Posts Tagged ‘Hong Lou Meng’

When Di from ‘The Little White Attic’ suggested to a few of us that we do a readalong of Cao Xueqin’sA Dream of Red Mansions‘, I was very excited. I have almost never seen anyone host a readalong of a Chinese classic or a week-long or a month-long reading event dedicated to Chinese classics or even Chinese literature in general, and so this made me even more excited. I have had this classic with me for many years. I got it during my Shanghai years when I used to go to the bookshops in Shanghai every weekend and buy Chinese classics. I built a small library of Chinese classics which I have dipped into occasionally and that I hope to properly read on a rainy day.

A Dream of Red Mansions‘ (or ‘Hong Lou Meng‘, as it is called in Chinese) is one of the four great Chinese epics. Some people would regard it as one of the two most important among the four, the other one being ‘Three Kingdoms‘. While ‘Three Kingdoms‘ is about war and peace and political struggle and statecraft, ‘A Dream of Red Mansions‘ is about a family. ‘A Dream of Red Mansions‘ has sometimes been compared to Leo Tolstoy’sAnna Karenina‘, because it is also about a family, it has many strong women characters, and is a tragedy, but it predates ‘Anna Karenina‘ by more than a century. There is a reason it is classified as an epic. The edition I have is in three volumes and runs to around 1900 pages – longer than ‘War and Peace‘ but shorter than ‘In Search of Lost Time‘. In China, ‘A Dream of Red Mansions‘ has legendary status and every kid knows the story and the characters, and it has been frequently adapted into TV series. But outside China, it is a classic by Mark Twain’s definition – often recommended but never read. It deserves more readers across the world.

Di said that there are no rules for the readalong – read as we please, read for however long we want, discuss the book in the way that we like, no structure, no rules, just have fun. That is the best way to read an epic and have fun, I think. I can’t wait to get started.

Sharing pictures some of the colour plates from inside – they are so beautiful.

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