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A Dream of Red Mansions  
   CCTV.COM   2002-03-20 11:03:43   
    The novel A Dream of Red Mansions was written 200 years ago. During the last 200 years it conquered countless readers.

    A Dream of Red Mansions is the peak of ancient Chinese novel. It is also a well-known masterpiece in the world of literature.

    The author Cao Xueqin lived through the reigns of Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. At first his family was favoured by the emperor. But later his house was confiscated and his family sank to the rock bottom of the society. Cao Xueqin too turned from a noble scion to an impoverished youth. In his old age he was so poor that the whole family had to live on thin gruel. In the drastic change he experienced the ups and downs in the snobbish world and observed the sharp conflicts between the rich and the poor. He clearly understood the degenerating quality of his feudal aristocratic family. He wrote this immortal novel in the dire straits. Unfortunately he died in poverty and illness before he finished his work. He was still in his forties then.

    The novel originally entitled The Story of the Stone, also known as A Dream of Red Mansions, has 80 chapters finished. The rest 40 chapters are believed to have been added by Gao E.

    An outstanding achievement of A Dream of Red Mansions is that it successfully presents a heart-stirring tragedy, a tragedy of the society, of the time and of human life.

    A good part of the novel was assigned to the description of the daily depletion of Family Jia and the final bankruptcy of the influential family that had enjoyed a hundred years' prosperity. This symbolised the decline of the feudal society.

    Cao Xueqin devotes all his feelings to a number of trampled and destroyed young women whom he admired.

    Neither daughters of influential families nor maid-servants nor actresses from low origins escaped their tragical fate. The destruction of the beautiful invested the whole book with a grace of tragic.

    Since Jia Baoyu's birth his family arranged him a path to wealth and fame. But his special life experience turned him into a rebel of the feudal family. The genuine love between him and Daiyu was opposed by his family. At last he chose to go to a monastery.

    Daiyu was intelligent and gifted. She showed contempt to vulgar feudal scholars and denounced the hypocrisy of those who sought fame by way of writing stereotyped essays. She pursued Baoyu's genuine love, but she died in grief.

    Baochai observed the feudal moral code. To win her parents' favour and to ensure the family's interests, she was forced by Jia's mother and Lady Wang into marrying Baoyu. But she did not win love. She became a victim of the arranged marriage.

    The tragical marriage among Baoyu, Daiyu and Baochai is the main thread of the whole novel. Their love story has moved every reader.

    The greatest achievement of the novel lies in its convincing and vivid characterisation. Of the more than four hundred persons depicted in the novel, at least forty are highly individualised. Under Cao Xueqin's pen those persons not only have their special looks, but their voices and emotions. The subtle mentality of the characters leaves indelible impression in the reader's mind.

    Take Wang Xifeng. She is greedy, vicious and unscrupulous. But at the same time she is witty, capable, humorous and sometimes even reasonable. The description of her different aspects makes her an all-round image that arouses complicated feelings towards her in the reader. The readers hate her and curse her, but they miss her if she is absent.

    Jia's mother is the paramount authority in Family Jia. She is usually kind, tolerative and humorous. But on matters concerning the feudal moral code and the destiny of the whole family, she will go to great lengths to interfere with any affair depending on her authority and power. She is a supreme ruler who sticks to feudal rituals and concerns herself with the family's fate.

    The novel is noted for its strong poetic tone. It is its most enchanting part.

    Poems and songs in the novel are not only numerous, but are of fine quality. The Song of the Dream of Red Mansions, On Willow Flakes, Burying Flowers and other poems make the whole story overwhelmingly poetic.

    One is an immortal flower of fairyland

    The other fair flawless jade

    And were it not predestined

    Why should they met again in this existence

    Yet, if predestined

    Why does their love come to nothing

    In the Grand View Garden take place many picturesque episodes. "Baochai swatting at butterflies", "Xiangyun lies drunk on the peony cushion", "Daiyu burying flowers" and so on leave deep impression on the reader.

    Men laugh at my folly in burying fallen flowers

    But who will bury me when dead I lie

    See, when spring draws to a close and flowers fall

    This is the season when beauty must ebb and fade

    The day that spring takes wing and beauty fades

    Who will care for the fallen blossom or dead maid

    Cao Xueqin completed a masterpiece with the painstaking labour of all his lifetime and left after him a lasting reverberation in the mind of his posterity.

    Pages full of fantastic talk

    Penned with bitter tears

    All men call the author mad

    None his message hears

Editor: casey

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