Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Guide to reading Chinese fiction, from absolute beginner to beyond HSK 6


MoonIvy
 Share

Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

On 1/26/2022 at 5:56 PM, MoonIvy said:

I assume Chinese webnovel authors probably make quite a bit of money too, with all these adaptations of their webnovels they must be loaded?

I suspect the vast majority, over 99% of web authors, make no money at all (because they write too slowly, not good enough, or just have bad luck and are never noticed by the right readers). Then there are a few, probably so few you could easily cook them all dinner, that make really good money. And a larger group that has to work extremely hard to make just enough money to keep doing it. I remember hearing about a writer some years ago, something少爷 (forgot his full name), who was very succesful and popular and made good money, but he basically did nothing but write, a somewhat ridiculous wordcount every day, for years on end, never took a day off. At that rate, I'm not sure it's such a good gig anymore.

 

On 1/27/2022 at 6:14 AM, phills said:

The most intimidating aspect to me it is just how looooong everything is.

This is what holds me back as well. I enjoyed reading 魔道祖师 but it ate up wayyyyy too much time.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/27/2022 at 5:14 AM, phills said:

Thanks for the ranking site.  It looks like mostly click / sales / bookmark rates.  Are there any common ranking methods other than popularity?

Don't think so, most seem to use these to rate/rank their webnovels.

起点 has some sort of filter search (https://www.qidian.com/all/), you can filter/sort by character length, tags etc might be easier to use this?

 

On 1/27/2022 at 5:14 AM, phills said:

The most intimidating aspect to me it is just how looooong everything is.  Because the serial nature clearly encourages stretching things out.  3k chapters?  3k sentences might be the length of a normal short-ish novel.  The longest book I've read so far has 60 chapters.

Not all are long, there are definitely really short ones too (5-10 chapters) and ridiculously long ones (10k chapters). I found that those with over 1k chapters tend to have shorter chapters, and those with less tends to have longer chapters. I don't have stats on this so I can't tell you what's the norm, I suppose there's no real "norm" it all just depends on what you prefer. 

I'm reading a lot of 耽美 (boy love) at the moment, and most are below 1million characters. Some of the ones I've read are around 100k-300k total characters. I would love to recommend you some, but probably not your thing?

 

On 1/27/2022 at 7:59 AM, Lu said:

This is what holds me back as well. I enjoyed reading 魔道祖师 but it ate up wayyyyy too much time.

耽美 fan or just wanted to try 魔道祖师?

I had a thought...Chinese webnovel is a bit like Youtube (to be honest, like any self published content platform really, Twitch, Instagram, TikTok etc), it's full of amazing work, and full of crap at the same time. Some content creators have make loads from these platforms, and it's their full time job every single day, then there are many that never make it. 

I was searching around for stats on webnovels vs traditionally published books and found this: 
https://www.statista.com/statistics/860115/china-number-of-internet-authors-and-writers/ 21.3million authors from 2020, probably around 22-23mil now.

And this: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1019403/china-number-of-literary-works-online/ 29 million literature publications available only online as of 2020 (probably 35-40mil by now). Can't tell you how many of those are actually quality work, but even if it's only a few % that's still a large amount of content available. They're all easily accessible outside of China via various platforms and reading apps (official ones that is). 

I found that many webnovels that do get published as books, will still have the webnovel version online available to read (I think in the west, those usually get taken down). Does anyone know if the web version will get updated to match the published version? I know in the 耽美 world this doesn't happen because the published version usually gets heavily edited due to censorship, sometimes even changing the relationship of the couple to "best friends". Due to this, authors will keep the web version as the original uncensored. So I'm not sure if any censorship editing happens in other genres.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/27/2022 at 1:23 PM, alantin said:

Sounds very manageable!
Being used to 6-12k characters per chapter....

Webnovels does have that advantage, some have really short chapters. They're made for quick read everyday. I've read one that started at around 1.2-1.5k characters per chapter, she eventually increased it to 3k because I think people started complaining that it's too short.

Though sometimes some authors prefer longer chapters, like the one I'm currently reading (撒野 by 巫哲), all the chapters are around 6-6.2k in length, it feels so long at times!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/27/2022 at 6:11 PM, MoonIvy said:

I'm reading a lot of 耽美 (boy love) at the moment, and most are below 1million characters. Some of the ones I've read are around 100k-300k total characters. I would love to recommend you some, but probably not your thing?

 

100k-300k length is perfect, although 耽美 wouldn't be my initial category of choice.  Is there a good guide of what all the categories are? I'd start with something more generic, basic.  The only category I know of is "Cultivation" which I've never read, but I gather it's the most stereotypical category of Chinese web novel (along with Time Travel and a modern person becoming a historical / game character).

 

Also, it might be boring, but I'd probably start with the equivalent of a "classic" of this genre, something finished that everyone else has already read, and not too long.  I know part of doing a guide like this is you want to expose people to more "new stuff," but being a normie tourist, it's easier to start with the common travel spots.

 

Similarly, something that might have already been turned into a TV series or movie.  Then I can watch as well, if I'm interested.  I know fans often complain that a TV or movie adaption is terrible but it's fun for newcomers to see for themselves exactly why they're bad.

  • Like 1
  • Good question! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 7:10 AM, phills said:

Is there a good guide of what all the categories are? I'd start with something more generic, basic. 

I don't think so, I figured some of them out with help of friends and through exposure.
 

On 1/28/2022 at 7:10 AM, phills said:

The only category I know of is "Cultivation" which I've never read, but I gather it's the most stereotypical category of Chinese web novel (along with Time Travel and a modern person becoming a historical / game character).

I think cultivation and martial arts webnovels are the one that get the most attention in the west because this genre is super unique and doesn't exist in western literature much. 


Urban fantasy, crime/mystery are also very popular as well. Romance is also super popular in the female audience world.

On 1/28/2022 at 7:10 AM, phills said:

I'd probably start with the equivalent of a "classic" of this genre

 

I've been told 诛仙 is the start of the 仙侠 genre becoming mainstream and also started as a webnovel. I don't know too much about this one.


斗罗大陆 is also pretty famous. Adaptions in almost every form exist! 

 

Both the above can be found on 起点, and also published officially to other platforms like 微信读书 QQ读书.

 

On 1/28/2022 at 7:10 AM, phills said:

I know part of doing a guide like this is you want to expose people to more "new stuff,"

The guide isn't always about new stuff, classics are important too, it isn't boring. I just haven't read any of them yet because I'm saving them for later when my Chinese is good enough that I can actually appreciate their work. Their work is famous and a classic for a reason, I don't want to waste the experience. I'm holding off some of the recent famous work for the same reason as well. 

Just some personal advise, you don't need to take it as everyone is different. My advise to you would be to improve your literacy skills via reading a lot of modern setting novels, like you said "generic and basic". Slice of life modern novels are the best for this.  What sort of books do you like to read? I may or may not be able to recommend you anything, I'm pretty deep in the 耽美 & 古代穿越 world atm but I can ask around. 

However 耽美 are not all R16-R18, full of naughty stuff. It's novels with LGBT characters. So if you don't mind that, I do have some recommendations?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 7:19 PM, MoonIvy said:

However 耽美 are not all R16-R18, full of naughty stuff. It's novels with LGBT characters. So if you don't mind that, I do have some recommendations?

 

Sure.  Fire away!  On the shorter side, and something that you think represents the genre well / a classic of the type.  And a plus if it's also been turned into other forms as well, e.g. tv, movie, audiobook, comic, but not always possible I know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 1:19 PM, MoonIvy said:

The guide isn't always about new stuff, classics are important too, it isn't boring. I just haven't read any of them yet because I'm saving them for later when my Chinese is good enough that I can actually appreciate their work. Their work is famous and a classic for a reason, I don't want to waste the experience. I'm holding off some of the recent famous work for the same reason as well. 

Just some personal advise, you don't need to take it as everyone is different. My advise to you would be to improve your literacy skills via reading a lot of modern setting novels, like you said "generic and basic". Slice of life modern novels are the best for this.  

 

Do you know something time travel along the lines of "Back to the Future" or "Back to 1989" or something like that?

It usually makes for an interesting twist to the relationships of the characters while still staying "contemporary" when they stay withing a hundred years or so.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@phills Here are some 耽美 recommendations (plus any warnings)

撒野 by 巫哲 - Modern, slice of life, 700k characters/3k unique, R-16 I think. It's about the journey of two young boys with personal & family struggles who end up finding hope and love in each other. The story is mostly on how they deal with these struggles. The writing style is very simple, but the story is very deep. There are some cheesy romance scenes, and the two boys do sometimes...can't get their hands off each other. There are some R16 scenes but nothing ever explicit. There's an audio drama, manhua adapation atm. The TV show adapation is coming soon.

小蘑菇 by 一十四洲 - Sci-fi, PG, 260k characters/2.9k unique. I haven't read this one yet, but a friend of mine loves it! She told me it has won an award. It's super plot heavy, not much romance. She said it's isn't an easy read but easier than 三体. This is pretty famous, an official English release is coming soon. The TV show adapation is coming soon. I think there's an audio drama, not sure about others. 

 

他们都说我遇到了未知生物 by 青色羽翼 - Urban Ghost/Fantasy, PG, 126k characters/2.1k unique. I haven't read this one yet. Recommended to me by a friend. Said it's a pretty easy read, only difficult part might be ghost/fantasy terms. There's an audio drama adapations, not sure if there's anything else.
 

耽美 is full of sub genres (there's modern, fantasy, wuxia, xiania, scifi, gaming etc), there's nothing that really truly represents it. There are definitely some famous work like 魔道祖师. 魔道祖师 has literally every adapation under the sun (there's even a game coming out soon), you can find the TV version on Netflix/Youtube (called The Untamed). The anime is also on Youtube, same name as the webnovel 魔道祖师. Actually you should watch the TV show/anime, but the webnovel might be too hard right now, it's ancient 仙侠. Watching the adaptions would be good, it's isn't too heavy on the 仙侠 stuff so it's a nice stepping stone.

@alantinAs for right now, I haven't read anything like that. It's definitely a popular genre though. I just checked the urban section on 起点  https://www.qidian.com/dushi/ and I can see 4-5 rebirth/time travel/given a second chance on the homepage. If you ever find anything, let me know!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given the huge number of webnovels out there, I bet there is some website out there that ranks and catalogues them, allowing you to find one based on popularity and your own interests. For Chinese-language comics, there’s Mox.moe. You can see that when you order titles by rating, it doesn’t just arrange them in order of popularity, but considers other subjective factors. I actually use this site even when I’m deciding which English-language comics to read.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes 诛仙 is a classic and I liked reading it, but last time I resampled it I was disappointed. It didn't age well. Both the character development and the cultivation system seem rather weak to today's readers.

 

As for 女生频道, generally I have little interest in there except one writer: 尤前. I've read 我家徒弟又挂了 before so I went through 4 more of her books 师父又掉线了、家兄又在作死、总有人想带坏我徒孙、师兄今天想开了吗(连载中). She's funny, smart, irreverent. Worth recommending.

 

Oh, there was a 都市妖奇谈 in the noughties written by a female writer. I remember it's pretty good.

 

And to answer alantin's question. No, you can't go back to 1938, let alone 1989. Contemporary time travel is strictly forbidden. End of story.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 4:54 PM, Publius said:

As for 女生频道, generally I have little interest in there except one writer: 尤前. I've read 我家徒弟又挂了 before so I went through 4 more of her books 师父又掉线了、家兄又在作死、总有人想带坏我徒孙、师兄今天想开了吗(连载中). She's funny, smart, irreverent. Worth recommending.

Her stuff sounds amazing! Those titles...haha! Thanks going to add to my ever growing list.
 

On 1/28/2022 at 4:54 PM, Publius said:

No, you can't go back to 1938, let alone 1989. Contemporary time travel is strictly forbidden. End of story.

Rebirth/transmigrating back before the character did X to like correct their mistake etc is allowed right? I see loads of 重生 ones in the 都市 section. I know authors never use "time travel", they always called it 重生/穿越. I know all the 古代 ones tends to be a alternate history/make up time period that doesn't exist in history. If I remember correctly, time travel to a real time in history is banned, right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 7:14 PM, MoonIvy said:

If I remember correctly, time travel to a real time in history is banned, right?

 

On 1/28/2022 at 7:32 PM, Publius said:

Yeah, you just don't change modern history.


I think I've heard about that... What's the reason?
Well.. Luckily in Taiwan you can... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_1989



 

On 1/28/2022 at 7:32 PM, Publius said:

Also China being China, if your character shuttles between this world and another world, careful what you can write about this world's governments, leaders, armies, etc.

 

How about 三体? How did it ever get published?

 

There was a pretty bleak portrayal of a shame session (?) during the cultural revolution in the very first chapter and, if I'm not mistaken, there were some not so subtly veiled opinions about democracy and authoritarianism in the second book. Especially people reverting to authoritarianism and killing each other out once their emotional ties to their democratic mother earth were cut during their escape to from the solar system...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/28/2022 at 8:42 PM, alantin said:

I think I've heard about that... What's the reason?

I'm not 100% sure tbh, but I think it's because they don't want people to disrespect history, change history (i.e. give the impress it could have been "better" if things were different) or mention certain sensitive historical events.

I don't know what the rules are, and what authors have to avoid, but I know that most of these transmigrations novels have the character transmigrate to a fake dynasty, so it's like they've travelled to an alternate world. Many of these have modern person bring modern ways/methods/things to the ancient times (such as delivery service, bubble tea), it's really fun to read and super funny. Sometimes they use modern slang or words and the ancient people are like O.O?? what?? So you definitely still get that fun relationship. There are still politics but it's politics between kingdoms, kings/emperors, princes, minsters etc so it's a bit different from modern world. I think because of that, it's allowed? 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...