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The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days Paperback – March 30, 1974

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese (translation)

About the Author

Cao Xueqin (1715-63) was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy they were able to entertain the Emperor four times. However, calamity overtook them and their property was consfiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty when he wrote his famous novel The Story of the Stone.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Story of the Stone (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Trade Paperback Edition edition (March 30, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442939
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

237 of 242 people found the following review helpful By mp on August 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I spend a lot of time wandering through bookstores. One particular book has caught my eye over the years, and the other day I bought it - Volume 1 of Cao Xueqin's eighteenth century epic, "The Story of the Stone: The Golden Days". As a developing eighteenth century scholar, I was doubly attracted to it. "The Golden Days" absolutely blew me away - used as I am to eighteenth century novels (British, French, American), this is wholly unlike anything I've read from the era. It bears structural similarities to the Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and "Sentimental Journey," but aside from that bears more in common with ancient Greek novels like Longus's "Daphnis and Chloe" or Heliodorus's "Eithopian Romance," as well as the mysticism of the ancient Egyptian "Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor." And yet, Cao's attention to actual life experiences, and the detail he conveys about tradition and ceremony, along with frank dealings with human relationships and sexuality makes "The Golden Days" much more than any quick summary of style or content can relate.
"The Golden Days" begins in amusing, but sympathetic fashion: the goddess Nü-wa is repairing the sky with 36,501 stones. When she finishes, one remains, which is cast off. Having been touched by a goddess, this stone has magical properties, able to move, change size, and even talk. One day, a Buddhist monk and a Taoist come upon the stone, and promise to let the stone have an adventure - to become human. As the stone waits by a pond, it falls desperately in love with a Crimson Pearl Flower, which is also selected for incarnation by the Fairy Disenchantment.
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99 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Fíal on November 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Well, in my opinion anyway. David Hawkes has done an amazing job translating this brilliant 18th-century novel into colloquial modern English. I have read all the translations-- this is my favorite novel, and this is by far the best version for an English speaker who just wants a good book. I can imagine that a Chinese reader could pick holes in this translation, as I could nitpick at a translation of Shakespeare-- the wealth of the original is impossible to transfer whole into another language and culture. If you want a word-for-word translation so you can use this as a study guide while you read the Chinese, maybe the wooden Beijing Languages version could help you! But I have a hard time imagining any new translation being more vivid and fun to read than this one. Yes, it is littered with sometimes annoying Britishisms. That is the price of a colloquial translation! It's true that Hawkes does not explain all the references-- that would be another book in itself. And I am sure he made mistakes-- I help a French translator occasionally and even though he is very well-versed in English, it is so easy for him to miss something that only a cultured native speaker could pick up. But this translation is ALIVE. Until that perfect translation comes along one day, Hawkes's is still better than all the others. Be grateful to him! (2003)
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most entertaining, satisfying "big baggy"-type novels of all time. Readers who like long Victorian or Russian novels, or got all the way through "Clarissa," will get many hours of enjoyment from "Story of the Stone" ("Dream of the Red Chamber" is the more common title). It is about a cultured, wealthy family in early Ching dynasty China, with a teenaged hero called Bao-yu. Bao-yu spends all his time in the women's quarters, which is unheard-of for a boy his age but allowed because his grandmother spoils him. Instead of fulfilling his filial duty by studying for the civil service exams, he indulges in the same idle pleasures as the women of the household, eating, dressing, gossiping, composing poetry, and/or playing drinking games with his many girl cousins, aunts, mother, doting grandmother, myriad serving maids, a troupe of actresses, and the occasional nun from a convent located on the grounds. Bao-yu is a dreamy, precocious romantic, very spoiled but charming, and always (usually platonically) in love with several girls at once. However, his deepest feelings are for his cousin Dai-yu, his soulmate, who is sickly, orphaned, frequently whiny, and not considered a good match by the family. It is hard to believe that Cao Xueqin wrote about 300 years ago on the other side of the world, because he gives such a touching, ironic depiction of romantic love unfolding between two sensitive, self-conscious, and precocious kids. His characterizations of women are also sympathetic and insightful, aware of the suffering that society's conventions inflict on them.Read more ›
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By "nick12999" on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the first volume of a 5 volume series, and does not stand alone. If you read it, and enjoy it, be prepared to read the other four volumes. The story is difficult to begin with, not for lack of interest, but because of the complexity of Chinese names for the western reader. The book is provided with a useful list of characters for each volume, and after referring to this during the first half of the first volume, all becomes clearer for the remainder of the book.
The story itself is a fascinating picture of life in 18th century China, and portrays the development of a young boy who has otherworldly origins. The western reader needs to view dispassionately the Buddhist theme which pervades the novel, but when read with an open mind, the philosophy underlying the novel is both charming and practical (in its own way).
I found the book addictive, though it has to be said that others of my acquaintance found it too difficult to cope with, and abandoned the story before the end of the first volume. If you persevere, it forms a wonderful introduction to classical Chinese literature, and those similarly addicted will find it leads into many other books of Chinese prose and poetry.
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