Cao Xueqin (Ts'ao Hsueh-ch'in) ca. 1715-1763Cao is considered to be China's greatest novelist, but little is known of his life. An unconventional, versatile man, he came from an eminent and wealthy family which suffered a reversal of fortune in 1728 after the death of the Kangxi Emperor and a power struggle between his sons. Cao seems to have spent about ten years writing and revising his novel, from roughly 1740 to 1750, but the last 40 of the 120 chapters were completed by a different author, probably after his death. He also worked for a period of time in the Imperial Clan's school for the children of the nobility and bannermen, but eventually settled in the countryside west of Peking. He earned some money by selling his own paintings, but his family seems to have been perpetually in poverty.
"Filled with classical allusions, multilayered wordplay, and delightful poetry, Cao's novel is a testament to what Chinese literature was capable of. Readers of English are fortunate to have David Hawkes and John Minford's The Story of the Stone, which distills a lifetime of scholarship and reading into what is probably the finest work of Chinese-to-English literary translation yet produced. You will be rewarded every bit of attention you give it, many times over." --SupChina, "The 100 China Books You Have to Read, Ranked" (#1)