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Three Kingdoms

(Four Great Classic Novels of China)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  4,633 ratings  ·  373 reviews
Complete and unabridged, Moss Roberts's translation provides an authoritative, annotated English-language version of one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

"The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." With this characterization of the inevitable cycle of Chinese history, the monumental tale Three Kingdoms b
Paperback, 4-Volume Boxed Set, 2339 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Foreign Language Press (first published 1522)
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veronian Goodreads is not the best place for this answer - multiple editions by multiple translators have been grouped under a single book on Goodreads, which …moreGoodreads is not the best place for this answer - multiple editions by multiple translators have been grouped under a single book on Goodreads, which is why some reviews are for the abridged version and some are not, and also why the answers for this question all conflict with each other. If there is a Goodreads Librarian who sees this, please help clean this up!!!

Moss Roberts has put out both a full unabridged version (this 4-book set, also published in a 2-book set and 2-ebook set), and a separate shorter abridged version. Whichever edition you pick up, the intro by the translator will mention if it is abridged.

There is also a full, unabridged translation by C.H. Brewitt-Taylor, and an unabridged 3-volume translation by Yu Sumei and Ronald Iverson. (This is not a comprehensive list!)(less)
Hugo Simão Does bookdepository ship to Egypt? (if you haven't it yet)…moreDoes bookdepository ship to Egypt? (if you haven't it yet)(less)

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Dan Schwent
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oldies
Around the time the earth cooled and life spread across the continents, I was a huge fan of the game Destiny of an Emperor for the NES. Chinese generals with names I couldn't pronounce duking it out for the fate of China enthralled me.

Years later, I was thinking fondly of the game and decided to investigate the source, Three Kingdoms. Three Kingdoms is one of the four great classics of Chinese literature.

Imagine my surprise while on my 2300+ page journey that the story of the game wasn't very mu
E. G.
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Introduction, by Shi Changyu
--Three Kingdoms, Volume I

--Three Kingdoms, Volume II

--Three Kingdoms, Volume III

--Three Kingdoms, Volume IV
Principal Characters
Chronology of Main Events
List of Maps
Titles, Terms and Offices
Foreword, by John S. Service
Afterword: About 'Three Kingdoms' & Notes, by Moss Roberts
About the Translator
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
The historical novel recounts the kingdoms of Wu, Wei and Shu vying to dominate China proper after the fall of the Eastern Han dynasty.

Approximate Territories of the Three Kingdoms (Image from Yu Ninjie)

Not only are the heroic deeds memorable but the strategic up-onemanship among the kingdom reads like Machiavelli's The Prince. You can find many of the strategies from Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Recommended for all historical novel lovers.

A Portrait of Cao Cao, the Chancellor of the Kingdom of
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. All the characters, despite the fact that there are so many, are unique, and every character plays a part. When I started reading this book in March (I finished in June) I was studying China in my sixth grade class (If you are in sixth grade you should probably only read it if you have an intense interest in Chinese history) and it really helped me know a lot more about dynasties in general, how empires function, and how war is fought throughout Chinese history. It even influen ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There can be no equal. This is the book that makes all others pale in comparison.

I'm forced to compare this book to Game of Thrones due to the popularity of the TV series, as its all my friends ask about when talking about this book.

"How does it compare to Game of Thrones?"

It doesn't. This is not high fantasy.

To say it's a story about the fall of the Han dynasty and the various warlords scramble to fill the void does not due the book justice.

If you are looking for all the political maneuvering
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, china
Difficult to begin, but...

This novel, one of the great classic Chinese novels, is one of the more difficult texts for readers. While some others, like Journey to the West or The Marshes of Mount Liang, are much more easily accessible and entertaining right from the beginning, a feeling of disorientation is common for first readers of "Three Kingdoms". The story starts without introduction with the appearance of dozens of protagonists, and it's hard to keep track of all of them. At the end you wi
Volume Four, Finale
To gratify the desires of ear and eye without properly calculating the economic strength of the multitude is the sure road to oblivion.
Three and a half months later, I feel some amount of triumph and some amount of fatigue, and the book, while definitely a contributor, is hardly a significant one this far down the road. If you had told beginning me that end me would finish in the middle of a pandemic, freaking out would be a drastic understatement when describing the react
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
A wonderful translation of a complex historical epic. The Romance of Three Kingdoms covers the period 168 AD to 280 AD -- the collapse of the Han dynasty into three warring kingdoms, the Wei, Wu, and Shu; and (in the last chapter) their eventual reunification by the Jin dynasty. The story is rich with personalities, contests of wit and will, and military exploits. The heart of the story pits Liu Xuande, a virtuous, personable man who ultimately founds the Shu kingdom (with a lot of help from loy ...more
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Read the abridged version a while ago, but reading the Iliad made me think about this book again. Someday, I'd like to find and read the whole thing. It's a good look a Chinese war history. Just a heads up, there are several characters to keep track of and with similar names. The reason I read this though was because I enjoy learning about ancient China and because of the video game Dynasty Warriors. Having played that game actually helped me a little with who was who in the novel. ...more
hay man
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
i read this in high school and got beat up every day
Jim Peterson
Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written sometime around the 1400-1500’s (late Yuan to mid-Ming) and tells a dramatized version of the fall of the Han Dynasty and the three kingdoms period, spanning 168-280 A.D. over 2300+ pages.

And it’s not an easy read, at least at first. The first several hundred pages can be very confusing with dozens upon dozens of characters with difficult to remember names, coming and going with no way of telling whether they will be important characters or not.

Once you
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In a word: sprawling. This is certainly not a quick read; Guanzhong's epic contains hundreds of characters, battles, and events that need to be properly stored in memory for the reader to understand the novel. The book is roughly 70% historically accurate, which allows for a mostly-solid basis for the author to expand upon. This is not an unbiased record of the Three Kingdoms Era, as the Shu-Han faction, and Liu Bei in particular, is lionized while Cao Cao's Wei is often put in a negative light. ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The long-lived Han dynasty is finally succumbing to effects of a weak Emperor and corrupt government that is cause injustice throughout China resulting peasant revolts while nobles strive to reform the court. Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, probably, dramatizes the 112-year history of the end of the Han dynasty as the empire divided into the titular three kingdoms before being reunified under the Jin while being true to history for nearly the entire text.

The weakness of the Emperor Ling and his
Colin Hinde
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Volume I: This book is awesome. I'll fill in the review once I've read the other three volumes.

Volume II: The stuff of legends. Battle, intrigue, strategy, poetry, honor ..

Volume III: I almost lost interest in the first half, but was well-rewarded by the developments that followed.

Volume IV: "The empire long divided, must unite; long united, must divide." The conclusion kept me guessing up to the end. In this volume it was sad that Kongming died without reaching his goal, and sadder that the chi
More like Bromance of the Three Kingdoms amirite?!
Three friends swear in a peach orchard to be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. And they stick to it, avenging deaths and swearing allegiances with their relationship as the prime motivator. Many millions died for Xuande's OT3.
Five pages of Main Characters, a map with 50 cities most of them not the ones mentioned, this was worse than reading a Roman biography getting all the names straight.
The abridgement at first left something to be desired, but I realize i
Oct 31, 2015 marked it as to-read

I strongly believe you guys won't want to miss this anime/manga 'retelling' of the Three Kingdoms. LOL

You also won't want to miss this slightly Boy's Love version of 'retelling' either:

I admit I laughed my ass off when I was watching the few anime episodes of this one...

Looks like there still are some soft power left in Chinese classical literature after all...
I fucking love Three Kingdoms for many reasons and hope to reread it again in the future. I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would, to the point of getting Dynasty Warriors 8 and becoming interested in the Chinese history of the period. In this review I'll try to cover fair warnings to the reader, some notes on the Moss Roberts translation specifically, why this book had such a huge impact on me, and also just a couple things in it that I just particularly loved and wanted to high ...more
I started reading "The Three Kingdoms" a few weeks ago. I finished volume 1 this weekend. I'm reading the Moss Roberts translation as my Chinese is nowhere near good enough to tackle reading it in the original. I have to say I'm enjoying it much more than I thought I would. I have to say I think having played Dynasty Warriors 4 first really helped. With the cast of 100's having played the video game and been able to put faces to people helped keep them all straight a lot easier. I also think hav ...more
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
Really long, really good.

And what follows is a somewhat tedious review, so don't read it.

It's my first read-through and I'm not sure I can offer much in review. But my favorite characters were Zhao Zilong (for his bravery, honor, and integrity), Zhang Fei (for his heroic appetite), and Kongming (for his wisdom, but not so much for his pragmatism). Liu Bei, as portrayed, seemed to become less of the figure near the end, and this was a letdown, at least for my emotional attachment to him. Deng Ai
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
An exelent source if you are looking to find out more about the culture, society, morals and history of china (the last one is greatly helped by the essays in the afterword).
On the other hand, I would not recomend it as a leasure read for the most people. As a novel, it gets incredibly repetitive - unless you are a hardcore military strategy fan, there is only that many times before reading about two generals fighting, one feigning defeat and leading the other one into a trap gets old. To be fa
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is, without a doubt, one of the finest books I have ever read. Not only is the translation readable and enjoyable, but it also carries the elan of the original narrative!

At this stage, I would normally cut in with a negative aspect, some character I did not like, or other unfavourable opinions. What is remarkable about the 'Three Kingdoms' is that although it is not missing this aspect in the story, these people and events are written in such a way that it is clearly not the author's fault
This was ten times more epic then I anticipated it to be. Especially since this is about 90% historically accurate. The story spans generations and follows the sons and daughters of those whom you meet initially.

I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, it's very long, and some of the translations and names might be difficult for those with no exposure or knowledge of any of the Chinese dialects. I learned this first hand when I pushed these onto my friend's lap and he kept interchanging character
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I didn't get around to reading this book until after college, though I knew the basic story. One day, I will translate this whole book and give it the literary style it deserves. The current translations are all wretchedly dated, but the characters are incredible: 100's of them and all well-developed with their own quirks. It really puts the snooze-fest that is War and Peace to shame. ...more
Pure perfection. Cao Cao is one of the most intriguing figures I've ever read about. I really wanted to hate him but sometimes I couldn't help but be in awe of him. I loved him, then hated him, then loved him was just a rollercoaster. And its not just him, this book packed a whole lot of historical figures who were just as equally fascinating. ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cultural, 1001
I'm not well versed in Chinese names which makes it even more difficult to follow the abundance of undeveloped characters through the long series of battle to battle to battle.

Too long (If you get this in hard cover, you'd probably need a mule to carry it).
Andy Raptis
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-chinese
My favorite part is when the hospitable farmer, upon discovering there is no meat in the house to offer his very important guest, kills and cooks his wife.
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Truly an epic.
Sep 15, 2021 added it
Stopped reading at around page 1600 ages ago, as I became preoccupied with uni and now I'm back to reading again it's just too much to get back into. However I do think I got a lot of the information I wanted from the main points of the story, which is excellent by the way! I even chose to translate the tale of GuanYu flooding the seven armies as part of my degree.

Really really enjoyed it, this whole era of history is an absolute madness! The politics is incredibly engaging and interesting. It'
Sep 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a lot of fun. Great for its purpose. Definitely don’t expect historical accuracy or perfectly consistent timeline/characters; it would fail at that. However, I’m giving it 5 stars for sheer entertainment. Yes some chapters were boring, but overall it was good fun. Would love to hear it narrated by a storyteller in a traditional coffee shop ideally.

Side note: if you’re planning to read this, don’t cram too much. I started with 1 chapter per weekend, but changed my pace according to event
John Cravey
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Translation: Brewitt-Taylor, 120 chapters, 596186 words
(Suggestions for more enjoyable reading are at the bottom of his review.)

I’ve yet to run across another book that has done a better job of integrating combat action, strategy, tactics and politics. In spite of its length I never got tired of reading it. It leaves an impression the further you read—as I progressed through the book I noticed that I began to think more strategically--like a chess player.

This is a historical novel, not an author
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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

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