The Dream of the Red Chamber portrays a large aristocratic family, where complex, sometimes conflicting, relationships between the characters are a recurrent theme. As a result, Confucian virtues such as self-cultivation and family harmony serve as a moral standard for the characters. Confucian educational teachings, i.e., the literacy behind poetry, history, rites and music, are where the characters exhibit their literary talent, and this outlines the noble life that highly prizes such teachings. In addition, the author’s reflections on the “Five Cardinal Relationships” between clan members are a focus to be explored. The plot mentions that Seng and Dao brought the divine stone to the secular world, by which the novel’s immortal world and family life are infused with some thoughts and implications of Philosophical Taoism, Religious Taoism, and Buddhism. Some characters’ ethereal temperaments and their talent in rhetoric and literature correspond to the concept of one’s subjectivity and soul espoused by the Philosophical Taoism, whose form-and-spirit theory is also associated with dreaming, astral projection and self-reflection scenes. The Rongguo House and Daguan Garden, the two dominant settings of the work, endow it with artistic characteristics such as in the Peach Blossom Land or other utopian literary works. The Dream of the Red Chamber is significantly influenced by Religious Taoism; the book is deeply affected by its “predetermined destiny” theory, as could be found not only in the text but also in the scenes of worship of nature, ancestors, plants and animals, Taoist rituals and fortunetelling, as well as the immortals, belief in Heaven as a city, and longevity regimens.
An analysis of the joys and sorrows of life and the cause-and-effect relations of the events reveals that the work was also influenced by Buddhism, such as: Three Dharma Seals, Dependent Arising/Emptiness of Original Nature, Causation Theory, the Heavenly Realm as part of the universe, and Zen epiphany. The above attest to the work’s abundant and well-connected thoughts; the literati have relied on Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in seeking the values and directions of life for the past hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Accordingly, the three schools of thought truly comprise the work’s literary value and broaden its readership, making it worth a deeper exploration.
Keywords: Dream of the Red Chamber, self-cultivation and family harmony, Three Dharma Seals, Causation Theory