The first published edition of Dream of the Red Chamber (1791) was illustrated, as were many subsequent editions. But illustrated text by no means encompasses the sum total of the visual world of the novel. Painters like Gai Qi 改琦 and Fei Danxu 費丹旭 painted portraits of the main characters in the novel, especially the lovely young women. Scenes from the novel became important in New Year’s prints, woodblock prints so-called because they were sold at the new year. Embroidered scenes became popular, both as narrative scenes and decorations on clothing. Porcelain was decorated with the novel.
The presence of scenes from the novel in many media suggests that the novel found audiences beyond the realm of the literate.