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Cao Xueqin (?1715-63) was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy they were able to entertain the Emperor four times. However, calamity overtook them and their property was consfiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty when he wrote his famous novel The Story of the Stone. David Hawkes was Professor of Chinese at Oxford University from 1959 - 1971 and a Research Fellow of All Souls College from 1973-1983. He now lives in retirement in Wales.