Great Books of China: From Ancient Times to the Present by Frances Wood

Great Books of China  by Frances Wood introduces – or reintroduces – readers to some of China’s most influential books and writings.

Here is a brief summary of the book:

Beginning with some of the Confucian and Daoist classics and ending with modern fiction, Great Books of China features famous novels including The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan), Journey to the West (Xiyou ji), and Dream of the Red Chamber (Hongloumeng); celebrated dramas such as The Story of the Lute (Pipa ji) and The Peach Blossom Fan (Taohua shan); poetry from ancient times and the “golden age” of the Tang to the last years of imperial China; renowned historic manuals on Chinese painting, on the construction of Chinese gardens, and on a carpenter’s varied tasks; major texts describing Chinese history, the military exploits of ancient generals, and the legendary journeys of Buddhist monks; and works by a number of modern writers including Lu Xun, Ding Ling, and Lao She.

If you get anything from this book as a Western reader, it is learning about the richness and diversity of Chinese writing. Not only is the poetry very strong, but the other genres are just as strong – including fiction, history, and science.

Another idea that struck me was how influential writings from thousands of years ago still influence China today. The writings of Confucius can still be seen as an influence in modern China. Wood presents all of the books with a great summary of the content and the author.

Excellent history of the great literary works of China.

Great Books of China Book Cover Great Books of China
Frances Wood
July 12, 2016

Great Books of China invites readers to discover--or rediscover--some of the major achievements of Chinese culture and civilization. The literature of China remains largely unknown in the West, yet it offers much insight into Chinese life. The long continuity of Chinese culture means that texts created more than two thousand years ago are still part of the education and background of today’s China.Great Books of China introduces outstanding texts of various genres, including fiction, drama, and poetry; history, science, and travel. These works were written by philosophers and artists, government officials and rulers, men and women across many dynasties and from every part of China. The great books are presented in their historic, cultural, and social context, with a focused summary of their content, and information about the author. Beginning with some of the classics of the Confucian canon and ending with modern fiction,Great Books of China features the famous novels of the fourteenth century and later times; sacred texts including theDaode jing and theLotus sutra; poetry from around 1000 BCE through the eighth century CE and beyond; books that formed the educational background of Chinese children for many centuries; historic manuals on Chinese painting, on the construction of Chinese gardens, and on the building of traditional houses; guides to the technologies of agriculture and papermaking; and major works describing Chinese history, the military exploits of ancient generals, and the legendary journeys of Buddhist monks. Concise, provocative, and illuminating,Great Books of China introduces the literature of one of the world’s most significant cultures and thereby helps us understand the China of past and present.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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