Cao Xueqin

The Story of the Stone: The Dreamer Wakes (Volume V)
  • The Story of the Stone: The Dreamer Wakes (Volume V)

  • The Story of the Stone (c. 1760), also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber, is one of the greatest novels of Chinese literature. The fifth part of Cao Xueqin's magnificent saga, The Dreamer Awakes, was carefully edited and completed by Gao E some decades later. It continues the story of the changing fortunes of the Jia dynasty, focussing on Bao-yu, now married to Bao-chai, after the tragic death of his beloved Dai-yu. Against such worldly elements as death, financial ruin, marriage, decadence and corruption, his karmic journey unfolds. Like a sleepwalker through life, Bao-yu is finally awakened by a vision, which reveals to him that life itself is merely a dream, 'as moonlight mirrored in the water'.

Cao Xueqin (Ts'ao Hsueh-ch'in) ca. 1715-1763 Cao 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.