Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.
This is the opening section; this the
first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the
true circumstances, and borrowed the
attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use
of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?
Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I felt that
in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact, compare with these characters
of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail, as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.
On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to (universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence of Heaven,
and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine, and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the bounty of education and
nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends,
with the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have been meanwhile, generation
after generation, those in the inner
chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.
Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share,
are not sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind. And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,
the willows by the steps and the
flowers in the courtyard, methinks these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen
with ink; but though I lack
culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the merits of these characters? And were I also able to
induce the inmates of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides
break the weariness of even
so much as a single moment, or could I open the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?
This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts’un and other similar appellations.
More than any in these pages have been
employed such words as dreams and visions;
but these dreams constitute the main
argument of this work, and combine,
urthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my readers.
Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?