The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, Chi-chen Wang (Translator),

bookshelves: books-about-books-and-book-shops, china, dip-in-now-and-again, epic-proportions, e-book

Read from February 15 to 21, 2016

 

Guardian article

Read the novel here Hattip to Wandaful

Opening: Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

A stone hurled by an Empress feels neglected, desolate and unfit…

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch’ing Keng peak.”

So how long is a chang so that we can picture this thing? Answer: 3.58 metres or 11 feet 9 inches Ta-dah! Yet that is only half the story, this heavenly stone can expand or contract – become the apex of a mountain or lay in the palm of a curious hand.

What fun! Not like Pauline Collins talking to ‘rock’ in Shirley Valentine*, this rock talks back.

* Damn! couldn’t find that clip of her talking to ‘rock’ yet did find this bit, which is smashing

As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine.”

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