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"The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East. The novel is set 17th Century Tang Dynasty China. It was the first literary work of Korea to be translated into English. The scene of the amazing "C "The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East. The novel is set 17th Century Tang Dynasty China. It was the first literary work of Korea to be translated into English. The scene of the amazing "Cloud Dream of the Nine," the most moving romance of polygamy ever written, is laid about 849 A.D. in the period of the great Chinese dynasty of the Tangs. By its simple directness this hitherto unknown Korean classic makes an ineffaceable impression. But the story of the devotion of Master Yang to eight women and of their devotion to him and to each other is more than a naive tale of the relations of men and women under a social code so far removed from our own as to be almost incredible. It is a record of emotions, aspirations and ideas which enables us to look into the innermost chambers of the Chinese soul. "The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East.


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"The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East. The novel is set 17th Century Tang Dynasty China. It was the first literary work of Korea to be translated into English. The scene of the amazing "C "The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East. The novel is set 17th Century Tang Dynasty China. It was the first literary work of Korea to be translated into English. The scene of the amazing "Cloud Dream of the Nine," the most moving romance of polygamy ever written, is laid about 849 A.D. in the period of the great Chinese dynasty of the Tangs. By its simple directness this hitherto unknown Korean classic makes an ineffaceable impression. But the story of the devotion of Master Yang to eight women and of their devotion to him and to each other is more than a naive tale of the relations of men and women under a social code so far removed from our own as to be almost incredible. It is a record of emotions, aspirations and ideas which enables us to look into the innermost chambers of the Chinese soul. "The Cloud Dream of the Nine" is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe. It helps us towards a comprehensible knowledge of the Far East.

30 review for The Cloud Dream of the Nine by Kim Man-Choong, Fiction, Classics, Literary, Historical

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "You say the dream and the world are two separate things, and that is because you have yet to awaken from the dream... Chuang Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking he could not tell if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou - Which is real and which is a dream?" From THE NINE CLOUD DREAM [Kuunmong] by Kim Man-Jung, translated from the Korean by Heinz Insu Fenkel. Originally written in 1687, reprinted by @penguinclassics 2019. The story mixes fairytale elements - ghosts, f "You say the dream and the world are two separate things, and that is because you have yet to awaken from the dream... Chuang Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking he could not tell if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou - Which is real and which is a dream?" From THE NINE CLOUD DREAM [Kuunmong] by Kim Man-Jung, translated from the Korean by Heinz Insu Fenkel. Originally written in 1687, reprinted by @penguinclassics 2019. The story mixes fairytale elements - ghosts, fairies, dragons - with those of parables - the journey, maturity, the lessons in the end. It was a surprisingly engaging read, many times dipping into hyperbole - the most beautiful women in the world, the bravest and most valiant of all men, the deepest and enduring loves, etc etc - and it was quite fun. In the end, there is a *little* surprise (hinted at in the great quote above) that our modern sensibilities are very used to, but one can imagine at the time it was completely revolutionary. My favorite parts of the story were early on - the little pranks between friends, wooing a lover with poetry and song. It's courtly love and all that goes with that. The story wraps in larger comparisons between Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhist philosophies - cycles, the way, reincarnation, illusion, karma, samsara. One need not have a detailed experience with these systems to understand and enjoy the basic story. In my reading, I learned this was the first Korean literature text translated into English in 1922 by James Scarth Gale. This text is available online for free reading, and after browsing a bit, I found Fenkel's modern translation more palpable, but that's purely subjective.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    The 17th century novel 구운몽 by Kim Man-jung is one of the classics of Korea literature, alongside The Story of Hong Gildong, which was also the subject of a recent retranslation published by Penguin Classics. At face value Nine Cloud Dream is a rather simple tale, a historical fantasy set in the 9th century Chinese Tang Dynasty. A young Buddhist monk is distracted on a journey by 8 flirtatious young fairies (and distracts them in turn). As a result his elder accused him of abandoning his vocation The 17th century novel 구운몽 by Kim Man-jung is one of the classics of Korea literature, alongside The Story of Hong Gildong, which was also the subject of a recent retranslation published by Penguin Classics. At face value Nine Cloud Dream is a rather simple tale, a historical fantasy set in the 9th century Chinese Tang Dynasty. A young Buddhist monk is distracted on a journey by 8 flirtatious young fairies (and distracts them in turn). As a result his elder accused him of abandoning his vocation and condemns him to the underworld: You have turned away from the teachings of the Buddha, and dwelt on worldly and sensual things. You have rejected your way of life here, and now you cannot stay. His punishment is a rather ironic one, as in his reincarnation he becomes a handsome and successful young scholar. Rising rapidly through the ranks as a result of his examination success, his brilliant poetry and his diplomatic skills, he ends up with two wives, including the Emperor’s sister, and six concubines, together the reincarnation of the 8 fairies. The resulting rather contrived story, with lovers tricking each other as to their identity, gender and even whether they are alive or dead, is somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare’s plots. Although the ‘twist’ at the end has a distinctly Buddhist flavour. But the novel has been better compared, in terms of its intent and impact, to, in a European literary context, Dante’s Inferno. This new translation by Heinz Insu Fenkl comes with an illuminating introduction, afterword and footnotes from Fenkl, who, acting also as a scholar on the text, draws out the Taoist, Confucian and, above all, Buddhist themes and symbology, the subtle contemporary political allusions and the literary references and sophisticated word play with both Chinese characters and the then relatively new Hangeul (although a long held theory that this book was the first novel written in Hangeul text has now been largely debunked, and Fenkl also argues against this view.).” As a stand-alone story this wasn’t a particularly involving read, but Fenkl’s commentary makes one aware, if still, as a Western reader, not necessarily fully able to appreciate, the depths of the work and why it is such a foundational text. 3.5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Agranoff

    Centuries before Philip K Dick wrote pulp science fiction that poked at our relationship with the concept of reality or Neo pondered taking the Red pill a courtesan in Korean wrote this novel. Who wrote this novel is actually somewhat in question when you consider that it was first published in 1689. The story goes that the author was a court official working with the royal family of Korea. He was sent in Exile and he wrote this novel in a series of letters to entertain his mother and assure her Centuries before Philip K Dick wrote pulp science fiction that poked at our relationship with the concept of reality or Neo pondered taking the Red pill a courtesan in Korean wrote this novel. Who wrote this novel is actually somewhat in question when you consider that it was first published in 1689. The story goes that the author was a court official working with the royal family of Korea. He was sent in Exile and he wrote this novel in a series of letters to entertain his mother and assure her his suffering was not important. Considered a classic of Korean literature this story is referenced in works ranging from Manga, pop songs to movies. On the surface, this novel appears to be a romantic fairy tale or fantasy. It doesn't appear to be just a story a son was telling his mother. The novel seems designed for the audience and has a clear message. The Buddist themes in the novel are spread through the novel but come into sharpest focus in the opening and closing chapters. Some might think the center of the novel as a pointless adventure but that itself is the theme. I am not sure if "It was all a dream" was revolutionary storytelling device in the 17th century, but the waking dream parts of this novel in the middle were fun for me. When your main character is reincarnated in what he believes is hell. I could have used a little darker elements but the style evoked was similar to the more weird and gothy Wuxia movies I love. Movies like The Bride with White Hair and Chinese Ghost Story. One must remember the experience is meant to be Meta-fiction. Just as we read a book and try to engage with the illusion the POV in the novel is Hsing-Chen or his dream self Shao-Yu comes to realize he is engaging with Illusion. Shao-Yu asks a monk to help him wake from the dream. "Why do you resort to magic and not show the truth." The answer is there a few lines later. "My Master knew of my wrongful thoughts and made me dream the dream to learn of worldly riches, honor and desire are nothing." While the novel is written and translated in an old school style that doesn't make it a breezy read the ideas contained are super powerful. I loved this line towards the back of the novel. "You say the dream and the world are two separate things, and that is because you have yet to awaken from the dream. Chung Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking he could not tell if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Chung Chou." When I was researching my Chinese Vampire novel (Hunting the Moon Tribe) in 2004 I wanted to read this novel badly. I had read about it, but couldn't find an English translation. At the time I read the Romance of Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West. My novel has many homages to those books and I have no doubt this would have influenced me heavily if I read it at the time. It is interesting as I do a Philip K Dick podcast now I thinking of the book now in this lens. Really cool book and considering the age that makes it more impressive. The Nine Cloud Dream is a Korean Inception written hundreds of year before Christopher Nolan was a thing. Really cool book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    I don’t remember the last novel I read that was written in the 16th century. ‘The Nine Cloud Dream’ is an all-time classic of Korean literature - a seminal work in Buddhist meta fiction. It’s not written in Korean, in case you are wondering, but in Chinese, and is a book that wraps layers and layers around each wor’l’d. You can read this as a simplistic historical fantasy tale set in China and still enjoy it. It traces a man’s journey from his youth, his struggles, his numerous love affairs, the I don’t remember the last novel I read that was written in the 16th century. ‘The Nine Cloud Dream’ is an all-time classic of Korean literature - a seminal work in Buddhist meta fiction. It’s not written in Korean, in case you are wondering, but in Chinese, and is a book that wraps layers and layers around each wor’l’d. You can read this as a simplistic historical fantasy tale set in China and still enjoy it. It traces a man’s journey from his youth, his struggles, his numerous love affairs, the battles he faces, and the eventual end where he sits down and wonders what this life was all about. Or you can read this as a book that is a metaphysical exploration of Buddhist concepts of life, illusion, reality, dream, death, and suffering or transformation and still enjoy it. I loved the references that the translator has painstakingly put together - they really brought alive the period and Chinese history/folktales/literature alive for me. My suggestion: This book needs to make its way to you. Picking it up randomly may not work. It’s a book that invites meditation, contemplation, imagination, and patience. What’s life but a dream? And what’s a dream but life?

  5. 5 out of 5

    James F

    I read this for a World Literature discussion group on Goodreads (the same group for which I read the Jamaican literature last year and the Chinese science fiction for the first half of this year, and which will be spending a year or so on Korean writing; it's expanding my horizons in literature.) Kim Man-Choong (or Man-jung, to use the more modern transliteration) was a seventeenth-century (1637-1692) Korean author, and this is apparently considered a classic of Korean literature. It is the fir I read this for a World Literature discussion group on Goodreads (the same group for which I read the Jamaican literature last year and the Chinese science fiction for the first half of this year, and which will be spending a year or so on Korean writing; it's expanding my horizons in literature.) Kim Man-Choong (or Man-jung, to use the more modern transliteration) was a seventeenth-century (1637-1692) Korean author, and this is apparently considered a classic of Korean literature. It is the first Korean work I have read, so I don't really have much background for appreciating or discussing it. The version I read is an old translation by a Christian missionary; there is a more recent translation which is currently well beyond my budget, but which will be issued in paperback sometime next year. The story is set in China under the Tang dynasty; there is a frame story about a Buddhist monk named Song-jin, who is punished for his momentary failure in ascetic attitude in talking to eight beautiful fairies by being reincarnated as So-Yoo, a poor young scholar. The novel then follows the life of So-Yoo and his marriages to eight beautiful women, who are actually the eight fairies also being punished by reincarnation; he becomes a rich and powerful official of the Emperor. I wouldn't mind being punished like this. The eight wives are far more interesting and active characters than I would have expected in a novel about polygamy; two dancing girls, a rich daughter and her maid, a sword wielding assasin, a mermaid princess, and the only daughter of the Emperor, all of whom are poets and scholars in their own right. At the very end (if this is a spoiler, the introduction already tells you everything about the plot), he suddenly realizes without any preparation that human happiness is transient, the old monk collects him, and he finds himself in his old cell, the whole live of So-Yoo having been a "cloud dream". The eight wives show up as the eight fairies and they all devote themselves to Buddhist asceticism. The story of So-Yoo is an interesting love-story; I'm sure I would have appreciated the book much more if I were familiar with the conventions of this type of literature (and knew Korean). I found it difficult to take the frame story seriously; it seemed like the old porno stories that tacked a moral on the end to try to claim to the censors that they were promoting virtue. Perhaps a Buddhist would find it more convincing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chant Cowen

    The translators usage of the outdated Wade-Giles romanization of Chinese was off putting to say the least. The reasoning the translator used Wade-Giles was apparently to give it an old timey type of feel in terms of the translation, which it does but not in a good way. The problem I had with this translation was the fact that it felt stilted and was bit of a trudge to get through, as I've read many East Asian classics translated into English and they flowed much better than this book. The plot it The translators usage of the outdated Wade-Giles romanization of Chinese was off putting to say the least. The reasoning the translator used Wade-Giles was apparently to give it an old timey type of feel in terms of the translation, which it does but not in a good way. The problem I had with this translation was the fact that it felt stilted and was bit of a trudge to get through, as I've read many East Asian classics translated into English and they flowed much better than this book. The plot itself is interesting but I wouldn't say it is ground breaking by any means when making comparisons to Chinese and Japanese literature of the time. I wanted to really like this book but seeing as it is a influential book in Korean literature I think a three star review will suffice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    There is no Matrix from which to awake

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    One of the earliest novel of Korea, written around 1689. Don't remember whether I ever read the whole book in Korean, found surprisingly entertaining. Hard to figure out Chinese sounding names of people and places, though. "You say the dream and the world are two separate things, and that is because you have yet to awaken from the dream. Chung Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking he could not tell if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Chung Chou."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Because this is the first known Korean novel, written in 1687, I felt it a worthwhile read. Some takeaways I had that don't include the obvious themes of Confucianism are as follows: A good life on Earth, though laced with the knowledge that everything is transitory, is one of prestige, riches, and honor. Hyperbole takes up much of the dialogue (Soo-yoo is the MOST handsome and accomplished man, his wives the MOST skilled and beautiful, their joy the GREATEST happiness, etc). Everyone takes part i Because this is the first known Korean novel, written in 1687, I felt it a worthwhile read. Some takeaways I had that don't include the obvious themes of Confucianism are as follows: A good life on Earth, though laced with the knowledge that everything is transitory, is one of prestige, riches, and honor. Hyperbole takes up much of the dialogue (Soo-yoo is the MOST handsome and accomplished man, his wives the MOST skilled and beautiful, their joy the GREATEST happiness, etc). Everyone takes part in pranks and teasing, even very severe teasing that includes pretenfing a man's fiancé is dead or that his lover is actually a faerie. When the person being fooled discovers the truth those playing the prank expect the victim to laugh with them. (I see this in a many early Korean stories.) There's a part near the end where the main character gets his wives to drink by making up silly complaints about their conduct. It reminds me of modern day gatherings where people make up fake penalties where the loser has to drink.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    I’m not sure whether to describe this delightful Korean novel first and foremost as an enchanting fairytale, political satire, or harem fanfic. Its fairytale imagery includes things like fairies riding on white deer and cranes, the hero meeting a mermaid deep in a poisoned lake, and time passing mysteriously while the hero learns to play music. And as a fairytale, it’s really nice: full of romantic scenes and ornate set pieces. Its satire is not as obvious, I guess, but Wikipedia mentions that i I’m not sure whether to describe this delightful Korean novel first and foremost as an enchanting fairytale, political satire, or harem fanfic. Its fairytale imagery includes things like fairies riding on white deer and cranes, the hero meeting a mermaid deep in a poisoned lake, and time passing mysteriously while the hero learns to play music. And as a fairytale, it’s really nice: full of romantic scenes and ornate set pieces. Its satire is not as obvious, I guess, but Wikipedia mentions that it is intended as commentary on King Sukjong's affairs, and read that way, it’s pretty arch stuff. The hero of the story is portrayed variously as great, really great, or super great, so people just fall all over themselves to praise him and find ways to sort out and justify his actions. And that leads us to the harem fanfic aspect of it: this is a Korean novel set in Tang Dynasty China, and the basic plot involves one guy meeting / falling in love with ((view spoiler)[and eventually marrying (hide spoiler)] ) eight women on his path to enlightenment, and the little bit of tension in the book arises in how he’s in love with all of them and yet repeatedly blocked from marrying any of them. So it’s both a fannishly romanticized picture of China and a romance novel with a lot of deferred resolution to it. Incidentally, one review that I read mentioned minor issues with the translation and implied this was related to the translator being a Christian missionary, and I can definitely see that. The translation sometimes uses phrases ((view spoiler)[like “let no man put asunder” (hide spoiler)] ) that are presumably wrong for the context, even if they get the gist of things across, and I can well imagine there being other ways that the religious and/or earthly content of the story has been assimilated. Another translation exists, but it’s out of print, and this one was still a fun read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    What a find! A story of the ephemeral nature of things. Set in Tang China, written in seventeenth-century Korea. Expertly translated and annotated.

  12. 5 out of 5

    May Ling

    Summary: This was one of the first Korean Novels and is a classic. It reads like a great Costume drama. Cool to finally get the original. I'm reading this as a part of my 100 books in 100 days. You can find me on Instagram at: whereismayling where I'm doing video fast recaps. I enjoyed the story, but when I looked up more about it, I think that a lot of the opinions, unfortunately, have this book out of context. Because this book is so old, there is a desire to make it some tomb on Confucianism/B Summary: This was one of the first Korean Novels and is a classic. It reads like a great Costume drama. Cool to finally get the original. I'm reading this as a part of my 100 books in 100 days. You can find me on Instagram at: whereismayling where I'm doing video fast recaps. I enjoyed the story, but when I looked up more about it, I think that a lot of the opinions, unfortunately, have this book out of context. Because this book is so old, there is a desire to make it some tomb on Confucianism/Buddhism or they take it too literally and seriously. He's compared to all these very serious characters in like 1800s literature in the Western world, Jane Eyre, etc... the plight of women, etc. But it's a bit crazy to me because while the date of this piece is unknown, it is known that this dude lived in the mid-1650s a period of reasonably decent stability in Asia. He's at the court of this Korean king. They are still paying tribute to China at this point. This book is popular enough to be found in both places, i.e. it's literature for the educated masses. IMO, it's more comparable to Swift (Comparable) and Moliere (who would have been born after this dude). Alternatively, you might want to compare him to the lighter pieces of Shakespeare where everyone doesn't die. I think the Western people get really intense about Buddhism because of it starts like nearly every Costume drama in Asia starts. These people in the astral plane are doing their god thing and some younger monk (I think this might be a translation issue) gets in trouble for being a peeping Tom on some pretty fairies. So they send him down to earth to evolve. There he lives a very particular life to evolve. He's sent down with nothing. This happens in a lot of the costume dramas where your error in the astral plane was of a particular sort. He has to work his way out and be a self-made man. He is depicted as a super hotty (p. 69), also very common in today's Costume Dramas. Because women are the theme of his sin in the astral plane, he meets another super hotty when he's poor and then later he becomes such a baller that the Empress forces him to marry her daughters. But this is Asia. You get 3 wives and a bunch of concubines. The problem is that with Empress' daughters you can't just have a first wife who is lower born (semi-spoiler, but not really). There's a lot of dressing up as men by women, particularly powerful women. All this stuff is so common in the Costume Dramas I know and love. Here we're seeing the original stuff from the 1650s. What's not to love? I suppose if you're totally unfamiliar with that sort of drama on tv, then you might take it really crazy seriously. For those that think this is super sexist, well... kind of yes, kind of no. I mean, there are many places where the hotty concubine is directly described as intelligent (educated and learned) and beautiful. Contrast that to the way female characters are depicted in literature in the 1650s and, well... you know. And while there is talk of the women in a few spots about wanting to come back as a man, I don't think that's so different from 1600's Europe. Also, there is this concept of humility that might be a subtext. Hard to say in a translated version. I mean, when these ladies are saying this portion, they are manipulating the living daylights out of the situation. Now it may be they are saying it b/c you wouldn't have to do that if you were a man, but I think it's more complex than simply, I want to be a dog in a next life b/c it sucks to be a woman. My note: p. 9 - I have no idea why you'd compare this to the Tao Te Ching. Seems like it would be like comparing Moliere to the bible. Yeah, there are references, but kind of goes a bit far back.... Really, the whole forward is a little bit useless, now that I've read it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Berens

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ephemerality does not hold as high a position in western thought and art as it does in many eastern cultures. As one nears the end of this delightful tale (spoiler alert?!), the hero has experienced no serious setbacks in his life or career--excelling at everything he attempts--and has attained great position, fame, wealth, and eight beautiful fairy ladies to attend to his every need. One might think, so what's the problem?!! The problem, as the hero realizes, is that everything passes. In time, Ephemerality does not hold as high a position in western thought and art as it does in many eastern cultures. As one nears the end of this delightful tale (spoiler alert?!), the hero has experienced no serious setbacks in his life or career--excelling at everything he attempts--and has attained great position, fame, wealth, and eight beautiful fairy ladies to attend to his every need. One might think, so what's the problem?!! The problem, as the hero realizes, is that everything passes. In time, he will no longer be, and his fame will fade. It is literally and figuratively "all a dream." Thus is the moral of this Buddhist fable. Seek not paradise on earth but the everlasting paradise which comes with the escape from ego and illusion. Having no other translation to compare it to, I found this one very readable, and the introduction, notes and appendices are very helpful for appreciating the artistry the author put into writing the book, even though some of the nuances of the ideograms are lost in translation. If you want to learn about Buddhism, there are better, more accessible books. If you are interested in how Buddhist thought manifests itself in Chinese / Korean culture, this is a great example.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This Korean classic was a great story about the Buddhist principle of the illusion of perceived reality, and Heinz Insu Fenkl did a pretty good job translating it into a technicolor adventure (and at times, wow, what a bonkers adventure it was). I was pretty bothered by the way women were treated as objects and property, but I'm sure that's just how it was back then and it wasn't the fault of the translator. My one criticism of the translation was that at times it was difficult to get the tone o This Korean classic was a great story about the Buddhist principle of the illusion of perceived reality, and Heinz Insu Fenkl did a pretty good job translating it into a technicolor adventure (and at times, wow, what a bonkers adventure it was). I was pretty bothered by the way women were treated as objects and property, but I'm sure that's just how it was back then and it wasn't the fault of the translator. My one criticism of the translation was that at times it was difficult to get the tone of a scene - for example, something that seemed like a joke was treated VERY seriously, and vice versa - and some scenes came to an unusually abrupt end. I definitely missed out on a lot of what apparently makes The Nine Cloud Dream the pinnacle of Korean classic literature - allusion to other Korean and Chinese tales, poems and people; and the multi-layered meaning based on use of specific Chinese writing characters - simply because of my lack of knowledge. Fenkl did include some explanation of these things in the notes at the end of the book, but I think it would've been better to include them as footnotes on the specific pages so we readers could reference them while reading the story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kia Avelino

    It took me lot of days to finish the book. A monk was punished for flirting with 8 fairies and for being materialistic. The punishment was actually what he actually wanted, being reincarnated as a poor boy from the country side who eventually turned into a high-ranked official after passing his civil examination. He married two princesses and had 6 concubines, all with exceptional beauty. The flow of the story was exceptionally good, and even easier to understand, thanks to the detailed introduc It took me lot of days to finish the book. A monk was punished for flirting with 8 fairies and for being materialistic. The punishment was actually what he actually wanted, being reincarnated as a poor boy from the country side who eventually turned into a high-ranked official after passing his civil examination. He married two princesses and had 6 concubines, all with exceptional beauty. The flow of the story was exceptionally good, and even easier to understand, thanks to the detailed introduction and thorough footnotes. At first I was worried that I might be confused with the story because of the strange events that he encountered. The monk actually dreamed the whole life of Shao-Yu. There was more to the story than having the means of entertaining the readers. The author, Kim, wrote the Cloud Dream of the Nine during his exile to keep his mother away from loneliness. He then synchronised some passages in the book with his own experiences and desires. The book was written and set in Ancient Chinese, so it's weird to consider this as Korean. It was also centralised in Buddhism and Taoism, so there were some lessons from it that can actually be learned by the readers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mr Siegal

    A Beautiful Harem This book was an interested read for me. I had never heard of it until I saw it here on Goodreads, so I guess there are some benefits to this site after all! To the point, it took me a while to understand what exactly took place. There were many references that I was unable to comprehend, and all in all, I found it enjoyable. I was intrigued by the status of women back then in Korea, and how may of them wished to not be born as one again (this does not set a very good predicament) A Beautiful Harem This book was an interested read for me. I had never heard of it until I saw it here on Goodreads, so I guess there are some benefits to this site after all! To the point, it took me a while to understand what exactly took place. There were many references that I was unable to comprehend, and all in all, I found it enjoyable. I was intrigued by the status of women back then in Korea, and how may of them wished to not be born as one again (this does not set a very good predicament). However, I am viewing this with modern spectacles. That being said, the story which focused on the monk and his reincarnation as the most ideal of men (with eight women by his side) was a bit too much for me, not because of my insensitivity to other cultures, but simply because I found it to be excessive. In addition, the story up to the last chapter was ok, and though I knew what would happen in the end, I did enjoy the ending of the book. Ironically then, it was more of the end that mattered with this book than the path. All in all, an ok read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rowan Sully Sully

    Well not really sure what other translations of this book are like, but this one was brilliant. Very easy to read and follow and the introduction and footnotes are all well worth reading. This old Korean classic follows a young Buddhist monk who gets punished by living a dream life for wandering from his Buddhist vows. It reminded me of a mix of the Dream of the Red Chamber, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, and Zhuang Zi’s dream about the butterfly. It’s easy to read and contains lots of hidden meanin Well not really sure what other translations of this book are like, but this one was brilliant. Very easy to read and follow and the introduction and footnotes are all well worth reading. This old Korean classic follows a young Buddhist monk who gets punished by living a dream life for wandering from his Buddhist vows. It reminded me of a mix of the Dream of the Red Chamber, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, and Zhuang Zi’s dream about the butterfly. It’s easy to read and contains lots of hidden meanings like Dream of the Red Chamber, has a lot of Buddhist morals but is more entertaining than Siddhartha, and really takes Zhuang Zi’s story about the butterfly to the next level. You’ll also be exposed to Confucianism and Taoism as well as Buddhism in just over 200 pages. Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in anything mentioned above.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nidhi

    The Nine Cloud Dream, Kuunmong has a fair influence of Buddhism, with a feeling of reading folk tale. The flow of the story is sometimes humorous (with almost offensive practical jokes), and is an easy read. I believe reading the translated version looses some subtleties of the original writing. But, Frenkl has tried to dwell in those subtleties with success making the text more interesting. There are allusions to classic conundrums. "Chuang Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking The Nine Cloud Dream, Kuunmong has a fair influence of Buddhism, with a feeling of reading folk tale. The flow of the story is sometimes humorous (with almost offensive practical jokes), and is an easy read. I believe reading the translated version looses some subtleties of the original writing. But, Frenkl has tried to dwell in those subtleties with success making the text more interesting. There are allusions to classic conundrums. "Chuang Chou once dreamed he was a butterfly, and upon waking he could not tell if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou." Making it one of the older book that preceded the Matrix theme. I chanced upon this book, being referred as one of the classics from Korean Literature. This was my rare window into Korean books, and I dare say it is hard to write review for a book set in such a different era, with such different practices.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Taro

    Surprisingly easy to read. Though it does not reflect modern attitudes on women, that's for sure. Telling the age old tale that money and power and the achievement of ambitiions do not bring satisfaction in life. And I liked some more intimate family moments, relatively, compared to the picture of Chinese Mandarinacy, extreme formality in all relations. And it has dragons! (view spoiler)[ I was spoiled about the ending "it was all a dream" which I think would have been more fun to discover organi Surprisingly easy to read. Though it does not reflect modern attitudes on women, that's for sure. Telling the age old tale that money and power and the achievement of ambitiions do not bring satisfaction in life. And I liked some more intimate family moments, relatively, compared to the picture of Chinese Mandarinacy, extreme formality in all relations. And it has dragons! (view spoiler)[ I was spoiled about the ending "it was all a dream" which I think would have been more fun to discover organically, but the question of ... which part, because the "Real world" has a dragon king, and fairies serving an immortal; whereas the "dream world" has, other than really good coincidence for Shao-yu, nothing but mundane physical laws ... (hide spoiler)]

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jolene Leong

    It's interesting, but probably the footnotes are the best because it gives you context and better understanding. I read this while drawing comparisons to Tale of Genji, again, sort of pilgrimage-y collecting girls on the way kind of story. But here, there seems to be a kind of purpose to his collection, whereas in Tale of Genji, there really wasn't much of a point. But there you can see the thematic differences, and the contrast in purpose of the story in itself. I'm not a historical novel exper It's interesting, but probably the footnotes are the best because it gives you context and better understanding. I read this while drawing comparisons to Tale of Genji, again, sort of pilgrimage-y collecting girls on the way kind of story. But here, there seems to be a kind of purpose to his collection, whereas in Tale of Genji, there really wasn't much of a point. But there you can see the thematic differences, and the contrast in purpose of the story in itself. I'm not a historical novel expert, so it'd be definitely interesting to read an expert's take on this and all the famous ancient novels, Tale of Genji being the pride of Japan, and Kuunmong being the pride of S. Korea.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tony T

    I see that many people have summarized this story so theres no need for me to. This is my favorite Korean work, and written by Kim Manjung, who was a scholar and political Minister of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He is of my wife and children's family, the Gwangsan Kim Clan. After the political and religious tides changed in Korea, Manjung and other family members where exiled. He actually wrote this to comfort his mother, who I'd imagine was very sad with his situation. I strongly recommend this b I see that many people have summarized this story so theres no need for me to. This is my favorite Korean work, and written by Kim Manjung, who was a scholar and political Minister of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He is of my wife and children's family, the Gwangsan Kim Clan. After the political and religious tides changed in Korea, Manjung and other family members where exiled. He actually wrote this to comfort his mother, who I'd imagine was very sad with his situation. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in 17th century Asian literature. It is one of the very few Asian works in my home library.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dillon

    Top line: the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze I love how this classic ended and the lesson it taught (yes just one lesson, granted an important one). The first and last chapter were strong but the 200 pages in the middle were drawn out. Like a podcast where the host takes you down a handful of tangents and attempts at tying them together at the end in to the broader lesson. This makes a good leisure read but if you are familiar with eastern religions I wouldn’t call this revelatory or an engaging Top line: the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze I love how this classic ended and the lesson it taught (yes just one lesson, granted an important one). The first and last chapter were strong but the 200 pages in the middle were drawn out. Like a podcast where the host takes you down a handful of tangents and attempts at tying them together at the end in to the broader lesson. This makes a good leisure read but if you are familiar with eastern religions I wouldn’t call this revelatory or an engaging plot line.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Kona

    Good book, a man gets reincarnated as the most successful of humans because he strayed from the path of the Buddha. Once he finishes his life, he realizes it was an illusion and the path of the Buddha is the only path. I was surprised to find out how sexist Korean / Chinese civilization was. The prime minister had 6 concubines and 2 wives. Abundance of treating women like property. Not a fan of the poetry, though the poetry is supposed to be the greatest part of the book. A choppy translation thou Good book, a man gets reincarnated as the most successful of humans because he strayed from the path of the Buddha. Once he finishes his life, he realizes it was an illusion and the path of the Buddha is the only path. I was surprised to find out how sexist Korean / Chinese civilization was. The prime minister had 6 concubines and 2 wives. Abundance of treating women like property. Not a fan of the poetry, though the poetry is supposed to be the greatest part of the book. A choppy translation though.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jess Sohn

    For a book that is ostensibly advocating for the Buddhist way, this was pretty goofy and unpersuasive. All the cross-dressing farce and failing upwards of an ordinary man and bad poetry and tittering ladies and underwhelming life lessons made me think of Shakespeare or ancient Greek myths. I suppose every old culture has a version of this idiocy. It didn't help that the translation was so awkward. I don't regret reading it, but I've already forgotten it. Lesson unlearned.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Pietersma

    Fascinating novel about the illusions of life. I loved the references to Chinese culture and in the edition as translated by Fenkl, many essential notes were given. For someone who is not acquinted to the presented ideas of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, it would be a rather extremely difficul and maybe uncomfortable read. What I loved most was the descriptive motives, the mentioned landscapes, poetry, and final reference to the Diamond sutra.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The Nine Cloud Dream is an incredibly weird and wonderful satire that works because of Man-Jung's melding of his then modern issues with the allusion to early Chinese dynasties. At once absurd and introspective, the novel works as a flat out fantasy as well as a deeper look at the resistance to Confucianism. This latest translation by Heinz Insu Fenkl is truly worth your time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trần Duyên

    Took a look at a very early stage of Korea literature and found it quite interesting. My friends told me that its really boring though so i thought that not every young person would like it. To be honest, if it not in my final exam I would never open this book. tks final

  28. 5 out of 5

    Don Flynn

    Not bad, but much of the book reads like wealth porn more than anything else. The ultimate lesson, about the impermanence of phenomena, especially of the most positive circumstances, could've been delivered in a punchier format, like a short story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    KoraliaEliza

    that book was a struggle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mur Phy

    Very interesting book. I enjoyed the style and the historical value of this story.

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