The Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature

... are commonly regarded by Chinese literary criticism to be the greatest and most influential of pre–modern Chinese fiction. Dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties, they are well–known to most Chinese, either directly or through their many adaptations to opera and various popular culture media.

They are among the world's longest and oldest novels, and are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classical novels, influencing the creation of many stories, plays, movies, games, and other forms of entertainment throughout countries in East Asia, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

They are all attributed to individual authors. The Water Margin and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms date from the 14th century; The Journey to the West and The Dream of the Red Chamber date from the 16th and 18th centuries respectively.

The Water Margin was filmed in the 1970s by a Japanese company, and shown on BBC TV (dubbed into English, and narrated by Burt Kwouk) between 1976 and 1978.

The Four Great Classical Novels should not be confused with the Four Books, or indeed the Five Classics – which are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China, written before 300 BC. The Four Books are entitled Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Analects, and Mencius; the Five Classics are the Classic of Poetry, the Book of Documents, the Book of Rights, the Book of Changes (a.k.a. the I Ching), and the Spring and Autumn Annals.

© Haydn Thompson 2017