Dream of the Red Chamber

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Feb 19, 2014 15:57
I'm reading a classical novel called "Dream of the Red Chamber". It's one of China's four great classical novels, the other three being "Water Margin", "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" and "Journey to the West". These other three are popular in other Asian countries that were under China's influence. I have the same family name as one of the main characters in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", and when I was in Korea, I was asked by every Korean person I met if I was his descendent. If you go to Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya, there are books in Japanese based on and adapted from those three novels.

"Dream of the Red Chamber" has never been popular among readers in countries other than China. However, it's considered to be the pinnacle of Chinese fiction. I think there are two reasons it's the best out of the four. Its language, which would be lost in translation, and its vivid descriptions of the day to day life of an aristocratic family in Qing Dynasty, which would be hard for people from other cultures to understand and appreciate.

In December, I went to Hong Kong and China for a month. While I was in China, I went to Suzhou, a city famous for its classical gardens. In "Lingering Garden", my companion, who was from Korea, asked me about the owners and function of the garden. I did my best to try to answer her questions, but I didn't know if she understood. The aristocratic family in "Dream of the Red Chamber" has a similar garden and all her answers can be found in the book. There is an ancient Chinese saying that goes like this: In order to become an educated and cultured man, reading and travelling should be combined. I finally came to understand the wisdom contained in the saying after the trip.