Ming: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century China

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9780312113155: Ming: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century China
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Meihua and Longyan, first daughter and second son of prominent families, discover a powerful bond in their conflict with the centuries-old social codes of the Ming dynasty. Although forbidden education, Meihua secretly learns to read and write. Longyan, beset by a learning disability that dishonors his family and prevents him from becoming a scholar, makes his mark as an outstanding military commander. But soon he must choose between protecting the decaying Ming dynasty and joining the barbarian Manchus from beyond the Great Wall.
Longyan and Meihua find themselves on opposite sides of this brutal struggle, yet passion compels them to continue their liaison. Torn between fighting the Manchu conquerors and working to heal their divided country, they endure strife, the torments of conflicting loyalties, and ultimately exile.

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About the Author:

Dr. Robert B. Oxnam is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and Arnold Bernhard Professor at Williams College.

From Publishers Weekly:

Oxnam (Cinnabar) animates a tumultuous period in Chinese history with this highly interesting tale of love and adventure in the collapsing Ming dynasty of the 1600s. Longyan is the less-favored second son of a once-powerful scholar who has brought shame on his family because he can't read (he suffers from dyslexia). He falls in love with Meihua, a sheltered young woman who has secretly learned to read and write, but she is betrothed to his half-brother. Befriended by a Jesuit priest whose "barbarian" ideas offer alternatives to rigid Confucian beliefs, the would-be lovers communicate through letters (Longyan, now rising in the military, dictates his). They manage to survive the chaotic political and social transition of the Manchu invasion (during which Meihua forms the Ladies' Filial Piety Society into a small, effective army), and ultimately both are exiled to a desolate island where their long devotion is rewarded. Oxnam, who is president emeritus of the Asia Society, brings a wealth of detail to his narrative, depicting the private lives of the 17th-century Chinese elite and injecting the local color of Suzhou and Beijing. But the novel is driven more by Longyan and Meihua's shifting relationships to the world around them than by their relationships to each other, leading the reader at times to feel that Oxman is more adept at illuminating a period of history than he is at creating psychologically motivated characters.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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