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Kim Man-Choong. "The Cloud Dream of the Nine Illustrated."

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message 1: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments "Kim Manjung’s novel asks the ageless question: what is the meaning of life?" -- Susanna Fessler,

message 2: by Betty (last edited Aug 31, 2018 12:02PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments When the dreamer Song-jin awakens after the Cloud Dream with its character Master Yang, he considers the interplay of reality and fantasy in life.

Francisca Cho in "Comparing Kuunmong and the Modern Novel" writes, "So-yoo [Master Yang], the main character of the frame tale, or the dream sequence [...] comprises the bulk of the novel [...]"

message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 14 comments Thanks for the links, Asmaa. I come to this read with very little knowledge of Korean culture, history and lit. Really, what I know has been picked up indirectly by reading Japanese lit, which obviously results in some big old gaps, among other things. In any event, I plan to start next weekend and look forward to the book and the discussion.

Have you read or started it?

message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Carol,
Just browsing the contents and exploring related material while awaiting the starting day, September 1.

message 5: by Betty (last edited Sep 01, 2018 11:08AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments The Cloud Dream of the Nine: Illustrated begins with Elspet Keith Robertson Scott's Introduction. After a synopsis, she says that the story portrays the "ideal of a commingling of earthly paradises and fairy heavens". A youthful Buddhist acolyte Song-jin meets eight fairies at the entrance of a bridge. After Song-jin tosses a magical blossom, they fly away. Each of the nine participants transmigrates to a new life in a far-flung place. The young male becomes a son in the Yang family and demonstrates renown filial piety. Successful in a competitive examination, fame and wealth attach to his scholarly and military career. The fairy sprites get reborn as individual female characters with accomplished "intellectual and artistic" pursuits displayed in circumscribed circumstances. Jewel, Cloudlet, Chin See, Moonlight, Wildgoose, Swallow, White-Cap, and Princess Orchid all have romances with Master Yang and become wives. There are playful ruses, sumptuous feasts, and scenic beauty. The dream returns to the Great Teacher of the monastery from the beginning and a happy ending.

message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter 1 titled 'Transmigration' describes the young Buddhist's unintentional transgression of norms (drinking wine, speaking with fairy messengers on a bridge, attracted by fragrances, and keeping in mind those experiences). Sent to Hades, the land of the dead, by the monastery's Great Teacher, he finds the eight fairies also just arrived there. The King of Hades and the God of the Buddhists Chee-jang return Song-jin to the land of the living as a newborn baby in a hermit's family as complements his "will and purpose."

message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter II highlights Yang's encounter with lovely Chin See as he journeys from his village to the capital to take a competitive Examination. In a tranquil, fragrant environment amid green willows and flowering vines, the youths exchange poetic messages for a proposed marriage. When rebels enter the town and close the gates, Yang flees into the mountains. There, an otherworldly Taoist seer reiterates the theme of filial piety for parents, teaches Yang to play the harp and flute, gifts him a book, and predicts his future.

message 8: by Betty (last edited Sep 04, 2018 01:03PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Quotations from Chapter III include the following:
"Where my heart goes I will go, but who can tell in advance where this shall be?"

"[T]here are many devils to interfere in what is good and sweet [...]"

"Your words are like gold and jewels to me, and shall be written on my heart."
This chapter continues Yang's journey from the remote village to the capital city to rise in the world by passing or winning a competitive examination. Along the way, he meets the dancing girl Kay See at a festive gathering. She reads the compositions submitted to her by male attendees and sings the one best verse.

message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter IV sees Yang's arrival at the capital, going to the place of his mother's cousin (a priestess). Though the examination nears, there's talk of marriage for Yang. The conversation focuses on Justice Cheung's beautiful, knowledgeable, remote daughter, and Yang disguises himself as a female musician to determine the extent of her beauty close-up. He plays eight songs on the harp, all of which she identifies by title and story. His ninth embarrasses her because of its theme and the musician's commanding presence and male face. A reader discovers those causes for her embarrassment through her revelation of thoughts to a close companion Cloudlet.

message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments In Chapter V, Cheung's beautiful, accomplished daughter announces her suspicions about the pretend priestess (harpist; Yang). She with others lay a ruse for him after he comes back in his real identity as the winning scholar of the examinations and the ardent suitor for her hand.

message 11: by 未知生焉知死 (last edited Sep 07, 2018 06:13AM) (new)

未知生焉知死 Anvil | 16 comments Asmaa wrote: The Cloud Dream of the Nine: Illustrated begins with Elspet Keith Robertson Scott's Introduction.

Does he mention that Kim ManJung's contemporaries presumed (for some good reasons) that he wrote the novel to please his mother who was a fan of (fantasy) novels?

message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments *Yes, Moot. Section 3 of Elspet Keith Robertson Scott's "Introduction" says of the author's "aim in writing it was to cheer and comfort his mother." The reason given pertains to his absence from home while in exile.

*And, during the long dream which promotes Confucian values, Yang contains in himself valued traits. His youth and physical beauty, wide learning and skills bring him fame, wealth, social status, and offers of marriage. Female characters, too, demonstrate rare accomplishments in the fields of arts, music, and literature. Their achievements grow not from any worldly experience but within their compound.

*"The thought underlying the story is that earth's best attainments are fleeting vanity and that without religion nothing avails."--Introduction. The finale finds that all nine characters return to the Buddhist monastery in the mountains wherein "Truth" is sought.

message 13: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter VI continues the deception which Jewel orchestrates to give Master Yang a taste of his own medicine. Cloudlet (Chang-yo) takes the guise of a fairy (disembodied spirit) to amuse Yang in the remote pavilion during the period he's waiting for his marriage to Jewel. Other characters in the ruse, Yang's friend Thirteen, who secretly places a protective amulet under Yang's top knot, and the clairvoyant Professor Too Chin-jin, who reads faces, anger Yang by interfering with his happiness. Jewel's father, Justice Cheung surrounded by everybody in the household, reveals to Yang how and why the joke came about much to the enjoyment of all who gathered to listen.

Later in the chapter, the King calls upon Minister Yang because of three outlying rebellions. Yang's suggestion for a diplomatic solution resolves the King's problems, restoring harmony. On Yang's grand return through Nakyang, he brings a beautiful male youth into his entourage, though the reader suspects its a masculine disguise. He also searches for and finds Moonlight.

message 14: by Betty (last edited Sep 10, 2018 09:06AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Kim Man-choong's great-grandfather
Korea-Portrait of Kim Jangsaeng

credits: (bio about Kim Man-choong) and (above picture, and info)

message 15: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter VII brings happy complications into Yang's life. It goes back to the homeward journey after his successful diplomacy for the Emperor. The male youth he finds along the route disguises the female Wildgoose, who under cover fled the Emperor's palace. One evening, she and her twin-like Moonlight change place to Yang's astonishment. Yang tells them to join him after his marriage.

Yang's anticipated matrimony with Jewel, Justice Cheung's daughter, temporarily becomes in doubt when the Emperor and Empress notify Yang of his suitability for their accomplished offspring Orchid. They had noted his literary skill and his other attributes when he had been asked to pen impromptu verses for all the ladies present. Unknown to him is that his first amour Chin See, whom he couldn't find, is among those women.

message 16: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter VIII.

The King requests that the ladies submit their fans on which Master Yang wrote verses to everyone's delight. Chin See explains to the King that she wrote a verse beneath the one Yang penned because of her and Yang's prior relationship.

A lot of confusion, hurt feelings, and pride continue to surround Yang's matrimonial situation, so much so that Yang sends the King a letter reminding him of established, Confucian duties and protocol. The King says that the Empress Dowager's continuing rancor about Yang's refusal to deny marriage agreements with Judge Cheung's daughter must give way to the kingdom's interests, the imminent invasion of the capital by Tibetan rebels. Breaking the ice, the King calls for Yang to opine on a defense strategy. In the field, Yang memorializes the victory then gets permission to put the invaders to rout.

In the camp, an enemy agent well trained in 'sword drill' and 'metamorphosis' steals into Yang's tent. Her menacing presence belies a different motive which transforms the night to one of festive betrothal.

message 17: by Betty (last edited Sep 13, 2018 09:27PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments In Chapter IX, the main character Yang has a dream during an imperiled, Imperial expedition. He rescues a mermaid with fish scales, who once was a fairy and is from the Dragon King's Water Palace, from the aggressive suitor the merman Nam-hai who insists on marriage with her. It's she and Yang who commit to an 'oath of marriage.' She transforms the sickening watering hole induced by her psychological state to sweet tasting water for Yang's troops, enabling their survival and success. The narrative shows the importance attached to the pleasant sensations of fragrances, visual beauty, and musical tunes. A wise man's gift for prophecy guides the mermaid by his predictions about her future with Yang. Presumably, she will shed the physical features of a mermaid.

message 18: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments At the start of Chapter X, General Yang continues dreaming as enemies hem in his thirsty troops. His dream takes him up into the spiritual peaks of Nam-ak Mountain to a Buddhist temple.

The scene shifts to the Imperial capital. The Empress Dowager and her daughter Orchid find themselves poles apart about Yang and Cheung See's betrothal. The princess suggests an array of sensible measures.

At Justice Cheung's house, Cloudlet opens the door to a person selling skillfully embroidered pictures. That encounter and further inquiries lead to Chin See of the Emperor's residence receiving invitations to visit the Cheung females to enjoy conversation.

message 19: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter XI unveils the news that Princess Orchid visited the Cheung residence in the disguise of Chin See with embroidered pictures for sale. Everybody got on well together and admired each other's accomplishments. Orchid (still in disguise) invites Cheung See to make a return visit. Orchid and Cheung See share a palanquin to make the journey. The truth then emerges. The Empress Dowager had commanded the wish to meet Orchid's beautiful, accomplished rival. In the audience with the Empress, Cheung See apologies for humbler origins, but the older woman counters that with facts of the young girl's noble lineage. Then, Orchid and Cheung See write verses for a poetry contest on the theme of "The Peach Flower and the Happy Jay-bird." The Empress designates Cheung See an adopted daughter and gives consent for Cheung See's marriage to Yang.

message 20: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter XII describes Yang's dream to the heavenly palace of "Seven Precious Things." An appendix note lists those attributes. A young General and Minister of State would highly rate possession of the following:
full moon
lovely ladies
guardians of the Treasury
great generals
wonder-working pearls
Cheung See perishes in the dream. His fantasy parallels the Empress Dowager's real ruse that she with others play on him.

General Yang meanwhile obtains the surrender of the rebellious leader Chan-bo with the latter's troops. And the Empress Dowager gathers around her Lady Cheung, Cheung See (Blossom), Cloudlet, Princess Orchid, and Chin See (Moonlight). All the youth admirably pen verses; some of them recall former lives as fairies.

The Empress announces her ruse on Yang to ascertain his devotion to Cheung See.

message 21: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Now the Imperial son-in-law, Master Yang, aka Prince of Wee, realizes that Orchid, Blossom [formerly Cheung See], Chin-See, and Cloudlet are playing a practical joke about Cheung See's death.
"The company forms itself into a league and plays all manner of tricks to befool its lord and master [...]"
He turns around the tomfoolery to play a trick on them after overhearing those same ladies reveal the ruse unawares. Laughter and delight ensue after the truth comes out.

With the permission of the Emperor who gifts thousands of rolls of silk and much else, Yang returns after a four-year absence to the ancestral home for his mother to bring her with him. The chapter concludes with feasting, procession, and dancing at the village, during the return, and at the palace.

message 22: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Hello everyone. I just joined the group because I'm interested in reading this book. I'll try to get caught up.

message 23: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 14 comments Susan wrote: "Hello everyone. I just joined the group because I'm interested in reading this book. I'll try to get caught up."


message 24: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Hi, Susan. This story is very much fun to read. And, it all happens in the ninth century. In some ways, it's reminiscent of a fairy tale. Reading fiction is to suspend belief. In many ways, the characters' psychologies are simpatico with modernity.

message 25: by Susan (last edited Sep 19, 2018 07:23AM) (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) I read the introduction to the Kurodahan Press edition by Susanna Fessler. She provides some background on the literary, philosophical, cultural, and historical contexts of the novel. My primary interest in reading this novel is philosophical. I’m curious about the religious and philosophical traditions in Korea.

In her comments on the translation by James S. Gale, she says: “Gale omits certain short passages at his discretion. For example, when Kim Manjung quotes a short passage from the Diamond Sutra in the last scene, Gale omits it.” She says that “none of this much changes the content of the book” (ix). I suspect I will disagree with her.

I have read multiple translations of some Chinese and Japanese books that I like and I have noticed that some translators play down the religious and philosophical character of the writings. Since this is what primarily interests me, such omissions do not go over well with me.

message 26: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Chapter XIV.
At the palace of Prince Wol (Orchid's brother), festive competitions among beautiful and accomplished women there and those of Master Yang's household ensue. Featured events include shooting with a bow, horse racing and riding, dancing (800 dancers), sword-dancing, harp music, and verse writing. A female Ok-yon catches the attention of Yang and others.

message 27: by Betty (last edited Sep 20, 2018 09:38AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Susan wrote: "My primary interest in reading this novel is philosophical. I’m curious about the religious and philosophical traditions in Korea. ..."

In addition to Rev. James Scarth Gale's translation, Richard Rutt also translated this story, Virtuous Women: Three Classic Korean Novels, A Nine Cloud Dream, Queen Inhyŭn, Chun-hyang [Google Books]. His Preface and Introduction describe how ninth-century men and women, i.e., different genders favored Confucianism or Buddhism. The orderliness prescribed by the former defined feminine roles while the latter attracted their spirituality. Men competed to win honors. The main character of Nine Cloud Dream Master Yang rises from the poverty of a remote village to win titles along with opulent riches and prestige, eventually bringing his mother to the palace. He comes first in the government's competitive literary examination then secures the kingdom from outlying states and rebels by a series of military victories. He acts as the pivotal figure around which the company of eight wives congregates. This story idealizes aristocratic lives as harmonious in contrast with actual conditions. How the two translations differ as they pertain to the inclusion of religion and philosophy is an intriguing prospect.

message 28: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Hi Beth. I am looking forward to the translation by Heinz Insu Fenkl that is coming out in 2019. It will be interesting to compare it with Gale's 1922 translation. The Richard Rutt translation is out-of-print, so I probably won't get to compare that one.

message 29: by James (new)

James F | 138 comments I'm afraid I forgot to comment on this, I've been very busy lately, but I did enjoy it and reviewed it -- I'll post my review and hope I get back to the discussion.

Kim Man-Choong (or Man-jung, to use the more modern transliteration) was a seventeenth-century (1637-1692) Korean author, and this is apparently considered a classic of Korean literature. It is the first Korean work I have read, so I don't really have much background for appreciating or discussing it. The version I read is an old translation by a Christian missionary; there is a more recent translation which is currently well beyond my budget, but which will be issued in paperback sometime next year.

The story is set in China under the Tang dynasty; there is a frame story about a Buddhist monk named Song-jin, who is punished for his momentary failure in ascetic attitude in talking to eight beautiful fairies by being reincarnated as So-Yoo, a poor young scholar. The novel then follows the life of So-Yoo and his marriages to eight beautiful women, who are actually the eight fairies also being punished by reincarnation; he becomes a rich and powerful official of the Emperor. I wouldn't mind being punished like this. The eight wives are far more interesting and active characters than I would have expected in a novel about polygamy; two dancing girls, a rich daughter and her maid, a sword wielding assasin, a mermaid princess, and the only daughter of the Emperor, all of whom are poets and scholars in their own right. At the very end (if this is a spoiler, the introduction already tells you everything about the plot), he suddenly realizes without any preparation that human happiness is transient, the old monk collects him, and he finds himself in his old cell, the whole live of So-Yoo having been a "cloud dream". The eight wives show up as the eight fairies and they all devote themselves to Buddhist asceticism.

The story of So-Yoo is an interesting love-story; I'm sure I would have appreciated the book much more if I were familiar with the conventions of this type of literature (and knew Korean). I found it difficult to take the frame story seriously; it seemed like the old porno stories that tacked a moral on the end to try to claim to the censors that they were promoting virtue. Perhaps a Buddhist would find it more convincing.

message 30: by Betty (last edited Sep 21, 2018 05:48PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Susan wrote: "... the translation by Heinz Insu Fenkl that is coming out in 2019. It will be interesting to compare it with Gale's 1922 translation..."

Hi, Susan,
The new translation is news and excellent, something to look forward to February. There will be three translations: Gale, Rutt, and Fenkl. The info is much appreciated.

The complete Rutt translation can be purchased in digital format at no cost from Google Books by signing in and buying the ebook, "Nine Cloud Dream" being the first story in the author's anthology Virtuous Women.

message 31: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments James wrote: "...I did enjoy it and reviewed it..."

It's a great, little story. One and a half chapters to read and can find only positive things to say about it.

message 32: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Whether true or showing off, a jealous scene and its resolution arise in Chapter XV. Because of all the previous idealized harmony between Prince Wol and Prince Wee (Minister of State Master Yang) and among the sisterhood of wives, this episode hints at the beginning of the dream's end. The offenses stem from Yang's group winning the competitions at the Festal Grounds and from some females feeling offended by others' frequent companionship with Yang. The offenders eat humble pie, figuratively speaking. The punishment is to drink a copious container of wine. Nearly every character is found guilty of something or other, including the old mother, and take the "wine punishment" to restore rapport.

Other events occur to enhance the story's spirituality and the theme of life's transitoriness, including the metamorphosis of fairies, the union of the sisterhood (wives) as disciples of Buddha, the children's births and parents' deaths, and Yang's request to retire from active service.

message 33: by Betty (last edited Sep 23, 2018 06:37PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments Some quotes from Chapter XVI are:
a man's life is only the span of a moment; and
the world and the dream itself are not different.

Yang's household experiences a long, happy retirement on Green Castle Mountain. However, one day the others listen to his sad tune on the flute. He replies that the empty castles on the surrounding hills point to the transitoriness of the former occupants.

An aging man, who visits the castle, Yang recognizes from one of his dreams [note: the dream within a dream]. The visitor also is the actual Great Teacher of the monastery, whom the reader met at the start of the book. He helps along the trend of Yang's thoughts to know the Buddha by letting darkness blot out the Confucian dream story of worldly affairs, like a black curtain closing off the end of a play. The ladies and Yang change back into fairies and Buddhist acolyte to pursue enlightenment.

message 34: by James (new)

James F | 138 comments The complete Rutt translation can be purchased in digital format at no cost from Google Books by signing in and buying the ebook, "Nine Cloud Dream" being the first story in the author's anthology Virtuous Women. -- Thank you for this link. I got that and I liked it better in Rutt's version, with a better introduction as well. The other two books he includes were also worth reading.

message 35: by Betty (last edited Oct 12, 2018 08:17PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments James wrote: "...Rutt's version, with a better introduction as well. ..."

I agree with you, James. Rutt's version possesses an informative introduction. I give it high marks. A reason that Gale's version might prevail could pertain to his marvelous illustrations, which Rutt acknowledges borrowing. Nevertheless, Virtuous Women: Three Classic Korean Novels is a great book.

message 36: by James (new)

James F | 138 comments "A reason that Gale's version might prevail could pertain to his marvelous illustrations, which Rutt acknowledges borrowing."

Possibly, but my guess is just that it's a lot easier to find. When I look for books, my first step is the library's catalog, which also includes the state's e-book collection, including the (English version of) Project Gutenberg. When I was ordering for the library, my next step would have been Ingram or Baker & Taylor (book brokers) but today it would be What I found there was many inexpensive Amazon copies of the Gale translation, and very expensive third party copies of the other two. At that point I stopped and requested my boss to buy the Gale version, which she did. If it hadn't been for your post here I would probably never have thought to look for it on Google play; that's one of my last resorts if I can't find something at all on Amazon (other possibilities are ScribeD and the foreign versions of Project Gutenberg; the very last ditch is the Internet archive, but their Kindle editions are usually unreadable gibberish from a bad scanner in my experience.) Perhaps I need to add Google to my standard "workflow".

message 37: by Betty (last edited Oct 14, 2018 07:28PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3662 comments James wrote: "... just that it's a lot easier to find..."

A search with the internet browser can take you right to a passage of a book in Google Books. It is astonishing the aggregate of prose which people digitized.

Unless a person already possesses the ebook from Amazon that level of search and find right down to the paragraph is minimal.

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