Journal Articles

Fall Winter 2005 - Vol.36/No.1-2
Jia Zheng: Self, Family, and Religion in Honglou meng
Author : Qiancheng Li
Keywords : Honglou meng, Jia Baoyu, Jia Zheng, self, family, religion
This paper is a study of Jia Zheng, a character in Honglou meng, who has not received the critical attention he deserves, arguing that he plays a pivotal role in the different dimensions of the novel: the individual self, family, and religion. His well-known clashes with son, Jia Baoyu, occur along these lines. While Jia Baoyu has retained his spontaneous and individual self, Jia Zheng has managed to suppress his for the sake of the family, hence the tensions within his personality and his complicatedness as a character. Jia Zheng is arguably the center of the family, sustaining it in various ways and shouldering the consequences of its collapse. He seems to be the most sensitive grown-up man, poignantly aware of an immanent doom. His desperate attempts to educate his son can be better understood if his side of the story is considered. Finally, the paper studies the tension between Jia Baoyu’s personal salvation and his familial obligations, and Jia Xheng’s response to this event, again contextualizing the renunciation within the family’s long history of religious pursuits.
Jia Baoyu in Honglou meng: Boyhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood in Pre-Modern China
Author : Mary Farquhar and Louise Edwards
Keywords : Honglou meng, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pre-Modern China, boyhood
Honglou meng is perhaps one of the earliest novels about adolescence. It is certainly one of the most detailed. And, as an iconic work in Chinese literary history, it transports the idea of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to the centre of Chinese cultural life. Until recently, however, scholars and readers have not recognized the main characters in Honglou meng as adolescents. As in the pre-modern West, Cao Xueqin is vague about the lifespan developmental psychology that underpins modern ideas of childhood. He does not describe Baoyu’s life in terms of his age. Rather, he locates Baoyu’s boyhood and adolescence in different social spaces with different daily rituals and expectations as he grows towards adulthood, marriage, and fatherhood. The social spaces of elite Chinese boyhood and adolescence in Honglou meng are culturally specific. We argue in the final section that Baoyu’s adolescence is defined by the different social spaces he inhabits. These spaces revolve around relationships, especially family relationships. They are highly regulated, with boundaries that forestall and contain childhood explorations through regimes of discipline, play, and education. The precise delineation of the architectural space in Honglou meng suggests that pre-modern Chinese views on childhood, adolescence, and adulthood are spatially, rather than temporally, constructed.
Analyzing Gender: Wang Xi-Feng and the Shrew
Author : Erin L. Brightwell
Keywords : gender roles, shrew, desire
The Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber has been a subject of gender-role-based analysis on numerous occasions, and such studies reveal intriguing patterns. Discussions of fluctuating gender’ roles and the implications thereof can be applied to the interaction between three of the main characters—Jia Bao-yu, Lin Dai-yu, and Xue Bao-chai—and enhance the reader’s appreciation of their shifting relationship dynamics. Yet one of the central characters, Wang Xi-feng, seems to be perennially slighted; gender-based analyses often relegate her to the somewhat one-dimensional role of the shrew. This notwithstanding, Wang Xi-feng is such a highly developed character who is presented from such a multiplicity of viewpoints that an analysis that reduces her to a stock figure does not seem to do her justice.’ Rather than increasing the reader’s understanding of Xi-feng’s actions, conceiving of her identity purely in terms of gender roles instead distracts from some of the larger questions that are relevant to a discussion of her part in the novel. This essay proposes that a closer look at Xi-feng’s character will reveal that there is much more to her and her role in the novel than the gender-analyses-based classification of her as a shrew would first lead one to believe.
None The Red Chamber Message Hears: Art as Living Philosophy
Author : Zhou Ruchang
Keywords : qing, goodness, Confucianism, truth, beauty
In the first chapter of the 18th century Chinese novel, Honglou meng the narrator laments that no one hears the special message of this work (誰解其中味). I will argue that Honglou meng’s core theme (embodied in the work’s main character, Jia Bao-yu) is that of gong ging (公情, love and compassion to all). To Cao Xueqin, ging was not just a belief, but a living concept and philosophy inextricably connected to context and the manner of using and giving qing (called ti tie 貼貼). This paper also examines several longstanding misconceptions about ging and the novel itself.
"Emptying Emptiness": Kongkong daoren in Honglou meng
Author : Mark Ferrara
Keywords : Kong (空), Dao (道), Qing (情), Chan (禪), hermeneutic
The conversion of Vanitas (Kongkong daoren) in chapter one of Honglou meng, and his subsequent adoption of a new name, Brother Amor (Qing Seng), foreshadows the awakening of Bao-yu, Zhen Shiyin, and Liu Xiang-lian and raises important questions concerning the “secret message” in The Story of the Stone. A survey of tenable religio-philosophical interpretations of the Kongkong daoren episodes shows that the negative theology employed by Chan Buddhism provides the best single hermeneutic through which to discern this concealed message.
Completeness and Partiality in Traditional Commentaries on Honglou meng
Author : Andrew Plaks
Keywords : commentary, pianquan, Zhiyanzhai, Wang Guowei, Zhang Xinzhi, three teachings, enlightenment, sentiment, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, gradual development (jian), scholar-beauty novels, four masterworks
The recently republished collection of traditional commentaries on Honglou meng entitled Honglou meng piyu pianquan is a subjective selection of the most useful and compelling comments appearing in late-Qing editions of the novel, based upon an exhaustive study of all of this type of critical materials extant today. These materials were long ignored in modern scholarship on the Honglou meng, but they have now come to be appreciated as invaluable sources of insight. These commentaries include, in addition to informative notes, personal readers’ responses, and textual analyses of narrative structure, a considerable group of comments that probe the intended meaning of the novel, in particular with respect to such questions as the author's exploration of aestheticized sentimentality and the spiritual significance of the theme of ultimate withdrawal from the world.
The Return of the Pingdian Pai
Author : Haun Saussy
Keywords : Honglou meng, hermeneutics, reader-response, commentary, editing.
The typical reader of the Honglou meng in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was not much interested in the author—whose name was generally unknown—but extremely alert to the stylistic and thematic subtleties of the book. These readers have left traces of their attention in the many “pingdian” (commented and underlined) editions of the work that flourished before the 1920s brought a new, more disciplined, mode of literary appreciation. But now those old commented editions have been reprinted and once again enjoy favor, a sign of change in the Chinese literary world.
Anatomy of The Stone: Dotting the “I” of the Lichee and the Monkey
Author : Kam-ming Wong
Keywords : anatomy 解, butterfly dream 莊周夢蝶, coincidence, conundrum, Cook Ding 庖丁, feminism, homonym, intertextuality, Liu Laolao 劉姥姥, lyric fiction, Nuwa 女媧, punning, reflexivity, zhengming 正名
Early in The Story of the Stone Cao Xueqin issued a challenge to the reader: “Who can fathom its taste 誰解其中味?” To meet this challenge I have taken Zhuangzi as a guide and Cook Ding’s performance as a paradigm in a close look at the anatomy of The Stone. I have done so by focusing on episodes that Cao has highlighted to arrest our attention with the graph 解 (jie) by itself or in conjunction with 分 (fen), 切 (qie), and 味 (wei). Along the way I have also detoured to explore the affinity between Cook Ding’s activity and that of Ntiwa and Liu Laolao. Such a procedure has spotlighted the high degree of reflexivity the author has incorporated into his text, revealed the source of Baoyu's feminist inclination, shed light on Cao’s innovative use of coincidence as a governing principle of narration, and driven home the need to see as “knottiest points” textual details as “minute as a mustard seed” where themes and motifs join. In my effort to “open up" 解 these joints and to pinpoint the links such significant details have to larger contexts inside and outside the novel, I have found it necessary to be as attentive or attuned as possible to the paronomastic play that the homonymic tendencies of the Chinese language have made available to the author. In doing so I have learned that failure by the characters in the story to attend to such play is what makes the “absurd words” and “tears” taste so deliciously bitter.
Returning to the Unpolished: Jia Bao-yu and Zhuang-zi in Honglou meng
Author : Ronald Gray
Keywords : Daoism, epistemology, unpolished stone, Zhuang-zi
ln chapter six of Honglou meng, the fairy Disenchantment (警幻仙姑) famously tells Bao-yu that he possesses “lust of the mind" (意淫). Yet through explicit allusions to the Zhuang-zi, Cao asserts that Bao-yu suffers from another type of 'lust,' namely what the Zhuang-zi caled "a lust for knowledge" (好知). l will show that these carefully placed Zhuang-zi references serve as a "supplementary text”that offers an epistemological critique of Bao-yu's invariable, subject dominating and determining, finite point of view and operates as a barometer of his philosophical development. Finally these Daoist allusions contribute to the novel's consciously descriptive encyclopedic nature as well of it's sophisticated sense of philosophical completeness.
Embedded Texts: How to Read Poetry in The Story of the Stone
Author : Dore J. Levy
Keywords : embedded texts, lyric aesthetics, lyric transcendance, incidental descriptive verse, allusive verse, aphorism, cliché, Doggerel, vignette
The integration of poetry into prose fiction is a distinctive feature of Chinese literature, but a challenge for anyone whose literary experience has been shaped, directly or indirectly, by the western novel. This essay examines the various uses of poetry in The Story of the Stone, with a view to understanding how the author has achieved his effects (and incidentally, affects). There are three major categories of integrated verse: incidental descriptive verse (which gives voice to the point of view of the narrator), allusive verse (including aphorisms and clichés as well as literary quotations), and original poems attributed to characters in the novel. These categories represent different avenues for the creation and transmission of meaning. Poetry in The Story of the Stone is meant to lead the reader into integration with the experience of the text, which, according to both Stone and author, is explicitly “real”—a world which “... could at one and the same time serve as a source of harmless entertainment and as a warning to those who were in the same predicament as myself but who were still in need of awakening.” Analyzing the role of poetry in the novel helps to make explicit the paradoxical intimacy between Cao Xueqin’s creation and the spiritual reality that ultimately supplants it.