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The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 4, The Debt of Tears (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Cao Xueqin

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Book Description

30 Sep 1982 Classics (Book 4)

The Story of the Stone (c. 1760), also known by the title of The Dream of the Red Chamber, is the great novel of manners in Chinese literature.

Divided into five volumes, of which The Debt of Tears is the fourth, it charts the glory and decline of the illustrious Jia family (a story which closely accords with the fortunes of the author's own family). The two main characters, Bao-yu and Dai-yu, are set against a rich tapestry of humour, realistic detail and delicate poetry, which accurately reflects the ritualized hurly-burly of Chinese family life. But over and above the novel hangs the constant reminder that there is another plane of existence - a theme which affirms the Buddhist belief in a supernatural scheme of things.


Frequently Bought Together

The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 4, The Debt of Tears (Penguin Classics) + The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel : Vol 5, The Dreamer Wakes (Penguin Classics): Dreamer Wakes v. 5 + The Story of the Stone: a Chinese Novel: Vol 3, The Warning Voice (Penguin Classics)
Price For All Three: 42.36

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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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still fascinating and a page-turner despite diminished writing style 5 Feb 2013
By Martin A. Perea - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Nothing good lasts forever, whether we are talking about the Garden or this novel itself… Volumes 4 and 5 are thought to be written by Gao E a generation after Cao Xueqin’s untimely death. There has been rampant speculation since the appearance of these last 40 chapters in 1791 as to how faithfully they followed Cao’s original intention and how much material Gao E had to work with in editing it all together. I wish that David Hawkes, the translator of the first three volumes, had continued to translate these final two volumes. I would then be able to say more definitively whether the author’s voice or the quality of the writing changes that greatly. I do not believe that our new translator, John Minford, is quite as skilled as Hawkes. I guess this means that someday I will have to read a version completely translated by the same person, perhaps Gladys Yang’s.
Anyway, back to the story itself. We continue to see the struggle between lineal descendants as Jia Zheng has returned to make Bao-yu study. Everywhere the family is falling apart and the conflicts play out as expected: young vs. old, mistress vs. servant, husband vs. wife. In the first 80 chapters there was an interplay between characters’ (major and minor) storylines that helped me feel the texture of their everyday lives. Incidents would ebb and flow until some great event occurred which stopped everything. Gradually the plot would get rolling again but in a different direction than I had assumed. This no longer happens. Things go about as one would expect. Again, this is the price we readers pay for having these last 40 chapters assembled at all. The previous volumes each took me at least two months to read. I frequently had to stop due to feeling overwhelmed by the richness of detail and characterization. With this volume I was able to read as compulsively as I had always wanted but never got exhausted. The writing is now heavy on dialogue, and none of it particularly rich or layered (as I said before, I cannot say for certain whether this is due to Gao E, John Minford or both, though perhaps if David Hawkes had continued as translator he might have improved on the original however slightly.) The upside is that I finished the book in ten days.
When characters do have inner thoughts they are always of something established in the first 80 chapters (Aroma wonders what will become of her as a concubine, Dai-yu feels like an outsider, etc). And although I felt chapters 80-90 were somewhat clunky, I settled into a groove and enjoyed the second half of this volume. Or perhaps Gao E had better notes or fragments to work from, since Cao had perhaps finished 110 chapters and tended to lend them to his friend/relative/editor Rouge Inkstone in increments of 10. We will never know. Despite my previous complaints, there is one relationship that continues to develop, that which is between Nightingale and Dai-yu. Nightingale’s mad dash around the Garden during the critical time for Dai-yu was incredibly suspenseful and heartbreaking. I’ve always been surprised at how emotional I can get about these characters, and I am even more surprised that I continue to be moved by Gao E’s chapters. Although chapters 80-90 struck me as a bit flat, the chapters leading up to the wedding have been presented quite believably by presenting the complicated motivations and actions surrounding the grand substitution. Although I was never a huge Dai-yu fan, I appreciated her aesthetic and pitied her situation. However, I probably would have wanted my son to marry Bao-chai, and not for jade and gold reasons, but because she is very solid and sensible. My favorite character continues to be Tan-chun, who embodies the best qualities of Dai-yu and Bao-chai. I was surprised and comforted to see her at Dai-yu’s deathbed. I hope she makes it out okay, but I don’t have high hopes for anybody at this point.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Downer 7 Jun 2012
By A. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the point where the author had left off and his friends subsequently pieced together his notes and drafts. The story becomes quickly incredibly depressing, all presaged in the preceding volumes but still. it is realistically done and vivid but the story, and its characters, lose a lot of their charm. They pay their debt of tears, with interest.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immerse Yourself in 18th Century China 5 May 2013
By ShopThis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This review is about all five volumes of the series. This was my first foray into the translated Chinese volumes that are generally referred to as The Story of the Stone or The Dream of the Red Chamber. After reading the scholarly reviews, I was skeptical that the work would appeal to me on simply a 'consumer-reader-student-of-history' level. And it was such a different style that all I could think during the first volume was Really? This is the iconic symbolism of post-Western-contact of China? But the fables grow on you, the icons surface, and the style becomes more familiar. I've never encountered the use of 'small action' in such a relevant way; all the fol-de-rol about meals, kowtowing, hedonism vs. tradition, the ceremonies of ancestor worship begins to blend into a bigger picture, and one that most readers, regardless of culture, will recognize.

I slogged through, and found the stories engaging, the descriptions of the culture fascinating, and the plotlines very different from western stories. The time invested in completing the series was a joy. Thankfully, a glossary of individual names, relationships, and even the family trees for the families most involved appears in each volume. I was a complete novice about Chinese naming conventions; the names themselves were confusing until the third book.

It's usually difficult to find all five volumes, so I thank Amazon for pulling the Penguin versions together.
2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Translation 23 Mar 2013
By Adeline - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of The Story of the Stone original version (in Chinese), and I knew how terrible this English version is. Some of the sentences are very rude and unreasonable according to Chinese manners, and the names.... Nah
1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Story of the Stone, or The Dream ... Volume 4 10 Jun 2013
By Emily D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I should like to return this book because it is smaller by 1/2 inch in perimeter than the other 4 volumes of the same book I acquired through Amazon. I'd like the volumes to match in size.
The book took so long in arriving that I had read the book borrowed from a college library by the time I received it.
The book is also rather yellowish.

From Emily D. (pen name)
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