is also capable of guile when that seems expedient.
I wasn’t sure whether to sympathize with the princess or just to appreciate her lethality. Presumably, future volumes will clarify matters.
Choukakou does not seem to have English editions available at present.