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The Dream of the Red Chamber

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,905 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 20th 1958 by Anchor (first published 1791)
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Lysmerry Seconding Kyc's answer. I can't say how true to the Chinese text it is but I can't imagine a more fluid and lovely translation than the David Hawkes…moreSeconding Kyc's answer. I can't say how true to the Chinese text it is but I can't imagine a more fluid and lovely translation than the David Hawkes version. (less)
Amanda Cai Not really. It is mainly about how four big gradually declined in that environment. Some hidden criticism but not obvious.
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 08, 2014 Ketchup rated it it was ok
I hate this book, and I'm Chinese.

Ok, hate is a strong word. I'm repulsed by this book which I viewed as close to godliness in my childhood. I hate 'em little balls of prudishness.

Sorry about this, translator(s), because I think you did a nice job on this book and I'm still giving you two stars. If I rated on your technicality alone I would give you a solid 3 or 4. I do like the English version in some ways better than the Chinese version(s) because it's so much more 'normal' for lack of a bette
Laszlo Hopp
Jul 21, 2013 Laszlo Hopp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Laszlo by: Nobody
The copy I read was a downloadable Kindle version. I could not figure out the translator. The total location number was 36403. If I use a recommended page-equivalent converter number of 16.69, the page number comes to a little over 2100, which is close to the printed full version page number.

At first, I couldn’t understand how this book became one of the four pinnacles of classical Chinese literature. – The other three are: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and Outlaws of t
Sep 01, 2010 Heidi rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, for-school
I have spent 9 years trying to remember what "that Chinese book" was which I read within my first year of college. I cannot remember if I read it for extra credit in my Chinese class, or if one of my professors recommended it as a Chinese classic that I should consider reading. Part of me thinks I began it during the school year, and then part of it the following summer (when I was reading so much I can't remember all that I read). Either way, I finally did some research and this is definitely t ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Lysmerry rated it it was amazing
Excellent 'Starter' Dream of the Red Chamber/Story of the Stone (two names for the same work).

This is an abridged English version of an amazing Chinese novel called Dream of the Red Chamber or Story of the Stone. I would recommend reading this if you would like to know the general story, which you should, as it is one of the most important novels in history. This book is HUGE in China- it is considered, along with one or two other works, the pinnacle of Chinese literature. And it is much more nu
Feb 26, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
I just re-read this classic of Chinese literature as it's been years since I first read it. The Dream of the Red Chamber/Story of the Stone is unlike any work in the Western canon yet it fits into the Western tradition of great literature in a way few other examples of classic Chinese writing are able to, offering an engrossive narrative and a real feel for both character and place. There are aspects of this novel that may confuse the modern reader of it in English translation: the many titles a ...more
Jul 26, 2012 zni rated it it was amazing
The truth is that if not for my Asian Literatures class, I wouldn't have mustered enough strength (despite interest) to read this novel. And I am particularly drawn to the idea forwarded by some academics that Hong Lou Meng is actually a critique to the reception of the public to fiction (and perhaps to reading in general). Also, it is a counter to the idea that in order to attain enlightenment, one must transcend the everyday world. A monk makes a stone nod. The stone is cast away by the Goddes ...more
Jun 28, 2010 Sophielihui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Given the entire China is learning English as a second language, it's hardly necessary for people in the western countries to study the notoriously difficult Chinese language, for business or travel purposes.

However, if there is one reasonable cause to learn Chinese, it would be to appreciate this book in its original language, which could be the greatest privilege for anyone who speaks Chinese.

What about translations? One might ask.

My answer would be: Given the chance, I will probably get rid
Aug 08, 2015 Kyc rated it really liked it
I own this book, which is part of my obsession with the 18th-century Chinese novel of manners Dream of the Red Chamber, which is, in its original, surely one of the greatest novels in world literature. The translation and abridgement is by Chi-Chen Wang, a former professor of Columbia University. His translation is skilful and readable, although it is highly abridged. At 60 chapters, it is about one-quarter to one-fifth the length of the original. The Hawkes translation still remains my primary ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, world-lit
Overall, this book--one of the four Chinese Classic Novels--was a marvelous read, although its intricacy cannot be overstated. Some compare it to Shakespeare, but it's more like a saga with little Shakespearean offshoots every few chapters. The cast of characters is enormous, and the overarching narrative truly does transcend space and time.

My primary complaint about this book--a long, complex, elegant Chinese drama--is that it needs a better guide to the characters. There is a genealogy chart i
Jan 15, 2015 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
I first read this epic Chinese novel when I was about 13, and I remember being swept away into an entirely unknown and unimagined (by me) world. I knew it was wonderful: I didn't know it was one of the most enduring pieces of Chinese literature to date. Written in the late 1700s, it is still read and influencing writers. I reread it, and loved it again. I can see that not everyone would enjoy the cultural intricacies and minutely rendered settings. I could compare it to a twelve part Masterpiece ...more
May 06, 2008 Mistr3ssquickly rated it really liked it
I borrowed a copy of this book from a dusty stack of forgotten books in the back closet of the English department in my high school, where it had been discarded by teachers who were tired of students mispronouncing Chinese names and becoming bored by cultural traits unfamiliar to them. For fun, I read it over the summer, and where I did struggle to keep track of which character was which, at first, by the halfway point, I was sucked in completely to the story.

It's a tale with no real beginning a
Nov 05, 2013 Leonard rated it liked it
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.

Dream of the Red Chamber
A Chinese Brush Painting of an Aristocratic Mansion
Apr 23, 2008 Joannie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I almost always finish every novel I start, but I just couldn't get through this one. I do love classics, but I felt the translation nearly killed the original authenticity: the Chinese classical poetry is butchered and not nearly as poetic when translated. I sense there's a great story to be told, and I think I'll have to ask my mother to read it in Chinese to me so I can fully appreciate this classic work... until then, I remain somewhat unimpressed.
I loved this book, so much like a daytime soap. The translation was great, it read easily. I felt it a bit rushed towards the end when everyone seemed to die in quick succession - the portion that wasn't written by Cao Xueqin. While every single person was realistically portrayed, Precious Virtue alone seemed to be more the personification of her name than a character. Because of this, I preferred Black Jade to her (anyone to her, actually).
Linh Pham
Apr 14, 2015 Linh Pham rated it it was amazing
I grew up listening to my mom talking about "Dream of the red chamber," seeing the TV drama (1987 version) showing frequently on TV every year without even understanding a little bit, and I finally picked up this supposedly one of the greatest literature novels in Chinese history to read.

It's safe to say that in order to really appreciate this book, readers are advised to read it several times, at different stages in life. There are so many discussions regarding the characters, the plot, etc. m
Jan 02, 2013 Maggie rated it really liked it
Arguably THE most important work in traditional Chinese literature. Written in the 1780s and then compiled and edited about 100 years later, this is not a seamless novel, but more like a soap opera of a courtly family's life in decline. This edition is obviously not the entire work, but a good representation of the most famous scenes.

A lot of times you'll see scrolls or paintings with scenes from Dream of the Read Chamber (also known as Story of the Stone) that have 4 or 5 of the most famous sc
Apr 19, 2012 Karen rated it it was ok
I bought and read this book on my Kindle, and unfortunately when I got to the end, it turned out I only had Book I, and that "there are other better and more complete English translations". The novel was "completed" with an additional 40 chapters by another author after Cao Xueqin's death. It definitely ended in the middle of the story, as such, but I will probably not search to read the rest. This story has over 400 characters, 25 of them considered "main" characters, and it is like a tree bran ...more
I can only just begin to grasp the importance, the amazing contribution to Chinese (and world!) literature that this story brought about. Quite a challenging read--even with some schooling in Chinese culture, I found myself stumbling, reviewing and contacting my professor to make sure I caught all the nuances, that I understood all the honorific titles (the family tree chart in the intro is most helpful!) However, it was absolutely worth it as this is a stirring and gorgeous tour-de-force! Even ...more
Jul 30, 2015 Graceless rated it really liked it
I had to read this for Chinese School. As someone pretty into Chinese history, this was interesting to read because of the valuable insight it provides on the Qing dynasty. I was digging the conflict between Jia Baoyu's strict confucian father's ideals and the more progressive ones of Zhuangzi.

The love story was complex to read and I can totally see the comparison to Romeo and Juliet. Because I read both the Chinese version and the translation, I think the translation did do it justice. This is
Feb 28, 2014 Carrie added it
What comedian invented the Chinese Relativity Theorem? "No matter how important you think something is, a billion Chinese people just don't care."
Well,'Dream of the Red Chamber' would pass the Chinese Relativity Test. Wikipedia says it is "a masterpiece of Chinese literature and is generally acknowledged to be the pinnacle of Chinese fiction"...which made my Dad think that he should give it to me for Christmas, and my husband to say, "It's sweet, how optimistic your Dad is about your level of a
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 27, 2014 Philippe Malzieu rated it really liked it
After the success of Shi Nai An "Au bord de l'eau", it was the second Chinese novel to enter in the "Pléiade" collection. I was a little surprised. This is more the picaresque novel.It is almost a novel XIX the rise and fall of the Jia House.
And there are also Romeo and Juliette. The rhythm is slow, one needs to accept it. I had evil to locate me geographically. I visited in China a long time after its reading the house of the merchant Wang who was the decor of "Wives and concubines."
I then und
Not a book you can put down for several weeks and then pick up, several names sound familliar and with the extended family and servants it's hard to keep track.
Interesting because of the insight into another culture.
Sep 07, 2015 Joan rated it it was ok
Shelves: classic
I read this book because it is considered one of the 100 international books to read. I am hoping that the translation was the problem. It does tell of the richness of the Chinese culture in the Qing dynasty. However, as I have no background in Chinese literature, the characters and names were difficult to follow. The women killing themselves for minor infractions and the lack of concern for others was difficult for me to understand. Perhaps if I had more background that could have been provided ...more
Brandon Beninato
Jan 30, 2015 Brandon Beninato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the four great classical novels in Chinese literature, "Dream of the Red Chamber" absolutely lives up to its billing. The scope of this novel is immense, as this is by far the longest book I have ever read. I needed to create a mind map in order to keep track of all the characters and avoid any confusion which was sure to arise from all the similar names. At nearly 1000 pages long, that number alone doesn't do it any justice. This is a mammoth of a story.

Obviously this isn't a book for ev
Czarny Pies
Nov 13, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
The Story of the Stone is one of the "Four Classic Chinese Novels." The value to the Western reader is that it provides great insight into the daily lives and culture of the Chinese Nobility in the 18th Century.

The problem for the Western reader is trying to figure out what to mark the Story of the Stone against. The first three volumes seem to be a Proustian tribute to a golden age of poetry experienced by the Wang-Jias a prominent clan of nobles who all live together in a huge compound. Volum
Otto Arkhom
Mar 07, 2014 Otto Arkhom rated it it was amazing

This is one of the classics of Chinese literature. Dream of the Red Chamber or Hong Lou Meng is one of the memorable novels I have read (read the extended Penguin translation which extended several volume). Not only it is a journey into lifestyle of old China in Qin dynasty, it shows wonderful insights into Chinese culture and mindset at the time, as well as the social differences between the privileged and poor.

This is novel is well regarded by the Chinese and its popularity survives until toda
Rob Roy
Aug 12, 2009 Rob Roy rated it did not like it
Turgid prose that goes on and on and on and on
Jan 03, 2016 Chorvelynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
What a tragedy! This took me over a couple of days to read but I am not going to lie and say that this book was an easy read. I almost gave up in the middle but battled through just like Pao-yu but without the deus ex machina. It's very plot driven more than character driven. I mostly remember the events more than a particular character and let me tell you, there were A LOT of characters. The story itself, is like an afternoon telenovela. Take a bunch of characters all related to each other, a.k ...more
Oct 13, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, china, chinese
Translated and abridged by Chi-Chen Wang

This is a 330-page adaptation of the 18th century Chinese novel about fate, mysticism, doomed romance and the fortunes of an aristocratic family. It's fascinating reading for its details about Chinese family values, social hierarchy, interfamily relationships and customs. At times, the various titles and honorifics used were confusing; at one point in the text, the author says that a group of related characters who lived together in a garden house themselv
Vermicious Knids
Jan 27, 2015 Vermicious Knids rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
What an exceptional little book. It is apparently a 'Real Reads' series, which I had not previously heard of. The website ( states the books are "retellings of great literature from around the world, each fitted into a 64-page book." The books themselves are paperback (I see they also are available on Audible), but what a lovely paperback, with a book cover, thick, thick paper and charming illustrations. Other features that I enjoyed were a list of characters (which I did use ...more
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Asian Lit in Tran...: Dream of the Red Chamber 6 40 Aug 11, 2014 12:23AM  
The Four Great Classical Novels of China 2 39 Nov 02, 2009 10:07PM  
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Cao Xueqin (Chinese: 曹雪芹; pinyin: Cáo Xuěqín; Wade–Giles: Ts'ao Hsueh-ch'in, 1715 or 1724 — 1763 or 1764) was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. His given name was Cao Zhan (曹霑) and his courtesy name is Mengruan (夢阮; 梦阮; literally "Dream about Ruan" or "Dream of Ruan")[...]
More about Cao Xueqin...

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“诗云:一局输赢料不真,香销茶尽尚逡巡。欲知目下兴衰兆,须问旁观冷眼人。” 1 likes
“... je t'emmènerais dans une contrée resplendissante et prospère, au foyer d'une famille aristocratique des lettrés, fastueux domaine où abondent les fleurs et les saules, terroir de la douceur, de richesse et d'honneurs, pour t'installer dans la joie et en toute sécurité.
Cao Xueqin, "Le Rêve dans le pavillon rouge", trad, fr. par Li Tche-Houa, J. Alézaïs, révision par A. D'Hormon, Paris, Gallimard, "Bibliothèque de la Pléiade", 1981, vol. 1, p. 8.”
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