In this class we will try together to get a better understanding of traditional Chinese culture by reading and discussing a novel that has both been praised as a veritable encyclopedia of Chinese life and mattered deeply to countless Chinese readers, some of whom read it year after year. Because the novel focuses on life within the household and the majority of its major characters are female, one of the foci of the course will be on the life of Chinese women during the time the novel was written. Class meetings will feature a number of different activities. One of these will be informal debates on specific topics. Topics to be debated can be the questions to think about indicated in the class schedule below or may be chosen by the class. In the second half of the term, groups of three students (respectively taking the positions of pro, con, and judge) will also be asked to present to the class brief materials (articles, chapters from books) that they will read but the rest of the class will not. Finally, I may introduce topics for debate in class by means of illustrations, overhead transparencies, or video material. The main goal of the various debates will be to permit us to get a wider and richer view of the novel and the culture that produced it, but we will also be interested in relating what we see in the novel to life around us and material we have learned in other contexts. The procedure of debating topics from different points of view will also help us be more critical about our own beliefs and predilections.