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.

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