Dream of the Red Chamber: Afterlives

Cours multimédia en ligne et en accès libre sur Le Rêve dans le pavillon rouge de Cao Xueqin. Ce cours est proposé par l’université du Minnesota à l’occasion de la création en septembre 2016, à l’Opéra de San Francisco, d’un opéra inspiré du roman (musique de Bright Sheng, livret de David Henry Hwang et Bright Sheng).

About

Performing the Role of Daiyu © University of Minnesota

Mei Lanfang Performing the Role of Daiyu © University of Minnesota

Dream of the Red Chamber: Afterlives is both a collection of exhibits and a course, inspired by the San Francisco Opera’s production of the Dream of the Red Chamber, which premieres in September 2016.  It was devised in the context of a graduate seminar at the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2016; you will see student work at several points on the site.

This course is free and open to the public. You may begin it any time you wish, and you may proceed through it in any way you wish. If a segment (called an « Exhibit » on Omeka, the platform on which the course was built) does not interest you, you may proceed to another segment. While there are often questions at the bottom of the page, you are not required to answer them. Write something in the Comment box if you have something to say; otherwise you may move on. Because this is a no-tuition, no-requirements course, it does not bear any academic credit.

Introduction

Dream of the Red Chamber, embroidery, probably late 18th or early 19th c. © Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Dream of the Red Chamber, embroidery, probably late 18th or early 19th c. © Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The novel begins, in the David Hawkes translation, with a question: « What you may ask, was the origin of this book? »

It is a question that the novel itself attempts to answer, and it is a question that has occupied commentators and scholars ever since the novel first began to circulate in manuscript form in 1754.

It was immediately extremely popular—edition followed edition; commentators wrote extensively on the novel.  Poets wrote about the novel, plays and other dramatic forms were crafted based on the novel, and sequels were written. When the 1962 Hong Kong produced film of the Shanghai Yue opera troupe performing The Dream of the Red Chamber was finally shown in Shanghai in 1978, 36 movie theaters showed it for 24 hours a day for long periods of time. The 1987 television show (in 36 episodes) has been rebroadcast more than 700 times. (Both the film and the television show are available in this course.)

In this course, we will expore some of these « afterlives » of the novel and provide resources which will enable you to explore more of them on your own.  The course is designed for English speakers, but we have included substantial Chinese text, for the benefit of Chinese speakers and Chinese language learners.  On many pages we have text in both English and Chinese.  On pages where we are discussing poetry, we often have sound files with readers reading texts in both the Chinese original and in English translation. Even if you do not understand Chinese you might want to listen to some of the sound files to get a sense of the sound of Chinese poetry.

We have provided substantial segments of text here–for example, if a woodblock print or a poem refers to an episode, in addition to briefly describing the episode, we often provide the relevant text from the novel, usually from the David Hawkes translation.  In some cases, we also provide Chinese text (often from the Chinese text project). We do this so that you, the reader, can see the ways in which the various texts we are talking about interact with one another.

At the bottom of many pages, there are suggestions for further reading. The references are abbreviated; full reference are provided in the page « Suggestions for Further Reading. »  In general, I have provided references to articles rather than books and I have made no attempt to make an exhaustive list of all relevant scholarship on the novel.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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