Water Margin is vaguely based upon the historical bandit Song Jiang and his 36 companions. The group was active in the Huai River region and eventually surrendered to government troops in 1121. They are recorded in the Song Shi(1345), the name of Song Jiang appearing in the chapter of Emperor Huizong, the activities of the gang in the chapter for Zhang Shuye. Folk stories about Song Jiang circulated during the Southern Song. The first text to name Song Jiang's thirty-six companions was the 13th century Guixin Zashi by Zhou Mi(1232 - 1298). Among the thirty-six are Lu Junyi, Guan Sheng, Ruan Xiaoer, Ruan Xiaowu, Ruan Xiaoqi, Liu Tang, Hua Rong and Wu Yong. Some of the characters to later become associated with Song Jiang also appeared around this time. They include Sun Li, Yang Zhi, Lin Chong, Lu Zhishen and Wu Song.
A direct precursor of Water Margin was the Da Song Xuanhe Yishi, which appeared around the mid-13th century. The text was basically a written version of storytellers' tales, based loosely on historical events. It is divided into ten chapters, roughly covering the history of the Song Dynasty from the early 11th century to the establishment of the Southern Song regime in 1127. The fourth chapter covers the adventures of Song Jiang and his 36 companions, and their eventual defeat by Zhang Shuye. Some of the more well-known stories and characters of the Water Margin are clearly visible, including "Yang Zhi selling his sword", "Stealing the birthday present", "Song Jiang kills his slave girl", "Fighting Fang La" etc. It places Song Jiang and his bandits in the Taihang Mountains, and his band ran the gamut from fishermen to ex imperial drill instructors to inn-keepers etc.
Stories about the bandits of Mount Liang became popular as subject for Yuan Dynasty drama. During this time the material on which the Water Margin was based evolved into what it is today. Song Jiang's bandits were expanded to number one hundred and eight, and though they came from different backgrounds, all eventually come to occupy Mount Liang. There is a theory that Water Margin became popular during the Yuan Dynasty due to resentment toward the Mongol rulers. Song Jiang's rebellion was safe to promote because it criticized the Song Dynasty on the surface, but it was also a call to oppose all corrupt governments.
Dream of the Red Chamber
The culmination of the Chinese novels was the “Dream of the Red Chamber” (also title the “Story of the Stone” ) . The author of the novel was Cao Guerin . It was a vast work, elaborated against the broad background of the society and around the clue of the entanglement in love and marriage among Jia Baoyu , Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai . It exhibited vividly and realistically the doom of the late feudal society, while it extoled warmly the rebels against the feudalistic way of life, and their love. In the perspective of the world literature, the profundity of its thoughts, the richness of its messages, and the excellence of its art are also seen very rare. As Lu Xun pointed out : The “Dream of the Red Chamber” upset both the traditional thoughts and the traditional writing technique .
The characters in the novel were portrayed most splendidly. The characters Jia Baoyu , Lin Daiyu , Xue Baochai , Sister Feng , Granny Liu , etc., have become lasting artistic models . Their sentiments and thoughts were expressed very naturally. Everything in the novel was portrayed vigorously and vividly. Life seemed to trickle spontaneously onto the pages, and unfold itself in front of the reader like a very long scroll. This realistic, natural feature of the novel was due to the creative genius of the author. The plot of the novel was very ingenious. Like a meandering brook, the transition from one chapter to another was like a continuous flow. Above the plot was an illusory, mystical world, hinting at the final destination of the dream of the Red Chamber and causing a sorrowful atmosphere over the dazzling events. The language was of a very high level. Its narratives used a matured colloquial language, plain but elegant, explicit but implicit. Its dialogued fitted in with the status, cultural attainment, personality and mentality of the characters in the particular circumstances. The dialogues were so vivid that the readers would feel as if they saw and heard actually the characters. What is more, the novel contained also a number of poems, Song poems, verses of dramas and parallel prose, which are compatible with the plot and the life of the aristocrats. The quality of thee was also fairly high, indicating the high classic cultural attainment of the author. For example, the lyric of the “Elegy to Lady Lotus” attributed to Jia Baoyu were both superb poetical works viewed independently.
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is a household legend and myth throughout East Asia, especially China, and among Chinese throughout the world. It is based on the real life monk Xuan Zang's (also known as Tripitaka or Tang San Zang) pilgrimage to India, to fetch back some Buddhist scriptures. Nonetheless, this fictional retelling focuses on San Zang's first disciple, the monkey king, Sun Wu Kong, who captured readers' hearts and imagination with his bold, daring, and mischievous personality. He was also very rebellious. As a matter of fact, Wu Cheng En wrote Journey to the West to criticize China's political system and society.
Basically, Journey to the West is about Tang San Zang's journey to the west (duh) and the difficulties he and his disciples face in between. It is overflowing with magic, demons, gods, immortals, and scrumptious action and adventure! It has lots of humor and some angst as well. Wu Kong and the other disciples, a pig demon Zhu Ba Jie and the river demon Sha Wu Jing, have to battle hordes of demons, which all want their master because his flesh will give immortality to anyone who eats it.
This epic story is a captivating read, with the pilgrims getting into trouble in the most unexpected places, fighting through not only outright confrontation and abduction but also lies and disguises while using trickery of their own. Sun Wu Kong is especially good at this, having mastered the way of transforming himself into anything he likes, including a fly, tree, or a beautiful girl. Xi You Ji spans over a huge area, taking readers for a wild ride to the Heavens, volcanoes, seas, wide rivers, mountain peaks, demon-filled caves, right down to the pits of Hell. The plot is imaginative and full of conflict, either with external enemies or between the pilgrims themselves. The characters are well developed, with distinct, three-dimensional personalities. Well, most of them, at least. There are also underlying spiritual and religious themes. This masterpiece is frequently underestimated as it also portrays a realistic view of the political and social scenarios during the Ming Dynasty. In short, Xi You Ji is definitely worth your time. Grab the chance to experience one of the greatest classics of ancient China!
Romance of 3 kingdoms
This romance about the war between the Three Kingdoms Wei, Wu and Shu is said to be a writing by Luo Guanzhong (1494), but it was probably already written during the Yuan Dynasty. It developed popular stories about the heroes of that historical period, their strategies, tactics and battles. Comparing the novel with the historical book Sanguozhi (written during the Jin period) and the Song time (Zizhi) tongjian gangmu "Summary of the Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government", we see that there is a great difference in judgment about justified rule. Contrasting to the historical book, where the ruler of Wei, Cao Cao, is seen as the legal ruler of all China, the later histories and the romance see him as an usurpator of the throne that has to be possessed by the Liu family, whose descendant Liu Bei was ruling in Shu. Central figures in the novel are heroes like the wise tactician Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei or the red-faced semi-god Guan Yu. Not describing in black and white, the novel judges nevertheless between the good side, the follows of Liu Bei, and their counterparts like Sun Quan king of Wu, and the usurper Dong Zhuo. Many of these persons and their stories have been adapted in theater and performing arts. Unbroken is the popularity of the war skills and plans that occur in the novel, and there exist even TV series. See a short excerpt of the Three Kingdoms telling of the battle at the Red Cliff.