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The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin is an animated lively account of life in a large Chinese household in the mid-18th century Qing dynasty It remains a fascinating novel for modern readers with its vivid and detailed descriptions of the minutiae of daily life - from clothing food and interior design to education marriage and death For all its realism however The Story of the Stone is not set entirely in reality The very premise of the whole tale that of a single rock left out of the goddess Nu-was repairing of the sky is one based on a magico-religious dream world The rock is found by a Buddhist and a Taoist who take it down to the mortal world where it lives out a human life that of Jia Bao-yu before attaining Nirvana Once a rock again a Taoist copies the inscription on its surface from beginning to end and took it back with him to look for a publisher Cao Xueqins emphasis on dreams can be seen in the alternative titles for his masterpiece A Dream of Red Mansions is the title by which the book is perhaps most commonly known Twelve Young Ladies of Jinling is also a title suggested in chapter one Both of these titles refer to the same dream As David Hawkes explains hong lou red mansion has the more specialised meaning of the residences of the daughters of rich men and thus the young ladies themselves The dream alluded to in these appellations occurs in the fifth chapter of volume one The Golden Days Cousin Zhens wife You-shi has invited the women of the Rong-guo house accompanied by Bao-yu round for a flower viewing party Needless to say Bao-yu soon tires and asks to take a nap Rather than going back to the Rong mansion the wife of his nephew Jia Rong leads him to her chamber to sleep Bao-yu immediately drops off
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