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Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

Dream of the Red Chamber

by Cao Xueqin, Tsao Hsueh-chin

Other authors: Kao Ou (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Four Great Classical Novels

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581825,655 (4.04)2 / 58

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Le premesse dicevano che sarebbe stato il piu' grande romanzo della letteratura cinese (o almeno uno dei migliori). Ma la trama non era poi cosi' coinvolgente, sinceramente ci si aspettava molto di piu'. ( )
  Mlvtrglvn | Jan 5, 2018 |
The trials and tribulations of a upper class Chinese family and their servants. I think I would have got more from this if I had a better grounding in Chinese culture. ( )
  brakketh | Dec 30, 2016 |
It is a classic and understandably so, but in my opinion it is quite a strenuous and tedious task to read it in its entirety. I just can't over so many pages follow the story and its multiple and diverse characters. This may be a fault on my part, but I'd rather spend the time with something a bit easier to get into. Perhaps, just an annotated edition would have made the deal and helped me to get into this influential work. ( )
  chwiggy | Jul 19, 2016 |
I was hesitant to start reading this, because I was afraid it would be difficult to read as a non-chinese reader, and because I was afraid it would be long. Well, yes, it is long, but surprisingly enough it didn't feel like it was very long - the story drew me in and kept me reading, and though there are some aspects of Chinese culture that take some getting used to, it wasn't very difficult to read either.
Xueqin tells the story of a very wealthy Chinese family; he focuses mainly on the women of the house and one of the sons, Paoyu. Paoyu grows up in a protected environment, the favourite of his grandmother, pampered by numerous servants, spending his time gallivanting with his nieces in the beautiful gardens adjacent to the house. However, even rich households can get into trouble, and even Paoyu can't always get what he wants...
I very much enjoyed the story. I found the beginning (the first volume) a bit long winding, as it is mainly an introduction to the characters and the household, but from the second volume the story really takes off. We get to know the different members of the families and their likes and dislikes, and share in the worries of the family. Each character has his/her own story and though some of the female characters are slightly hysterical, you do get drawn into their stories and feel for the characters.
Aside from that, the novel gives a great historical view of Chinese society and tradition. I really didn't know much about Chinese culture before I started reading, and I very much enjoyed getting to know the ways of an ancient, wealthy family - the rules of conduct, the social connections, the household and the servants are all described and give a vivid idea of what life was like.
Though the writing style is somewhat different from the style in Western novels, I didn't find it difficult or daunting. Xueqin's descriptions are beautiful, and I enjoyed the way in which the story alternately slows down and speeds up, which works very well for a very long work like this. ( )
  Britt84 | Jun 2, 2016 |
This enormous novel occupies the same central place in the literary culture of the Chinese as the works of Shakespeare do in English, as Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin does in Russian, and as Dante’s Divine Comedy does in Italian literature. Like them, it creates a whole world that is at once very specific to a time and place (China in the middle of the 18th century) and yet also universal. Like them it embodies the paradox of great art, best expressed by Matisse: All art bears the imprint of its historical epoch. Great art is that in which this imprint is most deeply marked.

And yet in the West the novel is hardly known at all. Reasons for this no doubt include unfamiliarity with the world the novel describes and creates, the vast number of characters (with names which are more than usually difficult for Western readers to remember) and its sheer length. It’s even difficult to arrive at a fixed title for the work, compounded by the fact that in Chinese it has many names, all of them given in the text itself. These titles include: The Story of the Stone, The Precious Mirror of Love, The Twelve Beauties of Jingling, and Dream of Red Mansions. The Penguin translation by David Hawkes uses the first of these titles. A Dream of Red Mansions is the closest translation (by Yang Hsien Yi and Gladys Yang) of the most common Chinese title, but other translations of this title might also include A Dream of the Red Chamber, or Dreams in a Red Chamber. This plethora of titles and translations of titles neatly reflects the great difficulties of translating a work from a language in which ambiguity is prized and preserved, into language where it is not.

Given these difficulties for a Western reader, perhaps the best way to approach this work is to look closely at the three characters which make up the most common title in Chinese. In so doing, we shall see that each one loosely defines a category that might help us to orient ourselves in the multifarious world of the Hong Lou Meng….

Read the full review on The Lectern ( )
15 vote tomcatMurr | Dec 29, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
added by GYKM | editNew York Review of Books, Frederic Wakeman Jr. (Jun 12, 1980)
"at any rate the effort to read The Dream of the Red Chamber is eminently worth making."
"I would say that The Dream of the Red Chamber and the Japanese Tale of Genji are the two greatest works of prose fiction in all the history of literature"

» Add other authors (111 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cao Xueqinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hsueh-chin, Tsaomain authorall editionsconfirmed
Chi-Chen, WangTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ou, KaoAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gao, EAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gladys YangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawkes, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hsien-Yi, YangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuhn, FranzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minford, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, MarkForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wang Chi ChenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wang, Chi-ChenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yang XianyiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Unsere Geschichte beginnt in Su Tschou, der festen Stadt im Südostzipfel der chinesischen Tiefebene.
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Disambiguation notice
This is the complete work variously known as A Dream of Red Mansions , The Dream of the Red Chamber, or The Story of the Stone, by Cao Xueqin (also known as Tsao Hsueh-chin) and Kao Ngo (also known as Kao Hgo, or Gao E). Please distinguish it from any abridged versions, and from any parts published separately. Thank you.

As A Dream of Red Mansions it tends to be divided into 3 volumes; as The Story of the Stone it is divided into 5. Other editions consist of 2 volumes. Please do not combine Volume 1 of a 3 volume edition with Volume 1 of a 5 (or 2) volume edition (and likewise for other volumes).
If it is unclear from the titling how many volumes there are in a particular edition, please use the ISBN to identify to which set a particular volume belongs.
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
The novel provides a detailed, episodic record of life in the two branches of the wealthy, aristocratic Jia (賈) clan—the Rongguo House (榮國府) and the Ningguo House (寧國府)—who reside in two large, adjacent family compounds in the capital. Their ancestors were made Dukes and given imperial titles, and as the novel begins the two houses are among the most illustrious families in the city. One of the clan’s offspring was made a Royal Consort, and a lush landscaped garden was built to receive her visit. The novel describes the Jias’ wealth and influence in great naturalistic detail, and charts the Jias’ fall from the height of their prestige, following some thirty main characters and over four hundred minor ones. Eventually the Jia clan falls into disfavor with the Emperor, and their mansions are raided and confiscated.

In the novel's frame story, a sentient Stone, abandoned by the goddess Nüwa when she mended the heavens aeons ago, begs a Taoist priest and a Buddhist monk to bring it with them to see the world. The Stone, along with a companion (in Cheng-Gao versions they are merged into the same character), was then given a chance to learn from the human existence, and enters the mortal realm.

The main character of the novel is the carefree adolescent male heir of the family, Jia Baoyu. He was born with a magical piece of "jade" in his mouth. In this life he has a special bond with his sickly cousin Lin Daiyu, who shares his love of music and poetry. Baoyu, however, is predestined to marry another cousin, Xue Baochai, whose grace and intelligence exemplify an ideal woman, but with whom he lacks an emotional connection. The romantic rivalry and friendship among the three characters against the backdrop of the family's declining fortunes form the main story in the novel.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Red_Chamber
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0835125297, Paperback)

This abridged edition of A Dream of Red Mansions, written in the mid-18th century, remains faithful to the original Yang Hsien-yi translation of Hong Lou Meng. It is generally considered the greatest Chinese novel ever written. Ideal for core curriculum and comparative literature classes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:52 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Beloved by generations of Chinese readers, The Dream of the Red Chamber is China's touching equivalent of the Romeo & Juliet story. In addition to being a tale of star-crossed lovers, this epic novel also follows the story of five generations of one Chinese family giving modern readers a multi-layered dramatic plot to get lost in at the same time as it offers up key insights into Chinese culture.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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