The Formative Years of Cao Xueqin 1715–1745
8. “Stirred Feelings Find Expression in Sound”
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“Stirred Feelings Find Expression in Sound”
The theater was a key part of eighteenth century Chinese literati life. Historians Susan Nanquin and Evelyn Rawski have gone so far as to claim that “More than any other activity, drama in the Qing period contributed to cultural integration and to the vitality of a Chinese culture in which all could share.”1 This fascination with drama was particularly true of Cao Xueqin, who like Jia Bao-yu, loved reading dramas, watching plays, and keeping company with actors. He was also highly influenced by the techniques of drama and intrigued by the genre’s literary possibilities, so much so that according to Red Inkstone Cao had originally planned Honglou meng to be a verse drama instead of a novel.2
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