Ben Wang on The Story of the Stone

The 18th-century novel The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin is a bildungsroman, a tale of a battle between the flesh and the spirit, a mixture of mysticism, romanticism, realism and fatalism, a record of Taoist-Buddhist disenchantment and enlightenment, and a critique of a society abiding by the rules of Confucianism, and a novel of social commentary. It is a literary cri de coeur both celebrating the golden, languorous days of youth and lamenting the inevitability of their passing, and the pain and suffering all humans are doomed to endure – an eternal theme in literature. (Stone is the first important novel in Chinese literature with dark endings for almost all the main characters, and in which the hero and his beloved not living happily ever after.) It is a book of manners and observations, chronicling in meticulous details the glory and decay of an aristocratic family and the roots of this glory and decay in the social and historical confines of the early 18th century China during the last great flowering of the Chinese culture. At this lecture, Mr. Ben Wang, Senior Lecturer at China Institute and Co-Chair of the Renwen Society, will focus his talk on the clarification, or de-mystification, of the two topics that were seldom, if ever, discussed or studied in the past. They are: 1. The chronological order in which the story of Stone is played out, and 2. The order in which the 12 ladies, heroines of the story, appear in the poems and rebuses that both describe subtly and enigmatically their respective lives and foretell their different but equally fatal and tragic endings.

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Date: 08/28/2021

Time: 8:00 pm

Cost: Free

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