• Highlight, take notes, and search in the book
"Idema and West have been collaborating on the production of scholarly works on, and translations of, Chinese vernacular literature for decades and work has set a very high standard for scholarly value, accuracy, and readability. This is their second volume on popular treatments of the famous Three Kingdoms period, a fascinating age that, as a topic, has dominated both traditional Chinese fiction and drama. . . . Records of the Three Kingdoms in Plain Language . . . presents a comprehensive introduction to all of the main characters (Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Cao Cao, Zhou Yu, etc.) and events (the Oath in the Peach Garden, The Battle at the Red Cliff, The Single Sword Meeting, etc.) that are so well known in China and deserve to be even better known in the West."
—David Rolston, University of Michigan
"A rollicking story cycle translated into lively English and ideal for undergraduate instruction. Also a crisp yet well annotated Introduction. Idema and West are two the best!"
—Paul R. Goldin, University of Pennsylvania
"The anonymous compiler of Records of the Three Kingdoms in Plain Language did not attempt to include all of the rich tapestry of narratives then available on the events of the Three Kingdoms era. Compared to the later Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it is significantly shorter . . . action and dialogue are prioritized over description, creating a narrative that is fast-paced and easy to read.
"As with their earlier works, West and Idema skillfully navigate the tensions inherent in literary translation. The text succeeds in the difficult task of sticking close to the linguistic contours of the original text while producing a readable and enjoyable English rendering.
"Plentiful notes explain historical and cultural references, anachronisms and historical inaccuracies, and discuss translation choices and their rationale. More supporting information is provided in the in-depth introduction to the history and legend of the Three Kingdoms era, the plain tale form in general, and this work in particular, while the thorough bibliography in English and Chinese is a valuable resource for research on the topic. The rigorous approach to the translation further contributes to its value as a resource.
"Overall, this is a welcome and high quality addition to the existing English translations of early Chinese narrative literature, and a fantastic resource for research on both the Three Kingdoms story cycle and the plain tale form."
—Ewan MacDonald, University of London, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
The saga of the Three Kingdoms—which recounts the dramatic story of the civil wars (ca. 180–220 CE) that divided the old Han Empire into the Shu, Wei, and Wu states—remains as popular as ever in China, having served as the basis of not only traditional operas and ballads, but also, in more recent years, of movies, television dramas, and video games.
Translated into English for the first time here, the Sanguozhi pinghua (thirteenth century CE) provides a complete and fast-paced narrative account of the events of the period, from the beginning of the civil wars to the demise of the Three Kingdoms and the short-lived reunification of the realm by the Jin dynasty. Shorter, clearer, and more accessible to Western audiences than Luo Guanzhong’s later, greatly expanded Romance (Sanguo yanyi)—and beautifully rendered in this edition by two modern-day masters of the art of Chinese literary translation—the Records of the Three Kingdoms in Plain Language provides an ideal introduction to one of the foundational Chinese epic traditions.
Tables of major Chinese dynasties and reigns, a guide to understanding formal Chinese naming conventions, a glossary of Chinese names and terms, and reproductions of some woodcuts from the original edition of the text are included.
Wilt L. Idema is Research Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University.
Stephen H. West is Foundation Professor of Chinese, Arizona State University.