A core Course of General Education An outline of the Traditional Chinese Culture 中国传统文化概览 Shandong University Contents

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Section 5 Famous Chinese Works

Three Kingdoms

Three Kingdoms, originally entitled Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is not only the first traditional Chinese novel with separate and self-contained chapters, but also the most outstanding historical novel in the history of Chinese literature. The author of the book is Luo Guanzhong who lived around the turn of the late Yuan and the early Ming dynasties. The book is based upon Annals of the Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou of the Jin Dynasty and upon the annotations on Annals of the Three Kingdoms by PeiSongzhi of the Southern Song Dynasty. It also takes nutrients from folklores, promptbooks and local operas in the process of its formation. The earliest extant version, which consists of 24 volumes with 240 sections, is the “Jia Jing Version” during the reign of Emperor Jia Jing of the Ming Dynasty. The most popular version during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty is the “Mao Version” which was polished and embellished by Mao Lun and his son, Mao Zonggang. Focusing on the rise and fall of the Wei, Shu and Wu states and on the complex political, military and diplomatic struggles among them during that time, Three Kingdoms reflects extensively the convulsion and corruption of the society and condemns the atrocity and hideousness of the ruling class; it also manifests the miseries and disasters suffered by the people and expresses their strong desire to fight against war and separation and their longing for peace and unification. Based on, but not confined by, historical facts, the book successfully combines romanticism with realism. By praising Liu Beiand depreciating Cao Cao,the book reveals the writer’s political ideal for “benevolent government”. Besides, it advocates “personal loyalty”, canonizes wisdom and favors talented people, thus creating a lot of artistic images with distinct individualities, such as Guan Yu, “the incarnation of personal loyalty” and Zhu Geliang, “the embodiment of wisdom”. The skillful description of war is an outstanding characteristic of Three Kingdoms. Its language is featured by “moderate profundity and temperate vulgarity”; it is a mixture of vernacular and classical Chinese that suits both the refined and the popular tastes. Three Kingdoms is generally recognized to be the forerunner of Chinese historical fiction, occupying an important position in the history of Chinese literature.

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