Nearly 500 years ago, the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms was first published. Readers across the country and continent began experiencing this epic, historic tale, which is still one of the most popular novels in China today. But in many cases, these readers would not have been able to have a conversation. They could read the same book, but they could not speak the same language. Robert Hegel, professor of East Asian languages and cultures, describes how the existence of a common written language in China has affected Chinese literature across time.