The Dream of the Red Chamber (Hung Lou Meng or A Dream of Red Mansions) | Cao Xueqin

Summary of: The Dream of the Red Chamber (Hung Lou Meng or A Dream of Red Mansions)
By: Cao Xueqin

Final Recap

As we conclude our journey through the intricate world woven in ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’, we are confronted with the evanescence of happiness, wealth, and the constant cycle of change. The relationships, trials, and tribulations of Pao-yu, Black Jade, and the Chia family bring forth the fragility of human desires and how one can overcome them through spiritual understanding. The crux of this thought-provoking narrative lies in the transformation borne out of life’s challenges and experiences, their impact on the familial bonds, and a message of moving beyond the transient nature of the material world. As we bid adieu to the characters that have intrigued and mesmerized us, we are equipped with a newfound understanding of the holistic message of Cao Xueqin’s ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’.


Venture into the world of ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’ by Cao Xueqin, where magic, romance, and drama combine. This captivating book summary takes us on a journey through the lives of Shih-yin, Yu Tsun, Pao-yu, Black Jade, and their complex relationships and experiences. Delve deep into the mysteries of the Chia clan, unraveling secrets and misfortunes that inevitably lurk in the shadows of this intriguing tale. Embark on this journey and witness the transient nature of wealth, happiness, and the importance of spiritual understanding, as we uncover the profound message that lies hidden in the vivid dreams and picturesque landscape of ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’.

The Dream and Beyond

Shih-yin, a worthy citizen, dreams of a Taoist priest and a bald-headed Buddhist monk, who possess a magic jade stone called the Precious Jade of Spiritual Understanding. His neighbor, Yu Tsun, undergoes the state examination in Peking with Yin’s monetary aid. Yin’s life declines as his child is kidnapped, and his house burns down. He withdraws to the countryside where he meets a wandering Taoist, who teaches him the transient nature of worldly belongings. Yin leaves everything and follows him into the unknown.

Love and Intrigue in Chinese Nobility

Following his fall from grace, Yu Tsun becomes the tutor of Black Jade and learns strange things about the Chia clan, including the glittering jade stone in Chia Pao-yu’s mouth. Pao-yu is infatuated with girls, causing distress to his father, while Black Jade is in awe of her cousin’s splendor. The two young cousins fall in love, leading to a saga of love and intrigue amidst the Chinese nobility.

The Goddess of Disenchantment

Pao-yu, in a dream, meets the Goddess of Disenchantment who encourages him to keep his family from ruin. He indulges in “the sport of cloud and rain” with a girl who resembles his cousin, and later discovers a complementary saying on a jade stone and golden medallion. Ko-ching, his young relative, becomes gravely ill, and on the night of her death, appears to her girlfriend, Phoenix, imploring her to establish a family foundation to ensure its continuation. However, Phoenix ignores her dream and focuses on enriching herself. Pompous mourning ceremonies are held, and Pao-yu’s sister is raised to the position of a “noble and virtuous” Imperial wife of the first rank. The Emperor issues a decree allowing all his wives to visit their families. Construction begins for Beginning of Spring’s worthy accommodation.

Grand View Garden

Grand View Garden is an impressive park with shimmering lakes, foaming waterfalls, and flowery fields. Pao-yu, a witty man, invents witty inscriptions and mottos for the park’s various rest areas and pavilions. Beginning of Spring, the Imperial chief’s wife, visits the park and invites Pao-yu and his cousins to a poetry contest to immortalize the park’s beauty. Chia Huan, Pao-yu’s half-brother, splashes hot wax on Pao-yu’s face, leading to a series of events that involve a spell from a sorceress and a Taoist’s magic. The spell showed its force, and Pao-yu and Phoenix acted as if they were possessed. However, with a magic spell, Pao-yu and Phoenix were healed after 33 days.

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