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Home History and Culture Fictions of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
Fictions of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

   Chinese Fictions
In the Ming (míng cháo 明朝)(1368-1644 AD) and Qing (qīng cháo 清朝)(1644-1911 AD) dynasties, Chinese literature entered a new epoch. The two dynasties witnessed great achievements in the creation of fiction. Representative works are the Four Great Classical Novels (sì dà míng zhù 四大名著): Romance of Three Kingdoms (sān guó yǎn yì 三国演义), Outlaws of the Marsh (shuǐ hǔ zhuàn 水浒传), Journey to the West (xī yóu jì 西游记) and A Dream of Red Mansions (hóng lóu mèng 红楼梦). Those works enjoy a high reputation throughout the world. What’s more, they have been adapted for the screen and the stage, winning the favor of global audience.

Romance of Three Kingdoms
Romance of Three Kingdoms is the first complete historical novel in China. The author Luo Guanzhong (luó guàn zhōng 罗贯中) lived in the late Yuan (yuán cháo hòu qī 元朝后期) and early Ming dynasties. This novel was written on the basis of historical records and the stories between 169AD and 280AD about the three kingdoms that circulated among the people.

Cao Cao

Sun Quan
Liu Bei
  Cao Cao 曹操
 Sun Quan 孙权
  Liu Bei 刘备

Reflecting the upheavals of the time, It focused on the military and political rivalry between the kingdoms of Wei (wèi 魏), Shu (shǔ 蜀) and Wu (wú 吴). Cao Cao (cáo cāo 曹操) standed for the north power. He held the Han's (hàn cháo 汉朝) emperor under duress and found the Wei Kingdom. In the south, Liu Bei (liú bèi 刘备), who once sold fans and shoes, found the Shu Kingdom because of his Imperial Uncle title and reputation; While Sun Quan (sūn quán 孙权), head of Wu Kingdom controlled the southeast. There are also many politicians and knights helping the three persons. In order to consolidate China, Cao Cao made several battles. On the other hand, the other two men wanted to enlarge their force and power to be king of the unified China. Through many battles, such as the Battle of Red Cliff, lastly the Xi Jin Kindom (xī jìn 西晋) defeated the Three Kingdoms and ended this period.
In the novel, the author successfully created a number of impressive characters with different characteristics, such as Zhuge Liang (zhūgě liàng 诸葛亮), a superb strategist, cunning and suspicious Cao Cao, loyal and brave Guan Yu (guān yǔ 关羽), reckless Zhang Fei (zhāng fēi 张飞), etc.

Outlaws of the Marsh
Outlaws of the MarshOutlaws of the Marsh is a novel about a peasant rebellion. The authorship Shi Nai’an (shī nài ān 施耐庵) also lived in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. Based on popular stories about a peasant rebellion led by Song Jiang (sòng jiāng 宋江) in the later years of the Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝), Shi wrote this novel.
It is vaguely based upon the historical bandit Song Jiang and his thirty-six companions. Song Jiang's bandits were expanded to number 108, and though they came from different backgrounds, all eventually came to occupy Liangshan (liáng shān 梁山). 108 heroes did not all appear at once. In fact the book was about how the bandits got together and joined the group one at a time or in small groups to escape some injustice perpetrated by corrupt officials. The novel details the trials and tribulations of 108 outlaws during the early 12th century, uncovering the social reality of a rebellion of civilians forced by persecution of officials. Episodes like Wu Song (wǔ sǒng 武松) strikes a tiger and Lu Zhishen (lǔ zhì shēn 鲁智深) pulls out a willow tree remain vivid till now.

Journey to the west
Journey to the WestJourney to the west is a renowned mythical novel. The author was Wu Cheng’en (wú chéng ēn 吴承恩) of the Ming dynasty. The novel was a fictionalized account of the mythologized legends around the Buddhist monk Xuan Zang (xuán zàng 玄奘)'s pilgrimage to India during the Tang Dynasty (táng cháo 唐朝) in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called sutras. The Bodhisattva (guān yīn pú sà 观音菩萨), on instruction from the Buddha, gave this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sun Wukong (sūn wù kōng 孙悟空), Zhu Bajie (zhū bā jiè 猪八戒) and Sha Wujing (shā wù jìng 沙悟净) — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuan Zang’s horse mount. These four characters have agreed to help Xuan Zang as atonement for past sins. They subdued all kinds of demons during the journey and survived 81 calamities to eventually brought back the sutras. As the most attractive figure in the novel, Monkey Sun Wukong was clever and brave as well as possessed the great power. He showed no fear in the face of heavenly gods or sinister monsters, which made him in high favor with most readers. The novel is full of fantasies that indicate the author’s abundant imagination. It has always had a tremendous impact on the Chinese people.

A dream of Red Mansions
A dream of Red Mansions can be regarded as the best Chinese classic novel. The author was Cao Xueqin (cáo xuě qín 曹雪芹), one of great litterateurs of the Qing Dynasty. Through a tragedy of romance between Jia Baoyu (jiǎ bǎo yù 贾宝玉) of a noble clan and lin Daiyu (lín dài yù 林黛玉), the novel gives an account of the history of a feudal clan from its heyday to its final collapse. The novel is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the fortunes of Cao's own family. As the author details in the first chapter, it is intended to be a memorial to the women he knew in his youth: friends, relatives and servants.

a dream of red mansions
a dream of red mansions
The novel is remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters (most of them female) and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese aristocracy. It is also one of the world's first feminist novel.
There are more than 400 characters vividly depicted in the novel, like Wang Xifeng (wáng xī fèng 王熙凤), Xue Baochai (xuē bǎo chāi 薛宝钗) and Qing wen(qíng wén 晴雯), etc. with its fascinating scenario and superb language, A Dream of Red Mansions has reached the zenith of the Chinese novels, and holds an important position in the history of world literature. 

Other important works
Other important works include: Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (liáo zhāi zhì yì  聊斋志异) by Pu Songling (pú sōng líng 蒲松龄), and The Scholars (rú lín wài shǐ 儒林外史) by Wu Jingzi (wú jìng zǐ 吴敬梓). Both of them all enjoy good fames all over the world.

明清小说

      明清是中国小说史上的繁荣时期。从明代始,小说这种文学形式充分显示出其社会作用和文学价值﹐打破了正统诗文的垄断﹐在文学史上﹐取得与唐诗﹑宋词﹑元曲并列的地位。清代则是中国古典小说盛极而衰并向近现代小说转变的时期。其中的代表就是现在为大家所熟知的古典四大名著。Romance of Three Kingdoms
      中国的四大名著是《三国演义》《水浒传》《西游记》《红楼梦》,他们是中国乃至全人类共同拥有的宝贵文化遗产,在整个华人世界中有着深远的影响。毛泽东说过:“生子当如仲谋,交友如鲁达,信心如唐僧,读书就读四大名著。”研读中国四大名著,是浏览中国古典文学的智能之海,也是阅历中国传统人文、社会、伦理、历史、地理、民俗、心理、处事策略的知识之库。
      《三国演义》描写的是从东汉末年到西晋初年之间近一百年的历史风云。全书反映了三国时代的政治军事斗争,反映了三国时代各类社会矛盾的渗透与转化,概括了这一时代的历史巨变,塑造了一批咤叱风云的英雄人物。在对三国历史的把握上,作者表现出明显的拥刘反曹倾向,以刘备集团作为描写的中心,对刘备集团的主要人物加以歌颂,对曹操则极力揭露鞭挞。今天我们对于作者的这种拥刘反曹的倾向应有辩证的认识。尊刘反曹是民间传说的主要倾向,在罗贯中时代隐含着人民对汉族复兴的希望。
      《水浒传》作者在《宣和遗事》及相关话本、故事的基础上创作而成。全书以描写农民战争为主要题材,塑造了李逵、武松、林冲、鲁智深等梁山英雄,揭示了当时的社会矛盾。故事曲折、语言生动、人物性格鲜明,具有很高的艺术成就。
     《西游记》以民间传说的唐僧取经的故事和有关话本及杂剧(元末明初杨讷作)基础上创作而成。西游记前七回叙述孙悟空出世,有大闹天宫等故事。此后写孙悟空随唐僧西天取经,沿途除妖降魔、战胜困难的故事。Outlaws of the Marsh
     《红楼梦》写于十八世纪中叶的清乾隆时代,内容以贾、王、史、薛四大家族为背景,以贾宝玉、林黛玉的爱情悲剧为主线,描写了封建官僚贾、王、史、薛四大家族,特别是贾家的衰落过程,揭露了封建统治者的罪恶,说明了封建王朝必将衰落的历史命运。作品语言优美生动,善于刻画人物,塑造了贾宝玉、林黛玉、王熙凤、薛宝钗、尤三姐等个性鲜明的人物。本书规模宏大,结构严谨,具有很高的艺术成就。



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