I was going to pick another ancient poet to muse on then I decided it might warp my perception more if I go with an old Chinese book instead.
I try to show you a method of understanding certain books without having a teacher to guide you. The first one I click for Dream of the Red Chamber happens to be an outsider’s perspective from a “crowded field” of scholarship – remember I said before that they have a discipline on this book itself known as Redology – so I look for a more standard interpretation of this text which many consider China’s most profound classic, and see one with an overview of various “standard” interpretations, which isn’t a surprise.
I wonder if people from the west can have a similar experience?
This is like their Dante or Cervantes or Sh-k-sp–r-. It’s the embodiment of their nation’s cultural identity. Probably something the CCP is itself beholden to. There’s only so much you can mold in a people, you have to work with the materials that you have.
So, it was published in 1791. I wonder how much its spirit differs from that of the French Revolution of the same time. 60 sequels have been written to it. 440 characters in the original. This is why I’m trying to get an overview and understand its context.
It’s about… a sentient stone that’s left on earth by a goddess. It’s alternately titled Story of the Stone
While there is enough work on Stone in Chinese (and other languages) to fill several lifetimes of study, the available work on Stone in English can be managed in one.
Suuure it can. Just going in blind, what else can you do? Answer- see how scholars frame the book.
It’s a story of two aristocratic houses. This can show us what China was like before the Opium War devastated it. Remember, they claim to have been the world superpower at that time.
Looks like it’s a love story?
two ideals of female beauty
With Confucian themes- this should be interesting.
This is similar to my favorite picture of that uncontacted Amazonian tribe, except the Chinese were obvious a lot more advanced at the time this was written. I do have to admit that I hate the west, and like to see how others saw the world before we imposed liberalism on them.
This secondary text is on different ways that teachers teach the book to students. The fellas might like this side of the story more than the romance
Another approach is to follow Bao-yu’s journey toward enlightenment
It’s so many pages that often only excerpts are taught.
Seen this theme a few times, this is weird- is there a kind of art they weren’t suspicious of, historically?
Teachers might use this passage to discuss aspects of Chinese aesthetics, reading practice, and the traditional suspicion of novels and plays.
I’m definitely having a more confused time than when I was reading about Horace.
Some preliminary considerations
Even if it’s translated to English it still might be inscrutably Chinese. Do you want to read 2500 pages for nothing?
This seems like one of the main themes – might explain the Chinese psyche to some degree?
Who is responsible for the moral and financial decline of the Jia household?
Don’t feel personally accused when you read that by the way, it’s not about you.
Oh no, what I feared- only CCP minions will be teaching us how to read it?
Grannie Liu turns out to be quite an important and complex character. Does she act the clown, or is she instead making clowns of the Jias… Why is she so important–even necessary? Is there a Marxist message to her story?
If you want to understand Old China this is clearly something that needs to be asked. Their history isn’t only revised for them, that’s the version WE get too. I want to know what it was like back then. I already know well enough how much the Maoists of my own country distort history. If there’s truth to the Chinese view that they were the leaders of civilization at that time then this is extremely significant. Might have to do an abstraction next and talk about hermeneutics itself.
This is their novel of novels so I like to see these multiple interpretations outlined
Is it really a story of Buddhist enlightenment? A Confucian morality tale? A story about a family? About a romance? None of the above?
This study claims to be the first introduction of its kind for English readers, and it was published less than a decade ago.
The trick is to learn just enough about it so one is not lost, and not too much about it so that the book is spoiled. That’s why I began this wondering if someone from the west can “gain the belief in beauty” from it.
See, this kind of further study could be helpful, if not necessary, for understanding it too
I know quite a bit about Chinese philosophy so that’ll help me probably. If all you know about them is General Tso’s chicken then you’re probably going to be lost attempting to read it. Dream of the Red Chamber seems to define art for them over there so it’s probably good to get to know.