Chapter 307: Speechlessness!
A brief period of silence.
"It's still not right!"
"This opinion does not hold water!"
"Right, it definitely can't be written by Gao E!"
"Although there's no proof, but, but is there even need for proof?"
Many people who were not taking the "Appreciation of the Classics" elective class began to stir. However, at this moment, everyone also felt that they did not waste this trip and it had been worthwhile. Because no matter what Zhang Ye's perspective was, anyone easily knew that this public lecture would cause a stir in the education and literary world!
The straight As student, Senior Song just remained standing at her seat. Even if she were to sit down, she would soon stand up again to raise her questions. It was too troublesome as she had too many doubts and questions about Zhang Ye's perspective. She raised her hand again and asked her questions directly this time, "Sorry, Teacher Zhang. I still cannot accept your perspective. Your proof that the last 40 chapters were written by Gao E is still insufficient to explain the problem. There's too little information and too much left to our own imaginations. Besides, Gao E was just an arranger and collator of the manuscripts, he would not possess the literary skills to continue writing 'Dream of the Red Chamber' to such a good extent."
Zhang Ye wagged his finger saying, "Little Song, then you'd be wrong to think that."
"Why?" Senior Song asked.
All the other Peking University teachers looked towards Zhang Ye.
Zhang Ye said confidently, "Gao E had the qualities and conditions to carry on writing 'Dream of the Red Chamber'. In that era, I believe that only Gao E was up to the mark! Hur Hur, everyone don't look at me like that. You might not have much understanding of Gao E, and just believe him to be someone who just collated and arranged the work. However, you do not know his background. If everyone does not believe me, then fine. I had first started my argument from an angle using information. Next, I will use a psychological standpoint to talk about it. Well, actually it's not very important. It's fine if I don't mention it, but do you want to listen to it?"
"It's a must!"
Senior Song also nodded her head.
Even if they did not agree, they still wanted to hear it.
Zhang Ye acknowledged, "Alright, then I'll speak briefly about it. Gao E had always been assigned the title of the publisher and collator, but many people actually do not know that Gao E's literary level was his most dazzling accomplishments." He noticed Professor Zeng was nodding slightly his head as he said, "Looks like Professor Zeng is aware of this."
Professor Zeng affirmed, "Teacher Zhang is right. Anyone with eyes would appreciate him. That was the evaluation of Gao E's contemporaries."
Zhang Ye smiled as he continued to explain, "This is how it was. Gao E was an extremely talented man. 'Often distressed by his frustrations, his talents exceeded everyone else' could be used to describe Gao E's life. Never short of experiencing ups and downs, this made his life very similar to Cao Xueqin's. In his early years, he would be held back in the Imperial examinations while his later years were spent on a dull career that left him emotionally distressed. This put him very close to Cao Xueqin's emotional experiences and allowed him to complete that captivating tragic ending of the novel. Additionally, we just need to look through the information and we'd know that Gao E was an honest man, often encouraging and advising his disciples about filial piety and striving for the Imperial examinations He was very skilled in writing eight-legged essays, was a creative thinker, and had great penmanship. In poetry, he would often describe the sentimental feelings of life as if it were embodied in a dream, adding a touch of Buddhism within. All of these can be experienced in the text contained in the last 40 chapters of 'Dream of the Red Chamber'. So from the angle of sentimentalism, Gao E was the most suitable person in that era to continue writing the 'Dream of the Red Chamber'. He was also the only one that was capable of doing so!"
With a moment's pause, Zhang Ye continued on, "When I mentioned that Gao E's continuation of the writings of 'Dream of the Red Chamber' was mismatched with the earlier chapters, what I meant was the personal style of writing was different. I did not deny Gao E's talent. On the contrary, I really respect him as he had given an ending to 'Dream of the Red Chamber' and facilitated the spread of the novel. Gao E made a huge contribution!"
Why does it sound more and more like this was the truth!
A straight As student from the History department suddenly raised his hand to speak, "What you have just said, was built on the assumption that after the first 80 chapters of 'Dream of the Red Chamber', somebody had to continue to write it. I feel that it's not the time now to argue whether it was Gao E or an unknown person who continued writing, but...what do you base it on when you say that only 80 chapters of the original manuscripts were written by Mr Cao Xueqin? Based on what are you saying that the 120 chapters consisted of someone else continuing the writings and were not the original works of Mr Cao Xueqin? Just based on a bet that a Qing dynasty's poet work had mentioned the words of '80 chapters'?"
Zhang Ye lost it and said laughingly, "You're getting pretty agitated."
The history department student was at a loss whether to laugh or cry, "How can I not be agitated? What you have said undermines all our knowledge of the novel. Have our history classes all these years been wrong? Has such a stupid mistake been committed for all these years by our country's education world? Not even getting the author of one of our Four Great Classical Novels correct?"
This was also the main reason why everyone did not believe Zhang Ye!
So many experts, so many enthusiasts, are you telling me that all of them had been wrong? That's impossible!
Even though the saying goes that the truth is often in the hands of only a few, but regarding this method, this wasn't even fewer than a few! You're the only one with such a perspective!
One was the education world, and the other was the academic world. Both were the authorities amongst authorities!
The other was Zhang Ye, the hooligan of the literary circle. The thorn in the broadcasting circle.
Who do you think deserved to be trusted more? The answer was clear, there was not even a need to ask!
"We might not have any proof to refute you with...."
"Right, but neither can you refute our views!"
Take for example, "Journey to the West". If you wanted to say that this novel was not written by Wu Chengen, but instead written by his twin brother, and that his twin brother also took up the name Wu Chengen since he was young enough to impersonate him and only his family knew that Wu Chengen was not Wu Chengen, but his brother instead, but no one else knew that this Wu Chengen was not that Wu Chengen, and took it that Wu Chengen was just Wu Chengen - If you really wanted to insist, couldn't it be said in that way too? If someone had made such a claim and even if there was no proof, no one could refute it. Then would that mean that the author for "Journey to the West" would also have to be changed?
If that was it, then the literary world would be in a mess!
Instead, Zhang Ye said, "Who says that I do not have evidence to refute?"
The third year student from the Chinese department, Senior Zhou said, "But the information you had earlier were....."
Zhang Ye said with a snigger, "That was just the opening to bring everyone up to speed and get them into the mood. Since I dared to make such a claim, I would obviously have my own evidence and information to back myself up. So then, I would first like to ask everyone about something. Other than Gao E's version, did the earliest manuscripts for 'Dream of the Red Chamber', whichever version it might be, have records of the novel after the 80 chapters?"
Everyone was dumbfounded.
"I don't know."
"Oh, let me do a search!"
The students had all taken out their cellphones to go online to check.
Professor Zeng also frowned and closed his eyes, trying to remember.
A department of the literary arts student suddenly exclaimed, "There is! There's an ancient manuscript here that is 120 chapters!"
Zhang Ye smiled, "This student, could you check once more to see which year that manuscript was printed in? I can tell you that this ancient manuscript was originally only 35 chapters and had been edited and added on after 1791, when it was republished. It had been edited to fit in Gao E's intact edition." He had also done his homework.
The liberal arts student checked and then did not speak anymore after that. It was true.
Professor Zeng, Chang Kaige, and Zhen Shuquan all realized it too. It was strange, but there really wasn't any!
Zhang Ye said, "So the most complete ancient manuscript that everyone has read before would be Gao E's compilation, which was printed and published in the year 1791. And with that, I have a question. Why is it that before this version, all the ancient manuscripts that existed did not have any version that exceeded 80 chapters? If it were just one version, it might pass, but why were nearly all the versions like this?"
Yao Mi spoke, "Because the ancient manuscripts were lost and damaged badly?"
This world's ancient manuscripts for "Dream of the Red Chamber" were really in tatters.
But Zhang Ye said, "Isn't that too much of a coincidence? Doesn't anyone have a suspicion about this? Some manuscripts only had a little over a dozen chapters left. Some others had a little more and managed to have 40-50 chapters intact, but all of these manuscripts that were much older than Gao E's version did not have any records of anything over 80 chapters. Then in 1791, a full version, that had 120 chapters, suddenly emerged. This does not make sense from a logical point of view, isn't that a little too strange? If the last 40 chapters had been written by Cao Xueqin, then why didn't anyone besides Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E manage to copy it out? And no one managed to buy any of it off the gray market? With so many chapters, even if not all the chapters were copied, at least a portion of it could have been copied, but why was it that before Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E, no one had managed to copy even one chapter of the last 40 chapters?"
With this question asked, everyone was stumped!
Even a few Peking University teachers, who had studied and researched about "Dream of the Red Chamber", momentarily choked!