Lifestyle, Stories

5 Chinese Book Recommendations

With everything that has happened this year, such as the global pandemic and the typhoons, many of us can’t help but wish that we could escape to a different world. With literature, we can do just that.

Here are some Chinese books for a satisfying reading experience throughout the lockdown:

1. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese-American physician and author Adeline Yen Mah narrates painful memories of her childhood in this non-fiction novel. The book chronicles the author’s experience of growing up in an abusive home in China with a cruel and wealthy family. They consider her “bad luck” since her birth mother died from a fever two weeks after she was born.

She goes on to spend years trying to win her family’s affection and acceptance. While she details her struggles, she also writes about her inspiring resilience and heartwarming triumphs.

2. Art of War by Sun Tzu

 This world-renowned book is filled with remarkable military strategies and philosophies that have influenced both East Asian and Western philosophy and military thinking. It was written by famed Chinese general and military strategist, Sun Tzu. Art of War also has something for everyone as its principles can apply to various facets of life.

“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

— Sun Tzu


3. Broken Stars by Ken Lui

The Broken Stars anthology consists of a diverse set of sixteen Chinese science fiction and fantasy short stories, each portraying alternate realities. It even has horror elements and includes Chinese wuxia, a martial arts genre in Chinese literature.

With his body of work, Ken Lui, a multiple Hugo award-winning author, has paved the way for more science fiction and fantasy short stories from Chinese writers.

4. Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

Did you know there are Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature? And this universally acclaimed book is one of them. It’s a semi-historical novel that was written around 1368 AD by Chinese author Luo Guanzhong, using an informal but conversational style.

Set during the chaotic period of historical China’s dwindling Han Dynasty, the novel is a dramatization of the lives and relationships of outlaws and people in power. Its themes include war, politics, and morality, depicting an epic picaresque tale.


5. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en

Journey to the West is also considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature and one of the most popular novels in East Asia. The story is said to be loosely based on real life events. It has four separate volumes with the first one consisting of 100 chapters — perfect for the never-ending lockdown.

The book depicts the adventurous and comical journey of a monk to obtain Buddhist scriptures in India. Readers can follow the monk, together with four supernatural disciples, as he travels across the desert wastes of Chinese Central Asia to India during the 7th century.  Furthermore, the novel reflects Chinese folk religion and mythology, along with known Chinese philosophies and religions. 

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