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217 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Achievement
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...
Published on August 18, 2002 by mp

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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mere Milieu
Let me first explicate a bit - perhaps add a disclaimer is more like it - about my approach to the book as contrasted with the other reviewers and my so-so experience of reading it. I am neither Chinese nor a Chinese scholar, as most of the reviewers seem to be. My only experiences with Chinese literature heretofore are Ezra Pound's translations of poets such as Li-Po...
Published on July 24, 2011 by Daniel Myers


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217 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Achievement, August 18, 2002
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (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. The stone and the flower are incarnated as the novel begins in earnest, as a young minor nobleman named Jia Bao-yu, and a commoner related to the family, a girl named Lin Dai-yu - both unaware of their heavenly origins. "The Golden Days" centers around the daily events and occurrences in the lives of these two teenagers, as they come to grips, as we all must, with human life.
The Rong and Ning branches of the Jia family, on opposite sides of Two Dukes Street, are the centerpieces of the novel's action. Like the "big house" fiction of the English eighteenth century, these ancestral manses provide a locus of activity, as the nobles, their extended families, friends, and servants mingle and interact constantly. Cao marks himself as a remarkable author by the way he handles a massive cast of characters, letting us into the private lives and concerns of all ranks of society, as well as the forms of etiquette that determine their relationships. Another terrific facet of the novel's construction is the almost stream of consciousness style Cao employs - as characters pass in and out of the immediate action of the novel, the narrative seems to choose the person it's most interested in and follow them for pages at a time, before seamlessly passing to the next character. It's really quite amazing, how, in this way, we come to understand the motivations, fears, and hopes of so many individuals. Time, distance, culture, Cao levels distinctions, making historical China accessible to even 21st century readers - he reduces people to their human concerns.
Cao Xueqin's novel is also remarkable for what I can only call it's pro(to)-feminist tone. While we are reminded by certain characters that male lineage is of major importance to the structure of the society, the narrative consistently shows the power, ability, and influence of women. At the novel's beginning, a Taoist named Vanitas finds the stone, and is asked to transcribe its story, but complains initially that it is about a "number of females". The stone obviously insists that the story be written out. Later, Bao-yu, the major male character, says he is more comfortable around women - that they are like water, while men are like mud, castoffs, unclean. One of the main characters of this volume is Wang Xi-feng, a young woman in her early twenties, who for an extended period, manages the affairs of both the Ning and Rong mansions. Cao's respect and admiration for the strong women in Bao-yu's life: Xi-feng, Dai-yu, and two particular servants, Aroma and Caltrop, is quite obvious and important to the novel.
If you are like me, and know tragically little about Chinese literature and culture, Cao takes care of that too - there is a heavy emphasis throughout the novel on the cultural productions of China. The book integrates a wide range of poetry, drama, fiction, folk wisdom, and mythology as a central part of Bao-yu and Dai-yu's upbringing. One can sense Cao's insistence in the novel that education and cultural production is of vital importance, particularly to children. While the Fairy Disenchantment seems to be the guiding spirit of the novel, hinting at the diappointments inevitable in the course of life, this is a novel about youth, and hope for the future, even in the midst of concern about how long prosperity can last. Taken altogether, "The Golden Days" cannot be recommended enough. David Hawkes's translation is first rate, and his introduction, pronunciation notes, and appendices are thorough and very helpful.
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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Chinese novel of all time!, November 16, 2003
By 
Fíal (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (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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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chinese classic that should be better known in the West, December 2, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (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. And the rest of the novel is a fascinating portrayal of traditional Chinese culture, manners, religion, entertainment, food, clothes, interior decoration, medicine, and family values. Family members and servants go about their lives, putting on funerals, having birthday parties, intriguing for improved status within the family, casting spells on enemies, eating lavish meals, entertaining Imperial guests and poor relations, threatening or committing suicide to save face, scheming to take concubines behind wives' backs, etc. etc. Symbolism in names, metaphors, dreams, poems, etc. abounds. The novel has literally hundreds of characters (David Hawkes helpfully organizes them by letting the family members keep their Chinese names and translating the servants' names into English, the actresses' names into French, and the monks' and nuns' names into Latin). Caveat lector: "DRC" is challenging even for a Chinese reader because of its allegories, wordplay, poetry, and cultural references. It is full of allusions to Chinese literature and history -- which can be frustrating since Hawkes does not provide explanatory footnotes. (I was able to get my Chinese boyfriend and his mother to explain some of the allusions.) Also, although the translation is unabridged and usually idiomatic, it sometimes grated on my (American) ears. Hawkes sometimes makes the characters talk painfully quaint British slang. But if you can overlook these difficulties, this is one of those novels that can conjure up a world and make its inhabitants real for the reader.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but needs initial patience, April 23, 2000
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (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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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Creative Masterpiece, May 8, 2001
By 
Xoe Li Lu "xoelilu" (Sea Girt, New Jersey USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
Written in 1750, The Story of the Stone is an impressive and fascinating tale that incorporates otherworldly magic and mysticism with the saga of wealthy Jia family. The five-volume story chronicles the family's high-living glory days through their bitter decline, all the while immersing the reader in rich details of daily life in 18th century China. I completely agree with the following quote from the Times Higher Educational Supplement: "an astonishing book. It recreates a world that would otherwise be utterly lost." Anyone even mildly interested in Chinese history and culture will be enthralled by this glimpse into the privileged world of wealthy 18th century Chinese.
Author Cao Xueqin was truly a creative genius - Story of the Stone is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, and superbly crafted. While reading the first chapter of the first book (Dream of the Red Chamber), I was struck with how utterly clever and imaginative the story is. You will instantly be aware that you are reading something that has endured almost three hundred years for a very good reason. The story is populated with dozens of wonderfully three-dimensional characters - many of whom are woven in and out of the story making for a most interesting read. Most notable is the spoiled and curiously effeminate protagonist Jia Bao-yu, who possesses a special, magical item that I won't reveal here (don't want to spoil your enjoyment of the book!).
All of the elements that make traditional Chinese literature such a joy to read are embodied in Story of the Stone. Elaborate settings, delicate verse, and traditional symbolism (with a healthy dose of humor and bawdiness) create a beautiful and riveting story that will keep you wanting more. I highly recommend reading the entire 5-book series. It is impressive that a work can stand the test of time as well as Story of the Stone has. David Hawkes' fine translation is excellent. Although some have criticized him for using too much "slang," I feel that his translation is effective in expressing the character's true sentiments, and it is tremendously easy to read. Story of the Stone is an unforgettable and awesome read that I highly recommend.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good translation, but..., February 1, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
The attractions of this translation are numerous -- which is fortunate for a book that, in total, weigns in at 2500 pages. Most people will enjoy the stylish prose and exquisite interjections of poetry, but you is urged to read sample pages before investing the full measure of your time. While entertaining and quite appealing, this translatoin has its flaws -- and they have been pointed out by several native Chinese translators. The prose is here littered wtih Briticisms that seem almost anarchronistic at times. Xueqin's cultural and literary references, which profoundly enrich the book, are passed over without even a footnote (though the introduction is illuminating). The careful reader may even feel that they are missing the context and mood of the original book. If your interest in this masterpiece is for its fundamental merits -- storytelling, characterization, beauty of language -- then you will find this a pleasure, and you need look no further. If you wish a deeper sense of the Chinese mood of the work, then the four-volume translation may be more attractive.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Challenge, December 11, 2001
By 
"diesel24" (St. Paul, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
I just finished a class devoted to the study of The Story of the Stone (aka Honglou Meng, Dream of the Red Chamber) and feel completely awed by the complexity and skill of Cao Xueqin. This novel thoughtfully and naturally weaves together several timeless human themes. If you enjoy literature which requires analysis at several different levels simultaneously, you'll love this book.
Two notes for those who don't speak Chinese:
1)Learning the characters' names is difficult even for those with a background in Chinese, but the translator does do readers a favor by translating servants' names into English equivalents/approximations while leaving the names of the main family members in (romanized) Chinese.
2)Keep in mind that two of the most important families are named Jia and Zhen, which mean "false, phony, artificial" and "true, real, genuine" respectively. (This is just one of many iinteresting and meaningful messages inevitably lost in translation)
Also, in my opinion, the first three volumes (written by Cao) are much better than the last two volumes (written by Gao E). Still, it's interesting to compare the ways Gao changes the story.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the magic stone met the crimson pearl flower..., October 23, 2005
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
The Dream of the Red Chamber (The Story of the Stone) starts off as an immensely long inscription on a miraculous stone which was copied out by a visiting man and taken down into the world for publication. Volume 1 gives the account of the magic stone's origin, renders the discourse redolent of a supernatural, mystical overtone. Once upon a time a piece of stone that was unworthy to be used for repairing the sky possessed magic power and ended up in the mortal world. The unhappy stone incarnated and lived out the life of a man before finally attaining nirvana and returning to what Buddhist refers as the "other shore."

Jai Baoyu is the incarnation of the stone. The name "bao-yu" means "treasured jewel" and was named after the wonderful incident that the only surviving son of the Jia household was born with a piece of spotless jade in his mouth. Lin Daiyu, Baoyu's teary cousin with a superior intelligence, is the incarnation of the Crimson Pearl Flower, which the unhappy stone once conceived a fancy that he took to watering everyday so the flower was able to shed the form of a plant and became a girl. The consciousness that she owed the stone ensued her to repay him with the tears shed during the whole of a mortal lifetime if they were ever to be reborn as humans in the world beneath. It was no wonder when Daiyu first saw her cousin, who had tyrannized the household, hated studies, and spent most of his time in women's quarters, it was as though she had seen him somewhere before, like a déjà vu.

Aside from the ethereal origin, the first volume of The Dream of the Red Chamber depicts a fairly eventual record of a great Manchu household (Qing Dynasty) under the tutelage of the Imperial family in early 18th century China. It's the picture of daily routines in the life that emerge most vividly from its discourse. The Jia household is genuinely disguised as some highborn aristocrats whose ancestors were ennobled for their military powers. This first installment of five parts, titled Golden Days, captures the Jias at the hi-time in which members of the Rong-guo mansion and the Ning-guo mansion dressed in silk, ate delicately, pampered by a domestic hierarchy of servants and maids, when they were still nested in the protecting shadow of the ancestors and the readily accessible wealth. The family's decline and fall constitute the general background of the novel.

With over 500 characters, thousands of one-hit appearances and a skein of household members and their distant relations of the clan, reading of The Dream of the Red Chamber will be more pleasurable and rewarding with the family genealogy handy. The book has a general flow of daily happenings and inter-family drama, with an emphasis on the relationship between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. Household activities, domestic anecdotes, subbing rivalries, seditious schemes, love affairs, contention between concubines, political intrigues, black magic, witchcraft, and even murder constitute to the pages of this Chinese epic that evokes Remembrance of Things Past and One Hundred Years of Solitude. The heart of the novel is the pre-destined relationship between a semi-ethereal entity and magic stone under the context of the Buddhist understanding that earthly existence is an illusion. This meeting, though is meant to be, is in vain, one that is full of tears.

When the fairy led Baoyu into the land of illusion and showed him his fate, he could scarcely make out of what he saw. Nature might have endowed him an eccentric obtuseness of a simpleton. How does one expect a 13-year-old (scholars deem him to be 13 throughout most of the book) to recognize and seize his destiny? The fairy showed him not only his life cycle but also the romantic passions, love debts, heartbreaks of dust-stained human world. Baoyu was destined to mingle with girls around him. The ancestors thought Baoyu had inherited a perverse, intractable nature that rendered him eccentric and emotionally unstable. Exposure to the worldly illusions of decay might hopefully succeed in enlightening, awakening, and transforming him.

Daiyu seems to know Baoyu more thoroughly than anyone does. She is able to nail his problem despite her occasional tiff with him over trivial matters. Baoyu always complained about people's getting angry with whatever he did, but he never realized how much he had provoked them at the first place. Couplets, poems, and verses in the novel hint at his friendlessness in the mortal world and the incessant debate over the depth of his relation with Daiyu. The roaming back and forth, sink and soar between sorrow and elation between the two incarnated cousins constitute to the understanding that earthly existence is indeed a transience but karma determines the shape of one's life and the life after. This idea of life being a dream from which one eventually awakes is a Buddhist tenet, but the incorporation of it into the novel becomes a poetic gesture to demonstrate that the main character (Baoyu) is indicative to the author.

The Dream of the Red Chamber in Chinese has the connotation of being rich and grand. The title can refer to a dream of the vanished splendor and opulence. The frequent use of dream imagery implies the possibility that the luxurious world of the author's youth, which he attempted to reconstruct, had vanished so utterly at the time of writing. The story of the Jias closely accorded with fortunes of Cao's own family, which attained its height under the reign of Kangxi. But the exact relationship existing between characters of the novel and members of Cao family is uncertain and discreet. Baoyu is assured to be author's self-portrait, whose struggle towards emotional maturity was delineated with an affluence of nuance. Other characters could be compsite of several family members over different generations for the purpose of disguising facts.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars China's greatest novel, January 8, 2011
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
This--the whole 5-volume set--remains China's greatest novel, and possibly the greatest novel in any language. It is the subject of a whole field of studies in China ("Red Studies," from the more usual Chinese title of the book, HUNG LOU MENG, "A Dream of Red Mansions"). It really should be read by every educated person.
The other reviews on Amazon summarize the book well. Some of them comment on the translation's accuracy, which I cannot do, being too feeble in my Chinese to follow its difficult prose. There are several things to add, however.
I'm currently reading it for the 3rd time (I have also read the abridged translations), with an eye to studying the ways emotion is represented, for some work on emotions across cultures that I am involved in. The interesting thing here is that the whole incredibly diverse, elaborate, and minutely described emotional landscape of the novel is instantly and totally accessible and comprehensible to a sensitive western reader (at least, to with some knowledge of Chinese conventions). There is nothing remotely like the utterly alien, incomprehensible emotional and personal landscape that stereotypes and superficial western accounts ascribe to the Chinese. There is also nothing like the utterly socialized Chinese, incapable of individuality, seen in most western accounts of cross-cultural psychology. In fact, Cao's characters are sometimes quirky, sometimes downright eccentric, and always individuals and characters. This is (of course) a much more accurate portrayal of Chinese persons than the stereotyping western literature.
The western reader is even apt to do as Chinese readers often do, and identify Cao's characters with people they know. Cultural psychologists take note.
First is the stunning level of social commentary here, focused tightly and relentlessly on the plight of women in a traditional elite North Chinese household, but also on the plight of the servant and commoner classes in that elitist situation. Cao Xueqin explores every possible misfortune that can befall good women (including being corrupted into not-so-good women).
Cao was humorous and gently ironic. The brilliant but feckless and unpredictable hero Bao-yu survives largely because of his infinitely caring, sensible, always-there maid and lover Aroma. Several of the other characters also depend on servants who are conspicuously more sane and competent than their masters and mistresses.
Nobody in the English-language literature seems to point out that this was part of a movement. The great poets Zheng Xie and Yuan Mei were exact contemporaries of Cao Xueqin. Cao would probably have known their work. They had the same socially critical stance. They had the same highly empathetic attitudes toward women, including women of the servant class. If the latter phrase sounds very feudal and hierarchic, reflect, American readers: our poets and novelists are very often elite New Englanders and New Yorkers; you know they have servants; yet it will be a cold day in Hell before you find a sympathetic portrait of a maid in any of their stuff. Cao is way ahead.
Zheng and Yuan were also capable of the same sort of intensely personal, intimate, open writing about love that Cao managed so well. There is a wonderful translation of one of Zheng's more painful and personal love poems in V. McHugh and C. Kwock, WHY I LIVE ON THE MOUNTAIN, a booklet that should be more widely known--alas rare and obscure.
Moreover, this humanistic attitude--toward women, or just toward everybody--spread to Japan; think of Rai Sanyo and Ryokan. I doubt if they ever heard of Cao, but they surely had read Yuan Mei and very likely had read Zheng and others.
There were a good number of women writers at the time. Some were proteges of Yuan Mei. No one seems to know what happened to the women in Cao's own personal life.
Chinese society in the early Qing Dynasty was horribly hierarchic and oppressive, not least to women, but the countercurrents represented by Cao and others were powerful and important. They lie behind modern women's movements in East Asia.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable as a window into Chinese culture, August 3, 2010
This review is from: The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days (Paperback)
"The Story of the Stone", or "Dream of the Red Chamber", is a Chinese vernacular novel written in the 17th century which has a unique status in China, Taiwan and every Chinese-speaking area. There are novels which are as famous ("Three Kingdoms" and "Outlaws of the Marsh"), there are novels which some Chinese love as dearly or are as often read (Ba Jin's "The Family" is one). But none are as revered or as studied. As a window into Chinese culture Cao Xueqin's novel is incomparable.

The story is pretty simple: it chronicles a powerful (Ming/Qing Dynasty) Han Chinese aristocratic clan which is affluent and much envied throughout the capital, but which is, in many sense, falling apart due to (mostly moral) disintegration. The real protagonists of the book are the women, most of whom are wonderfully gifted, in different ways. The tragedy is particularly heartbreaking as we become involved with the major characters. One title the author gives to this book is "The Twelve Beauties of Jinling", which shows how pro-feminist it is.

"The Story of the Stone" is a naturalistic novel. It attempts to recapture life in China in the mid-17th century. To give one good example: in one chapter Jia Baoyu goes from greeting his grandmother in the morning, to meeting his mother Lady Wang for lunch (eating vegetables), to quarreling with Dai-yu (over some odds and ends brought forth from an earlier chapter), chats with Wang Xi-feng (his cousin-in-law) about some bolts of cloth, and goes out for some dalliances with his guy friends. The verisimilitude of Chinese life is revealed in utmost detail. You learn that the Chinese rinse their mouths with tea (the rich anyway), about Traditional Chinese Medicine (interwoven in conversations), that they sleep on kangs (kind of bed-stove), you learn how they speak to and address their elders and peers, the books they read, their poetry.... Few novels in world literature are so revealing of its culture.

David Hawkes' version, as said before, is a labor of love. It is the most complete translation available in any language, although it cannot (clearly) recreate every nuance of the Chinese original. Hawkes is faithful yet unslavish. He injects wit and liveliness to the dialog. Something will (inevitably) be lost in the translation. If you are planning to spend months on this mammoth East Asian classic (especially if you are a native English reader), buying/borrowing Hawkes' version is a no-brainer. Hawkes son-in-law John Minford translates the final 40 chapters, which is a non-authorial continuation adhering to the Chenggao version (1791/2).
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