C. T. Hsia studies in depth the six landmarks of Chinese fiction: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin, Journey to the West, Chin P'ing Mei, The Scholars, and Dream of the Red Chamber. While he provides pertinent historical and bibliographical information for the proper appreciation of each novel, his focus is mainly critical as he examines in detail its structure and style, and analyzes its major characters and episodes in relation to its moral or philosophic themes. Many Western classics are cited for relevant comparison, and generous excerpts from each novel, most of them newly translated, permit the reader to sample the flavor of the original. Hailed as a classic upon its publication in 1968, The Classic Chinese Novel has remained the best single-volume critical introduction to the subject for the serious student as well as the cultivated reader.
C. T. Hsia (1921-2013) set a milestone in the study of Chinese literature. His classic works include A History of Modern Chinese Fiction and The Classic Chinese Novel. He retired from Columbia University in 1991 and was Professor Emeritus of Chinese since then. He was awarded the title of academician at Academia Sinica in 2006.