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Three kingdoms by Guanzhong Luo

Three kingdoms (edition 1997)

by Guanzhong Luo

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636715,215 (4.1)1 / 42
Title:Three kingdoms
Authors:Guanzhong Luo
Collections:Your library
Tags:literature, china, comics

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This book has a heavy load of historical content. It tells the History of China back in the Three Kingdoms period since the beginning of times, during the Yellow Turbant Rebellion. If you already know a couple of characters, you'll feel more confortable with the story itself, otherwise the book will be slightly confusing, since there are LOTS of characters.

The language itself is fluid, but detailed at the same time. It's hard to get lost in the story. This "box" edition, however, contains several grotesque typos. Ok, they don't change anything in the story itself, but a more careful revision would be an option. And if the total number of pages might seem scary, it is justified by book's swift ending.

In general terms, an excellent book. Definitely worth a re-reading. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
'Three Kingdoms is not just a vivid picture of a particular period in history. It teaches us about human nature, philosophy, morality, and the underlying patterns of human history’
Three Kingdoms 4
In Chinese culture, the era of the Three Kingdoms (AD 168–280) has achieved the status of legend. Retold in novels, celebrated in operas and echoed in modern media, from television to video games, it permeates Chinese consciousness like no other. It was an era of chaos, of conflicts so bloody that the country’s population fell by almost 50 million. But it was also a time of ideological change, with the rise of Buddhist ideals and Taoist principles that rejected the tumult and violence of the warring dynasties. And it produced the country’s first professional painters, such as Cao Buxing, often called ‘the father of Buddhist painting’. It is from this rich strand of history that Luo Guanzhong’s Three Kingdoms emerged.

Written in the 14th century, this remarkable novel is one of the great classics of Chinese literature. It is among the most beloved works of literature in East Asia, with an influence in China comparable to that of Shakespeare in the British Isles. While attributed to Guanzhong, it is as much the product of 11 centuries of oral tradition as the fruit of one author’s labour, encompassing and cementing the quasi-mythical status of the era. Introducing this edition, Chinese author-in-exile Ma Jian describes Three Kingdoms as 70 per cent history and 30 per cent fiction.

‘A martial epic with an astonishing fidelity to history, which has been translated ... into lively English by Moss Roberts’
New York Times Book Review

With an intricate plot and almost 1,000 dramatic characters, it is a vast work, consisting of 734,321 Chinese characters. The story is one of ferocious battles, revolts and raids – of vengeance, murder and power struggles wrought as three powers fight for the rule of a divided land.

On and on the Great River rolls, racing east.
Of proud and gallant heroes its white-tops leave no trace,
As right and wrong, pride and fall turn all at once unreal.
Yet ever the green hills stays
To blaze in the west-waning day.

But this is not only the history of an embattled era; it is also an exploration of human behaviour, morality and the cyclical nature of Chinese civilisation. It reflects Confucian ethics, which confer on all relationships a set of roles and obligations. Respect for parents, loyalty to government and mindfulness of one’s place in society are paramount.
Three Kingdoms 5
Encircling these values are the ideas of humaneness, kindness and love. As Ma Jian writes, while the novel has been used by some as a manual of war, its overriding message is ‘surely that leaders and oppressors who violate the moral codes of loyalty and benevolence sow the seeds of their own destruction’. Characters who use guile over force – such as Zhuge Liang, who bluffs his enemy into retreat by posing as a simple lute player perched on the battlements of his besieged city – are to be admired above those who rely on violence. Arguably the most widely read historical novel in late imperial and modern China, this extraordinary work is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand Chinese civilisation.

The only English language illustrated edition in print

This edition features 280 integrated woodcuts from a 19th-century edition, sourced with the kind assistance of Frances Wood, Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library. They were probably created in the workshops that thrived throughout the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911), when the visual arts were prized as a means of reaffirming social values. There are 240 dramatic scenes and 40 character portraits. The books are bound in shimmering cloth, blocked with four key figures redrawn by Neil Gower: Liu Bei (Xuande), Lady Mi, Zuo Ci and Deng Ai. Lady Sun, the daughter of a warlord and third wife of Liu Bei, appears on the slipcase.
  Balnaves | Sep 11, 2013 |
I didn't think I would enjoy a book about power, diplomacy and war, but I did. Not sure whether it was spending long days in a quiet Mexican city with very little in the way of English-language reading material or the narrative itself, but I burned through the book in a week and found that I genuinely enjoyed it (just not enough to lug it to the beach with me). ( )
  VikkiLaw | Apr 4, 2013 |
I tried rather hard to get through the book, but after the first 17 chapters (of over 100), I have to admit defeat. It was interesting at first, especially since I enjoy history, but as things progressed, it got more and more tiresome to read. The book introduces a myriad of characters who fight with each other, plot against one another, and in many cases die. After these 17 chapters, I couldn't reliably tell you what exactly happened and who is who; it's just a mess of seemingly endless battles and plots against the Emperor. I can definitely see the value of reading the book for its historical information and as one of the Chinese classics, but it was just extremely daunting. ( )
  rboyechko | Mar 3, 2011 |
At four volumes, this is a lot of book. I decided to read it around the time that Beijing was making news for their Olympic preparations, as Three Kingdoms is a beloved classic there and reputedly informs much of Chinese culture. After making my way through this epic, I can certainly see why, though I personally felt that it was a little more military history than novel.

Trying to pay attention to the particulars of Three Kingdoms can be a daunting task; there are literally hundreds of characters, many with similar names, and a majority of the novel is dedicated to descriptions of battles and their outcomes. Between the multitude of characters and the multiple repetitions of specific military stratagems, many parts of the story began to blur together for me. During the third and fourth volumes, I had to resist the temptation to skip forward and just read the chapter names in order to get a summation of events, passing over all of the lengthy battles and strategic discussions between generals and their subordinates. The translation doesn’t make things easier; though Roberts’ translation is heralded as the best, it is still rife with errors, and it feels like there is some specific cultural significance lost reading it in English, making certain scenes and actions seem somewhat incomprehensible to me as a Western reader.

The beauty in Three Kingdoms, though, is in the big picture. I often struggled to understand what was going on in a specific chapter, but the more I ruminated on the myriad power shifts, alliances, betrayals, ascents to power, and tragic falls that link together throughout the course of the book, the more fascinated I became with the entire story. The characters, too, are impressive; despite their numbers, each character is distinctly defined, with their own mannerisms, motivations, and personalities. At first, I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that almost everyone seems to be a scheming bastard who is not above compromising their own ethics and committing reprehensible acts, including the “good guys” (the only standout exception in my mind is Zhao Zilong). However, in context with the whole story of the fall of the Han and warring of the three kingdoms, this only serves to highlight both the complexity of the characters themselves and the harsh realities of their situation.

Even though I struggled at times to finish this dense, complicated book, I think anybody who is a fan of Asian culture or military history should give it a read. Especially if they have been exposed to and were intrigued by the multiple references to Three Kingdoms in modern movies, comics, and video games. ( )
4 vote ArsLegendi | Apr 30, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Luo Guanzhongprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, MossTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Set in the late Han Dynasty in China. The dynasty is in a state of collapse and ambitious warlords seek to further their own power.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520215850, Paperback)

Three Kingdoms tells the story of the fateful last reign of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) when the Chinese empire was divided into three warring kingdoms. Writing some twelve hundred years later, the Ming author Luo Guanzhong drew on histories, dramas, and poems portraying the crisis to fashion a sophisticated, compelling narrative that has become the Chinese national epic. This abridged edition captures the novel's intimate and unsparing view of how power is wielded, how diplomacy is conducted, and how wars are planned and fought. As important for Chinese culture as the Homeric epics have been for the West, this Ming dynasty masterpiece continues to be widely influential in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, and remains a great work of world literature.
This abridged edition is particularly useful for undergraduate courses. For the complete text, see the unabridged edition, now available in two parts: Part One; Part Two

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:47 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Portrays a fateful moment at the end of the Han dynasty. Three young men pledge loyalty to each other and answer the emperor's appeal for help in suppressing a peasant rebellion.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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