DescriptionAbout the Book
Hung Lou Meng ( ??? ); or The Dream of the Red Chamber / Cao Xueqin ; translated by H. Bencraft Joly
This is Book I of Dream of the Red Chamber (simplified Chinese: ???; traditional Chinese: ???; pinyin: Hóng Lóu Mèng; Wade–Giles: Hung Lou Meng), composed by Cao Xueqin, it is one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was composed sometime in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. It is a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and is generally acknowledged to be the pinnacle of classical Chinese novels. "Redology" is the field of study devoted exclusively to this work.
The novel's name may alternatively be translated as Red Chamber Dream or A Dream of Red Mansions, and it is sometimes referred to by another name, The Story of the Stone (simplified Chinese: ???; traditional Chinese: ???; pinyin: Shítóu jì; literally "Record of the Stone").
Red Chamber is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the fortunes of author Cao Xueqin's own family. As the author details in the first chapter, it is intended to be a memorial to the women he knew in his youth: friends, relatives and servants. The novel is remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese aristocracy.
Dream of the Red Chamber (also knows as A Dream of Red Mansions), you discover the period when China was governed by Manchu aristocrats who created social turbulence for selfish, political purposes. Tsao Hsueh-Chin's description of the four families (Chia, Shih, Wang, and Hsueh) is deeply rooted in the reality of the time. The main characters of the novel, Chia Pao-yu and Lin Tai-yu, are typical of young people everywhere; they desperately want to be free to marry whomever they wish.
About the Author
Cao Xueqin (???) is the author of a famous Chinese work, The Dream of the Red Chamber.
The Chinese novel Honglou meng (???, also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber and as The Story of the Stone, ???) is one of the great masterpieces of Chinese fiction.
As riveting as any soap opera, it can also be read as a study of 18th century Chinese manners, or as a Buddhist allegory. It is a large work. The first 80 chapters were written by Cao Xueqin ??? and the remaining 40 chapters attributed to a Gao E who published the combined version in 1792.
The story orbits around a wealthy but declining family, the Jia clan, who occupy two large family compounds in the capital. The main characters are the powerful family matriarch Grandmother Jia, the peculiar grandson Jia Baoyu ??? and his two girl cousins, the socially-graceful but inwardly cold Xue Baochai ??? and the temperamental but trustworthy Lin Daiyu ???. In fact, it would be more accurate to say the main character is the family itself: its many members, their servants, their mutual obligations and expectations, and the unfolding fate of each person.
The novel is graced with both heavy and subtle styles of foreshadowing which make it both foreboding and deep. Through all, the author reveals the reality of life amidst the "red dust" — the grasping, yearning, opulent, and ultimately futile life of both peasant and elite in 18th century China. Taoist and Buddhist themes are woven deeply into the structure of the novel and Cao Xueqin is not afraid to reveal the emptiness and beauty of the aristocratic society he unveils for us.