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Dream collection on show

Updated: 2020-02-04 08:26:33

( China Daily )

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A Qing Dynasty painting Grand View Garden is on show.[Photo provided to China Daily]

An exhibition examining the cultural legacy of Cao Xueqin's literary masterwork Dream of the Red Chamber is now available at the National Museum of China website, Lin Qi reports.

Adaptations of works of intellectual property, such as online literature, that have been made into movies and drama series, are sweeping Chinese mass media and proving lucrative.

Yet creating successful IP products is not the monopoly of modern artists. More than 250 years ago, in suburban Beijing, a man named Cao Xueqin made one such work which has endured for centuries-despite never having benefited from its success.

Cao, who was plagued by destitution and illness, authored a semi-autobiographical novel titled Dream of the Red Chamber. In the work he drew on the rise and fall of his own once well-connected family to describe the tragedy of an extended feudal family surnamed Jia.

He first circulated copies of the manuscript among his friends, who were touched not only by the downfall of the Jia clan, but also by the distressing love story between the two main characters, Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. People were also caught up by the hypocrisy and cruelty of the upper classes, which exposed the worsening social crisis in 18th-century China.

Sadly, Cao died of grief in 1763 soon after his only son's death. He was unable to see his work make it to print. The first edition of which was published in 1791 earned him the respect of literary aficionados and casual readers, alike.

Today, Dream of the Red Chamber is acknowledged as one of the pinnacles of Chinese literature. It offers an encyclopedic understanding of Chinese art and culture, including poetry, music, operas, folk customs, handicrafts, architecture and gastronomy.

This work of fiction still enjoys a wide readership both at home and abroad, where it has been translated into more than 100 languages. It also prompted the development of a field of exclusive study known as Redology.

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