Zhou Ruchang (周汝昌) comment on the Dream of the Red Chamber

About Zhou Ruchang (周汝昌):

Zhou Ruchang (周汝昌, 1917 – 2012) was a famous Chinese Redology scholar. Born in Tianjin, China in 1918. Zhou was the premier scholar since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 on the study of “Dream of the Red Chamber,” one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.


A reproduction artist at the Forbidden City of Beijing, 33-year-old Xiang Li, has completed 413 character paintings from the novel, Dream of the Red Chamber. On July 27th, 1985, we invited the famous Chinese Redology scholar Zhou Ruchang to visit the collection. While walking through the gallery looking at hundreds of paintings designed and developed by Li, Zhou couldn’t help himself constantly calling out “Good, very good!”

With a full head of white hair, Zhou immersed himself in the collection and forgot about the winter chill in Beijing. He pulled out a magnifier and carefully examined the details of each painting.

Zhou saw the painting of ‘You San Jie’s suicide’ and said to Li: “I’ve seen many ‘You San Jie’s’ paintings and the suicide was always captured with her back facing the audience. You dared to paint from the front and revealed her emotions so vividly. Very good, this is creativity and I admire that!”

Li completed a total of 413 characters from the Dream of the Red Chamber. She captured every character’s character, emotions, and clothing to the finest details. Zhou said to Li: “You painted the ‘Xiao Ya Tou’ (maids) very well. They are secondary characters but carry significant weight in Cao Xue Qin’s novel.”

Zhou also added: “Li has a very strong foundation in Chinese paintings, yet she’s not constrained by the rules and theories.  Not only are these characters’ physiques believable, but also their spirits and souls. Li has found a path and style for herself. This shows the maturity of an artist that you rarely find in someone her age. The Dream of the Red Chamber is not an easy collection for any artist – many characters are young women with similar backgrounds and physiques. My experience has been that most artists find it difficult to introduce a unique style to each character and make them stand out. In comparison, Li has broadened my horizon with her own expression, interpretation, and strategy. ” Zhou also provided constructive criticism for how some of the paintings can potentially be improved. In conclusion, Zhou wrote a poem to praise Li and her accomplishment.

Since 1985, Li conducted extensive research to study the Dream of the Red Chamber and completed the entire collection of 413 characters in her spare time. Dong Shouping (董寿平), one of the most recognized artists and calligraphers of modern China, suggested that the Dream of the Red Chamber collection should be displayed at the Grand View Garden in Beijing, where the collection was placed for until 2005.

Where is the Dream of the Red Chamber collection now?

The entire collection has been bought by Haidu Inc. in Tsing Dao, Shangdong Province in China. A museum inside a city park (国学公园) has been built exclusively for this collection.

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