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A Study of Two Classics: A Cultural Critique of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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A Study of Two Classics:


China’s Gates of Hell

1. Literary Criticism and Cultural Criticism

In this book I want to critique two classics; namely, The Water Margin and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, two masterpieces of Chinese literature. What I intend to offer is not so much literary criticism but rather cultural criticism or, in other words, criticism of their cultural values.

Cultural criticism and literary criticism are quite different from each other. Focused on literature, literary criticism tries to explore the spiritual contents as well as the aesthetic forms of literature. In my opinion, literature has three essential components: spirituality, imagination, and aesthetic form. Literary criticism aims to analyze these three components. Conversely, concerned with the cultural awareness reflected in literary works, cultural criticism discusses the spiritual contents of literature rather than its aesthetic forms. It studies the spirituality of literature, not the function of imagination or aesthetic forms. To put it in another way, when one is engaged in cultural criticism one must put aside issues such as aesthetic form and imagination and confront cultural issues such as the spiritual orientation, worldview, cultural awareness, and humaneness