Well, in my opinion, the dream of the red Chamber is THE best Chinese novel. (I really want to say one of the best, but I just can't think of any other Chinese novel that's ever came close, not only in the quality of the writing, the amount of information it carries and the deep meanings behind it itself but also how much influence it still has right now in Chinese literature). I probably have already read it more than 10 times now and I still find the interest to read it more. I read it in the original Chinese text written by Cao Xue Qin. Too affaid to touch the translated version because all those beautiful poems and deep meanings behind every word just can't simply be translated. I didn't always like the though. I actually hated it when I was a kid, but I grew more and more fond of it when I get older. It's really really not a novel for leisure reading and probably too profound to be appreciated if you only read it once. Not a good idea to read it just for fun or if you little understanding in Chinese culture, or more precisely, in how Chinese think about life and universe. The key point is that you must look beyond the plot and the characters. It will be very sad if you only see this book as a love novel. It's about so much more than romance, most importantly about the life of these aristocrates at that period of time and the nature of ancient China (a lot of the characteristics is still true about modern China now). Although I'm not a big fan of any characters in the book, but they are definitely one of the most skillfully portrayed among all the fictional characters, not because they are perfect and have many talents and good qualities, but exactly the opposite, because they are not perfect.
There are lots scholars around the world who spend their lives studying this book. It is well know as "the encyclopedia of the feudal China". It's definitly not book for bed time stories. The information and the meaning the book carries is so vast that every time when you read it (probably better if reading the original Chinese text), you can always get new things. As you grow older, you may find yourself understand it better. Some great philosophical arguments the author made in, for example the first chapter still hold true sometime and I sometimes find myself relating them to some phenomenons in the modern society.
Well, as famous as this book is, the funny thing is some people, maybe the more sentimental type, absolutely love and adore it (like me ^__^, not the characters though), other people absolutely hate it. My suggestion is if you admire strength and power and like books about war and fightings, this may not be the book for you (I know outside of writers and poets, tons of Chinese guys hate this book. Among teenages, it's usually girls who like it more).
hmmmmm.....now that I read over what I wrote above, some of my word choice may be too strong. (may be because I love this book too much ^__^b. I mean I don't think I come close being able to say I understand this book. They are solely my opinion. Don't mean to anger anyone whole has different opinion about this book. Like I said. Their are tons of people who hate it (Like my Dad -__-