Volume 3 finds the significant idea in Buddhist that one would open his eyes to the vanity of human affections and causes a person to renounce the world, for one no longer subscribes to the conventions of the mundane, dust-stained world and thrives to be detached from it.
The title of this gripping, escalating volume, The Warning Voice, duly confirms the intractable decadence of the Jias. Tolstoy's opening line in Anna Karenina best describes the unfavorable miasma - "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Outsiders look at the Jias and all its wealth and immediately think how happy the Jias must be, they don't realize the vexations far outweigh the advantages and privileges. Being a big family with its numerous maids' converting to mistresses and concubines, daily fuss and drama are inevitable. These mistresses are conceited, usually full of their own importance, and always take offense at the most trivial matter, and at the slightest bit of cross do they begin to spread rumors to stir up trouble. It is under such quarrelsome milieu that the Jias gradually wanes. Volume 3 begins with the domestic hierarchy of maids in the house and how in the sabbatical of Xi-feng from managing house duties the well being of the family is left at the mercy of the senior maids.
In the event of an imperial member's death, the Jia ladyships take to daily excursion to the palace where they attend ceremonies during the mourning period (usually spans 100 days during Ming and Qing dynasties). Their stewards and stewardesses are no less occupied with accompanying them and seeing that preparations are readied ahead of time. Lacking discipline normally imposed by these officers and being deprived of Xi-feng's invidiously stringent implementation of rules on the operation of the house, domestics of both mansions (Rong and Ning) grow slovenly in the duties. Some take advantage of the exceptional circumstances to allay themselves with those placed temporarily in charge. Others, like the ex-actresses who remain under the Jias' patronage, become so imperious, demanding and fastidious about their commodities that the servants remain silent to avoid disputations. The urgent call for economizing adds fuel to the flame as the household is plagued by quarrel over the harvest of the garden, which is divided up among the growers and keepers. In a matter of weeks, happenings within the mansion render the whole place in a state of mutiny. The Rong and Ning mansions are inevitably left at the mercy of the few loyal, experienced senior maids who even go as far as bending authority to spare an innocent maid the accusation of stealing.
Some of the most memorable scenes of THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER are indubitably those that concern Jia Lian's secret second marriage and its aftermath. The cunning Xi-feng deliberately conceals her knowledge of the shameful matter and executes her plan silently. Keeping her anger at bay and taking advantage of her rival's lacking in guile, Xi-feng entreats her rival to live with her, feigns kindness and makes her rival feel reassured about her future in the bosom of so delightful a family. Xi-feng's forbearance and outward gesture of kindness greatly mystify everyone who knows about the matter but little does anyone know about her true intent to rid of this new mistress. The treacherous Xi-feng surreptitiously draws up a fictitious court case accusing her own husband of taking an unlawful wife during national mourning and family mourning in order to rid of her rival indirectly. Her strategy is to stir up a betrothal agreement concerning her rival in the old days and manipulates the formerly affianced to bring a written indictment against her own husband before the court.
Insubordination and deterioration of moral standard infest the garden and infuriate Lady Wang. In her opinion each one of the maids in the garden is potential corrupter of her son Bao-yu. She orders a raid of the garden at the awestruck finding of a lewd picture. Secret investigation on the obscene brick-a-brac immediately takes place with such single-minded persistence and orders all maids to be subjected to her scrutiny. The unforeseen incidence raises alarm in Lady Wang about Bao-yu's squandering his time in the garden. Bao-yu is unprepared for the raging tempest that has just passed over him. The things his mother charges the maids with so uncanny a knowledge of even his most intimate conversations with them that there seem a little point in denial.
This volume faintly presages Bao-yu's determination to grip his own destiny. He thrives to live his life as he wants to and recognizes life'' uncertainty. This is significant in his defiance over the family-decided marriage to Bao-chai and his firm refusal to let go of his feeling and affection for Lin Dai-yu. It can be inferred that in his ineffable pain of losing Dai-yu that he has conceived the incipient thought to break away from the dust-stained world. Buddhist teaching dictates the second half of this climax-reaching volume of the novel. At the depletion of wealth and the dimming of glitter the truth of Buddha outshines the taste of luxury that is proven to be vanity at best. Out of the sea of suffering, one might turn the light and resolve to abjure the world and its vanities in order to prepare for the life to come. This idea burgeons toward the end of The Warning Voice as a sign and will be further explored in Volume 4.