A Dream of Red Mansions

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Who sowed the seeds of love?
From the strong passion of breeze and moonlight they came.
If he's going down to the world of men, I would like to go too so that if I repay him with as many tears as I can shed in a lifetime I may be able to clear this debt.
A pair of jade­-coloured butterflies the size of a circular fan appeared before her. They fluttered up and down most bewitchingly in the breeze. What fun it would be to catch them! Baochai drew her fan from her sleeve and ran after them over the grass.

A Dream of Red Mansions (1978–1980) is a complete English translation of Cao Xueqin's and Gao E's Dream of the Red Chamber by the couple Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang.

Quotations[edit]

  • In this busy, dusty world, having accomplished nothing, I suddenly recalled all the girls I had known, considering each in turn, and it dawned on me that all of them surpassed me in behaviour and understanding; that I, shameful to say, for all my masculine dignity, fell short of the gentler sex. But since this could never be remedied, it was no use regretting it. There was really nothing to be done. I decided then to make known to all how I, though dressed in silks and delicately nurtured thanks to the Imperial favour and my ancestors' virtue, had nevertheless ignored the kindly guidance of my elders as well as the good advice of teachers and friends, with the result that I had wasted half my life and not acquired a single skill. But no matter how unforgivable my crimes, I must not let all the lovely girls I have known pass into oblivion through my wickedness or my desire to hide my shortcomings. Though my home is now a thatched cottage with matting windows, earthen stove and rope-bed, this shall not stop me from laying bare my heart. Indeed, the morning breeze, the dew of night, the willows by my steps and the flowers in my courtyard inspire me to wield my brush. Though I have little learning or literary talent, what does it matter if I tell a tale in rustic language to leave a record of all those lovely girls. This should divert readers too and help distract them from their cares.
    • Chapter 1
  • Pages full of fantastic talk
    Penned with bitter tears;
    All men call the author mad,
    None his message hears.
    • Chapter 1
  • 'He gave me sweet dew,' said Vermilion Pearl, 'but I've no water to repay his kindness. If he's going down to the world of men, I would like to go too so that if I repay him with as many tears as I can shed in a lifetime I may be able to clear this debt.'
    • Chapter 1
  • Resentment at a low official rank
    May lead to fetters and a felon's shame.
    • Chapter 1
  • Who can guess the outcome of a game of chess?
    • Chapter 2
  • Only at the end of the road does one think of turning on to the right track.
    • Chapter 2
  • On his first birthday Jia Zheng tested [Baoyu's] disposition by setting all sorts of different objects before him to see which he would select. Believe it or not, ignoring everything else he reached out for the rouge, powder-boxes, hair ornaments and bangles! His father was furious and swore he'd grow up to be a dissolute rake.
    • Chapter 2
  • Girls are made of water, men of mud.
    • Chapter 2
  • A grasp of mundane affairs is genuine knowledge,
    Understanding of worldly wisdom is true learning.
    • Chapter 5
  • Gone with the clouds spring's dream,
    Flowers drift away on the stream.
    Young lovers all, be warned by me,
    Cease courting needless misery.
    • Chapter 5
  • When false is taken for true, true becomes false;
    If non-being turns into being, being becomes non-being.
    • Chapter 5
  • Alas for her wifely virtue,
    Her wit to sing of willow-down, poor maid!
    Buried in snow the broken golden hairpin
    And hanging in the wood the belt of jade.
    • Chapter 5
  • So talented and high-minded,
    She is born too late for luck to come her way.
  • Who sowed the seeds of love?
    From the strong passion of breeze and moonlight they came.
    • Chapter 5
One is an immortal flower of fairyland,
The other fair flawless jade,
And were it not predestined
Why should they meet again in this existence?
Yet, if predestined,
Why does their love come to nothing?
  • One is an immortal flower of fairyland,
    The other fair flawless jade,
    And were it not predestined
    Why should they meet again in this existence?
    Yet, if predestined,
    Why does their love come to nothing?
    One sighs to no purpose,
    The other yearns in vain;
    One is the moon reflected in the water,
    The other but a flower in the mirror.
    How many tears can well from her eyes?
    Can they flow on from autumn till winter,
    From spring till summer?
    • Chapter 5
  • What remains of the generals and statesmen of old?
    Nothing but an empty name admired by posterity.
    • Chapter 5
  • We villagers are simple honest folk who eat according to the size of our bowl.
    • Chapter 6
  • Baoyu started playing with the toilet articles on the dressing-table by the mirror, absent-mindedly picking up some rouge. He was wondering if he could taste it without Xiangyun noticing when she reached out from behind him and, holding his queue with one hand, with the other knocked the rouge out of his grasp.
    "Are you never going to change your silly ways?" she demanded.
    • Chapter 21
  • Who leaves the levee with smoke-scented sleeves?
    Not destined by the lute or quilt to sit,
    It needs no watchman to announce the dawn,
    No maid at the fifth watch to replenish it.
    Burned with anxiety both day and night,
    Consumed with anguish as time slips away,
    As life speeds past we learn to hold it dear—
    What cares it whether foul or fair the day?
Men laugh at my folly in burying fallen flowers,
But who will bury me when dead I lie?
  • The next day was the twenty-sixth of the fourth month, the Festival of Grain in Ear. It was the time-honoured custom on this day to offer all manner of gifts and a farewell feast to the God of Flowers, for this festi­val was said to mark the beginning of summer when all the blossom had withered and the God of flowers had to resign his throne and be seen off. As this custom is most faithfully observed by women, all the inmates of Grand View Garden rose early that day. The girls used flowers and osiers to weave small sedan-chairs and horses, or made pennants and flags of silk and gauze which they tied with gay ribbons to every tree and flower, turning the whole Garden into a blaze of colour. They decked themselves out so prettily, too, as to put the very flowers and birds to shame.
    • Chapter 27
  • She had started back to rejoin the other girls when a pair of jade­-coloured butterflies the size of a circular fan appeared before her. They fluttered up and down most bewitchingly in the breeze. What fun it would be to catch them! Baochai drew her fan from her sleeve and ran after them over the grass. Flitting now high now low, this way and that, the butterflies led her through the flowers and willows all the way to the water's brink. By the time she neared Dripping Emerald Pavilion, pant­ing and perspiring from all her exertions, she decided to give up the pur­suit and go back.
    • Chapter 27
  • As blossoms fade and fly across the sky,
    Who pities the faded red, the scent that has been?
    • Chapter 27
  • Fallen, the brightest blooms are hard to find;
    With aching heart their grave-digger comes now
    Alone, her hoe in hand, her secret tears
    Falling like drops of blood on each bare bough.
    • Chapter 27
  • Men laugh at my folly in burying fallen flowers,
    But who will bury me when dead I lie?
    • Chapter 27
  • The day that spring takes wing and beauty fades
    Who will care for the fallen blossom or dead maid?
    • Chapter 27
  • Like drops of blood fall endless tears of longing.
    By painted pavilion grow willows and flowers untold.
    • Chapter 28
  • Coming together can only be followed by parting. The more pleasure people find in parties, the more lonely and unhappy they must feel when the parties break up. So better not forgather in the first place. The same is true of flowers: they delight people when in bloom, but it's so heartrending to see them fade that it would be better if they never blossomed.
    • Chapter 31
  • Washing-blocks pound in an expanse of white,
    Only a crescent is left when cocks crow at dawn;
    In green coir cape on the river he listens to autumn fluting,
    In red sleeves she leans over her balustrade at night.
    • Chapter 49
  • A real scholar can afford to be eccentric.
    • Chapter 49
She was sound asleep and covered with peony petals, which had floated over from all sides to scatter, red and fragrant, over her face and clothes. Her fan, dropped to the ground, was half buried in fallen blossoms too, while bees and butterflies were buzzing and flitting around her.
  • 'Go and have a look quick, miss, at Miss Xiangyun,' she cried. 'She's drunk, and she's picked a cool spot on a stone bench behind the rockery to sleep it off.'
    The rest laughed to hear this.
    'Let's not make a noise,' they said.
    With that they went out to look, and sure enough found Xiangyun lying on a stone bench in a quiet spot behind an artificial mountain. She was sound asleep and covered with peony petals, which had floated over from all sides to scatter, red and fragrant, over her face and clothes. Her fan, dropped to the ground, was half buried in fallen blossoms too, while bees and butterflies were buzzing and flitting around her. And she had wrapped up some peony petals in her handkerchief to serve as a pillow. They all thought she looked both sweet and comical.
    • Chapter 62
  • As she gazes at the blossom her tears run dry—
    Her tears run dry, spring ends, blooms fade away;
    The fading blossoms hide the fading maid;
    Blossoms drift down, she tires, dusk follows day.
    A cuckoo-call and spring is left behind,
    Only faint moonlight falls on the lonely blind.
    • Chapter 70
  • ... lend me strength, good wind,
    To soar up to the azure sky at last.
    • Chapter 70
  • A stork's shadow flit across the chilly pool
    The poet's spirit is buried in cold moonlight.
    • Chapter 76
  • In every family, if the east wind doesn't prevail over the west wind, then the west wind is bound to prevail over the east wind.
    • Chapter 82
  • Would that my heart were pure as the moon in the sky.
    • Chapter 87
  • However much water there is in the stream, one gourdful will suf­fice me.
    • Chapter 91
  • The red lamp on his desk, the bright moon outside the window showed that he was still in this vain world, in the lap of luxury.
    • Chapter 98
  • [Daiyu] raised a sudden cry: "Baoyu, Baoyu! How...." Those were her last words.
    • Chapter 98
  • Her sweet soul gone with the wind,
    They sorrow at midnight, lost in fragrant dreams.
    • Chapter 98
  • This shows that everybody's fate is predestined. Right up to the end they cherish foolish fancies; then when the blow strikes and there's no help for it, blockheads let it go at that while sensitive souls can only shed tears and lament to the breeze or moon. The dead may have no consciousness but, alas, there is truly no end to the anguish of the living. So it seems we are worse off than rocks or plants which can rest at peace, having no knowledge or feeling.
    • Chapter 113
  • A tale of grief is told,
    fantasy most melancholy.
    Since all live in a dream,
    why laugh at others' folly?
    • Chapter 120

See also[edit]