115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Chinese Game of Thrones: Romance of the Three Kingdom

Sherry Mou, DePauw University

This paper will look into how cultures are translated through different media, using Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Game of Thrones TV series as examples.


Until the Game of Thrones TV series became widely popular, a common complaint from students about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--and in effect most classical Chinese novels--was that there are too many characters.  True, sometimes a new character appears on top of a page and dies before the bottom.  In recent years, when I teach the novel, I always ask fans of Game of Thrones (usually at least half the class) if they had difficulty following who's who.  Of course, one got used to it.  Or, one (that's their uncool professor) downloads the genealogy chart and studies it.  The Three Kingdoms are like Game of Thrones in that there are so many clans, dynasties, houses, and characters that at times it seems impossible to follow the plot.  The simple comparison somehow quiets down the usual complaints, and students are more willing to dive into the 120 chapters of the Three Kingdoms

             Another bait gets students interested in the novel: the very popular video game Dynasty Warriors, based on the Three Kingdoms.  First released in 1997, its 8th official installment on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 came out in 2013, and the latest release Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed iOS version came out early this year.  The visuals attract, while the words do not.

             The Chinese readers see the Confucian ethics (loyalty, filiality, altruism, etc.), the Taoist virtues (yin and yang, destiny, fate, etc.), and the military strategies (the 36 Strategies and Art of War).  The TV and video game visuals translate some of them into forms more readily perceived by American students and omit others.  This paper will examine this process in more detail.