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The Story of the Stone (c. 1760), also kwn as The Dream of the Red Chamber , is one of the greatest vels of Chinese literature. The fifth part of Cao Xueqin's magnificent saga, The Dreamer Awakes , was carefully edited and completed by Gao E some decades later. It continues the story of the changing fortunes of the Jia dynasty, focussing on Bao-yu, w married to Bao-chai, after the tragic death of his beloved Dai-yu. Against such worldly elements as death, financial ruin, marriage, decadence and corruption, his karmic journey unfolds. Like a sleepwalker through life, Bao-yu is finally awakened by a vision, which reveals to him that life itself is merely a dream, 'as moonlight mirrored in the water'.
Cao Xueqin (?1715-63) was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy they were able to entertain the Emperor four times. However, calamity overtook them and their property was consfiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty when he wrote his famous novel The Story of the Stone.