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FiveBooks: understanding China

The journalist and broadcaster's five essential books on her home country

By Xinran  

The Dream of the Red Chamber (18th century) By Cao Xueqin This is a huge family novel, written in the 18th century and published in translation by Penguin in 1970. Some people think this is the greatest Chinese novel ever written, but many westerners don’t know about it, which is a shame because it is such a good guide to our culture. More than 100 people, buildings, poems, paintings and dreams are described here in great detail. There is even a section that sums up how important food is in Chinese society. At one point, a mother explains to her…

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