03 December 2009
The Story of the Stone: An In-Depth Analysis of Chapter One
The Story of the Stone, after explaining the Stone’s origin and his willingness to transfer to the mortal world, opens with the Stone who has already completed its “extension course” in the mortal world (Zaifu, 82). The Stone has already been sent to “the world of red dust” and lived an entire life as the primary character of The Story of the Stone, Jia Bao-yu. Stone achieved the knowledge of “truth” by experiencing the appearance (which is “unreal” or “fiction”) of “mortal existence and awakening to their futility” (Levy, 11). The Stone, after completing his transformation to the world of men, has inscribed his entire story upon himself for others to read and be enlightened to the ultimate knowledge of truth.
On the surface, this introduction may seem to be no more than simple plot development, but it actually possesses a double meaning. The Stone, in the opening chapter, is both a character within the story and the actual story (this “layered” concept is explained more in depth below). This dualism concerning the Stone correlates to the dualistic nature of the “real” versus the “unreal”. The physical character of the Stone implies the “unreal”, while the story itself represents the “real”. Xueqin is alluding to the fact that the physical world is fictitious and only appears to be reality. In actuality, the author is implying that the Stone’s story is the ultimate truth. Furthermore, it is not the physical inscription of story itself that is reality. Instead, the enlightening knowledge that readers may gain from fully understanding The Story of the Stone is the ultimate “truth”.
At first, one may relate the human world to reality and the spiritual world to delusion, but that is far from author Xueqin’s true intentions. In order to properly understand the hidden meaning, one must fully understand the term “reality” and all that it...