Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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Fiction of Ming and Qing Dynasties


Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) 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 the ghost fiction strange Tales of Liaozhai. Those works enjoys 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 is the first complete historical novel in China. The author Luo Guanzhong lived in late Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty. This novel was written on the basis of historical records and the stories about the three kingdoms that circulated among people. It focused on the military and political rivalty between the kingdom of Wei, Shu and Wu, reflecting the upheaval's of the time. In the novel, the author successfully created a number of impressive characters with different characteristics, such as Zhuge Liang, a superb strategist, cunning and suspicious Cao Cao, loyal and brave Guan Yu, reckless Zhang Fei, etc.

Outlaws of the Marsh is a novel about a farmer rebellion. The author Shi Nai'an also lived in late Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty. Based on polular stories about a farmer rebellion led by Song Jiang in the later years of Song Dynasty, Shi wrote this novel. It describes the rise and fall of the farmer rebellion in the area of Liangshan, uncovering the social reality of a rebellion of civilians forced by persecution of officials. The novel successfully depicts 108 Liangshan heroes and heroines and lauds their dauntless acts. Episodes like Wu Song strikes a Tiger and Lu Zhishen Pulls Out a Willow Tree remain vivid still now.

Journey to the West is a renowned mythical novel. The author Wu Cheng'en of Ming Dynasty wrote this novel in accordance with stories about Tang Seng, a monk of Tang Dynasty who traveled to India in the face of many difficulties in order to learn the Buddhist scriptures. The author created a cast of figures like Monkey and Pig and Sandy who escorted and protected their master, the Tang monk on the way to the West. They subdued all kinds of demons during the journey and survived 81 calamities to eventually bring back the scriptures. As the most attractive figure in the novel, Monkey was clever and brave as well as possessed the great power. He showed no fear in the face of heavenly gods or sinister monster, 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 Chinese people.

A Dream of Red Mansions can be regarded as the best Chinese classical novel. The author was Cao Xueqin, one of great litterateurs of 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 characters vividly depicted in the novel, like Wang Xifeng, Xue Baochai and Qing Wen, etc. With its fascinating scenario and superb language, A Dream of Red Mansions has reached the zenith of the Chinese classical novels, and holds an important position in the history of world literature.

Strange Tales of Liaozhai is an internationally renowned collection of short stories written in the classical Chinese. The author Pu Songling lived in Qing Dynasty. Stories in this book are vivid and strange, mostly concerned with the spirit world where ghost, immortals of flower or immortals of fox coexist with human beings. For instance, "Xiang Yu", is an account of a love story between a scholar and a peony immortal. Through stories in this novel, the author praised fine moral ethics, expressed the wishes of young men and women to have a marriage of their own free will, uncovered the darkness and unfairness of the feudal society, denounced evil of corrupt officials and expressed his own ideals and hopes. This story collection is widely read and it can be regarded as the classical novel written in the classical Chinese.

Reference data

  1. Liangshan, Located in Shandong province, is the place where farmer rebels depicted in Outlaws of the Marsh originally banded together.
  2. Tang Seng refer to the famous Tang monk named Xuanzang, who had spent 17 years in India to study the Buddhist scriptures.
  3. The classical Chinese is the literacy language developed through classical patterns, and used exclusively in writting before May 4th Movement of 1919.
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