Pride of place

Updated: 2014-05-13 08:00

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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Pride of place

The Chinese classical novel A Dream of Red Mansions has been translated into foreign languages since the 19th century. [Photo/China Daily]

Pride of place

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An ancient Chinese masterpiece tops a British newspaper's list of best Asian novels, but experts on both sides of the globe lament the low visibility of contemporary Chinese works, Mei Jia reports.

A Dream of Red Mansions, a Chinese classic written by Cao Xueqin more than 200 years ago, tops the list of the Ten Best Asian Novels of All Time, compiled by British daily The Telegraph newspaper.

To many readers, it's an unsurprising and natural choice, given the novel's traditional influence and stature. But while the list aims to promote appreciation of a wider range of books, some experts argue the list still lacks much knowledge of Chinese writing as a whole. No modern Chinese novels are included.

"Asian literature offers some of the most beautiful prose ever written. We pick the classics all book fans should read," the UK newspaper's editors write.

To Zhou Ruchang, the late master who devoted his whole life to "Redology", the study of A Dream of Red Mansions, the novel wasn't just a love story of the aristocratic protagonists.

"He believed the novel is an ideal window for foreign readers to know the various aspects of Chinese culture," Zhou's daughter Zhou Lunling says. "He'd always say the novel offers them a shortcut, because it almost contains everything."

She helped her father sort out his research, and says the novel well deserves the top spot on the list. Some precious early editions can be found in Britain, she says, so British people have known the novel for a long time.

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