Discover the 7 Best Chinese Fantasy Books to Read Now

Chinese fantasy literature has a rich and varied history that dates back thousands of years. It has been influenced by ancient mythology, religious beliefs, and Chinese culture. As a result, there is a wide range of fantastical stories and thrilling adventures to discover. In this article, we dive into the best Chinese fantasy books and novels that will take you on a fascinating journey through China’s literary world.

Discover the 7 Best Chinese Fantasy Books to Read Now

The Rich History of Chinese Fantasy Literature

Chinese fantasy literature has a long and storied history, boasting thousands of stories and works that span centuries. These stories were not always written down but told through oral tradition, and they inspire today’s modern Chinese fantasy novels. Let’s explore the foundation of this marvelous genre.

Ancient Chinese Mythology and Folklore

Ancient Chinese mythology and folklore are the bedrock of fantasy literature in China. These tales involve mythical creatures, spirits, gods, and heroes. Early examples include Shan Hai Jing (山海经), a compilation of geographical and mythological texts written during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). Another classic is Investiture of the Gods (封神榜), a 16th-century mythological novel that portrays Chinese gods and mythological figures in epic battles.

Folktales like Mulan and journey to the west contributed significantly to Chinese fantasy literature, these served as a base for many books written in later times.

The Influence of Taoism and Buddhism

Both Taoism and Buddhism have played essential roles in shaping Chinese fantasy literature. Taoism, an indigenous Chinese religion, emphasizes the harmony of the human soul with nature and the cosmos, leading to many fantastical settings and elements in the literature. Buddhism, introduced to China in the first century AD, brought with it the concept of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, which also plays a crucial role in many Chinese fantasy stories.

The influence of these religions can be seen in popular tales such as Journey to the West, wherein the Monkey King searches for Buddhist texts.

The Four Classic Novels of Chinese Literature

Four novels are widely considered the pillars of classical Chinese literature: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber. They were written between the 14th and 18th centuries and incorporate fantasy elements, such as magic, reincarnation, and the intervention of gods, that have influenced countless writers and have established timeless narratives.

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

The Romance of Three Kingdoms

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong, is a historical novel set in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD) of Chinese history. The novel tells the story of the struggle for power among the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu. It is a tale of loyalty, betrayal, and honor, with memorable characters such as Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Cao Cao.

Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai’an

Outlaws of the Marsh

Water Margin, also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, is a novel written by Shi Nai’an in the 14th century. It tells the story of a group of 108 outlaws who band together to fight against corrupt officials and defend the common people. The novel is known for its colorful characters and exciting action scenes, as well as its exploration of themes such as justice, loyalty, and brotherhood.

Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en

(Journey to the West (Real Reads)) [By: Wu Cheng'en] [Jun, 2011]

Journey to the West, written by Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century, is a novel that follows the adventures of the Monkey King as he travels to India to retrieve Buddhist sutras. Along the way, he encounters a variety of creatures and characters, including the pig demon Zhu Bajie and the monk Xuanzang. The novel is known for its humor, action, and exploration of Buddhist themes.

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

The Dream of the Red Chamber (Tuttle Classics)

Dream of the Red Chamber, written by Cao Xueqin in the 18th century, is a novel that tells the story of the decline of a wealthy family in the Qing dynasty. The novel explores themes such as love, family, and the role of women in society. It is also known for its vivid descriptions of gardens and architecture, as well as its exploration of Chinese poetry and music.

These four novels have had a profound influence on Chinese literature and culture, inspiring countless adaptations in film, television, and other media.

The Rise of Wuxia and Xianxia Novels

In modern times, Chinese fantasy literature has branched out into exciting sub-genres, with wuxia and xianxia leading the way. These genres combine action, adventure, and the mystical elements of traditional Chinese culture, creating thrilling stories filled with martial arts, immortals, and epic battles between good and evil.

Wuxia and xianxia novels are beloved by readers for their captivating storylines, memorable characters, and unique blend of fantasy and martial arts. These genres have a rich history in Chinese literature, dating back to the 20th century, and have only grown in popularity in recent years.

Wuxia: Martial Heroes and Chivalry

Wuxia novels center around martial arts heroes who uphold the code of chivalry, protecting the weak and fighting injustice. They feature a world with a parallel society of martial sects, clans, and supernatural abilities derived from martial cultivation or secret martial arts techniques. Classic wuxia authors include Jin Yong (Louis Cha), Gu Long, and Liang Yusheng, who contributed to popularizing the genre with stories like The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.

Wuxia novels are known for their intricate plotlines, complex characters, and vivid descriptions of martial arts. They often feature themes of loyalty, honor, and sacrifice, and explore the struggles of characters who must navigate a dangerous and unpredictable world.

Despite being a relatively niche genre, wuxia novels have gained a global following in recent years, with translations of classic works and new releases attracting readers from all over the world.

Xianxia: Immortals and Cultivation

Xianxia novels are heavily influenced by Taoism and Chinese mythology, featuring stories about characters pursuing immortality or godhood through cultivation. This genre often features a mix of magic, martial arts, and supernatural beings, such as heavenly realms, mythological creatures, and celestial beings. Some popular xianxia stories include I Shall Seal the Heavens by Er Gen and Coiling Dragon by I Eat Tomatoes.

Xianxia novels are known for their immersive world-building, intricate magic systems, and larger-than-life characters. They often explore themes of power, destiny, and the struggle between good and evil.

Like wuxia, xianxia has gained a global following in recent years, with translations and adaptations of popular works reaching readers across the world.

Popular Wuxia and Xianxia Authors to Explore

Some popular Chinese fantasy authors worth exploring include Jin Yong, Gu Long, Liang Yusheng, Er Gen, I Eat Tomatoes, and Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. Works by these authors have been translated into multiple languages and have captured the imagination of readers worldwide.

Whether you’re a fan of martial arts, mythology, or epic fantasy, wuxia and xianxia novels offer a unique and exciting reading experience. With their captivating characters, intricate world-building, and thrilling action sequences, these genres continue to captivate readers around the world.

Modern Chinese Fantasy Books

Modern Chinese fantasy literature continues to evolve, combining traditional themes with new ideas and introducing them to an ever-growing international audience. These stories encompass everything from urban fantasy to epic sagas, offering readers a vast array of fantastical worlds to explore.

The Journey of Chinese Fantasy to the West

Chinese fantasy novels have gained popularity in the West thanks to large-scale translations of web novels and mainstream publications, introducing millions of readers to this rich literary heritage. Some well-known examples include the wuxia novel Legends of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood, and the xianxia novel Cradle series by Will Wight.

Translations of Chinese web novels have also proliferated on platforms such as Wuxiaworld, Gravity Tales, and Webnovel, offering readers easy access to a broad range of stories.

Award-Winning Chinese Fantasy Novels

Some Chinese fantasy novels have garnered critical acclaim and won prestigious awards, showcasing the depth and breadth of China’s literary contributions. One notable example is The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. This sci-fi epic draws on Chinese history and culture while exploring the nature of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Other notable Chinese fantasy award winners include Ma Boyong’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune and Hao Jingfang’s Folding Beijing, both of which have received international recognition.

Contemporary Chinese Fantasy Authors to Watch

Some new Chinese fantasy authors are making waves in the literary scene, attracting attention with their innovative stories and imaginative worlds. These contemporary authors include Chen Qiufan, Xia Jia, and Ken Liu, who have published works in both Chinese and English, reaching an increasingly diverse audience.

These authors explore various themes, from urban fantasy to post-apocalyptic settings, offering readers fresh perspectives on Chinese fantasy literature.

The Best Chinese Fantasy Book Series

Many of the best Chinese fantasy stories come in the form of series, allowing readers to immerse themselves in richly detailed universes filled with memorable characters, stunning plotlines, and epic adventures.

The Condor Trilogy by Jin Yong

Legends of the Condor Heroes

The Condor Trilogy is a collection of three interconnected wuxia novels written by Jin Yong, one of the genre’s most celebrated authors. The series includes The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes, and The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber. These stories have been adapted into movies, television series, comics, and video games, making them an ideal starting point for readers new to wuxia literature.

The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles by Xu Lei

The Grave Robbers' Chronicles

The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles, also known as The Lost Tomb, is a series of adventure fantasy novels by Xu Lei. The story follows a group of tomb raiders as they explore ancient Chinese tombs and uncover long-lost treasures, all while navigating traps, supernatural beings, and the machinations of rival tomb raiders. Fans of adventure and mystery will enjoy this thrilling series.

The Three-Body Problem Trilogy by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem (The Three-Body Problem Series Book 1)

The Three-Body Problem Trilogy, also known as the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, is a critically acclaimed sci-fi saga by Liu Cixin. The books include The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End. This epic story explores humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial beings and the grand sweep of human history as it intertwines with the fate of the cosmos. The series has earned widespread international praise and is a must-read for fans of science fiction and Chinese literature alike.

In conclusion, Chinese fantasy literature offers readers an expansive and fascinating journey into a unique world of mythology, history, and culture. With this guide, you’ll have an excellent starting point for discovering some of the best Chinese fantasy books available today! Immerse yourself in these fantastical tales and experience the breadth of China’s rich literary landscape.


Who writes the best Chinese fantasy books?

There are several contenders for the best author of Chinese fantasy fiction. Fans of the genre often cite Jin Yong, Cixin Liu, and Xu Lei as the best writers in the genre.

Are all fantasy books part of a series?

No, not necessarily. There are many standalone Chinese fantasy novels for readers who want to quickly delve into a fantasy narrative without committing to three or more books.

What are the tropes of Chinese fantasy books?

Chinese fantasy novels are predominantly influenced by ancient Chinese folklore and mythology. As such, these books often feature mythological creatures and gods. Taoism and Buddhism have also had a massive influence on the genre.

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Eddison Monroe
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