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A Dream of Red Mansions (Chinese Classics, Classic Novel in 4 Volumes) Box Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-7119006437
ISBN-10: 7119006436
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Cao Xueqin (1715? - 1763?) is the author of A Dream of Red Mansions. His personal name was Zhan, and his style (name adopted by a man at his coming of age), Mengruan. He was also know as Xueqin, Qinpu or Qinxi.His ancestral home was in what is now Liaoyang City, in Northeast China, and his forebears, although Han Chinese themselves, had been accepted into the ManchuRight White Banner. For three successive generations, a period of some 60 years, his ancestors had held the post of Textile Commissioner in Jiangning (present-day Nanjing). His paternal great grandmother, surnamed Sun, had been nursemaid to the infant who was later to become the Kangxi emperor's study companion and close attendant, accompanying him when he came to the throne on four of his six inspection tours of the south, a singular honor. After the death of Cao Yin, the family, under the headship of Cao Xueqin's father Cao Fu, continued to enjoy the emperor's favor, but when the Yongzhen emperor ascended the throne, Cao Fu was removed from his office and punished on charges of financial mismanagement and incompetence in the management of courier stations. The family property was confiscated, and the Caos' halcyon days came to an end. They moved to eijing. Cao Xueqin, who had spent his childhood in pampered luxury, now shared the family's fate of a wretched existence. Dogged by poverty, he eventually moved to arustic hovel on the western outskirts of the capital. The death of his young son in 1762 was a crushing blow to Cao, from which he never recovered, and on February 12, 1763 he himself passed away.

Cao Xueqin was haughty by nature, but an extremely talented literary man. His friend Dun Cheng compared his poems to those of the Tang Dynasty poet Li He, descbribing them as bold, solid and having the cold glitter of a knife blade. Unfortunately, all that survives of Cao's poetry is two lines of a poem dedicated to a play adapted by Dun Cheng from the famous Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi's long narrative poem Song of a Lute Player. Cao was also a painter who liked painting stones, in a style described by another friend, Dun Min, as sturdy. But Cao Xueqin's fame rests on his magnificent achievement in writing the full-length novel A Dream of Red Mansions.

About the Translators:

Yang Xianyi was born in Tianjin in 1915. His wife Gladys was born in England in 1919. They both graduated from Oxford University in the 1930s. They were married in 1940 in China.

After teaching at several universities, they went to work for the National Compilation and Translation Bureau in 1943, in charge of translation of literary works. In 1952, they joined the Foreign Languages Press (now the China International Publishing Group) in Beijing, where Yang Xianyi worked as the cheif editor of the magazine Chinese Literature. At the same time, he was a foreign literature research fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, A council member of the Chinese Writers Association and a council member of the Chinses Translators Association.

For many decades, Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang have devoted themselves to translating and research into Chinses and foreign literary legacies. Their translations of classic Chinese works of literature especially have brought them global fame, making a great contribution the the cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world. Apart from their monumental translation of A Dream of Red Mansions, they have translated the Elegy of Chu, Selections from the Records of the Historian, The Dragon King Daughter, The Courtesan's Jewel-box, The Man Who Sold a Ghost, Palace of Eternal Youth, The Scholars and a number of works by the famous modern Chinese writer Lu Xun.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1887 pages
  • Publisher: Foreign Languages Press; Box edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 7119006436
  • ISBN-13: 978-7119006437
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is like Anna Karenina in the following ways: Both are masterpieces of epic proportions. Both are considered contenders for being the greatest works of fiction in their respective languages. Both deal with large, upper class families and the lifestyle and intrigue involved. Both are works of realism and paint a complete picture of a society.
A Dream of Red Mansions focuses on the love between Baoyu, an unusual child in his early teens who is temperamental and spends most of his time with the girls in the family mansion and Daiyu, a delicate, sensitive and yet witty and extremely clever girl. The two grow up as children and live in the same mansion but the family does not hurry to marry them off as they have other plans for Baoyu.
This is the main thread that runs through the novel's amazing 120 chapters. The other sublots are very numerous - there are hundreds - but none of them are sustained for the whole book. The main part of the book is the set of characters. Again there are hundreds but a few main ones which become the most interesting in this drama. There's the conniving Xifeng, Baoyu's strict father, Baoyu's assertive "other love" Baochai and the like.
Unlike Anna Karenina, this book is full of humour, jokes and poems (which was where I think the translation failed the most as Chinese poetry rendered into English seems to lose the plot!). It contains moments of great sadness but also wit and quirkiness.
There's been controversy with the amazon reviews of this particular translation. I don't speak Chinese so can't judge it but reading the text, it seemed fine. I guess if I saw another or the original it would change my mind but this one isn't too bad.
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Format: Paperback
There are two complete, unabridged translation of the greatest Chinese classical novel of manners "Dream of the Red Chamber". One is the Penguin classics version translated by Oxford doyen David Hawkes and his son-in-law John Minford, now available on paperbacks in 5 volumes under the alternate title "The Story of the Stone". The other is this China Foreign Language Press version made in the late 1970s by Chinese translators Yang Xianyi and his wife Gladys.

With all due respects to the Yangs, their translation just isn't on par with the Penguin's. The original novel is a paragon of how the classical vernacular Chinese language should be written; Yangs' version is stodgy and half-hearted and captures none of the elegance and depth of the original. Their English borders on paraphrase at times and they don't appear to bother about stylistic recreation, eg. some sentences don't sound native at all - "The arrival of the edict rejoiced the hearts of all officials". Believe me, reading the original is much, much better.

The Yangs' works could be serviceable (as in their decent Lu Hsun) but this version of "Dream of the Red Mansions" is embarassingly outclassed by a far superior and more idiomatic rendition: David Hawkes's version is simply unparalleled and a labor of love. Given a choice between the two translations, it's a no-brainer: the Penguin is the winner anytime.
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Format: Paperback
One of the great classics of world literature. Having read both this translation and the David Hawkes' five volume translation of this novel, I personally prefer this one. Although the David Hawkes translation is smoother and more literary for the English speaking reader, I find that the Yang translation better conveys the atmosphere of 17th and 18th century China and the complex relationships between the various members of the upper class Chia household and their omnipresent bevy of slaves and servants. I even greatly enjoyed, from a tongue-in-cheek perspective, the "sayings of Chairman Mao" inspired introduction to this translation. I'm now ready to embark on my fourth reading of this book in about as many years.
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Format: Paperback
Even though some may say that the translation is less then brilliant I still enjoyed the story very much. I was quiet sad actually when the story ended. It made me feel like no other book had ever made me feel. I've always cheered on the good guys like in "Outlaws of the Marsh" or "The Three Kingdoms", but this time I really cared about these characters. Shakespeare's got nothing on this story. The charcters expressed the way they felt through poetry and music. I was in the room and I knew these people. It accomplishes everything every other story never could. I'm just afraid I'll never have that same feeling again.
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Format: Paperback
I searched out this set because my teacher of Chinese medicine had told me that it was her favorite book as a teenager and that she still had the fondest memories of it - yet, she had never read it in English. When I gave it to her, she beamed, opened to a random page and said, "I know right where they are in the story although my English doesn't understand every word." When I saw her later she told me that her daughter was upset that she hadn't thought of this book for her mom as it brought her so much happiness!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've stumbled upon an abbreviated version of this book, which contained only 500 pages, and I've so fallen in love with it that I had to purchase the whole rendering, which amounts to almost 2000 pages. There are two fully unabridged translations, and this one is simply excellent. Unlike some other reviewers I find the English language here more than adequate, and the style more than satisfactory, doing honor to the unique original book, I'm sure. The story takes place in old China, describing the life of a young nobleman,- inspired by the author's only son who died young,- his rich background, his loves and disappointments, all that in a mystical way yet with the most elaborated accent on the noble family's daily-life. There are no words to describe the fascination,- the aesthetic appeal that looms from every page,- the garden-scenes which get names in the form of short poems (not unlike the Haiku and Tanka traditional Japanese poems, probably inspired by this Chinese tradition). Reading this book makes the reader actually earn a PHD on the classical Chinese culture of 200-300 years ago, including their costumes, their habits,- (burying faded flowers, crying over them,- can there be anything more touching,- and charming?), their political plots,- the family described being that of noble people who serve the Emperor,- the differences between the masters and the servants, their foods, their sicknesses and cures. You walk with the heroes in their exquisite gardens, full of artificial mountains, brooks, bridges, and of course exotic trees and flowers, you breathe the typical scents, get acquainted with their daily life, the ranks of importance inside the family, (the old widowed grandmother being like their queen, entitled to beat her grownup sons with a cane...Read more ›
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