The romantic and historical traditions for the period of Three Kingdoms have been so confused in the centuries that the Records of Three Kingdoms is often regarded as an invaluable resource. Its information, although full of errors itself, is nevertheless much more accurate than the embellishments of later writers. Many of the political, economic and military figures from the period of Three Kingdoms are included in the work as well as those who contributed to the fields of culture, arts and science. In its nature the work is indeed a chronicle, much like those of early Medieval Europe written much later. The text is bland and little more than a collection of historical facts. A typical extract:
In 219, the Former Lord became King of Hanzhong, and made Guan Yu General of the Vanguard. In the same year, Guan Yu attacked Cao Ren at Fan with his followers. Lord Cao sent Yu Jin to aid Cao Ren. In the autumn, great rains caused the Han River to flood, Yu Jin and the seven armies were lost.
From this we can establish reasonably accurately the flow of events and how history unfolded but almost nothing about society or elements of institutions or policies.
The amount of creative imagination used in ancient Chinese historical narratives - of 'fictionalising', is impossible to estimate precisely; but it is obviously considerable. The great historian Sima Qian employed this device greatly and it can be assumed that Chen Shou also did this in his text. It is highly unlikely that various remarks which leaders or soldiers are supposed to have made in the heat of battle could have been taken down stenographically and thus many of them may be false.