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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Four Great Classical Novels

The Four Great Classical Novels, or Four Major Classical Novels (Chinese: 四大名著) of Chinese literature, are the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential in classical Chinese fiction. Well known to every Chinese reader in the 20th century, they are not to be confused with the Four Books of Confucianism. These[clarify] books are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classical novels, influencing the creation of many stories, theater, movies, games, and other entertainment throughout China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
In chronological order, they are:
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義) (14th century) (more recently and appropriately known as, and translated as, simply "Three Kingdoms")
Water Margin (水滸傳) (also known as Outlaws of the Marsh) (14th century),
Journey to the West (西遊記) (16th century),
Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢) (also known as The Story of the Stone) (first block print 1791)
Some consider Jin Ping Mei (金瓶梅) (The Plum in the Golden Vase or Golden Lotus) (1610) to be a fifth classic. In the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, Jin Ping Mei along with the above first three novels, was classified as "Four Major Novels of Wonder" (四大奇書,四大奇书) by Feng Menglong (冯梦龙). With the advent of Dream of the Red Chamber, its position has gradually been usurped. It has almost faded into oblivion in the modern era, because Chinese governments often banned it for its explicit description of sex.
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