Narrations of Personality Disorders in A Dream of Red Mansions

  • Hongying Fan
  • Wanzhen Chen
  • Wei WangEmail author


With normal personality traits well described in the novel – A Dream of Red Mansions (DRM), there might be rich narrations of personality disorders regarding sorts of character in it as well. We have speculated that the special traditional Chinese culture (including paternalism, male dominance and Collectivism) have a great influence on ancients’ personality traits and lead to some kinds of personality disorders. Therefore, in this chapter, we would like to look for descriptions of personality disorders in the text of DRM. Personality-descriptive terms (adjective)/phrases, and sentences/paragraphs of each character were sorted and summarized to compare with the dimensional classification criteria of personality disorders in Section III of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association 2013). Some characters in the novel, Jia Baoyu, Wang Xifeng, Lin Daiyu, Xue Baochai, Xue Pan, Jia Yucun, Concubine Zhao, Jia Rui, Miaoyu, and Jia Jing, with their impairments in personality functioning and pathological traits, might be diagnosed as antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, or schizotypal personality disorder, or a trait-specified, respectively. Maladaptive traits in antagonism domain might be the most described traits in DRM. The second described domain might be negative affectivity and disinhibition. The psychoticism and detachment domains might be less described. Females in DRM might have the tendency to some level of negative affectivity, while males more Antagonism and disinhibition. On one hand, this study proves the cross-culture and time consistency of personality disorders. On the other hand, owing to the special traditional Chinese culture, self-direction would be difficult in some degree and interpersonal impairments would stand out with the personality disorder. There was a high level of Antagonism in the characters and special submissiveness for most females that time. Daoism or Buddhism would lead to unrealistic goal setting, and avoidance of social contact. The study implicates that Chinese culture has contributed to personality disorders or traits at least from seventeenth to eighteenth century on, and has disclosed the disadvantages of Daoism, Buddhism, and hierarchy, male dominance and Collectivism under the influence of Confucianism in the development of personality disorder. This study also calls for investigations on normal and disordered personality traits in contemporary China (see Chapter “ Cultural Contribution to Personality Disorders in China”).


A Dream of Red Mansions Late imperial China Personality disorder Traditional Chinese culture Section III of DSM-5 


  1. Allik, J., & McCrae, R. R. (2004). Toward a geography of personality traits: Patterns of profiles across 36 cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 13–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anonymous. (2014). A Dream of Red Mansions in the year of Guiyou [Guiyou ben Shitouji] (J. J. Jin & X. H. He, Eds.). Beijing: Jiuzhou Publishing House (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  4. Asnaani, A., Richey, J. A., Dimaite, R., Hinton, D. E., & Hofmann, S. G. (2010). A cross-ethnic comparison of lifetime prevalence rates of anxiety disorders. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198, 551–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhugra, D. (2004). Migration, distress and cultural identity. British Medical Bulletin, 69, 129–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bhugra, D. (2005). Cultural identities and cultural congruency: A new model for evaluating mental distress in immigrants. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 111, 84–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bond, R., & Smith, P. B. (1996). Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis of studies using Asch’s (1952b, 1956) line judgment task. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 111–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chan, W. (1967). The individual in Chinese religions. In C. A. Moore (Ed.), The Chinese mind: Essentials of Chinese philosophy and culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chan, K. H., Lew, A. Y., & Tong, M. Y. J. W. (2001). Accounting and management controls in the classical Chinese novel: A Dream of the Red Mansions. International Journal of Accounting, 36, 311–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, L. A. (2007). Assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder: Perennial issues and an emerging reconceptualization. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 227–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crittenden, P. M., & Newman, L. (2010). Comparing models of borderline personality disorder: Mothers’ experience, self-protective strategies, and dispositional representations. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15, 433–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diaz-Guerrero, R. (1979). The development of coping style. Human Development, 22, 320–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. P. (1979). Violence against wives: A case against the patriarchy. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Essau, C. A., Ishikawa, S. I., Sasagawa, S., Sato, H., Okajima, I., Otsui, K., Georgiou, G. A., O’Callaghan, J., & Michie, F. (2011). Anxiety symptoms among adolescents in Japan and England: Their relationship with self-construals and social support. Depression and Anxiety, 28, 509–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fan, Y. (2000). A classification of Chinese culture. Cross Cultural Management, 7, 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fan, H., Chen, W., Shen, C., Qin, Y., Zhu, J., Xu, Y., Gao, Q., & Wang, W. (2018). Narrations of personality disorders in a Chinese famous novel in the eighteenth century – A Dream of Red Mansions. Journal of Psychiatry: Open Access, 21, 440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Furnham, A., & Cheng, H. (1999). Personality as predictor of mental health and happiness in the East and West. Personality and Individual Differences, 27, 395–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gao, Y., Raine, A., Chan, F., Venables, P. H., & Mednick, S. A. (2010). Early maternal and paternal bonding, childhood physical abuse and adult psychopathic personality. Psychological Medicine, 40, 1007–1016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gray, S. J. (1988). Towards a theory of cultural influence on the development of accounting systems internationally. Abacus: A Journal of Accounting, Finance and Business Studies, 24, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Head, S. B., Baker, J. D., & Williamson, D. A. (1991). Family environment characteristics and dependent personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 5, 256–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heinrichs, N., Rapee, R. M., Alden, L. A., Bögels, S., Hofmann, S. G., Oh, K. J., & Sakano, Y. (2006). Cultural differences in perceived social norms and social anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 1187–1197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hiramura, H., Uji, M., Shikai, N., Chen, Z., Matsuoka, N., & Kitamura, T. (2010). Understanding externalizing behavior from children’s personality and parenting characteristics. Psychiatry Research, 175, 142–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ho, D. Y. F. (1987). Fatherhood in Chinese culture. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The father’s role: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 227–245). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  24. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in worked related values. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Hofstede, G. (1984). Cultural dimensions in management and planning. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 1, 81–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsiao, F. S. T., Jen, F. C., & Lee, C. F. (1990). Impacts of culture and communist orthodoxy on Chinese management. In J. Child & M. Lockett (Eds.), Advances in Chinese industrial studies (Vol. 1 (Part A)) (pp. 301–314). Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hsu, F. L. K. (1981). Americans and Chinese: Passage to differences (3rd ed.). Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.Google Scholar
  28. Huang, R., & Leung, F. K. S. (2005). Deconstructing teacher-centeredness and student centeredness dichotomy: A case study of a Shanghai mathematics lesson. Mathematics Educator, 15, 35–41.Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, M. P. (1995). Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lang, O. (1946). Chinese family and society. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Lau, M. P., & Ng, M. L. (1989). Homosexuality in Chinese culture. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 13, 465–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Laulik, S., Chou, S., Browne, K. D., & Allam, J. (2013). The link between personality disorder and parenting behaviors: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18, 644–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levinson, D. (1989). Family violence in cross-cultural perspective. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Levy, D. J. (1999). Ideal and actual in The Story of the Stone. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Levy, K. N., Reynoso, J. S., Wasserman, R. H., & Clarkin, J. F. (2007). Narcissistic personality disorder. In W. O’Donohoue, K. A. Fowler, & S. O. Lilienfeld (Eds.), Personality disorders towards the DSM-V (pp. 233–277). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lieberz, K. (1989). Children at risk for schizoid disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 3, 329–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lin, Y. T. (1935). My country and my people (p. 178). New York: John Day.Google Scholar
  38. Livesley, W. J. (2001). Conceptual and taxonomic issues. In W. J. Livesley (Ed.), Handbook of personality disorders: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 3–38). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  39. Luo, G. (1996). Chinese traditional social and moral ideas and rules. Beijing: The University of Chinese People Press, in Chinese.Google Scholar
  40. Lyddon, W., & Sherry, A. (2001). Developmental personality styles: An attachment theory conceptualization of personality disorders. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79, 405–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McDermott, P. A. (1996). A nationwide study of developmental and gender prevalence for psychopathology in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 53–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mok, I. A. C. (2006). Shedding light on the East Asian learner paradox: Reconstructing student-centredness in a Shanghai classroom. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 26, 131–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Paris, J., Zweig-Frank, H., & Guzder, J. (1994). Psychological risk factors for borderline personality duiroder in female patients. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 35, 301–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Patterson, G. R., DeBaryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 329–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pye, L. W. (1972). China: An introduction (2nd ed.). Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  46. Reich, J. (1986). The relationship between early life events and DSM-III personality disorders. Hillside Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8, 164–173.Google Scholar
  47. Reich, D. B., & Zanarini, M. C. (2001). Developmental aspects of borderline personality disorder. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 9, 294–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reti, I. M., Samuels, J. F., Eaton, W. W., Bienvenu Iii, O. J., Costa, P. T., Jr., & Nestadt, G. (2002). Adult antisocial personality traits are associated with experiences of low parental care and maternal overprotection. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106, 126–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schreier, S., Heinrichs, N., Alden, L., Rapee, R. M., Hofmann, S. G., Chen, J., Oh, K. J., & Bögels, S. (2010). Social anxiety and socialnorms in individualistic and collectivistic countries. Depression and Anxiety, 27, 1128–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sorenson, S. B., & Siegel, J. M. (1992). Gender, ethnicity, and sexual assault: Findings from a Los Angeles study. Journal of Social Issues, 48, 93–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stankov, L. (2010). Unforgiving Confucian culture: A breeding ground for high academic achievement, test anxiety and self-doubt? Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 555–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Strayer, F. F. (1980). Child ethology and the study of preschool social relations. In H. C. Foot, A. J. Chapman, & J. R. Smith (Eds.), Friendship and social relations in children (pp. 235–265). Piscataway: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  53. Triandis, H. C. (1989). The self and social behavior in differing cultural contexts. Psychological Review, 96, 506–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Triandis, H. C. (1993). Collectivism and individualism as cultural syndromes. Cross-Cultural Research, 27, 155–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Triandis, H. C. (1995). Individualism and collectivism: New directions in social psychology. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  56. Triandis, H. C. (2000). Culture and conflict. International Journal of Psychology, 35, 145–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Triandis, H. C. (2001). Individualism-collectivism and personality. Journal of Personality, 69, 907–924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Triandis, H. C., & Suh, E. M. (2002). Cultural influences on personality. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 133–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Trommsdorff, G., & Essau, C. A. (1999). Japanese and German adolescents’control orientation: Across-cultural study. In G. Trommsdorff, W. Friedlmeier, & H. J. Kornadt (Eds.), Japan in transition – A comparative view on social and psychological aspects (pp. 198–211). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  60. Trull, T. J., & Durrett, C. A. (2005). Categorical and dimensional models of personality disorder. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 355–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Walker, L. (2000). The battered woman syndrome (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  62. Wang, W., Wu, Y. X., Peng, Z. G., Lu, S. W., Yu, L., Wang, G. P., Fu, X. M., & Wang, Y. H. (2000). Test of sensation seeking in a Chinese sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 169–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Widiger, T. A., & Trull, T. J. (2007). Plate tectonics in the classification of personality disorder: Shifting to a dimensional model. American Psychologist, 62, 71–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wu, C., & Jia, S. (1992). Chinese culture and fertility decline. Chinese Journal of Population Science, 4, 95–103, in Chinese.Google Scholar
  65. Xu, Y., Lin, L., Yang, L., Zhou, L., Tao, Y., Chen, W., Chai, H., & Wang, W. (2016). Personality disorder and perceived parenting in Chinese students of divorced and intact families. Family Journal, 24, 70–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Yang, K. (1987). Chinese values and the search for culture-free dimensions of culture. International Journal of Psychology, 18, 143–164.Google Scholar
  67. Yang, B. (2005). A factor analysis of the ancient Chinese personality structure. Psychological Science (China), 28, 668–672. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  68. Yang, H., & Yang, G. (Trans.). (1978). A Dream of the Red Mansions. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
  69. Yip, K. S. (2004). Taoism and its impact on mental health of the Chinese communities. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 50, 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Yu, A. C. (1997). Rereading the stone: Desire and the making of fiction in “Dream of the Red Chamber”. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Yu, R., Wang, Z., Qian, F., Jang, K. L., Livesley, W. J., Paris, J., Shen, M., & Wang, W. (2007). Perceived parenting styles and disordered personality traits in adolescent and adult students and in personality disorder patients. Social Behavior and Personality, 35, 587–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zheng, L., Chai, H., Chen, W., Yu, R., He, W., Jiang, Z., Yu, S., Li, H., & Wang, W. (2011). Recognition of facial emotion and perceived parental bonding styles in healthy volunteers and personality disorder patients. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 65, 648–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zuckerman, M., Eysenck, S. B., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Sensation seeking in England and America: Cross-cultural, age, and sex comparisons. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry/School of Public HealthZhejiang University College of MedicineHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations