Romance of the Three Kingdoms

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  • Written: 14th century?
  • Published: 1522
  • Other Names: 三国演義 (C: Sānguó Yǎnyì / J: Sangoku engi)
  • Chinese / Japanese: 三国志 (Sānguó zhì / Sangokushi)

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is among the earliest and most famous Chinese novels. It is attributed to a 14th century author, but was first published in 1522, being republished in twenty further editions before the end of the Ming Dynasty.

The story concerns a series of famous figures, including Cao Cao, Guan Yu, and Zhuge Liang, who vied for power in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history which followed the fall of the Han Dynasty in 220.

The Romance gained wide popularity in Japan as well, being published in numerous editions, and referenced in countless other works in the Edo period; it remains present in the popular consciousness today, appearing in anime, manga, video games and the like.


  • Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire, New York: W.W. Norton & Company (2000), 392.