Hung Lou Meng Book II
"I just now simply spoke in jest about those cups in order to induce them to laugh," old goody Liu at these words, mused within herself, "but, who would have thought that she actually has some of the kind. I've often been to the large households of More...
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"I just now simply spoke in jest about those cups in order to induce them to laugh," old goody Liu at these words, mused within herself, "but, who would have thought that she actually has some of the kind. I've often been to the large households of village gentry on a visit, and even been to banquets there and seen both gold cups and silver cups; but never have I beheld any wooden ones about! Ah, of course! They must, I expect, be the wooden bowls used by the young children. Their object must be to inveigle me to have a couple of bowlfuls more than is good for me! But I don't mind it. This wine is, verily, like honey, so if I drink a little more, it won't do me any harm."
Born into a wealthy clan of bondservants to the Manchu imperial family that for three generations had controlled China's textile monopoly in Nanking, Cao Xue Qin (also known as Ts'ao Chang) spent his childhood and adolescence in a large extended family surrounded by opulence. When Cao was 13, in 1728, the Yung-cheng emperor, suspicious of the Cao family's possible ties to rival claimants of the throne and dissatisfied with their performance in Nanking, confiscated the family property. The family was forced to move to Peking and spend the rest of their lives in greatly reduced circumstances. In his lonely middle years, Cao comforted himself by composing the brilliant long novel known as The Dream of the Red Chamber (1792) and also as The Story of the Stone. The work is both a nostalgic recreation of the golden world of his childhood, and a Buddhist and Taoist warning that worldly achievements and material possessions are vain and unenduring. The last 40 chapters of the 120-chapter novel were written or edited by a second author, Kao O [Gao E]. That Manchu nobleman more or less followed Cao's original intentions, probably worked from rough drafts of Cao's. However, there is some evidence that Cao originally intended the work to end even more starkly and tragically than it does. Political prudence, however, made it necessary for Kao O to tone down what might have been perceived as criticism of the family's harsh treatment by the emperor.