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Try to understand Lin Dai-yu and her love

Popularity 6Viewed 9996 times 2014-4-8 22:45 |Personal category:Reading Notes|System category:Life| Dai-yu

Among the many female characters created in the novel The Story of the Stone, Lin Dai-yu has been my most favorite one. When mentioning her, people would always like to compare her with another character, Xue Bao-chai, and conclude that Dai-yu is so proud and unapproachable, unlike Bao-chai, who is lovely, easygoing and generous. But I do not think so. Xue Bao-chai is sophisticated indeed, but you will find the coldness buried deep in the heart below her warm appearence after reading the novel. Even if you felt she was as close as a sibling of yours, to her, you may probably be no different from a stranger met by chance. On the contrary, Dai-yu is more close to a pure poet. Although it seems that she lives in seclusion and cares for nothing, she has a soft and passionate inner world. Most people can not understand her, because her thought goes far beyond the worldly life, more accurately, it is more about the perception of life.

 

Her love is also simple and pure, transparent as a crystal. As to her, love is love. We all know that she loves Bao-yu, the person himself but not the background or other flashy things, and she never made the attempt to persuade him for pursuing a so-called bright future -- entering the political stratum. Her thought was, "Never mind me. Just be your own natural self. If you were all right, I should be all right too.” She is a poet, who discovers the beauty in the natural world and cherishes it. And luckily, Bao-yu shares the common perception of life with her, what they look for is the beauty and intrinsic value of life. As to them, a social position and fame of a people, which has nothing to do with the essence of life, is considered to be unimportant, and even more, flashy. This is the tacit understanding between them, where their love stands.

 

As to the existence of such a pure love, Cao Xue-qin, the author of the novel, had no way to explain it but could only attribute it to an old legend instead. As it was written in the novel, there used to be a beautiful Crimson Pearl Flower growing by the Rock of Rebirth, and the flower was discovered by the Magic Stone one day. He conceived it such a fancy that he took to watering her every day with sweet dew, thereby conferring on her the gift of life. Thanks to the vitalizing effect oft he sweet dew, she was able to shed her vegetable shape and assume the form of a girl. Therefore she thought she owed the Stone something for his kindness, and the only way in which she could repay him would be with the tears shed during the whole of a mortal lifetime if they were ever to be reborn as humans in the world below. That’s why her love is so cryptic and moving.

 

It was written in Chapter 23, at the Drenched Blossoms Weir, Bao-yu was reading the book Western Chamber under a peach-tree which grew there beside the bridge. He just reached the line ’the red flowers in their hosts are falling’, when a little gust of wind blew over and a shower of petals suddenly rained down from the tree, covering his clothes, his book and all the ground about him. He collected as many of them as he could and carried them to the waters edge and shook them in, for fear they got trodden underfoot. And then Dai-yu came. She carried a garden hoe with a muslin bag hanging from the end of it on her shoulder and a garden broom in her hand. Bao-yu asked her to help to sweep those petals up and tip them in the water for him on seeing her. However, Dai-yu didn’t thought it was a good idea. She replied, “the water you see here is clean, but farther on beyond the weir, where it flows past people’s houses, there are all sorts of muck and impurity, and in the end they get spoiled just the same.“ She had better arrangement for them actually – in the corner over there she had got a grave for the flowers, and she was going to sweeping them up and putting them in the silk bag to bury them there, so that they could gradually turn back into earth. It was indeed a cleaner way of disposing of them, and Bao-yu couldn’t agree more with it.

 

It is Dai-yu who endowed the petals life and spirituality. In her eyes and thoughts, the petals had spirits, knowing what’s beauty and noble as human beings. She observed carefully what is happening in nature, and indulged herself in discovering the beautiful things in life. Thus it’s no difficult for us to understand her special lingering resentment and melancholy. In the blooming season, she may hear the whispers of falling flowers. When hearing the birds singing, she may feel the passing steps of the spring. And most oft he times when she was alone, she couldn’t help lamenting her unpredictable future.

 

I could imagine the beautiful scenes when they read the West Chamber together in the sunny afternoon: a splendid spring day, the flipping book pages, the pink flying peach petals around them, and the two awakened spirits. They both read out each other's longing for love when reading the book. This was the beginning of Dai-yu’s dream of love. However, the talk of ‘the gold and the jade’ was so popular in the Mansion. She couldn’t help worrying because she hadn’t any of the gold things, whatever the gold locket or the gold kylin.

 

Then in Chapter 32, finally she heard something reassuring. She made her way towards Green Delights one day to visit Bao-yu. Just as she was about to enter, she heard Xiang-yun lecturing Bao-yu on his social obligations and Bao-yu telling Xiang-yun that ‘Cousin Lin never talked that sort of rubbish’ and that if she did he would have ‘fallen out with her long ago’. Mingled emotions of happiness, alarm, sorrow and regret assailed her. Here are the texts incited:

“Happiness:

Because after all I wasn’t mistaken in my judgement of you. I always thought of you as a true friend, and I was right.

Alarm:

Because if you praise me so unreservedly in front of other people, your warmth and affection are sure, sooner or later, to excite suspicion and be misunderstood.

Regret:

Because if you are my true friend, then I am yours and the two of us are a perfect match. But in that case why did there have to be all this talk of ‘the gold and the jade’? Alternatively, if there had to be all this talk of gold and jade, why weren’t we the two to have them? Why did there have to be a Bao-chai with her golden locket?

Sorrow:

Because though there are things of burning importance to be said, without a father or a mother I have no one to say them for me.”

 

Every time when I read the words, I feel so sad for her. How complicated feelings she had when hearing the talk. She must have been overwhelmed by a surprising joy knowing that Bao-yu was her true-love, but later on her second thoughts, she feared that she could do nothing to alter her fate. After realizing that Bao-yu was worthy to be trusted, she had never made quarrels with him on the talk of ‘the gold and jade’ since then, although she couldn’t stop worrying about the unforeseeable future.

 

I think Dai-yu should know how cruel the earthly world was, and how greatly people were enthusiastic about the fame and fortune; otherwise there wouldn’t be so much melancholy of hers. But she just smply ignored it and lived in her own way -- she indulged herself in a idylilc life in the small world of the Prospect Garden. Obviously, this kind of life style was contrary to the social rules. She was doomed to tragedy: she won the love but lost the marriage. The ‘oath between the plant and the stone’ turned out to be a illusory myth only, and it ultimately disappeared in the dream of the red mansions. What left to the readers are the endless pathetic sighs only.

 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)

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Comment Comment (9 comments)

Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-9 08:57
I like the quote: Never mind me. Just be your own natural self. If you were all right, I should be all right too. TOO often people entering into deep relationships think that they can alter the other person.. They do not accept them for what they are.
Reply Report Nizar-Sz 2014-4-9 11:39
Judy . I hope  Bao-chai and Lin Dai-yu both loved each other. I don't know why you want to compare each others love. We cannot Compare the love between men and women as both express their love in different ways. The point of view you want to explain here is that Lin Dai Yu loved Bao-Chai More than Bao-chai loved Lin Dai Yu;
Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2014-4-9 13:30
Too sentimental. It again proves one thing that the engraved love is always short lived.
Reply Report Judy_Zhu 2014-4-9 14:24
Nizar-Sz: Judy . I hope  Bao-chai and Lin Dai-yu both loved each other. I don't know why you want to compare each others love. We cannot Compare the love betwee ...
Dear Nizar, Bao-chai and Dai-yu are both ladies. Dai-yu loves Bao-yu, while Bao-chai is the wife candidate their parents choose for Bao-yu. I don't think Bao-chai knows what's love. She is a young lady of the 'the traditional merit'. Hope this can help your understanding.
Reply Report Judy_Zhu 2014-4-9 14:25
ColinSpeakman: I like the quote: Never mind me. Just be your own natural self. If you were all right, I should be all right too. TOO often people entering into deep  ...
That's why it's a beautiful love.
Reply Report tedbrent 2014-4-9 18:09
Nizar-Sz: Judy . I hope  Bao-chai and Lin Dai-yu both loved each other. I don't know why you want to compare each others love. We cannot Compare the love betwee ...
what the author is saying is Lin Daiyu, a supposed donnish bluestocking, turns out to be  an iconoclastic lass willing to flout conventional wisdom, whereas  Bao-chai, who's adept at hobnobbing with the ruling elites as a member of the upper class, is a wily opportunist trying to use her marriage with Jia Baoyu to strengthen her family standing in the pecking order.

The principle reason why Lin Daiyu loves Jia Baoyu is that they have shared values or have a good understanding of each other at first. In the event,  the chemistry of love grows as time wears on and they become soulmates.  That's not the case with Bao Chai, who opines  that she would be a pefect choice for Jia Baoyu because both of them are members of the aristocracy.  For good measure,  Jia Baoyu treats Bao Chai more like an older sister, er, whose bonhomie is on fully display when a younger brother like Jia Baoyu sounds her out or even shares his feelings with her .  

  Case in point: in one chapter of this novel, readers find that Jia Baoyu is in a huff, having traded gags with Lin Daiyu, who is prone to skewering him  every time when she finds  Jia Baoyu and other girls getting close . Then, Bao Chai shows up  and does her utmost to placate Jia Baoyu, telling him to  read more books and act like a mensch .   Accordingly, Jia Baoyu's relations with Bao Chai get better as well; yet that's out of respect than love.

  By comparison, a young chick  like Lin Daiyu,  whose intransigence and built-in  self-awareness  if not self-abasement are her most striking personality traits,  doesn't know how to sooth a young man like Jia Baoyu. Worst yet,  Lin Daiyu would act like a modern-day  jealous girl  who just throws tantrums after finding that her boyfriend is dating another girl. A self-assetive girl like her doesn't need any excuses when it comes to love, you know. And her single-mindedness toward Jia Baoyu is genuinely spontaneous ; she won't allow the fifth wheel to exist bewteen her  and Jia Baoyu.

  That explains why Bao Chai is just an outsider in this novel,  even though she gets hitched with Jia Baoyu at length. Her marriage with Jia Baoyu can be seen as the victory of feudalistic thinking or  a deep-rooted cultural notion: the  idea that the rich and special interests have to marry each other. The Chinese call it 门当户对. For this reason,  Bao Chai fits the bill , not Lin Daiyu, albeit  the good-looking Lin Daiyu is  also an erudite poet in this novel.

  Now you know who's to blame? Answer: feudalism and Confucianism.  Many  Chinese  historical  thinkers willing to take on long-standing preconceptions   would have been better off without the interruption of Confucianism, as it were.  

  We could also  argue that  Lin Daiyi is the incarnation of liberalism and Jia Baoyu and his other family members are Chinese traditionalists  pleased to stand pat in the name of honor.
Reply Report Judy_Zhu 2014-4-9 18:17
Dr.Bill.Shen: Too sentimental. It again proves one thing that the engraved love is always short lived.
Truely it is.
Reply Report Nizar-Sz 2014-4-9 21:43
    sorry.. misunderstood..
Reply Report Judy_Zhu 2014-4-10 23:18
tedbrent: what the author is saying is Lin Daiyu, a supposed donnish bluestocking, turns out to be  an iconoclastic lass willing to flout conventional wisdom, w ...
Thanks for making a general introduction of the novel here for the readers unfamiliar with it.

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