Archetype and Allegory in the "Dream of the Red Chamber"

Archetype and Allegory in the "Dream of the Red Chamber"

ANDREW H. PLAKS
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 290
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0z66
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    Archetype and Allegory in the "Dream of the Red Chamber"
    Book Description:

    Surprisingly little has been written in Western languages about the eighteenth- century Chinese novelDream of the Red Chamber, perhaps the supreme masterpiece of its entire tradition. In this study, Andrew H. Plaks has used the conceptual tools of comparative literature to focus on the novel's allegorical elements and narrative structure. He thereby succeeds in accounting for the work's greatness in terms that do justice to its own narrative tradition and as well to recent advances in general literary theory.

    A close textual reading of the novel leads to discussion of a wide range of topics: ancient Chinese mythology, Chinese garden aesthetics, and the logic of alternation and recurrence. The detailed study of European allegorical texts clarifies the directions taken by comparable works of Chinese literature, and the critical tool of the literary archetype helps to locate the novel within the Chinese narrative tradition from ancient mythology to the more recent "novel" form. Professor Plaks' innovative use of traditional criticism suggests the levels of meaning the eighteenth-century author might have expected to convey to his immediate audience.

    This book provides not only an illuminating analysis of this important novel, but also a significant demonstration that critical concepts derived primarily from Western literary models may be fruitfully applied to Chinese narrative works.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7072-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    This book attempts to cover a good deal of territory. It begins and ends in the interpretation of a single Chinese narrative work, but its scope of inquiry necessitates extensive side-ventures into such diverse provinces as ancient mythology, logical method, European allegory, and garden aesthetics. Because of this somewhat circuitous—it is hoped, not circular—nature of the argument, it may be useful to set forth at the outset the path of reasoning to be pursued in the following pages.

    The study takes its starting point in a consideration of the sense of encyclopedic fullness that emerges upon a reading...

  5. CHAPTER I ARCHETYPE AND MYTHOLOGY IN CHINESE LITERATURE
    (pp. 11-26)

    Nearly all readers of theDream of the Red Chamber—both native and foreign—come away with the impression that what they have experienced in the lengthy span from cover to cover is a comprehensive view of the entire civilization of Imperial China. This sense of cultural completeness may be largely attributed to the simple fact that the novel presents at exceedingly close range the day-to-day life of a bygone age of glory—and there is little doubt that this aspect is responsible for the degree of emotional attachment with which the work has been treasured by two centuries of...

  6. CHAPTER II THE MARRIAGE OF NÜ-KUA AND FU-HSI
    (pp. 27-42)

    The reader of theDream of the Red Chamberis confronted in the first chapter with the mythical figure Nü-kua 不客ain her most well-known role as repairer of the heavens with manycolored stones. This passage introduces Pao-yü as an extrahuman, if imperfect, being and serves as a frame of reference for the various supernatural episodes strategically placed throughout the novel, eventually justifying his ultimate exit from the world of red dust. Nü-kua herself, however, immediately passes from view only to return for a final bow in the last pages of the book. Aside from this incident of heavenly reconstruction,...

  7. CHAPTER III COMPLEMENTARY BIPOLARITY AND MULTIPLE PERIODICITY
    (pp. 43-53)

    In the preceding chapter we have attempted to demonstrate that the treatment of the marriage of Nü-kua and Fu-hsi in the sources of Chinese mythology reflects a pattern of conceptualization that may be considered archetypal within the system of Chinese literature. Specifically, it has been suggested that the cluster of associations evoked by certain details of the mythical fragments, as well as the tendency to work yin-yang and fiveelements terminology into the representation of the two figures, leads to the conclusion that it is the abstract formal pattern of dual interrelation that finds expression in the texts under investigation. But...

  8. CHAPTER IV THE ARCHETYPAL STRUCTURE OF DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER
    (pp. 54-83)

    The authors of theDream of the Red Chamberdemonstrate in the first pages of the novel at least a superficial familiarity with certain details of the mythical lore of ancient China. In addition to Nü-kua’s two appearances cited above, we find mention of her lord Fu-hsi in Chapter 102a(as one of four “sages” invoked in the ritual exorcism of the Ta-kuan Yiian garden), as well as of the demon Kung Kung in Chapter 2 (I, 20, as an example of the arch-villains of the tradition). Moreover, the motif of the multicolored stone in Pao-yii’s miraculous birth also harks...

  9. CHAPTER V ALLEGORY IN CHINESE AND WESTERN LITERATURE
    (pp. 84-126)

    Many modern readers of theDream of the Red Chamberhave come away with the impression that the work is, in some uncertain sense, designed to be read in an allegorical manner. The life-giving stone hung about Pao-yü’s neck, the thinly veiled significances of the names of the major figures,athe symmetry of correspondences between natural and human events, and the mythological frame that reappears at several key points in the novel, all add to the conclusion that we are dealing here with a mode of literature quite familiar in the Western tradition. Beyond the simple recognition of this fact,...

  10. CHAPTER VI WESTERN ALLEGORICAL GARDENS
    (pp. 127-145)

    The following three chapters will consist of a direct examination of one specifictopos:the garden or earthly paradise, as an example of the structure and functioning of allegory in the Chinese and Western traditions. We must again apologize for the attempt to reduce the monumental encyclopedic works that form the object of this study to a single point of comparison. It will, however, be maintained that the treatment of the garden motif, in each case, serves as a nexus for the entire problem of the aesthetic structure of encyclopedic allegory, and that the characteristic solutions to the problem in...

  11. CHAPTER VII THE CHINESE LITERARY GARDEN
    (pp. 146-177)

    Having traced the earthly paradisetoposthrough several Western works with a view toward demonstrating the nature of allegory in that tradition, let us return now to the garden of delights within which the major portion of the narrative of theDream of the Red Chamberunfolds. It has already been suggested that the allegorical “meaning” of the Ta-kuan Yiian—the extended structure of significance beyond the surface of the text—is not to be sought, as in the works considered in the preceding chapter, in terms of metaphorical correspondences between figure and truth, but rather by way of horizontal...

  12. CHAPTER VIII A GARDEN OF TOTAL VISION: THE ALLEGORY OF THE TA-KUAN YÜAN
    (pp. 178-211)

    On the basis of the preceding discussion, the significance of the name of the Chia family garden inDream of the Red Chamberbecomes quite clear. The idea of a grand view (or “total vision” as I have rendered it), evoked through patterns observed within finite space, seems without doubt to be behind Ts’ao Hsüeh-ch’in’s choice of a name for the self-contained world he creates in his great novel. In order to demonstrate that this is indeed the proper interpretation of the termta-kuan大觀 let us adduce examples of its usage in the literary tradition carried forth by the...

  13. CHAPTER IX ENDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 212-224)

    The preceding chapter subtitled “The Allegory of the Ta-kuan Yüan,” following upon a lengthy excursus into the area of European garden allegory, promised to set forth in detail something of the meaning projected in the central figure ofDream of the Red Chamber.But at this late point the reader may still rightly ask where that meaning lies. If we assume that the argument may stand that Ts’ao Hsueh-ch’in carefully framed his semi-autobiographical text to convey an intelligible vision of existence through its patterns of narrative structure, the question remains as to precisely what significance he intends to figure forth...

  14. SOURCE NOTES
    (pp. 225-236)
  15. APPENDIX I
    (pp. 237-240)
  16. APPENDIX II
    (pp. 241-244)
  17. APPENDIX III
    (pp. 245-246)
  18. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  19. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 247-260)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 261-269)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)