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