#Hanfugirl

Red Chamber’s No. 1 It girl–The Queen Bee薛宝钗

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Nope, the ranking’s not a mistake–the author actually ranked the two in the same top position, and who am I to make the choice for him! It’s like when you have two gold medallist, naturally there’s no silver medallist then. The two articles will be posted at the same time, and luck of the draw whichever comes up first~ ^_^ (it’s great to let internet do the selection for u isn’t it, and we can attach whatever cosmic significance to the result thereafter!)

Introducing, the Queen Bee  Baochai (David Hawkes translated her name to Precious Clasp, again,   who eventually became the wife to the male protagonist, much to his distraught. Many older generation folks prefer the Queen Bee, because she was respectful, gentle, considerate, positive, and ticked all the boxes as the ideal daughter-in-law or how a young person should behave in the eyes of the elders. Unlike the Western culture where the Queen Bee has a bitchy side, in this story, our Queen Bee was nice to everyone, said all the appropriate things (extremely politically correct) and was very socially savvy.

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Yes, she was from one of the Big 4 families (the families of Jia, Xue, Shi, Wang). It was said that pearls were like dirt, and gold like iron to the Xue family–the extent of their wealth. However, because Baochai’s father passed away early, they were not able to enjoy the full extent of his influence and wealth (since China was largely still a patriarchal society and her brother was too useless to manage those relations). So the entire core family of hers was counting on her marrying someone rich and/or influential to help them out.

The Xue Family where the Queen Bee was from was more of a merchant family endorsed by the emperor, not unlike relationships between businesses with Royal Warrant and the royal family today. Due to the nature of their wealth, they functioned a bit differently from the scholarly and royally-connected family of the male protagonist. In China today, there are still these two types of privileged 2nd generations–the Rich 2nd generation富二代 (cos of the family businesses and wealth) and the Powerful 2nd generations官二代 (cos of the family’s connections and power in the political structure). If you’re from a merchant family, your upbringing and demeanour is bound to be different from those growing up in a powerful household, and it was the case of Baochai who has more of that savviness of merchants when dealing with people-to-people relationship–high EQ.

She was always feeling hot, and had to take a pill to cool her body down, excess of yang perhaps. Daiyu (the tormented IT girl) on the other hand, has a weak body uninsulated by fats (thus rather easily cold/yin), exact opposite of her. This detail would come into play in an interesting exchange later on as you will see.

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The Queen Bee was aiming for the moon (to get into the palace and serve) when she landed amongst the stars (settled for the next best thing–to marry the male heir to the rich and powerful family of Jia) as she did not make the cut for the selection of the court. Understandably, that must have had a huge blow on her confidence since she had always been highly regarded as the Queen Bee throughout her life, but she was really quite matured for her age (teenager) and kept these complex emotions deep. The only time when she lost her cool, was when the male protagonist likened her to a famous Tang dynasty concubine–Lady Yang (Yang Guifei). This comment by male protagonist was brought about when he was casually asking why the Queen Bee didn’t to out to watch an opera performance, and she replied that she couldn’t stand the heat. The male protagonist said this in response, “No wonder they liken Lady Yang to you, cos both of you are round and afraid of heat!”

The speculations on what triggered her anger is an interesting one:

  • The more academic ones would read into it and say that it rubbed salt onto her wound because she actually failed in her bid to becoming a royal consort;
  • The more prim and proper ones would say that Lady Yang was a woman of scandals, incoming of a woman. So to liken the Queen Bee, who prized herself for her chastity and virtues, to someone of that reputation and calibre was an insult;
  • The politically correct would say that he trivialised her illness, and it was frustrating for her to have to face his ridicule because of an health condition that she was born with
  • A typical woman today would say, he asked for it when he called her fat.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure most husbands/boyfriends would know which is the right answer to this debate 😛

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Never call a woman fat when she says that she refuse to go out because of the heat. She might be just avoiding the UV rays! And heat, of course. But never call a woman fat!

The Queen Bee was subject to huge scrutiny by supporter of the Ethereal Snowflake Daiyu, because they called her hypocritical and conniving, that her kindness and gentleness was a façade (just like how I think of Liwan basically). The incident that caused a dent in her reputation was similar to how Liwan treated Miaoyu:

Two female house attendants were discussing about the newest romantic development between one of them and the young son of a rich household. In those days, it’s a bit of a taboo because of the mismatch in status.

Queen Bee walked by and overheard it. As the conversation progressed, the two female house attendants got worried that someone might be eavesdropping, so they went to inspect their surrounding to ensure that no one’s around before the continue the conversation.

Queen Bee had nowhere to hide, so she pretended to be just passing through, and pretend to call out aloud “Where are you running off to Daiyu (the Ethereal Snowflake, the one that the girls didn’t like)?” As if that Daiyu was the one who was in hiding and overheard everything and ran away after being spotted.

I understand where the supporters of Snowflake come from, but I also felt that this was different from the case of Liwan and Miaoyu, because this was rather unintentional–she didn’t set out to frame Daiyu, but that she was kind of cornered to think of an escape. I see it as the natural reaction of a teenager who’s well-loved who needed at that point to react quick enough with something (of course at the expense of someone else) to ensure that her well-loved position remains intact. She was definitely no saint, and she definitely was very socially adept to know what would work for and against her.

At the heart of it all (pun intended), ultimately, she lost the war to the Ethereal Snowflake although she did eventually become the wife of the male protagonist. When he saw the Queen Bee wearing a bracelet with read beads gifted by his royal bride sister, he immediately wished that he could see that on the Snowflake instead.

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For that reason, even though she married the man of her dreams, she ended up all alone as the male protagonist opted to shave his head to become a monk as the family declined. Queen Bee thought that her life happiness was to marry the guy which had the best prospects, and she spent her entire life working towards that goal only to realise that what she thought was happiness was just an illusion.

Critics of Queen Bee liked to call her hypocritical,but the truth is, no one of her generation/age was as considerate and caring as her. She proactively reached out to her love rival to take care of her, hang out with her, and gave her plenty of advice on staying healthy. She also shared her most precious memories of her own family, her love and longing for a past that disappeared with the death of her father, with her love rival. She opened up her heart to her, and in turn, she opened up the door to Daiyu’s heart too. Yes, possibly she was really shrewd and it was one of the tactics to gaining the rival’s trust, because keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer right. But somehow, she did nothing to indicate that she meant any harm, and there was nothing in the story that seemed to suggest that she betrayed that trust.

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All the past wealth, glories, happiness, were buried under the snow when winter came around. Baochai, like the many other girls in the story, were victims of a society that prized didn’t value women as individuals. She did as she was told, fulfilled her duty as a good daughter to the family, and ended with an empty room and a husband who would rather become a monk than stay married to her. She was not the one who actively did unscrupulous things to deserve such treatment/ending, all she did was to be a typical teenager and had the wishful thinking of marrying a good guy by being a good girl.

Her wish was answered, but it was not a promise of happily ever after.

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END

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