There is nothing in western literature that is quite like Dream of the Red Chamber. Once you get over the shock of reading the mid-18th century vernacular, the depth and charm of this romantic epic is one of the most compelling reasons to read it in the original Chinese. This is why we are proud to present the world's only word-by-word annotated copy of Dream of the Red Chamber.

To help you understand this novel, we have annotated the entire first chapter of the book with contextual mouseover popups. Simply hover your cursor over any word in the text for an instant popup containing a definition of the word in question along with a pronunciation guide and explanation of any hidden meanings. In this installment, which covers the first paragraph of the book, read on as author Cao Xueqin introduces his novel as a work of fiction in which the astute reader will find eternal truths. He admonishes us to pay close attention to the text and explicitly tells us it is laced with double meanings. We get our first reference to life itself as a dream, and hear of two members of the Zhen and Jia dynasties, the two families in the saga whose surnames are homophones for truth and falsehood itself.

Dream of the Red Chamber is tragic and funny and brilliant all in turn. So throw out your dictionary, grab a cup of coffee and read on as we bring you this tale of philosophy, romance and pathos. When you're ready to read the rest of the novel, you can find the other installments here.
 said on
November 23, 2008
I'd recommend anyone reading the popup text for our Dream of the Red Chamber series click through to the vocab page and enable the display of Notes. This will add a special field to all of your popups that will sometimes contain additional explanatory notes.

Checking our notes field is important in a book like this as there a number of cases where the intended meaning of a word or phrase is not the same as its literal definition (i.e. 闺阁 being used in reference to women, 襟怀 in reference to thoughts). There are also more antiquated character usages you might have trouble with if you don't have much previous exposure to classical Chinese.

We've taken advantage of our notes field to provide details on the literal meaning of certain phrases, along with commentary on why Cao Xueqing made certain word choices. If you're curious what Jia Yucun is a homonym for, or what function 也 really services in the first sentence, you should find the fifth field useful. We also use it on occasion to point out the literary significance of particular entries, and suggest translations for some of the more difficult passages.

 said on
November 23, 2008
this is fantastic stuff. I read the first two chapters years ago before succumbing to lethargy from the major timesink that was constantly checking my paper dictionary. And it seems I missed a lot too... it's so much easier to read this book with the definitions right there in the popups.

I think you should annotate the whole book then market it heavily. This is a lot more valuable to me than any paper-based edition could possible be.

 said on
November 23, 2008
Excellent. This should be fun :-)

One query on the annotated text, is the pronunciation of 妨 fāng, a mistake, or is it older usage? One of my dictionaries (the 现代汉语规范词典) has a note under 妨 saying 统读fáng不读fāng, and I also find no reference to a second pronunciation in my other dictionaries.
 said on
November 23, 2008
@imron - our fault - we'd somehow missed the final pinyin check. There are a few minor corrections to the spacing in certain chengyu, along with the correction of 昭 from second to first tone.
 said on
November 24, 2008
If a 120-chapter epic falls under "short stories" I wonder how a full-blown novel would look like here.

BTW: The full text can be found here:

http://www.cycnet.com.cn/encyclopedia/literature/ancient/collection/hongluomeng/

For content like this erong is the online dictionary of choice:

http://www.erong.com/

Our clumpsy stab at the first chapter (not yet completed) can be found here:

http://chinesepod.com/community/groups/view/24
 said on
November 24, 2008
Thanks Henning. We're actually working from the 高鄂 edition (fulltext here). He was the editor whose work was used for the first movable type edition and is famous (infamous?) for adding the closing 40 chapters. Most of the text is identical to the version hosted at cycnet, but if you follow along you'll notice a number of smaller differences in several of the chapters, including the first chapter.

And thanks for the links - we'll reference them all as we work through the text. Please also do chip in if you've got anything you think we should add to the popups or explanations. A lot of the notes are focusing on things that those of us in the office might miss (or *did* miss) - although they might be blindingly obvious to others and vice versa. :)
 said on
November 24, 2008
good stuff, keep it coming.
 said on
November 24, 2008
Didnt read the last chapter, too sad, too depressing.
 said on
November 24, 2008
红楼梦 is my favorite. 惊世奇作。

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
November 24, 2008
Thanks! It will definately fun to redo this with professional guidance. A secured path...

The vocab that has been selected here was definately core stuff of what I struggled with when I first encountered it in the text, like that 故.

Small question: I activated the notes, but they do not provide that much additional information yet (?), all they tell me is the grammatical type of a word. I also could not reproduce the example of 闺阁...What do I need to do to get this information?
 said on
November 24, 2008
@leanne, how do you know the last chapter is depressing if you haven't read it.... ;)

@henning - the vocab controls also customize your popups (on the text page). You'll need to reload the page after changing your preferences, but you can check the field is active by rolling your mouse over Jia Yucun and Zhen Shiyin.

There are a few other entries with extra notes in this paragraph as well (云,曰,借,假语村言,etc.). Mostly when it makes sense to flesh out the gloss or provide additional commentary on usage.

FWIW, I remember reading 故 as 故事 my first time. Horribly confusing because the mistake isn't obviously wrong the first two times you run into it ("the story will", "the story says"). It falls completely apart later on, but only after lulling you into a false sense of confidence. Almost as if it were *designed* to trick the unwitting.... hmmm....
 said on
November 24, 2008
Yes, got them now!
 said on
November 25, 2008
@Short Stories:watched the TV series when I was little. The last sence still makes me teary.
 said on
November 26, 2008
@leanne,

电视剧不好,结尾被改得乱七八糟的。不知道你听说没有,最近大陆这边准备拍新版红楼梦,不过大多数观众都不看好,前一段时间好一场轰轰烈烈的演员选秀,现在又没声儿了,就冲这个势头,估计这个电视剧拍出来也不好,现在的人太浮躁了!

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
November 26, 2008
在网上看到了,我也不太看好重拍的。估计现在是没材料可写了。好莱坞也重拍老片子。怎么拍,怎么改也不如老版的好。我这个人念旧,老喽!:(
 said on
November 30, 2008
where are you planning to publish the second part of Dream of the Red Chamber?
 said on
November 30, 2008
later today, actually, Jim. most likely sometime in the early evening, Beijing-time.
 said on
January 12, 2009
I definitely agree with Barrister. This is fabulous and makes reading "mid-18th century vernacular" actually doable. I'm gobbling this up and I know I'll spend quite a bit of time reading and rereading this on pop-up Chinese.
 said on
January 12, 2009
@gedaozhen -- glad you like it. We've got the fourth installment coming out later this week, which will put us halfway through the first chapter (huzzah for milestones).

Nice thing is that once you've read it once, you don't generally need the popup support any more. Just make sure you get the Gao E edition when you pick up a paperback, since there's a lot of variation in the first chapter otherwise.

 said on
February 23, 2009
This may be something of an aside, but I've never understood the Chinese fascination with writing English poetry. I'd never attempt to write serious poetry in Chinese, and god forbid foisting it on a literate Chinese audience. But I've seen this happen the other way quite a few times. I've even been asked to edit the stuff for publication.

Surely sharing poorly written epic poetry counts as a social faux pas on most Chinese message boards? Why is it acceptable in cross-language situations. I'm genuinely puzzled. Is it a genuine attempt to communicate (in which case why English at all - surely people reading the original text can muddle through some commentary in Chinese). It feels like an aggressive sort of pity for the learner - the hotel porter who refuses to let one carry their own luggage.

Hawkes has the best translation of this book because he comes at it from a literary English background. Again and again here I run into native Chinese speakers foisting English translations on foreign speakers. Perhaps it is self-validation they are seeking. Academics are the worst, perhaps because they have the most time and few of their peers seem to call them on quality.
 said on
February 24, 2009
@laijon - I'm a site administrator, and don't let people get to you. We're a community of Chinese students, and even if much of the discussion on the site takes place in English, you can pretty safely assume fluency. Many of our users have lived and worked in China for years. Just keep the discussion on topic and respect the intelligence of everyone else and you'll do fine.

If you want to help others understand HLM perhaps where your expertise would be most useful would be on the text page. If you click through to the text tab, you'll see that we're annotating the novel word-by-word. Users can put their mouse over any word to see the pinyin and translation for that word in context. These definitions are all manually edited. There are also notes which explain much of the cultural and literary backdrop to the story. There is to my knowledge nothing else like this on the Internet in any language.

Our goal is making HLM much more accessible for people so that they can read the original Chinese version even with a minimal background in the language. There are doubtless areas where we can improve and specific suggestions on areas you think are unclear or could use improvement would be very helpful. Perhaps reading our annotated version could help with your own efforts at translation as well?
 said on
February 25, 2009
Hi Dear Trevelyan,

May I post one of my poems, on your site, and you can read it, make mp3 file, and do a popup on it. so people can read it, and laugh at it and learn Chinese?

Please read following:

世足神壇何處尋?

沖亞夢斷長城津。

五洲綠茵皆春色﹐

唯有華夏悲其音。

幾番風雨天下戲﹐

朝朝忍辱不死心。

男兒氣節皆拋棄﹐

場場兒孫淚滿襟。

This poem is close to Du Fus Shu Xiang.

I always want to have someone read my poem and make mp3 out of it, but I have no $120 to pay the professional recording.

Please let me know.Thanks!
 said on
February 26, 2009
@laijon - we can enable lesson creation on your account. When this is done I'll send you an email later today with some brief instructions on how to create lessons on Popup Chinese.

This will let you our use system to create and annotate texts like the poem above. It will also automate the preparation of PDFs and MP3 files, etc. As long as we have a bit of extra time in the studio, I don't see why we can't put together a recording or two either. Just send us an email when you have finished annotating the texts and we'll do what we can.

That said, once you've created your poetry getting other people to read it is... a challenge usually reserved for the poet himself. We're happy to offer a platform for teachers to connect with their own students, but don't promote third-party content to the front page until it has a proven audience and we can be confident it reflects the values and sensibilities of our own team.

 said on
February 26, 2009
Thanks Trevelyan and your co-workers,

I should not ask you to do this, I apologize for my attitude to your work, that should be respected.

I do thank you a lot for doing this Popup and related works, really builds a great culture bridge.

The author is promoted only by his work. Like Cao Xueqin, and many other artists and poets, writers, and you and your website.

However my purpose to post my poem or a piece of my write to you, is just that I want to be a part of it, this great work you are doing, that is my award, which is not money or fame, but a friendly attitude to you and your people, like poet write a poem to thank and make friends to poet or the people they admire.

I don't promote my work, I let my works do their own job.

If you really want to do a popup on my work, then I have a good piece, mixed prose and poem in a funny sense.

I grant my copyright to you so you can do a popup, please read following, you don't even need to put on my name.

following:

黃鶴樓上鳳凰遊

by a Friend and Fan of Popup

今人不見黃鶴樓﹐

昔日鳳台做古丘。

黃鶴追鳳不復返﹐

唯有白云隨江流。

大江千里東逝去﹐

潮起潮落萬古秋。

回首茫然青山外﹐

日暮江山不盡愁。

此诗出处:

余整日吟誦崔顥黃鶴樓﹐昨夜晚偶遇詩仙李白邀同遊鳳凰台﹐大喜﹐便接其酒袋﹐飲之少許。不過一刻﹐飄飄然﹐身輕入雲霄矣﹐則見華台上有高樓 ﹐名曰黃鶴樓。余心中詫異乃自問: “黃鶴樓應在漢陽﹐而鳳凰台建于金陵﹐相隔千里連帶長江。為何見于同處?” 然太白知余心中之疑﹐乃曰: “天上樓臺自與人間不同﹐ 地實而分﹐天虛而合。” 話方休﹐已達樓上﹐推門入﹐則見各色美酒陳列於一朱紅圓桌上﹐幾支夜光杯還繞﹐座上已有一人對月自酌﹐見我二人起謂曰: “自黃鶴樓一面之後﹐長掛念李兄劉弟﹐而今千二百五十四年矣﹐即見﹐余已償地上之愿﹐今當以酒助興﹐吟詩抒懷﹐以報久別之念 。” 太白謂余: “此崔員外郎。” 方相見後﹐崔郎即拍手﹐有二女從翠屏後度出﹐一持古琴﹐一持琵琶﹐坐彈相伴﹐是矣吾三人傳杯行令不一樂乎。酒鼾﹐崔郎起乃吟: “昔人已乘黃鶴去, 此地空餘黃鶴樓。 黃鶴一去不復返, 白雲千載空悠悠。 晴川歷歷漢陽樹, 芳草萋萋鸚鵡洲。日暮鄉關何處是?煙波江上使人愁。” 太白擊掌﹐起而吟曰: “鳳凰台上鳳凰游, 鳳去台空江自流。 吳宮花草埋幽徑, 晉代衣冠成古邱。三台半落青山外,二水中分白鷺洲。 總為浮雲能蔽日, 長安不見使人愁。” 崔朗與吾擊掌贊之。又數杯過後﹐太白與崔同邀余也起一歌。余推手曰: “吾自小不愛讀書﹐只會抄襲﹐大凡名家之作﹐皆添改之﹐非詩人﹐乃是干貨。怎敢在仙人之前獻醜?” 太白曰: “吾知汝作一歌甚相似﹐弟試誦來。” 二人邀再三。余思之﹐初中時﹐文考﹐因俺不曾分清唐詩黃鶴樓及登鳳凰台之作者﹐吾師曾罰俺默誦二詩三百遍﹐過後俺已分不清二詩之詞﹐是矣合二為一自然而成一首。便憶當時之字句﹐誦之: “今人不見黃鶴樓﹐昔日鳳台做古丘。黃鶴追鳳不復返﹐唯有白云隨江流。大江千里東逝去﹐潮起潮落萬古秋。回首茫然青山外﹐日暮江山不盡愁。” 過後良久﹐太白與崔郎相嘆曰: “此乃天成。雖說有吾二人之字句﹐含兩秀之景物﹐但自成一格﹐而情性靈意更勝。” 言罷﹐繼而傳酒直至月沉霞升。崔郎起身告辭﹐揭窗﹐變一黃鶴﹐躍入雲中﹐不見。太白亦起身相別﹐推門出﹐做一火鳳﹐東迎紅日而去。今晨酒醒方知夢﹐起床洗畢﹐回室﹐見桌上杯盤狼藉﹐殘酒臥杯﹐杯下壓一紙張﹐即此詩焉﹐大跌﹐如獲至寶﹐簽本人大名 ﹐掛於牆上。吾有二女友伴床﹐朝霞及暮雲, 二女不甚識字﹐亦能讀之﹐亦知出處耶﹐日久必長譏笑之, 朝霞曰: “又沒事幹了。” 暮雲曰: “又喝多了。” 誰管﹐這年頭出名第一。

I give this work to you as thanks for your great culture tool. Please don't put my name on, it is yours. Anyway my name is a fake name.

Thanks!
 said on
December 2, 2009
the reader is not a native Chinese speaker, is he?
 said on
December 2, 2009
@liyang - of course the reader is a native Chinese speaker.
 said on
July 17, 2012
It sounds like the narrator is reading the last character as yuan2 but it is annotated as chuan2 蓬牖茅椽, which is correct?
 said on
July 17, 2012
@drummberboy,

Chuan2 is correct :)

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 23, 2012
In listening to the recording it does not sound like he pronouncing the last character as it is annotated "kua4" 锦衣纨袴. It sounds more like "hu4". Pleco has it listed as "ku4"。 Which is correct? Thanks

Also I noticed that 作者 was annotated as zuo2zhe3, shouldn't that be zuo4zhe3?
 said on
July 23, 2012
@drummerboy,

袴 has two meanings and two pronunciations. When it has the meaning "the body part under the hip and between two legs",the pronunciation is "kua4". For example, 袴下之辱. The second meaning is "trousers", then it should be read as "ku4". Here it should be "ku4", because 纨 is kind of pure white and fine silk, 纨袴 is fine white trousers, 锦衣纨袴 describes people wear luxury clothes.

The interesting thing is, in Dream of Red Chamber, Jia Baoyu's sister in law, the nice and tender widow's name is 李纨. It's because 纨 is white, and white is the color for widow.

And 作者 definitely should be zuo4zhe3. It's fixed now. Thank you drummerboy.

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com

 said on
June 8, 2015
where can I find the subsequent chapters?