The Story of the Stone aka The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin and Gao E

Rachel of the Hungry Hundred Book Club selected this mammoth Chinese classic for discussion at the end of January 2018. I bought the five-volume Penguin paperback edition and the 64-page illustrated version published by Real Reads. Below are the results of my research into the different available English translations.

See also: Buying books in Singapore

The Story of the Stone (Penguin)

1. English Translation (Hawkes/Minford)

A complete English translation (120 chapters) called The Story of the Stone, translated by Hawkes and Minford, was published by Penguin in five volumes (copyright 1974–1986).

Penguin published a 96-page extract from this version in 1996.

2. English Translation (Yang/Yang)

A complete English translation (120 chapters) called A Dream of Red Mansions, translated by Gladys Yang and Yang Hsien-yi, was published by a Chinese publisher in a three-volume hardcover set, three paperbacks sold separately, or a four-volume paperback set (copyright 1978).

I strongly suspect the Hawkes/Minford translation is easier for English speakers to read and appreciate. (The Yang translation is characterized as being too literal.)

Some of the Yang/Yang translations that say the authors are “Tsao Hsueh-Chin and Kao Ngo”. Those are just different spellings of “Cao Xueqin and Gao E”.

Dream of the Red Chamber retold by Christine Sun (Real Reads)
Daiyu mourns fallen flowers (illustration by Shirley Chiang).

3. Illustrated English Retelling (Sun/Chiang)

A British company called Real Reads published a 64-page illustrated retelling of the Chinese classic by Christine Sun, illustrated by Shirley Chiang (copyright 2013).

4. Truncated English Translation (Joly)

There’s a 56-chapter partial translation by Henry Bencraft Joly. Since the text was first published in 1892, there are no copyright restrictions. The text is available in a variety of paperback and ebook formats, including a free download from Project Gutenberg.

5. Abridged English Translation (Wang)

There’s a 60-chapter abridged version by Chi-Chen Wang available in one paperback volume (copyright 1958).