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The Story of the Stone, Vol. 2 by Cao Xueqin

The Story of the Stone, Vol. 2 (edition 1977)

by Cao Xueqin, David Hawkes (Translator)

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314235,401 (4.18)7
Title:The Story of the Stone, Vol. 2
Authors:Cao Xueqin
Other authors:David Hawkes (Translator)
Info:Penguin Classics (1977), Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:penguin classics (2nd)

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The Crab-Flower Club by Cao Xueqin



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In the second volume of Hawkes' five-volume translation of The Story of the Stone, life for the Jia family goes on surrounded by luxury and literature. This volume, though not as fanciful as the first, expertly portrays life for an upper-class Chinese family and their corresponding material culture. Hawkes' translation is adept at bringing this far-removed world closer and once more, the translation is fluent and reads well. As I mentioned in my review for the first volume, I have some issues with the liberal translations of the poetry but these are small in comparison to the good work Hawkes has already accomplished. ( )
1 vote xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
The second installment of The Dream of the Red Chamber is saliently deprived of all the supernatural phenomena, celestial illusions and fairy appearances that were mandatory to account for the general background of the novel. This volume begins with the whimsical resolution of a life-threatening black magic spell that had befallen Baoyu and his cousin Wang Xi-feng owing to the concubine's vicious scheme to rid the only heir of the Jias. A Taoist restored the power of Baoyu's jade, which had been inevitably contaminated and thus divested of its visceral power by worldly lust and temptation. Again above the novel hangs the constant reminder of another dimension of existence, scrupulously governed by Buddhist beliefs.

The narrative of Volume 2 is firmly grounded in the Jia's domestic life and the world's affairs. An affluence of prose devotes to the cousins' founding of the poetry club in the Prospect Garden, The Crab-Flower Club. The story now becomes entwined with the conceiving, writing and critique of poems. Although this volume is deprived of the excitement of magic, it holds significant value in Chinese literature. The text proliferates with passages containing references to books, plays, and poetry that to most readers, lacking the literary background that Cao Xueqin was able to take for granted in his Chinese contemporaries that are quite difficult to read. The characters made frequent allusions to the Four Books, Five Classics, and Complete Poems of the Tang Dynasty, literature that were among the syllabi for civil service examination and reading lists of well-nurtured youngsters. Lin Daiyu composed lines that demonstrated a form of poetry that became perfected in the 18th century known as regulated verse. Regulated verse exploits the characteristic tonality of the Chinese language, using an extremely rigid formal structure in which tension is created by combining tonal contrast with verbal parallelism.

Daiyu's verses reveal effort of deep thought and grief in her morbidly austere relationship with Baoyu. As banal as the domestic life this volume so tediously portrays, an important fact one can conceive out of the family's daily hurly-burly is the mutual affection between Baoyu and Daiyu. He assured her that she the only one in his heart other than Grandmother and his parents and renounced "a jade to match the gold" (Baoyu's cousin Bao-chai possessed a gold locket). The boy might be all wrapped up in his thoughts for Dai-yu but owing to his eccentricity he failed to convey them to her. For a long time his feeling for her had been a very peculiar one: one that was stippled with anticipation but fear. A sense of morbid sensibility overcame him and rendered the relationship teetering on a precipice. They would contrive to speak circuitously, proceeded in a beat-around-the-bush manner to probe each other to see if the feeling was reciprocated. The outcome was an awkward situation in which both parties concealed their real emotions and assumed counterfeit ones in an endeavor to find out what the real feelings of the other party were. It was not surprising that a paltry misunderstanding could throw Dai-yu into a seasonable sorrow, which found its expression in a violent outburst of grief.

While sibling rivalries drove the first volume to a climax in which Baoyu's life was threatened, adultery seized the attention and broke the monotonous formality of the family. Xi-feng caught her husband in bed with this omnivorously promiscuous creature, the wife of the cook, and vented her anger on her able maid. Terribly unjustly treated and humiliated in front of a crowd, the maid dashed from the scene and vowed to stab herself to claim her innocence in the matter. Domestic drama like adultery, match-making, money matters, and forced appropriation of a maid to be concubine expose not only the women's being at the mercy of men but to the interest character analysis Baoyu's tenderness and understanding in handling the girls around him. His consideration for his personal maid Aroma, his solicitous effort to appease Patience of the injustice to which she was subjected, and his punctilious caring the Skybright in sick bed, all confirmed the illusions the fairy had shown him in Volume 1. His surreptitious excursion at to the temple to mourn Golden, who had taken her own life at Baoyu's wrongdoing, also showed remarkable understanding and sentiment in his relations to the girls even though they were only his servants.

The rapprochement between Daiyu and Bao-chai also strikes a significant note in Volume 2. Fate might have paired up the crimson pearl flower and the stone, but the Jias had always deemed holders of the jade and golden locket a perfect match. Knowing Bao-chai is his parents' favorite and found favor with everyone, Daiyu had always harbored a resentment toward Bao-chai. She was jealous of her and hated to hear the praise of Bao-chai's kindness and virtue, which she deemed skeptically as a cover up for some secret vices. It was not until Bao-chai, who out of her volition made frequent visits to the illness afflicted Dai-yu and offered her bird's nest soup and kept her company that Dai-yu realized she had been wrong about her. Bao-chai's gesture of kindness finally broke the ice and it dawned on Daiyu that Bao-chai really did care about her. This laid the ground for the mistaken marriage between Baoyu and Bao-chai.

As the text becomes more concretized as opposed to the illusion and mystery, one becomes familiar with the traditions, culture, and formality of a highborn Chinese household. Wealthy families usually populate with troops of concubines and half-siblings. Proliferation of extended family and the retinue of maids, junior maids, women servants staffing the domestic hierarchy were reflections of a family's grandeur and status. Concubine appropriation bespoke the weak-willed, complacent nature of women who, at that time, were at the mercy of men. For the sake of a quiet life and financial security, a married woman would tolerate sharing a husband with concubines and please her husband at all cost. ( )
2 vote mattviews | Feb 20, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cao Xueqinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Castiglione, GiuseppeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawkes, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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R. C. E.

(Penguin Classics, translated by David Hawkes)
First words

As Dai-yu stood there weeping, there was a sudden creak of the courtyard gate and Bao-chai walked out, accompanied by Bao-yu with Aroma and a bevy of other maids who had come out to see her off.

(Penguin Classics, translated by David Hawkes)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is part 2 (of 5) of the complete work variously known as A Dream of Red Mansions , The Dream of the Red Chamber, or The Story of the Stone, by Cao Xueqin (also known as Tsao Hsueh-chin) and Kao Ngo (also known as Kao Hgo, or Gao E). Please distinguish it from the complete work, any abridged versions, or any other portions. Thank you.
Hong lou meng (English uniform title) = The Story of the Stone or = A dream of red mansions

Info from LC:
1. Hong lou meng. English: The story of the stone : a novel in five volumes = {v. 1. The golden days.--v. 2. The Crab-Flower Club.--v. 3. The warning voice.--v. 4. The debt of tears.--v. 5. The dreamer wakes.}

Hong lou meng = A dream of red mansions
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