In China, as in the West, fiction is a late development in the literary scene and serious fiction criticism is correspondingly a recent endeavor. The similarity goes further in the case of the historical novel, which critics of Chinese and Western fiction alike have either consciously avoided or customarily regarded with critical disfavor. In the Chinese case, the San-Kuo chih yen-i (The Three Kingdoms) is the only historical novel which has received constant serious attention, but many of its features are exceptions rather than rules.2 One will look in vain for anything as essential as a general survey of elements basic to works of this genre.3 For a genre so numerically significant, the unavoidable sketchiness of such a preliminary outline as the present one may be compensated for by a selective coverage. Here the main concerns are the most important themes and certain related contextual characteristics.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.