Dream of Red Chamber/Story of the Stone

Lately I have started to read this book again…wondering if anyone here likes the book as well? (I have actually never read the English version of it; it will be interesting to get your feedback. For those of you who have read the Chinese version…wow, must say that I really admire your dedication towards learning Mandarin.)

I have also been reading a series of “history novels” written by Gao Yang, describing the life of the author of the Dream of the Red Chamber. Must say that I think it’s been fun to read these novels after having read the Dream of the Red Chamber.

When I was reading these books, one thing that came to mind is the idea of “saving face” that people talk about quite frequently at forumosa. It seems that many people are frustrated with the cutural phenomenon, which reminds me of my own frustration, since I prefer direct communication. However, whether I agree with the values or not, it was rather inspiring to read these books since they provided such a wonderful view into the complicated, layered and intricate interpersonal relationships and communication.

So, looking forward to those of you who have read the books to share your opinions!

Related threads:

[Dream of the Red Chamber
[Male Homosexuality in Chinese Literature
[The Tragedy of Chinese Culture?
[Chinese Historical Novels
[Confucianism - the source of local apathy

[color=white](found by klicking on SEARCH on the upper right, typing “dream”, “red” and “chamber”, looking for topics instead of posts and limiting the search to “Culture & History” forum)[/color]


I’m a big “Red Chamber” fanatic, and have a web page (in Chinese and English) that I’ve set up about it, as well as my research on it. You can check it out if you want:


I especially recommend reading the sections related to “Red Inkstone,” the major commentator on the novel, and also relative of the author (possibly an uncle). There’s also a good list of English-language resources that you can get pretty easily if you’re near a university library.

There aren’t that many good English-language books written on the subject. Andrew Plaks and Anthony C. Yu have both written books that have been well-accepted in the West, but if you’ve read the copious amount of Chinese scholarship on subjects such as the allegorical meaning in the novel, the “Red Inkstone” commentary, and the problem of the authorship of the last forty chapters, you wouldn’t think so highly of their work. It was proven years and years ago by early “Red Chamber” scholars like Yu Pingbo, Zhou Ruchang, and Wu Shichang that Cao Xueqin was NOT the author of the last forty chapters, and more recent and more sound textual evidence from Zhang Ailing and Zhao Gang.

Thanks for the links, Iris. :slight_smile:

LittleBuddhaTW, how did you come across the book in the very beginning? (Went to your website; very impressive!) I remember I was in second or third grade? Found the book in my mom’s room and just started reading it…back then I read anything that I could get my hands on. I skipped all the parts except for Bao-yu and Dai-yu, and I remember I was wailing at the end when Dai-yu died even though I barely understood all the words. I was hooked ever since then. Funny thing is that I no longer like Dai-yu so much after I grew up even though I could still appreciate her character.

I still read the book pretty much the same way: a story that I can’t ever get enough of. I actually read the Red Ink Commentary when I was in middle school and have been continously reading it since then. Only if we can get a hold of the last 40 chapters…

You read the “Red Inkstone” commentary in middle school? How? It’s written in literary Chinese, and there isn’t any English translation of the whole thing, except for bits and pieces (I’ve put all of the fragments that have been translated together on my web page, sorted by chapter). I’d love to see a complete English translation of the commentary, not just “Red Inkstone,” but some other Qing Dynasty commentators as well, such as Wang Xilian, Yao Xie, and Zhang Xinzhi. Wang Guowei’s essay on “Dream of the Red Chamber” is also a good read, as its the first Chinese article written on “Dream of the Red Chamber” using Western critical methods.

As for the “real” last forty chapters being found, that’s probably never going to happen. As to knowing what is supposed to happen after Chapter 80, we only have the clues from the “Red Inkstone” commentary to go on, which does paint a pretty decent picture. What I would really love to see is Cao Xueqin’s first novel, “A Precious Mirror for the Romantic” (Fengyue baojian), which later evolved into “Story of the Stone.” According to Zhang Ailing’s textual research, there were quite a few “erotic” stories (many of them same-sex) that appeared in the earlier work, particularly in regards to Qin Zhong, Liu Xianglian, Xue Pan, and the two boys in the Jia family schoolhouse in Chapter 9.

I’ve never really liked Dai-yu … too neurotic and possessive. She never understood “qing” (passion) like Bao-yu. Although she most definitely died after Chapter 80 (and probably not long after Chapter 80 either), but it was definitely not the way depicted by Gao E … but still sad nonetheless.

Anyway, if you have any more thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

He had another book! How come no one ever told us in Chinese lessons back in school? (I didn’t come to the US until after high school…that was many years of sitting in classrooms and listening to a whole bunch of nothing!) Wow! How exciting! Thanks so much for sharing that information. Can you post the name of that book in Chinese? Is it possible to buy it anywhere or is it something that I will only know of and never be able to read…(like the last 40 chapters…)

Heh heh, I read the Red Ink Commentary back in middle school like how I read the Dream of the Red Chamber in elementary school…gobbled down what I could understand and butchered the rest…which was a good chunk! I was just really drawn to the story and I tended to read whatever I could back then to escape from reality. :slight_smile:

I am not sure how I feel about Biao-yu. As a female sometimes I resent his being “spineless” (making a judgement, I know.) Super-pissed with him when he was not able to protect Chin-win (oh God I don’t know pin-ying at all…) even though I know there was probably nothing that he could do. After all, he could not even decide who he was going to marry. I think sometimes the fate of the women in the book is just so sad that I get angry at him…even though he was probably the only one that truly appreciated those women.

Okay…I am just rambling on. Gotta run. Thanks for sharing the exciting info with me! :slight_smile:

風月寶鑑 (fengyue baojian) is the name of his earlier work, which was prefaced by his younger brother, Tangcun (who also wrote some of the commentaries in the “Red Inkstone” commentary). Unfortunately, like the last forty chapters, it is no longer in existence.

As for Bao-yu making up his mind as to who he was going to marry as well as protecting Skybright (Qin-wen), that was not up to him. That was one of the author’s major points, living under a patriarchal, Neo-Confucian system stifled not only women, but also the men as well. Each had their own specified role that they were expected to play, and there was no room to deviate from the societal norm. Bao-yu is the one who bravely (and at the cost of the lives of several others, unfortunately) who tried to break down those barriers. Unfortunately, in the end it proved to be insurmountable to he went off to become a monk. In Gao E’s version of the last 40 chapters, he took the Imperial Examinations before going off to become a monk, but that doesn’t fit at all with Bao-yu’s character. The monk thing is correct, but participating in the exams is ridiculous.

Bao-yu was a true “passionate fool” (情痴), everything he did revolved around and started from “qing” (passion), as opposed to other characters like Xue Pan and Jia Lian, whose motivations all stemmed from “lust”. One of the interesting themes in the novel is the relationship between “passion” and “lust” (qing vs. yu). In the end, like Yin and Yang, True and Unreal, male and female, however, they can never really be separated. Bao-yu’s two true loves died for both of these – Dai-yu died for passion, and Qin Zhong died for lust. How sad … :frowning:

By the way, Dai-yu had to die … it was her destiny, since she had already repaid her “debt of tears” (還淚).

The one part of the last 40 chapters that I would like to see the most, and which is only mentioned in small bits and pieces in the “Red Inkstone” commentary, is the “Register of Lovers” (情榜). That is what the entire book is supposed to end with, and what “ranks” each of the “lovers” in the book, and according to “Red Inkstone,” all “lovers” must be registered through Bao-yu.