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The Dream of the Red Chamber

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Also known as Hung Lou Menga, Red Chamber Dream, and A Dream of Red Mansions, a Chinese Novel in Two Parts by Cao Xueqin.



First printed in 1791.


This is counted among China's Four Great Classical Novels, composed in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. Considered a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of Chinese fiction. It is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the rise and decay of the author's own family and, by extension, of the Qing Dynasty. 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.


This version translated by H. Bencroft Joly, 1891.


PREFACE


This translation was suggested not by any pretensions to range myself among the ranks of the body of sinologues, but by the perplexities and difficulties experienced by me as a student in Peking, when, at the completion of the Tzu Erh Chi, I had to plunge in the maze of the Hung Lou Meng.


Shortcomings are, I feel sure, to be discovered, both in the prose, as well as among the doggerel and uncouth rhymes, in which the text has been more adhered to than rhythm; but I shall feel satisfied with the result, if I succeed, even in the least degree, in affording a helping hand to present and future students of the Chinese language.--H. Bencraft Joly, H.B.M. Vice-Consulate, Macao, 1st September, 1891.

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