Talk:Classic Chinese Novels

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is there a reason this is just a stub? --1698 —Preceding undated comment added 08:52, 9 November 2005‎ (UTC)

  • I cleaned up the grammar, spelling, linkage, and POV issues, and removed the stub as I can't see much else to be done with the article. If anyone disagrees about the removal of the stub, please by all means add it back. --Ryan Heuser 14:59, 27 November 2005 (UTC)

I dont understand the meaning of "the cream" but it is inappropriate, regardless, because it is obvious how important and famous these novels are. Afterall, Four Classics easily means the top four, and if somebody do not understand, the articles of the novels makes clear their importance and popularity. Any description of the works can be found on the article for each novel, and anyone who needed the information in your descriptions would be better served glancing at the article. I particularly disagree with calling Water Margin a "robin hood tale" or Romance of the Three Kingdoms the "Chinese Illiad" in this article. --1698 2005 November 29, 10:20 PST

  • I know nothing about Chinese literature, I simply happened upon the article and decided to help clean up the styling and grammar a bit. But on this token, the article now only lists the novels instead of also explaining what exactly is meant by the appellation of "The Four Classics." Are they simply the most popular? --Ryan Heuser 05:20, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
I would think being the Four Classics is like being the Seven Ancient Wonders; they are the most popular and significant. Of course, they have to be outstanding quality to get there, too. Maybe a line at the beginning to explain why these are "The Classics" is good or their significance as a unit, but the original parts of the article were rather non encyclopedic. 1698 2005 November 30, 10:00 UTC
Agreed. --Ryan Heuser 04:05, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
  • The article I saw is obviously different from what has been discussed above. But even after the changes this entry needs some serious revision. Even as a stub it contains mis-information. There are so far no definite conclusion on the authorship and dating of these books. The writers' names listed here are more a matter of speculation than of fact. As vernacular fiction was not officially taken as serious literature in traditional China, these books were in general published anonymously, and it is very difficult for modern scholars to idenitify their actual writers (which might have invovled several authors and editors rather than a single individual). And there is no way we can trace the publishing history of "The Romance of Three Kingdoms" to 1330, despite of the widespread assumption of fourteenth-century authorship; the earliest printed version of the book so far identified is one from the year of 1522.
Further, the so-termed "four great classical novels" is more of a modern commercial gimmick to promote bundle sale, having little historical significance. "The Dream of the Red Chamber" emerged about two centuries later than the other three novels usually included in the package, and its narrative technique and content are of a rather different order from the earlier ones. As said in the article, "The Plum in the Golden Vase" is what was traditionally (in fact, since the seventeenth century) mentioned together with the other three texts as the "four novels of wonder," in Chinese "si da qi shu," a more literal translation of which would be "four extraordinary books." Although this book's rampant eroticism and dark view of humanity has made it a rather problematic text, which may account for its less central position in today's popular perception of China's "classical novels." So far the most in-depth English study of the "four extraordinary books" proper is Andrew Plaks's "The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel" (Princeton, 1987). I will try to write a revised version of this wikipedia entry based some of the information provided in Plaks's book and my own research. Meanwhile, hopefully what has been written above may provide some extra and more accurate information for whoever interested in the topic. Papilion78 18:28, 29 August 2006 (UTC) --papilion78

Distinction between Classical and Vernacular Chinese[edit]

Okay, a few things need to be clarified. Mandal, you need to stop insulting others and read up a bit on Chinese history. It is common knowledge throughout Mainland China that Red Chamber is the only novel among the four that was written using the vernacular, and as such was not at the time embraced by the public as a serious piece of literature (some cite this as the reason for Cao Xueqin's demise). Yes, I will admit that the Romance of the Three Kingdoms was not written in the same STYLE of Classical Chinese as, say, the Shijing, but one needs to take into account the evolution of the language throughout the several thousand years that it has been in use. Certain syntactic features of Classical Chinese that existed during the period of Late Old Chinese are no longer found in the language of the Ming court; this was inevitable given the increasing divergeance between spoken and written language. The language used for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and Water Margin are therefore not in line with the Classical Chinese of the Warring States period (in which there was not a large distinction between spoken and written Chinese), but are nonetheless classified as a form of Classical Chinese (more precisely, Literary Chinese), because a distinction DID exist between the written language and Middle Mandarin. --Taoster —Preceding undated comment added 20:11, 11 May 2006‎ (UTC)

then would it make sense to add that the others where written in "literary Chinese"?--1698 06:48, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
  • First of all, I don't believe that "It is common knowledge throughout Mainland China that Red Chamber is the only novel among the four that was written using the vernacular." This statement is very inaccurate. The vernacular language in China has a much stronger kinship with its classical root than that between, say, European national vernaculars and Latin. Therefore, the distinction between the two styles is not as clear-cut, especially in premodern China, wherein literary Chinese was perceived as the ONLY legitimate style for writing (that is why the encyclopedic anthology which claims to gather all Chinese texts ever written, the "Si Ku Quan Shu" complied during the eighteenth century, under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, completely precludes vernacular writings of all sorts from its collection). Premodern Chinese fiction was also highly influenced by the convention of classical historiography (fiction was often called "unofficial history," "ye shi," at the time),and at least in its earlier stage of development often appear to be a recounting of events recorded in official histories for a less-educated audience. "The Romance of the Three Kingdom," for instance, has been speculated to originate from such practice, and although its language has incorporated a large amount of classical diction and even grammar, it still suggests a more colloquial, or at least popularized, type of writing---at least this is what the "Si Ku Quan Shu" compilers would have thought, judging from their preclusion of this well-known book from the encyclopedia. After "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms," it is noticeable that the languages of other "classical novels" gravitated more and more toward the vernacular side, and "The Plum of the Golden Vase" is notable for its frequent use of Shandong (a region in Northern China) dialects. The large number of the so-termed "scholar-beauty" romance (caizi jiaren xiaoshuo)which appeared during the seventeenth century used a linguistic style that is basically same as The Dream of the Red Chamber's. Although it is true that the language of The Dream of the Red Chamber bears more resemblance to modern Chinese than that of the Ming novels, it is more reasonable for us to understand the change in terms of the development of vernacular Chinese writing over a course of two hundred years, than of a dichotomous distinction between the "literary" and the "vernacular." --Papilion78 18:28, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

紅樓 or 金甁[edit]

i don't get it. since when did anybody considered 紅樓夢 as one of 4 great classical novels? Is it just the sheer stupidity that's prevalent around wikipedia? Im pretty surprised no Chinese ever come to point this out until now... It's supposed to be 金甁梅. 21:12, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

Well then, cite your sources. --Plastictv 03:55, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

YES, 红楼梦 IS one of the four great classical novels indeed. 金甁梅 is not relate to the four classics at all, if you realize. And, it is NOT the sheer stupidity, but it is true. What isn't true is how you've mistaked 红楼梦 with 金甁梅. PLEASE DO NOT MENTION CHINESE PEOPLE'S REALIZATION WITH YOURS facilely. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Alexandra Fukutetsu (talkcontribs) 00:20, 30 June 2007‎ (UTC)

I have clarified the difference between the traditional "four great classical novels" (including Jin Ping Mei and the other three) and the modern "four great classical novels" (including Hong Lou Meng and the other three) in the earlier part of this talk page. And there is no need to belittle anybody over this question.Papilion78 06:09, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Oh. Ok. What has happened here is that I thought when the section was titled "four great classical novels", I automatically assumed it referred to 四大奇書 (now i see it explicitly states it's referring to 四大名著 instead). and you can see in this chinese wiki page [1] that 四大奇書 counts 金瓶梅 as one of the four. but i guess it all started from my misassumption that the section was referring to 四大奇書 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:47, 29 July 2007‎ (UTC)

I've made some edits that attempt to explain the 金瓶梅 红楼梦 situation. It doesn't help that the translation of both terms 四大奇书 and 四大名著 is essentially the same. Perhaps this article could be improved by discussing the concept of "Great Books" in Chinese over time, starting with the Four Books. I'm more familiar with mainland Chinese opinions on this subject. It would be interesting to look at the Concept of Four Great Classical Novels from different perspectives. Does the HK/Taiwan/Overseas Chinese community have a different opinion of the FGCN? Is it really primarily a marketing device to sell books? Stevendaniels88 (talk) 09:46, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

Well, this term is more commonly seen in academics and schools, bu maybe it does have a sell-promoting side to it. After all, the term formed a long, long while before Chinese even heard of the term "marketing device', so it probably still sticks to the original meaning.

But many major publishers still provide collections of the 4, so probably yes it has a marketing side...Wikireader20000 (talk) 11:01, 29 November 2013 (UTC)

What about 'Creation of the Gods'?[edit]

I heard someone consider the book "Creation of the Gods", a.k.a "Fengshen Yanyi" as the fifth book. Here are the details:

Do you all think that "this" book should be mentioned as the fifth book, if not hinted at? Thank you in advance. Neo Guyver (talk) 00:58, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

No Chinese will tell you that 封神榜 should exist with with the four as a fifth, but there is one collection I have seen (sorry, no source)that lists the four with six others including 封神榜 and History of the states of East Zhou (东周列国志). If you're interested, you could check out yourself.

By the way, the meaning of 封神榜 is closer to "List of dubbed Gods', and 封神演义 is closer to "Romance of the dubbed Gods/to dub the Gods'.Take time to study Chinese or use a translation software, though the former is still recommended to allow you to fix it up.Wikireader20000 (talk) 11:10, 29 November 2013 (UTC)

The article's title[edit]

The article's title has recently it has been moved to "Four Classic Novels". I think the new title is fine, and not that different from the older title, however, it seems neither are common English names. There are many various translations of the Chinese name, but no consensus, thus I think the older name should be kept, as there are scholarly books that uses that title.--Sevilledade (talk) 20:09, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

Well, that sucks. The name you moved it back to is not "similar": it's a complete and semiliterate misnomer. "Classic" means "Of acknowledged excellence or importance"; "classical" means "Of or relating to the ancient Greek or Latin writers whose works form a canon of acknowledged excellence"—that is, 'Of or related to the era of classic works'. It's a historical term and not at all what is meant here, even if you allow for the way Chinese can use the term 'ancient' (古) for everything up to 1911.
The problem is that this page has been in the wrong page long enough that Chinese scholars seem to have used it enough to fudge Google Scholar's numbers. The first pages of results for "Four Great Classical Novels" are by nonnative speakers but, in aggregate, you end up with 210 hits versus 23 hits for "Four Great Classic Novels" and 63 for "Four Classic Novels". The results are messy—native speakers using 'four great classical novels' tend to use it in lower case and descriptively rather than as a name but a few of the 'Four Classic Novels' results are talking about other sets of works—but there's a large enough gap there we should leave it where it is for now.
That said, the correct form of the name should be noted in the lead and we should move it as soon as the scholar results make it possible. Count me as a vote for move when that discussion comes around. — LlywelynII 15:51, 26 October 2017 (UTC)
Well put. I would support move as well. I suspect that some of the hits for "Classical" are machine translations. I ran a Google Ngram Four Great Classical Novels, Four Great Classic Novels which didn't find hits for either term (did I do it wrong?).
Andrew Plaks' book is the foundational work in English language scholarship. He doesn't use either (and a different term in Chinese): The Four Masterworks Of The Ming Novel: Ssu Ta Ch'i-Shu ch (talk) 16:48, 26 October 2017 (UTC)
Note that Plaks' book is only about the Ming novels, so its not the same as the sidamingzhu. NPalgan2 (talk) 02:48, 1 November 2017 (UTC)

Jumping in, I think the main article should (some variant of) the "Classic Chinese Novels" about all 6, following e.g. Hsia's book. NPalgan2 (talk) 02:31, 1 November 2017 (UTC)

There is nothing really wrong with using "classical", it doesn't always mean "of ancient Greek or Roman period", neither is it a misnomer. The Oxford Dictionary of English lists its second meaning as:
"Representing an exemplary standard within a traditional and long-established form or style." Note the ODE is a descriptive dictionary based on native corpus, so the above rants don't really seem altogether justified. What's more, the term "classical novels" has been adopted by a large number of websites and books. It should at least merit an inclusion. DORC (talk) 06:20, 3 December 2017 (UTC)

Shui Hu ttranslations?[edit]

Editors and TheValeyard raise the good point that Shui Hu is translated differently. If it's OK, I will add to the table box Pearl Buck's All Men Are Brothers (still in print), Shapiro's Men of the Marshes, and John Dent-Young and Alex Dent-Young's Mount Liang. I tested it and it doesn't look bad. Cheers in any case. ch (talk) 18:34, 22 October 2017 (UTC)

Proposed article rename[edit]

Does anyone object to renaming this article 'Six Classic Novels'? NPalgan2 (talk) 03:43, 6 November 2017 (UTC)

The discussion above in "The article's title" did not focus on "Six Classic Novels". So why was this moved to Six? This "Six Classic Novels" is a grouping rarely used. Far less than the "Four".--Sevilledade (talk) 01:12, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
I moved the article to "Classic Chinese Novels" instead of adding the "Six", which is not a familiar grouping.--Sevilledade (talk) 01:42, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
The six form a very distinct grouping.

NPalgan2 (talk) 01:55, 1 December 2017 (UTC)

I think "classical novels" or "four classical novels" should at least merit a mention, given the fact it is now a popular term (no doubt thanks to Wikipedia). CT Hsia's book is of course very famous, but it isn't exactly as influential in Chinese-language scholarship. DORC (talk) 07:22, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
What are examples of sinological scholarship in English using "classical"? "Classic" seems much more common. NPalgan2 (talk) 17:53, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
"Classic novels" is more common, so I'm not advocating for a title change but for a term inclusion. There are still some works which use the term "classical novels", see [2][3][4], for examples. DORC (talk) 15:13, 5 December 2017 (UTC)