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Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel (One Volume) [Abridged] [Paperback]

by Guanzhong Luo (Lo Kuan-Chung), Moss Roberts
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 30, 1999 0520215850 978-0520215856 Abridged
Three Kingdoms tells the story of the fateful last reign of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) when the Chinese empire was divided into three warring kingdoms. Writing some twelve hundred years later, the Ming author Luo Guanzhong drew on histories, dramas, and poems portraying the crisis to fashion a sophisticated, compelling narrative that has become the Chinese national epic. This abridged edition captures the novel's intimate and unsparing view of how power is wielded, how diplomacy is conducted, and how wars are planned and fought. As important for Chinese culture as the Homeric epics have been for the West, this Ming dynasty masterpiece continues to be widely influential in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, and remains a great work of world literature.

This abridged edition is particularly useful for undergraduate courses. For the complete text, see the unabridged edition, now available in two parts: Part One; Part Two

Frequently Bought Together

Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel (One Volume) + The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days
Price for both: $35.50

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Editorial Reviews


"The subject matter of "Three Kingdoms has long held an extraordinary grip on the Chinese imagination. . . . No less an authority than Mao Zedong asserted that when he set out on the campaigns that would ultimately bring him to power, "Three Kingdoms was the book he valued most."--Patrick Hanan, "New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Abridged edition (September 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520215850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520215856
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
398 of 404 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic February 9, 2000
By "g_l_p"
First off, you have to read the full translation of this book. I read the 1976 abridged version of Three Kingdoms translated by Moss Roberts first and thought it was pretty good, but felt that the story wasn't developed enough and lacked cohesion. Then a few years ago I finally found and purchased the full unabridged version published by the University of California Press and also translated by Dr. Roberts. This is the full-blown epic from start to finish with all the details and many of the translation errors of the previous editions eliminated. The prose was also improved and flows eloquently throughout the book's entire 3000+ pages. Three Kingdoms is the tale (part historical, part legend and myth) of the fall of the Later Han Dynasty of China. It chronicles the lives of those feudal lords and their retainers who tried to either replace the empire or restore it. While the novel actually follows literally hundreds of characters, the focus is mainly on the 3 families who would eventually carve out the 3 kingdoms from the remnants of the Han. The Liu family in the Shu kingdom led by Liu Bei, The Cao family in Wei led by Cao Cao, and the Sun family in Wu eventually led by Sun Quan. The book deals with the plots, personal and army battles, intrigues, and struggles of these families to achieve dominance for almost 100 yrs. This book also gives you a sense of the way the Chinese view their history: cyclical rather than linear (as in the West). The first and last lines of the book sum this view up best: "The empire long united must divide..." and "The empire long divided must unite..." If you are at least a little interested in Chinese history (ancient or modern) and culture this book is a must read.
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181 of 188 people found the following review helpful
By D. Mok
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is possibly the most famous and important novel in classic Chinese literature. Not only is it the earliest of the "Four Great Books" (as evidenced by its more archaic language), but it created a complete cultural phenomenon whose impact is still fresh today -- just ask all the young people today who, without having read a word of the book, still know the characters from the strategy and fighting video games released by the company Koei. And how many literary works can claim to have had a direct impact on history as this book, which was used as a strategy text by the great Manchurian leader Nurhachi and his son Hongtaiji?

I'd read the original archaic text when I was about eight years old, so obviously my views will be heavily slanted by my familiarity with this text. On approaching this translation, what I find is a well done, respectful and informative translation that doesn't quite nail the tone of the original text, but will be a good read for modern readers who don't read Chinese.

And to be honest, Chinese is extremely hard to translate into English. Just the fact that subjects, articles and pronouns are often omitted from a sentence is enough to cause nightmares for a Chinese-English translator. And even by Chinese standards, The Three Kingdoms is a work whose linguistic economy is staggering. In one page, this book can convey the deaths of half a dozen characters, three to four battles, multiple schemes, and include four or five "tribute" poems, to boot. Such is the style of this work, and it could not have been easy for translator Moss Roberts to adapt this style into English.
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167 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly the greatest book I've read July 28, 2002
By R. Khan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first became intrigued with the Three Kingdoms's historical events when I played the game Dynasty Warriors 2 for PS2. Afterwards I was desperately searching to find the best novel translation and finally bought the 4-volume box set translated by Moss Roberts which is the UNABRIDGED version(make sure to get this edition as it tells the whole story w/o leaving anything out).I then set out to explore the 2200+ pages of Chinese history and I must say, it was a fascinating experience. I initially grasped what was going to happen in time but there was so much other details to the story and idealisms portrayed. Leadership, loyalty, heroism, military tactics and warfare, treason, and even romance play such a significant role in this epic novel. "The empire long united, must divide" and "the empire long divided, must unite" pretty much opens and closes the novel perfectly. Heroes such as Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, and Huang Gai portray such loyalty that it would be kind of hard to imagine in today's society. From the other reviews I've read, most people think Liu Bei (Xuande) is the protaganist of the novel and this seems very true since Roberts lauds Bei's characteristics and portrays Cao Cao of the evil and cunning type. Personally, I think anyone can choose their personal protaganist and for me that would be Zhao Yun because of his undisputed bravery and loyalty. Another character that I admired was probably Zhuge Liang for his awe-aspiring military tactics. Zhuge was the best strategist of his time and he wrote several books on warfare but unfortunately, most were destroyed but you can still buy one of his famous books, "The Art of War." Warning, spoiler ahead:
This book has its sad moments particularly when someone important or someone who contributed a lot to his lord dies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as was described
the item is listed as a "Box Set in good condition" but i did not get the box to hold them in and the condition was 6/10 so it was less then what i expected but i know the... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Gambit Gaming
5.0 out of 5 stars The Moss Roberts translation is perfect
Amazon seems to have combined more than one translation here, but DO buy the Moss Roberts translation sold by Foreign Languages Press. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Avery Morrow
5.0 out of 5 stars It is great
My son loved this book. He plays Koei's Dynasty Warriors series and he fell in love with this book. I read a little bit of it and I am rather fond of it too. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MICHAEL
4.0 out of 5 stars Ten thousand deaths would not deter me.
After falling in love with the movie “Red Cliff” I discovered that its’ narrative was based on this classic chinese novel. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jamil Bhatti
5.0 out of 5 stars Very captivating story
I originally bought it because I played the Dynasty Warriors games. Now that I finished it, I can easily say its one of my favorite stories.
Published 2 months ago by William Dodge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift
Set was Christmas gift for my nephew; he really liked the book set and will buy the Chinese version later.
Published 3 months ago by Ivy chang
5.0 out of 5 stars Great translation!
I much enjoyed this translation. Although the names are a little different, it flowed quite well and its for a fourth of the cost!
Published 3 months ago by Carl Loomis-Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great present for my friend.
My best friend from America had wishes for this series, so of course I was going to give it to her for Christmas. The package arrived earlier than I had expected. Read more
Published 3 months ago by LucyHart
5.0 out of 5 stars One of China's must reads
This is one of four folk tales that nearly every literate person in China has read. It's akin to a Chinese Odyssey or Iliad. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bradley W. Bleck
5.0 out of 5 stars Best story by far
Very readable, several errors but don't let that sway you! The language is smooth and almost poetic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Vilabrera
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