John Zhu retells the Three Kingdoms


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Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a much-loved and canonical Chinese novel, yet its daunting complexity and huge number of characters make it inaccessible to foreigners. John Zhu set out to change that.

In the last three years, John Zhu has embarked on a mission to build a bridge between Chinese and Western cultures by retelling one of China’s great classics in accessible audio episodes. He has released over 100 chapters of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Podcast.

Three Kingdoms, as it is sometimes called, is one of China’s four great novels, along with Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber. Together, they have exerted an influence in China similar to the extraordinary impact on language and culture of the King James Bible and Shakespeare in the Anglophone world. Three Kingdoms is reminiscent of a fantastical epic like Lord of the Rings, with its tales massive medieval military forces competing for dominance, and introduces hundreds of iconic characters representing the gamut of the human experience.

Listen to Jeremy and Kaiser’s interview with John Zhu to get a taste of Three Kingdoms and how John’s global listeners are responding to a Chinese classic. To learn more about China’s four great novels, see this piece by the editors of SupChina.


Jeremy: “Trump on China,” ChinaFile’s tracker of every Trump administration statement relating to China, plus quotes from Trump going back five years.

John: For readers of Chinese, (连环画 liánhuánhuà), a website where you can find scanned and catalogued pictures from hundreds of classic Chinese graphic novels and children’s books. For non-readers of Chinese, the Chinese Sayings podcast, new from Laszlo Montgomery (noted for his long-running China History Podcast). A few of the Chinese Sayings episodes have already sought to explain phrases originating from Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Kaiser: Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI, a turn-based strategy video game where you can role-play, control cities, develop land, run economies, build and train armies, and strategize wars, all in the historical setting of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.