Our second passage from the Dream of the Red Chamber continues where our first left off. We meet the Stone for the first time, and learn how it gained consciousness at the hands of the Goddess Nuwa
. Chinese readers would be familiar with this fable, which roots the novel in a classical context while implying that the stone is a very human object: Nuwa is the Goddess who made mankind out of mud according to Chinese tradition.
It is at this point that two Buddhist figures appear, their names suggestive of the ethereal nature of life itself. They marvel at the stone and suggest a journey into the mortal realm. The language they use to describe this place is decadent, but also shaded with a hint of vice. It entrances the stone nonetheless, which agrees to their plans, and so the three disappear mysteriously. The remainder of the story now unfolds, although we as readers are unaware of it.
Centuries later, another passing monk finds the stone back in its original location. Only something is different: engraved on its surface is a brief chronicle of its adventures in the mortal realm. This states the place and household where the stone was born and has details on its intellectual and romantic affairs. A critical detail is missing however: the exact date of its journey. The engraving then closes with the first poem in the text. The Buddhist stanza suggests the brevity and futility of its journey into the land of such material wealth, a trip of "several years" which was made in vain or "to no purpose". It closes by rhetorically asking who will act as the chronicler for its story?