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Romance of the Three Kingdoms (traditional: 三國演義 - simplified: 三国演义, Sānguó Yǎnyì), attributed to Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, is a Chinese historical novel based upon events in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era, starting in 168 A.D. and ending with the reunification of the land in 280 A.D. The novel is the inspiration for the Dynasty Warriors, Dynasty Tactics, and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series. It's known as Samukoku (สามก๊ก) in the Thai language, and Sangokushi Engi (三国志演義) in Japan.
The book is a collection of folktales, gossip, and historical information written in the same manner as a fantastical Chinese epic. An estimate of is accuracy is it being 70% fact, 30% fiction. During the time it was written a belief was that Liu Bei was the rightful heir to the Han Throne so Shu is depicted in a better light. As Shu mostly fought Wei, Wei is generally shown in a negative light. Liu Bei is displayed as righteous and virtuous while Cao Cao was portrayed as ruthless and ambitious. The story tends to glorify Shu over the other two kingdoms and fabricates several exploits and events to better their image.
Luo Guanzhong's interpretation of the era is considered to be the redefined version of the illustrated novel, Tale of the Three Kingdoms, known in China as the Sānguózhì Pínghuà (traditional: 三國誌評話 - simplified: 三国志评话). Its author is unknown yet it also compiles gossip and historical documents regarding the Three Kingdoms era. The protagonist was Zhang Fei and it was the precursor for many Shu-centered stories. Cao Cao, Sun Quan, and Liu Bei are portrayed as Han Xin, Ying Bu, and Zhang Yue. Like the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it contains a variety of events that contrasts historical records. The story ends when Zhuge Liang dies.
The novel was first fully translated into another language by a man under the pen name of Tsukido, who translated it in Japanese. Theodore Pavie converted the text into French, published in Paris in 1845, and C.H. Brewitt-Taylor translated the first full-length English version, being published in 1925 in Shanghai, China. A Russian translation was done by V.A. Panashuk in 1954.
- Wikisource translation project
- Free abridged text-only version of the novel
- Free e-book download (Chinese)