The four classic novels of “Water Margin”, “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, “Journey to the West” and “Dream of Red Mansions” are regarded as the four famous classics of China. Even if you have not read the original works, you must have seen the relevant film and television works, then why are the four major works? Masterpieces, not the five major and six great masterpieces?

Why isn't the origin of China's four famous classics?
Why isn’t the origin of China’s four famous classics?

In fact, the origin of the current “four great masterpieces” is the history of the past fifty-six years after the founding of the People’s Republic.

A long time ago, the ancients liked to put together a number of works, crowning a general term, such as:

During the Ming Dynasty, Wang Shizhen listed “Historical Records”, “Zhuangzi”, “Water Margin” and “West Chamber” as the so-called “four great books of the universe”;

Feng Menglong also called “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, “Water Margin”, “Journey to the West” and “Jin Ping Mei” as “four great books”;

During the Qing Dynasty, Jin Shengtan rated “Zhuangzi”, “Li Sao”, “Historical Records”, “Du Shi”, “Water Margin” and “West Chamber” as “The Six Great Talents of the World”;

In the Republic of China, Hu Shi said: “My country’s first-rate novels, ancient Wei “Water Margin”, “Journey to the West”, “The History of Confucianism” and “Dream of Red Mansions”.

None of the above statements is the current four masterpieces.

Between 1949 and 1966 after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Literature Publishing House should publish the plan requirements (the key points), and successively printed the “Water Margin” – 2.67 million copies, “Three Kingdoms” – 6.46 million copies, “Red House” – 2.84 million The book, “Journey to the West” – 3.79 million volumes, was the largest number of books in classical literature at that time, which caused great repercussions and left a deep impression on people.

During the Cultural Revolution, the printing of these four books was banned. In 1971, Premier Zhou instructed some novels to start reprinting. The writer Shen Congwen said in a letter to his friends: [The legendary eight kinds of old books were banned in the “Three Kingdoms” and “Water Margin” The four major works of “Journey to the West”, “Dream of Red Mansions”, for the purpose of adding new annotations for editing, he called these four books four major works, and the four famous works have been relatively close. Due to the “book shortage”, the “Four Masterpieces” almost became a must-read for people at that time.

By the 1980s, the sayings of the “Four Masterpieces” had begun to spread. In some literary theories, they began to use the four famous books to refer to these four books, and published them in the name of “Four Masterpieces”. The novel is a thing of the 1990s.

In short, the saying “four great masterpieces” is after 1949, accompanied by the spread of the “Three Kingdoms”, “Water Margin”, “Journey to the West” and “Dream of Red Mansions”, which gradually emerged and became popular. of. In other words, these books are called “four great masterpieces”, which does not mean that they are the highest-level works in classical novels, but for a variety of reasons, they have the most readers, and the conventions are common.

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