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Words on the paper mix with blood,
The extraordinary labor of ten years!

Zhiyanzhai (Chinese: 脂硯齋/脂砚斋; literally: "Rouge Inkstone Studio", sometimes translated as Red Inkstone or Rouge Inkstone) was the pseudonym of an early and mysterious commentator of the 18th-century Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.


  • 字字看來皆是血,十年辛苦不尋常 。
    • Words on the paper mix with blood,
      The extraordinary labor of ten years!
    • Poem in the preface to Dream of the Red Chamber, present in its 1754 jiaxu manuscript (甲戌本), quoted in Zhou Ruchang's Between Noble and Humble, trans. Liangmei Bao (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), p. 181
  • [The preface] says that Xueqin worked on this book and revised it many times. In that case, who wrote all this preliminary section up to here? Evidently this is just the author playing a trick on us. He resorts to this sort of device in many other places besides this one. It's what painters call the "mist and cloud" technique. The reader, if he is wise, will be very careful not to be taken in by it.
    • Comment in the 1754 jiaxu manuscript of Dream of the Red Chamber, which established Cao Xueqin as the book's author, as quoted in "The Translator, the Mirror, and the Dream—Some Observations on a New Theory" by David Hawkes, published in Renditions 13 (Spring 1980), p. 19
  • Persons whom I saw thirty years ago and with whom I was intimate now appear on the page, and this compels me to declare that The Story of the Stone is a book of the deepest feelings and the truest words. Unless, however, one has in fact experienced such events or been deluded by such feelings, reading it is like "chewing wax" absentmindedly, never understanding the miraculous wonders of what one has witnessed.
    • Comment in the 1760 manuscript of The Story of the Stone, as quoted by Anthony C. Yu in Rereading the Stone (Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 7
  • Only one who understood the message of this book could have the hot and bitter tears with which to finish it. Xueqin, having run out of tears, departed this life on New Year's Eve of the year ren-wu (12 February 1763) leaving this book unfinished. I have wept so much for Xueqin that I fear I too shall soon run out of tears. I often wish that I could find where that Greensickness Peak is so that I could ask Brother Stone about his story. What a pity there is no scabby-headed monk to take me there! If only the Creator would produce another Xueqin and another Red Inkstone to complete this book, how happy the two of us would be, down there together in the World of Shades!
    • Comment dated September 1764 in the Nanking manuscript of The Story of the Stone discovered in 1927 (a copy of the original, made in 1754), as quoted by David Hawkes in The Story of the Stone: The Golden Days (Penguin, 1973), p. 35, and in The Story of the Stone: The Warning Voice (Penguin, 1980), p. 14

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