A Closer Look At A Chinese Dream, Part 2.

China’s most famous novel, The Story of the Stone, was not published until thirty years after the author’s death.  Then many different versions circulated with dubious claims to authenticity.  What we do know is that Cao Xueqin left an unfinished novel of eighty chapters and whoever completed the next forty chapters remains a mystery.  But what Cao wrote is unique in its multifaceted blending of the supernatural, the physical world of nature, the day-to-day world and especially the belief in a girl’s superiority both intellectually and morally.  Such a belief runs contrary to a Western thesis that women are inherently irrational, overly emotional humans that cannot be trusted to make wise and thoughtful decisions.  This thesis limited women severely in what they were allowed to do in Western civilization.  However, it is the complexity of feminine existence and its interaction with a male dominated world that the author proposes to examine.  He enters this world through Bao-Yu the main character of the novel, an androgynous figure, who likes to view girls in their every day activities, enjoys combing their hair, watches them put on their clothes.  He also has a personal maid of his own, Aroma, who attends to his needs.  As for his opinion of girls, Bao-Yu states, ” …the pure essence of humanity is all concentrated in the female of the species and that males are its mere dregs and scourings…”  He believes that he has no chance of achieving a true understanding of life if his girl cousins are unable to achieve it.  Thus, the author takes pains to point out the skills and inherent intelligence of the girls and women to juxtapose them with the awkwardness and foolishness of the male characters.  Bao-Yu, demonstrating both male and female elements, is the perfect bridge and guide into the male and female realms.

The Story of the Stone begins when the goddess Nu-wa sets about repairing the sky.  To do this, she makes use of thousands and thousands of large building blocks.  But, alas, one block of stone is left, being thought of as unworthy.  It does, however, possess the power of shrinking or growing, a power that is given to it by the goddess.  The stone, thoroughly ashamed, shrinks in size and is taken off by a Taoist monk, Mysterioso to spend its days in the mortal world accompanied by a Buddhist, Impervioso.  As it lives among mortals it acquires a history that is inscribed on the stone when it finishes it’s earthly existence to become a huge block of stone once more.  The stone is set up in the Incredible Crags of the Great Fable Mountains when another Taoist, Vanitas, sees it thousands of years later.  Upon reading the stone’s inscription, the monk learns of its history and of many details of the stone’s life.  He enters into conversation with the stone about another kind of worthiness:   whether the the stone’s complex and intricate life should be published.  The stone argues that his women and their actions and his verses could entertain and perhaps instruct other humans.  In the end, the monk concurs and copies the story from beginning to end to take it to a publisher.  And so the allegorical nature of the novel is set.  Void(Truth) contemplates Form (Illusion) and mixes with Passion to become Form that awakens to become Truth.

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

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