Introduction of " A Dream of Red Mansions"

A Dream of Red Mansions was written in the latter half of the 18th century. It is not only a great Chinese novel but also a gem of world literature. The author is Cao Xueqin (1715-1763), also known as Cao zhan. He was born into a noble and powerful family, which was reduced from extreme prosperity to poverty. The life of luxury in his boyhood acquainted him with the ways of noble families and the ruling classes, while poverty in his old age enabled him to observe life more clearly and penetratingly. Based on his own understanding of life and with his progressive ideas, serious attitude and high craftsmanship, he was able to create A Dream of Red Mansion, a book regarded as the pinnacle of the Chinese classical novel. Of its 120 chapters, the first 80 were written by Cao Xueqin, while the last 40 chapters were thought to have been written by another writer, Gao E. Though certain difference can be discerned in Gao E's sequel, in respect to ideological content and artistic achievement, it still basically follows Cao's original plan and makes the novel and integral whole.

A Dream of Red Mansions describes the life and declining fortunes of a large feudal family. At the heart of the novel is a tragic love story between Jia Baoyu, Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai. The author, instead of telling the love story superficially, tries to tap the social origins of the tragedy through probing deeply into the characters' minds and the complicated relationship among them, hence exposing the hypocrisy and cruelty of feudalism and the decadence of the ruling class. The novel goes far beyond the tragic love story, to depict a broad swath of society through describing a series of complicated conflicts and struggles, and ultimately predicting the domed fate of feudal society as a whole. The novel criticizes feudalism, its corrupted politics, marriage system and ethical relationships and passionately denounces its cruelty and inhumanity. In China, A Dream of Red Mansions is praised as an encyclopedia for analyzing feudal society.

A Dream of Red Mansions portrays a galaxy of unforgettable characters, including Jia Baoyu, Lin Daiyu, Xue Baochai, Wang Xifeng, Yuanyang, Qingwen, Jia Zheng, Jia She, Jia Zhen and Jia Lian. Jia Baoyu is a rebel of feudal noble class. His rebellion character is fully expressed in his attitude of indifference to the ways of aristocratic life. He holds in contempt the tiresome men and greatly sympathizes with the women, oppressed and trampled by the feudal system, demonstrating his distinct democratic thoughts. Lin Daiyu is also a rebellious figure of the novel, she represents, to a certain degree, women's unfortunate fate in feudal society, their resistance to its oppression and passionate pursuit for true love. But her weakness is in her restrained and fragile character, typical of noble girls. Baochai is portrayed as a conventional woman of feudal society, and she is also a tragic figure. The author also portrays a large number of servant girls such as Qingwen and Yuanyang, who are kind, pure and brave.

A Dream of Red Mansions made great artistic achievements. For instance, the novel provides a large number of detailed descriptions of everyday lives. Cao Xueqin attained flawlessness in language. A Dream of Red Mansions reflected high aesthetic quality in many aspects including poetry, drama, art, architecture, and gardens.


Two Beautifuls Songs from TV Series " A Dream of Red Mansions"


1. Burying the Flowers

(Translated by David Hawkes)

 The blossoms fade and falling fill the air,
 Of fragrance and bright hues bereft and bare.
 Floss drifts and flutters round the Maiden`s bower,
 Or softly strikes against her curtained door.
 The Maid ,grieved by these signs of spring`s decease,
 Seeking some means her sorrow to express,
 Has rake in hand into the garden gone,
 Before the fallen flowers are trampled on.
 Elm-pods and willow-floss are fragrant too;
 Why care,Maid,where the fallen flowers blew?
 Next year ,when peach and plum-tree bloom again,
 Which of your sweet companions will remain?
 This spring the heartless swallow built his nest
 Beneath the eaves of mud with flowers compressed.
 Next year the flowers will blossom as before,
 But swallow ,nest ,and Maid will be no more.
 Three hundred and three-score the year`s full tale:
 From swords of frost and from the slaughtering gale
 How can the lovely flowers long stay intact,
 Or, once loosed,from their drifting fate draw back?
 Blooming so steadfast ,fallen so hard to find!
 Beside the flowers`grave,with sorrowing mind,
 The solitary Maid sheds many tear,
 Which on the boughs as bloody drops appear.
 At twilight ,when the cuckoo sings no more,
 The Maiden with her rake goes in at door
 And lays her down between the lamplit walls,
 While chill rain against the window falls.
 know not why my heart`s so strangely sad,
 Half grieving for the spring and yet half glad:
 Glad that it came ,grieved it so soon was spent.
 So soft it came ,so silently it went!
 Last night ,outside ,a mournful sound was heard:
 The spirits of the flowers and of the bird.
 But neither bird nor flowers would long delay,
 Bird lacking speech,and flowers too shy to stay.
 And then wished that had wings to fly
 After the drifting flowers across the sky:
 Across the sky to the world`s farthest end,
 The flowers` last fragrant resting-place to find.
 But better their remains in silk to lay
 And bury underneath the wholesome clay,
 Pure substances the pure earth to enrich,
 Than leave to soak and stink in some foul ditch.
 Can I,that these flowers` obsequies attend,
 Divine how soon or late my life will end?
 Let others laugh flower-burial to see:
 Another year who will be burying me?
 As petals drop and spring begins to fail,
 The bloom of youth,too,sickens and turns pale.
 One day,when spring has gone and youth has fled.
 The Maiden and the flowers will both be dead.

2. Hope Betrayed

(Translated by David Hawkes)

       One was a flower from paradise,

  One a pure jade without spot or stain。

  If each of the other one was not intended,

  Then why in this life did they meet again?

  And yet if fate had meant them for each other,

  why was their earthly meeting all in vain?

  In vain were all his anxious fears:

  All, insubstantial, doomed to pass,

  As moonlight mirrored in the water

  Or flowers reflected in a glass。

  How many tears from those poor eyes could flow,

  Which every season rained upon her woe?




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