TALES OF MING COURTESANS
BY ALICE POON
Publication Date: June 1, 2020
Paperback; 354 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
From the author of The Green Phoenix comes a riveting tale of female friendship, honor, and sacrifice for love, set in 17th Century China and featuring the intertwined stories of three of the era’s most renowned courtesans, escorts skilled in music, poetry and painting who could decide themselves whether or not to offer patrons bed favors.
Inspired by literary works and folklore, Tales of Ming Courtesans traces the destinies of the three girls from the seamy world of human trafficking and slavery to the cultured scene of the famously decadent pleasure district of the city of Nanjing, evoking episodes in Memoirs of a Geisha.
The girls all existed – Rushi was a famous poet, Yuanyuan became the concubine of a general who changed the course of Chinese history by supporting the Manchu invasion in 1644 and Xiangjun challenged the corruption of court officials to try to save her lover. Rushi’s daughter, Jingjing, gradually pieces together the stories of the three from a memoir left to her by her mother.
Betrayal, tenacity and hope all come together in a novel that brings to life an important era in China’s history, and particularly highlights the challenges faced by independent-minded women.
AMAZON |BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND
Praise for Tales of Ming Courtesans
“In Tales of Ming Courtesans, Alice Poon masterfully brings to life three fascinating women who had a lasting impact on China’s culture and history. This beautiful telling of their turbulent lives and devoted friendship is a reverential testament to their memories.” – Kelli Estes, bestselling author of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
“Tales of Ming Courtesans is a poignant and captivating exploration of the lives of three extraordinary women…. Ultimately an enduring tale of the power of sisterhood and the bonds between women.” – Jeannie Lin, USA Today bestselling author of The Lotus Palace
“Tales of Ming Courtesans is a brilliant, ‘own voices’ alternative to Memoirs of a Geisha….An exquisite reading experience. Highly, highly recommended.” – M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl With Ghost Eyes
“Alice Poon’s excellent Tales of Ming Courtesans follows the intertwined lives of three seventeenth-century courtesans….. Poon’s real achievement is to create believable depth to her characters’ known histories….She has clearly written Tales from the heart.” – David Leffman, author of The Mercenary
When Jingjing finds a memoir written by her mother, she discovers that the world her mother, Rushi and Aunts Yuanyuan and Xiangjun grew up in was cruel and traumatizing. All three women were sold as children to thin horse breeders, or slave traders. They were taught music, art, dance and poetry in order to entertain men who would pay for their company. The women were now objects to be bought and traded as men saw fit. Their lives take many twists and turns, but the sisterhood that they forged with matching kerchiefs helps them through.
Tales of Ming Courtesans is a heartfelt and uplifting memoir style account of the role and treatment of women in 17th Century China. Liu Rushi, Chen Yuanyuan and Li Xiangjun were all real women who were concubines at this time. I was moved by their stories of constant struggle yet determination. Each woman was considered as property and were used by men in different ways, to settle debt, for pleasure or even to hold hostage in exchange for political favor. I was constantly amazed by their perseverance and constant struggle to raise their station. I enjoyed learning about the accomplishments of these women, despite abuse and slavery Rushi excelled at painting and poetry, Yuanyuan played a role in Ming General Wu Sangui's decision to defect to the Qing, Xianjun excelled at the pipa gaining the attentions of Hou Fangyu beginning one of the greatest romances in Chinese History. Tales of Ming Courtesans presents an almost overwhelming amount of information of the lives of these three women. The memoir style of writing was a little rambling for me, often losing my interest for short periods of time before picking up again. There were
also large jumps in time. Overall, an insightful and honest look at Ming Dynasty Courtesans.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Alice Poon steeped herself in Chinese poetry and history, Jin Yong’s martial arts novels and English Literature in her school days. This early immersion has inspired her creative writing.
Always fascinated with iconic but unsung women in Chinese history and legends, she cherishes a dream of bringing them to the page.
Her new historical novel Tales of Ming Courtesans will be released by Earnshaw Books on June 1, 2020.
She is the author of The Green Phoenix and the bestselling and award-winning non-fiction title Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong. She now lives in Vancouver, Canada and devotes her time to writing historical Chinese fiction.
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