Gao E

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Gao E (Chinese: 高鶚; c. 1738–c. 1815) was a Chinese scholar and editor.


  • 予聞《紅樓夢》膾炙人口者,幾廿餘年,然無全璧,無定本。向曾從友人借觀,竊以染指嘗鼎為憾。今年春,友人程子小泉過予,以其所購全書見示,且曰:「此僕數年銖積寸累之苦心,將付剞劂,公同好。子閒旦憊矣,盍分任之?」予以是書雖稗官野史之流,然尚不謬於名教,欣然拜諾,正以波斯奴見寶為幸,題襄其役。工既竣,並識端末,以告閱者。
    • It is over twenty years since I first heard of Hong-lou meng and the great fascination it holds for its readers (despite the fact that there has never been a complete or definitive text). I was once lucky enough to borrow a copy from a friend. Reading it (in this incomplete state) was indeed a tantalizing experience.
      In the spring of this year, my friend Cheng Weiyuan came to see me and showed me the complete text that he had purchased. 'This,' he said, 'is the fruit of my labours over several years. Bit by bit I have pieced it together, with a view to publishing it for fellow-lovers of the novel. As you are at a bit of a loose end, and in need of a restorative, will you share the labour [of preparing the manuscript for the press] with me?'
      Although it was only a novel, the book contained nothing contrary to the tenets of Confucian teaching, and so I gladly accepted, and fell upon the task with the eagerness of the Persian slave when he saw his pearl! Now that the work is done, I have described these circumstances for the reader's information.

Quotes about Gao E[edit]

  • It seems to me ridiculous to try to believe that Gao E sat down and wrote the last 40 chapters [of Dream of the Red Chamber]. I'm sure that's not true. Because you can see the way Gao E works. Gao E is trying I think just to reconcile – he's not altering, I think he doesn't feel he can alter what's been found. I think he tried to alter things occasionally to square one thing with another. If you're just making something up, forging something, you wouldn't be bothered about trying to reconcile inconsistencies. You'd make jolly well sure that they didn't occur.
    • David Hawkes, in an interview conducted by Connie Chan in Oxford (7 December 1998), as quoted in Style, Wit and Word-Play, ed. Chan Sin-wai, Tao Tao Liu and Laurence K. P. Wong (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), pp. 146–147
  • Just as one cannot cross the same river twice, one cannot repeat the act of literary creation or pass it on to someone else. The creation of Dream of the Red Chamber, an act that resulted from Cao Xueqin's unrepeatable personal and aesthetic experiences, happens only once. Hence, it is, strictly speaking, impossible to write a sequel to Dream of the Red Chamber. As Gao E knowingly tries to perform an impossible task, he shows an admirable spirit. As he works against all odds and completes his sequel on the basis of the predictions provided in the first few chapters of Dream of the Red Chamber, he can be considered a talented sequel writer. However, though he writes many outstanding chapters in his sequel, he also produces quite a few flawed episodes. Among them the most flawed episode is Jia Baoyu's decision to take the civil service examination with Jia Lan and his success as a candidate. It is possible that Jia Baoyu might make some compromises, but for him the compromise described in the sequel is out of character. Gao E, as he imposes an ordinary person's desires on Jia Baoyu and makes Jia Baoyu betray his true self, damages the purity of this innocent character.
    • Liu Zaifu, Reflections on "Dream of the Red Chamber" (written in 2005), trans. Shu Yunzhong (Cambria Press, 2008), pp. 132–133
  • Kao Ngo came from a Han family which served in the Manchu army. After passing the provincial examination in 1788 and the palace examination in 1795, he entered the Hanlin Academy and became a Reader. In 1801 he was made Assistant Examiner of the Metropolitan Examination. He wrote the last forty chapters of the novel in 1791 or thereabouts, before he had passed the final examination. The fact that he was at leisure and slightly bored made him sympathize with Tsao Hsueh-chin's loneliness. However, he had not given up hope, unlike the author of Chapter 1, "beset by poverty and illness in his old age and sinking into decline." So although the sequel breathes an atmosphere of melancholy, the Chia family finally recovers its lost fortune instead of being left with nothing "but the bare naked earth."
  • Kao Ou has been severely criticized on three counts. The first is that he was not telling the truth when he said he did not write but only edited the last forty chapters. This is, however, a question that cannot be categorically answered until new evidence turns up, since there are indications in the Chih Yen Chai comments that there existed at least partially finished chapters beyond the eightieth. The second criticism is that the last forty chapters are poorly written and that they are like "dog's fur sewed unto sable." I am inclined to agree with this judgment, but in fairness to Kao Ou it should be pointed out that for over a hundred years no one saw anything wrong with the sable. The last criticism is that Kao Ou, the chief architect if not the author of the last forty chapters, did not carry out the tragic intent of Tsao Hsueh-chin. He should not have allowed Pao-yu, it is argued, to pass the Provincial Examinations, for a man who achieves the chü-jen degree cannot be said to be a complete failure as the author described himself and as he intended Pao-yu to be. Here again, in fairness to Kao Ou, we must not forget that he lived at a time when a just and happy ending was almost obligatory and that he should be praised for going so far as to let Black Jade die of a broken heart instead of being criticized for not anticipating and conforming to the standard of values which happens to prevail today. All in all, we should be grateful to Kao Ou. Except for him, the Dream would probably not have survived.
    • Chi-Chen Wang, Dream of the Red Chamber (Anchor Books, 1958), Introduction, p. xvii

External links[edit]

  • Encyclopedic article on Gao E on Wikipedia