This article explores the functions that food, as a narrative trope, has played in the characterization and storytelling of three prominent martial arts novels in late imperial China: Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳 (Water Margin), Sanxia wuyi 三俠五義 (Three Gallant Men and Five Loyal Brothers), and Ernü yingxiong zhuan 兒女英雄傳 (ATale of Lovers and Heroes). The detailed and individualized descriptions of the heroes' eating and drinking add depth and complexity to the characters and justify plot development. Meanwhile, the narrative functions of the food descriptions in these three novels elucidate the distinct challenges for the martial arts novel in character portrayal and narrative focus.


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