'Dream Of The Red Chamber' Facts: About The 18th Century Classic Chinese Novel | Kidadl


'Dream Of The Red Chamber' Facts: About The 18th Century Classic Chinese Novel

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'Dream Of The Red Chamber' is one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, written during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

'Dream Of The Red Chamber' is regarded as one of China's best works, a Chinese Romeo and Juliet-style romantic drama and a portrayal of one of the globe's great civilizations for more than a century and a half. Cao Xueqin wrote this novel in the mid-18th century.

'Dream Of The Red Chamber' is often regarded as the apex of traditional Chinese novels, because of its vast scope, its enormous cast of characters, and insightful reflections on life and social systems in the 18th century, during the period of the Qing Dynasty in China. It is noted for its observation of the worldview, psychological breadth, aesthetics, lifestyles, and social interactions of 18th-century China. The novel is said to be based on the author's own life and meant as a monument to the women he knew as a child, from family members to home maidservants, many of whom proved to be more capable than the males who governed their fates.

The 'Dream Of The Red Chamber' exhibition was opened in Beijing, at the National Museum of China (NMC). At the exhibition's opening ceremony, Hu Deping, director of The Cao Xueqin Society, stated that this is a world-class classic that demands everlasting study and respect. The NMC is now displaying around 600 related pieces of paintings and translated versions of books to highlight the allure of this famous classical Chinese novel.


The number of characters in 'Dream Of The Red Chamber' is remarkable. There are roughly 40 characters chosen to be main characters, and there are close to 400 more supporting or minor characters. The rich depictions of the novel's numerous female characters are well-known.

Jia Baoyu, the novel's primary protagonist, is roughly around 13 years old when he first appears in the novel. He is the teenage son of Jia Zheng and his wife, Lady Wang, and was born with a piece of glowing jade in his mouth.

Lin Daiyu is another character, who was Jia Baoyu's younger cousin and his lover. Jia Baoyu's other first cousin is Xue Baochai. Baochai is Daiyu's counterpoint. Jia Tanchun, Jia Yuanchun, Miaoyu, Shi Xiangyun, Jia Xichun, Jia Yingchun, Jia Qiaojie, Wang Xifeng, Qin Keqing, and Li Wan are some of the other main characters in this famous novel.

Plot Summary

A sentient stone, left over while the goddess Nüwa restored the heavens ages ago, seeks to enjoy the delights of the 'red dust' in the novel's framing tale. A Buddhist monk and a Taoist priest request the Stone to accompany them on their journey around the world. The Stone, along with a companion, is then given the opportunity to learn from human experience and reincarnated as Jia Baoyu (Precious Jade) in the mortal realm. Hence, this story is also called 'The Story of the Stone'.

The Rongguo House and the Ningguo House of the affluent, aristocratic Jia clan, who live in a vast, contiguous family compound in the capital, give a comprehensive, episodic chronicle of life in the different branches of the aristocratic, wealthy Jia clan. The capital, on the other hand, is unnamed, and the dynasty is declared indefinite in the first chapter. The two families' forefathers were proclaimed Chinese nobility and granted imperial honors, and as the tale opens, they are among the city's most prominent families. One of the Jia daughters is named a Royal Consort, and the family builds the Daguanyuan, a rich designed garden that serves as the backdrop for most of the future drama. The Jia family's riches and influence are described in great lifelike detail in the novel.

The main focus is on a youth named Baoyu, the clan's bright but stubborn heir. He is often punished by his stern Confucian father, who notably despises Baoyu's familiarity with many of his female cousins, relatives, and maidservants, despite the fact that he has been spoiled by his grandmother and mother. The sorrowful Daiyu, otherwise known as Black Jade, Baoyu's ill-fated lover, and the vibrant Baochai, his eventual bride, is the most prominent of these relationships.

This work is notable for its depiction of lives and social systems of Chinese aristocracy in the 18th century.

Reception & Influence In Modern Era

Hong Lou Meng's effect was so widespread in the late 19th century, that reformer Liang Qichao denounced it, with the classic novel, 'Water Margin', as 'incitement to lust and robbery'. In an original and ground-breaking 1904 essay, prominent scholar, Wang Guowei, created a new way of literary interpretation by invoking Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy. In contrast to the happy endings found in much prior theater and fiction, Wang dubbed the narrative 'the tragedy of tragedies'. The novel is also worthy of being regarded as one major classic in the field of Chinese art, according to Wang.

The novel fell under fire during the Communist regime, but it swiftly regained its reputation in the years afterward. Zhou Ruchang restarted his life's work and went on to write over 60 critical and biographical studies. In 2006, Zhou, who regarded Gao E's editions with suspicion, teamed up with writer Liu Xinwu, who was the author of popular analyses of the novel, to develop a new 80-chapter version, which Zhou had edited to remove the Cheng-Gao emendations. However, Liu finished a version of the story that was said to be more genuine to Cao's original aim.

Translation & Reception In West

The 'Dream Of The Red Chamber' Cultural Display, which ran for three months in Beijing, is the museum's largest-scale exhibition of the book to date. The exhibition shows how the book came about, its significance, and its translation, through a variety of things such as paintings, multiple editions, and translated copies of the book.

Robert Morrison (1782–1834), a Protestant missionary and sinologist, translated a portion of chapter four for the second edition of his unpublished 1812 work, 'Horae Sinicae', the earliest known translation into English. A discussion from chapter 31 of Morrison's textbook conversations and detached phrases in the Chinese language were translated and published in 1816. Ningbo produced a verbatim translation of a few portions in 1846, for foreigners studying Chinese. The first eight chapters were translated by Edward Charles Bowra of China's Royal Maritime Customs in 1868, and the first 56 chapters were translated by H. Bencraft Joly in 1892. 


What is the Red Chamber?

The Red Chamber refers to the enclosed chamber where the ladies of a prominent family live in the novel, 'Dream Of The Red Chamber'.

What genre is the novel, 'Dream Of The Red Chamber'?

The novel comes under the genres of fiction, novel, and family saga.

What is the theme of the story of 'Dream Of The Red Chamber'?

The story, set during China's Qing Dynasty, depicts how patriarchal-feudal structures undermine sincere love and basic humanity. The magical stone represents humanity's inherent goodness, and the story highlights that one who remains loyal to themselves are the ones who will be saved.

Why was 'Dream Of The Red Chamber' so important?

'Dream Of The Red Chamber', published in the mid-18th century, is of much importance as it provides the most comprehensive immersion into late imperial China, providing unparalleled access to the minds, emotions, and habits of people of that particular time.  

How many characters are in 'Dream Of The Red Chamber'?

The novel, 'Dream Of The Red Chamber', was written with 40 major characters and nearly 400 additional characters.

When was 'Dream Of The Red Chamber' written?

The novel, 'Dream Of The Red Chamber', was finally written and published in 1791, in a complete edition of 120 chapters compiled by Gao E and Cheng Weiyuan. Cao Zhan's masterpiece was initially written in book form in Beijing during his lifetime.

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Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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