明清小说 Fiction of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
The Ming (1368-1644 AD) and Qing (1644-1911 AD) dynasties witnessed great achievements in the creation of fiction. The representative works are Romance of Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West, A Dream of Red Mansions and Strange Tales of Liaozhai. Those works enjoy a high reputation throughout the world, where audiences have been exposed to film and TV versions as well as the books.
Romance of Three Kingdoms is the earliest complete historical novel in China. The author Luo Guanzhong lived in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. This novel was written on the basis of historical records and the stories about the three kingdoms that circulated in public. It focuses on military and political rivalry between the kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu, which reflect the upheavals of the time. In the novel, the author successfully created a number of impressive characters with different dispositions, such as Zhuge Liang, a superb strategist, cunning and suspicious Cao Cao, loyal and brave Guan Yu, rash and reckless Zhang Fei, etc.
Outlaws of the Marsh is a novel about a peasant rebellion. The author Shi Naian lived in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. Based on popular stories about a peasant rebellion led by a man called Song Jiang in the late Song Dynasty, Shi created this novel. It describes the rise and fall of the peasant rebellion in the area of the Liangshan Mountainsa in Shandong Province, reflecting the social reality of 烒ebellion of civilians driven by persecution of officials? The novel successfully depicts 108 rebels and lauds their dauntless acts. Episodes like "Wu Song Strikes A Tiger" and "Lu Zhishen Pulls Out a Willow Tree"remain vivid to this day.
Journey to the West is a renowned mythical novel. The author Wu Cheng'en of the Ming Dynasty wrote this book on the basis of stories about Xuan Zang, a monk of the Tang Dynasty who traveled to India in the face of many difficulties to learn the Buddhist scriptures. The author created a cast of capable figures like Monkey, Pig and Sandy who escort and protect the Buddhist priest on the way to the West. They subdue all kinds of demons during the journey and survive 81 calamities to eventually bring back the scriptures. Monkey is clever and brave, and possesses great power. He shows no fear in the face of heavenly gods or sinister monsters. The spirit in fighting against oppression as depicted in the book is what readers admire most. The novel is full of fantasies that indicate the author's powerful imagination. It has always had a tremendous impact on the Chinese people.
A Dream of Red Mansions is probably the best Chinese classic novel. The author was Cao Xueqin of the Qing Dynasty. Through a tragedy of romance between Jia Baoyu of a noble clan and Lin Daiyu, the novel gives an account of the history of a feudal clan from its heyday to its final collapse. There are more than 400 vividly depicted characters in the novel, like Wang Xifeng, Xue Baochai and Qing Wen. With its fascinating stories and superb language, A Dream of Red Mansions has reached the zenith of the Chinese classic novels, and has an important position in the history of world literature.
Strange Tales of Liaozhai is a collection of short stories written in classical Chinese in use before 1919. The author Pu Songling lived in the Qing Dynasty. Stories in this book are vivid and strange, mostly concerned with the spirit world, but have strong allegorical overtones, such as A Dream of Wolves, which depicts all officials as wolves and tigers that eat human beings; Xiang Yu, meanwhile, is an account of a love story between a scholar and the Peony Immortal. Through stories like those, the author praises fine moral ethics, expressed the wishes of young men and women to have a marriage of their own free will, exposed the dark and unfair feudal society, denounced corrupt officials and expressed his own ideals and hopes. This collection is widely read and it is the best story collection in classical Chinese.