Ben Wang’s Special Course: The Story of the Stone (紅樓夢)
A Brief Introduction to The Story of the Stone III
By Ben Wang

Ben Wang’s Special Course: The Story of the Stone (紅樓夢)<br> A Brief Introduction to <em>The Story of the Stone</em> III<br> By Ben Wang

Ben Wang’s Special Course: The Story of the Stone (紅樓夢)
A Brief Introduction to The Story of the Stone III
By Ben Wang

Tuesday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
April 11 – June 13
10 sessions (20 hours)
$540 member / $580 non-member
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)
*This course is taught in English.

The Story of the Stone is a bildungsroman, a tale of a battle between the flesh and the spirit, a mixture of mysticism, romanticism, realism and fatalism, a record of Taoist-Buddhist disenchantment and enlightenment, and a critique of a society abiding by the rules of Confucianism, and a novel of social commentary. It is a literary cri de coeur both celebrating the golden, languorous days of youth and lamenting the inevitability of their passing, and the pain and suffering all humans are doomed to endure – an eternal theme in literature. (Stone is the first important novel in Chinese literature with dark endings for almost all the main characters, and in which the hero and his beloved not living happily ever after.) It is a book of manners and observations, chronicling in meticulous details the glory and decay of an aristocratic family and the roots of this glory and decay in the social and historical confines of the early 18th century China during the last great flowering of the Chinese culture.

Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹, the creator and writer of this grand summation of classical Chinese literature, towers as a novelist, thinker and poet, all three in one, quite unmatched in the history of Chinese culture. The different theories and mysteries as regards to The Story of the Stone’s being an incomplete masterwork — 40 chapters (in drastically inferior quality) by two other writers were appended to the 80 finished chapters by Cao Xueqin, a few decades after Cao’s death — have been vigorously contested and diligently researched by generations of scholars called Redologists (a special word derived from another title of English translation named Dreams of the Red Chambers) since its first publication in 1754.

In the three semesters starting in September 2022, the first 80 chapters of the Story of the Stone, completed by Cao Xueqin, will be studied in detail. To complement the extraordinarily fine translation by England’s great David Hawkes, the countless fascinating and sometimes mystifying points in the original Chinese will be introduced to the class. The masterpiece will be discussed and explained, including its theme, structure, and technique, and all the poetic styles in it.

Required textbooks: The first three volumes of 80 chapters of Cao Xueqin’s Story of the Stone, translated by David Hawkes (Penquin Classics, 1980), are the required textbooks.

This special and stupendous course is taught by Ben Wang, Senior Lecturer of China Institute.



Ben Wang: Senior Lecturer in Language and Humanities at China Institute, Co-Chair of Renwen Society of China Institute, retired Instructor of Chinese at the United Nations Language Program.  A published writer on classical Chinese poetry and others, Ben Wang is an award winning translator both from Chinese into English and vice versa; He taught Chinese and translation at Columbia University, New York University, Pace University and City University of New York between 1969 and 1991.

Ben Wang teaches and lectures on the Chinese language, calligraphy, and classical Chinese literature, including the Book of Songs, the Songs of the South; Han, Tang and Song poetry; Yuan and Ming poetic dramas; Story of the Stone of the Qing; classical Kunqu Drama and Beijing Opera; Literati Painting. Ben Wang’s lectures on and translations of Kunqu dramas have been reviewed and acclaimed three times in the New York Times by the Times’ music and drama critic James Oestreich as “magnificent,” “captivating,” and “colorful.”

Since 1989, Ben Wang has lectured (extensively on the above-mentioned subjects)at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Barnard, Williams, U.C. Berkeley, New York University, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Mary’s College in California, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, ABC Nightline, the BBC, among other academic and cultural institutions.

Latest publications in English:

  1. Forlorn in the Rain: Translation and Annotation of Selected Classical Chinese Poetry and Others; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: Oct. 2018
  2. A series of 4 books on the Forbidden City in Beijing, China:
    1. We All Live in the Forbidden City
    2. This Is the Greatest Place!
    3. Bowls of Happiness
    4. What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

    (Published by China Institute and Released by Tuttle Publishing; 2014, 2015, the series has garnered 9 US book awards, as of September 2016.)

  3. Laughter and Tears: Libretti from Highlight Scenes of 26 Classical Poetic Kunqu Dramas; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: 2009.

(January 2019)

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Ben Wang