The Story of the Stone(also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber), completed in the mid-eighteenth century by Cao Xuegin, is considered China's greatest novel—but its length and narrative complexity have proven daunting to many modern readers. Now, esteemed scholar of Asian literature Dore J. Levy introduces this timeless work to first-time readers, while also presenting a new method of comparative interpretation for advanced students and scholars. Drawing from literary theory, sociology, religion, and medicine, Levy explores how the classic novel confronts the chasm between social, emotional, and spiritual ideals and their translation into day-to-day reality.
This illuminating work unpacks The Story of the Stone based on the interpretation of four major themes: the inversion of traditional family dynamics, which constitutes the novel's social framework; the function of illness and medicine in a society where Buddhist notions of karma and retribution exist alongside pragmatic notions of the human body that make up traditional Chinese medicine; the role of poetry in the social structure of dynastic Chinese society; and the use of poetry as a vehicle for spiritual liberation
"Though intended as an introduction for first-time readers of the masterpiece, Levy's book also offers some insights of use to specialists. A readable contribution to English studies of Honglou meng." — Y. Wu, Choice
1. Ideal and Actual, Real and Not-real
2. "Family Togetherness": Patterns of Authority and the Subversion of Family Structure
3. Preexisting Conditions: Retributory Illness and the Limits of Medicine
4. A World Apart: Poetry and Society in the Garden of Total Vision
5. The Chiming of the Void: Poetry as a Vehicle to Enlightenment