Dreams of mansions, stories of stones

A look at sequels, retellings, and pastiches of Dream of the Red Mansions.

In this house there are many Mansions

Dream of the Red Mansions (红楼梦), the classic story of tragic romance by Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹) is quite possibly the most famous Chinese novel of all time, a fact born out by its publication history. According to data from GAPP:

...between 1950 and 2005, more than 230 different editions of Dream of the Red Mansions were published, along with over 210 editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and over 190 versions each of Outlaws of the Marsh and Journey to the West. A survey of the current inventory of the Beijing Book Building found 94 separate Red Mansions editions issued by 66 different publishers.

But that's only the beginning.

Ever since its initial circulation, Dream of the Red Mansions has inspired sequels, pastiches, updates, and imitations (see the list below). In fact, the version most widely-read today is actually the most well-known sequel: Gao E, the story goes, edited the original 80-chapter manuscript and added an additional 40 chapters to complete Cao's unfinished novel.

Not everyone is satisfied with Gao's continuation. Zhou Ruchang, a noted Redologist, is so strongly anti-Gao that he completed his own recension of the novel, rooting out all traces of Gao's handiwork. Danwei described his position in the article Conspiracy of the Red Mansions:

Zhou Ruchang has had it in for Gao E for close to three decades now, ever since a paper published in 1980 in which he fingered Gao for a palace scholar embroiled in a literary conspiracy. Evil courtier Heshen masterminded a scheme to have Gao compose an uplifting ending for the novel, in the process shredding to bits the first eighty chapters of Cao's masterpiece by turning it into a harmless love story.

Zhou published his version in late 2006.

Other writers have taken Dream of the Red Mansions as a jumping-off point for their own creative efforts. Here is a selection of modern reworkings of Cao's classic novel:


· A Comic Red Mansions (大话红楼, 2002) Niu Huang (牛黄) and Ah Gui (阿桂) wrote this ribald parody, chock full of moleitau humor Q Reader (banned in 2004).

Another book of the same name was published in 2005 and was written by Tewu (特务, aka Ah Te), described on the inside flap as an American IT professional. This lengthy novel was first serialized online:

Jia Wu, a recent college graduate who can't find a job with his Chinese degree, buys a piece of jade inscribed with those famous lines from the Cao Xueqin novel, and the next morning wakes up in Prospect Garden surrounded by beautiful women who call him Baoyu. He makes his way through the affairs of the Jia household only really remembering the first twenty chapters of the book.

For more information on these two books, see the Danwei post Writers at home and abroad distort Red Mansions

A third Comic Red Mansions was written by Zhang Peixiang (aka Feihua, 飞花), a Peking University master's student in law who posted her writing on the school's BBS. The novel combines elements of Red Mansions and Journey to the West: Jia Baoyu, the stone left behind when Nuwa mended the heavens, turns out to be the stone from which Monkey King Sun Wukong was born.

Left unfinished, this book was published posthumously in 2004 following Zhang's death of leukemia the previous year.

· A Comic Dream of the Red Mansions (大话红楼梦), an online serial by Zhang Dekun (张德坤).

· New Dream of the Red Mansions (新红楼梦, 2006) by Chen Haiying. A college professor in Shantou wrote this 1.3-million-character, 160-chapter retelling as an online serial. Composed in modern vernacular punctuated by old-form poetry, the novel tells of Jia Baoyu's marriage to and subsequent divorce from Lin Daiyu, as well as Chen Xifeng's prison suicide following her arrest for causing the death of a servant girl. See the Shanghai Youth Daily story, for more information.

· The Story of Xichun (惜春纪, 2007) by An Yiru. A "post-80s" writer known for her interpretations of classic poetry wrote this novel, which imagines Xichun as the love-child of Jia Jing and Qin Keqing.

A whodunit in the Grand View Garden

· Murder in the Red Mansions (红楼梦杀人事件, 2004) by Ashibe Taku. A mainland translation was published in 2008. From the Danwei post:

Jia Baoyu and the young women of the family are invited by Yuanchun, an imperial consort who has come home to see her family, to take up residence in the expansive Grand View Garden that was constructed especially for her visit. Ostensibly this is so that the garden doesn't go to waste, but the local Criminal Bureau determines that Yuanchun suspects that mischief will occur in the future, and she wants to keep her young siblings safe.

The Bureau dispatches Lai Shangrong to keep an eye on things in the garden. Shangrong, a corrupt local official in the original novel, is an accomplished detective in this retelling, and such a strong believer in the rule of law that his colleague Jia Yucun needs to remind him of the deference he must show toward influential families. For his part, Baoyu is a crime enthusiast: instead of concentrating on his studies, he spends his time reading the tales of Lord Bao and running the Crab-Flower Mystery Club with his cousins.

These are all the titles known to Danwei. We have read but a fraction of them; all comments and corrections are appreciated.

* * *

A book series, "Red Mansions Materials" (红楼梦资料丛书), published by Peking University Press, contains a number of major sequels and pastiches. Here's a list with links to online summaries and texts:


  • Dream of the Red Mansions, Continued (1796) by Wanderer. Starts after Chapter 120 in the Gao E version. (逍遥子, 《后红楼梦》)
  • Dream of the Red Mansions, Interpreted (1814) by the Dreams Gentleman (aka "the man from snow-capped crane mountain," 长白临鹤山人). Continues from Chapter 120 in the Gao E version and relates the fates of the rest of the 12 beauties. (梦梦先生, 《红楼圆梦》)
  • Supplement to Dream of the Red Mansions (1819) by Gui Chuzi. Starts after Daiyu burns her poems in Chapter 97. (归锄子, 《红楼梦补》)
  • Shadow of Dream of the Red Mansions (1877) by Gu Chun (aka Gu Taiqing). Starts from Chapter 120 of the Gao E version. Gu was a woman, but her novel was not particularly feminist, writes Ellen Widmer, who addressed this and other Red Mansions sequels in The Beauty and the Book. (红楼梦影)
  • True Dream of the Red Mansions (1940) by Guo Zeyun. Starts from Chapter 120 of the Gao E edition. Not to be confused with Zhou Ruchang's book of the same name, which is an exploration of how Cao Xueqin's life is reflected in the Red Mansions story. (郭则沄, 《红楼真梦》)
  • Sequel to Dream of the Red Mansions (1799) by Qin Zichen. Starts with the death of Lin Daiyu (秦子忱, 《续红楼梦》)
  • Another Dream of the Red Mansions (1805) by Xiaohe Shanqiao (aka Chen Shaohai). Continues from Chapter 120 of the Gao E version. (小和山樵, 《红楼复梦》)
  • Expanded Dream of the Red Mansions (1814) by Firewood in the Heavenly Archives (增补红楼梦) by 嫏嬛山樵 aka 补红楼梦. Interpolates new episodes to Cao's original narrative.
  • A New Sequel to Dream of the Red Mansions (1805) by the Master of the Ocean Orchard. Starts from Chapter 120 in the Gao E version. (海圃主人《续红楼梦新编》)
  • Fantasy of the Red Mansions (1843) by Huayue Chiren. Starts from Chapter 97. Banned for explicit scenes between Baoyu and various young women. (花月痴人, 《红楼幻梦》)
  • Another Dream of the Radiant Mansions (1799) by the Master of the Orchid Field. The story of Baoyu and Daiyu in their next lives. (《绮楼重梦》).


  • Dream of the Green Mansions () by Yu Da. (俞达, 《青楼梦》)
  • Dream of Seduction (1848) by the Honest Man of Hanjiang. (邗上蒙人, 风月梦)
  • Destiny Between Flowering Fields and Golden Jade (花田金玉缘). After this series was published, an article appeared in a 1992 issue of Journal of Redology claiming that this novel was not a rip-off of Red Mansions at all. Instead, it was a repackaged edition of the early-Qing novel The Tale of Destiny in a Picture (画图缘小传). A late-Qing bookseller is apparently to blame.
  • Destiny of a Stone in Water (水石缘)
  • (1894) 绘芳录 西泠野樵 aka Spring Dream in the Red Boudoir 红闺春梦

Many of these titles can also be found on the CcLer Redology archive.

Another list contains loads more titles; some of the above are included, and many are alternate titles for the same work:

程高后四十回、后红楼梦、续红楼梦(1)、栔续红楼梦、绮楼重梦、红楼续梦(1)、蜃楼情梦、新红楼梦(1) 、新红楼梦(2)、红楼复梦、续红楼梦、续红楼梦新编、增补红楼梦、增红楼梦、红楼圆梦、绘图金陵十二钗后传、红楼梦补、补红楼梦、增补红楼梦(2)、红楼幻梦、幻梦奇缘、红楼梦影、续红楼梦、太虚幻境、新石头记(1)、新石头记(2)、红楼残梦、红楼余梦、红楼真梦、石头补记、红楼梦别本、木石缘、宝黛因缘、新续红楼梦、红楼三梦、红楼梦醒、鬼红楼、四梦、红楼后梦、红楼再梦、红楼重梦、红楼续梦、再续红楼梦、三续红楼梦、红楼补梦、疑红楼梦、疑疑红楼梦、大红楼梦、风月梦、红楼翻梦、继又云所见抄本红楼梦、端方藏抄本红楼梦、三六桥藏本红楼梦、陈弢庵所见旧时真本红楼梦、 戴诚甫所见旧时真本红楼梦、红楼梦新补。

Comments on the above titles are appreciated.

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