89 Awesome Chinese Books for Advanced Learners of Mandarin

I’ve spoken before in many posts about the effectiveness of a reading and listening combination when learning Mandarin Chinese, and how it is these two activities that made me see the biggest improvements in my language skills.

When it comes to learning Mandarin Chinese (or any language), input is king.

Language goes into your eyes and ears and then comes out of your mouth.

You are never going to attain a high level of Mandarin without extensive reading.

Now, If you’re a beginner or intermediate learner, this list might not be of much use to you. These books are intended for a Chinese audience so you will need to be at an advanced level to read them.

However, don’t fret, as I have lots of recommendations for reading materials for your lower levels here.

You can also read the translated English versions of the books below, many of which are very well-reviewed.

The following list is a collection of classic works in Mandarin Chinese that not only serve as fantastic tools for learning Mandarin but also to learn about the culture and history of China, Taiwan, and the Chinese-speaking world in general.

It’s a long list, so check out the hyperlinks if you’re looking for a specific genre.

Historical Fiction | Biography | Drama | Fantasy | Romance | Crime and Thriller | Action | Literary Fiction | Comedy | Culture | Science Fiction

Where Can I Find Copies of the Books on this List?

In most cases (not all), I have attached links to the books on Amazon.

Amazon has the largest collection of Chinese books, but to get these books in Mandarin Chinese, it obviously makes sense to search for them by their Chinese name as well.

I have provided the English and Chinese names for every title.

  • Some of these books (but not all) have versions written in traditional characters. I will be listing most versions in simplified characters because that’s what I’m learning.
  • Be careful with certain versions of Chinese classics. Not all of them have been updated into modern-day Chinese.
  • Most of these books can be enjoyed in English, too.
  • If no Amazon links have been provided, I suggest searching in Chinese through Baidu. It’s very likely you’ll be able to find an e-book file somewhere. Take the first book on the list, for example – 尘埃落定

Historical Fiction

Red Poppies 尘埃落定

Red Poppies is the story of the wealthy Maiqi family. It’s set in the 1930s, their home a stone fortress overlooking all that the family rules on the arid plains of inner Tibet. A feud breaks out with a neighboring chieftain and an emissary of the Chinese Nationalists comes to the Maiqi’s aid with tools of modern warfare. In exchange, fields of poppies, valuable in the Nationalist-backed heroin trade, are to be planted instead of grain in a deal that enriches the Maiqi’s lavish lifestyle and earns them dangerous enmity. poppy seeds as a reference, this book talks about the feudal wars of the Tibetan clans around their opium trade.

The Garlic Ballads 天堂蒜苔之歌

A powerful vision of life under the heel of an uncaring and rigid government, The Garlic Ballads tells the story of farmers of Paradise County who have been leading a hardscrabble life unchanged for generations.

The Communist party has encouraged them to plant garlic, but selling the crop is not as simple as they believed. A surplus on the garlic market ensues, and the farmers must watch in horror as their crops wither and rot in the fields.

Families are destroyed by the random imprisonment of young and old for supposed crimes against the state. Only their strength of character and thoughts of their loved ones to save them from the madness…

To Live 活着

To Live tells the story of Fu Gui.

Born into a very rich family, he becomes addicted to gambling and loses everything. As his family collapses around, Fu Gui goes to find a doctor for his sick Mother but is forced to join the army on the way. Many years later, he returns to find how much things have changed…

This is a story of a family through three generations, with Fu Gui at its centre, his highs and lows, and Chinese politics.

Wolf Totem 狼图腾

A best-selling work in China is set in the 1960s on the eve of the Cultural Revolution and follows the spiritual journey of Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen into the world of the nomadic Mongols, a dying culture that honors the endangered Mongolian wolf and follows a philosophy about maintaining a balance with nature. 

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow 长恨歌

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao—a girl born of the longtang, the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods—seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant.

This fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life for the next 40 years.

The Wind Rises in LongXi 风起陇西

Covering life and death during the secret intelligence battlefront at the time of the Three Kingdoms, this book features escapes, suspicions, murders, and more.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义

The Three Kingdoms is one of the Chinese Noble Classics. With the great empire of China in turmoil and the end of the Han dynasty, and the government becoming increasingly incompetent, warlords and nobles battle for power.

Full of thrilling action, sophisticated stratagems, passionate brotherhood, and loyalty, The Three Kingdoms sums up all the most important lessons of history.

A History of the Mayan Conquest of the Yin and Shang Dynasty 殷商玛雅征服史

A book telling the journey of the Yin Shang army led by commander Youhouxi who traveled the world with twenty huge ships.

Red Sorghum 红高粱家族

Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

A legend in China, where it won major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film directed by Zhang Yimou.

Frontier 边疆

Frontier showcases a journey to the mysterious Pebble Town by a young woman named Liujin.

With wolves on the streets and paradise-like gardens, this novel attempts to unify the grand opposites of life–barbarism and civilization, the spiritual and the material, the mundane and the sublime, beauty and death, Eastern and Western cultures.

China Dream 中国梦

For the author, the Chinese Dream is a totalitarian crusade to cleanse China of some of its dark history elements, written with utmost creativity.

Water Margin 水浒传

One of China’s 4 great classic novels, Water Margin is set in the late Song Dynasty, describing how 108 Liangshan heroes rise up in rebellion but are later sent to suppress other rebel forces. Apparently Mao’s favourite work of fiction!

Dream of the Red Chamber 红楼梦

Another one of the 4 great novels, this one was written in the middle of the 18th century to mirror the rise and decline of the Qing dynasty.


Tongwan City 统万城

Sort of a biography, sort of… not.

Sixteen centuries ago, the last chieftain of the Xiongnu sought to unite China by force. In Tongwan City, the warlord Helian Bobo orders an impregnable city to be built, becoming the capital of an empire that will finally unite China. 

Tongwancheng (meaning “unite all nations”), or Tongwan City, would be built with thick outer walls made white with clay and powdered rice, giving the city the appearance of a giant ship.

Helian will stop at nothing to build his city and his empire, drafting 100,000 Xiongnu to build his citadel. Tongwancheng might become Helian Bobo’s legacy, but will it be enough to unite China under one ruler?

Dream of Ding Village 丁庄梦

Told through the eyes of Xiao Qiang, a young boy killed by his family’s neighbours, this seminal novel tells the tragic and shocking story of the blood-contamination scandal in China’s Henan province.

Villagers, coerced into selling vast quantities of blood for money, contract the AIDS virus after being injected with plasma to prevent anaemia. Whole communities are wiped out as the illness spreads, with no responsibility taken or reparation made.

As Xiao narrates the fate of the village, his family is torn apart by suspicion and retribution…

Soul Mountain 灵山

In 1983, Chinese playwright, critic, fiction writer, and painter Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer and faced imminent death. Six weeks later, a second examination revealed there was no cancer—he had a second chance.

Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison camp, Gao fled Beijing and began a journey of 15,000 kilometers into the remote mountains and ancient forests of Sichuan in southwest China.

The result of this epic voyage of discovery is Soul Mountain.

Red Dust: A Patch Through China 红尘:穿越中国之路

In 1983, at the age of thirty, dissident artist Ma Jian finds himself divorced by his wife, separated from his daughter, betrayed by his girlfriend, facing arrest for ‘spiritual pollution’ and severely disillusioned with the confines of life in Beijing.

So with little more than a change of clothes and two bars of soap, Ma takes off to immerse himself in the remotest parts of China.

The Art of War 孫子兵法

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military strategist and general best known in the The West for writing this masterpiece around 500 BC.

The Art Of War has been considered the definitive text on military strategy and warfare ever since , inspiring businesses, athletes, and of course generals to beat their opponents and competition the right way until today.


The Book of Sins 冒犯书

This book’s seven linked novellas offer readers an incredibly uncomfortable (but well-written) take on topics like rape, incest, S&M, impotence, and voyeurism, and explore links between sexual and political deviance. 

The Peach Blossom Fan 桃花扇

Set during the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, this is a tale of battling armies, political intrigue, star-crossed romance, and historical cataclysm.

The Peach Blossom Fan is one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature, a vast dramatic composition that combines the range and depth of a great novel with the swift intensity of film.

The Seventh Day 第七天

Yang Fei was born on a train as it raced across the Chinese countryside. Lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love, he is utterly unprepared for the changes that await him and his country.

After his unceremonious death, he visits the underworld, and over seven days, he retraces the path of his life…

Waiting 等待

A story of a doctor divided between two women – one from the New China while the other follows ancient traditions with diligence.

The Last Lover 最后的情人

A book encountering a full assemblage of lovers, husbands, and wives that are all intertwined in complicated and tortuous relationships.

White Deer Plain 白鹿原

A book about the struggles of the various generations living in the White Deer Plains of Shanxi, and how their lives changed over time.

Chronicle of a Blood Merchant 许三观卖血记

A cart-pusher in a silk mill, Xu Sanguan augments his meager salary with regular visits to the local blood chief. His visits become lethally frequent as he struggles to provide for his wife and three sons at the height of the Cultural Revolution.

Shattered to discover that his favorite son was actually born of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor, he suffers his greatest indignity, while his wife is publicly scorned as a prostitute. Yu Hua gives us a stunning tapestry of human life in the grave particulars of one man’s days.

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan 我们家

Set in a fictional town in West China, this is the story of the Duan-Xue family, owners of the lucrative chilli bean paste factory, and their formidable matriarch. As Gran’s eightieth birthday approaches, her middle-aged children get together to make preparations.

Family secrets are revealed and long-time sibling rivalries flare up with renewed vigour.

As Shengqiang struggles unsuccessfully to juggle the demands of his mistress and his wife, the biggest surprises of all come from Gran herself…

The Noodle Maker 拉面者

A satirical novel by Ma Jian about the absurdities of life during post-Tiananmen China through a story of two men who meet for dinner every week.

An Unrivaled World 独步天下

Journey of a photographer Step Youran who traverses on a tour of an ancient tomb and becomes the Jurchen’s first beauty, Dong Ge.

The Day the Sun Died 日熄

A psychological fiction, this book is a satire in a rural setting, wherein the village descends into violence and madness.


Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out 生死疲劳

A historical fiction writing about the development of China during the latter half of the 20th century through the perspective of a noble landowner who reincarnates as different farm animals.

Strange Beasts of China 异兽志

In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, a rookie cryptozoologist gets the task of uncovering the stories of its fabled beasts.

Library of Heaven’s Path 天道图书馆

Zhang Xuan traverses into a foreign world and becomes a teacher, further seeing a mysterious library in his dreams.

Super Gene 超级神基因

Story of Han who lives in a world where people get teleported to another end of the universe, also getting new abilities by eating powerful beasts.

Journey to the West 西游记

Journey to the West is probably the most famous Chinese novel in The West.

This lively fantasy tells of the amazing adventures of the priest Sanzang as he traveled west in search of Buddhist sutras with his three disciples, the irreverent and capable Monkey, the greedy Pig, and the Friar Sand.

Journey to the West is an epic story of self-discovery and the pursuit of excellence.

Written by Chinese scholar Wu Cheng’en more than four hundred years ago, it reflects everyone’s pilgrimage toward truth, peace, and beauty.

Flowers in the Mirror 镜花缘

Written by Li Ju-chen during the Qing dynasty, this one is a classic novel of Chinese literature loaded with fanciful tales.

Investiture of the Gods 封神演义

A Ming-dynasty novel about Zhao Gongming who uses magic to support the collapsing Shang dynasty.


Tiny Times 1.0 小时代

Centered around 4 female students, the book explores the lives of the rich and wealthy, their friendship, family, work, and future.

A Story of Lala’s Promotion 杜拉拉升职记

Lala is stuck to her principles and climbs up the corporate ladder amidst jealousy, office politics, and harassment.

Love in a Fallen City 傾城之戀

Written when Chang was still in her twenties, these extraordinary stories combine an unsettled, probing, utterly contemporary sensibility, keenly alert to sexual politics and psychological ambiguity, with an intense lyricism that echoes the classics of Chinese literature. 

Love in a Fallen City, the first collection in English of this dazzling body of work, introduces American readers to the stark and glamorous vision of a modern master.

Love in the New Millennium 新世纪爱情故事

A group of women living in a world of constant surveillance battle informants lurking in the flowerbeds.

Exclusive Memory 独家记忆

If you like the idea of student-teacher relationships, then Exclusive Memory is a perfect love story for you.

Hello, Old Times 你好, 旧时光

Zhouzhou Yu, a girl born at the end of the 1980s, lives alone with her mother and has her best friend, Benben.

At Least There’s You 过客, 匆匆

A very interesting book exploring the issues and difficulties of modern marriage.

Twice Blooming Flower 岁月是朵两生花

Yan Song lost her memory eight years ago, at the young age of 16. She didn’t know where she came from or who she was, all that she had was the newborn son in her arms.

She and her son were adopted by the lady who hit her with the truck, and she tried to resume a normal life by trying to finish school.

One day she meets talented architect Qin Mo, who may know more about her past than he lets on…

Best to Have Met You 最美遇见你

A woman copying the signatures of a donor at a blood donation event bumps into a handsome guy and feels a sense of familiarity.

Li Chuan’s Past 沥川往事

The story of a girl, Xiao Qiu, suffering from heartache after her boyfriend left her 6 years ago without even saying goodbye.

Once Promised 曾许诺

A love story between two people belonging to different tribes who have to stand opposite each other when their tribes declare war.

Dazzling Lan Ling 兰陵缭乱

Story of the Prince of Lan Ling who as a woman disguising herself as a man and fights with great bravery.

Cry Me a Sad River 悲伤逆流成河

Yi Yao develops affection for her next-door neighbor Qi Ming, but things turn when other characters enter their lives.

Stolen Love 盗情

Story of one of the most famous woman thieves of the 21st century and a racing queen who is unrivalled in the underworld.

Black and White 黑白

A man who tries all addictive things in the world except for love, falls for a girl just to test himself but now can’t hold back his feelings.

A Gentleman’s Promise 君子一诺

A very cute campus love story for a light-hearted reading about a girl who thought she could never love again after a heartbreak.

Crime and Thriller

What Should I do Next? 下面, 我该干些什么

A dark crime novel, and a sharp indictment of Chinese society told by a former cop.

Decode 解密

Story of a genius recruited by the Chinese secret service who is initially acclaimed for his extraordinary skills but later shunned due to a mistake.

Black Holes 性之罪

A story of the trial of a trader working at a state-owned securities company who is caught up in the midst of a corporate fraud case.

French Concession 租界

A heart-stopping literary noir, this book revolves around the revolution era of Shanghai 1931, starting with the arrival of a boat in Shanghai harbor from Hong Kong carrying an important official in the Nationalist Party and his striking wife, Leng.

Playing for Thrills 玩儿的就是心跳

A super interesting Beijing murder story by Wang Shuo. This one is a provocative narration of a crime thriller.


Legends of the Condor Heroes 射雕英雄传

A trilogy of novels following the adventures of Guo Jing and Huang Rong, and their encounters with the five most powerful martial artists in the Wulin.

Peerless Martial God 绝世武神

A hard-working Lin Feng helps girls being taken advantage of but ends up being tricked and sentenced to jail after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit.

Battle Through the Heavens 斗破苍穹

In a land of treasures and unforeseen danger, Xiao Yan with amazing talents suddenly loses his powers and reputation. What caused him to lose everything?

Literary Fiction

Running Through Beijing 跑步穿过中关村

Written for a true Beijinger, this book covers everything about the place, ranging from sandstorms to pirated video disks.

Rickshaw Boy 骆驼祥子

Rickshaw Boy is a classic 20th-century story about the life of a fictional Beijing rickshaw man and his struggles.

One Man’s Bible 一个人的圣经

Set during the Cultural Revolution of China, the novel stars an alter-ego of Gao reflecting on his past experiences around the world.

A Madman’s Diary 狂人日记

A short story by Lu Xun, it’s the most influential modern work in vernacular Chinese during the republican era.

The Last Quarter of the Moon 额尔古纳河右岸

This novel talks about the nomadic Evenki clan in northern Heilongjiang, and has won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2008.

Miss Sophia’s Diary 莎菲女士的日记

A young woman expresses her thoughts and emotions through diary entries, particularly about sexuality, relationships and identity.


Lenin’s Kisses 受活

An absurdist and unique tragicomic masterpiece of writing set in modern-day China.

Brothers 兄弟

Journey of two half-brothers who have a totally different character and will.



Perfect for travel lovers, this book re-walks the epic Northern Expedition of Zhuge Liang.

White Horse 白马

A gorgeous book that underpins a psychologically driven story with amazing Chinese brush art.

Serve the People! 为人民服务

A memorable tour of today’s China and its cuisines, this book is from the perspective of a freelance journalist and food writer living in Beijing.

The Hell of Feelings 情感狱

Talking about the lives of Yaogau villagers, this novel is about their environment, life, pain, and their struggle to survive through generations.

The Dark Road 阴之道

Ma Jian tells the story of rural families torn apart by the one-child policy as he travels in southwestern China.

Science Fiction

The Three-Body Problem 三体

The Three-Body Problem is a wildly successful novel by Cixin Liu.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth.

Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt or to fight against the invasion.

Astonishingly I could not find a simplified Chinese version on Amazon (only traditional), so you’ll have to search through Baidu for a copy.

The Fat Years 盛世: 中國, 2013年

Banned in China, this controversial and politically charged novel tells the story of the search for an entire month erased from official Chinese history. Difficult to find a simplified Chinese version of this book as it was written by Taiwanese Author Chan Koonchung and instantly banned on the Mainland.

Cat Country 猫城记

A traveler from China has to crash-land on Mars, and he finds himself in a place that’s inhabited entirely by strange Cat People.

The Will of Heaven 天意

One of the most popular Chinese science fiction novels, this book retells the founding of the Han Dynasty in clever ways.

A Song For Life 生命之歌

The story of how a professor tries to raise a robot, but eventually loses interest when the robot stops growing up after the age of five.

Folding Beijing 北京折叠

A book talking about the division of Beijing into three classes sharing the same earth surface in each 48-hour cycle. Think link provided here says the book is written in traditional characters, but it’s actually simplified.

The Waste Tide 荒潮

The plight of factory workers who are turned into cyborgs, while their bodies and minds are altered to create manufacturing drones.

The Supernova Era 超新星纪元

Radiations from a glowing supernova will kill everyone over 13 years of age, and kids with regenerating tissues are the only ones to remain alive.

Ball Lightning 球状闪电

A hard science fiction novel about Chen who cracks secrets of a strange phenomenon that takes the life of his parents right in front of him.

The Whale’s Song 鲸歌

A book about how life forms and the ecosystem change after the ancient lightning strikes the primitive ocean, followed by the rise of civilizations.

With Her Eyes 带上她的眼睛

An interesting bundle of short stories created by Liu Cixin, wherein people can take electronic eyes with them to travel the future for a great virtual experience.

The Wandering Earth 流浪地球

A science fiction collection of short stories that have also been made into one of the most popular movies in Chinese history.

The Longest Fall 地球大炮

The gradual depletion of resources round the planet and the destruction of the environment has made the world turn its attention to Antarctica.

The Glory and The Dream 光荣与梦想

A 1,400-page social history that describes the history of the United States between 4 decades, specifically from 1932 to 1972.

Sun of China 中国太阳

The takes you into space through the dream of a rural boy, showing his incredible imagination and humanistic thought process.

The Dark Forest 黑暗森林

A story about people planning to leave their inhospitable planet doomed to be consumed by one or more of its three suns and settle on Earth by ending humankind.

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