四大名著The Four Great Classical Novels
桃园结义图(《三国演义》) An illustration from Three kingdoms: Emperor Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei forming a pact of friendship to death.
齐天大圣孙悟空(《西游记》) The "Monkey King",Sun Wukong, is a figure from Journey to the West.
大观园全图(《红楼梦》) The Grand View Garden in A Dream of Red Mansions.
武松打虎(《水浒传》) An illustration from Outlaws of the Marsh.
The Four Great Classical Novels
During the Ming and Qing dynasties literary creation flourished. It was in this period that the four great Chinese classical novels were written, namely, Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West and A Dream of Red Mansions.
Luo Guanzhong, the author of Three Kingdoms, based his novel on both folk tales and historical records of the conflicts between the kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu (220-265 AD), established by Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan, respectively. Written in the early Ming Dynasty, it was the first historical novel to appear in China.
Outlaws of the Marsh, which was written at almost the same time as Three Kingdoms, was written by Shi Nai'an. It is based on folk tales about a band of rebels led by Song Jiang at the close of the Northern Song Dynasty. There are 108 heroes and heroines in the novel, which is a savage satire on official corruption and feudal oppression.
Journey to the West was written by Wu Cheng'en of the Ming Dynasty. It is based on the true story of a Tang Dynasty monk who made a perilous overland trip to India to fetch back the Buddhist scriptures. In the novel, the monk is led and protected by Sun Wukong, the "Monkey King,"a figure from folk legend.
A Dream of Red Mansions, also named Tale of the Rock, has 120 chapters, of which the first 80 were written by Cao Xueqin, and the remaining 40 by Gao E. With the tragic love story of Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu as the main theme, the novel describes the decline of four feudal noble families. The novel is a treasure house of information about the way aristocratic families lived in the Qing Dynasty.