A Dream of Red Mansion by Cao Xueqin Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

A Dream of Red Mansion

This is an unabridged edition of this Chinese classic, distributed by Xinxii. Also available on Amazon.com. There is no information available on the translation.


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    Ketchup

    Jul 08, 2014

    rated it
    it was ok

     · 
    review of another edition

    I hate this book, and I’m Chinese.

    Ok, hate is a strong word. I’m repulsed by this book which I viewed as close to godliness in my childhood. I hate ’em little balls of prudishness.

    Sorry about this, translator(s), because I think you did a nice job on this book and I’m still giving you two stars. If I rated on your technicality alone I would give you a solid 3 or 4. I do like the English version in some ways better than the Chinese version(s) because it’s so much more ‘normal’ for lack of a bette

    Ok, hate is a strong word. I’m repulsed by this book which I viewed as close to godliness in my childhood. I hate ’em little balls of prudishness.

    Sorry about this, translator(s), because I think you did a nice job on this book and I’m still giving you two stars. If I rated on your technicality alone I would give you a solid 3 or 4. I do like the English version in some ways better than the Chinese version(s) because it’s so much more ‘normal’ for lack of a better word. I felt that the prose style of the original was awkward and it somehow feels less distorted in the English version to a degree. This is because Xueqin used vernacular Chinese in composing his proses. Vernacular is straightforward, easily comprehensible, brash, raw, characteristic, and should remind me somewhat warmly of my Chinese neighbours.

    But Xueqin changed it all. He wrote in vernacular but all of his characters dialogues were so highly organized, so refined, so grammatically correct, it simply feels artificial as if he made several rough drafts of one conversation before inserting them into the characters’ mouths. He ‘eleganized’ the beautiful, spontaneous street talk of vernacular. I hated that. It’s like somebody decided to Shakespearize Dickens.

    English feels much more normal for some reason, bringing forthwith more unconscious magnitude in the dialogue. Then again, English also concealed the brilliancy of the original proses and descriptions, so there are wins and losses.

    Next, I have a problem with the central themes, which cannot be changed with translation. Due to its uncertainty of themes, the book can be read as a surreal, poetic metaphor or a realistic piece of fiction. But when you actually think about it, the plot boils down to this: rich noble bastards party hard. Party crashes. Go home.

    And it talks about this for roughly 80 chapters before we lose the original manuscript and read the flawed 40 chapters. This unfinished-ness added to the ‘mysticism’ surrounding the book and is a major topic still in modern Redology. Then this book is hailed as the height of Chinese literature.

    Dot dot dot.

    To be honest, the plot was good. It still is good. The ideas and philosophies are not. It stereotypes men and women to a huge degree with its kind of reversal sexism appeal. I especially had a problem with the author’s ‘ranking’ of women in the 5th chapter (even if it is meant simply as a way of introducing dramatis personae, you can’t ignore that Jing Huan Goddess proclaimed it herself that only the BEST women are recorded and the rest of the COMMON, VULGAR women are not. Who the hell does she or the author think they are?!). For some reason some see the book as a novel of feminism while it had minimum impact on the Chinese feminist movement. For another, they see it as a hidden way of expressing political satire. In this case take the book off the classics shelf now, why should we waste time on an author who doesn’t even want to sit down and write a proper story? Another proclaim the book is mainly emphasizing the Buddhism idea of ‘Kong Huan’ in that everything, even the most beautiful, eventually amounts to nothing. The author does a bad job of this if that is the case, because his sadness, his losses and his flames are quite trivial and does not match up to the greater kindness and understanding of Buddhism. As I was reading it through in the future, I couldn’t help but feel as if the author is writing these 80 chapters feeling narcissist-ly sorry for himself. There are a lot of unparalleled stories in the book, though, that outmatch the author’s contemporaries. Unfortunately not every story is of equal quality, especially when you see how narrow the book’s world really is. It’s constraining to see these young people shut up in a false paradise wasting their lives away. Worst of all the author seems to take enjoyment in it too alongside his forgotten sadness. He beautified aspects of life that one would feel uncomfortable with–for example it’s okay for young girls to throw temper tantrums because she’s young & beautiful, but apparently it’s not okay for old women to throw tantrums because they’re “inferior” to younger virgin girls. Whut. He also did not really show the intensity of corruptive activities in the families.

    Last of all comes the poetry. The poetry is greatly emphasized in this novel, but upon reading it, it becomes clear that Qing dynasty poems were on the decline. The poems in the novel are most elegantly and skillfully composed. Yet they lack creativity, originality, and sophistication. The poems are mainly concerning either of the emptiness of human life or mourning about the, again, most trivial things, such as flowers, plants, people etc. The grandeur, mysticism of Tang, Spring and Autumn and Three Kingdoms era poets are sadly failing in the hands of Qing poets, and only begins to revive a little within chapter 78 in which Bao Yu composes a Song and a mournful Rhapsody, which were the loveliest to read. Well, the author can’t really make the poems great considering they come out of the hands of adolescents, and the poems are the best parts of the book, the main reason why I go back to read it today.

    Overall, technically speaking, this book is not bad standing alone. Yet it has achieved nearly national veneration in Chinese lit and I’m not quite sure if it should be. In terms of surreal and romantic aestheticism it does not match up to Genji (Japanese, but earlier than this book by 700 years! If Murasaki can do it why not Xueqin?), in terms of realism and plotting wobbles before Plum of the Golden Vase, in terms of philosophy and mysticism, I think loses to Journey to the West, 100 Strange Stories, the Carnal Prayer Mat, and Tale of Scholars, at the top of my head. The book’s surpassing virtue is its delicate poetry, sense of dreaminess and scattered cryptic messages which no one will ever be able to sort. Nevertheless one does admire his strength of weaving stories, and feels sorry that they could not read the completed work, but it is not the best.
    …more