In this episode, I compare Jane Eyre from “Jane Eyre” with Lin Daiyu from “The Dream of the Red Chamber” to illustrate some differences between Chinese and Western culture as presented by these two characters.

Chinese Version

English Version

哈喽,大家好。我是Kaycee。

今天我们来看看简·爱(Jane Eyre)和红楼梦里的林黛玉,两个爱情故事里的女主人公。看看从他们身上是否能看出来点中西文化差异呢?看不出来的话就尴尬了。

大家对《简·爱》和《红楼梦》应该挺了解的吧?我就简单的介绍一下。

《简·爱》是英国女作家夏洛蒂·勃朗特(Charlotte Brontë) 创作的长篇小说,1847年出版,讲述一位从小变成孤儿的英国女子在各种磨难中不断追求自由与尊严,坚持自我,最终获得幸福的故事。小说引人入胜地展示了男女主人公曲折起伏的爱情经历,歌颂了摆脱一切旧习俗和偏见,成功塑造了一个敢于反抗,敢于争取自由和平等地位的妇女形象。

《红楼梦》是中国古代长篇小说,中国古典四大名著之一,清代作家曹雪芹所著。小说以贾、史、王、薛四大家族的兴衰为背景,以富贵公子贾宝玉为视角,以贾宝玉与林黛玉、薛宝钗的爱情婚姻悲剧为主线,描绘出18世纪中国封建社会的方方面面,展现了真正的人性美和悲剧美,可以说是一部从各个角度展现女性美以及中国古代社会世态百相的史诗性著作。

进入主题之前,我先说一下,剧透嘛,肯定是有那么一点点的,但是这两本书都是经典,故事情节可能多多少少都了解吧?就算被剧透了,经典依旧是经典,还是值得一读的所以我觉得没有关系。但是如果你想先读完这两本书或看完与书同名的电影,就在这儿暂停吧。看完书或电影之后再回来。

好,那我们话就不再多说了,进入主题,从这两位女主人公身上来看看中西文化差异。

林黛玉来到贾宝玉家,在贾宝玉家生活确实得到了保障尤其是在父母双亡后。先说说林黛玉的性格,比较任性,骄傲,过的很小心。在精神上,林黛玉一直摆脱不了那种寄人篱下带给她的压力,这份压力无时无刻不在摧残着她那倔强孤傲的心灵。虽然她遇到了让她心动的贾宝玉,但是她不敢大胆表达自己的心意,只会一个人躲起来偷偷落泪。从这个层面上来讲,她是可怜的、可悲的。作者让她充分的展现出了钟情、嫉妒、多疑、纠缠、惧怕。文学家鲁迅曾说林黛玉的美是一种“病态美”。

简·爱就不一样了。虽然简·爱与林黛玉一样属于“寄人篱下”,她生活的环境特别的差,但是她不向命运屈服,这些苦难不仅没有让她沉沦,而且还唤起了她坚忍不拔、坚强不屈的精神以及对于美好生活的无限向往。简·爱身上充满着正直、纯洁、自尊自爱的女性魅力,最终将饱受爱情折磨的男主人公罗彻斯特(Mr Rochester)从水深火热的炼狱中拯救出来。不仅如此,她在追求爱情的过程中不卑不亢、凭着她的大胆和个人魅力让男主人公 Mr Rochester 肃然起敬。而当简·爱知道 Mr Rochester 已经成立家庭后,为了保留自己的尊严,她毅然决然地放弃了这一段刻骨铭心的爱情,果断地离开了他。直到有一天,当她听到 Mr Rochester 为了抢救大火中的妻子而使得自己双目失明成为残疾人以后,又毫不犹豫地重新回到了他的身边。这就是真爱的一种吧,只要心灵能相互交织在一起,即使身体上有缺陷,也抵挡不住两个相爱的人。

两个人的心态和做法如此的不同,为什么呢?她们的生活环境和受到的文化影响当然不是唯一的原因,但是一定是主要因素。

林黛玉是一种婉约的爱情代表,含蓄而委婉的爱情; 而简·爱敢爱敢恨,敢于将自己的想法表达出来并且付诸于行动。

林黛玉生活在中国封建社会,受到当时中国传统文化的影响,她对爱情的表达方式是含蓄的、委婉的, 不敢公开、大胆追求自己渴望的爱情,所以她的爱情过程是隐晦曲折的,幸福与痛苦并存。简·爱在对待爱情方面,一直保持着独立平等的信念。在与 Mr Rochester 相识、相知、以及相爱的浪漫过程中,她身上那别具一格的自尊自爱精神让 Mr Rochester 着迷,但是简·爱不愿意作为男人的附属品而存在,她追求自由、平等、独立,她认为女性应该有能够施展自己才华的平台、职业,要通过自己的努力,真正地做到在经济上独立。Mr Rochester 可以给她带来物质上的满足但是她更愿意继续做家庭教师,让自己在经济上可以独立,让她可以被 Mr Rochester 尊重。

通过对简·爱与林黛玉爱情观的对比,我们可以发现,影响她们两个人爱情观的主要因素是中西文化的不同。由于中西方文化之间的差异,使得中西方人对待爱情的观念是不同的,得到爱情的结果也是不同的。至少那个时代是这样。中国人对待爱情的态度不如西方人那样大胆热烈,这也是造成两个女性不同爱情结局的主要原因之一。林黛玉最终未能和贾宝玉在一起,而简·爱呢,听众们,简·爱嫁给了 Mr Rochester。

Okay,从两个国籍的女主人公身上我们看到了中西文化的差异。一个在封建社会中成长的女人对待爱情和一个生活在开放社会中的女人相比确实缺少了一点勇气和胆量。当然,我们现在的生活态度已经跟以前不一样了。不是所有中国女生都像林黛玉一样,同时也不是所有西方女生都像简·爱一样,但是有些中国女生身上可能会有一点林黛玉的影子,一些西方女生身上也会有跟简·爱相像的地方。

我觉得,不论男女,自尊、自爱是极其重要的。爱情有很多种,在自尊自爱的基础上,只要大家幸福、开心就好。

下一周的文化内涵可能会明显下降,我想分享一下我自己的生活。随着疫情的发展我自己的生活也有了些改变。有兴趣的话可以听一下,没有太大兴趣的话,大家可以跳过,我不会介意的。那好,我们下次见。

In this episode, I talk about a plum that’s been banned in China. What kind of plum? The kind that’s in a golden vase! If you know what I’m talking about, you’re probably already secretly smirking along. If not, it’s about time that you find out!

Chinese Version

English Version

哈喽,大家好。我是Kaycee。

今天我们来看看我们中国的四大名著哈。四大名著就是中国文学史中的四本经典作品,是世界宝贵的文化遗产。现在分别是《水浒传》《三国演义》《西游记》和《红楼梦》。这四部巨著在中国文学史上的地位是难分高低的,都有着极高的文学水平和艺术成就,细致的刻画和所蕴含的深刻思想。其中的故事、场景、人物已经深深地影响了中国人的思想观念、价值取向。

有趣的是“四大名著”其实是个约定俗成的说法,没有谁去指定说,中国最经典的文学作品就是这四个了。没有。它是经过多年慢慢演变成现在这四本小说的。

最开始,明代著名的文学批评家叫王世贞,是他最先提出了”四大奇书“这个名词,但他讲的“四大奇书”,指的是《史记》、《庄子》、《水浒传》、《西厢记》。后来冯梦龙也提出了”四大奇书“的说法,而他指的则是《三国演义》、《水浒传》、《西游记》和《金瓶梅》。有人就说了,还是冯梦龙说的比较对,《史记》是历史散文,《庄子》是哲学散文集,《水浒传》是长篇小说,《西厢记》是戏曲剧本,都不是一类的东西怎么能把它们归类到一起呢?反而,冯梦龙所列出的四本小说,更能让人接受,《三国演义》、《水浒传》、《西游记》和《金瓶梅》都是长篇通俗小说,放在一起可以说是“四大奇书”,之后这四大奇书就广为流传,大家都知道了。听到金瓶梅,是不是有人偷笑了?对,说的就是你。

偷笑是因为他们知道《金瓶梅》在中国一度被视为诲淫小说。从清顺治年间起,全国各地查禁销毁各种淫词小说。后来清乾隆时期,我们的《红楼梦》出版了,这就代替了《金瓶梅》这本禁书,成为了“四大奇书”的一员。据说,现在在中国买到的《金瓶梅》依然都是净书,也就是说把那些激情的部分都删掉了,被括弧,此处删去多少多少个字所代替。在中国的朋友们不妨去书店看看是不是这样,帮我verify,确认一下。《金瓶梅》这个故事现在在网上是可以找到的,如果大家想研究一下的话,可以去看看。

金瓶梅

那好,我们先初步了解一下《金瓶梅》这本书。它出版时间大概是1617年,作者是兰陵笑笑生,这是个笔名哈。我们至今都不知道作者到底是谁。

我觉得这本书很有可能是世界上最早成功发表的一本fan fiction,同人小说。为什么这么说呢?因为小说题材是由《水浒传》里武松杀嫂一段演化而来。通过对兼有官僚、恶霸、富商三种身份的西门庆和他一家人的罪恶生活的描述,作者还原了当时社会民间生活的面貌,揭露了当时社会的黑暗和腐败。

说说《金瓶梅》的名字。字面上看,《金瓶梅》是由三位女主的名字所形成的。潘金莲的金,李瓶儿的瓶,庞春梅的梅 — 《金瓶梅》。这是浅层次的,还有更深层次的寓意。

一是“不长久”的寓意。金瓶梅有梅插金瓶的意思,画面很美有没有?粉色的梅花插在金色的瓶子里。 画面都这么美好了,我们不扒一扒不行啊。有一些专家分析,金属秋,梅花属春冬,时令不对,有冲突,不和谐。另外一种冲突是金瓶,很高大上嘛,有一种高雅的美。而梅树,梅花却是很常见的植物,很普通。把梅花插在金瓶里有一种把一个极其普通的人硬插在豪华的上流社会中,不是很和谐。很有可能被上流社会中的金钱和权利所诱惑而带偏。

而且金瓶是金属嘛,一个没有生命的东西,但是梅树是有生命的,你把梅花剪下来放在瓶子里,它是注定要凋谢的。梅花的花语有着和平、快乐、顺利、长寿、幸运的意思,那如果插在瓶子里的梅花注定要凋谢的话,那就代表我们最终一定会失去这些美好的东西。多悲惨啊。

还有一层意思是你读完书才能体会到的。书里的西门庆是一个好色好酒的人物。那金瓶可以说是酒的容器,梅花好看,嫩粉的颜色,象征着色。而梅花插在金瓶里那种空虚,绝望的感觉就已经隐隐约约地透露出故事情节和结局了。

那《金瓶梅》为什么能成为四大奇书之一呢?作为中国第一部具有近代意味的现实主义文学巨著,《金瓶梅》是中国古代小说发展的重要的里程碑。从很多方面,这本书都突破了中国长篇小说的传统模式。

从题材方面就很明显了,《金瓶梅》摆脱了之前很流行的英雄豪杰、神仙妖魔类型的题材,写出来了现实生活中,普通人家的是非善恶。

《金瓶梅》之前的长篇小说,在批评社会黑暗的同时,更多的是着力讴歌美好的理想,表现出浓厚的浪漫主义色彩;而《金瓶梅》则实现了中国古代小说审美观念的大转变,写出了世道上的凶恶,生活中的丑陋,是一本彻底的暴露文学。它在表现丑的时候,常常用白描手法,揭示人物言行之间的矛盾,达到强烈的讽刺效果,这种写法对此后的讽刺文学有极大的影响。

人物呢,也是写的更立体了,从单色调变为多色调。作者多层次地刻划人物性格,能细致如微地揭示人物复杂的内心世界,在一些人物形象中出现了美丑并举的矛盾组合,写出了人物性格的丰富性、复杂性和流动性,实现了小说艺术的重大突破。

不仅人物变得多色调了,故事结构也变的复杂了。之前的长篇小说基本上是线性发展的结构形式,由一个个故事连结而成。《金瓶梅》则是网状结构。以西门庆一家为中心辐射到整个社会,使全书组成一个意脉相连、情节相通的生活之网。读起来精彩,顺畅。

再来看看语言,《金瓶梅》之前的长篇小说用的大多是书体语言,向着规范化和雅驯化的方向发展。《金瓶梅》却代表了小说语言发展的另一方面,向遵循口语化、俚俗化的方向发展。它运用鲜活生动的市民口语,带着浓郁淋漓的市井气息来描述剧情,用非常个性化的语言来刻画人物。

所以,不管是从题材、作品概念、人物、还是语言,它都突破了中国长篇小说的传统模式,在艺术上为长篇小说开拓了多方面的创新,为中国古代小说的演进作出了历史性的贡献。可惜的是这本小说的作家太前卫了,那个时期的中国还接受不了这种带有黄色色彩的小说,更接受不了对当时上层生活的露骨的写实。上层社会的人当然不想被恶化,所以干脆以黄色的名义把它禁掉。

这大概就是《金瓶梅》了,诚实的写出了人间烟火,人性缺陷的一本书。我在想要不要把《金瓶梅》做成一本有声书。Audible 上有《金瓶梅》但是是以评书的方式来演绎《金瓶梅》的,就是用白话来描述书里的剧情,并没有按照书中原有的语言来读。确实,书中的字句诗词也并不是特别好理解。那我就再想想。如果做了的话,你们会听吗?会听的话,就请大家点赞留言。

想试听一下Audible上版本的朋友们,我的网站上有一个Audible的链接,用这个链接可以获取Audible上一本免费的书。打开链接,你们按照正常方式搜索《金瓶梅》就可以免费的听了。但是Audible上的《金瓶梅》好像是分为四本,这个链接只能让你免费听其中一本。我猜YouTube上应该也会有类似的音频。

那好,我们今天就先到这儿,我们下周见。

Hi everyone, it’s Kaycee.

In China’s literary world, there is something called the Four Masterpieces. “Water Margin”, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, “Journey to the West” and “Dream of the Red Chamber”. It’s hard to say which book is better, they’re all of such high calibre and artistic importance that it’s generally agreed these are the four classic literature pieces. The intricacies of the text have produced concepts, stories and characters that have gone on to shape the views and values of the Chinese society at large.

What’s interesting is that the Four Masterpieces isn’t a formalised group of classics, no person of authority said right, these are the four masterpieces, only these four, nothing else. No, it’s something that formed over time.

The first person to coin the term “the Four Literary Wonders” is a literary critic called Wang Shizhen (王世贞), of the Ming dynasty. I’ll just drop a note here to say that when I’m saying the Chinese names, I’m putting their surnames first followed by their given name.

For him, the four masterpieces are:

  1. 史记, the “Records of the Grand Historian”, which is a monumental history of ancient China and the world. It was finished at around 94 BC and the work covers the world as it was known to the Chinese at the time, over a period of 2,500 years.
  2. 庄子 “Zhuangzi”, which is an ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC), it contains stories and anecdotes that exemplify the carefree nature of the ideal Taoist sage and is considered one of the two foundational texts of Taoism.
  3. 水浒传,“Water Margin”, which is a 14th-century Chinese novel. The story, set in the Song dynasty, tells of how a group of 108 outlaws gather together to form a sizable army before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces. Sounds a bit like the Suicide Squad.
  4. 西廂記,“Romance of the Western Chamber”, written sometime between 1295 and 1307. The story is set in the Tang dynasty and is the story of a young couple consummating their love without parental approval. I’ve not read yet but it gives me a Romeo and Juliet vibe.

So that’s his list. Then, a Chinese historian, novelist, and poet of the late Ming Dynasty called Feng Menglong (冯梦龙) came along and said, actually, the four masterpieces should be: 《水浒传》 (“Water Margin”), 《三国演义》 (“Romance of the Three Kingdoms”), 《西游记》(“Journey to the West”) and 《金瓶梅》 (“The Plum in the Golden Vase”). Over time, more and more people agreed with Feng Menglong because Wang Shizhen’s list contained a non-fiction history book, a book of philosophical essays, a fictional novel and a play, in that order. These are books from different genres so how can you put them in a single category? Feng Menglong’s list of four books, however, are all of the same category, they’re all fictional novels, so it made much more sense.

Now, some people may have smirked at the “The Plum in the Golden Vase”, not because of the funny name but because for a very long time, the book was banned in China due to its sexually explicit content. During the Qing dynasty, any book that had any sexually explicit elements were collected and destroyed. Even now, I think the versions of “The Plum in the Golden Vase” found in book shops in China are redacted versions. I haven’t been able to verify this for myself but if anyone can verify this, please let me know.

The Chinese version of the book can be found easily on the internet and there are English translated versions available as well if people wanted to have a read. The best English version I hear is the one translated by David Tod Roy in 1993. I haven’t read the English version so I can’t comment on how good it actually is but if anyone has read it, please let me know your comments.

Anyway, let’s have a look at the book itself. “The Plum in the Golden Vase” was published in 1617 or thereabouts. It was written by someone under the pseudonym of Lan Ling Xiao Xiao Sheng, which literally translates to something like “the scoffing scholar of Lanling”. To this day we don’t know the true identity of the author.

The Plum in the Golden Vase, I think this might have been the world’s first successfully published fan fiction because the story is derived from a scene in Water Margin, specifically when Wu Song killed his sister in law.

“The Plum in the Golden Vase” centers on a character called Ximen Qing (西門慶), a corrupt social climber and lustful merchant who is wealthy enough to marry six wives and concubines. Through events that happen to Ximen Qing and his family, we get a line of sight into the corruption that went on in the 17th century.

The name of the book itself derives from the three female lead characters, taking a character from each of their names. I won’t go into it in detail because when you translate their names into English in a literal way, it’s very hard to take the book seriously. What is a perfectly fine name, when you translate it into English, it become a bit non-sensical and a bit weird so I’ll just leave it as that. I can however go into the analysis of the name of the book.

So, as you can imagine, the name of the book can give rise to various interpretations. Literally, the name 《金瓶梅》means plum in a golden vase, I understood it to be plum flowers in a golden vase, like taking a twig from the plum tree with blossoming flowers still on it and sticking it in a golden vase. It looks visually pleasing but let’s take a closer look. A golden vase is likely to be made of metal or I guess it could have been glass as well, so golden vase, expensive, dead metal or whatever kind of gold metal it is and then you have the plum tree which is a living thing that’s quite common in China. The language of the plum flower is of peace, happiness, success, longevity and good fortune. If you break off a twig from a plum tree, or any tree, what happens? It wilts and dies. So if you have plum flowers in a golden vase, then it’s bound to wilt, which means we are bound to lose these good virtues symbolised by the plum flower. What a tragedy.

There’s another layer of meaning in the name where you can only truly feel once you’ve read the book. Ximen Qing is someone who likes his alcohol and women. The golden vase can be interpreted as a container for alcohol, plum flowers is of a light pink colour and symbolises sexuality. If it’s just the plum flower in the golden vase, you get a sense of emptiness and despair, which foreshadows what’s going to happen in the story.

So why is “The Plum in the Golden Vase” considered one of the Four Masterpieces? It broke the traditional way of how fictional novels were written in a number of ways.

Before this book was published, fictional books were generally only about heroes or of the fantasy genre, fairies and the like. This book is set in the every day life of China about human nature, it’s a much more realistic and more relatable story.

The darkness of human nature that it unveils is another breakthrough, it’s one of the first books in China, if not the first, to depict the dark side of human nature. It uses a Chinese literature technique called “白描” which translates to “white drawing”, which helps the author to maximise sarcasm and satire. This “white drawing” technique means a way of writing that’s just plain Chinese, without any other meanings or techniques at play. I guess it’s putting sub-text to the forefront. This method then went on to heavily influence satirical texts to come.

The characters in “The Plum in the Golden Vase” are also complex characters as opposed to the simpler, 2 dimensional characters often seen literature pieces beforehand. The characters often embody both good and evil, beauty and ugliness, full of contradictions and complexities, which was a major breakthrough in Chinese literature.

The language of the book also went against the grains and used vernacular Chinese as opposed to imperial Chinese that was the standard approach at the time. This helped to bring out the atmosphere of the scenes much more and really allowed the characters on the page to come alive. The book has often been described as a “milestone” in Chinese fiction for its character development, particularly its complex treatment of female figures.

Now, the story does contain a surprising number of descriptions of sexual objects and coital techniques that would be considered fetish today, as well as a large amount of sexual jokes and euphemisms. Some critics have argued that the highly sexual descriptions are essential, and have exerted what has been termed as a “liberating” influence on other Chinese novels that deal with sexuality, most notably the Dream of the Red Chamber.

So the book has broken the traditional mould in a number of ways and, really, revolutionised fictional writing in China. It’s unfortunate that the author was too ahead of his time. China at that time, especially the Qing dynasty, was unable to accept the level of sexual detail nor the level of corruption that went on in the upper echelon of society at the time, leading the book to be banned for a very long time.

I think Princeton University Press summed it up perfectly, the novel is “a landmark in the development of the narrative art form—not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context…noted for its surprisingly modern technique” and with only a few exceptions “there is no earlier work of prose fiction of equal sophistication in world literature.”

So that’s that, the forbidden plum of China, The controversial “Plum in the Golden Vase”. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode, see you next week.