四 sì (4)
大 dà (big (great))
名著 míngzhù (famous book; famous work)
are the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of classical Chinese fiction. Well known to most Chinese readers of the 21st century, they are not to be confused with the Four Books of Confucianism.
The works are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classical novels, influencing the creation of many stories, theater, movies, games, and other entertainment throughout East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
In chronological order, they are:
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese: 三 國 演 義; pinyin: sān guó yǎn yì) (14th century) more recently translated as, simply, Three Kingdoms
- Water Margin (Chinese: 水 滸 傳; pinyin: shuǐ hǔ zhuàn) also known as Outlaws of the Marsh (14th century)
- Journey to the West (Chinese: 西 遊 記; pinyin: xī yóu jì) (16th century)
- Dream of the Red Chamber (Chinese: 紅 樓 夢; pinyin: hóng lóu mèng) also known as The Story of the Stone, (Chinese: 石 頭 記; pinyin: shí tóu jì) (18th century)