Cao Xueqin’s Story of the Stone / Dream of the Red Chamber

The Fifth Annual WLL Big Fat Books Symposium

Conference Program – Friday-Saturday, April 28-29, 2023 Barrister’s Hall, BU School of Law, 765 Commonwealth Avenue

The eighteenth-century Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber (Hongloumeng), also known as The Story of the Stone, by Cao Xueqin, is one of the great works of world literature. With its great length and its numerous characters and subplots, the book offers a complex picture of love, desire, ambition and loss. It is about a family; it is about a group of teenagers growing up within a family compound in the Grand Prospect Park garden; and it is also about the dual aspect of all things, including truth and falsehood, illusion and reality, heaven and earth. The novel has spoken to generations of readers in the Chinas and internationally, and it continues to do so today. Please

join us for a day and a half of cross-disciplinary conversation as we celebrate this novel in the fifth iteration of our Big Fat Books conference series.

Location: Barrister’s Hall


Barrister’s Hall is located on the first floor of the School of Law building (765 Commonwealth Avenue), toward the rear of the building (see red marker on map below). Please note that although the Law School building has a Commonwealth Avenue address, it is actually set back from Commonwealth Avenue, behind and to the left of Marsh Plaza.

Friday, April 28

Conference Program


8:50                 WELCOME AND OPENING REMARKS / Catherine Yeh, Boston University

9:00 – 9:55       PANEL I

Margaret Litvin, Boston University – Moderator

Keith Vincent, Boston University

The Garden and the Cathedral: Some Thoughts on Big Fat Books

Haun Saussy, University of Chicago

Fictive Language and Vulgar Words 假語村言: The Tendentious Ambiguity of Zhang Xinzhi’s Commentary to Hongloumeng

9:55 – 10:00     SHORT BREAK

10:00 – 11:15 KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Wai-Yee Li, Harvard University

“The Language of Love in the Story of the Stone”

11:15 – 11:30 SHORT BREAK

11:30 – 12:20 PANEL II

Peter Schwartz, Boston University – Moderator

Sophie Volpp, UC Berkeley

The Aestheticization of Waste in Hongloumeng

Ling Hon Lam, UC Berkeley

Playability: Rethinking Information on the Last Big Game Day of The Story of the Stone

12:20 – 1:30     LUNCH

1:30 – 2:45       PANEL III

Sarah Frederick, Boston University – Moderator

Sunil Sharma, Boston University

The Danger of Listening to Stories: Sage Advice from Grandmother Jia in a Comparative Light

Roberta Micallef, Boston University

The Matriarch and the Servant: Household Power Dynamics as Family Fortunes Rise and Fall Along the Silk Road

Dennis Wuerthner, Boston University

On the Reception and Transformation of Hongloumeng in Late Premodern and Early Modern Korea

2:45 – 3:15       COFFEE BREAK

3:15 – 4:10       PANEL IV

Petrus Liu, Boston University – Moderator

Catherine Yeh, Boston University

Opening up the Garden for Public Entertainment: Hongloumeng’s Tragic Heroines on the Modern Stage

Eileen Cheng-yin Chow, Duke University

Reading the Stone: An Experiment in 21st Century Collective Reading and Commentary on Hongloumeng

4:10 – 4:15       SHORT BREAK

4:15 – 5:30       PANEL V STUDENT PANEL

Catherine Yeh, Boston University – Moderator

Andrea Wetzler

Alice Ni

Jing Hu

Emma Larkin

Yuchen Lu

Francisco Laris

Yutong Ke

Aidan Curry

Eva Stites

Fangyuanyi Li

5:30 – 6:30


7:00 PM          Dinner for conference participants

Saturday, April 29


8:45                 Introducing David Henry Hwang – Takeo Rivera, Boston University

9:00 – 10:00     An open forum with David Henry Hwang on the English-language opera

Dream of the Red Chamber

Moderated by Catherine Yeh and Eileen Chow

10:00 – 10:30 COFFEE BREAK

10:30 – 11:30 David Henry Hwang will lecture on his work, AAPI Arts/Culture, and Trans- Pacific dialogue

11:30 – 12:00 Concluding discussion

12:30 – 2:00     Lunch with conference participants

  • ••

Sponsored by:

Boston University Center for the Humanities

Boston University Center for the Study of Asia3

Boston University College of Fine Arts

Boston University Art Initiative

Han Suyin Foundation

NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor

CAS Associate Dean of Humanities

Department of World Languages and Literatures

Department of English

Cao Xueqin’s Story of the Stone / Dream of the Red Chamber