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Wandering Between Two Worlds

The Formative Years of Cao Xueqin 1715–1745

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Ronald R. Gray

Wandering Between Two Worlds: The Formative Years of Cao Xueqin 1715–1745 is a biographical account of the first 30 years of the life of the eighteenth-century Chinese novelist who wrote Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber). It covers Cao Xueqin’s life from his birth in Nanjing in 1715 to the time when it is roughly estimated he began to seriously write his massive work. The book attempts to provide a brisk but broad overview of the important familial, social, historical, literary, and intellectual influences on Cao and his decision to write Honglou meng. Wandering Between Two Worlds relies upon extensive interviews done with noted mainland Chinese scholars on the novel, such as Zhou Ruchang, Cai Yijiang, Duan Jiangli, Shen Zhijun, Zhang Qingshan, and Sun Yuming, during the author’s eight-year stay in China; recent research done by Western scholars on Qing dynasty literature, gender, qing, philosophy, and education; and insights from the burgeoning field of the New Qing history. This is only the second biography of Cao Xueqin’s life to appear in English, and the first to examine in detail his early life and to be written by a non-Chinese. It is intended for students of traditional Chinese literature and culture, as well as general readers interested in the novel and features a special foreword written by the distinguished redologist Zhou Ruchang.
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Ronald R. Gray has degrees in philosophy from Brown University and the University of Colorado at Denver. He has published papers on Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) in Chinese and Western publications; guest coedited a special 2005 issue of the Tamkang Review devoted to the novel; and is co-editor of Between Noble and Humble: Cao Xueqin and the Dream of the Red Chamber (Peter Lang, 2009) written by the noted Honglou meng scholar Zhou Ruchang. He lived in East Asia for 20 years and taught at universities in China, Japan, and South Korea. Gray currently teaches in the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University.

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