Four Great Classical Novels

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The Four Great Classical Novels, or the Four Major Classical Novels (Chinese: 四大名著; pinyin: sì dà míng zhù) of Chinese literature, are the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential in classical Chinese fiction. Well known to every Chinese reader in the 20th century, they are not to be confused with the Four Books of Confucianism.

[edit] Four Great Classics

The Four Great Classical Novels are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classical novels, influencing the creation of many stories, theater, movies, games, and other entertainment throughout Asia including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

In chronological order, they are:

[edit] History

The original concept of the Four Great Classical Novels (traditional Chinese: 四大奇書; simplified Chinese: 四大奇书) was already established by the Late-Ming, Early-Qing Dynasties. Li Yu (李渔), in an introduction to Romance of the Three Kingdoms, noted that Feng Menglong's (馮夢龍) description of the Four Great Classical Novels included Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Jin Ping Mei (Chinese: 金瓶梅; pinyin: jīn píng méi) (The Plum in the Golden Vase or Golden Lotus).

After the publication of Dream of the Red Chamber, a new concept of the Four Great Classical Novels (Chinese: 四大名著; pinyin: sì dà míng zhù) was created, replacing Jin Ping Mei with Dream of the Red Chamber. Because both concepts can be translated as "Four Great Classical Novels" there is often disagreement as to whether Jin Ping Mei belongs among the Four Great Classical Novels.

[edit] The "Fifth" Great Classical Novel

Because of its explicit descriptions of sex, Jin Ping Mei has been banned for most of its existence. Despite this, some scholars and writers, including Lu Xun place it among the top Chinese novels. Among literary scholars, the novel is still highly regarded. Thus it is sometimes considered to be the fifth classical novel.

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