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A Good Place To Start

The Story of the Stone : a Chinese Novel in Five Volumes 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Xueqin Cao

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hanmeng February 5th, 2006 10:52 AM PST

Cao Xueqin only wrote one novel, but it's justly known as China's greatest, and the best translation is "The Story of the Stone" by David Hawkes. It might be best to begin with an abridged translation known under an alternate title: "Dream of the Red Chamber"

tim helck April 17th, 2006 07:36 PM PST

I've read the 5 volume David Hawkes translation of "The Story of the Stone" (aka "The Dream of the Red Chamber" or "Hong Luo Meng") several times and I much prefer it to the abridged version that I read. It's an extraordinary book. That being said, it's still a slow read in places.

Try the first volume, and be prepared for sudden shifts in style, from mythology and fairy tale, to social realism; from overly refined aestheticism to bawdy humor; from elevated spirituality to the argot of gangsters. This work is truly Shakespearean in its range.

drunken dime February 25th, 2007 08:47 PM PST

"Hong Luo Meng", aka "The Story of the Stone" is one of the best books ever written.


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Author of Honglou Meng (The story of the stone : a Chinese novel in five volumes), Cao Xueqin (Ts'ao Hsueh-ch'in) is considered to be China's greatest novelist, but little is known of his life. An unconventional, versatile man, he came from an eminent and wealthy family which suffered a reversal of fortune in 1728 after the death of the Kangxi Emperor and a power struggle between his sons. Cao seems to have spent about ten years writing and revising his novel, from roughly 1740 to 1750, but the last 40 of the 120 chapters were completed by a different author, probably after his death. He also worked for a period of time in the Imperial Clan's school for the children of the nobility and bannermen, but eventually settled in the countryside west of Peking. He earned some money by selling his own paintings, but his family seems to have been perpetually in poverty. The novel, now generally recognised as a masterpiece, was not published until 1791, nearly 30 years after Cao's death (http://www.renditions.org/renditions/authors/caoxue.html).

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