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Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

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Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Kdar » Sat 01.19.2008 1:13 pm

I know this is not really related to this site.

But have anyone read Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West or A Dream of Red Mansions?

If you did.. Did you liked them? I am just thinking to read one of them later, maybe during Summer, after my semester.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Hatori » Sat 01.19.2008 2:00 pm

I want to read Journey to the West. I've read the hit manga, Saiyuki, based after it and I'm interested in reading it. :)
I've never heard of any of these other books, but I heard of Three Kingdoms.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby enji » Sun 01.20.2008 12:50 am

I have read all 4 of them plus others when I was younger (12-14 years old). I liked all of them except A Dream of Red Mansions. I don't know whether it is due to my age at that time or genre preference, but I just couldn't get the gist of the story. Plan to read it again someday. :)
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Kdar » Sun 01.20.2008 2:27 am

And which one you enjoyed the most? From those three, which you have read.. ?
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Shirasagi » Sun 01.20.2008 2:48 am

I've read most of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". It's really interesting, huge and epic, with colorful characters and events, many of which you really have to know to understand some Chinese idioms.

But, it's not really structured like western novels. There's not much character development or even dialogue. Often they'll introduce character on one page, sum up his entire upbringing and prior history, and then kill him off on the next page. Or, even kill a guy, and then sum up his entire upbringing and history. Needless to say, the cast of characters is huge, and can be a bit daunting.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby enji » Sun 01.20.2008 11:39 am

Kdar wrote:
And which one you enjoyed the most? From those three, which you have read.. ?

I would say that it is a toss between Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West. I guess it's because I'm already familiar with the main characters and also snippets of both stories before I started reading the novels. Since the two of them are of different background, it'll depend on your preference.

Btw, I finished each book in around 3 days. Simply can't put them down once I picked them up.

Shirasagi wrote:But, it's not really structured like western novels. There's not much character development or even dialogue. Often they'll introduce character on one page, sum up his entire upbringing and prior history, and then kill him off on the next page. Or, even kill a guy, and then sum up his entire upbringing and history. Needless to say, the cast of characters is huge, and can be a bit daunting.

Interesting point of view. :) I have never felt that there is insufficient character development or dialogue. Maybe as I mentioned above, we are exposed to these characters since young and thus when we read about them in the novels, they are no longer strangers to us. Or perhaps character development is not the main point of the story?

Anyway, those characters that get killed off quickly are usually minor characters or the bad guys IMO. The main characters will last at least a few chapters or even the whole book. I agree that the cast of characters is huge, maybe except Journey to the West. JttW has 4 main characters and the rest are minor/side characters which they meet during their journey IIRC. I only felt that it's daunting when I read Water Margin because I was not familiar with the characters before hand. Often I would wonder when did this character first appeared. ;)

ps: The above is based on only 3 novels since I have only a vague idea of what A Dream of Red Mansions is about.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby ss » Sun 01.20.2008 10:54 pm

I agree with Enji-san.
We read about these four classical novels when we were kids --- so called the children’s classic novels that suit basic standard of most children. We had supplementary reference books that you could access with lots of information or the wreath of extensive materials one needed, like the introduction of the main character, for example 諸葛孔明 (Zhuge Kong Ming), you’d be able to read some interesting stories or bibliography of his family background, and other related characters that play a very part in his life.

As you grow older, you would read more advanced classical novels in creative and challenging ways.

Personally, I really recommend people who have great interests in reading these four novels (and if you’re very new to these novel), starts with children’s classical version first, this reading approach allows you to learn more material in less time. Concepts are more clearly understood probably because it tends to be more interesting. And the more interested you are in what you’re reading, the more you will after it.

Btw, among the four, I like Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West best. My favourite characters in Three Kingdoms are Liu Bei 劉備,Guan Yu 關羽 and Zhuge Kong Ming 諸葛孔明。 Sun Wu Kong 孫悟空 is my favourite character in Journey to the West.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby chchan45 » Mon 01.21.2008 4:06 am

As the others have mentioned, these books were written to cater for the taste of the hoi polloi (i.e. masses). I personally would associate the word "classics" with more scholarly work such as 史記, etc. but each to their own.

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演義) is a really good book to read if you are interested in military strategy. It does require some knowledge of Chinese idioms if you want to fully savour its contents but I assume that you are reading the English translation so it should not matter. One thing you do need to bear in mind is that it contains a good mix of true and made-up history.

The Water Margins gives you a good insight into the workings of an early-age triad gang, so if you are interested in power struggles and "rub-outs", this would be a good one to read.

The Journey to the West was a good laugh when I was a child, but sadly no more.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Shirasagi » Mon 01.21.2008 9:17 am

enji wrote:
Shirasagi wrote:But, it's not really structured like western novels. There's not much character development or even dialogue. Often they'll introduce character on one page, sum up his entire upbringing and prior history, and then kill him off on the next page. Or, even kill a guy, and then sum up his entire upbringing and history. Needless to say, the cast of characters is huge, and can be a bit daunting.

Interesting point of view. :) I have never felt that there is insufficient character development or dialogue.

Neither have I. :) Notice that I said "not much" (in contrast to modern western novels), not "insufficient". I think it's a common trait of many old pieces of literature, be it English, Chinese, or Japanese. The characters represent classical archetypes, rather than real, three-dimensional people. I think this is especially true with RotTK, since Luo Guanzhong deliberately portrayed the various historical figures so that they would represent the various schools of Chinese philosophy.

Please don't take any of my comments as criticisms of the novel! In fact, the huge cast of characters and storytelling style are what I really love about it. I was merely giving Kdar an idea what it was like. Otherwise, I think, it's real easy to break down. The books are dense, wonderfully dense, but if you're not ready for the density, I think it can be overwhelming.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 01.21.2008 10:47 am

SS wrote:


Btw, among the four, I like Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West best. My favourite characters in Three Kingdoms are Liu Bei 劉備,Guan Yu 關羽 and Zhuge Kong Ming 諸葛孔明。 .


are those the three who made the pact of the peach tree? (i think it was a peach tree) I know I have seen Zhuge before, but not with the Kong MIng..
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby Shirasagi » Mon 01.21.2008 11:32 am

two_heads_talking wrote:
SS wrote:


Btw, among the four, I like Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West best. My favourite characters in Three Kingdoms are Liu Bei 劉備,Guan Yu 關羽 and Zhuge Kong Ming 諸葛孔明。 .


are those the three who made the pact of the peach tree? (i think it was a peach tree) I know I have seen Zhuge before, but not with the Kong MIng..


The three sworn brothers are Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei. Zhuge Kong Ming is Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei's famous strategist. Kong Ming is his "style", (what the Japanese call an 字(あざな)).

Personally, I think the best name (at least in English translation) is "Ma Chao the Splendid". Man, that just rolls off the tongue.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby ss » Mon 01.21.2008 12:22 pm

two_heads_talking wrote:
are those the three who made the pact of the peach tree? (i think it was a peach tree) I know I have seen Zhuge before, but not with the Kong MIng..


Shirasagi-san has replied though (and thanks), THT-san, you may like to refer to this website for more information:
Zhuge Liang (Kong Ming)1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 9
The End
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 01.21.2008 12:35 pm

that's right.. thanks.. Zhuge Liang was who I was thinking. and somehow I confused him with Zhang Fei. I think I did that because the 3 "brothers" and Zhuge Liang worked together.

I appreciate the correction.
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RE: Chinese classics: Three Kingdoms, Water Margin...etc

Postby enji » Sun 01.27.2008 2:06 am

Sorry for my late reply, got caught up in my daily life.

Shirasagi wrote:
enji wrote:
Shirasagi wrote:But, it's not really structured like western novels. There's not much character development or even dialogue. Often they'll introduce character on one page, sum up his entire upbringing and prior history, and then kill him off on the next page. Or, even kill a guy, and then sum up his entire upbringing and history. Needless to say, the cast of characters is huge, and can be a bit daunting.

Interesting point of view. :) I have never felt that there is insufficient character development or dialogue.

Neither have I. :) Notice that I said "not much" (in contrast to modern western novels), not "insufficient". I think it's a common trait of many old pieces of literature, be it English, Chinese, or Japanese. The characters represent classical archetypes, rather than real, three-dimensional people. I think this is especially true with RotTK, since Luo Guanzhong deliberately portrayed the various historical figures so that they would represent the various schools of Chinese philosophy.

Oops, my fault for jumping to conclusion. In that sense then yes, I agree with your comment.

Please don't take any of my comments as criticisms of the novel! In fact, the huge cast of characters and storytelling style are what I really love about it. I was merely giving Kdar an idea what it was like. Otherwise, I think, it's real easy to break down. The books are dense, wonderfully dense, but if you're not ready for the density, I think it can be overwhelming.

Sorry if my response is read that way. I was just stating my opinion on the points that you brought up. My bad for sounding defensive.

What I did for Water Margin was that I drew parallels with RotTK to help me with the story and characters, like a small scale version of RotTK.

As SS-san said, the ones I read were the abridged versions, but they have thousand over pages nonetheless. I have yet to touch those 2-inch-thick ones, they look really intimidating just from the outside. And my favourite characters would be Zhuge Liang from RotTK and Sun Wu Kong from JttW. :)
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