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The Story of the Stone #1-5

Dream of the Red Chamber

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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 and accurate.

329 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1791

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Tsao Hsueh-Chin

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 457 reviews
Profile Image for Yu.
84 reviews117 followers
August 24, 2018
Zhuangzi said that the desire for money is difficult to overcome, but the desire for fame is more difficult. Well, how about love?

Many believe that The Dream of the Red Chamber is emblematic of the climax of Chinese literature. I do think it is the best Chinese novel, but I wouldn't say it is the emblem because it departs greatly from the convention of Chinese literature and aims to reveal the hypocrisy of this convention which is its feigned integrity and disregard for love. It is through the lens of love that Cao Xueqin reveals to the readers the dilemma, tragedy, and general condition of human life.

It is hard to describe how much this book means to me. It not only defines how I understand my national identity, but also serves as a foundation for my cognition and interpretation of almost everything. Many times when life tosses me a certain peculiarity or uneasiness, I would remember and contemplate on a scene, a prose, a quotation, or a general idea about the fate of one of the character in this book, and suddenly I would feel easier and say to myself: this is life.

The Dream of the Red Chamber isn't very popular among Western readers, and most well-read people on GR have never heard of this book, and even those who appreciate Chinese literature ignore it, probably finding it too long, too difficult, too boring (someone even said it's unaesthetic). I've heard people comparing it to The Plum in the Golden Vase, or categorizing it as a book about teenage relationships. So, I find it necessary to clarify that The Dream of the Red Chamber is objectively the single most important literary work in the history of Chinese literature, or even one can say East Asian literature. It is more important to Chinese literature than Shakespeare is to English literature. It is ridiculous to think that you know Chinese literature/culture/philosophy without having read this book (even though I know that most people in China no longer read this). Hundreds and thousands of scholars have devoted their lives to the study of every single word of this work. For many admirers for Cao Xueqin, myself included, we would be willing to sacrifice many years of our lives if we could read the original ending of this work which has been unfortunately lost.

I consider it beyond my ability to review this book, especially in the language of English, so all I can do is an advertisement. This is the book to read if you want to encounter Chinese mentality at its most powerful, intricate, insightful, and sincere form.
3 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2014
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 better word. I felt that the prose style of the original was awkward and it somehow feels less distorted in the English version to a degree. This is because Xueqin used vernacular Chinese in composing his proses. Vernacular is straightforward, easily comprehensible, brash, raw, characteristic, and should remind me somewhat warmly of my Chinese neighbours.

But Xueqin changed it all. He wrote in vernacular but all of his characters dialogues were so highly organized, so refined, so grammatically correct, it simply feels artificial as if he made several rough drafts of one conversation before inserting them into the characters' mouths. He 'eleganized' the beautiful, spontaneous street talk of vernacular. I hated that. It's like somebody decided to Shakespearize Dickens.

English feels much more normal for some reason, bringing forthwith more unconscious magnitude in the dialogue. Then again, English also concealed the brilliancy of the original proses and descriptions, so there are wins and losses.

Next, I have a problem with the central themes, which cannot be changed with translation. Due to its uncertainty of themes, the book can be read as a surreal, poetic metaphor or a realistic piece of fiction. But when you actually think about it, the plot boils down to this: rich noble bastards party hard. Party crashes. Go home.

And it talks about this for roughly 80 chapters before we lose the original manuscript and read the flawed 40 chapters. This unfinished-ness added to the 'mysticism' surrounding the book and is a major topic still in modern Redology. Then this book is hailed as the height of Chinese literature.

Dot dot dot.

To be honest, the plot was good. It still is good. The ideas and philosophies are not. It stereotypes men and women to a huge degree with its kind of reversal sexism appeal. I especially had a problem with the author's 'ranking' of women in the 5th chapter (even if it is meant simply as a way of introducing dramatis personae, you can't ignore that Jing Huan Goddess proclaimed it herself that only the BEST women are recorded and the rest of the COMMON, VULGAR women are not. Who the hell does she or the author think they are?!). For some reason some see the book as a novel of feminism while it had minimum impact on the Chinese feminist movement. For another, they see it as a hidden way of expressing political satire. In this case take the book off the classics shelf now, why should we waste time on an author who doesn't even want to sit down and write a proper story? Another proclaim the book is mainly emphasizing the Buddhism idea of 'Kong Huan' in that everything, even the most beautiful, eventually amounts to nothing. The author does a bad job of this if that is the case, because his sadness, his losses and his flames are quite trivial and does not match up to the greater kindness and understanding of Buddhism. As I was reading it through in the future, I couldn't help but feel as if the author is writing these 80 chapters feeling narcissist-ly sorry for himself. There are a lot of unparalleled stories in the book, though, that outmatch the author's contemporaries. Unfortunately not every story is of equal quality, especially when you see how narrow the book's world really is. It's constraining to see these young people shut up in a false paradise wasting their lives away. Worst of all the author seems to take enjoyment in it too alongside his forgotten sadness. He beautified aspects of life that one would feel uncomfortable with--for example it's okay for young girls to throw temper tantrums because she's young & beautiful, but apparently it's not okay for old women to throw tantrums because they're "inferior" to younger virgin girls. Whut. He also did not really show the intensity of corruptive activities in the families.

Last of all comes the poetry. The poetry is greatly emphasized in this novel, but upon reading it, it becomes clear that Qing dynasty poems were on the decline. The poems in the novel are most elegantly and skillfully composed. Yet they lack creativity, originality, and sophistication. The poems are mainly concerning either of the emptiness of human life or mourning about the, again, most trivial things, such as flowers, plants, people etc. The grandeur, mysticism of Tang, Spring and Autumn and Three Kingdoms era poets are sadly failing in the hands of Qing poets, and only begins to revive a little within chapter 78 in which Bao Yu composes a Song and a mournful Rhapsody, which were the loveliest to read. Well, the author can't really make the poems great considering they come out of the hands of adolescents, and the poems are the best parts of the book, the main reason why I go back to read it today.

Overall, technically speaking, this book is not bad standing alone. Yet it has achieved nearly national veneration in Chinese lit and I'm not quite sure if it should be. In terms of surreal and romantic aestheticism it does not match up to Genji (Japanese, but earlier than this book by 700 years! If Murasaki can do it why not Xueqin?), in terms of realism and plotting wobbles before Plum of the Golden Vase, in terms of philosophy and mysticism, I think loses to Journey to the West, 100 Strange Stories, the Carnal Prayer Mat, and Tale of Scholars, at the top of my head. The book's surpassing virtue is its delicate poetry, sense of dreaminess and scattered cryptic messages which no one will ever be able to sort. Nevertheless one does admire his strength of weaving stories, and feels sorry that they could not read the completed work, but it is not the best.
Profile Image for Evripidis Gousiaris.
229 reviews99 followers
May 14, 2019
Η Λογοτεχνία σε ταξιδεύει. Προτιμώ τα ταξίδια σε άλλες εποχές όπου συναντάς ανθρώπους από μια συγκεκριμένη οικογένεια, συνοικία, χωριό ή πόλη και αυτοί μέσα από τις συνήθειες τους, τους προβληματισμούς και τις ανησυχίες τους, σε συστήνουν με την καθημερινότητα εκείνης της εποχής.

Έχω κάνει πολλά Ταξίδια σε επαύλεις ή Οίκους της Αγγλίας, διάφορες συνοικίες από πόλεις της Γαλλίας και σε χωριά ή επαρχίες της Ρωσίας. Πρώτη φορά όμως μου δόθηκε η ευκαιρία να ταξιδέψω και να παρακολουθήσω από κοντά την Καθημερινότητα μιας αριστοκρατικής Οικογένειας στην Κίνα του 18ου αιώνα.

Μια πέτρα όπου παραμερίστηκε από τους θεούς συνδέεται με τον πρωταγωνιστή προκειμένου να γνωρίσει από κοντά τους ανθρώπους. Ο Αναγνώστης μαζί με την πέτρα θα παρακολουθήσει από κοντά τον πρωταγωνιστή και την Οικογένεια του και θα βιώσει μια σειρά γεγονότων όπου συνθέτουν την σταδιακή πτώση της Οικογένειας Τσία.

Το όνειρο της Κόκκινης Καμάρας ή αλλιώς Η Ιστορία της Πέτρας, Ένα από τα Τέσσερα των Μεγάλων κλασσικών Μυθιστορημάτων της κινέζικης Λογοτεχνίας θεωρείται από πολλούς αυτοβιογραφικό βιβλίο καθώς υπάρχουν πολλές ομοιότητες με την ζωή του συγγραφέα.

Χωρίς να υπάρχει βασική πλοκή, το βιβλίο αφηγείται μια σειρά διαφόρων περιστατικών της καθημερινής ζωής όπου κυριαρχεί ο ρομαντισμός, η αγάπη και η ζήλεια. Παράλληλα υπάρχει μια βαθιά και πλούσια περιγραφή των συνηθειών της εποχής χωρίς όμως να πλατειάζει η αφήγηση. Με πολύ όμορφο τρόπο χαρίζεται στον αναγνώστη μια ξενάγηση στην φεουδαρχική κοινωνία του 18ου αιώνα όπου απεικονίζεται η κινέζικη φιλοσοφία, η πολιτική της εποχής, οι θρησκευτικές πεποιθήσεις, οι προκαταλήψεις, τα ήθη και έθιμα, ακόμα και η Κουζίνα τους και η φαρμακευτική περίθαλψη.

Πλούσιο το βιβλίο είναι και στα πρόσωπα που εμφανίζονται καθώς εκτός του πρωταγωνιστή, αριθμούνται επιπλέον 30 βασικοί ήρωες και πάνω από 400 δευτερεύων. Ο συγγραφέας έχει δείξει μεγάλη δυνατότητα στο να σκιαγραφεί χαρακτήρες και δεν νιώθεις ότι επαναλαμβάνονται παρά το μεγάλο τους πλήθος.

Το μοναδικό μου και μεγάλο παράπονο όμως με το βιβλίο είναι η δυσκολία που συνάντησα στο να ξεχωρίσω όλους αυτούς τους χαρακτήρες.
Μη έχοντας συνηθίσει ονόματα αυτής της μορφής (Τσίαν Γιάν, Πάο-γιού, Τσία Λιεν, Τσία Τσού, Τσία Τσέγκ κλπ) μου ήταν αρκετά δύσκολο να τα απομνημονεύσω, κυρίως όταν δεν χρησιμοποιούταν συνέχεια το ίδιο αλλά πολλές φορές εμφανιζόταν περιγραφικά σαν η γυναίκα του νεαρού αφέντη του σπιτιού (Κού ναι-ναι) ή μητέρα του αφέντη του σπιτιού (Λάο τάι-τάι) ή στην επόμενη σελίδα με το χαϊδευτικό του (Φοινικιά, Μαύρη Νεφρίτη, Σκάκι, Λωτός, Καλοδεχούμενη Άνοιξη, Συμπονετική Άνοιξη, Αναζητούμενη Άνοιξη, Πρώτη Άνοιξη κλπ). Επομένως πολλές φορές χανόμουν στην προσπάθεια να καταλάβω ποιον ήρωα είχα μπροστά μου εκείνη την στιγμή αντί να χαθώ στις σελίδες του βιβλίου.
Μου πήρε πολλές σελίδες (πάνω από 300) για να συνηθίσω τα ονόματα και να μάθω να αναγνωρίζω και να ξεχωρίζω όλους τους βασικούς χαρακτήρες και αυτό το κατάφερα κυρίως από τις πράξεις τους παρά από τα ονόματα τους. Είναι ο λόγος που παίρνει τέσσερα αστέρια και ο λόγος που δεν το προτείνω ανεπιφύλακτα.
Εδώ να αναφέρω ότι στην παρούσα έκδοση περιλαμβάνεται αναλυτική λίστα με τα σημαντικότερα πρόσωπα του βιβλίου, γενεαλογικό δέντρο αλλά και γλωσσάρι για την βοήθεια του αναγνώστη.

Γενικότερα η έκδοση είναι αναμενόμενα προσεγμένη με μια εξαιρετική μετάφραση, συμπεριλαμβάνοντας μια μακροσκελής εισαγωγή και πολλές σημειώσεις για την καλύτερη εμπειρία του Αναγνώστη. (Η σειρά Orbis Literae των εκδόσεων Gutenberg δεν απογοητεύουν ποτέ άλλωστε.)

Με εξαίρεση λοιπόν την δυσκολία των ονομάτων, Το όνειρο της κόκκινης Καμάρας κατάφερε να με ταξιδέψει σε εκείνη την εποχή και να με γνωρίσει σε μια κουλτούρα και φιλοσοφία όπου δεν είχα συναντήσει άλλη φορά σε σελίδες βιβλίου. Χρειάζεται υπομονή και επιμονή ή αλλιώς να αγνοήσεις τελείως τα ονόματα για να το εκτιμήσεις. Για αυτό και το προτείνω με μεγάλη επιφύλαξη.
Profile Image for Emmapeel.
131 reviews
August 11, 2017
Finisco un romanzo meraviglioso, 'Il sogno della camera rossa' (grazie, Ubu). Trattasi di mattonazzo di oltre 1.000 pagine, scritto intorno al 1760, che descrive minuziosamente la vita quotidiana di una grande famiglia nobiliare, nelle corti di Jung-kuo e di Ning-kuo. Incredibile mix di Recherche, Buddenbrook, Edith Warthon, Tolstoi, Calderòn de la Barca e naturalmente Beautiful, 'Il sogno della camera rossa' ha un andamento narrativo tortuoso e modernissimo, contrapponendo gli estenuati ed estenuanti riti quotidiani (lavarsi, scambiarsi visite, sedersi a mangiare, sorvegliare la servitù, organizzare feste e cerimonie) di una società prigioniera di se stessa, al grande vuoto tao-buddista, sola vera illuminazione contemplativa a fronte delle risibili pene umane. Confuso e infelice fra questi due estremi, il giovane Pao-yu è rebel without a cause secoli prima di Jimmy Dean e, naturalmente del giovane Holden. Grandezza e decadenza, ammore, intrighi, scenatacce e suicidi a volontà, il tutto descritto con tale delicata raffinatezza che al confronto Proust sembra un Hell's Angel californiano. Nota per eventuali aspiranti lettori: è doveroso avvisare che il libro ha tre grossi difetti, due non suoi. - Non è cucito ma incollato. Su un tomo di questo spessore vuol dire che una pagina su tre vi rimane in mano. Da denuncia penale. - Numerosi capitoli, in particolare gli ultimi quaranta, 'per esigenze di brevità' sono semplicemente riassunti. Il traduttore era stanco? L'Editore pensa forse che abbiamo fretta? Se mi annoio le pagine vorrei saltarle io, grazie. - Ora non è per voler fare del marketing di fronte all'Arte, ma differenziare un po' di più i nomi dei personaggi non avrebbe fatto un soldo di danno. Voglio dire, si chiamano tutti Chia Chen, Chia Cheng, Chia Ch'in, Chia Chu, Pao-ch'ai, Pao-ch'in, e così via per 450 personaggi. Poi non dite che non ve l'avevo detto.
Profile Image for Steve Morrison.
Author 7 books99 followers
November 20, 2008
One of the greatest masterpieces of literature, reading this was an incredible experience. Poignant, funny, metaphysical, tragic, allegorical, psychologically profound, and highly entertaining, it bridges the worlds of heaven and earth, dreams and "reality," and is a truly astonishing achievement. Reading does not get any better than this--it really is up there with Don Quixote, The Divine Comedy, War and Peace, Shakespeare, and anything else you might name. As one Western scholar on the work noted, to "appreciate its position in Chinese culture, we must imagine a work with the critical cachet of James Joyce's Ulysses with the popular appeal of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind – and twice as long as the two combined"...There is an excellent review here (http://www.complete-review.com...) if you are interested (it's listed in an alternate translation as "Story of the Stone").
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews972 followers
August 20, 2023
The mid-eighteenth century novel 《紅樓夢》(“red | building | dream”) has been the subject of so much scholarship that the study of the novel has itself been considered a separate field of study since the late nineteenth century:《红学》(“red | study,” or “redology”). Critical commentary on the novel, mostly marginal commentary 評點 (“comment | point”) began while it was still being written, but scholarship only expanded outside of the Sinosphere in the late twentieth century. There’s a lot of scholarly interpretation and criticism, but who cares about that, right? We’re here for the translation talk.

There are two titles of the novel in Chinese:《紅樓夢》(“red | building | dream”) and《石頭記》(“stone | [noun suffix] | chronicle”), both of which have been translated into English in various ways. The latter 《石頭記》is usually translated as “The Story of the Stone,” but the former《紅樓夢》has become everything from “A Dream of Red Mansions” to “The Dream of the Red Chamber.” The character 樓 (“edifice”) is, apparently, particularly tricky for most translators; so too is the fact that plurals are not typically clearly marked in Chinese, hence the discrepancy between the single “chamber” and the multiple “mansions.” Neither is technically more correct.

There are a handful of popular English translations, spanning around a century.
HENRY BENCRAFT JOLY (1893) — “The Dream of the Red Chamber
Although the first known attempt at translating part of the novel into English was in 1812 when Robert Morrison translated part of a single chapter (the 4th), and the second was in 1868 when Edward Charles Bowra translated the first eight chapters, it wasn’t until 1893 that a translation of the complete work was attempted. The novel’s prose is notoriously difficult to translate even amongst experienced Chinese–English translators, as it incorporates various forms of classical poetry, classical and vernacular language, and culturally specific references, almost all of which are crucial to the understanding of the story itself. Of the original 120 chapters, H. Bencraft Joly, who studied Chinese in Beijing as a representative of the British government, translated 56 before his early death in 1894. This truncation is perhaps ironically appropriate, given that it’s generally believed that the author of the first eighty chapters, Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹), did not write the last forty chapters but rather left the task to Gao E (高鶚).

The major bonus of this version is the fact that it’s in the public domain and thus the most easily accessible. The major drawback is the fact that it is very much a product of its time, adhering to the Victorian-era sensibilities and conventions. Although the translation is indeed meticulous, it is severely hampered by the mores of the time. Although Joly’s translation does not necessarily “domesticate” culturally Chinese elements of the original work (meaning certain parts are bound to be inscrutable to the average anglophone reader), it also does not hesitate to “Victorianise” much of the most interesting parts, with the result being some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a dual-cultural novel in which very little is explained and everyone talks like posh old British chaps. It’s certainly amusing if you’ve read other versions and are aware of what is warped, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a first venture to anyone not already familiar with the story and/or the process of English translation in the nineteenth century.

Later editions of this translation have slightly updated the text, correcting minor errors and changing the romanisation from Wade–Giles to pinyin. The version published by Tuttle Publishing includes a foreword and introduction by John Minford and Edwin Lowe, respectively. If reading Joly’s translation, I would strongly advise selecting the Tuttle edition if possible, and avoiding the older editions.
WANG CHI-CHEN (1929, 1958) — “Dream of the Red Chamber
Wang Chi-Chen, a Chinese-American academic, author, and translator, first published an abridged version of the novel in 1929, then later an expanded version in 1958 (sixty chapters, around half the length of the original). Both versions of Wang’s translation used Wade–Giles romanisation and emphasised the central romance over the rest of the novel, although the majority of the poetry, poetics, and plot were lost in the heavy abbreviation. The page length barely exceeds three hundred; in terms of accuracy Wang’s translation is only slightly less conservative than Joly’s, although it unfortunately lacks much of the meticulosity clearly visible in Joly’s efforts. Wang also translated into English various other famous Chinese literary works, including Lu Xun’s 《阿Q正傳》 (“real story of Ah-Q”).
FLORENCE & ISABEL McHUGH (1958) — “The Dream of the Red Chamber”
This abridged translation was based off a 1932 German-language translation by Franz Kuhn (see honourable mentions). Pivot language translations are embarrassing. Don’t read it.

(There’s also a 1957 French translation by Armel Guerne that also used the Franz Kuhn version, and it is similarly embarrassing.)
GLADYS YANG & YANG XIANYI (1978–1980) — “A Dream of Red Mansions
The first complete English translation (all 120 chapters) was done by noted power couple Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi (also credited as “Hsien-yi Yang,” the Wade–Giles rendering of his name), married translators working with the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing. Their original translation used the Wade–Giles romanisation system, although there have been abridged versions, which I haven’t read, so I don’t know if they’ve been updated to pinyin. The Yangs’ translation is by far the most literal version available, transliterating culturally specific terminology such as characters’ names and explaining in annotations and/or footnotes any homonyms, allusions, puns, or innuendoes that might not be obvious to an anglophone reader.

For example, the main family’s surname, 賈 [jiǎ], is homophonous with 假 [jiǎ] (“false”). Another family’s surname, 甄 [zhēn], is homophonous with 真 [zhēn] (“true”). The main character, Jia Baoyu (賈寶玉), has a counterpart in the Zhen family, Zhen Baoyu (甄寶玉), i.e., “false” Baoyu and “true” Baoyu. Another example is the character Zhen Shiyin (甄士隱), whose name literally means “mould | warrior | hidden” but is homophonous with 真事隱 (“truth | thing | hidden”); at the beginning of the novel, Zhen Shiyin conceals the truth of something that has happened. The Yangs note the majority of these puns in footnotes.

Another of the many difficulties in translating the novel is the register. I’ve talked before about how it’s functionally impossible to translate things like register, dialect, and colloquial speech from one language to another, particularly when in the context of a Sino-Tibetan language and a cannibalistic Germanic language. Cao Xueqin was well-versed in classical Chinese poetry and prose, having previously written in the more “refined” style, although the novel was written in vernacular 白话 [báihuà] rather than classical 文言 [wényán] Chinese, and would later help to establish the legitimacy of written vernacular Chinese. The dialogue, however, is written in the eighteenth-century Beijing dialect with influences from the eighteenth-century Nanjing dialect; Beijing Mandarin is, admittedly, the basis of modern spoken Chinese in the mainland, kind of how British English is considered “standard” (and/or “proper”) English.

Not all of the translation details are good, however. The Yangs chose to translate 道人 (“dao | person”) as “reverend,” instead of the more accurate “Daoist priest” or simply “Daoist.” On the other hand the Yangs correctly translate 神仙 [shénxiān], an extremely important aspect of Chinese Daoist thought, as “immortal(s),” while the other complete English-language translation, by Hawkes and Minford, translates the same word as “salvation” for reasons unknown. The concept of “salvation” in this context, apart from being just plain inaccurate, evokes Western Christian thought, not Eastern Daoist; “salvation” is therefore not only a less literally accurate translation but also a less culturally accurate translation.
DAVID HAWKES & JOHN MINFORD (1973–1986) — “The Story of the Stone
The second of two complete English translations was done by David Hawkes and John Minford, both British translators who studied in China. Hawkes had already spent quite some time studying the novel (“红学”) when Penguin Classics hired him to translate the novel. The first eighty chapters of the novel, those written by Cao Xueqin, were translated by Hawkes, with the final forty, those written by Gao E, were translated by Minford. The five volumes of the Hawkes–Minford translation approach three thousand pages, with the estimated word count at nearly one million.

This translation, which thankfully uses pinyin, is probably the most readable for an anglophone audience. The major drawback, in my opinion, is the lack of nuance: despite a lengthy introduction and appendices, almost all of the more subtle meaning in the novel is entirely lost. One example would be the communicative function of characters’ names—many names are homonyms or homophones with words which either enhance or contradict their personalities and/or allegorical significance, e.g. the character Huo Qi 霍啟 (“sudden | begin”), whose name is homonymous with 禍起 (“disaster | commence”) and/or 火起 (“fire | start”). While the Yangs’ translation transliterates the name as “Huo Qi” with an explanatory footnote, Hawkes and Minford render the name as “Calamity.”
SELECTED HONOURABLE MENTIONS (other languages than English)
For German, there is Der Traum der roten Kammer, translated by Franz Kuhn (1932); I have not read this translation, but I’ve heard from some German friends that it’s quite good and accurate. For Russian, there is Сон в красном тереме, translated by Vladimir Panasyuk (1958); I have not read this translation, but I’ve heard from some Russian friends that it’s also pretty decent. For Italian, there is Il sogno della camera rossa, translated by Edoarda Masi (1964); I have not read this translation. For Vietnamese, there is Hồng Lâu Mộng, translated by Vũ Bội Hoàng, Nguyễn Doãn Địch, and Nguyễn Thọ (1969); although I have not read this translation, I’ve heard from multiple sources that it is highly accurate to the original, given the similarities between Chinese and Vietnamese—meaning that, for example the puns are all preserved. For French, there is Le Rêve dans le pavillon rouge, translated by Jacqueline Alézaïs, André d’Hormon, and Li Tche-houa (1981); I have actually read this translation, and it’s... okay, I guess? I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who can also read English, but it’s not bad or anything, comparatively speaking. For Czech, there is Sen v červeném domě, translated by Oldřich Král (1986–1988); I have not read this translation. For Slovak, there is Sen o Červenom pavilóne, translated by Marina Čarnogurská (2001–2003); I have not read this translation. For Dutch, there is De droom van de rode kamer of het verhaal van de steen, translated by Silvia Marijnissen, Mark Leenhouts, and Anne Sytske Keijser (2021); I have not read this translation. I have an ongoing feud with the entire Dutch language (long story), so I probably never will, to be honest.
I’m not really one to say which translation is best per se, especially not when dealing with highly stylised fiction where translation is often subjective, so I can only speak for myself personally. I would recommend the Yangs’ translation as the best and most literal English-language translation available, although it is admittedly far more difficult to read than the Hawkes–Minford translation, which I believe is the most accessible complete English-language translation. I don’t recommend reading an abridged translation; if you only want to know the story, the Wikipedia page (perhaps unsurprisingly) has a summary of the plot. If you want to read the actual novel, however, and aren’t fluent in Chinese—to be fair, the novel is challenging even for native speakers due to the style of prose and frequent period-specific political references—you can’t find a better or more complete English-language translation than Gladys Yang’s and Yang Xianyi’s.

In short: Hawkes–Minford domesticate; the Yangs foreignise.
Profile Image for Sophielihui.
8 reviews
June 28, 2010
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 of every last copy of the translated “A Dream of Red Mansions”. Because this legendary masterpiece, with its profound beauty and delicate language, is fundamentally untranslatable.

Profile Image for Laszlo Hopp.
Author 3 books12 followers
July 21, 2013
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 the Marsh; all may have various different titles depending on the translation. – It starts out like a rather dull, uneventful, linear diary spiced with an occasional mystical dream of the main protégé, Bayou, an early teenage boy growing into young adulthood during the story. The details of his days and the days of a host of other main characters, mostly his relatives, are given in obsessive, almost painful details.

But dear Reader, don’t be fooled by this slow start! Perhaps the following statement will demonstrate how the book grew on me: completing the first 20 % of the book took me more time than the rest of the 80%. The reason I hung on during these critical early pages was a fascinating look into a long-gone culture; a culture that until this day has been reflected in the life and mentality of nearly a third of the World’s population – East and South-East Asia, to be exact -. If one has my kind of enthrallment with various cultures, the “boring” details throughout the book actually provide an exquisite opportunity to observe and learn.

In sharp contrast to the first part, around 50% into the reading the story accelerated and I had hard time putting down my Kindle. From here on, the life events of a few dozen main characters and countless minor participants became compelling. The story branched out into several exciting subplots only to be masterfully reunited in the final chapters.

The Jia is an old, noble family in the middle period of the Qing-Dynasty China. One of their greatest social achievements came when the Emperor chose their oldest daughter as a favorite concubine. When the family learned that their daughter had gotten permission from the Court to visit her parents, for her welcome they built a magnificent garden with several living quarters. The rest of the story took place mostly in this garden and the surrounding two mansions belonging to two branches of the Jias.
The main storyline focuses on the slow decline of this huge, influential family. However, there is an equally important second storyline running parallel with the first one as an organic component of it: Bayou’s somewhat mystical spiritual awakening.

Most characters have multidimensional flesh-and-blood personalities without a hint of dogmatic profiling. The good, bad, and the ambiguous features are distributed among them with good sense, letting their vivid individualities shine through.

Poetry is an important part of the characters’ lives. The book presents a good number of poems written by a few gifted family members. Although intellectually these poems gave me very little to hang on to, their moods nonetheless helped me understand the state of mind of those who wrote the poems and even the times they lived in.

Not unlike James Joyce’s with his “stream of consciousness,” the author gives the reader free access to the most inner thoughts of several major characters, most notably to Bayou’s. This extra dimension of their personalities makes these characters even more intimate and accessible to the reader.

One thing I especially enjoyed in the book was learning about the multiple elements of the Qing Dynasty China interwoven in the story: the arranged marriages; concubines; the “dowager” cult – incidentally this latter largely contributed to the fall of China during Emperor Dowager Cixi’s regency -; the bizarre look at suicide as an accepted and in fact frequently expected solution to life’s problems; Chinese Medicine with its reliance on pulse evaluation; the system of feudalistic servants whose status was not much different from slaves but who could become highly valued members of the families – in the book represented by Xiren and Pinger -; the influence of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism on every day life; the role of Chinese Opera in Chinese culture; the importance of jade in Chinese spirituality; etc.

One peculiarity that stood out for me in the book is the physical and psychological fragility of the Jia clan members. Frequent crying, mental derangement, suicide, and consumption – i.e. tuberculosis – abounded in this wealthy family. I could not find any historical information regarding the incidence of mental disease and tuberculosis in 18th century China but based on the story it surely seemed high. Or, was this family struck by an unusual genetic burden due to intermarriage? As an example, Bayou, who himself acted at times as a schizophrenic, other times as a depressed or autistic youngsters, married his first cousin.

In summary, this is a remarkable book for its documentation of an obscure historical time hardly accessible for most Westerners. It has a rich character set, the theme is timeless, and the intriguing subplots make it a persuasive reading. The book’s length is due to exquisite details. On one side, these seemingly unnecessary details don’t help much with the modern concept of story development yet, I would submit that they have other literary values. I can see that many potential readers will get discouraged to start or continue reading the book even after overcoming their reluctance due to the formidable page number. To such potential readers I would recommend reading one of the abridged versions readily available in popular bookstores.
Profile Image for E. G..
1,112 reviews684 followers
April 16, 2021
Introduction, by Shi Changyu
Chief Characters in the Novel and Their Relationships

--A Dream of Red Mansions, Volume I

--A Dream of Red Mansions, Volume II

--A Dream of Red Mansions, Volume III

--A Dream of Red Mansions, Volume IV
About the Translators
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,834 followers
July 10, 2016
حلم الغرفة الحمراء

في السيرة الذاتية ليونغ تشانغ (بجعات برية)، تلتقي والدتها في شبابها بشاب وسيم ومن عائلة غنية، ولكنها ترفضه بسبب غبائه، تقول والدتها مستنكرة: إنه لم يقرأ (حلم الغرفة الحمراء) حتى!!

كتبت هذه الرواية الكلاسيكية، والتي صارت رمزاً لثقافة الشباب الصيني في القرن الثامن عشر، واعتبرت من أهم أربعة روايات كلاسيكية صينية، كما وصفت بأنها روميو وجولييت الصين.

ولكن للأسف وعلى نقيض الروائع الإنسانية الأخرى والتي يمكن لكل الشعوب قراءتها والتفاعل معها، تبدو (حلم الغرفة الحمراء) مغرقة في صينيتها، فصول متوالية من علاقات الأسياد والخدم، والأسياد والأسياد، يتوه الإنسان مع الشخصيات الكثيرة وأسمائها المربكة، على أي حال حظي الكتاب بترجمة جيدة، وإن مختصرة فالنص الأصلي يتمدد على ألف صفحة.
Profile Image for Έλσα.
516 reviews103 followers
May 4, 2019
Δεν ταιριάξαμε καθόλου με το βιβλίο. Με κούρασε, δε με άγγιξε, δε μου μίλησε. Το βρήκα αργό, ανούσιο κ επιφανειακό. Πάρα πολλά ονόματα που σου κάνουν το κεφάλι μπλέντερ...ήρωες που δεν είχαν ουσιαστικά ενεργό ρόλο στο βιβλίο. Έκανα άθλο για να το τελειώσω. Δεν τραβούσε...
Profile Image for Lysmerry.
34 reviews17 followers
November 27, 2016
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 nuanced than the 'Romeo and Juliet' story it is sold as. The story is more of the downfall of a great house and how it affects the young men and women living there. It is remarkable in that it is so much about women at a time when women's lives were considered unimportant. It is also defies Confucian mores in several ways, though adheres to them in others. Most points of the author's biography are unknown but it is thought that he belonged to a wealthy family that, much like the family in the book, came down in the world. The book was completed by someone else.

It is also a good 'starter' version if you are interested in testing it before you delve into the much longer unabridged version. Which really, you must read. After reading this, I read the David Hawkes translation (5 volumes)which I highly recommend.

Edit: I just wanted to add that the main reason I recommend this book as a starter is that it gave me in many places the same emotional 'punch' as the original, which I think it a remarkable achievement considering how greatly it has been condensed.
Profile Image for Vasilis Manias.
357 reviews89 followers
March 27, 2019
Το Όνειρο της Κόκκινης Κάμαρας ή η Ιστορία της Πέτρας, σίγουρα ειναι μία από τις σημαντικότερες κυκλοφορίες της χρονιάς μιας και δίνει επιτέ��ους τη δυνατότητα στον Έλληνα Αναγνώστη να κοιτάξει μέσα από ένα παράθυρο που μέχρι σήμερα δεν υπήρχε καν για αυτόν, έναν κόσμο άγνωστο, μαγικό και σίγουρα παρθένο. Το βιβλίο αφηγείται τη ζωή μιας πέτρας (!) η οποία κάθεται νωχελικά σε ένα βράχο μέχρι που περνάει δύο μοναχοί, ένας Ταοιστής και ένας Βουδιστής. Η πέτρα αυτή όμως έχει όνειρα, θέλει να ζήσει τη ζωή της, να γνωρίσει τον κόσμο. Οπότε δίδεται δώρο στον νεαρό Πάο Γιού και η περιπέτεια ξεκινά!
Το ταξίδι αυτό στη φεουδαρχική Κίνα έχει πολλά θετικά στοιχεία για τον αναγνώστη μιας και έρχεται σε επαφή ��ε την παράδοση μίας χώρας η οποία μας είναι γνωστή μονάχα από τις ταινίες του Κουροσάβα (και ας ήταν Γιάπωνας) και από ότι ξέρουμε για τα βαζα Μινκ. Μιά καθημερινότητα που τη διακρίνει η πραότητα και ένας αυστηρός κώδικας τιμής που διέπει μία τέτοια αυστηρή κοινωνία, η οποία όμως απαρτίζεται από ανθρώπους με αδυναμίες και πάθη και δολοπλοκίες και κουτσομπολιά, μία καθημερινότητα δηλαδή λίγο πολύ όπως και τη δικιά μας. Αναμφίβολα μιλάμε για έναν κόσμο που έχει πια χαθεί, οπότε το ενδιαφέρον είναι τεράστιο, αλλά το βιβλίο εχει και ένα σοβαρό, σοβαρότατο μειονέκτημα. Τα ονόματα.
Έχω διαβάσει πολλά δύσκολα βιβλία, το συγκεκριμένο με έκανε φορές φορές να θέλω κυριολεκτικά να το πετάξω στη θάλασσα. Όλοι έχουν ένα όνομα που αποτελείται απο δυο λεξεις, το οποίο όμως παράλληλα συνοδεύεται φορές φορές και από ένα πιο δυτικό όνομα.
Για παράδειγμα η Τσιά Λιεν, είναι η Αδερφή Λιεν, αλλά είναι και η Φοινικιά, ή αλλιώς Νάι Νάι, ή απλά ανηψιά της κυρίας Γουανγκ μητέρας του Παο Γιού. Καταλαβαίνεται που το πάω. Πολλές φορές μία παράγραφος έχει 8 τέτοια ονόματα και η επόμενη μπορεί να έχει τα ίδια 8 αλλα με τις δευτερες, τριτες, τεταρτες ονομασίες τους! Και αυτό δεν έχει σταματημό μιας και γνωρίζουμε διεξοδικά μέχρι και τις ζητιάνες που επισκέπτονται το καστρο των ευγενών τις ιστορίας μας. Να μην αναφερθώ στις τέσσερις πρωταγωνίστριες που ονομάζονται Συμπονετική Άνοιξη, Καλοδεχούμενη Άνοιξη, Πρώτη Άνοιξη και Αναζητούμενη Άνοιξη.... Ακούς Άνοιξη κ σε πιάνει τρόμος!
Σε κάθε περίπτωση ξεκίνησα να το διαβάσω με τρομερή διάθεση, μου πήρε καιρό να το τελειώσω μιας και ταυτόχρονα διαβαζα και άλλα βιβλία, αλλά μου άφησε στο φινάλε μία γλυκιά γεύση, τελείωσε όπως περίμενα και ήθελα, και νομίζω το όνομα του Πάο Γιού δεν θα το ξεχάσω ποτέ. Α, και τα συγχαρητήρια στη μεταφράστρια της Gutenberg Έλλη Λαμπρίδη, εντάξει η δουλειά της είναι απλά ασύλληπτη.
Profile Image for Robert Sheppard.
Author 2 books85 followers
August 21, 2013

Chinese culture is renown for its addiction to compiling "Lists of the Greats," from the Four Great Inventions of China (Paper, the Comnpass, Printing and Gunpowder) to the Four Great Beautiful Women (Yang Guifei, Xi Shi, Yang Jiaojun and Diaochan) to the Three Great Tang Dynasty Poets (Li Bai (Li Po), Du Fu and Wang Wei) to the Four Great Novels of Chinese Literature. Thus every educated Chinese person was expected to have read, or at least to have thouroughly read about, The Four Great Novels: The Qing Dynasty Classic the Hong Lou Meng, or "The Dream of Red Mansions" by Cao Xueqin, the Xi You Ji, or "Journey to the West" by Wu Chengen featuring the fabulous Monkey-King Sun Wukong, the great historical epic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" by Luo Guanzhong, and the classic "Robin Hood" tale of gallant outlaws "Shui Hu Zhuan," or "The Water Margin" by Shi Nai'an.

Chinese scholars generally added two additional novels as an "Apocrypha" to this "Canonic Prose Bible" of The Four Great Novels, which officially you shouldn't have read (like the Marquis de Sade or Lady Chatterly's Lover in the West), but which if you were a real intellectual you definitely should have: The erotic classic the Jin Ping Mei, or "The Golden Lotus" which was excluded from inclusion in the canon because of its sexual, immoral and pornographic content, despite its admitted literary excellence, and the "Ru Lin Wai Shi," or "The Scholars," by Wu Jingzi, also downgraded from classical status due to its bohemian counter-cultural satire on and rejection of traditional Confucian scholars and examination-passing officials as mindless conformists and intellectual ciphers.

In the not so remote past, education centered on learning the cultural tradition of one's own nation was assumed to be an adequate foundation for functional adulthood and citizenship. Thus Chinese scholars concentrated on the Confucian heritage and with little effort given to understanding other civilizations and traditions, Christians were content with the Bible and their own national classics and Islamic nations were happy if one could recite the Koran by heart. In today's cosmopolitan globalized world of transnational business and the Internet familiarity with one's own national history, national culture and literature is no longer an adequate preparation for adult life in the globalized real world.

Thus each educated person in the modern world must have a basic familiarity with World Literature in addition to his own national or regional literature, accompanied of course with a basic knowledge of World History, World Religions, World Philosophy and universal science. With the increasing importance of a "Rising China" in world affairs and culture it is thus incumbent on every educated person in the world to have some basic familiarity with these six classics of Chinese Literature. Thus World Literature Forum in this "Recommended Classics and Masterpieces of World Literature Series" provides the following very basic introduction to these works, perhaps in a globalized version of E.D. Hirsch's "What Every American Should Know" reformulated as: "What Every Citizen of the World Should Know in the 21st Century."


The theme and saga of family decline is a universal mofif in World Literature, embracing such classics as Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks," the English "Forsyth Saga" of Gallsworthy, "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waigh, and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez. The Dream of Red Mansions is one of the great exemplars of this genre, movingly telling the tale of the decline of the Jia family, laced with Buddhist spiritual fore-fated melancholy, from success and influence in the Qing Dynasty Imperial Court, through demise, weakening of character, disaster and their fall into relative obscurity.

Scholars and popular readers have agreed that the "Dream of the Red Chamber" (also variously entitled A Dream of Red Chambers or The Story of the Stone) is the greatest Chinese novel, though differences of opinion have developed as to the exact nature of its greatness since its publication. Indeed, in China there is a whole virtual branch of knowledge or cottage industry which is known as "Red-ology" in the interpretation of the work, about which a similar amount of criticism has been written as comparable with that of Shakespeare criticism in England of Goethe criticism in Germany.

The Dream of the Red Mansion also serves as a veritable encyclopedia of imperial Chinese society and culture in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) introducing over four hundred characters hailing from all walks of life and social classes with intricate subplots and detailed descriptions of buildings, gardens, furniture, cuisine, medicines, clothing, poetry, etiquette, games performances and pastimes of the aristocracy and others. The novel has simi-autobiographical features as the author Cao Xueqin (1715-1763)also came from a declining family, successful in the early Qing Dynasty, but reduced in fortune and circumstances until the author died in relative poverty and obscurity whille completing his immortal epic in Beijing.

Reduced to its most central characters, the story focuses on a young man of the Jia family, Jia Baoyu, coming of age surrounded by female cousins and slightly effeminate and romantic in his temperament, who falls in love with but cannot marry Lin Daiyu, a "poor relation" cousin who has a spiritual beauty that accompanies her declining health. His "Golden Days" are spent cavorting with these cousins and friends in aristocratic pleasures and cultivated pastimes such as writing poetry couplets to each other, watching Chinese Opera performances, and frolicing in the Pleasure Garden of the family estate. As the years go by, Jia Baoyu, protected and spoiled by his doting grandmother, interminably procrastinates in pursuing the twin adult responsibilities urged on him by his parents: His stern Confucian father urges on him the duty of studying hard, passing the Imperial Examination, becoming a court bureaucrat and restoring the family's declining material fortunes; His mother urges that he find an appropriate match as a wife from a successful aristocratic family that can extend and enhance the waning power and wealth of the extended family. Instead, Baoyu dallies in adolescent games and pleasures, sexual experimentation and petty intrigues, holding on to the "splendor in the grass" of the family Pleasure Garden, and feels that his love-bond with his poor cousin, the ailing Lin Daiyu is spiritually fated, which it proves to be to the unhealthy detriment of all.

The immense novel also operates powerfully on a symbolic spiritual level with the opening chapter, from which the alternative title "The Story of the Stone" derives, literally containing the entire novel condensed into symbolic form. Following ancient Chinese Taoist and Buddhist myth, a stone rejected by a goddess who was repairing the sky is picked up by a Buddhist monk and a Daoist priest and taken to the world of the mortals, to be found eons later by another Daoist with the story of its worldly forefated experience inscribed upon it. Unfit for the pure unadulterated life and condition of heaven, the stone is forefated to suffer birth and death in mortal life below, yet also tragically retains alloyed within itself the divine substance of heaven. Before the stone enters upon mortal life and destiny, however, it, like the "Little Prince" of Exuperay, tenderly waters with sweet dew a lovely flower not of this world, who in turn incurs a karmic debt towards the stone, which must be repaid in the mortal world of human life. The story of the stone is thus the inscribed fate of the stone written on itself, suspended somehow ever-insecurely, as of all human endeavor, somewhere between heaven and earth, but also becomeing in reiteration or reincarnation the story and destiny of Jia Baoyu as an individual human mortal, who like the Biblical "sheep gone astray" of Isiah's Suffering Servant passage, or the miscast ploughman's seed, finds another more existential and singular destiny, fatedly unhappy in this world's material context. Thus we learn in the novel that Jai Baoyu was born with a jade stone in his mouth, trailing as it were Wordsworthian "clouds of glory" in his birth, and from thence relives the story of the stone in his ill-fated mortal life, while his beloved Lin Daiyu, a reincarnation of the beautiful other-worldly flower loved and watered by the stone in heaven, pays her karmic debt to the stone in her undying yet ill-fated love and devotion for Jia Baoyu in this world. Meanwhile, as each of the characters works out their spiritual destinies, the Jia family declines further and further in its worldly fortunes.


Perhaps the most beloved novel by all Chinese people, from children to adults, is the immortal "Journey to the West" of Wu Chengen, which tells the story of the pilgrimage of the Buddhist Monk Xuanzong to India to obtain and translate Holy Buddhist Scriptures, aided by the magical Monkey-King, Sun Wu Kong, a lovable "Pigsy" or Zhu Bajie character endowed with gargantuan physical strength and appetites, and a down-to-earth and practical monk "Sandy" or Sha Hesheng. In the long narrative of their adventures they repeatedly are assaulted en route by demons and evil forces plotting to defeat the Tang Monk's spiritual mission, but which are always defeated by the combination of talents and forces of the pilgrim brotherhood, led by the rebellious and precocious genius and magical powers of the Monkey King, a figure derived from the earlier character Hanuman in the Indian Ramayana. As both the Journey to the West and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms have already been treated in greater depth in other blog entries in this series I will not go into great depth in their description.


The Romance of the Three Kingdoms tells the historically true story of the wars and struggles between the three kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu, which arose between 169 AD and 280 AD when the Han Dynasty Empire, comparable in scope and population to the contemporaneous Roman Empire, broke apart before again acheiving reunification. As a novel loosly based on real history but treated with artistic license, like Duma's "Three Musketeers" saga it tells the story of the "Iron Brotherhood" of devoted friends and heroes Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, who swear their "one for all and all for one" oath of allegiance to restore the Han Dynasty in the famous Oath of the Peach Garden, also vowing to protect the oppressed. They are opposed by the arch-Machiavellian dictator Cao Cao, whom they must defeat, but are aided by the genius general Zhuge Liang. The story of their struggle, ultimately successful but not before their deaths, has become as familiar to all Chinese, Japanese and Korean persons as the stories of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra are in the West.


The 14th Century classic "The Water Margin" (Shui Hu Zhuan), also known as "Outlaws of the Marsh" as translated by American epatriate Sydney Shapiro, and "All Men Are Brothers" as translated by the first female American Nobel Prize Winner Pearl Buck, is written in vernacular Chinese and attributed to the writer Shi Nai'an. The "Robin Hood-esque" story, set in the Song Dynasty, tells of how a group of 108 outlaws gathers at Mount Liang (or Liangshan Marsh) to form a sizable army of adventurous outlaws before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress other rebel forces. As such it depicts many of the contradictions in feudal Chinese society, based on repression and exploitation of the mass peasantry by a corrupt and oppressive landed aristocracy and imperial bureaucracy, which generated, repressed and often co-opted its opponents. The novel focuses on the exploits of the outlaw Song Jiang and his thirty-six sworn brothers and their heroic adventures, reminiscent of the tales of "Robin Hood" of Sherwood Forest in the West.


The "Jin Ping Mei" or "The Golden Lotus," is a Chinese naturalistic novel composed in vernacular Chinese during the late Ming Dynasty by an unknown anonymous author taking the pseudonym "Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng," or "The Scoffing Scholar of Lanling." circulated first in surreptitious handwritten copies then printed for the first time in 1610.

Its graphically explicit depiction of sexuality has garnered the novel a level of notoriety in the Chinese world akin to "Fanny Hill," "Lady Chatterley's Lover" or the Marquis de Sade in Western literature, but critics nonetheless generally find a firm moral structure which exacts moralistic retribution for the sexual libertinism of the central characters.

The Jin Ping Mei takes its name from the three central female characters — Pan Jinlian (Golden Lotus), Li Ping'er (Little Vase), a concubine of Ximen Qing, and Pang Chunmei (Spring plum), a young maid who rises to power within the family of the decadent libertine Ximen Qing. Princeton University Press in describing the Roy translation calls the novel "a landmark in the development of the narrative art form----not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context......noted for its surprisingly modern technique" and "with the possible exception of The Tale of Genji (1010) and Don Quixote (1605, 1615), there is no earlier work of prose fiction of equal sophistication in world literature."

The Jin Ping Mei is framed as a spin off from the classical novel "The Water Margin." The beginning chapter is based on an episode in which "Tiger Slayer" Wu Song avenges the murder of his older brother by brutally killing his brother's former wife and murderer, Pan Jinlian. The story, ostensibly set during the years 1111–27 during the Northern Song Dynasty, centers on Ximen Qing, a corrupt social climber, libertine and lustful merchant who is wealthy enough to marry a consort of six wives and concubines. After secretly murdering Pan Jinlian's husband, Ximen Qing takes her as one of his wives. The story follows the domestic sexual struggles of the women within his household as they clamor for prestige and influence amidst the gradual decline of the Ximen clan. In the Jin Ping Mei, anti-hero Ximen Qing in the end dies from an overdose of aphrodisiacs administered by Jinlian to which he has become addicted and dependent in order to keep up his sexual potency. In the course of the novel, Ximen has 19 sexual partners, including his 6 wives and mistresses, with 72 intimately described sexual episodes, a level of erotic repetition reminiscent of the works of the Marquis de Sade and Henry Miller, in "Nexus," "Sexus" and "Plexus." Needless to say, the Jin Ping Mei through most of history was severely repressed by the puritanical Confucian authorities as criminal pornography, though its libertine anti-hero Ximen Qing receives full poetical justice and punishment for his crimes. Even today mention of its name, like de Sade in the West, will bring a blush of enbarassed shame to most Chinese cheeks, young and old.


"The Scholars" written in 1750 by Wu Jingzi during the Qing Dynasty describes and often satirizes Chinese scholars in a vernacular Chinese idiom. The first and last chapters portray intellectual recluses, but most of the loosely-connected stories that form the bulk of the novel are didactic and satiric stories, on the one hand admiring idealistic Confucian behavior, but on the other ridiculing over-ambitious scholars and criticizing the civil service examination system, describing the officials and orthodox scholars who succeed in the system as mindless conformists and intellectual ciphers whose knowledge rarely exceeds the "Cliff Notes" and cram course exam fakery of the times, exemplified by the rote mechanical guidebooks to the "Eight-Legged Essay" for the Imperial Examination.

Instead, the novel honors the somewhat bohemian and counter-cultural intellectual circles on the fringe of official society frequented by actors, poets, artists, bibliophiles and the true scholars of the heart who despise the official poseurs and consequently lead insecure lives and suffer financial decline. Promoting naturalistic attitudes over belief in the supernatural, the author rejects the popular belief in retribution: his bad characters suffer no punishment. The characters in these stories are intellectuals, perhaps based on the author's friends and contemporaries. Wu also portrays women sympathetically: the chief character Du treats his wife as a companion and soulmate instead of as an inferior. Although it is a satiric and counter-cultural novel, a major incident in the novel is Du's attempt to renovate his family's ancestral temple, suggesting the author shared with Du a belief in the importance of a true and authentic Confucianism as opposed to the poseur Confucianism of the ruling bureaucratic class.


My own work, Spiritus Mundi, the contemporary epic of social idealists struggling to save the world and avert WWIII with a revolutionary new United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, also draws on Chinese tradition. Over a third of the novel takes place in China and the novel was written entirely in Beijing. One of the main characters of the mythic portion of the novel is the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, who along with Goethe guides the protagonists on a Quest to the center of the earth and to the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy to save the world from a conspiracy to bring about WWIII. In China I knew Sydney Shapiro, the translator of "The Outlaws of the Marsh" and also worked with the daughter of Gladys Yang, the translator of the "Dream of the Red Mansion."

World Literature Forum invites you to check out the great Chinese novelists of World Literature, and also the contemporary epic novel Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard. For a fuller discussion of the concept of World Literature you are invited to look into the extended discussion in the new book Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard, one of the principal themes of which is the emergence and evolution of World Literature:

For Discussions on World Literature and n Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycrit...

Robert Sheppard

World Literature Forum
Author, Spiritus Mundi Novel
Author’s Blog: http://robertalexandersheppard.wordpr...
Spiritus Mundi on Goodreads:
Spiritus Mundi on Amazon, Book I: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIGJFGO
Spiritus Mundi, Book II: The Romance http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CGM8BZG

Copyright Robert Sheppard 2013 All Rights Reserved

Profile Image for Mike.
315 reviews42 followers
February 27, 2012
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 and nicknames used for various characters, the cuts and transitions that are in places unlike Western narrative, and a wealth of Chinese traditions, manners, and morals that will due to their exoticism and antiquity alike will confound a reader not already aware of Qing Dynansty history and culture. That said, this book is as influential to Chinese culture as Dickens or Austen are to British culture and in movies, pop music, and certainly contemporary Chinese literature you'll still encounter references to Dream of the Red Chamber.

The plot of the novel follows the lives of the Rongguo House and the Ningguo House of the noble and wealthy Jia clan and thus the drama and intrigue visited on these powerful families. Much of the emphasis is on plans to marry a son or daughter off to someone or who has the power in a certain household. If you enjoy Jane Austen, after getting over the cultural differnces and obscure way the story is told—magic factors in a great deal and sometimes it's hard to pin down what is metaphorical and what is supposed to be actual—you'll probably enjoy this book. In saying that, I do not mean to scare away readers nor to cite the cultural and historical differences as a problem or marker of something "less-than"or abnormal, but it must be understood that due to the specifics of the Qing Dynasty plus various editions of the novel and additions by various authors and editors, the book's study has become so complex and nuanced that there is even a name for the academic field of investigation of this one novel: Redology. No joke. In example, a work mentioned in the book Fei Yi Ji Ji Gao, a work within a work, has even been studied in detail and the jury of scholars is still out on the origins and authenticity of this work!

All that said, this is a powerful, sweeping, epic and utterly engrossing book and it stands in my opinion as probably one of the top ten—possibly even top five—works of world literature ever written. Why only four stars then? This translation, and all translations I've read or examined appear to have their faults and be overall pretty cumbersome. I realize that translators and editors of a work this complex have their tasks cut out for them and I don't want to see anything done that would mitigate the true flavor of the original yet what seems to happen is that the language winds up somewhere between a faithful replication of the Chinese and something seeming like a bad script-writer trying to write dialog as people would have spoken in "Bible days". In places, the novel even seems like a parody of itself. If you thought the dialog in The Good Earth seemed fake and even comical with all the "ah, my pretty lotus flower!" platitudes, this book will make you want to tear your hair out. If you can get past that, it's a treat.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews17 followers
February 21, 2016

Guardian article

Read the novel here Hattip to Wandaful

Opening: Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

A stone hurled by an Empress feels neglected, desolate and unfit...

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch’ing Keng peak."

So how long is a chang so that we can picture this thing? Answer: 3.58 metres or 11 feet 9 inches Ta-dah! Yet that is only half the story, this heavenly stone can expand or contract - become the apex of a mountain or lay in the palm of a curious hand.

What fun! Not like Pauline Collins talking to 'rock' in Shirley Valentine*, this rock talks back.

* Damn! couldn't find that clip of her talking to 'rock' yet did find this bit, which is smashing

As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine."

Profile Image for Zeny Recidoro.
Author 3 books12 followers
July 26, 2012
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 Goddess. And yet, in Hong Lou Meng, the exact opposite happens. The stone that has been cast off goes into the "Red Dust" and lives a mundane life as Chia Pao Yu. Upon death, his story was carved on his surface, and stands proud and visible as a mockery to the Goddess'rejection of him. The story, through presenting the everyday life of people, shows the reader that a full life, an enlightened life can be experienced through the mundane.
Profile Image for Bre Teschendorf.
119 reviews5 followers
July 2, 2014
I found a all four volumes of this book on the street, in Berlin Germany. I had never heard of it before, but the book described itself as THE most relevant piece of Chinese Literature that there is; naturally I had to keep it and eventually read it.

I didn't fall in love with this book until about half way through Volume II. I had a hard time following all of the characters, their relationships to each other, and the Chinese names, many of which were so similar (to me) that I would get easily confused.

Eventually, I made my own family tree, with notes on it about "who's who" and that helped me to keep it all straight. Furthermore, things became more and more clear as I pressed-on and continued with the story.

So by the middle of the second volume, I was completely immersed in the story and couldn't put the book down. China was all around me! I craved rice and ginseng tea, I dreamed about Daiyu, I spent hours on the internet researching the elements of the book and Chinese culture that I didn't understand.

I have never been a person who is grossly interested in Chinese//Asian culture. Nevertheless, I found this book fascinating and worth reading. The charachters are complex and interesting. The various stories in the book are exciting and really grab and hold the attention. The use of poetry (so many poems!) was also fun to read.

I gave it only 4 stars because, I believe that there are better English translations, of this book, than the translation I read.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
November 13, 2014
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. Volume four is Hubris as the family cut off from the world commit steadily more wicked and cruel actions leaving the floor strewn with the corpses of bullied servants, beaten concubines and innocent commoners. Volume Five starts out as Nemesis. Justice strikes. The bureaucracy discovers that two members of the family are guilty of fraud and lone-sharking. The police raid the Wang-Jia compound and confiscate most of the valuables they can find. Edicts then strip them of their estates.

The Wang-Jias seem to be at the nadir of their fortunes like Job when a mysterious monk arrives. He explains to the family that one son Bao-Yu is the reincarnation of a Buddha immortal. With the monk's help Bao You recovers the family properties, fathers a son and then returns to the afterlife.

The phantom-monk then warns the Wang-Jias that they lost everything through wickedness and that they would never fully recover what they had lost unless they practiced virtue. Finally the phantom-monk explains to them that the physical world is not real. Only the spirit world is real.

Do your homework before launching into this massive work.

Profile Image for Noah.
459 reviews49 followers
November 24, 2018
"Der Traum der roten Kammer" ist eines der berühmtesten Werke der chinesischen Literatur, so unentbehrlich gar, dass es sich - wie in Deutschland Goethes "Faust" seine Beliebtheit durch alle politischen Systeme hindurch erhalten hat und seine Erforschung und Kommentierung heute noch ganze Institute füllt. Aus heutiger Sicht, entbehrt die buddhistische Rahmenhandlung, die an das "Shakuntala" des Kalidasa erinnert, jedweden Reizes. Der Kernroman ist indes aus dreierlei Hinsicht interessant. Zum einen ist er ein unentbehrliches Zeitdokument für das höfische Leben des chinesischen Barock, vergleichbar etwa dem Erkenntnisgehalt von Casanovas Tagebuch für das höfische Leben des Rokoko in Europa. Zum anderen ist es eine klassische Saga vom Abstieg einer Familie, gut vergleichbar den "Buddenbrooks" oder dem "Gottopardo" von Lampedusa. In gewisser Hinsicht ist dieses Werk aber auch eine coming-of-age Novel, voll überspannter jugendlicher Charaktere, die in jedem Missverständnis einen Weltuntergang sehen und sich Wertherhaft nur zu gerne umbringen. Alles in allem sehr lesenswert, auf wenn das Werk ziemliche Längen hat und meine Ausgabe (soweit ersichtlich die einzige vollständige deutsche Ausgabe) von einer sorgfältigen Kommentierung sehr profitiert hätte. Leider fehlt dies bei Diogenes Ausgaben fast immer. Zudem nervt die Diogenes-typische) mikroskopisch kleine Schrift auf zu dünnem Papier.
Profile Image for Philippe Malzieu.
Author 2 books115 followers
February 27, 2014
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 understood how this closed world functioned, all seemingly. The novel appeared to me much more clearly.
It is necessary that I read again this book because I have the impression to be last with dimensions.
Profile Image for Leonard.
Author 6 books107 followers
November 5, 2013
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
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,486 followers
Want to read
December 5, 2019
Zad says don't read the abridged version by Wang, it's jibberish, but you know what Zad life is short. There's also a super-shortened one (96 pages!) by Hawkes for Penguin, ISBN 0146001761. Don't judge me. (no, go ahead and judge me, you might as well.)
Profile Image for Lily.
49 reviews
January 14, 2023
Undoubtedly one of the most impactful novels that I’ve read in the past few years or so, not least because it more or less consumed the last few months of my life. very very meticulously written (in multiple aspects – character construction, plot development, setting), to the point where I really think that I could read the entire novel all over again and still get a lot out of it.

The more I think about it, the more HLM reminds me of Liu Zhenyun’s novel 《一句顶一万句》, and I feel kind of insane about it because I haven’t been able to corroborate this information anywhere, but I really do feel like Liu’s novel was at least partially inspired by the character construction/narrative structure of HLM. They both work with a large array of characters, are rather episodic in structure (like a sitcom lol), and are seemingly timeless but have definite ties to certain modern/pre-modern settings and politics. But the character tree in Liu’s novel is much sparser and much more frayed -- it’s unfulfilling to read, to a point: the people in the novel are incurably lonely, and many of the relationships in the novel (romantic, familial) are ultimately lost or become irreparable over time. I almost wish that I had read HLM before I read 《一句顶一万句》, if only because I feel like I understand it and what it’s trying to do so much better now. I’m sure there’s a better way to talk about this, but unfortunately, at this point, my CS brain can only come up with the analogy that 《一句顶一万句》 is like depth-first search (limited branching; linear, causal progression through time), while HLM is like breadth-first search (plot moves concurrently through a large web of characters, with a lot of reciprocal character relationships).

This entire reading process was honestly slightly painful because part of my motivation for reading the book in the first place was to get better at reading Chinese :’) For the first few chapters, I was pretty much going back and forth, paragraph by paragraph, between the original text and an English translation. After developing some more intuition for the language of the novel, I followed along with Pai Hsien-yung and Susan Chan Egan’s A Companion to the Story of the Stone, and have now been slowly but surely making my way through Ou Li-chuan’s lecture series at NTU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oW8g...).
Profile Image for Enas.
86 reviews88 followers
February 12, 2014
رواية ( حلم القصور الحمراء) تعد من أفضل الروايات الكلاسيكية الصينية ، كان مؤلفها هوالكاتب المشهور( تساو- شيويه - تشين) وهى رواية تعطي صورة دقيقة للمجتمع الصيني في تلك الفترة المحصورة بين الأعوام 1644- 1911، حيث الصراعات العنيفة الدامية بين أبناء الأسر الملكية للمطالبة بهذا العرش أو تلك المقاطعة ، الأمر الذي أنعكس بصورة أو بأخرى على عموم المجتمع.

كما تعكس العادات والتقاليد والأخلاق، خاصة احترام كبار السن في العائلة، والمعتقدات والتأثيرات الدينية،وأهمية التعليم والثقافة، وأسرار تلك الفترة، وكيف كان الناس يحصلون على الوظائف وألقاب الشرف والتكريم الإمبراطوري، وكيف كان نبلاء القوم يتوارثون مناصبهم وكيف يحافظون عليها أو يفقدونها، إلى جانب تشكيلة من الشخصيات المتنوعة من الطبقة الكادحة، كقرويات مسنات الى الخدم وفناني مسرحيين ، كما تضمنت وصف دقيق للمراسم و الاحتفالات في المجتمع الصينى وممارسات العمل وغرس الأزهار والأشجار للمواطنين العاديين والطب والتنجيم والكثير الكثير من تفاصيل صغيرة الى جانب الحوادث الكبرى فى تاريخ الصين بتلك الفترة الزمنية ، كما تصور بدقة ما أصاب المجتمع الصينى من فساد وغيره من امراض اجتماعية ستمهد الارضية للتحولات التى سيمر بها الصين بدأ من الحرب الاهلية و الثورة الشيوعية ومراحلها الدموية ، كل هذا من خلال استعراض قصة حب رقيقة وساحرة بين (جيا باو يوى وابنة خالته داى يوى) البطلين الرئيسيين فى الرواية الطويلة ، وقد وصل عدد الشخصيات فى هذه الرواية الطويلة الى اكثر من 400، حيث يظهر( تسا��- شيويه -تشين ) فهم دقيق وعميق النساء وخاصة الأحوال النفسية وعالم المشاعر المعقدة والحساسة للشابات.

وكشف في الرواية آمالهن في الحياة وخاصة تطلعاتهن للحب وأظهر الأبعاد الإنسانية الوافرة والعميقة وفي نفس الوقت عبر عن تقييد وتأثير البيئة والمجتمع عليهن مما أبدع سلسلة من الصور الفنية.

وشكلت رواية "حلم القصور الحمراء" قمة الروايات الكلاسيكية الصينية من حيث الأسلوب والحيكة الفنية وتشكيل الشخصيات في ذهب القارئ. قد صدرت الرواية بعدة لغات، منها الإنجليزية والكورية والأسبانية.

كتب ( تساو – شيويه – تشين ) روايته تلك وهو شيخ عجــوز ، وفي ظل ظروف إقتصادية صعبة للغاية فى إحدى ضواحي بكين التى يسكنها الفقــراء حيث انجز 80 باب من هذه الرواية ، ثم فــارق الحيــاة قبل أن يُكملها.

بالتأكيــد لم يكن يعرف أن روايته تلك ستكــون من بين أعظم الاعمال الروائية الصينية التراثية ، وأن مبيعاتها ستتجاوز الـ 100 مليــون نسخة حول العالم.

وقد جرى تحويل هذه الرواية الى عمل مسرحى موسيقى قام بوضع الموسيقى الموسيقار ( سو كونج )، قدم للمرة الاولى عبر( فرقة بكين للرقص) فى عام 2004 فى باريس خلال الاحتفال الرابع لمسابقة اللوتس للرقص بالصين ونال اشادة الجمهور والخبراء، استغرق انتاج هذا العمل الفنى ثلاث سنوات لفرقة بكين للرقص، ويشارك فيه 90 عارض وعارضة من الفرقة فى أربعة فصول على مدار 90 دقيقة، يمتزج فيها الخط والنسق الدرامى مع فنون السيرك الاستعراضية والأكروبات التى اشتهرت بها الصين ، حيث أعتمد الموسيقار ( سو كونج )على النمط التقليدى الصينى.

سبق وشاهدت فى اواخر العام 2009 اجزاء من العرض عبر قناة الصين الدولية حيث لفتت انتباهى ودفعتنى للبحث حول الرواية و العرض الموسيقى ، فشاركت احد اجزاء العرض هنا عبر حائطى فى العام 2010 ، وظلت رغبتى فى قراءة العمل الروائى قائمة وزادت بعد تكريسى لشهرى فبراير ومارس من العام الماضى 2013 للقراءة حول تاريخ الصين وثقافتها وعوالمها الخاصة ، فوجدت نسخة الالكترونية بلغت عدد صف��تها حوالى 2549 ليزيد حجمها على حجم ملحمة الحرب والسلام للروسى تولستوى ولاتقل عنها فى الجمال و الروعة ..

Profile Image for Literarischunterwegs.
278 reviews35 followers
April 26, 2019
Nach jetzt der Hälfte des Buches, habe ich endgültig aufgegeben und beschlossen, mich nicht weiter damit zu befassen.
Ich finde es sehr schade, da ich einerseits Bücher nur sehr sehr ungerne abbreche und dies auch nur in ganz seltenen Fällen tue und dies auch noch nicht oft getan habe. Aber mit diesem Buch werde ich definitiv nicht mehr warm. Dies finde ich ebenfalls sehr schade, da die Geschichte als solche sehr interessant ist und auch viel Potential hat.
Was mich an dem Buch stört, sind hauptsächlich die vielen Nebensächlichkeiten, die eingebaut und erzählt werden. An manchen Stellen erinnert mich die Erzählweise an Kindererzählungen, die es auch nicht schaffen, auf den Punkt zu kommen. Die eigentliche Aussage versteckt sich hinter zu vielen beschreibenden und nichtssagenden Gedanken. Dies erschwert das Lesen und das in der Handlung bleiben ungemein.
Das zweite ist die Übersetzung, die mich stört. Zum Teil enthält sie wunderschöne Sprachgefüge, aber dann auch wieder Worte oder Gedanken, die befremdlich sind, weil sie eine platte Alltagssprache an den Tag legen, die nicht zur Zeit, nicht zur Situation und schon gar nicht in diese Kultur passen.
Und dabei bietet die Geschichte, wie bereits oben erwähnt, jede Menge Potential in ganzen vielen Bereichen:
- politisch
- spirituell
- philosophisch
- gesellschaftlich
- zwischenmenschlich
- sexuell
- bezüglich des Beziehungsgeflechts: Mann und Frau – Herr und Untergegebener –
Männerfreundschaften …
Der Plot bietet alles. Nur leider kann der Erzähler dies nicht so komprimiert erzählen, dass sich ein Lesefluss beim Leser einstellen kann, der meines Erachtens aber notwendig ist, um der Geschichte auf über 800 Seiten mit Motivation folgen zu wollen.
Mir wurde es beim Lesen der Geschichte immer langweiliger und dadurch verlor ich zunehmend das Interesse an den Personen, den Ereignissen und den Entwicklungen, ganz zu schweigen von den zwischen den Zeilen sicherlich vorhandenen kritischen Gedanken und Aussagen, die ich nicht mehr finden wollte.
Wirklich schade, denn ich hatte mir sehr viel mehr von dieser zu den chinesischen Klassikern zählenden Lektüre versprochen.

Profile Image for Heidi-Marie.
3,854 reviews82 followers
September 1, 2010
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 the book. Because of the few things I remember from it, I definitely remember the main character being born with a piece of jade in his mouth.

Other things I remember:
-I plowed through this book, determined to read it in spite of my inability to really connect with it.
-Throughout most of it, I couldn't help thinking "soap opera!"
-I was often confused by who was who, and how everyone was connected.
-I was intrigued to see what would happen, even if I was not enjoying the actual story itself.
-I don't know if I finished it.

Isn't that awful? I'm pretty sure I did, because of how determined I was to finish. But I can't remember the end. Something is telling me that the female character we most wanted to NOT die, DID die. But then, isn't that very Chinese anyhow?

I'm sure my take on this book would be different many years and Chinese classes later. But I don't know if I want to go through those 5 volumes again.
Profile Image for Edzy.
99 reviews10 followers
October 19, 2021
I own this book, which is part of my obsession with the 18th-century Chinese novel of manners Dream of the Red Chamber--in its original, surely one of the world's greatest novels? This abridged translation is by Chi-Chen Wang, a former professor of Columbia University. His translation is skilful and readable, although highly abridged--at 60 chapters, about one-quarter to one-fifth the length of the original.

The Hawkes translation still remains my primary recommendation for anyone wishing to immerse himself in this vast, encyclopedic novel. However, this makes a fine "starter kit" for anyone wishing to familiarize him- or herself with Dream. Note that many episodes are given in paraphrase and this version focuses on the novel's principal plotline (the love triangle between Baoyu, Daiyu and Baochai). It also includes a passage in the frame story from the Jiaxu manuscript, missing in the Hawkes translation--a somewhat crucial (and to my mind doubtlessly authentic) restoration of about 1 manuscript page, distinguishing the Stone from the Divine Luminescent Stone-in-Waiting (an important distinction if you want to make sense of the Stone's many asides.)

Update: Seems like this Anchor version is an abridgement of the 1958 Chi-Chen Wang (already abridged) version. The version I have is published by Graham Brash, no longer in print, at 574 pages. The Anchor edition is a mere 329 pages. If you don't mind having a drastically abridged version, it might suffice. But I still recommend reading the novel in David Hawkes's complete translation.
Profile Image for Sara XuHerondale.
304 reviews56 followers
October 2, 2021
4 stars
I liked this book a lot! My only drawbacks were the translation (I read it in Croatian), and I wish we had more of Bao Yu and Dai Yu, but it's okay. One of the main plot points is the decaying middle Chinese class, and the slowish degradation of the large wealthy family. But to be completely honest, I enjoyed the love story and it's main character much more. I really liked reading about him and his untraditional behavior, the way he's drawn to women and despises doing "manly work", including politics. One day I will read this novel in Chinese, and I can't wait to see how I will feel about it then.
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