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4 Great Masterpieces in Chinese Literature
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  • "Outlaws of the Marsh" (“水浒传” in Chinese)

The novel "Outlaws of the Marsh" is somewhat like the Iliad and Odyssey, which is also an ancient epic tale. This story is based on real facts and has inspired many storytellers. The Song Dynasty reached its apogee and declined. As a victim of corruption and decadence, we can find historical traces of these outlaws who challenged the imperial authority and died under the executioner's blade. A man called Shi Nai-an wrote down the novel "Outlaws of the Marsh" (or "All men are brothers" in Pearl Buck's translation) that read by us today. This masterpiece is an immortal novel because its tale is universal: it tells about 108 heroes who cannot bear injustice or abuse without fighting, and that is exactly the reason why their popularity has lasted for centuries.

  • “Romance of The Three Kingdoms” (“三国演义” in Chinese)

“Romance of The Three Kingdoms” is one of the great Chinese classics and is compiled into a semi-fictional literary masterpiece during the Ming Dynasty by Luo Guanzhong. The novel comprises around 70% fact and 20% fiction. The story is a tale of the fall of Later Han Dynasty of China. It describes the lives of those feudal lords and their retainers who tried to either replace the empire or restore it. While the novel actually follows literally hundreds of characters, the focus is mainly on 3 families who would eventually carve out 3 kingdoms from the remnants of the Han. The Liu family in the Shu kingdom led by Liu Bei, the Cao family in Wei led by Cao Cao, and the Sun family in Wu eventually led by Sun Quan.

  • “Journey to the West” (“西游记” in Chinese)

“Journey to the West”, commonly known to the western readers, is a supernatural novel about a world of fantastic invention, in which gods and demons loom large and vie for supremacy. This lively fantasy relates the amazing adventures of the priest San-zang as he travelled towards west in search of Buddhist sutras with his three disciples, the irreverent and capable Monkey, greedy Pig, and Friar Sand. The main story is about all kinds of entertaining trials and tribulations that the priest has encountered through the entire journey. The novel began with a series of oral and written versions, and eventually attained its most definitive version written by Wu Cheng-en (1500?-1582), a scholar-official in the Yangtze region.

  • "The Dream of the Red Chamber" (“红楼梦” in Chinese)

"The Dream of the Red Chamber", also called "The Story of the Stone" (“石头记” in Chinese), is a novel written by Cao Xueqin, and said to be the greatest masterpiece of Chinese fiction. It describes the love story, marriage and tragedies between Jia Baoyu, Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai, besides, it is also the description of the rise and fall of sediments which was represented by the four most prominent families, reveals the complex contradictions of the feudal family, performance of the feudal marriage, morality, culture, education and decadent, degenerate and create a series of nobility civilians and the tragic image of a slave woman who has demonstrated an extremely broad typical feudal society living environment.

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