It was written some time in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing dynasty. Long considered a masterpiece of Chinese literature , the novel is generally acknowledged to be one of the pinnacles of Chinese fiction. The novel circulated in manuscript copies with various titles until its print publication, in Red Chamber is believed to be semi- autobiographical , mirroring the rise and decline of author Cao Xueqin's own family and, by extension, of the Qing dynasty. The novel is remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese society.
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Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. David Hawkes Translator. The first part of the story, The Golden Days, begins the tale of Bao-yu, a gentle young boy who prefers girls to Confucian studies, and his two cousins: Bao-chai, his parents' choice of a wife for him, and the ethereal beauty Dai-yu.
Through the changing fortunes of the Jia family, this "The Story of the Stone" c. Through the changing fortunes of the Jia family, this rich, magical work sets worldly events - love affairs, sibling rivalries, political intrigues, even murder - within the context of the Buddhist understanding that earthly existence is an illusion and karma determines the shape of our lives.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published March 30th by Penguin Classics first published January 1st More Details Original Title. The Story of the Stone 1. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Golden Days , please sign up. I'm going to read these books. Sooner rather than later. Do I need to read or know anything as a precursor? Did anyone read this along with a supplement helping explain themes or references that might be lost on westerners?
Matty I read them fresh, with very little exposure to Chinese literature, but some slight background in Asian religions, philosophy and art history. I loved …more I read them fresh, with very little exposure to Chinese literature, but some slight background in Asian religions, philosophy and art history.
I loved it, this translation is really good although I haven't tried another one and the novel itself is amazing. See 1 question about The Golden Days…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Nov 26, Matthias rated it it was amazing Recommended to Matthias by: Hadrian. Shelves: my-reviews.
Filled with favours bathed in blessings If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago what I think a time machine looks like, I would have described a greyish blue metallic construction with a little blinking light for every button and a button for every wire that sparks within the machine's smooth frame. Maybe little bleeps and sounds too, and definitely a smoke generator because no time travel is complete without that puff of smoke signifying take-off to another time.
Teams of scientists Filled with favours bathed in blessings If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago what I think a time machine looks like, I would have described a greyish blue metallic construction with a little blinking light for every button and a button for every wire that sparks within the machine's smooth frame. Teams of scientists would be peering over this equipment armed with notes and calculations, trying to make sense of the complicated affair.
If you ask me what a time machine looks like now, I'll give you a little smirk and tell you there's no need for wires, DeLoreans or electricity and definitely no use for a smoke generator. All you need is ink and paper and a well-written story of another time and place.
This particular contraption brought me to 18th century China. An enriching, illuminating and profoundly moving trip I'll never forget and look forward to continuing later on.
When faced with a work of an epic magnitude this book of more than pages is merely the first part of five and is left without any kind of conclusion , when confronted with a story that made a journey through time and space in order to find itself from the desk of a Chinese nobleman with a lot of spare time, a man bestowed with the affection of the Imperial Master himself, all the way to the hands of a policy adviser on international environmental affairs in Brussels a couple of centuries later, I can't help but feel that I'm in no position to grant this piece of magic something as mundane as a rating.
I feel so small next to it. It's like reviewing the Great Wall of China on an architectural website. Of course I'm going to give it five stars, but that's not telling the whole story. The five stars don't mean I've always thoroughly enjoyed this book, regardless of the awe I feel for it. People who have followed my updates on this book may remember a garden. There is an entire chapter devoted to its description of around thirty pages, but even later on in the book the author couldn't stop himself from occasionally losing himself again in the midst of its abundance of flowers, rivers and shrubs.
I'm no horticulturist so maybe that's why most of it went over my head but I can't imagine there being a whole lot of horticulturists here so that's not really the point.
It's just an example of what this book does: it's very description heavy when it comes to the surroundings people find themselves in. If a room has curtains, the embroidery that's on them will be explained in detail, cultural significance and all.
And let me tell you the Rong-Guo Mansions have lots of rooms, kangs and curtains to describe. This makes this story a bit more heavy for the casual reader but immensely valuable for those who want to know as much as possible about the time and place these characters and the author lived in. This shouldn't be read as a criticism towards the book but as a heads-up to casual readers who prefer plot over setting.
Like I said: this is a time machine and the descriptions are the wiring that make it all work. Don't worry though, lights will start blinking soon and there will be plenty of buttons for you to push.
There are a lot of characters in this book. A LOT. There are helpful family trees in the back for easy reference and a character index that's even more complete, covering all the family, extended family, maids and servants and servants' cousins and distant friends.
In the beginning it takes a bit of getting used to, also because the names sound very similar in some instances, especially to a Western reader's ear. Sometimes one character is referred to with two or three different names,so that when you're following the peregrinations of Wang Xi-feng you shouldn't be surprised at Ms. Lian suddenly popping up, because they're both the same person. This may seem daunting at first but believe me: you'll be quite alright.
Some people get introduced into the story only to die a sentence later, others return enough or get a chapter devoted to them to give you ample time to familiarize yourself with them. Jia Lian becomes the sex addict and Jia Lan an adorable little child and soon you no longer see the names but the rich characters they refer to. Though there are many characters getting a lot of attention, it's safe to say that Bao-yu is the main one.
It is believed he is based on Cao Xueqin, this book's author, making this a semi-autobioghraphical book. The Story of the Stone follows his movements within the compounds of two wealthy families and shows the everyday life of the elite and their servants.
Bao-yu is a bit different from the others. He spends most of his time with the females, resulting in this story talking mostly about their lives, while the uncles and fathers are busy with their business, conducted outside of this story's area. Bao-yu is very intense in his friendly relations and often very sexual.
Little Chinese school children lose all their innocence with the description of a fight in the classroom and its causes. On top of this sometimes raw realism, there is also a big touch of magic in this tale. This boy was born with a special jade in his mouth, a stone that contains mystical powers. The story starts with the backstory of this Stone, which is at once the narrator and the protagonist of this tale, because all signs point to Bao-yu being the human incarnation of this godly Stone.
There is witchcraft and mystery, but it's introduced in a very subtle way and rarely the overpowering element. There is an early chapter describing one of Bao-yu's dreams, filled with riddles, poems and songs foreshadowing what is to come, meriting years of study and speculation and raising the appetite enough to make you want to devour this book, all five parts of it.
There are tales of early love, of death, of Imperial visits, of funerals and doctor's visits, of a boy's first wet dream and of a whole lot of etiquette. The importance of formalities is brought home really well here and sometimes in a most touching way. There is something moving about the deference shown to those higher and lower in the all-important hierarchy, wherein sincere warmth still has its place.
But there is also viciousness in some characters who seemed angelic before and the result is a rich tapestry, not of caricatures, but of people that truly come alive. This first volume is also referred to as "The Golden Days" and it shows these rich families at the peak of their success, but what is most powerful is the melancholy of a loss that is yet to come pervading the text.
It makes you nostalgic about the present that is described and makes one appreciate it all the more. Or as the author himself puts it: The flower's aroma breathes of hotter days. A final word goes out to the translator, David Hawkes, who did a truly astounding job here, making an ancient text in a foreign language perfectly readable to the modern English reader without losing any of its authenticity.
There is a lot of poetry that can't have been easy to translate, but pretty much each and every poem and there are many carry a great force and beauty in them.
Those who know me know I'm not big on poetry, but this book here opened my eyes in that regard. There are contests on how to poetically describe everyday objects in the form of riddles and the poems show a richness of thinking, a uniqueness of perspective in looking at the world that I want to cultivate within myself as a direct result of this book.
Sometimes the air while reading this book gets very thick with all that poetry, making me feel like I was in a jungle with hot humid air that was never intended for breathing. The flowers sweetening the air with their scents were nonetheless beautiful, even though I'm the kind of guy who prefers a single flower over a whole bouquet.
China's Story of the Stone: the best book you’ve never heard of
It continues the story of the changing fortunes of the Jia dynasty, focussing on Bao-yu, now married to Bao-chai, after the tragic death of his beloved Dai-yu. Against such worldly elements as death, financial ruin, marriage, decadence and corruption, his karmic journey unfolds. Like a sleepwalker through life, Bao-yu is finally awakened by a vision, which reveals to him that life itself is merely a dream, 'as moonlight mirrored in the water'. Cao Xueqin. Cao Xueqin 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.
The Story Of The Stone
Sign me up to get more news about Literary Fiction books. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later. The Story of the Stone, Volume V. It continues the story of the changing fortunes of the Jia dynasty, focussing on Bao-yu, now married to Bao-chai, after the tragic death of his beloved Dai-yu.