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.
back several centuries, a far distance from my modern house in Changsha. I got up in the middle of night to find lice in my bed. Yong Li shouted for a kettle of boiling water and poured it all over the thin straw mattress, killing the lice, whose white bodies—like rice kernels—flooded out onto the dirt floor. She laid our coats on top of the damp mattress, but my old problem of sleeplessness reasserted itself, and I simply sat up in a chair and watched for the dawn. Yong Li slept soundly, though,
brought a worm of destruction into our government that ate away at our insides, and the business of government went from being a heroic nationalistic enterprise to being the building of vast personal fortunes through corruption. You see it yourself.” I said nothing, but I knew he was right. “We lost the war years ago,” Guai sighed, “only none of us knew it then. The future is actually prepared long in advance—that is why the fortune-tellers can sometimes guess at it. It’s an odd feeling,
days”—she stroked the mirror’s reflecting surface—“we preferred jade to diamonds, because diamonds were too glittery. We thought shiny surfaces were untrustworthy. And so they are, but now the entire world is in love with shiny surfaces. I received this mirror as a wedding present from my grandmother. Did you read the good luck it wishes, about five sons passing the examinations?” I nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed. I felt my mother was very near the end. I dreaded losing her, yet I
the void. At this point in my time on earth, more people were leaving my life than entering it. After Zhao told us that he had been ordered to leave for Taiwan, in order to prepare for the possible evacuation of the government to that island, I discussed matters with Guai, and began selling my property, in bits and pieces, quickly and for cash—or more precisely, for gold. I used the ingots to buy gold jewelry, which was lighter and more compact and would be easier to carry. I had never had to
believed him, because I forgot everything.” Yong Li was sobbing now, muffling the noise by biting down on the dishcloth. “What else did you see in the bedroom that night?” I asked fearfully. “Did you see anyone in the bed? Maybe under the covers?” But Yong Li shook her head. “I don’t remember anything else, Elder Sister. I thought it was all a dream, so I forgot about it.” I sat on the steps with her for a while, with my arm around her while she cried. I thought of a hundred different