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rookie523
09-27-2004, 01:12 PM
Does anyone know of any good Asian historical fiction books?

I heard of one called Shogun which is supposedly similar to Last Samurai or the other way around.

Thanks

WordMan
09-27-2004, 01:23 PM
Shogun is, similar to the Last Samurai, about a Western (white) male ending up in Japan and experiencing that country's feudal system, culture, etc. I believe Shogun is set about 100 years before tLS.

I would characterize Shogun as a well-researched historical page-turner. It doesn't have much literary depth, but the characters are interesting and the plot moves along. I haven't run into complaints of historical inaccuracy.

I would recommend Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Only set a few decades ago, but with a foot firmly planted in the long tradition of geishas. More literary in writing style, but still a great page-turner and, again, I have not heart complaints regarding accuracy. The woman whom Golden interviewed as a source for the book complained about some literary license he took with events in her life and ended up writing a more straight-up autobiography, but that is different from "inaccuracy" to my mind....

Baker
09-27-2004, 01:28 PM
Shogun, by James Clavell, was loosely based on actual historical events, and takes place in Japan at the beginning of the 17th century.

The character of John Blackthorn was based on one Will Adams, an Englishy pilot who worked for Dutch employers. Toranaga, the daimyo who becomes his patron, was based on Ieyasu Tokugawa, who founded the shogunate that lasted until the Meiji Restoration of the 19th century.

The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, is a fine book. I never saw the movie made from it, but the actress playing one of the characters got an Academy Award I think. Although written by a Westerner, the story is entirely played out in the East. Kind of a sad book though.

I could name others, but I'm sure other Dopers will fill the void. And try googling too.

Green Bean
09-27-2004, 01:39 PM
Shogun is one of the most renowned novels of Asian historical fiction. James Clavell (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=CLAVELL%2C%252520JAMES/103-7881779-4811809) has written a boatload of 'em. I read Shogun long ago, but none of the others.

Some questions that will help us help you:

1. What constitutes "Asia" for the purposes of this question? I assume you are interested in China, Japan, and Korea. Are you interested in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as well? What about the Himalayas? The eastern part of Russia? The Middle East? The Pacific island nations?

2. What constitutes "historical?" How far back does it have to go?

3. Most importantly--how concerned are you with historical accuracy are you? Are you simply looking for good novels set in Asia's past, or are you trying to learn something about Asian history by reading historical novels?

In the meantime, here are a couple of suggestions:



Spring Moon (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0061001058/qid=1096308999/sr=ka-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-7881779-4811809) by Bette Bao Lord is a big multi-generation epic that spans the late 19th to mid-20th century. It is about Spring Moon, a daughter of a traditional wealthy Chinese family. It nicely illustrates the social, political, and economic upheavals of the time. This is a good read, and lesser known than the following two suggestions.

The Joy Luck Club (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0804106304/qid=1096309235/sr=ka-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-7881779-4811809) by Amy Tan contains the stories of 4 Chinese women and their 4 American-raised daughters. While the focus of the book is the immigrant experience in the U.S., there are extensive sections about the circumstances in China which led to the immigration. The Joy Luck Club had been a mainstay of book clubs and college reading lists since it was published. A movie was also made of it.

Memoirs of A Geisha (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679781587/qid=1096309411/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-7881779-4811809?v=glance&s=books) by Arthur Golden is one of the most popular novels of the past few years. Not surprisingly, it is a first-person account of the life of a geisha. It's also a great read.

rookie523
09-27-2004, 01:56 PM
Asian = Far East Asia

historical = Preferably anything older than 100 years ago... I prefer something during the times of Genghis Khan... with warriors equipped with swords, etc.

I guess it doesn't have to be historically accurate. Maybe the settings have to be accurate but not how the story pans out.
I don't want some aliens time warping into the story. But I don't mind a little sorcery and myth.

BrainGlutton
09-27-2004, 02:12 PM
Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written by Luo Guangzhong in the 14th Century, about historical events in China in the Third Century. Can't get more Asian or more historical than that. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_of_the_Three_Kingdoms)

The Journeyer, by Gary Jennings (author of Aztec) is a retelling, from a more sophisticated modern perspective, of the travels of Marco Polo.

Creation, by Gore Vidal, is about Cyrus Spitama, grandson of the Persian prophet Zoroaster, and his travels all over India and China as an ambassador of Great Kings Darius and Xerxes. On the way he meets the first Buddhists, as well as Confucius and Lao-Tzu.

Ferret Herder
09-27-2004, 02:25 PM
One of the (IIRC, it's been a while since my Chinese lit-in-translation class) first true novels of Chinese literature is Cao Xueqin's work The Story of the Stone (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140442936/qid=1096310644/sr=ka-1/ref=pd_ka_1/102-2747292-2338552). The Penguin edition is 5 volumes; I linked to the first. This is a very indepth look at a well-to-do Chinese family, and important people within. It manages to pack in a lot of poetry, romance, scheming, and Buddhist symbolism into its pages. Cao lived during the time he's writing about which was, IIRC, around the late 1700s or so.

On the other end of the spectrum, how about a humorous fictional work about an "Asia that never was", found in Barry Hughart's books like Bridge of Birds (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345321383/qid=1096311076/sr=ka-2/ref=pd_ka_2/102-2747292-2338552'). Very clever and well-written. This was written within the last decade or so, however.

Lamar Mundane
09-27-2004, 03:15 PM
Waiting, by Ha Jin, won the National Book Award a few years ago. It is a story of an Chinese Army doctor who falls in love with a nurse at his hospital, but his wife won't grant him a divorce so he has to wait 18 years to get the divorce without her consent.

It got all kinds of rave reviews, but I found it unremarkable.

The Hamster King
09-27-2004, 03:20 PM
You may want to check out this thread (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?t=271001).

jovan
09-27-2004, 09:35 PM
I'm a bit surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet but the most famous Japanese historical novel is Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. It's about Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most fabled Japanese swordsmen.

If you want to go really historical you might try reading The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. This is an epic novel written around 1000 CE and set some time earlier. It's not an easy read and a lot of the original poetry is lost in translation to make it accessible to modern readers but it remains one of the great works of world litterature.

Miss Purl McKnittington
09-27-2004, 09:57 PM
I'm reading The Binding Chair: Or a Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060934425/qid=1096340007/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/103-3775528-3923007?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) by Kathryn Harrison right now. It's excellent. Aunt May is shaping up to be one of my favorite characters ever. So sharp and witty.

I also second Pearl S. Buck. She has a few more novels set in China, though I can't recommend those as I haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan -- I actually enjoyed this more than The Joy Luck Club. Probably because of the paranormal subject matter and the "flashbacks". Also an excellent book.

Lissa
09-27-2004, 10:38 PM
If you want to go really historical you might try reading The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. This is an epic novel written around 1000 CE and set some time earlier. It's not an easy read and a lot of the original poetry is lost in translation to make it accessible to modern readers but it remains one of the great works of world litterature.

If you want to read this one, I'd suggest buying these two translations.

This one. (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/014243714X/qid=1096342463/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-9904468-3932754?v=glance&s=books) has more "Western"-style phrasing and style, making it more readable for some, but draining away a lot of the beauty of the original prose. This one (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0394735307/qid=1096342514/sr=8-3/ref=pd_csp_3/104-9904468-3932754?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) is much more enjoyable for the beauty of the language. The poetry flows much better in this version.

I suggest having the two copies side by side, reading a chapter from one and then rereading the same chapter in the other. You'll see a big difference, but I think that it will give you a fuller picture of what the author intended to say.

Green Bean
09-27-2004, 10:41 PM
Asian = Far East Asia

historical = Preferably anything older than 100 years ago... I prefer something during the times of Genghis Khan... with warriors equipped with swords, etc.

I guess it doesn't have to be historically accurate. Maybe the settings have to be accurate but not how the story pans out.
I don't want some aliens time warping into the story. But I don't mind a little sorcery and myth.Glad I asked. then. I don't think any of my suggestions are what you're looking for. They're more focused on social/cultural stuff and the lives of women than on warriors.

I do remember a book of stories I had as a kid that were all about various people in old Tokyo. I loved that book. I wish I could remember what it was called. But you might want to look at "young adult" titles, too, as you can find some great stuff in that section.

shy_kat
09-28-2004, 10:05 AM
I highly recommend Kij Johnson's two books--The Fox Woman and Fudoki. Not very military (except for parts of the second), but a wonderful look into the time period and setting, with a bit of fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Sublight
09-29-2004, 09:51 AM
I'm a bit surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet but the most famous Japanese historical novel is Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. It's about Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most fabled Japanese swordsmen.

Be careful that you don't confuse this one with Junichiro Tanizaki's The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi. It's good historical fiction, IMO, but Tanizaki tends to be a bit bizarre.

Actually, most of his work is set in the late 1800's - early 1900's, so you might want to give him a look.

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