Dream of the Walled City
Lisa Huang Fleischman
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Marking the debut of a stunning new literary talent, Lisa Huang Fleischman's extraordinary saga -- inspired by her grandmother's life as an early feminist, political activist, and friend of Mao Zedong -- is a masterpiece about one clever and resourceful woman, growing up amidst the turmoil of twentieth-century China.
Dream of the Walled City
Born in 1890, the privileged and sheltered daughter of a high-ranking imperial official, Jade Virtue spends her childhood enclosed by the towering walls of her family's sprawling mansion, never glimpsing the desperate struggle of China's ancient society, as the old ways are challenged and the twentieth century?fast, fearsome, and tumultuous?rushes in. But when her father mysteriously dies, young Jade Virtue is suddenly thrust into poverty, and experiences firsthand a traditional culture falling apart under the onslaught of growing rebellion against the Emperor, rapid social changes, and the mounting aggression of Japan and the West.
Fleischman has rendered a richly textured, panoramic vision of Chinese life in the perilous years between the end of the empire and the Communist triumph of 1949, charting Jade Virtue's arranged first marriage to the corrupt opium addict Wang Mang, who harbors a terrible secret in his family's past; her awakening independence and ambivalent politics; her struggles with motherhood; and her fascinating acquaintance with a gifted, idealistic, fiercely ambitious young man named Mao Zedong. But the most important choices of her life are shaped by her conflicting loyalties to her intense lifelong friendship with Jinyu, a fiery woman revolutionary, and to Guai, a government official and sworn enemy of the Communists, with whom she finally discovers true and redemptive love.
Exquisitely nuanced and lyrical yet marked with a driving power, Dream Of The Walled City is an enthralling novel of hard-won personal independence set against the vivid backdrop of a rapidly changing world. From the final days of the last dynasty through the savage Japanese invasion during World War II to the formidable red dawn of the Communist triumph; from the backward rural province of Hunan to exile on the tropical shores of Taiwan; and from the binding chains of predetermined fate to the exhilarating liberation of a human spirit, this is a remarkable odyssey you will never forget.
hushed grind of several large spinning prayer wheels, with prayers and petitions written on slips of paper stuffed inside. Each revolution of the wheel was one prayer sent up to heaven, and there were monks who did no more than squat before them all day, spinning the wheels with the palms of their hands, spinning thousands of prayers to heaven every day, millions and millions of prayers in a lifetime of spinning, building a great fortune of virtue in heaven. Were prayers more likely to be
wounded now, because they are dying like worms. They are scattered in camps throughout the mountains, but many have been captured and killed by Li Shi’s soldiers.” I said nothing, but looked down at my hands. “We’re supposed to stay behind and go on fighting, and try to maintain the soviets here in the south. The main columns—well, they are trying to retreat to some safe place in the north. Only thirty-five women got to leave with them. He Zizhen of course, Mao’s woman, although she’s pregnant.
world of danger, because from that time on Changsha was bombed regularly by Japanese planes. The planes would fly in over the horizon and circle over the city, as if they were browsing for targets, dropping a load of bombs here and a load there, leaving behind a mound of blackened brick and twisted beams. I felt as if a new age had dawned, where one was vulnerable wherever one might be, and where walls and distance gave no safety. After every bombing run, there would always be a dead man or two
stomach. “What is it, Guai? You look very distracted.” I moved around to sit next to him. “You know I’ve been working on a particular case these last few weeks. About an informant named Meng.” “Yes, but you haven’t told me anything beyond that.” “Meng is a tough, greasy man. I had heard rumors that Meng had eaten fat throughout the war because he was paid by the Japanese. But he’s valuable, he hears everything. I hesitate to act in investigations just because of a paid informant’s word, but
her, is one of my oldest friends. That is why I say she is your aunt.” “Do you force the girls to call her Aunt?” “The girls do call her Aunt. I don’t have to force them. They respect her.” He turned his gaze away and raised his chin. “Don’t pretend to me again that I am related to that maid,” he said. I got up and went around the table and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him. “How dare you?” I spat. “You are not worthy to empty Yong Li’s chamber pot! Not because you are a servant, but