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Dream of the Red Chamber

(The Story of the Stone #1-5)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,821 ratings  ·  336 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 and accurate.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 20th 1958 by Anchor (first published 1791)
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Popular Answered Questions
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 v…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)
Albert Sun You are raising a good question.
First, Cao Xueqin is the author of the book, while Gao E's part was not approved by Cao Xueqin since Cao died after wr…more
You are raising a good question.
First, Cao Xueqin is the author of the book, while Gao E's part was not approved by Cao Xueqin since Cao died after writing 80 chapters. Therefore, we should not regard Gao's supplementary chapters as real part of the book. Also, some prominent redologists, such as Zhou Ruchang, has argued that the proper number of chapters should be 108 instead of 120.

Back to your question now.
(1) For sure, Cao intended Jia and Xue to get married, as obviously from the 1st song of 5th chapter.
(2) But definitely not in the way which Gao E imagined.
First, it was ridiculous for a grandeur family like Jia's to play a trick on their children's marriage. You already consider it as odd - imagine what would people of Ancient China take that if it truly happened?
Second, in Gao's version, the supporters behind the scene are Grandmother Jia and Wang Xi-feng. This is even more ridiculous. They have already implied their attitudes in the first 80 chapters that they are for the marriage between Lin and Jia. And there is a legitimate reason for doing so, other than their mutual affections (which actually do not count under such social circumstances): As Lin's father had no male heir and he was extremely rich, Jia's family took over much of the heritage. It is quite understandable that Jias would have a moral awareness that they need to "take care of" Lin Daiyu, and preferably by integrating her into Jia's family.
One of the best predictions, therefore, was that Lin died before she and Bao-yu could enter marriage, and then Jia and Xue got married. also echoing with the verse in chapter 1:

"Who yesterday her lord's bones laid in clay,
on silken bridal-bed shall lie today."

(3)I am Chinese who has a basic academic understanding of this book. Basically, don't read the chapters after the 80th. their quality is simply bad, and is pretty much against Cao's original intentions.

One problem concerning your question is that, Gao's edition somehow turns the tragedy into some kind of farce. As far as we know, there was no love triangle in the fist 80 chapters; Jia and Xue were not interested in each other. A tragedy is properly called when neither side gets their love in the marriage, not something like a competition for the guy by two girls...(less)

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Elie F
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2014 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
Steve Morrison
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 no ...more
Laszlo Hopp
Jun 16, 2013 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
Jun 02, 2010 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
Jul 02, 2015 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 16, 2012 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

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 spirit
Jul 26, 2012 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
Robert Sheppard
Bre Teschendorf
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 c
Mar 03, 2011 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
Oct 01, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: china
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.)
Note: I read this book in Chinese. The following review only applies to the Chinese original, with some thoughts on the challenges a translator may face.

I read this book so many times that the spine fell off. In fact, said battered copy just lies around the house for me to to read a page or two from whenever I have a down moment. My mom does the same. She and her friends commonly reference the novel to describe people or situations. They are by no means exceptionally literary; just the average c
Czarny Pies
Oct 08, 2014 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
Sep 01, 2010 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
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 27, 2014 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 un
Aug 07, 2015 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 - in its original, surely one of the world's greatest novels? This abridged translation was 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 ...more
Oct 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: endodontists
Shelves: own, fiction, anchors
This was like an 18th century Chinese Downton Abbey.
So about ten years ago I read the English translation of this book by the Yangs. I loved it so much. Written in 1791 and spanning four volumes it was like nothing I'd ever read before. It focused on the lives of women, both elite women and their servants living in Qing China. I decided that I would like to read the original one day. My teacher told me that if I studied I might manage by the time I was 60. Well I managed when I was 41!

I have been reading this since January. I read the dual langua
Mar 09, 2013 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
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Actually, I should not say that I have read this book, while I have not really read the English version of this work. Nevertheless, I think that among the translated versions of this work, the page number of this version looks at least convincing enough.
About this work, there are enough positive reviews given from various perspectives already. One thing that I would like to note here is that it is not simply a love story like Romeo and Juliet. When paying attention to all details that the writer
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).
Dec 29, 2012 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
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
Spencer Rich
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to the novel. I was first introduced to this version via a World Lit class at the University of North Carolina--Wilmington. It had such a deep effect on me that I re-read it several times and eventually read the five volume version numerous times. I would say that the five-volume translation has become probably my favorite of all-time, perhaps, next to Brave New World. It has all the genius of the Romantic-era novels of manners, e.g. Pride and Prejudice set against a backgrou ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Kindle edition of Dream of the Red Chamber was released earlier this year! Now you can own this 1200+ page epic for only 10 dollars!

This book is one of the essential Chinese classics with well over 300 developed characters, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy lessons, and serves as a beautiful portrait of Qing dynasty China in the 1700s. It also broke new ground by using several dialects and common vernacular mixed in with the high language spoken at court. It is a semi-autobiographic, psycholog
May 06, 2008 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
Jan 11, 2015 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
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Xueqin Cao (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 Zhan Cao (曹霑) and his courtesy name is Mengruan (夢阮; 梦阮; literally "Dream about Ruan" or "Dream of Ruan")[...] ...more

Other books in the series

The Story of the Stone (5 books)
  • The Golden Days (The Story of the Stone #1)
  • The Crab-Flower Club (The Story of the Stone #2)
  • The Warning Voice (The Story of the Stone #3)
  • The Debt of Tears (The Story of the Stone #4)
  • The Dreamer Wakes (The Story of the Stone #5)

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