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Dream of the Red Chamber [Abridged] (1791)

by Tsao Hsueh-Chin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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698928,191 (3.75)29
For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized in China as the greatest of its novels, a Chinese Romeo-and-Juliet love story and a portrait of one of the world's great civilizations. Chi-chen Wang's translation is skillful, accurate and fascinating.

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» See also 29 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
bought 10/01/2008, 224RMB at Inmedio
  Dilliott.family | Apr 23, 2014 |
Like a historical record, the novel vividly portraits forgotten customs as well as enduring intrigues of a wealthy but declining aristocratic family in the Qing dynasty, detailing sumptuous delicacies, colorful cotton-padded jackets, and the luxurious chambers’ wooden stools, chamber pots, woven screens and bedside heaters. To turn the pages of Dream of the Red Chamber is to relive the decaying luxury of a lost time. ( )
  Leonard_Seet | Oct 4, 2012 |
I generally deplore abridged editions, excerpts, and extracts, but I have to confess to enjoying Chi-Chen Wang's abridgement of Dream of the Red Chamber thoroughly. Not having read the (unfinished) original (least of all in Chinese) I can't discuss what must be missing from this version; what is here, however, hangs together well, at least for readers comfortable with the episodic and the (even in this shortened version) sprawling, qualities that, I expect, characterize the unabridged original as well. And the abridgement has done what any good one must do: it's made me eager to plunge into David Hawkes's five-volume unabridged translation.
  dcozy | Mar 10, 2012 |
According to Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Dream of the Red Chamber is “written with great psychological insight and is unique among Chinese novels for the depth and subtlety of its characterization.” Perhaps this translation, or the process of abridgement, has obscured these virtues. A major problem I found in reading was that the translation makes it nearly impossible to keep track of the characters. Names in a completely foreign language are difficult in any case, but frequent switches from names to titles which can switch depending on who is addressing whom, i.e. a man is father to one character, grandfather to another and uncle to another make the task more difficult. The male characters are named in Chinese, the women are sometimes named in Chinese, sometimes in translations such as Black Jade. There may be class or age significance here, but it is not clear.

The main character, Pao-yu, is merely a boy growing into adolescence, but I felt little insight into his motivations. He is the petted grandchild of the Matriarch of an aristocratic Chinese family. Surrounded by female servants he whiles away his time writing poetry, attending parties, admiring the gardens, etc. Does he neglect his studies, essential for advancement within Chinese Imperial government, out of laziness, rebellion, indifference? We never really know. Nor do we understand why the adults of the family exert little in the way of long term discipline. At one point his father threatens to beat him to death for concealing an actor attached to the Emperor’s household. Yet no one seems inclined to remove the numerous distractions that encourage his aimless lifestyle.

Admittedly the culture described may seem too different from that of the West to elicite a sympathetic engagement. However it is no more foreign than the court society of Japan described in Tale of the Genji, which, in my opinion displays the depth of characterization ascribed to Dream of the Red Chamber. I forced myself to finish this book, but would not seek out another like it.

For longer review see ritasreviewsandruminations.blogspot.com/
  ritaer | Feb 12, 2012 |
"...This book is believed by many to be the greatest Chinese novel ever written. For me it is like a bible for everything to do with Chinese culture. Cao belonged to the Han Chinese clan and the book is a huge family novel written in the 18th century. The family’s fortunes were tied up with the Kangxi dynasty and the book is all about the relationship between the family members and all the different classes.

It really is a wonderful book which has been translated by Penguin since 1970 and reprinted again and again. But many Westerners don’t know about this book, which is a shame because it is such a powerful book which I really love. 

This book, which was written in the 18th century, is so important because it has helped Chinese culture to survive despite all the political upheavals and civil wars which have taken place since it was written. It reminds Chinese people what the true Chinese culture is all about and how to preserve it which is why I call it the ‘Bible of Chinese Culture’. Actually, many people try to copy this way of life even now..." (reviewed by Xinran at FiveBooks. Full interview is available here:http://fivebooks.com/interviews/xinran-on-understanding-china) ( )
  FiveBooks | May 10, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tsao Hsueh-Chinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gorey, EdwardTypographysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moy, SeongCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, MarkPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wang, Chi-ChenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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When the Goddess Nugua undertook to repair the Dome of Heaven, she fashioned at the Great Mythical Mountain under the Nonesuch Bluff 36,501 pieces of stone, each 120 feet high and 240 feet around. (Part 1 - Chapter One)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is and abridged version of 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 the complete work, any other abridged versions, or any portions. Thank you.
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For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized in China as the greatest of its novels, a Chinese Romeo-and-Juliet love story and a portrait of one of the world's great civilizations. Chi-chen Wang's translation is skillful, accurate and fascinating.

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