The novel is composed in written vernacular (baihua) rather than Classical Chinese (wenyan). Cao Xueqin was well versed in Chinese poetry and in Classical Chinese, having written tracts in the semi-wenyan style, while the novel's dialogue is written in the Beijing Mandarin dialect, which was to become the basis of modern spoken Chinese. In the early 20th century, lexicographers used the text to establish the vocabulary of the new standardized language and reformers used the novel to promote the written vernacular.
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