Translation:The Story of the Stone/Comment on Chapter 1

Translation:The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin, translated from Chinese by Wikisource
Comment on Chapter 1
This part is perhaps written by Rouge Inkstone.
此書開卷第一回也,作者自云:因曾曆過一番夢幻之後,故將真事隱去,而借通靈之說,撰此《石頭記》一書也。故曰「甄士隱夢幻識通靈」。但書中所記何事,又因何而撰是書哉?自又云:今風塵碌碌,一事無成,忽念及當日所有之女子,一一細推了去,覺其行止見識,皆出於我之上。何我堂堂之鬚眉,曾不若彼裙釵哉!實愧則有餘,悔又無益之大無可奈何之日也!當此時,則自欲將已往所賴,上賴天恩,下承祖德,錦衣紈絝之時、飫甘饜美肥之日,背父母教育之恩,負師兄規訓之德,已至今日一事無成、半生潦倒之罪,編述一記,以告普天下人。我之罪固不能免,然閨閣中本自歷歷有人,萬不可因我之不肖,自護其短,則一併使其泯滅也。雖今日之茆椽蓬牖,瓦灶繩床,其風晨月夕,階柳庭花,亦未有傷於我之襟懷筆墨者。雖我未學,下筆無文,何爲不用假語村言,敷演出一段故事來,以悅人之耳目哉。故曰「風塵懷閨秀」,乃是第一回題綱正義也。開卷即云「風塵懷閨秀」,則知作者本意原爲記述當日閨友閨情,並非怨世駡時之書矣。雖一時有涉於世態,然亦不得不敘者,但非其本旨耳,閱者切記之。詩曰:

This is the first chapter of the book. As a result of visions of a dream which he had, on a previous occasion, experienced, the writer hence concealed the true circumstances and borrowed the attributes of perception and spirituality to tell this Story of the Stone. For this purpose, he used designations such as Chen Shih-yin (truth in the guise of fiction) and others.

What, however, are the events recorded in this work? Who are the drama characters? The author went on speaking for himself:

"With all the drudgery experienced in the world without any success, I suddenly thought of the women of ages past. Going through careful scrutiny one by one, I felt that in practical skills and in-depth knowledge, everyone was way above me; that in spite of the majesty of my virility, I could not, indeed, compare with these characteristics of the gentle sex. And my shame knew no bounds then; while regret, on the other hand, was of no use, what a helpless moment it was!

"It was on that day that I wanted to compile a record, to let everyone in the world knows my regret - by the sustenance of the benevolence of heaven, and the virtue of my ancestors, my clothes were rich and beautiful, and at the days when my foods were tasty and lavish; but I neglected the bounty of education and nurture of father and mother, and paid no attention to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends, resulting in guilty of absence from any accomplishment; I the reckless wasted half of my life - despite my repent, there are countless talented female in the inner chambers, who shall not try to cover up their own short-comings and commit self-destruction as I have done.

"Although the thatched roof shed, with bamboo mat windows, the tow bed and the brick stove, are the reality of my life, the morning breeze, the evening moon, the willows by the steps and the flowers in the courtyard, would not deter words in my mind. What harm is it, however, in using fiction and simple language to tell a story to entertain the readers, disregard of the fact that I am not a scholar? Therefore, the title of the First Chapter is about a man missing a girl. A love affair to start this book is to let the readers know that the author meant to recall the feeling between him and his female friends in the past, not to complain about the existence or to attack the establishment. To tell the story vividly, social reality is sometimes unavoidably involved - reader please always remember: that is not my main concern."

As this poem reads:

Roaming and struggling?
The grand banquet will come to the end.
The joys and sorrows are all but an illusion,
The modern dreams are as absurd as ancient ones.
Not only there is much tear drops on the Red Sleeves,
But also the endless remorse of her lover.
Every word seems to be blood,
Ten years of hard work is unusual!

浮生著甚苦奔忙?盛席華筵終散場。
悲喜千般同幻渺,古今一夢盡荒唐。
謾言紅袖啼痕重,更有情痴抱恨長。
字字看來皆是血,十年辛苦不尋常!