Greatest Literature banner

The Greatest Literature of China

This Greatest Literature of China list is based on the same extensive research and surveys carried out over the past two decades for our Greatest Literature of All Time list, augmented by recent research specifically concerning Asian literature.

It encompasses works by writers who have, for the most part, resided and written in China. Expatriates whose works were created or published after they left China are generally not included here but may be featured in listings for other countries or regions.

This list focuses on major creative works—such as novels, plays, epic poetry and story collections—although some shorter or nonfiction writing of literary significance may also be included.

One further note: this is an early crack at creating a guide to great Chinese literature. This list is expected to grow as our research into older works continues and new works appear. Check back for updates.

Latest update: July 21, 2023

The 88 Greatest Works of Chinese Literature

c.1000–0600 BCE
Classic of Poetry
Various
China
Poems
c.500 BCE
The Art of War
Sun Tzu
China
Nonfiction
c.400 BCE
Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu
China
Nonfiction
c.300 BCE
The Mencius
Mencius
China
Nonfiction
 
Zhuangzi
Zhuang Zhou
China
Stories
c.200 BCE
The Analects
Confucius
China
Nonfiction
c.290
Records of Diverse Matters
Zhang Hua
China
Stories
c.750
Selected Poems
Li Bai
China
Poems
c.800
The Collected Songs of Cold Mountaine
Hanshan
China
Poems
c.900
The Butterfly Lovers
Anonymous
China
Story
c.1300
The Chalk Circle
Li Qianfu
China
Play
 
Romance of the Western Chamber
Wang Shifu
China
Play
c.1360–1400
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Luo Guanzhong
China
Novel
c.1360–1589
Water Margin
Shi Nai'an, Luo Guanzhong
China
Novel
c.1590
The Golden Lotus
Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng
China
Novel
1592
Journey to the West
Wu Cheng'en
China
Novel
1598
The Peony Pavilion
Tang Xianzu
China
Play
1605
Investiture of the Gods
Xu Zhonglin
China
Novel
1620
Stories to Enlighten the World
Feng Menglong
China
Stories
c.1640
A Supplement to the Journey to the West
Dong Yue
China
Novel
c.1680
The Palace of Eternal Life
Hong Sheng
China
Play
1699
The Peach Blossom Fan
Kong Shangren
China
Play
1750
The Scholars
Wu Jingzi
China
Novel
c.1750
Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee
Anonymous
China
Stories
c.1763
Three Hundred Tang Poems
ed. Sun Zhu
China
Poems
1766
Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Pu Songling
China
Stories
1791–1792
Dream of the Red Chamber
Cao Xueqin
China
Novel
1809
Six Records of a Floating Life
Shen Fu
China
Memoir
1827
Flowers in a Mirror
Li Ruzhen
China
Novel
1878
An Heroic Legend of the Sons and Daughters
Wen Kang
China
Novel
1879
The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants
Shi Yukun
China
Novel
1890
The Five Younger Gallants
Shi Yukun
China
Novel
1903–1905
Officialdom Unmasked
Li Baojia
China
Novel
1905–1928
A Flower in a Sinful Sea
Jin Tianhe, Zeng Pu
China
Novel
1907
The Travels of Lao Can
Liu E
China
Novel
1909
Bizarre Happenings Eyewitnessed Over Two Decades
Wu Jianren
China
Novel
1918
A Madman's Diary
China
Story
c.1919
China
Novella
1927
Wild Grass
China
Poems
1933
Family
Pa Chin
China
Novel
1935
Old Tales Retold
China
Stories
1937
Rickshaw Boy
Lao She
China
Novel
1943
Love in a Fallen City
Eileen Chang
China
Novella
1947
Fortress Besieged
Qian Zhongshu
China
Novel
1947
Cold Nights
Pa Chin
China
Novel
1950
Half a Lifelong Romance
Eileen Chang
China
Novel
1952
A Many-Splendoured Thing
Han Suyin
China
Novel
1957
Teahouse
Lao She
China
Novel
1961
Red Crag
Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan
China
Novel
1963–1966
Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Jin Yong
China
Novel
1967
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
Jin Yong
China
Novel
1972
The Deer and the Cauldron
Jin Yong
China
Novel
1978
The Orient
Wei Wei
China
Novel
1979
Lust, Caution
Eileen Chang
China
Novella
 
My City: A Hong Kong Story
Xi Xi
China
Novel
1981
Leaden Wings
Zhang Jie
China
Novel
1985
White deer Plain
Chen Zhongshi
China
Novel
1985
Half of Man is Woman
Zhang Xianliang
China
Novel
1986–1987
Red Sorghum
Mo Yan
China
Novel
1986–1988
Ordinary World
Lu Yao
China
Novel
1987
The Ancient Ship
Zhang Wei
China
Novel
 
Life and Death in Shanghai
Zheng Nian
China
Memoir
1990
Soul Mountain
Gao Xingjian
China
Novel
1991
Wild Swans
Jung Chang
China
Nonfiction novel
1993
To Live
Yu Hua
China
Novel
1995
Chronicle of a Blood Merchant
Yu Hua
China
Novel
1996
Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novellas
Su Tong
China
Novellas
 
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow
Wang Anyin
China
Novel
1997
The Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
China
Nonfiction
 
Red Scarf Girl
Ji-li Jiang
China
Memoir
 
Falling Leaves
Adeline Yen Mah
China
Memoir
1999
Chinese Cinderella
Adeline Yen Mah
China
Memoir
2004
Wolf Totem
Jiang Rong
China
Novel
2004–2011
The Jiangnan Trilogy
Ge Fei
China
Novels
incl. Peach Blossom Paradise, My Dream of the Mountain and River, Spring Ends in Jiangnan
2005
The Shaanxi Opera
Jia Pingwa
China
Novel
2005–2006
Brothers
Yu Hua
China
Novel
2006
Dream of Ding Village
Yan Lianke
China
Novel
Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
Mo Yan
China
Novel
2008
Massage
Bi Feiyu
China
Novel
 
The Dark Forest
Liu Cixin
China
Novel
 
The Three-Body Problem
Liu Cixin
China
Novel
2009
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Grace Lin
China
Novel
 
The Vagrants
Li Yiyun
China
Novel
 
One Sentence Is Ten Thousand Sentences
Liu Zhenyun
China
Novel
 
Frog
Mo Yan
China
Novel
2010
Death's End
Liu Cixin
China
Novel
 
China in Ten Words
Yu Hua
China
Essays
2015–2016
Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
China
Novel

Back to top of page