Four Great Masterpiece
The Ming and Qing dynasties saw great achievements in the writing of novels. The four masterpieces are Romance of Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West and A Dream of Red Mansions.
Romance of Three Kingdoms was the first complete historical novel from China. It was written in Ming Dynasty by Luo Guanzhong. The novel uses information from historical records and stories told by the public. It mainly described the rivalries in military and politics among three kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu, reflecting the reality of a turbulent society at that time. The author successfully created many impressive characters with distinguished personalities, such as Zhuge Liang, a superb strategist, Cao Cao, a suspicious and cunning politician, brave and loyal Guan Yu and the reckless Zhang Fei.
Outlaws of the Marsh is a novel describing a peasant rebellion. The author Shi Nai'an lived in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. The novel is based on popular stories about a peasant rebellion in the late Song Dynasty led by Song Jiang. It described the rise and fall of the peasant rebellion in the area of Liangshan and uncovered and revealed many social realities. The novel mainly describes 108 heroes of Liangshan area and sang highly of their fighting spirit. Tales like "Wu Song strikes a tiger" and "Lu Zhenshen pulls out a willow tree" remain popular even now.
Journey to the West is a renowned mythical novel. The author, Wu Chengen, who lived in the Ming Dynasty, wrote the novel according to a historical figure Tangseng (Xuanzang), a monk in Tang Dynasty who travelled to India overcoming a lot of difficulties for Buddhisim. The novel created a cast of figures like Son Goku, Cho Hakkai, Sandy and White Dragon Horse who escorted and protected Tangseng on the way to the West. They subdued all kinds of demons during the journey and survived 81 calamities to eventually bring back the Buddhist scriptures. As the most vivid figure in the novel, Son Goku possessed great power and was clever as well as brave. He showed no fear in the face of heavenly gods or sinister monsters. The novel is full of fantasies indicating the abundant imagination of the author. The novel has proved to be influential on Chinese literature since.
A Dream of Red Mansions is regarded as one the finest Chinese classic novels. The novel includes many details from the life of the author, Cao Xueqin. He tells of the process of how his feudal noble family lost their fortune, coinciding with the tragic romance between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. The novel features over 400 vivid figures, such as Wang Xifeng, Xue Baochai and Qingwen. With its fascinating scenario and superb language, it's considered to be the pinnacle of Chinese classic novels and holds an important position in the history of world literature.