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The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Cao Xueqin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

13 Dec 1973 Classics (Book 1)
The Story of the Stone (c.1760) is one of the greatest novels of Chinese literature. The first part of the story, The Golden Days, begins the tale of Bao-yu, a gentle young boy who prefers girls to Confucian studies, and his two cousins: Bao-chai, his parents' choice of a wife for him, and the ethereal beauty Dai-yu. Through the changing fortunes of the Jia family, this rich, magical work sets worldly events - love affairs, sibling rivalries, political intrigues, even murder - within the context of the Buddhist understanding that earthly existence is an illusion and karma determines the shape of our lives.

Frequently Bought Together

The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 1, The Golden Days (Penguin Classics) + The Story of the Stone (also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber): Vol 2, The Crab-flower Club (Penguin Classics): The Crab-Flower Club v. 2 + The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 3, The Warning Voice (Penguin Classics)
Price For All Three: 36.07

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (13 Dec 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442939
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Cao Xueqin (?1715-63) was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy they were able to entertain the Emperor four times. However, calamity overtook them and their property was consfiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty when he wrote his famous novel The Story of the Stone.

David Hawkes was Professor of Chinese at Oxford University from 1959 - 1971 and a Research Fellow of All Souls College from 1973-1983. He now lives in retirement in Wales.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It is a somewhat surprising fact that the most popular book in the whole of Chinese literature remained unpublished for nearly thirty years after its author's death, and exists in several different versions, none of which can be pointed to as definitively Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger on a train 22 Dec 2003
By A Customer
I once sat next to a girl on a long-distrance train who was reading the final volume of 'The story of the stone'. As she finished the last page she sighed and said, to nobody in particular, 'I can't believe it's finished...I've lived with these people for so long and now it's all over. I'll just have to start it again...' I decided then that I must read the book and have now got to volume 4. Even now, I know that my feelings when I get to the end of volume 5 will be much the same as those of the girl on the train. This is total involvement with a lost culture and will teach you more about China of the period than many a history book. Read it. Live it. Love these exasperating characters. Then start all over again....
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but requires initial patience 15 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This is the first volume of a 5 volume series, and does not stand alone. If you read it, and enjoy it, be prepared to read the other four volumes. The story is difficult to begin with, not for lack of interest, but because of the complexity of Chinese names for the western reader. The book is provided with a useful list of characters for each volume, and after referring to this during the first half the first volume, all becomes clearer for the remainder of the book.
The story itself is a fascinating picture of life in 18th century China, and portrays the development of a young boy who has otherworldly origins. The western reader needs to view dispassionately the Buddhist theme which pervades the novel, but when read with an open mind, the philosophy underlying the novel is both charming and practical (in its own way).
I found the book addictive, though it has to be said that others of my acquaintance found it too difficult to cope with, and abandoned the story before the end of the first volume. If you persevere, it forms a wonderful introduction to classical Chinese literature, and those similarly addicted will find it leads into many other books of Chinese prose and poetry.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long, absobing, and rich novel 8 Feb 2002
A superb, brilliant, moving, charming and very long novel from late 18th century China. Extremely readably translated by David Hawkes (vols 1-3) and John Minford (vols 4 & 5). There is much that is rewarding in the novel: the insight into the intimate domestic life of a Chinese family, the way the three traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism weave together in social and personal life; the very likeable characters - especially Bao-yu. It took me four months to read it (I read the short and wonderful Analects of Confucius at the same time too) but it is a book that goes at a leisurely pace anyway. Some while after completing the novel I sat down and wrote a list of all the characters I could remember from it. I wrote down 60 names (and that is despite not knowing any Chinese at all)! It was just living with these characters for such a time that had made them memorable and dear to me.
For me the novel is from a different culture and for all readers it is from a different century. These things makes it less than an easy read at first, but make it all the more rewarding and very, very much worth sticking with to the end.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous book - read it fast.. 24 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Xueqin’s tale of life behind the doors of the Jia mansion is a wonderful picture of eighteenth-century China and a hugely engaging narrative. Bao-yu is the spoilt and cheeky boy hero who can’t resist a pretty face, and Dai-yu is the independent and sensitive heroine (it’s hard not to recall characters in English fiction from the same period such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Richardson’s Clarissa). He loves her but, as she is a poorer relation, his family would not permit their match. The section at the end of Volume 4 that charts the climax of their relationship is very moving.
Xueqin peoples his text with gripping characters: the fabulously harsh domestic manager Xi-feng, clever maid Patience, refined but out of touch Lady Wang, craven Huan, hot-tempered Jia Zhang and the perennially dissatisfied concubines. The altercations between Bao-yu’s shrewd maids are fun.
I stayed up all night to finish Volume 3 and then couldn't put down Volume 4 during the following day. Although such an approach was perhaps a little addictive, I feel that it is worth reading the book as quickly as possible. The longer you wait between volumes, the more the relationships between characters - and the significance of such relationships - slip from your mind.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming book 17 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought I'd sample some Oriental literature and decided to dive into this epic family saga. Having read this first volume and the second volume, I am very happy with my purchase.

It is tough to familiarise yourself with all the different characters in the book, but very soon you realise that the abundance of people within this one family household is one of the delights of the story. There's always something going on, be it the concerns of the aged Grandmother Jia, the loveable oddities of Bao Yu, or the frettings of the vast array of maids.

Don't expect anything dramatic to happen every twenty pages otherwise you'll be disappointed. This novel moves very slowly. But it is meant to be realistic and this again is part of the charm. Through reading its pages you learn a lot about Chinese culture of that time and this is exciting in its own way.

I read the first volume and fell in love with the characters so much that I could not conceive of not carrying on with the remaining four volumes. I think that is a testament to how good the book is and, indeed, the translation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
Out of China's “Four Great Classical Novels”, 'Dream of the Red Chamber' (printed under an earlier, less famous name, 'The Story of the Stone', for this renowned Penguin Classics... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alan the Kaz
5.0 out of 5 stars A great translation of a literary masterpiece
I can't read Chinese, but the literary quality of this translation is very high, and I'm glad to see the work has found a worthy translator. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Postgrad student
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly Hauntingly Excellent
Years ago, I found this book as a yellowing paperback in my local library. It had been on the shelves for years and never borrowed. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tarr Pitts
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
Slow start and must be confusing for the Western reader who are not familiar with Chinese culture. Lots of names and inter-relationship between the characters to get to grip with. Read more
Published 16 months ago by phungster
3.0 out of 5 stars Could n't get on with it
In spite of enthusiastic reviews, most Westerners will find this hard going, although it does illustrate the weird formalistic and ritualistic life-style and etiquette of high-up... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Southcoastsoothsayer
3.0 out of 5 stars not that which I had expected
I was rather taken in by other reviews. This book is very difficult to "get into" and the extensive preamble, really intended for more scholarly minds than mine, is very... Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2009 by P. STACE
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