(Pinyin [P/Y], Honglou meng; Wade-Giles [W/G], Hung-lou meng)

Richard J. Smith
Rice University

NOTE: This outline is designed to provide a bit of guidance as you read volume 1 of The Story of the Stone. I am less interested at this point in your appreciation of the novel as a "literary work" than I am in the book as a reflection of Chinese culture (world view, aesthetics, values, life-styles, etc.). Don't worry about the names.

I. Basic features of the novel (generally considered to be China's greatest):

A.120 chapters; nearly 1,300 pages; over 700,000 words

B. Over 75 printed Chinese editions; over 15 foreign translations

C. About thirty major characters; over 400 minor characters

D. First 80 chapters of the novel commonly known as The Story of the Stone; written by Cao Xue-qin (W/G, Ts'ao Hsueh-ch'in, d. 1763); descended from Chinese Bannerman-Bondservant family; grand holdings in Nanjing confiscated by Yongzheng emperor for family's dishonesty and incompetence

E. Last 40 chapters of the novel attributed to Gao E (W/G, Kao O)

F. Entire novel made comprehensible by commentaries; most famous and useful: the Red Inkstone Commentary

G. Hawkes translation (Story of the Stone; five vols.) is by far the best; takes into account linguistic and other subtleties, rendered in the British idiom

II. Structure and style of the novel

A. Basic organizing principles (like the culture as a whole); several modes: realistic, allegorical, narrative' much foreshadowing, but, as in Chinese philosophy, syncronicity esteemed over simple causality as an explanatory principle; emphasis on relations, qualities, and states of being; novel deliberately not fixed in time or place (tho' the time is obviously the Qing dynasty, and the place, a composite of Nanjing and Beijing)

B. Yin-yang complementarity (juxtaposition and alternation of themes, images, personalities, situations); some examples: 1. Theme of interpenetration of reality and illusion, daily life and dreams (the idea of true and false producing one another)--"Truth becomes fiction when the fiction's true"--the Chinese reader takes delight in his/her disorientation. 2. Juxtaposition of Confucian and Buddhist (or Daoist) elements and themes. 3. Alternation of scenes (situations growing out of one another)--e.g. action and stillness (or excitement and boredom); elegance and baseness; sorrow and joy; separation and union; prosperity and decline; contrasts often emphasized in chapter heads. 4. Characters are often complementary opposites, although some are mirror images of one another

III. Major characters (see The Story, vol. 1, pp. 535 ff. for full list and genealogy)

A. [Jia] Bao-yu (W/G, Chia Pao-yu; lit., "Precious Jade" of the Chia family line); the "hero" of the novel; talented but lazy and spoiled by his paternal grandmother (Grandmother Jia, called the "Matriarch" in some translations); tyrannized by his severe Confucian father; Chinese commentaries assume him to be about 13 years old at the time covered by vol. I of The Story

B. [Lin] Dai-yu (W/G, Lin Tai-yu; lit., "Black Jade" of the Lin family line); Dai-yu is Bao-yu's cousin, an orphan who is supposed to have come to the Rong-guo family compound when she was about 6 years old; considered to be about 12 years old in vol. I, The Story; talented, pretty, slender, unhealty, suspicious and jealous; a yin character, but Bao-yu's "girlfriend"

C. [Xue] Bao-chai (W/G, Hsueh Pao-ch'ai; lit. "Precious Clasp" of the Xue family line); also Bao-yu's cousin; comes somewhat later than Dai-yu to Rong-guo, inconsistency regarding time of her arrival; considered to be about 15 years old in vol. I; also talented and pretty, but a bit plump and robust (yang character); competes with Dai-yu but is also a friend; Bao-yu is the meeting point; his given name, one should note, consists of the first character of Bao-chai's given name, and the last character of Dai-yu's given name

D. [Wang] Xi-feng (W/G, Wang Hsi-feng, lit. "Phoenix" of the Wang family); very capable woman; wife of Bao-yu's cousin, Jia Lian; a strong woman, but rather corrupt and devious; eventually her activities bring disaster to Jia family

IV. Main plot: Rise and fall of the Jia family, which lives in two major adjoining compounds (Rong-guo, headed by Grandmother Jia; Ning-guo, headed by Jia Jing)

A. Much action takes place in Prospect Garden (P/Y Daguan yuan; W/G Ta-kuan yuan; lit. "Garden of Great Vision"); built in honor of Bao-yu's elder sister, an imperial concubine

B. Focus on Bao-yu--his upbringing and interaction with various characters (mainly women--see Vol. 1, Appendix: "The Twelve Beauties of Jinling," pp. 527 ff.); but the novel begins with Bao-yu's supernatural "origins" as a magical stone, unused by the Goddess Nu-gua in repairing the "dome of Heaven," which wants to enjoy the pleasures of the "red dust" (the mundane world); Bao-yu born with a piece of jade (the magical stone) in his mouth through the machinations of a Buddhist monk and a lame Daoist priest (who make periodic appearances throughout the novel to mock or enlighten people)

C. Basic story line concerns conflict between Bao-yu and his family over his laziness and failure to study well for the examinations, etc.

D. Also a complex love story, or series of stories; Bao-yu believes he will marry Dai-yu, but his family instead arranges a marriage with the more robust Bao-chai; Bao-yu is surprised on his wedding day; Dai-yu is grief-striken and dies on the same day; a series of family tragedies follow, but Bao-yu eventually passes the exams, Bao-chai bears him a son to carry on the line, and the Jia family fortunes, which have fallen, rise again; but Bao-yu then renounces the world to go off and become a monk (symbolizing individual liberation)

V. Ways of looking at the novel

A. Several traditional interpretations: love story, political satire, autobiography; work in praise of women ("Red Chamber" refers to the women's quarters of a traditional family compound)--all are essentially correct

B. A basic element: Quest for identity and an understanding of one's purpose in life

C. Chinese Communist interpretations see it as a critique of "feudal" society

D. Western scholarship (see below): Growing appreciation for the novel and its cultural significance; Dream may be viewed as a kind of "total vision" of Chinese culture--"Prospect Garden" is a sort of cultural metaphor

E. The novel itself is a reflection of Chinese aesthetics and world view; the culmination of China's rich literary tradition; includes examples of every major type of Chinese literature, including several kinds of poetry

F. General cultural value: Sheds light on virtually every aspect of elite (and much popular) culture, from family life, social roles and values to religious practices and attitudes, amusements, food, medicine, clothing and architecture

G. Also highlights the gap between theory and practice in Chinese social life

Misc. Bibliography (Not all call numbers are listed [I got lazy]; the Fondren Library has virtually all of these works in the call number range indicated)

Cooper, Eugene, and Meng Zhang, "Patterns of Cousin Marriage in Rural Zhejiang and in Dream of the Red Chamber," Journal of Asian Studies, 52.1 (February, 1993) DS 501/.J6

Edwards, Louise, "Jia Baoyu and Essential Feminine Purity," The Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, 20-21 (1988-1989).

Edwards, Louise, "Women in Honglou meng: Prescriptions of Purity in the Femininity of Qing Dynasty China," Modern China, 16.4 (1990). DS777.55/.M56

Edwards, Louise, "Gender Imperatives in Honglou meng: Baoyu's Bisexuality," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, 12 (1990) PL2250/.C45

Edwards, Louise, "Representations of Women and Social Power in Eighteenth Century China: The Case of Wang Xifeng," Late Imperial China, 14.1 (June, 1993). DS754/.C5332

Edwards, Louise, Men and Women in Qing China: Gender in 'The Red Chamber Dream." New York: E.J. Brill, 1994.

Gao, George, "Lin Yutang's Appreciation of the 'Red Chamber Dream,'" Renditions, 2 (Spring, 1974). PL2658/.E1/R46

Hawkes, David, "The Translator, the Mirror and the Dream--Some Observations on a New Theory," Renditions, 13 (Spring, 1980). PL2658/.E1/R46

Hawkes, David, "The Story of the Stone: A Symbolist Novel," Renditions, 25 (Spring, 1986). PL2658/.E1/R46

Hawkes, David, The Story of the Stone. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979-1987; 5 vols.) PL2727/.S2/A23

Hegel, Robert and Richard Hessney, eds., Expressions of Self in Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. PL2275/.S44/E96/1985

Hegel, Robert, Reading Illustrated Fiction in Late Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

Hsia, C.T., "Dream of the Red Chamber," in The Classic Chinese Novel: A Critical Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968. PL2415/.H8

Huang Xinqu, trans. A Dream of Red Mansions. San Francisco: Purple Bamboo Publishing, 1994.

Kao, Yu-kung, "Lyric Vision in Chinese Narrative: A Reading of Hung-lou Meng and Ju-lin Wai-shih," in Plaks, ed., Chinese Narrative.

Kinney, Anne Behnke, ed., Chinese Views of Childhood (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995)

Knoerle, Jeanne, The Dream of the Red Chamber: A Critical Study. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972. PL2727/.S2/K58

Lin, Shuen-fu, "Chia Pao-yu's First Visit to the Land of Illusion: An Analysis of a Literary Dream in an Interdisciplinary Perspective," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, 14 (December, 1992) PL2250/.C45

Miller, Lucien, Masks of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber: Myth, Mimesis, and Persona. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1975. PL2727/.S2/M47

Miller, Lucien, "Children of the Dreams: The Adolescent World in Cao Xueqin's Honglou meng." in Kinney, ed., Chinese Views of Childhood

Plaks, Andrew, Archetype and Allegory in the Dream of the Red Chamber. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.

Plaks, Andrew, "Allegory in Hsi-yu Chi and Hung-lou Meng," in Plaks, ed., Chinese Narrative.

Plaks, Andrew, ed., Chinese Narrative: Critical and Theoretical Essays. Princeton. Princeton University Press, 1977. PL2415/.C48

Plaks, Andrew, "Chang Hsin-chih on How to Read the Hung-lou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) in Rolston, ed., How to Read the Chinese Novel.

Rickett, Adele, Chinese Approaches to Literature from Confucius to Liang Ch'i-ch'ao. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978. PL2272.5/.C5327

Rolston, David. How to Read the Chinese Novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. PL2415/.H66/1990

Saussey, Haun, "Reading and Folly in Dream of the Red Chamber," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, 9.1-2 (July, 1987) PL2250/.C45

Soong, Stephen, "Two Types of Misinterpretation--Some Poems from 'Red Chamber Dream,'" Renditions, 7 (Spring 1977). PL2658/.E1/R46

Wagner, Marsha, "Maids and Servants in Dream of the Red Chamber: Individuality and the Social Order," in Hegel and Hessney, eds.

Waltner, Ann, "On Not Becoming a Heroine: Lin Daiyu and Cui Ying-ying," Signs, 15.1 (1989). HQ1101/.S5

Wang, Jing, The Story of Stone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism in Dream of the Red Chamber. Durham: Duke University Press, 1992. PL2265/.W28/1992

Wang, John C.Y., "The Chih-yen-chai Commentary and the Dream of the Red Chamber: A Literary Study," in Rickett, ed., Chinese Approaches to Literature.

Wong, Kam-ming, "Point of View, Norms, and Structure: Hung-lou Meng and Lyrical Fiction, Plaks, ed., Chinese Narrative.

Wu, Shih-ch'ang, On the Red Chamber Dream. London: Clarendon Press, 1961.

Yang, Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, A Dream of Red Mansions. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1962; 3 vols. PL2727/.S2/A29513/1978

Yang, Michael, "Naming in Honglou meng," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, 18 (1996).

Yee, Angelina, "Counterpoise in Honglou meng," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 50.2 (December, 1990) DS 501/.H3

Yee, Angelina, "Self, Sexuality, and Writing in Honglou meng" Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 55.2 (December, 1995).

Yü, Anthony, "Self and Family in the Hung-lou meng: A New Look at Lin Tai-yü as Tragic Heroine," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, 2.2 (July, 1980). PL2250/.C45

Yu, Anthony, Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. PL2727/.S2Y76/1997

Yu, Ying-shih, "The Two Worlds of Hung-lou meng," Renditions, 2 (Spring, 1974). PL2658/.E1/R46

Yu, Ying-shih, Hung-lou meng ti liang ko shih-chieh (The Two Worlds of the Dream of the Red Chamber; Taipei, 1981; includes English text] PL2727/.S2/Y8 1981