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TraditionalLiterature: Love in the Fallen City by Elieen Chang

Setin Shanghai China the novella Lovein a Fallen City exemplifiesthe lives of women living in the modern world but ensnared byrestricted options and social restriction of the traditional way ofliving. They are coerced to find ways to balance between freedom andrespectability. Love in the City is one of Chang’s classical worksthat talk about women and men living in the contemporary world,especially women who are left with no option but to maneuver thetreacherous course from the world of traditional China liberties,aspirations, and perils of the modern world (Kingsbury1).

Theyoung window who happens to be the main character in the storyconstantly calculates her chances for security and perhaps love in aworld largely dominated by men. The author adopts a simplistic modelof the world that proves inadequate as the story develops (Kingsbury1).It is distorted by the complexities of real life, and the whole globeis under constant jeopardy of destruction. The author insight intothe union between a man and a woman and the bond that unites a coupletogether resonates with the way of life of traditional Chinesecommunities (Lo1).

Theblend of traditional Chinese culture and the Western influences inthe story ‘Lovein a Fallen City’ indicatehow communities have integrated new ways of life, practices andnorms.

Witha powerful and sharp language, Chang dissects the enormous divide inthe Chinese culture, between the conventional patriarchy and ourdistressed modernity. Love in the fallen city explores the numerousways that love can break the barrier and overcome strong socialconstraints of place and time. Changs constantly encumber most of hercharacters with subdued prospects and failed dreams that coerce themto brush aside the strong curtains of conventions and family.

Thoughlove in the fallen city appears like a romantic story, it highlightsthe many barriers that couples in traditional Taiwanese and Chinesesociety had to overcome before marriage. Characters in the epic donot truly love one another and their love and marriage union was morelike a trade (Kingsbury1).The author depicts Bai and Fan , the main characters at the center ofthe love story as both cynical and selfish, who enter into theinstitution of marriage for the sheer need to access what they wantin life other than companionship. Chang’s work exemplifies thetension between women and men in the old days when Hong Kong wasunder colonial rule. The love between Bai and Fan cause the fall ofthe Hong Kong city, just as suggested in the title, but it is thiscollapse of the city that helped the two lovebirds to get married(Kingsbury1).In this era marriage was so important to both men and women such thatit totally smothered their ability to love. In the modern world, themost important thing was the profit that one could get by being in arelationship and marriage.

TheStone, the golden Days by Cao Xueqin

Symbolical,metaphysical and intensely pragmatic, the enormous scale of theStory of the Stoneoffers something for all people. A rich family chronicle, adisastrous love fairy-tale, and a philosophical inspection, it is oneof those exceptional books in which one can lose oneself totally andcompletely. The epic starts with the narration of the stone, aparanormal entity that possesses capability to wind up the mortalworld and is therefore under obligation to search for a path toenlightment (Lonsdal 1). The fate of the stone is inherently cryptedwith another creature that comes from the land of illusion, theCrimson Pearl Flower. Thestone is liable for its transformation into a beautiful girl and sheswears to reimburse him with ‘’a debt of tear’’ (Lonsdal 1).This means that she is ready to suffer for as a long as is worldlypossible. The stone expresses how the epic-The Story of the Stone- isa mark of his path to enlightment, and describes the journey so as toassist others who may want to pursue the same goal. Too strange, toospiritual, persistence seems as the only framing device of the story,and the more ordinary world is rapidly entered.

Themain characters are Bao yu, Bao-chai and Dai-yu and the storyexplains the developing love story among the three characters.Through the epic, Cao Xueqin makes deliberate efforts to exemplifythe lifestyle of a wealthy Chinese family in traditional days. Theepic is narrated beside the setting of a fictional supernatural stonethat is brought into life by the character of the roguish Bao-yu anda CrimsonPearl Flower broughtto life by Dai-yu. It is unknown to the two parties they were awareof one another in the land of Illusion, long prior to being madeliving beings. Bao-yu, the stone watered Dai –yu with dew so thatCrimson pearl Flower could assume the figure of a beautiful girl(Lonsdal 1). It is this gesture of giving her life that promptsDai-yu to mention that it will take her an entire lifetime to be in aposition to repay the stone, Bao-yu for his kindness. She cannotfathom anything in the world that would reimburse Bao-yu enough forgiving her life. Therefore, anytime she cries in the story, it issymbolic of Dai-yu repaying the stone for the gift of life (Lonsdal1).

Nonetheless,when they change to mortal humans they lives begin to get complicatedand rife with numerous challenges (Lonsdal 1). First, Dai-yu has acousin who named Bao-chai who brings her considerable grief becauseof the fact that she is much more beautiful than her and as such shefears she might snatch her boyfriend. Dai-yu also believes that sheis much more inferior to her cousin and that she cannot match hercharms and beauty. The epic come to an end with Dai-yu crying at thedoor of her cousin because of a misapprehension that has made her notinvited to a forthcoming event (Lonsdal 1).

Followingthe main story, it is evident that the author Xueqin endeavors toshare the life and glamour of a wealthy Chinese family in ancientsocietal setting. Xueqin talks of numerous events such as partiesand funerals which last for many days and that consume colossal sumsof resources (Lonsdal 1). Descriptions of the bond and relationshipbetween family, off springs and servants and the health practices ofaffluent families are thoroughly explored. The value that ancientChinese communities attached on girls child is also visible, veryconspicuous in the act of building a separate residence for a girl.

Allthrough the story, there are indications that money is an importantingredient that holds a family together. The materialistic nature ofmost male characters perhaps an indication of the general societyover emphasis on monitory prowess is all too evident. The wealthy Jiafamily starts to disintegrate when monetary wealth begins todiminish. Male children immediately become the heir when the man ofthe house dies, and this serves to show the different role that maleand female children played in the Chinese culture (Lo 54).

Theinterplay between illusion and reality is also made profusely clear.In the land of illusion it is evident that the two lovers, though intheir in animate forms are living freely without challenges, Bao-yu(the stone) and Dai-yu as the flower (Lonsdal 1). Their happiness iscut short the moment they are transformed into mortal human and theystart experiencing life from another perspective. The first thingthey realize is that their life is dependent on the life of otherfamily members who have significant influence on whatever they do andwhich people they relate with (Lonsdal 1). Unlike in their unrealworld where life was simple and cozy, in the new form everythingseems very complicated. The author seeks to highlights the huge gapthat exists between our dreams and reality. Nothing can halt humanthought from wandering into the sea of ideas and utopia. Dai-yu hasto constantly face that agony of measuring up to the standards of hergallant relative.


Inthe story of the stone, the author offers a vast deal of insight intothe culture of traditional Chinese in the way his explanation of theprotocol, anticipations, manners and consequences are framed. Fussilydescribed with immense psychological insight, the author relays theimportance of family ties, relations between people of differentcastes, and genders (Lo54).In the epic Bai-yu is required to meet his entire obligation in themortal world in the course of attaining enlightenment. He has to takecharge as the heir of the Jia family after the demise of the father,has to sit for examination and has to marry. In another instancepeople look down upon Bao-yu because he is close to females in thefamily. These phenomena symbolize the life of an ordinary Chinese manand the expectations of society.

In this era it was odd for a boy to spend time with girls. In thissociety it is acceptable for a man to have many wives, while it isexpected that a woman must only remain faithful to one man. Eventhough all these obligations overwhelm men, and Chinese boys, thereseems to be not reprieve. It is therefore not a wonder that Bao-yuachieves enlightenment which encompasses turning back into immortalstone (Lonsdal 1). Lovein a Fallen City illustrateshow difficult it was for women in traditional Asian societies to livein world dominated by men. In this story Bai and Fan fall in lovewith selfish desires but neither party is aware of this fact, norwishes to follow their heart. Marriage is an important institution inthese days such that it supersedes individual preferences, feelingsand even love.As aforementioned, the blend of traditional Chinese culture and theWestern influences in the story of one stone and ‘Lovein a Fallen City’ indicateshow communities in ancient Chinese society valued traditions, normsand social practices as important component for creation of acomplete society.



Kingsbury,K.Loveof Selfish People—Analysis of Love In A Fallen City.2009.Accessed from:

Lonsdale,Anne. TheStory of the Stone(TheDream of the Red Chamber)by Cao Xueqin. 2012. Accessed from:

Lo,Helen.TheContinuation of Papers in Far Eastern History.Institute of Advanced Studies. Australia National University. 1995.Accessed from: