Ancient Literature

The history of Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature vernacular fiction novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese.

Among the classics of Chinese fiction, Ming and Qing novels are our choice for western readers here. The novels of the Ming and early Qing dynasties represented a pinnacle of classical Chinese fiction.

  • The Four Great Classical Novels:
    • Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin
    • Water Margin (also translated as Outlaws of the Marsh), by Shi Naian
    • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong
    • Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en
  • Other classics – long and short fiction:
    • Cases of Judge Bao 包公案 (Baogong An) (1594)
    • Illustrious Words to Instruct the World 喻世明言 (Yushi Mingyan), or Stories Old and New (1620) by Feng Menglong
    • Stories to Caution the World (警世通言 Stories to Caution the World) by Feng Menglong.
    • Slapping the Table in Amazement (初刻拍案 Chuke Paian Jingji) by Ling Mengchu
    • A Supplement to the Journey to the West (西遊補; Xī Yóu Bǔ) (c. 1640) by Dong Yue
    • Haoqiu zhuan (The pleasing history or The Fortunate Union) (c. 1683)
    • Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (聊齋志異), by Pu Songling
    • Jin Ping Mei (金瓶梅, The Plum in the Golden Vase), by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (兰陵笑笑生)
    • Flowers in the Mirror (镜花缘, Jing huayuan) by Li Ruzhen
    • Fengshen Bang (封神榜, The Investiture of the Gods)
    • Xingshi Yinyuan Zhuan (醒世姻緣傳,醒世姻缘传 or The Story of a Marital Fate to Awaken the World)
    • The Scholars (儒林外史 Ru Lin Wai Shi), by Wu Jingzi (吳敬梓)
    • Dijing Jingwulue (帝京景物略 or Survey of Scenery and Monuments in the Imperial Capital), by Liu Tong
    • Chronicles of the Eastern Zhou Kingdoms by Feng Menglong, edited by Cai Yuanfang (蔡元放)
    • The Carnal Prayer Mat (Chinese: 肉蒲團; pinyin: ròupútuán) an erotic novel by Li Yu (李渔) 1657.
    • Six Records of a Floating Life (浮生六記 Fú Shēng Liù Jì) by Shen Fu. Early 19th century.
    • Ernü Yingxiong Zhuan (The Story of Hero Boys and Hero Girls) by Wen Kang first published 1878.
    • The Travels of Lao Can (Lao Can Youji 老残游记) by Liu E 1903
  • Dramas:
    • The Story of the Western Wing (西廂記, Xīxiāngjì), by Wang Shifu (王实甫)
    • The Injustice to Dou E (竇娥冤, Dou E Yuan), by Guan Hanqing
    • The Jade Hairpin (Yuzanji 玉簪記), by Gao Lian (高濂)
    • Hui Lan Ji (灰闌記), by Li Xingdao (李行道) became the basis for The Caucasian Chalk Circle
    • The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting 牡丹亭), by Tang Xianzu
    • The Peach Blossom Fan (Taohua Shan 桃花扇) by Kong Shangren (孔尚任)
    • The Palace of Eternal Life (長生殿), by Hong Sheng (洪昇)
    • The Orphan of Zhao (趙氏孤兒), a 13th-century play by Ji Junxiang (紀君祥), was the first Chinese play to have been translated into a European language.