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Susan Chan Egan and Pai Hsien-yung

Mar 21, 2022

A Companion to the Story of the Stone

A Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Columbia University Press 2021

A Companion to The Story of the Stone: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Columbia UP, 2021), co-authored by Susan Chan Egan and Pai Hsien-yung (Columbia University Press, 2021), is a straightforward guide to the Chinese literary classic, The Story of the Stone (also known as Dream of the Red Chamber), that was written at a time when readers had plenty of leisure to sort through the hundreds of characters and half a dozen subplots that weave in and out of the book’s 120 chapters.

The Story of the Stone is widely held to be the greatest work of Chinese literature, beloved by readers ever since it was first published in 1791. The story revolves around the young scion of a mighty clan who, instead of studying for the civil service examinations, frolics with his maidservants and girl cousins. The narrative is cast within a mythic framework in which the protagonist’s rebellion against Confucian strictures is guided by a Buddhist monk and a Taoist priest. Embedded in the novel is a biting critique of imperial China’s political and social system.

Each chapter of A Companion to The Story of the Stone: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide summarizes and comments on each chapter of the novel. The companion provides English-speaking readers—whether they are simply dipping into this novel or intent on a deep analysis of this masterpiece—with the cultural context to enjoy the story and understand its world. The book is keyed to David Hawkes and John Minford’s English translation of The Story of the Stone and includes an index that gives the original Chinese names and terms.

Susan Chan Egan is an independent scholar. She is the author of A Latterday Confucian: Reminiscences of William Hung (1893–1980) (1987), coauthor of A Pragmatist and His Free Spirit: The Half-Century Romance of Hu Shi and Edith Clifford Williams (2009), and cotranslator of Wang Anyi’s The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai (Columbia, 2008), among other books.

Pai Hsien-yung (Bai Xianyong) is an acclaimed fiction writer and a professor emeritus of East Asian languages and cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include Taipei People (1971) and Crystal Boys (1983). He has taught The Story of the Stone for decades and is the author of a popular three-volume guide in Chinese on which this book is based.

Linshan Jiang is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests are modern and contemporary literature, film, and popular culture in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan; trauma and memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer studies; as well as comparative literature and translation studies.

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Linshan Jiang

Linshan Jiang is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests are modern and contemporary literature, film, and popular culture in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan; trauma and memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer studies; as well as comparative literature and translation studies.

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