Summary and Analysis
Volume I: Chapter 6
In the first five chapters, the author provides us with a good overview of the Chia family. In addition, he gives us general information about related matters that pertain to the Shih, Wang, and Hsueh families. In this way, he sets up a number of intricate plot developments, and from this chapter on, the main plot of the story will begin unwinding, step by step.
Taught the secret of lovemaking by the Goddess of Disenchantment while he was dreaming, Pao-yu is in such a trance when he awakens that he is startled to find that his trousers are wet and sticky, a situation also discovered by Hsi-jen, Pao-yu's maid, as she helps him adjust his clothes.
After revealing his dream to Hsi-jen, Pao-yu tells her that she should learn what the Goddess has taught him. Giggling as she hears Pao-yu tell about "the sport of cloud and rain," she agrees to do so. Thus Pao-yu experiences lovemaking with a real woman for the first time.
Meanwhile, Kou-erh, a remote clansman of Lady Wang, has decided to send his mother-in-law, Granny Liu, to visit Lady Wang in order to try to get some financial help; his family is almost destitute. Granny Liu says that she will go and try her luck although she considers the threshold of a noble house to be "deeper than the sea."
Introduced by the wife of the steward of the mansion, Granny Liu and her young grandson, Pan-erh, are welcomed into the Chia family and received by Wang Hsi-feng (Phoenix), Lady Wang's niece, a very clever and competent woman. Hsi-feng has a sharp tongue and runs the family affairs in Lady Wang's place because Lady Wang is not in good health.
During Granny Liu's visit to the Jung Mansion, the author shows us the influence and extravagance of the Chia family. Granny Liu's reaction to the Chia family, as well as her meeting Wang Hsi-feng , makes us feel the family's tremendous aristocratic momentum and its imposing magnificence and, at the same time, we realize that this large household of almost four hundred people has enormous, serious difficulties. The author makes us aware of these difficulties, preparing us for the family's decline in later pages.