Read Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1 by Luo Guanzhong C.H. Brewitt-Taylor Robert E. Hegel Online


This epic saga of brotherhood and rivalry, of loyalty and treachery, of victory and death forms part of the indelible core of classical Chinese culture and continues to fascinate modern-day readers.In 220 EC, the 400-year-old rule of the mighty Han dynasty came to an end and three kingdoms contested for control of China. Liu Pei, the legitimate heir to the Han throne, elecThis epic saga of brotherhood and rivalry, of loyalty and treachery, of victory and death forms part of the indelible core of classical Chinese culture and continues to fascinate modern-day readers.In 220 EC, the 400-year-old rule of the mighty Han dynasty came to an end and three kingdoms contested for control of China. Liu Pei, the legitimate heir to the Han throne, elects to fight for his birthright and enlists the aid of his sworn brothers, the impulsive giant Chang Fei and the invincible knight Kuan Yu. The brave band faces a formidable array of enemies, foremost among them the treacherous and bloodthirsty Ts'ao Ts'ao. The bold struggle of the three heroes seems doomed until the reclusive wizard Chuko Liang offers his counsel, and the tide begins to turn.Romance of the Three Kingdoms is China's oldest novel and the first of a great tradition of historical fiction. Believed to have been compiled by the play-wright Lo Kuan-chung in the late fourteenth century, it is indebted to the great San-kuo chi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms) completed by the historian Ch'en Shou just before his death in 297 CE. The novel first appeared in print in 1522. This edition, translated in the mid-1920s by C. H. Brewitt-Taylor, is based on a shortened and simplified version which appeared in the 1670s. An Introduction to this reprint by Robert E. Hegel, Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Washington University, provides an insightful commentary on the historical background to the novel, its literary origins and its main characters....

Title : Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780804834674
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 690 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1 Reviews

  • Jonfaith
    2019-02-07 22:18

    So the cut finger and the blood written decree are all forgotten, eh?Gentle Reader, I implore you -- if you desire to read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms to please avoid the budget edition offered by Amazon. Printed on demand, the edition is clumsily formatted and the type-setting is clunky. The paper is cheap. There are but a handful of notes on a text detailing events which occurred in China some 1800 years ago. How could anyone expect the text to be self-understood? Well, Amazon simply doesn't care. They lead you to a wikipedia page and thank you for your purchase.My two stars refer to the edition not the work per se.The opening volume of the volume is rather repetitive with forces from similar sounding names routinely routing one another. The periphery of the text harbors the monstrous. It is the instability of the Yellow Turbans which upends the tranquility of the time. What are these riotous forces? Well, such were a series of peasant rebellions. You won't know that from the text and I'm not referring to the author Luo Guanzhong. Famine is also lurking in every chapter. I am fairly livid by this cheap product and I have about 1800 pages to go.

  • Chris
    2019-02-04 20:11

    I've had this book for a couple of years. I kept meaning to read it, but it never got far enough up my TBR stack.Until I saw Red Cliff. Admittedly, the shortened international version.Man, that movie is great. Go see it. Now!(Strange how my top three movies are all international and not US made).The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a Chinese medieval saga or like a Viking saga, at least if I had to compare it to works in the West. The style is very similar to all those Arthurian stories as well as the Viking sagas; however, it does appear to be more rooted in fact.The story chronicles the fall of the Han Dynasty, and there is fight or a battle in almost every chapter. It is about honor, loyalty, and brotherhood. In short, it is like the Knights of the Round Table, without the Round Table, and the over compassing romantic triangle.For me, the best part of the book was the section that started around Chapter 38. This is because in the movie version, I loved the character K'ung-ming (aka the Sleeping Dragon aka Chuko Liang). The actor who played him in the movie is not only good looking but made walking around with a hawk wing fan extremely sexy. K'ung-ming is a very smart man, who might be called a wizard. Regardless, the way he borrows arrows is extremely cunning and funny.The one thing that I did find somewhat disappointing was the role of women in the book. In the movie, there are only two central female characters, yet they play important parts. There are more female characters in the book, but overall the women play minor parts. In fact, one of the women had her role greatly expanded in the film. In the book, she is non-existent. There is also a line that compares the loss of a wife to the loss of clothes. Something that can be easily replaced (yet, the man are supposed to honor their mothers). Yeah, I know different culture and time. Yeah, yeah.Yet, women in the book are not entirely lacking. There is Little Cicada who bravely aids the family who helped her, and her story is wonderfully told. There is the Lady Sung. Sung was given a somewhat expanded role in the film. In the book, while she is an Amazon, she is somewhat less of an Amazon; however, she aptly defends her husband.Like most sagas, the characters are more bound by honor and type than actual living breathing people. It is a romance after all. So if you are excepting character development, there is not so much. Plenty of daring do, battles, slaughter, men swearing brotherhood, and humor. But character development, nope. But this is true of all medieval sagas. The only problem I had with reading the book was names. I am sure this is because I am a Westerner. Each character seemed to four to six different names that would be used interchangeably. I would have liked to have had a character list or something in the book to help keep all the names straight. As it was, I had to make my own.I'm updating this review because I saw the five hour Red Cliff (ie. Parts 1 and 2). Let me just say, Mr. Woo please next time you do this, release both versions in the U.S. It was so much better than what I saw in the theater. It ROCKED! And all that plot with the princess.

  • Louise
    2019-02-02 15:00

    Well, so much for that. Quit reading about 2% in. Couldn't get over how boring the prose was. Maybe I'm reading a bad translation. Every single page went like this:X was rebelling against Y. So they fought. And then Y retreated. And X lopped his head off.Y wanted revenge on X and so he collected 500 men and hoofs and attacked X. And so they fought. And X lost and retreated.Very skimpy on details.Moral of the story: Eunuchs are very hard to kill.

  • Jacob
    2019-01-29 19:17

    "This exciting new translation will appeal to modern readers who find the twists and turns of Game of Thrones so compelling."I think I just died a little inside.

  • Kenny Nguyen
    2019-01-27 21:25

    Oh my god, this is THE best historical novel EVAR. Don't be deceive by the title of the novel, this is not a story about some romance and love crap, it is a story about epic battles between the three kingdoms of ancient China. Those battles are so epic to the point that it is like those three kingdom are performing a beautiful show with each other which probably explain somewhat about the title "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". One example battle was the famous Chi Bi battle (otherwise known as "Battle of the Red Cliff" as stated in one of the upcoming movie). In this battle, the tactician Zhuge Liang using cunning strategies and genius talents manage to burn over 80,000 Wei soldiers in the Chi Bi river, leading the alliance force contain only about 40,000 men to victory.

  • umberto
    2019-02-08 16:12

    Since some two centuries ago, there has been a Thai classic translation rendered from the Chinese classic “San Kuo Chih Yen-i” [สามก๊ก in Thai first published by Dr Dan Beach Bradley's printing press in Siam in 1865 (B.E. 2408) (] and part of the story depicting Ts'ao Ts'ao's loss at a naval warfare (โจโฉแตกทัพเรือ in Thai) was once assigned to lower secondary school students including me to read and study for the test and examination in the late 1950’s- early 1960’s. Later I read some stories taken from this Thai classic, entertainingly written by ยาขอบ (transliterated from ‘Jacob’), one of the famous Thai novelists, who, once in a while, gratefully mentioned the English text by Mr C.H. Brewitt-Taylor in which he read and compare the classic Thai text with the Brewitt-Taylor's with his admiration on the translator's expertise. Of course, I read his narrative with awe and respect due to his English mastery acquired and presumably learned to excel from his upper secondary school, as far as I know he had never studied literature or graduated from any university.Reading it off and on till the end of Chapter XV, I resumed reading next chapter in June, 2013 reaching page 171. Then since June, 2015, I’ve finally made up my mind and considered this reading exploration as one of my reading enjoyments in my free time. In fact, I like its very first sentence, “Empires wax and wane; states cleave asunder and coalesce.” (p. 1) long rendered in Thai as follows "เดิมแผ่นดินเมืองจีนทั้งปวงนั้น เป็นสุขมาช้านานแล้วก็เป็นศึก ครั้นศึกสงบแล้วก็เป็นสุข" (สามก๊ก ฉบับราชบัณฑิตยสภา) since, I think, Mr Brewitt-Taylor has used those precise words being poetical in terms of his Chinese scholarship; therefore, I think Thai readers can see and feel its precise and related meaning when compared to the English line. What happens if the readers in question can read Chinese as well? Obviously, There are also some good reasons why we should read this book, one of the great Chinese literature, 120 chapters in English but, surprisingly, for some unknown reasons, it has been transformed into merely 87 in the Thai translation. Some keen readers might not help wondering why; however, this mystery would need time and expertise to solve and exemplify in detail, that is, chapter by chapter.

  • Bobby Ian
    2019-02-02 22:22

    In my opinion, to really enjoy this book, you need to know some personality about the main characters in it. For those who played the game (like myself), you will definitely get a feeling of the potential for each person in this novel and the choices they make (e.g. Liu Bei's decision to refuse to take over dying Liu Biao's throne because he got high charisma issues or Lu Bu's unstable loyalty and patience that proves his lack of intelligence)Nonetheless, if you don't have a clue of any of the characters in this book, this novel can be enjoyable as well. The ploys and schemes used in this novel is no different from some of the ones used today. Thus comes the saying, "You shouldn't be aquainted to a person who have read 'Romance of the Three Kingdom' thrice". The story started with the death of the emperor and a bunch of eunuchs wanted to take control over the emperor's very young son. The empress and her brother decided to go against them, so they secretly gathered loyal officers and an army to literally massacre the eunuchs and their followers. The leader of the army, also the empress' brother, died in the clash (as a result from ignoring his advisors' words, among them is the well known Cao Cao), which opens an opportunity for a tyrant to take over the capital. Then a series of battles take place from one tyrant to another. Towards the end (book 2), the kingdom was sliced into three big pieces, hence the 'Three Kingdoms' takes place. The plots mainly tell two kinds of deeds: the heroic battles of warriors, like Guan Yu (still worshipped by people as God of War, Prudence, and Loyalty), Zhao Yun (one of my favorite), Zhang Fei and Lu Bu (or Lu Pu in the book) versus the wise ploys carried out by some of the most well known civil officers in Chinese history, like Zhuge Liang (Sleeping Dragon), Zhou Yu, Sima Yi and Pang Tong (Fledging Phoenix). However, I believe many readers that picked this novel up didn't get to finish book 2. Many just stop reading after Zhuge Liang dies because the novel drags on with no real character that stands out like the beginning and middle part. A somewhat dissappointing ending, but I guess that's what really happened to the Three Kingdom Dynasty.

  • Robert Sheppard
    2019-02-06 19:02

    THE CHINESE THREE MUSKETEERS----FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM RECOMMENDED CLASSICS AND MASTERPIECES SERIES VIA GOODREADS—-ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF"The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" by Luo Guanzhong is one of the timeless Classics of World Literature and may be approached initially by thinking of it as a Chinese equivilant of the "Three Musketeers" saga of Alexandre Dumas. When we think of Dumas' classic we immediately call to mind from the book or film the immortal oath of brotherhood of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos and Aramis: "All for One, and One for All!" This becomes an archetype and ideal of Universal Brotherhood in Dumas' work and this universal archetype is echoed in Luo's famous "Oath of the Peach Garden," sworn to by the three great protagonists of the Romance, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei:"When saying the names Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, although the surnames are different, yet we have come together as brothers. From this day forward, we shall join forces for a common purpose: to save the troubled and to aid the endangered. We shall avenge the nation above, and pacify the citizenry below. We seek not to be born on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. We merely hope to die on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. May the Gods of Heaven and Earth attest to what is in our hearts. If we should ever do anything to betray our friendship, may heaven and the people of the earth both strike us dead."This oath of fraternity and fidelity remains at the core of both sagas, alongside exciting adventure and thrilling action, as they respecitvely unfold across the panoramas of their disparate historical settings. The setting of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is the disintegration of the classic Han Dynasty in China (206 BC – 220 AD), a close equivilant of the unified West under the Roman Empire of the same time, following the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the corruption and intrigues of the Eunuch faction, leading to the warring period of the Three Kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu which spelled the breakup of a unified China. Just as Dumas' heroes remain faithful to the French King and seek to strengthen the King and nation against internal and external threats, so Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei strive not only to be true to one another as brothers, but also to restore the unity and authority of a united nation and Emperor, retrieving one golden age with another, while in passing succoring the oppressed and endangered in noble fashion. The events of The Romance, as do those of the extended saga of the Three Musketeers including its sequels "Twenty Years After," "The Vicomte d'Bragelone," "Louise de la Valliere," and "The Man in the Iron Mask" stretch across the lifetime of an entire generation and encompass several eras of history. In both cases the story is closely based on true history, with the embellishment and fictionalizing of a number of the main characters to add depth and melodrama. The Romance commences with the corruption of the fabric of the Imperial Court and society accompanying the fall of the Han Dynasty, unfolding with the suppression of the Yellow Turban Rebellion by General He Jin, Jin's murder by the Eunuch Faction jealous of his accumulating power, the reprisal of his troops by their invasion of the Imperial Palace and the slaughter of the Eunuchs, and the abduction of the child Emperor Xian with its ensuing chaos and anarchy, accompanied by the rise of various Warlords. Thereafter we see the rise of the arch-villan of the melodrama, Cao Cao, who plays a role parallel to that of Cardinal Richelieu, Mazarin and Colbert in the Musketeers saga, always the consummate Machiavellian political manipulator at odds with the sworn brother heroes loyal to king and country. As in the case of Dumas' tale, Cao Cao uses the child emperor as a captive pawn to consolidate his own dictatorial power behind the throne as did Richelieu and Mazarin, who made the child-King Louis XIV his pawn on the heels of the Fronde Rebellion in France which almost toppled the French monarchy around the same time as the Puritan Revolution and Cromwell in England resulted in the toppling of Charles I. From thence a long struggle for power ensues, with Cao Cao declaring himself Chancellor, seizing power over the north of China, then attempting to finish the job with an invasion of the south. Liu Bei, one of the "Chinese Three Musketeers," however, with the help of his sworn brothers and the recruitment of the archetypal military genius General Zhuge Liang, stops his plan by defeating him at the famous Battle of Red Cliff, featuring such episodes as "Borrowing the Arrows." From there an endless struggle follows, pitting Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, aided by Zhuge Liang against the ever wily Cao Cao, and leading to dramatic episodes such as the Stone Sentinel Maze and the Empty Fortress in which Zhuge Liang's military cunning and genius is consummately demonstrated. In the course of the struggle Liu Bei emerges as the type of the ideal Lord and Zhuge Liang as the ideal general and military genius, just as Cao Cao proves himself the consummate evil political genius. Eventually, China is reunited, ending the Three Kingdoms under the new Jin Dynasty, but, Moses-like, the three sworn brothers do not live to join the triumph, nor do they succeed in the aim of their oath to die together on the same day fighting for one another, just as Dumas' heroes meet their separate deaths and their "eternal brotherhood" corrodes in disparate directions while still enduring in spirit. In both cases, the author and the narrative imaginatively reconstructs and fictionally embellishes the true history of a long-bygone era from a remote historical vantage point. Dumas' wrote in the 1840's after the time of the French Revolution and the rise and fall of Napoleon about the period of the consolidation of the French autocratic state from the time of Louis XIII, the Fronde Rebellion and the rise of Louis XIV in the 1600's, before and afterthe rise and fall of the Puritan Revolution and Cromwell in England. Luo Guanzhong wrote from an even remoter vantage point, composing The Romance of the Three Kingdoms around 1400 or so, making him a contemporary of Chaucer in England, and during the time of transition from the Yuan Mongol Dynasty back to the resurgent Han Chinese Ming Dynasty. At that time a resurgence of native Han Chinese national feeling revived the classic tales of Chinese history after suppression under the Mongol dynasty, just as French nationalism and interest in French national history revived following the decline of the foreign-imposed Bourbon restoration and the rise of the Second Empire. Luo Guanzhong stated that The Romance was 70% fact amd 30% fictional enhancement. Dumas' tale of the Three Musketeers, inspired by Sir Walter Scott's historical novels, was based also on the factual hisorical record derived from Gatien de Courtilz's history of the Musketeers, though the fictional embellishment and dramatization might be found in similar proportions. Both the Three Musketeers saga and the saga of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms are well worth reading for their literary and enjoyment value, beyond their historical educational function. Both have acheived the status of "Classics" in the sense not only of being masterpieces, but also having become part of the canon and, indeed, become works themselves constituative of the culture of their nations and cultures. A mature canon and institution of World Literature must be much more than a simple buffet of recent international titles or airport-lobby bestsellers from around the world. As T.S. Eliot observed, each new work of literature takes its place and meaning within a Tradition, and such tradition evolves organically and historically and must be understood as such. It is the task of World Literature not only to call attention to good books from around the world, but to forge a canon of "world tradition" that includes the major "Classics," led by the world-recognized Western Classics no doubt, but expanded in Goethe's ideal of "Weltliteratur" to include the "Classics" of other non-Western traditions, such as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West from China, the Ramayana of India and the Arabian Nights, Attar and Rumi, amoung many others from the Islamic heritage and beyond. Every educated person in the world should have some familiarity with the Chinese classics, Indian classics, Islamic classics as well as the great Western Classics, amoung others to even begin to understand the world they live in and its peoples and living cultures. In this spirit we recommend to every member of the "Global Republic of Letters" to look into the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, as well as other Chinese classics such as the Water Margin, the Journey to the West and the Dream of the Red Chamber (Hong Lou Meng). For a fuller discussion of the concept of World Literature you are invited to look into the extended discussion in Spiritus Mundi:For Discussions on World Literature and Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycrit... SheppardEditor-in-ChiefWorld Literature Forumhttp://robertalexandersheppard.wordpr...Author, Spiritus Mundi Novel Robert Sheppard 2013 All Rights Reserved

  • Steven
    2019-02-10 17:22

    Whew! I finally finished it! This book has 120 chapters, more than 200 characters, and 300 place names, all in Chinese. It's like reading the Iliad, Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and War and Peace all rolled into one and served with a Chinese sauce.The scope of this Chinese national epic is astonishing. By three-quarters of the way through, all but one of the main characters had died and the story followed their sons and grandsons. The story follows 113 years of Chinese history from the decline of the Han dynasty, through the formation of the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, to the reunification of China under the Jin dynasty.Based on historical events and people, the novel was written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th Century, so the comparison to Le Morte d'Arthur is apt. The fact that Luo gathered material from the popular oral material preserved by professional storytellers is apparent from the cliff-hanger endings of every chapter. The episodes from this work still provide the majority of material for traditional Beijing Opera (not to mention a number of computer and video games).Most valuable to me were the insights into the Chinese national culture and character that I gained from this reading. I'm glad I finally did it.

  • Darian
    2019-02-03 16:00

    I haven't read all the books in the world, but I'd still argue that this is probably the best novel ever written. What it is, is a dramatisation of a relatively brief era in early Chinese dynastic history. Since it is rooted in real-life events and people, and also because of its epic scope, it definitely contains universal themes that are appreciable by everyone, regardless of age, culture, or time. However, in order to appreciate it to its fullest extent, I think some background knowledge of Chinese culture is necessary.The literary excellence of this novel is far too extensive to be discussed here, so I will just touch on the translation: I like CH Brewitt-Taylor's treatment, who uses a somewhat old-fashioned literary style (in the same way a person might prefer the King James Version of the Bible) that actually works to give the book more flavour. His "translation" of the poems is also ingenious. I did struggle a bit at first with the Wade-Giles romanisation of the names (since I was trained in the "pinyin" system) but it was not hard to adapt to. A revised edition of this book may actually be found online (I thought it was very good, until it began to be--with increasing input from online readers--over-revised, in my opinion.)I won't recommend this book to everyone (most will probably be put off by the sheer length of it), but to those whom I do recommend it to, I surely can't recommend it enough. I have read it countless of times, and hope to read it in its original Chinese one day.

  • Larou
    2019-02-07 18:57

    [Note: While I am posting this under the first volume, this review really is about the whole of the novel]First, I should point out that I am writing this review six months after finishing the novel; and while I took some notes when reading it, details are starting to get a bit hazy and I apologise if what follows is even more vague than usual. As with the previous Great Chinese Classics, both date of composition and author of The Three Kingdoms (also known as Romance of the Three Kingdoms) are not known with certainty. It is generally assumed that it was written by Luo Ghuanzong (who also may have edited and maybe even written parts of Outlaws of the Marsh) and assumed to have been written in the latter half of the 14th century, but neither of those appears to be quite uncontested.After having read three of the Six Classic Chinese novels before, several things about The Three Kingdoms struck me as immediately familiar, namely its length, the huge number of its characters and that it is set in the past. Two of these three items, however, also mark where The Three Kingdoms differs from the other novels: its cast of characters is insane even by Classic Chinese Novel standards, going literally into the hundreds. Admittedly, very many of those characters (again, to a much greater degree than in the other novels, even Outlaws of the Marsh) are introduced only to be killed off a sentence or two later – if this novel is the one with the largest number of characters, it is also the one with the highest body count. The reason for this relates to the third point, namely the time the novel is set in: While the other novels back-dated their events in order to be able to write freely about the present, placing (mostly) fictional characters in a (vaguely) historical period, The Three Kingdoms is a proper historical novel. It takes place during an identifiable time span, namely the periods during which the Han dynasty empire fell apart into three separate kingdoms (hence, obviously, the title), to be reunited again under the Ji dynasty only after 113 years of almost constant strife and warfare between the kingdoms.The Three Kingdoms, then, is mostly about warfare and battles; but one of the interesting features about this novel is the way the author pays attention to the administration of war, i.e. things like supply lines and communication between troops. This marks a major difference to Outlaws of the Marsh which also featured a lot of military action (chiefly in its final parts), but there it usually took the shape of the armies’ leaders meeting in single combat, and the battle was decided by which individual had the greater fighting prowess. There are scenes like this in The Three Kingdoms as well, but they are quite rare and often accompanied by comments like “X is a great fighter but he knows nothing about strategy, therefore he is no danger.” Throughout the novel there is as much emphasis in strategy as on actual fighting – actually, even more emphasis, to the point where the importance of strategy appears as the overarching theme.In the first volume, this mainly takes the form of the relationship between rulers and their counselors – Luo Guanzhong shows us the Han empire falling apart into a large number of warring factions, due to either rulers not listening to their good counsellors or indeed listening to their bad counsellors. One gets the impression here that being a counsellor during this period was a far more dangerous job than being a soldier as the leaders of the various faction tend to execute anyone who gives them advice they do not want to hear. This also leads to a vast array of characters passing by the reader at truly dizzying speed.By the second volume, things have consolidated somewhat and we finally get the three kingdoms of the novel’s title. That volume also sees the introduction of what is arguably the most fascinating character, namely master strategist Zhuge Liang. With his arrival, military conflicts become even more of an intellectual endeavour and battles between armies turn into battles of wit. Admittedly I have not read all that much military fiction, but have come across quite a lot of battle descriptions in my time, but I can’t think of any other example (not any in a realistic framework, that is), where the mind is consistently presented as the most fearsome weapon.In the final volume, the circle closes, and China becomes a unified Empire again – but now not under the Han but the Jin dynasty – which, in the context of the novel which has consistently been lauding the Hans and has had all the likeable characters strive to bring them back to power – essentially means that the good guys lose.On the one hand, there is a lot of repetition in The Three Kingdoms – there is after all only a limited arsenal of tricks to play on your enemy, and some strategies are employed again and again over all three volumes. (It is astonishing how almost everyone keeps falling for the old “fake a retreat to lure your enemy into an ambush” trick. You’d think people grow wary at some stage, but in this novel, they almost never do.) On the other hand, I did not find this at all troublesome and the repetitions in no way diminished my enjoyment of the novel. The reason for this, I think, is that the novel is not centered around those parts, but that they establish a kind of rhythm, form a kind of pattern which serves as the background as in an embroidery on which a variety of colourful scenes are stitched.Scenes like this one:One day they sought shelter at a cottage. A young hunter named Liu An came out and bowed low to him. Hearing who the visitor was the hunter wished to lay before him a dish of game, but though he sought for a long time nothing could be found for the table. So he came home, killed his wife, and prepared a portion for his guest. While eating, Liu Bei asked him what meat it was. The hunter told him it was wolf. Liu Bei believed him and ate his fill. The next day at daylight, just as he was leaving, he went to the stables in the rear to get his horse, and passing through the kitchen, he suddenly saw the dead body of a woman lying on the ground. The flesh of one arm had been cut away. Quite startled, he asked what this meant, and then he knew what he had eaten the night before. He was deeply affected at this proof of his host’s regard for him, and tears rained down as he mounted his steed at the gate.I usually avoid quotes, but I just had to share this. Also, it gives me occasion to wonder why cannibalism in one form or another has shown up in every single Chinese classic I have read so far. It seems like the Chinese have some kind of obsession with eating human flesh – from the book on Chinese history which I read recently I have learned that cannibalism apparently did occur during several really bad famines, but I’m not sure this really explains things. And I am not the first to notice this either – there even is a Wikipedia article about it (but check out that article’s “Talk” page while you are there).This is one of the more extreme – even outright shocking episodes – but that apart it is not atypical for the kind of narrative one encounters in Three Kingdoms – tales that are on a smaller scale than the battles and power struggles but that, taken together, like colourful beads connected by the string of the historical main plot, which, as they pass in front of the reader present a parade of the society and people of 3rd century China, or at least Luo Ghuanzong’s version of it. Overall it is yet another surprisingly entertaining novel which I had a lot of fun reading despite its length, age and cultural distance.It’s not however, as the book’s blurb claims very likely to “appeal to readers of George R.R. Martin” which is just silly. And that is not even the most outlandish claim the edition I read makes, that would be that “many Chinese view it as a guide to success in life and business as well as a work that offers great moral clarity.” Regarding moral clarity I refer you to the episode I quoted above, as for the rest you will have to take my word that it appear fairly bizarre claims to make. One really would have liked to find out what led editor Ronald C. Iverson to them; one also would have liked some information as the genesis of the novel, or explanations as to how far its presentation of events is historically correct. Instead what we get is – nothing. No introduction, no afterword, no explanatory notes – I really have no clue what the supposed editor was actually editing. In this respect this edition was a vast disappointment, but at least the translation by Yu Sumei made up for it. As usual, I’m not really competent to judge it, not knowing any Chinese, but it is supposedly the first English translation by a Chinese native speaker. It has some unexplained idiosyncrasies (like the consistent use of “worsted” where one would have expected “bested”) but it reads well and is free of pseudo-Oriental floweriness.

  • Ciel
    2019-01-27 20:18

    It's hard to give commentary on a work deemed as classic and yet literary style quite foreign from western canon. I wasn't a fan of the prose. Any reader familiar of historical fiction will find the same things with this book; it's difficult to judge its uniqueness for this literary piece is of age. However, like all classics, this book welcomed me into Ancient Chinese culture, society and history despite its fictitious genre. The human drama was nothing short of realistic and intriguing. But to be able to appreciate this work, one must seek of these, and most importantly, to have patience. It is rather difficult to love, but the rewards are pleasant.Difficulties readers might encounter are of names, places and the multitude of characters (speaking from experience here) -- it's best to read this in a slow, relaxed, leisurely pace; no pressure. It's a thousand pages of a read.

  • Ran
    2019-02-19 19:01

    This story is just really difficult to read because the translation does not help the story flow naturally for English readers. I struggled to maintain my interest in Lu Bei, Cao Cao, and others. Honestly, these political-rebel-warlords are fascinating. But ... the storytelling could be edited. I know, I know. It's a classic Chinese novel. It's one of the four classics. You can't alter a classic!I hear you. But you know, I picked up one of the manga series done about this story. It wasn't terrible. I didn't read more than a few pages of the first volume, but it was more bearable that this actual book. But I wasn't going to commit myself to this series either. There are 20 volumes! 20! Seriously, though. Abridgment is a thing, or so I'm told.

  • Scott
    2019-01-29 21:24

    I tried and tried, but I gave up. I can't remember that last time I gave up on a book, but this one did it. I read about 230 pages, and I couldn't take it any more. And please understand - I've read more than a few massive tomes, including "Ulysses", plenty of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, and others which I've loved to various degrees. Even the ones I didn't necessarily enjoy still offered me enough to see them through to the end. "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" couldn't. I completely understand this novel's place in literary history. It was an absolute titan in world literature, offering a narrative history of a tumultuous and continent-altering era in what is now China. Being such an early recounting of influential events, it has stood the test of centuries and is apparently still read by millions to this very day.But as an actual work of fiction, albeit historical fiction, I found it impossible to enjoy. About 90% of the novel is simply listing various characters (there are over 200, I've read), who they allied with, who they fought against, where they fought, and occasionally exactly how they fought. It reads something like this: "A grew upset with B, so he allied with C, D, E, and F. They went to City 1, where G, H, I, J, and K had banded together, and they all had a battle. A killed G, and C and D fled to City 2. E and H became upset with A, so they banded with H, I, and J in town 2. We will tell you what K did later." I am, of course, stripping it down, but honestly, the novel doesn't really offer a whole lot more than this semi-parody. There are no descriptions of the towns or cities. There are really no descriptions of 95% the characters, nearly all of whom die within 5 pages after they're introduced (and all but one of whom are dead within a few hundred pages). You just get their names and who they support in the massive struggle for imperial domination of the country. There was never any clear reason to feel the slightest empathy for any of the characters. Even on the rare occasions that a character is actually ascribed a noble or despicable characteristic, they often commit some act in opposition to this characteristic. What this results in is a whole mess of characters, not one of whom I cared for in the least. The only time a common person is mentioned (i.e. not a soldier) is when a peasant gets casually slaughtered by one of the "main" characters for horrifying reasons which are described with an odd and total lack of empathy. I will confess that I have little knowledge of ancient Chinese history. In reading many of the reviews for this book, it seems like many of the readers who enjoy this novel have either learned about this time period and the people involved from popular video games, movies, or even having taken Chinese history classes. Perhaps having a good amount of background knowledge helps, but I personally feel that a novel should stand on its own, without requiring previous research. "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" has none of that. I also suppose that a handy glossary of names and alliances, along with a nice map would help to an extent, but only minimally. This particular edition, as nice as it looks, has none of those helpful supplements. It also doesn't help that this older translation has errors and some phrasing which is strange to the modern ear. I still plan to try some of the other "classic" works of Chinese literature such as "Monkey: A Journey to the West" and others, but I sincerely hope that they differ in their styles.

  • Lindsay Leshin
    2019-01-20 22:17

    Again, the trouble with British translators is that they use Cantonese spelling for everything, which really threw me off when I was trying to figure out what cities they were conquering or attacking and my mental map of China was totally thrown of kilter. But with the help of google and a bit of translating (-king=jing, etc.), I was able to somewhat decipher the locations. That aside, this was a better translation than Dream of the Red Chamber; it flowed nicely and it was much more enjoyable to read. The subject content, however, did not interest me as much as Hong Lou Meng; reading about what general was wearing what armor on what horse during whichever battle doesn't grab my attention as much as the happenings in the Jia household or the scandal between the affair of this wife and that unmarried man. However, I did enjoy reading about the ruses and clever techniques used by the men of this novel to thwart their enemy and gain land or a city (sending women to cause disorder on sites [Diaochan!], the "empty city" tactic, etc.) And again, I had to use some sparknote/cliffnote sites to really understand what was going on in certain parts, but this book did not have as much babble as Hong Lou Meng. I also like reading firsthand the source of some of those well-known Chinese proverbs (说曹操,曹操就到,"speak of Cao Cao and he will come", similar to the English phrase "speak of the devil". I think I will take a break and read something else before starting volume two, this was a pretty heavy read.

  • Wayne Ng
    2019-02-01 16:14

    I won't make any friends among lovers of Chinese classics, but I couldn't get through this. I acknowledge an incomplete read and a poor translation diminishes the cred of my review, but a good novel must have basic elements and readable prose, neither of which were present here.The characters were shallow, uni-dimensional and card-board. They're either very good or very bad, sometimes they switch. But there's little texture to them. The plot repetitive, monotonous and tedious. It came across as a bad action movie about honour, duty, and responsibility but it just hopped from one battle and conflict to another, so the pace was uniform. I had hoped to learn more about that period, but the everyday lives of people, the world they inhabited, the little as well as the big things they pondered (not just honour duty and killing) and fretted over---were rarely dealt with. Hence the shallowness of the characters.I kept waiting and hoping the pace would vary, that we'd have in-depth,substantive scenes, nuances in the plot----but either they never came (at least not in the first third I read) or it was lost in translation or I'm an imbecile. Maybe all of the above.

  • Kaiyuli
    2019-01-27 18:57

    I would have to say that this is one of the greatest historical fiction books that I have ever read. It not only focuses on amazing battles with honorable heroes but also on domestic issues such as court corruption and politics. Although this is one of the few sources we have about China during the Three Kingdoms era, it is so descriptive and detailed that it provides so much detail. I remember going to school everyday in China and listening not to music, but instead to a radio broadcaster reading chapters of the book. Its awe and brilliance can be admired by people of all ages, from the young to the most experienced reader. However, I actually felt like the translation was not very well done. The book had a feeling of being very formal and cryptic, but in Chinese the book is very flowing. For example, in Chinese, the battle scenes go into great depth, describing every blow. But in the translated version, all you get is "they fought for 50 bouts without either party making any progress".

  • Mark
    2019-02-08 21:01

    One time I decided that I would look into the story that inspired the Dynasty Warriors video games, which at the time I spent a significant amount of time playing. I read an edition that was available entirely online and free, so I guess I might question the translation, but it was cool to immerse in a period of history that they don't exactly teach you about in your high school world history class. Trying to write these thoughts five years later it's tough to describe what I liked about it. It's not a story with complex prose, but the primary characters stand out and the introduction to a time and place in Chinese culture that shows an influence still present today (through the likes of Sun Tzu and Confucius) is cool to see.

  • Neil
    2019-01-21 17:21

    I have heard this story from my parents countless times over the years and I have just realize that I have been playing a game called Dynasty Warriors, which is based off of this book "Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol.1" I have looked around the internet and found out that this book is ancient! There may be some fiction throughout this book, but it contains historical events that are somewhat real, just with a little drama in the book. The book is very long, but enjoyable. Things that I didn't like about the book was the name spellings, like T'sao T'sao (spelled in Mandarin) was supposed to be Cao Cao (in English), the emperor of the Wei. Since this is a long book, I am still in the process of reading, so my comments are pretty biased because I compared the book with a game.

  • Folksyspice
    2019-01-21 16:22

    Tough going. Two stars for the ability to write an epic and translate it. Lost stars for too many charecters (where did you come from? have you appeared before? I'll try to remember you. ...o dear you've been killed off? What other name do you have? doesn't someone have same name as you? ) and no who's who or map to help the reader. Some touching interesting moments but lost in the monotonous battle after battle. Who were these people I had been so excited to read about and get lost in their epic? An epic to translate I imagine but using some archaic language in a wooden structure began to grate. Was fun at first but I just wikied it. Sorry part 2 will stay on shelf dust gathering.

  • Missy J
    2019-02-17 15:10

    Finally done with this one!It's true that you need a lot of patience to finish this book; part of it is interesting, part of it is not exactly boring, but I had trouble keeping up with the many characters, that I didn't know what was going on. That was frustrating!The thing is, I've only finished half of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". There's still a second book to read, but I'm not sure if I'm ready yet. I need to recuperate. Too much war for me...

  • Fon
    2019-01-29 18:01

    I believe that everyone who can finish this book can at least analyse surrounding people more easily 'cos this book gives us not only enjoyment and great illusion of historian Chinese worriors but also knowledge and some skill to read people's mind from their action. No matter how each character's actions are analysed or interpreted, they are all benefits for readers. So, I think the more we can read it, the better for ourselves. (Don't be afraid if you can read it more than three times!)

  • Amie
    2019-01-23 21:24


  • Wendy
    2019-01-25 14:24

    It's very long and often full of tedious military machinations, but it's also punctuated by exciting, gruesome, tragic, and otherworldy moments--so I think it's worth it. On to volume two!

  • Lauren
    2019-01-30 15:13

    Let's face it - I'm not going to finish this book.

  • Palindrome Mordnilap
    2019-01-21 14:04

    (NOTE: This is a review for all three volumes of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms)I had been aware of this epic of Chinese literature for many years, but first developed a serious interest in reading it after having watched the excellent Chinese drama adaptation made in 2010. That gave me the impetus to pick up the first volume and give it a go. Some words of caution first, from one who has now read all three volumes. This is a book that very much requires you to juggle hundreds of names in your head and keep track of who is who. Indeed, I would strongly recommend watching that aforementioned TV series prior to reading the books. This may sound the wrong way around, but having made my way through all 1,377 pages, it would have been considerably harder without some pre-knowledge of key characters to anchor my progress. Having some understanding, for example, that a Lu Su matters where a Lu Xun does not, certainly makes getting through the book a mite less daunting.Another warning for those considering embarking on the Three Kingdoms: if you are not interested in military strategy and take no pleasure in reading about the minutiae of war, you should probably turn away. A significant percentage of the book is spent on detailing battles: many, many battles, often in quick succession. While war itself is not the core of what the Three Kingdoms is about, it is nevertheless the medium through which many of the story's messages are related.This is a fictionalised account of a very real historic period in Chinese history. After the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD, the country fell into a state of civil war, as rival warlords fought one another for superiority - each claiming to be the rightful successor to Han. Gradually power consolidated around three separate kingdoms: Wei in the North, Wu in the South and Shu in the West. Each was led by its own charismatic leader - Cao Cao, Sun Quan and Liu Bei respectively. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms tells their story, how they rose to power, what they did with that power and how each, ultimately, fell. It is truly epic in its scale, and widely recognised in China as one of the greatest books ever written.For me, this book is about much more than just a historic narrative. Still less is it a book merely about military tactics - although they certainly feature prominently throughout. Rather, the Three Kingdoms represents an insightful, penetrating look at power - how it can be won, how it can be maintained and how it can be lost. Each of the three rulers demonstrates different virtues and flaws, and is aided by a wide variety of generals and advisers, each with their own agendas. The ruthlessness of Cao Cao is tempered by his intellectual brilliance and his ability to exercise power without ever openly admitting to it. The virtue of Liu Bei, meanwhile, is undone by his inability to win his own battles and by his undying loyalty to those who do not always serve him best. The astuteness of Sun Quan is highlighted by the way in which he employs people best suited to the role, implicitly acknowledging his own shortcomings. Each ruler has a coterie of advisers, and the relationship between power and those who would shape and direct that power is fascinating. Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi both stand out as impressive figures in their own right, often outshining the men they exist to serve. Their interplay, in particular, is a highlight of the book. And it would be remiss of me not to mention Liu Bei's two brothers-in-arms: Zhang Fei, the oft-drunk and irascible warrior and Guan Yu, the legendary fighter who keeps his honour to his very last breath.Another lesson the Three Kingdoms teaches is that for all the struggles and grand designs, winning or losing may very often lie in the lap of the gods. A rainstorm at the wrong moment or a change in the direction of the wind can make all the difference. Illnesses strike down otherwise undefeated veterans, just as ultimately the collapse of the three kingdoms ends up owing more to the dissipation and idleness of the rulers' successors than to any great military victory. Power is ephemeral, and it cannot ever be taken for granted.There are so many stories and sub-plots woven into the fabric of the Three Kingdoms that it would be both infeasible and futile to assess them all here. The best I can say of this book is that it is a joy to read and its many pages a wonderful place within which to lose yourself. It is long, and there will be times when you may wonder if the battles will ever end with one siding achieving anything close to a significant victory; but stick with it and you will be rewarded.

  • David
    2019-02-15 17:04

    What I thought was originally a mess of a book, I gave it more time to get me, the first few chapters are hard going but eventually, the story takes shape. I loved the dynasty warrior games and so was surprised to find this book had some real depth to the characters. The story chugs along at a decent pace with betrayals and backstabs galore, even the 'hero' of the story does some messed up shit and it feels fresh even though this book is super old. If you can make it past the first few chapters this is a really enjoyable read, especially if the politicking of a game of thrones is your thing.

  • Asl4u
    2019-02-19 21:17

    i am listening to the book via Podcast from excellent rendition for English speakers with no social or historical context for the book. great reader and helps you followby explaining the things you're likely not to understand. Great job. i'm enjoying the book

  • Mary
    2019-01-22 18:05

    Hegel's Translation is really dated and quite dreadful. I pity the readers of the 1920's.

  • Matthew Lutz
    2019-02-04 17:24

    Learned a lot of lessons from this first volume, like the importance of having trustworthy advisers, and to never cut a wizard's head off.