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Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel, Volume I (The Three Kingdoms #1)

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  1,483 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
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. This decisive period in Chinese history became a subject of intense and continuing interest to historians, poets, and dramatists. Writing some 1,200 years later, the Ming author Luo Guanzhong drew on this rich lit ...more
Paperback, Unabridged Edition, 552 pages
Published June 14th 2004 by University of California Press (first published 1522)
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Mar 22, 2015 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book for a couple of years. I kept meaning to read it, but it never got far enough up my TBR stack.

Until I saw Red Cliff. Admittedly, the shortened international version.

Man, that movie is great. Go see it. Now!

(Strange how my top three movies are all international and not US made).

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a Chinese medieval saga or like a Viking saga, at least if I had to compare it to works in the West. The style is very similar to all those Arthurian stories as well
So the cut finger and the blood written decree are all forgotten, eh?

Gentle Reader, I implore you -- if you desire to read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms to please avoid the budget edition offered by Amazon. Printed on demand, the edition is clumsily formatted and the type-setting is clunky. The paper is cheap. There are but a handful of notes on a text detailing events which occurred in China some 1800 years ago. How could anyone expect the text to be self-understood? Well, Amazon simply doe
Jan 27, 2011 Louise marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
Well, so much for that. Quit reading about 2% in. Couldn't get over how boring the prose was. Maybe I'm reading a bad translation. Every single page went like this:

X was rebelling against Y. So they fought. And then Y retreated. And X lopped his head off.

Y wanted revenge on X and so he collected 500 men and hoofs and attacked X. And so they fought. And X lost and retreated.

Very skimpy on details.

Moral of the story: Eunuchs are very hard to kill.
Kenny Nguyen
Jul 13, 2008 Kenny Nguyen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my god, this is THE best historical novel EVAR. Don't be deceive by the title of the novel, this is not a story about some romance and love crap, it is a story about epic battles between the three kingdoms of ancient China. Those battles are so epic to the point that it is like those three kingdom are performing a beautiful show with each other which probably explain somewhat about the title "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". One example battle was the famous Chi Bi battle (otherwise known as " ...more
Sep 11, 2009 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whew! I finally finished it! This book has 120 chapters, more than 200 characters, and 300 place names, all in Chinese. It's like reading the Iliad, Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and War and Peace all rolled into one and served with a Chinese sauce.

The scope of this Chinese national epic is astonishing. By three-quarters of the way through, all but one of the main characters had died and the story followed their sons and grandsons. The story follows 113 years of Chinese history from the decline o
Robert Sheppard

"The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" by Luo Guanzhong is one of the timeless Classics of World Literature and may be approached initially by thinking of it as a Chinese equivilant of the "Three Musketeers" saga of Alexandre Dumas. When we think of Dumas' classic we immediately call to mind from the book or film the immortal oath of brotherhood
Bobby Ian
Oct 07, 2007 Bobby Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who loves reading fiction base on nonfictional settings
In my opinion, to really enjoy this book, you need to know some personality about the main characters in it. For those who played the game (like myself), you will definitely get a feeling of the potential for each person in this novel and the choices they make (e.g. Liu Bei's decision to refuse to take over dying Liu Biao's throne because he got high charisma issues or Lu Bu's unstable loyalty and patience that proves his lack of intelligence)

Nonetheless, if you don't have a clue of any of the c
Apr 08, 2014 Jacob marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
"This exciting new translation will appeal to modern readers who find the twists and turns of Game of Thrones so compelling."

I think I just died a little inside.
May 06, 2012 Darian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read all the books in the world, but I'd still argue that this is probably the best novel ever written. What it is, is a dramatisation of a relatively brief era in early Chinese dynastic history.

Since it is rooted in real-life events and people, and also because of its epic scope, it definitely contains universal themes that are appreciable by everyone, regardless of age, culture, or time. However, in order to appreciate it to its fullest extent, I think some background knowledge of C
LawStudent Reader
"Liu Pei is a dragon among men. All his life hitherto he has never found his element, but now that he has obtained Chingchou it is as if the dragon, once captive, has escaped to the mighty deep. There is good reason for me to quake with fear."

What kept me interested in the first half of this epic was the political intrigue. The battles were very monotonous. It is what happens between battles that makes this epic so extraordinary. The trickery, the switching sides, even magic. Chuko Liang is a f
Aug 23, 2015 umberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites, china
Since some two centuries ago, there has been a Thai translation rendered from the Chinese classic “San Kuo Chih Yen-i” (สามกก in Thai) and part of the story (which chapter/section? I’d verify soon) was once assigned to lower secondary school students to study for the test and examination in the late 1950’s- early 1960’s. Later I read some stories taken from this Thai classic, entertainingly written by ยาขอบ (transliterated from ‘Jacob’), one of the famous Thai novelists, who, once in a while, me ...more
Lindsay Leshin
Again, the trouble with British translators is that they use Cantonese spelling for everything, which really threw me off when I was trying to figure out what cities they were conquering or attacking and my mental map of China was totally thrown of kilter. But with the help of google and a bit of translating (-king=jing, etc.), I was able to somewhat decipher the locations. That aside, this was a better translation than Dream of the Red Chamber; it flowed nicely and it was much more enjoyable to ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Kaiyuli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have to say that this is one of the greatest historical fiction books that I have ever read. It not only focuses on amazing battles with honorable heroes but also on domestic issues such as court corruption and politics. Although this is one of the few sources we have about China during the Three Kingdoms era, it is so descriptive and detailed that it provides so much detail. I remember going to school everyday in China and listening not to music, but instead to a radio broadcaster readi ...more
Nov 12, 2010 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have heard this story from my parents countless times over the years and I have just realize that I have been playing a game called Dynasty Warriors, which is based off of this book "Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol.1" I have looked around the internet and found out that this book is ancient! There may be some fiction throughout this book, but it contains historical events that are somewhat real, just with a little drama in the book. The book is very long, but enjoyable. Things that I didn't ...more
May 20, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One time I decided that I would look into the story that inspired the Dynasty Warriors video games, which at the time I spent a significant amount of time playing. I read an edition that was available entirely online and free, so I guess I might question the translation, but it was cool to immerse in a period of history that they don't exactly teach you about in your high school world history class. Trying to write these thoughts five years later it's tough to describe what I liked about it. It' ...more
Tough going. Two stars for the ability to write an epic and translate it. Lost stars for too many charecters (where did you come from? have you appeared before? I'll try to remember you. ...o dear you've been killed off? What other name do you have? doesn't someone have same name as you? ) and no who's who or map to help the reader. Some touching interesting moments but lost in the monotonous battle after battle. Who were these people I had been so excited to read about and get lost in their epi ...more
Eustacia Tan
Jun 24, 2016 Eustacia Tan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nlb-ereads
I'm actually a bit ashamed to say that I've never read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms until now. All I know about the story are the excerpts from Chinese class/Chinese tuition, and stuff from dramas. So clearly this is something that has to be remedied. However, my Chinese isn't the best, so I opted to read a translation.

The story is too complicated to describe. Basically, a bunch of people scheme and fight and betray one another in order to gain power. Of course, there are a few characters w
It's very long and often full of tedious military machinations, but it's also punctuated by exciting, gruesome, tragic, and otherworldy moments--so I think it's worth it. On to volume two!
S Wobbegong
Mar 21, 2014 S Wobbegong rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whew, this was a great but remarkably difficult read for someone who has never even so much as looked at translated Chinese stuff before.

The actual battles are the most boring part of the book. It's the tactics, deceit and planning where all the intrigue is. Someone double crossing this guy to get to this guy and letters being sent to invoke rage against X by Y to benefit Z. It's a real network of inter relationships and keeping up with everything and everyone and who's backing who is something
David Harrison
Sep 27, 2015 David Harrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Note: This is a review of both volumes I and II together.)

As a foray into reading the four major Chinese classics (四大名著), I decided to start with Romance of the Three Kingdoms as it has the earliest setting (3rd Century AD) and some very well-known and beloved characters in Chinese culture. It is also often considered one of the first Chinese novels.

I approached this book with some background knowledge of the setting, the revisions the story has been through, and the problem of authorship – Luo
Ryan Jiorle
Apr 21, 2016 Ryan Jiorle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because I grew up playing the Dynasty Warriors video game series, which covers the same saga. What's so fascinating about this book is that it brings sense to all of the battles that make up the games. There is loyalty and betrayal, highs and lows, fighting and strategy. It gives a lot of insight into Chinese history and customs of the time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of typos in this translation, especially with a lot of the characters suddenly having different spellin ...more
Kike Mtz
Jun 14, 2016 Kike Mtz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start. This has been one of the most insufferable books I've read in years. It is not bad, though. I just think it's overrated. I can understand its cultural significance and all that, but that doesn't exempt it from literary criticism.
The book is really long. There are so many characters you forget you had read about them in previous pages. In my opinion, one of the main problems for us Westerners is remembering the names. Even though they are Romanized, it is really hard
Tony Wang
Jun 05, 2015 Tony Wang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to recommend a special book named Three Kingdoms of Romance to everybody,if you like reading books,I am pretty sure you will like this.Doubt my mind?Just read it,you will find I am right.This book – part historical, part legend, and part mythical – romanticists and dramatics the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who tried to replace the dwindling Han dynasty or restore it. While the novel follows hundreds of characters, the focus is mainly on the three power blocs that emerged f ...more
Kaitlyn Utkewicz
"Liu Pei is a dragon among men. All his life hitherto he has never found his element, but now that he has obtained Chingchou it is as if the dragon, once captive, has escaped to the mighty deep. There is good reason for me to quake with fear."

What kept me interested in the first half of this epic was the political intrigue. The battles were very monotonous. It is what happens between battles that makes this epic so extraordinary. The trickery, the switching sides, even magic. Chuko Liang is a f
Jun 06, 2010 Hazel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Chris. I must admit that I persevered with this 689-page first volume simply because I've seen and enjoyed John Woo's Chi bi (Red Cliff), which I understand was based in part on the related 3rd century Chinese historical text Records of Three Kingdoms. The movie was both arty and exciting; the novel, not so much.

Still, it's intriguing stuff. I'm interested to find that that battling for an empire involves as much duplicity, treachery, and down-right dirty pool as military strategy
Wesley Fox
Dec 14, 2013 Wesley Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (ROTK) is an epic from the ancient/medieval era of China. This is a translation from the original text and you definitely get a sense of the struggles of translating Chinese into English. Some of the sentences and their structure are strange, and don't fit well. Still, one can understand it. The translator and editor also didn't try to utilize a wide English vocabulary to replace the Chinese characters. So the language is simple, repetitive and can get boring compar ...more
Don J.
Sep 19, 2011 Don J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are few pieces of literature that offer both a captivating narrative and a close look into the life and times of an era. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of them. Based loosely of the records of the three kingdoms --a century long power struggle within China. Volume one takes readers from the beginning of the fall of the Han Empire all the way through the battle of Red Cliff --the battle that brought about the era of the Three Kingdoms.

The main protagonist of the story is Liu Bei, a s
Chris Watson
Aug 26, 2009 Chris Watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Well it's 1200 pages, written in an old fashioned style, and the translation is a bit wooden, so I admit I zoned out more than once or twice...

...but for all that, it was fascinating.

Although not on the same level as 'The Decline and Fall of Imperial Rome,' it has much the same impact. The story is terrifying, the characters are appalling, and yet it's largely true (although 'The Romance' is far more fanciful than 'The Decline and Fall').

The Han Empire is crumbling, Central authorit
Eli Jennings
Apr 10, 2015 Eli Jennings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down one of my favourite stories ever. The writing is ancient and lacks all the finesse of modern prose, but the plot itself is the grandest you'll ever find. It covers decades of history and charts the rise and fall of would-be kings in one of the most turbulent periods of Chinese history.
If you can look past the rough prose you will doubtless discover an unbelievably addicting story that will leave you wondering what can possibly happen next.
Al Maki
Oct 08, 2014 Al Maki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I haven't had much success with old Chinese narratives. They tend to leave out a lot of what brings writing to life for me and as a result read like lists of events. Since the characters values are more or less alien to me I often don't have any idea of their motivations and when you add that to the sketchiness of the narrative it just doesn't move me. When that goes on for a thousand pages or so my interest tends to go to another book, which is why I've set this aside more than once.
Having said
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Luo Ben (c. 1330–1400), better known by his style name Luo Guanzhong (罗贯中) (Mandarin pronunciation: [lwɔ kwantʂʊŋ]), was a Chinese writer who lived during the Yuan Dynasty. He was also known by his pseudonym Huhai Sanren (Chinese: 湖海散人; pinyin: Húhǎi Sǎnrén; literally "Leisure Man of Lakes and Seas"). Luo was attributed with writing Romance of the Three Kingdoms and editing Water Margin, two of th ...more
More about Luo Guanzhong...

Other Books in the Series

The Three Kingdoms (3 books)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 2
  • The Three Kingdoms: Welcome The Tiger (The Three Kingdoms, #3)

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“The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity. ” 19 likes
“On and on the Great River rolls, racing east.
Of proud and gallant heros its white-tops leave no trace,
As right and wrong, pride and fall at once unreal
Yet ever the green hill stay
To blaze in the west-waning day...”
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