Dream of the Red Chamber: Afterlives is both a collection of exhibits and a course, inspired by the English-language verson of the opera Dream of the Red Chamber, coproduced by the San Francisco Opera and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. It premiered in San Francisco 2016 and will be performed in Hong Kong in March of 2017. It was devised in the context of a graduate seminar taught by Ann Waltner with the assistance of Marguerite Ragnow at the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2016; you will see student work at several points on the site.
This course is free and open to the public. You may begin it any time you wish, and you may proceed through it in any way you wish. If a segment (called an "Exhibit" on Omeka, the platform on which the course was built) does not interest you, you may proceed to another segment. While there are often questions at the bottom of the page, you are not required to answer them. Write something in the Comment box if you have something to say; otherwise you may move on. Because this is a no-tuition, no-requirements course, it does not bear any academic credit.
But if you are serious about working your way through the course, we recommend that you obtain a copy of the David Hawkes translation of the novel, under the title Story of the Stone (5 volumes, Penguin) and Andrew Schonebaum and Tina Lu's Approaches to Teaching The Story of the Stone (Modern Language Association). Both are easily available in paperback; if your local library does not have copies, ask that they get them. (The novel has several titles. We'll normally refer to it as "Dream of the Red Chamber" except when we are specifically talking about the Hawkes translation.)
The narrative arc of the course explores the ways in which the novel has been read, commented on, and rewritten in the centuries since its composition, and it locates the opera by Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang in that tradition. The course provides resources which will enable you to explore the novel and its afterlives on your own. It is a course and not a finished piece of scholarship—we have, for example, put up provisional translations of poems. We have kept scholarly apparatus to a minimum, but most sections provide suggestions for further reading. Full bibliographic references for those suggestions are given on the page "Suggestions for Further Reading."
If you are new to the novel, you might want to begin at the beginning and work your way through the course. If you are an experienced reader of the novel, you might want to begin by sampling what we think are some of the most striking aspects of the course.
If you have not seen the opera and are curious about it or if you saw it and want to see/hear it again, you might want to check out six short excerpts provided by the opera. Other segments of the course which might interest you include:
- The responses of early ninteenth-century women readers to the novel.
- Conversations about the novel—Ann Waltner's conversation with Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang about the process of making the opera; Waltner's conversations with Karil Kucera and Kathleen Ryor at the Minneapolis Insitute of Arts about works of art that refer to or resonate with the novel; Andrew Schumacher Bethke's conversation with Liu Li and Chen Tao abou the qin (complete with a demonstration by Liu Li of the qin); Ann Waltner's conversation with Pearl Bergad about the novel and the opera.
- Paul Rouzer's discussion of Daiyu as a poet.
- Video resources, most of which come from youtube or tudou (a Chinese site much like youtube), but which are pulled here in one convenient place, often with commentary. For example, we have embedded versions of both the 1987 and 2010 television shows which are subtitled in English. These resources are grouped together in segment 6. I particularly urge you to listen to genres you may not be familiar with, such as pingtan or Yue (Shaoxing) opera, both of which are fairly accessible to western audiences.
- As reviews of the opera become available, we will post them.
- And you might want to meander through the garden in a segment created by Rick Hauser.
There are eight course modules, which are labelled exhibits. You can find them under the "browse exhibits" tab on the top of this page. When you finish one "exhibit" you will need to go back to the "browse exhibit" tab to enter the next "exhibit."
There is a "comment" section at the bottom of every page. On some of the pages, I have written specific questions that you might think about, as I would do in a real course. But that is not intended to limit your comments. I encourage you to comment.
I would encourage teachers to make free use of these materials in their classrooms.
Note on images: The images on the front page of the website come from two sources, one Chinese, the other European. The Chinese source is a painting by Sun Wen, who made a series of 230 paintings about the novel early in the twentieth century. The European source is an image of a Chinese wedding from Jean Baptiste du Halde's Description geographique historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l'empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise : enrichie des cartes generales et particulieres de ces pays, de la carte générale & des cartes particulieres du Thibet, & de la Corée & ornée d'un grand nombre de figures & de vignettes gravées en taille-douce (Paris, 1735). Du Halde's volume (a copy of which is held by the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota) was published 20 years before Dream of the Red Chamber was written, but well within Cao Xueqin's lifetime. The illustration imagines a wedding. The juxtaposition of these two images invites us to think about the story of a wedding, but it also invites us to think about the ways in which stories are retold and reimagined as we cross boundaries of time, language, and genre.