The Secrets of Jin-shei – Alma Alexander
A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom.
They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfil their destiny.
The sisterhood we meet run from the Emperor’s sister to the street-beggar, from the trainee warrior in the Emperor’s Guard to the apprentice healer, from the artist to the traveller-girl, herself an illegitimate daughter of an emperor and seen as a threat to the throne. And as one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple, against the marauding forces from other kingdoms, drags the sisterhood into a dangerous world of court intrigue, plot and counterplot, and brings them into conflict with each other from which only the one who remains true to all the vows she made at the very beginning to the dying Princess Empress can rescue them.
The Dark Road – Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew
Meili, a young peasant woman born in the remote heart of China, is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate for a son to carry on his illustrious family line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant again without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter escape to the Yangtze River and begin a fugitive life.
For years they drift south through the poisoned waterways and ruined landscapes of China, picking up work as they go along, scavenging for necessities and flying from police detection. As Meili’s body continues to be invaded by her husband and assaulted by the state, she fights to regain control of her fate and that of her unborn child.
Bone Mountain – Eliot Pattison
When disgraced former inspector, Shan Tao Yun joins a group of reverent Tibetans returning a sacred artefact to its home, it seems he has at last found the peace he has struggled for since leaving prison. What starts as a spiritual pilgrimage, however, quickly turns into a desperate flight through the Tibetan wilderness as the outlawed monk who guides them is murdered and Sham discovers that the artefact has recently been stolen from the Chinese army.
But why is the army so desperate to find the artefact entrusted to Shan? Why is an aged medicine lama being stalked by government agents? Why has an American woman, a geologist for an oil company, abandoned the project and fled into the mountains? Shan discovers not answers, but only new mysteries as he is drawn to such unexpected places as the raucous headquarters base of the Western oil venture and a monastery that seems more attuned to the teachings of the party than those of Buddha. And the further he travels into the mountains, the more Shan realises that what is at stake is not only justice but the spiritual survival of those who have joined his strange quest. At the heart of Pattison’s powerful tale is a story of a brave, oppressed people who have learned to endure by drawing strength from their land and their rich spiritual traditions.
The Eye of Jade – Diane Wei Liang
“Having her own detective agency would give her the independence she had always longed for. It would also give her the chance to show those people who shunned her that she could be successful. People were getting rich. They owned property, money, business, and cars. With new freedom and opportunities came new crimes. There would be much that
she could do.”
Present day, Beijing. Mei Wang is a modern, independent woman. She has her own apartment. She owns a car. She has her own business with that most modern of commodities – a male secretary. Her short career with China’s prestigious Ministry for Public Security has given her intimate insight into the complicated and arbitrary world of Beijing’s law enforcement. But it is her intuition, curiosity, and her uncanny knack for listening to things said – and unsaid – that make Mei Beijing’s first successful female private investigator.
Mei is no stranger to the dark side of China. She was six years old when she last saw her father behind the wire fence of one of Mao’s remote labor camps. Perhaps as a result, Mei eschews the power plays and cultural mores – “guanxi” – her sister and mother live by…for better and for worse.
Mei’s family friend “Uncle” Chen hires her to find a Han dynasty jade of great value: he believes the piece was looted from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution – when the Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying so many traces of the past – and that it’s currently for sale on the black market. The hunt for the eye of jade leads Mei through banquet halls and back alleys, seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars near the Forbidden City. Given the jade’s provenance and its journey, Mei knows to treat the investigation as a most delicate matter; she cannot know, however, that this case will force her to delve not only into China’s brutal history but also into her family’s dark secrets and into her own tragic separation from the man she loved in equal parts.
The Three Daughters of Madame Liang – Pearl S. Buck
After her husband takes a concubine, Madame Liang sets out on her own, starting an upscale restaurant and sending her daughters to America to be educated. At the restaurant, the leaders of the People’s Republic wine and dine and Madame Liang must keep a low profile for her daughters’ sake.
Soon her two eldest daughters are called back to serve the People’s Republic. Her oldest daughter, Grace, now a doctor, finds meaning through her work. Things are not as easy for her daughter Mercy, a musician who is not in demand in the People’s Republic, nor for her new husband who she has brought back to China with her.
Watching her two daughters grow apart and knowing that her youngest daughter will never return, Madame Liang must also face the challenges The Cultural Revolution, and how to keep herself and the restaurant, alive.
Song of the Silk Road – Mingmei Yip
As a girl growing up in Hong Kong, Lily Lin was captivated by photographs of the desert–its long, lonely vistas and shifting sand dunes. Now living in New York, Lily is struggling to finish her graduate degree when she receives an astonishing offer. An aunt she never knew existed will pay Lily a huge sum to travel across China’s desolate Taklamakan Desert – and carry out a series of tasks along the way.
Intrigued, Lily accepts. Her assignments range from the dangerous to the bizarre. Lily must seduce a monk. She must scrape a piece of clay from the famous Terracotta Warriors, and climb the Mountains of Heaven to gather a rare herb. At Xian, her first stop, Lily meets Alex, a young American with whom she forms a powerful connection. And soon, she faces revelations that will redefine her past, her destiny, and the shocking truth behind her aunt’s motivations. . .
Inheritance – Lan Samantha Chang
In 1931, abandoned after their mother’s suicide, the young Junan and her sister, Yinan, make a pact never to leave each other. The two girls are inseparable—until Junan enters into an arranged marriage and finds herself falling in love with her soldier husband. When the Japanese invade China, Junan and her husband are separated. Unable to follow him to the wartime capital, Junan makes the fateful decision to send her sister after him.