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CAO, Xueqin

Dream of the Red Chamber / The Story of the Stone

Ancient earth and sky

Marvel that love's passion should outlast all time.

Star-crossed men and maids

Groan that love's debts should be so hard to pay.

For all your would-be spotlessness

And vaunted otherworldliness,

You that look down on common flesh and blood,

Yourself impure, shall end up in the mud.

The plum-tree bore her fruit after the rest,

Yet, when all's done, her Orchid was the best.

Against your ice-pure nature all in vain

The tongues of envy wagged; you felt no pain.

Let others all

Commend the marriage rites of gold and jade;

I still recall

The bond of old by stone and flower made;

And while my vacant eyes behold

Crystalline shows of beauty pure and cold,

From my mind can not be banished

That fairy wood forlorn that from the world has vanished.

How true I find

That every good some imperfection holds!

Even a wife so courteous and so kind

No comfort brings to my afflicted mind.

If each for the other one was not intended,

Then why in this life did they meet again?

And yet if fate had meant them for each other,

Why was their earthly meeting all in vain?

In vain were all her sighs and tears,

In vain were all his anxious fears:

All, insubstantial, doomed to pass,

As moonlight mirrored in the water,

Or flowers reflected in a glass.

Like a great building's tottering crash,

Like flickering lampwick burned to ash,

Your scene of happiness concludes in grief:

For worldly bliss is always insecure and brief.

Some good remained:

The daughter found a friend in need

Through her mother's one good deed.

So let all men the poor and meek sustain,

And from the example of her cruel kin refrain,

Who kinship scorned and only thought of gain.

For far above the constellations

One watches all and makes just calculations.

The cunning waste their pains;

The wise men vex their brains;

But the simpleton, who seeks no gains,

With belly full, he wanders free

As drifting boat upon the sea.

How can I, full of sickness and of woe,

Withstand that face which kingdoms could o'erthrow?

The blossoms fade and falling fill the air,

Of fragrance and bright hues bereft and bare.

One day, when spring has gone and youth has fled,

The Maiden and the flowers will both be dead.

Still weeping tears of blood about our separation:

Little red love-beans of my desolation.

Still blooming flowers I see outside my window growing.

Still awake in the dark I hear the wind a-blowing.

Still oh still I can't forget those old hopes and fears.

None more than you the villain world disdains;

None understands your proud heart as I do.

The precious hours of autumn I'll not waste,

But bide with you and savour their full taste.

Peach pink the tender flowers outside the window blow;

Peach pink on sleepy face the morning colours glow.

Tree-flowers outside the room and lady-flower inside:

Only a few short steps the flowery forms divide.

As she gazes on the smiling flowers, her tears at last grow dry;

But as they dry, the springtime ends and the flowers fade.

The flowers fade, and an equal blight the lady's fair cheek palls.

The petals drift; she is weary; and soon the darkness falls.

Like fluttering moths or silent white bees swarming:

Not for us a tomb in the running waters,

Or the earth's embalming.

The filaments whence we are formed remain unchanging,

No matter what separates or unifies.

Do not, earth-child, our rootlessness despise:

When the strong wind comes he will whirl us upwards

Into the skies.

pain and confusion.

On Greensickness Peak

I dwell;

In the Cosmic Void

I roam.

Who will pass over,

Who will go with me,

Who will explore

The supremely ineffable

Vastly mysterious


To which I return!

When grief for fiction's idle words

More real than human life appears,

Reflect that life itself's a dream

And do not mock the reader's tears.


The Golden Days

gleaming like some fairy princess with sparkling jewels and gay embroideries. Her chignon was enclosed in a circlet of gold filigree and clustered pearls. It was fastened with a pin embellished with flying phoenixes, from whose beaks pearls were suspended on tiny chains. Her necklet was of red gold in the form of a coiling dragon. Her dress had a fitted bodice and was made of dark red silk damask with a pattern of flowers and butterflies in raised gold thread. Her jacket was lined with ermine. It was of a slate-blue stuff with woven insets in coloured silks. Her under-skirt was of a turquoise-coloured imported silk crêpe embroidered with flowers.