Libmonster ID: KZ-2247
Author(s) of the publication: A. S. TRUNOVA


Postgraduate student Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Chinese literature, "Dream in the Red Tower", Wang Meng, essay studies

The Chinese classic novel "Dream in the Red Chamber" was written in the middle of the XVII century. It is generally believed that its author was Cao Xueqin (1724-1764). This outstanding work is one of the most important milestones in the history of Chinese prose, a recognized masterpiece not only of Chinese, but also of world literature.1

The book " Dream in the Red Chamber: Notes of Revelation "(hereinafter referred to as "Notes of Revelation"), first published in 1991, is a voluminous work by the Chinese writer and literary critic Wang Meng, devoted to the analysis of this novel. Considering the novel from the point of view of its place in the system of world literature, he examines The Dream in the Red Chamber inseparably from the context of traditional Chinese culture and the feudal society in which it was created: Wang Meng writes about the problem of marriage, about Chinese ritual and the hypocrisy it generates, about religion and its place in feudal society that is, about the problems that Cao Xueqin raised in his work.

Wang Meng applies the realities depicted by Cao Xueqin to the modern context, drawing sometimes rather unexpected parallels with modern reality, with political and social phenomena of the XX-XXI centuries. There are numerous parallels with the theme of the "cultural revolution" and labor re-education. So, while assessing the complex character of the main character of the novel - Baoyu, Wang Meng notes with a touch of sarcasm that labor re-education in the village would knock out "tyranny"from him.

"Dream in the Red Chamber" is a moralizing novel about the Jia clan, which lives according to strict Confucian traditions. We will remind readers of the content of this epic work.

The main events of the novel unfold in two capital houses-estates-Ningo and Ronggo, connected by family ties with the emperor himself. The family gradually declines both financially and morally, and eventually goes broke. In the Rongguo house lives a young man, Jia Baoyu, around whom the plot is largely built. He stands out from the rest of the family with his unusual worldview and strange behavior, which often attracts the wrath of his father. At the end of the novel, Baoyu, who in the future was supposed to become the head of the house, make a career and glorify the family, leaves home and becomes a monk.

The novel describes in detail the life and leisure of a rich Manchurian family. It has about 500 characters-representatives of different classes. Both the main and secondary characters have their own backstory, which creates a broad picture of the life of a large family. Cao Xueqin acts as an innovator of his time, showing in the novel "the life of women's chambers", revealing such a problem as the place of a woman in the family, and also openly proclaiming that she is in many ways superior to a man. The novel "Dream in the Red Chamber" is interesting for our contemporaries with a deep philosophical subtext.2


The onset of the 1990s in Chinese essay studies is characterized by the strengthening of the subjective artistic principle. Essayists are increasingly turning to culture and philosophy. Many writers, such as Wang Meng or Liu Xinwu, combine literary creativity with research activities.

The Russian reader knows Wang Meng mainly as the author of plot prose of small and large forms 3. But many of his works are also written in the genre of essays. Some of them are dedicated to the novel "Dream in the Red Chamber": "Is Time Multi-faceted" ("Shijian shi dochundae ma"), "Reading Dream in the Red Chamber", "Dream in the Red Chamber: Notes of Revelation" (Honglou pishi lu).

D. N. Voskresensky defined the genre of " Notes of Revelation "as a research or" intellectual " essay4. Such works are far from a new phenomenon in world literature. Marguerite Jursenard's voluminous essay studies on Mishima ("Mishima, or The Gate to the Void")are most similar in form and Vladimir Nabokov on Gogol ("Nikolai Gogol").

In the Notes of Revelation

page 67

Modern trends in the development of the essayistic genre are evident: Wang Meng attaches great importance to the study of the artistic features of The Dream in the Red Chamber, while considering it in the context of world literature. Along the way, he talks about life, about classical literature and its traditions, about literary creativity and creative methods, about writing.

The book consists of two parts: the first is arranged in the form of comments, and the second-in the form of articles.

In the first part - "Careful reading" ("Si Du"), analyzing and interpreting the content of the novel, the author follows the chronological sequence of chapters of the novel. This part is constructed in the form of notes made by the reader during the course of reading the novel. They include considerations about the content and structure of the novel, as well as your own emotions, thoughts, and philosophical reasoning inspired by reading this work.

The second part - "Relatively speaking" ("Ho Sho") is a comprehension of what has been read, these are the thoughts presented in the first part that are brought into logical order, so here the reasoning that is set out in the "Careful Reading" section is often repeated.

This structure places emphasis and makes it possible to trace the ideas that most excite Wang Meng.


As a literary critic, Wang Meng is particularly interested in the problem of temporal confusion in the novel "Dream in the Red Chamber". The narrative in the novel is linear, but in addition to the lack of accurate dating, the chronology has many inaccuracies and inconsistencies. As for the possible reasons, Wang Meng expresses his opinion as a literary critic: the deliberate introduction of confusion shows that the author is not interested in the epoch, but in what is beyond the time frame - some universal and universal phenomena. Nevertheless, a significant part of this article is devoted to an artist's analysis of the artistic effect produced by temporal confusion. Interestingly, time in the novel does not appear to Wang Meng to be linear, as it usually is in family novels-chronicles, but a vast infinite plane on which episodes are scattered.

Wang Meng is fascinated by the philosophical ideas of "Sleep in the Red Chamber", in particular - Baoyu's unique philosophical views on life and death, which the writer defines as natural,"pre-Taoist-Buddhist" 5, comparing with the traditional religious and philosophical systems of China. Recall that the main character of "Dream in the Red Chamber", a young man Jia Baoyu, hopes to disappear without a trace after death, which has nothing to do with traditional ideas about death in feudal China (great importance was attached to not leaving a trace, to leave behind a name, title and continue the family).

According to Wang Meng, such original philosophical worldviews belong to the author of "Dream in the Red Chamber" Cao Xueqin, who expressed them through the mouth of Baoyu. The writer repeatedly speaks about the direct autobiographical nature of Baoyu's image:" [... It can be said that Cao Xueqin himself is the main, true Baoyu, great Baoyu. Of all the characters in Dream of the Red Chamber, Baoyu has the most autobiographical touch [ ... ] The young Cao Xueqin is pretty much the prototype of Jia Baoyu. " 6

The idea of autobiography and the identification of the main character with the author is one of the long-standing traditions of the study of "Dream in the Red Chamber". At a certain stage of studying the novel, there was a tendency to consider it completely autobiographical. The writer's desire to explain certain phenomena with facts from his biography is also observed in the essays of European authors, but they are not inclined to identify writers with heroes, so in this case we can say that Wang Meng continues the national tradition in studying the "Dream in the Red Chamber".

Wang Meng admires Cao Xueqin's innovative approach to portraying social and philosophical issues, a fresh and original look at traditional themes, and the novelty of artistic methods. Wang Meng sees the value of the novel "Dream in the Red Tower" in the fact that it is the first in the history of Chinese prose entirely author's work filled with emotions.

He notes that Cao Xueqin was the first to overcome the custom of depicting a man as the center of the universe, and a woman as a man's toy. The depiction of feelings between Baoyu and his cousin Lin Daiyu represents a whole new understanding of love in the context of feudal China. Their love is depicted realistically, and its signs and manifestations are close to modern understanding. Wang Meng notes that Cao Xueqin sympathizes with this love, but does not idealize it, but portrays it as it is, with the pangs of jealousy, with mutual misunderstanding and resentment.

The writer notes the universality of the themes and literary phenomena on which the classic novel "Dream in the Red Chamber"is built. Wang Meng explains this universality from a philosophical point of view: the point is not that a particular literary device belongs to a particular literary direction, but that all art, including literature, is a product of the cosmos. They are not invented by anyone in particular, but represent a transcendental phenomenon that opens up to a gifted writer in the form of a revelation.

In Wang Meng's understanding, "Dream in the Red Chamber" is in many ways an innovative work written not according to the traditional literary canons of China, but according to some universal laws for world literature. However, Wang Meng does not deny that the novel belongs to his own time.-

page 68

meni also reveals, only from a completely new angle, the everyday life and problems of traditional society. The writer himself has repeatedly expressed the importance of preserving the national spirit in art. Such a harmonious combination is valuable for the writer's novel "Dream in the Red Chamber".


The language and style of the Notes of Revelation are of particular interest.

Along with literary terms, Wang Meng uses figurative language in his research essay, which gives the "Notes of Revelation" an emotional coloring: exclamation sentences, rhetorical questions and interjections, appeals in the second person to the author of the analyzed work or its characters. Constantly uses colorful trails* and shapes, resorts to parallel constructions and repetitions. Emotionality is typical of traditional commentaries, where emotional assessments were given not only to the writer's artistic techniques, but also to the actions of the characters.

Wang Meng often uses phrases from the classical literary language of Wenyan, and also quotes foreign and Chinese poets and writers, both classical and modern, inserts poems, including his own composition. The custom of putting poems (often written by the commentator himself) or short stories that come to mind to illustrate the commentary and help reveal the meaning of the commented fragment appeared in the XIX century. Thus, Wang Meng's essay looks like a kind of stylization of the commentators of Old China. In addition to traditional artistic means, Wang Meng uses mathematical and logical formulas, which are unusual for literary critics, to illustrate his thoughts.

Wang Meng's essays are of an artistic and aesthetic nature, and by the very title - "Notes of Revelation" - the author warns the reader that this work represents" revelations", i.e. what a modern writer, reader and fan of the novel" Dream in the Red Chamber " experienced and felt while reading it. That is why Wang Meng carefully compares his observations with the opinions of scientists, without referring to himself as such, or simply expresses uncertainty in his own guess and, thus, relieves himself of responsibility for his assumptions. The same function in the text is performed by ceremoniously polite expressions with a hint of self-deprecation: "In my humble opinion, feigning insanity is also a kind of insanity."

Wang Meng practically does not refer to other researchers, he builds his own, original theory. Puts forward assumptions based on their own analysis of the content of the work and on their own impressions and feelings.

* * *

Wang Meng's essay "Dream in the Red Chamber: Notes of Revelation" combines the characteristic features of European essayistic prose and traditional Chinese commentary tradition. In the process of studying the novel, the writer determines its place in the context of world literature and reveals both cross-cultural, universal principles of literary creativity, and national specifics.

Wang Meng analyzes feudal traditions from the point of view of a modern person and discusses Chinese literature and literature as one of the phenomena of art from the point of view of a modern writer. This work is characterized by such features as a pronounced personality of the author, frankness and subjectivity of the assessments given by the authors, interest in the biography of the writer and emphasis on the autobiographical nature of the writer's work, artistic imagery of the language, interest in the creative method and manner of writing.

The essay of the Chinese writer Wang Meng has international features, which allows him to fit into the context of world literature. The connection with the Chinese tradition in the" Notes of Revelation " is shown through the form of this essay, from the point of view of language, his work is a stylization of the commentators of Old China.

Thus, in Wang Meng's work, new content is embedded in a traditional form, which reflects the desire of modern Chinese authors to take the best from world literature, while preserving their national identity. This approach allows Chinese literature to integrate into the world literary process.

* Trope (from the Greek onudio - turn) - a rhetorical figure, word or expression used in a figurative sense in order to enhance the imagery of the language, the artistic expressiveness of speech (editor's note).

1 In 1980, the Chinese Academy of Sciences established a special institute for Sleep in the Red Chamber. There was even a special scientific discipline "krasnovedenie" or "krasnologiya". In 1832, a member of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing, P. P. Kurlyandtsev, acquired the manuscript of the novel, which has since been kept in St. Petersburg. This is the only manuscript of the novel that is located outside of China. In 1986, its facsimile edition was published in Leningrad and immediately reprinted in China and Japan.

2 For more information about the novel, see: Nikolskaya S. V., Voskresensky D. N. Hong lou meng / / Spiritual Culture of China (encyclopedia). Moscow, Vostochnaya literatura Publ., 2008, pp. 471-47.

Khuziyatova N. K., Plyasenko N. A. 3 Sovremennaya kitayskaya esseistika kak poisk identichnosti i "russkiy" Harbin Zhang Kankan [Modern Chinese essays as a search for identity and the "Russian" Harbin Zhang Kankan]. St. Petersburg, June 26 - 28, 2014. Vol. 1, pp. 385-386.

4 See: Wang Meng. Izbrannoe [Selected works], Moscow, Raduga Publ., 1988, translated by D. Voskresensky, V. Malyavin, and S. Toroptsev. Footprints on the slope leading up. Moscow, URSS, 2004. / Translated by S. Toroptseva.

5 Literaturnyi mir srednevekovogo Kitaya. M. Literaturnyi mir srednevekovogo Kitaya. M. Literaturnyi mir srednevekovogo Kitaya [The Literary World of Medieval China], Moscow, 2006, p. 579.

Wang Meng. 6 Honglou qishi lu ("Dream in the Red Chamber: Notes of Revelation"). Guiyang, 2012, p. 199 - 200.

7 Ibid., p. 95.

Gao Haiyun. 8 Tragic motives in the novel "Dream in the Red Chamber". Candidate's thesis, Moscow, IV RAS, 2001.

Wang Meng. 9 Op. cit., p. 101.


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