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HUNG LOU MENG, BOOK I

OR, THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER, A CHINESE NOVEL IN TWO BOOKS

BY

CAO XUEQIN

Translated by H. BENCRAFT JOLY







BOOK I.





PREFACE.

This translation was suggested not by any pretensions to range myself
among the ranks of the body of sinologues, but by the perplexities and
difficulties experienced by me as a student in Peking, when, at the
completion of the Tzu Erh Chi, I had to plunge in the maze of the Hung
Lou Meng.

Shortcomings are, I feel sure, to be discovered, both in the prose, as
well as among the doggerel and uncouth rhymes, in which the text has
been more adhered to than rhythm; but I shall feel satisfied with the
result, if I succeed, even in the least degree, in affording a helping
hand to present and future students of the Chinese language.

H. BENCRAFT JOLY, H.B.M. Vice-Consulate, Macao, 1st September, 1891.






THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER.




CHAPTER I.

Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality.
Chia Yü-ts'un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts
of a beautiful maiden.


This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the
visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced,
the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true
circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and
spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this
purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under
the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events
recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author
speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which
attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the
womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I
felt that in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in
spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact,
compare with these characters of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth
then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail,
as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.

On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a
connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to
(universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold
retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence
of Heaven, and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine,
and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the
bounty of education and nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed
to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends, with
the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the
least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have
been meanwhile, generation after generation, those in the inner
chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through
my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial
as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.

Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of
tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share, are not
sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind.
And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,
the willows by the steps and the flowers in the courtyard, methinks
these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen with ink; but
though I lack culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in
employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the
merits of these characters? And were I also able to induce the inmates
of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides
break the weariness of even so much as a single moment, or could I open
the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?

This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts'un
and other similar appellations.

More than any in these pages have been employed such words as dreams and
visions; but these dreams constitute the main argument of this work, and
combine, furthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my
readers.

Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?

The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality,
but it possesses considerable zest. But to begin.

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of
stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills
and Wu Ch'i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in
height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo
only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above,
without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch'ing Keng
peak. This stone, strange to say, after having undergone a process of
refinement, attained a nature of efficiency, and could, by its innate
powers, set itself into motion and was able to expand and to contract.

When it became aware that the whole number of blocks had been made use
of to repair the heavens, that it alone had been destitute of the
necessary properties and had been unfit to attain selection, it
forthwith felt within itself vexation and shame, and day and night, it
gave way to anguish and sorrow.

One day, while it lamented its lot, it suddenly caught sight, at a great
distance, of a Buddhist bonze and of a Taoist priest coming towards that
direction. Their appearance was uncommon, their easy manner remarkable.
When they drew near this Ch'ing Keng peak, they sat on the ground to
rest, and began to converse. But on noticing the block newly-polished
and brilliantly clear, which had moreover contracted in dimensions, and
become no larger than the pendant of a fan, they were greatly filled
with admiration. The Buddhist priest picked it up, and laid it in the
palm of his hand.

"Your appearance," he said laughingly, "may well declare you to be a
supernatural object, but as you lack any inherent quality it is
necessary to inscribe a few characters on you, so that every one who
shall see you may at once recognise you to be a remarkable thing. And
subsequently, when you will be taken into a country where honour and
affluence will reign, into a family cultured in mind and of official
status, in a land where flowers and trees shall flourish with
luxuriance, in a town of refinement, renown and glory; when you once
will have been there..."

The stone listened with intense delight.

"What characters may I ask," it consequently inquired, "will you
inscribe? and what place will I be taken to? pray, pray explain to me in
lucid terms." "You mustn't be inquisitive," the bonze replied, with a
smile, "in days to come you'll certainly understand everything." Having
concluded these words, he forthwith put the stone in his sleeve, and
proceeded leisurely on his journey, in company with the Taoist priest.
Whither, however, he took the stone, is not divulged. Nor can it be
known how many centuries and ages elapsed, before a Taoist priest, K'ung
K'ung by name, passed, during his researches after the eternal reason
and his quest after immortality, by these Ta Huang Hills, Wu Ch'i cave
and Ch'ing Keng Peak. Suddenly perceiving a large block of stone, on the
surface of which the traces of characters giving, in a connected form,
the various incidents of its fate, could be clearly deciphered, K'ung
K'ung examined them from first to last. They, in fact, explained how
that this block of worthless stone had originally been devoid of the
properties essential for the repairs to the heavens, how it would be
transmuted into human form and introduced by Mang Mang the High Lord,
and Miao Miao, the Divine, into the world of mortals, and how it would
be led over the other bank (across the San Sara). On the surface, the
record of the spot where it would fall, the place of its birth, as well
as various family trifles and trivial love affairs of young ladies,
verses, odes, speeches and enigmas was still complete; but the name of
the dynasty and the year of the reign were obliterated, and could not be
ascertained.

On the obverse, were also the following enigmatical verses:

Lacking in virtues meet the azure skies to mend,
In vain the mortal world full many a year I wend,
Of a former and after life these facts that be,
Who will for a tradition strange record for me?

K'ung K'ung, the Taoist, having pondered over these lines for a while,
became aware that this stone had a history of some kind.

"Brother stone," he forthwith said, addressing the stone, "the concerns
of past days recorded on you possess, according to your own account, a
considerable amount of interest, and have been for this reason
inscribed, with the intent of soliciting generations to hand them down
as remarkable occurrences. But in my own opinion, they lack, in the
first place, any data by means of which to establish the name of the
Emperor and the year of his reign; and, in the second place, these
constitute no record of any excellent policy, adopted by any high
worthies or high loyal statesmen, in the government of the state, or in
the rule of public morals. The contents simply treat of a certain number
of maidens, of exceptional character; either of their love affairs or
infatuations, or of their small deserts or insignificant talents; and
were I to transcribe the whole collection of them, they would,
nevertheless, not be estimated as a book of any exceptional worth."

"Sir Priest," the stone replied with assurance, "why are you so
excessively dull? The dynasties recorded in the rustic histories, which
have been written from age to age, have, I am fain to think, invariably
assumed, under false pretences, the mere nomenclature of the Han and
T'ang dynasties. They differ from the events inscribed on my block,
which do not borrow this customary practice, but, being based on my own
experiences and natural feelings, present, on the contrary, a novel and
unique character. Besides, in the pages of these rustic histories,
either the aspersions upon sovereigns and statesmen, or the strictures
upon individuals, their wives, and their daughters, or the deeds of
licentiousness and violence are too numerous to be computed. Indeed,
there is one more kind of loose literature, the wantonness and pollution
in which work most easy havoc upon youth.

"As regards the works, in which the characters of scholars and beauties
is delineated their allusions are again repeatedly of Wen Chün, their
theme in every page of Tzu Chien; a thousand volumes present no
diversity; and a thousand characters are but a counterpart of each
other. What is more, these works, throughout all their pages, cannot
help bordering on extreme licence. The authors, however, had no other
object in view than to give utterance to a few sentimental odes and
elegant ballads of their own, and for this reason they have fictitiously
invented the names and surnames of both men and women, and necessarily
introduced, in addition, some low characters, who should, like a buffoon
in a play, create some excitement in the plot.

"Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate literature,
perfectly devoid of all natural sentiment, full of self-contradictions;
and, in fact, the contrast to those maidens in my work, whom I have,
during half my lifetime, seen with my own eyes and heard with my own
ears. And though I will not presume to estimate them as superior to the
heroes and heroines in the works of former ages, yet the perusal of the
motives and issues of their experiences, may likewise afford matter
sufficient to banish dulness, and to break the spell of melancholy.

"As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke
such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to
spurt out the wine.

"In these pages, the scenes depicting the anguish of separation, the
bliss of reunion, and the fortunes of prosperity and of adversity are
all, in every detail, true to human nature, and I have not taken upon
myself to make the slightest addition, or alteration, which might lead
to the perversion of the truth.

"My only object has been that men may, after a drinking bout, or after
they wake from sleep or when in need of relaxation from the pressure of
business, take up this light literature, and not only expunge the traces
of antiquated books, and obtain a new kind of distraction, but that they
may also lay by a long life as well as energy and strength; for it bears
no point of similarity to those works, whose designs are false, whose
course is immoral. Now, Sir Priest, what are your views on the subject?"

K'ung K'ung having pondered for a while over the words, to which he had
listened intently, re-perused, throughout, this record of the stone; and
finding that the general purport consisted of nought else than a
treatise on love, and likewise of an accurate transcription of facts,
without the least taint of profligacy injurious to the times, he
thereupon copied the contents, from beginning to end, to the intent of
charging the world to hand them down as a strange story.

Hence it was that K'ung K'ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his
perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation,
from this passion, of voluptuousness, the transmission of this
voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion,
of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for that of "Ch'ing Tseng"
(the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of "the Memoir of a Stone"
(Shih-t'ou-chi,) for that of "Ch'ing Tseng Lu," The Record of the
Voluptuous Bonze; while K'ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of
"Feng Yüeh Pao Chien," "The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness." In later
years, owing to the devotion by Tsao Hsüeh-ch'in in the Tao Hung study,
of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and
modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the
division into periods and chapters, the book was again entitled "Chin
Ling Shih Erh Ch'ai," "The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling." A stanza was
furthermore composed for the purpose. This then, and no other, is the
origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely: -

Pages full of silly litter,
Tears a handful sour and bitter;
All a fool the author hold,
But their zest who can unfold?

You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the
Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what characters are depicted,
and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader,
please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as
follows: -

In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part
of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name. Within the
walls a locality, called the Ch'ang Men, was more than all others
throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not
the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this Ch'ang Men was a
street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten _Li_ street); in this street a lane,
the Jen Ch'ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old
temple, which on account of its diminutive dimensions, was called, by
general consent, the Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the
family of a district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and
Shih-yin by style. His wife, née Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous
disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good
conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of excessive
affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to
be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this Chen Shih-yin was of a
contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering
after any official distinction, but day after day of his life took
delight in gazing at flowers, planting bamboos, sipping his wine and
conning poetical works, he was in fact, in the indulgence of these
pursuits, as happy as a supernatural being.

One thing alone marred his happiness. He had lived over half a century
and had, as yet, no male offspring around his knees. He had one only
child, a daughter, whose infant name was Ying Lien. She was just three
years of age. On a long summer day, on which the heat had been intense,
Shih-yin sat leisurely in his library. Feeling his hand tired, he
dropped the book he held, leant his head on a teapoy, and fell asleep.

Of a sudden, while in this state of unconsciousness, it seemed as if he
had betaken himself on foot to some spot or other whither he could not
discriminate. Unexpectedly he espied, in the opposite direction, two
priests coming towards him: the one a Buddhist, the other a Taoist. As
they advanced they kept up the conversation in which they were engaged.
"Whither do you purpose taking the object you have brought away?" he
heard the Taoist inquire. To this question the Buddhist replied with a
smile: "Set your mind at ease," he said; "there's now in maturity a plot
of a general character involving mundane pleasures, which will presently
come to a denouement. The whole number of the votaries of voluptuousness
have, as yet, not been quickened or entered the world, and I mean to
avail myself of this occasion to introduce this object among their
number, so as to give it a chance to go through the span of human
existence." "The votaries of voluptuousness of these days will naturally
have again to endure the ills of life during their course through the
mortal world," the Taoist remarked; "but when, I wonder, will they
spring into existence? and in what place will they descend?"

"The account of these circumstances," the bonze ventured to reply, "is
enough to make you laugh! They amount to this: there existed in the
west, on the bank of the Ling (spiritual) river, by the side of the San
Sheng (thrice-born) stone, a blade of the Chiang Chu (purple pearl)
grass. At about the same time it was that the block of stone was,
consequent upon its rejection by the goddess of works, also left to
ramble and wander to its own gratification, and to roam about at
pleasure to every and any place. One day it came within the precincts of
the Ching Huan (Monitory Vision) Fairy; and this Fairy, cognizant of the
fact that this stone had a history, detained it, therefore, to reside at
the Ch'ih Hsia (purple clouds) palace, and apportioned to it the duties
of attendant on Shen Ying, a fairy of the Ch'ih Hsia palace.

"This stone would, however, often stroll along the banks of the Ling
river, and having at the sight of the blade of spiritual grass been
filled with admiration, it, day by day, moistened its roots with sweet
dew. This purple pearl grass, at the outset, tarried for months and
years; but being at a later period imbued with the essence and
luxuriance of heaven and earth, and having incessantly received the
moisture and nurture of the sweet dew, divested itself, in course of
time, of the form of a grass; assuming, in lieu, a human nature, which
gradually became perfected into the person of a girl.

"Every day she was wont to wander beyond the confines of the Li Hen
(divested animosities) heavens. When hungry she fed on the Pi Ch'ing
(hidden love) fruit - when thirsty she drank the Kuan ch'ou (discharged
sorrows,) water. Having, however, up to this time, not shewn her
gratitude for the virtue of nurture lavished upon her, the result was
but natural that she should resolve in her heart upon a constant and
incessant purpose to make suitable acknowledgment.

"I have been," she would often commune within herself, "the recipient of
the gracious bounty of rain and dew, but I possess no such water as was
lavished upon me to repay it! But should it ever descend into the world
in the form of a human being, I will also betake myself thither, along
with it; and if I can only have the means of making restitution to it,
with the tears of a whole lifetime, I may be able to make adequate
return."

"This resolution it is that will evolve the descent into the world of so
many pleasure-bound spirits of retribution and the experience of
fantastic destinies; and this crimson pearl blade will also be among the
number. The stone still lies in its original place, and why should not
you and I take it along before the tribunal of the Monitory Vision
Fairy, and place on its behalf its name on record, so that it should
descend into the world, in company with these spirits of passion, and
bring this plot to an issue?"

"It is indeed ridiculous," interposed the Taoist. "Never before have I
heard even the very mention of restitution by means of tears! Why should
not you and I avail ourselves of this opportunity to likewise go down
into the world? and if successful in effecting the salvation of a few of
them, will it not be a work meritorious and virtuous?"

"This proposal," remarked the Buddhist, "is quite in harmony with my own
views. Come along then with me to the palace of the Monitory Vision
Fairy, and let us deliver up this good-for-nothing object, and have done
with it! And when the company of pleasure-bound spirits of wrath descend
into human existence, you and I can then enter the world. Half of them
have already fallen into the dusty universe, but the whole number of
them have not, as yet, come together."

"Such being the case," the Taoist acquiesced, "I am ready to follow you,
whenever you please to go."

But to return to Chen Shih-yin. Having heard every one of these words
distinctly, he could not refrain from forthwith stepping forward and
paying homage. "My spiritual lords," he said, as he smiled, "accept my
obeisance." The Buddhist and Taoist priests lost no time in responding
to the compliment, and they exchanged the usual salutations. "My
spiritual lords," Shih-yin continued; "I have just heard the
conversation that passed between you, on causes and effects, a
conversation the like of which few mortals have forsooth listened to;
but your younger brother is sluggish of intellect, and cannot lucidly
fathom the import! Yet could this dulness and simplicity be graciously
dispelled, your younger brother may, by listening minutely, with
undefiled ear and careful attention, to a certain degree be aroused to a
sense of understanding; and what is more, possibly find the means of
escaping the anguish of sinking down into Hades."

The two spirits smiled, "The conversation," they added, "refers to the
primordial scheme and cannot be divulged before the proper season; but,
when the time comes, mind do not forget us two, and you will readily be
able to escape from the fiery furnace."

Shih-yin, after this reply, felt it difficult to make any further
inquiries. "The primordial scheme," he however remarked smiling,
"cannot, of course, be divulged; but what manner of thing, I wonder, is
the good-for-nothing object you alluded to a short while back? May I not
be allowed to judge for myself?"

"This object about which you ask," the Buddhist Bonze responded, "is
intended, I may tell you, by fate to be just glanced at by you." With
these words he produced it, and handed it over to Shih-yin.

Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact, to be a
beautiful gem, so lustrous and so clear that the traces of characters on
the surface were distinctly visible. The characters inscribed consisted
of the four "T'ung Ling Pao Yü," "Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception."
On the obverse, were also several columns of minute words, which he was
just in the act of looking at intently, when the Buddhist at once
expostulated.

"We have already reached," he exclaimed, "the confines of vision."
Snatching it violently out of his hands, he walked away with the Taoist,
under a lofty stone portal, on the face of which appeared in large type
the four characters: "T'ai Hsü Huan Ching," "The Visionary limits of the
Great Void." On each side was a scroll with the lines:

When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false,
Where naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught.

Shih-yin meant also to follow them on the other side, but, as he was
about to make one step forward, he suddenly heard a crash, just as if
the mountains had fallen into ruins, and the earth sunk into
destruction. As Shih-yin uttered a loud shout, he looked with strained



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