New Read: Peach Blossom Pavilion

Several years ago now, I snapped up this exotic, historical fiction, Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip, when it was being offered for free on Amazon (UK). However since then it has sadly lay neglected on my Kindle, even though I was excited to read it! That was until now, as taking part in the What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge encouraged me to finally pick it up.

On doing so I was swept back to China, at the turn of century, where young Xiang Xiang’s father is falsely accused of a terrible crime by a powerful war lord and is brutally executed. The dishonour forces her mother to enter a Buddhist nunnery, so Xiang Xiang is left in the care of a distant relative, who takes her to the Peach Blossom Pavilion. There she is well fed, clothed and schooled in music, literature, painting and calligraphy, but also, to her innocent surprise, the art of pleasuring men. For the beautiful Pavilion is in fact an elite house of prostitution. Now to repay all that care and training she must sell her skin and smiles to the filthy, rich chou nanrens.

From a sunny California apartment, this riveting story is revealed as Xiang Xiang, now an old lady, is questioned by her great-granddaughter and her fiancée about how she rose from a childhood of shame to become Precious Orchid: one of the richest, most celebrated Ming Ji or “prestigious courtesan” in all of China. And it is a tumultuous tale unlike any they’ve heard before… Filled with deceit, abuse, friendship, suffering, love, loss, politics, danger and daring escapes. Through it all though Xiang Xiang/Precious Orchid never gives up on her dreams to escape; be reunited with her mother; avenge her father’s death and find true love.

In Xiang Xiang/Precious Orchid the author, Mingmei Yip, has created a well rounded and believable heroine – I just had to feel for this sweet, naïve young girl, who through so much heartache and hardship grows into a clever, strong woman. Though there is a selfish streak to her, it was forgivable as it was a product of her treatment. And through her eyes Yip was able to beautifully evoke China of the 1900s and the life at the Pavilion, with its sensual silk gowns; mouth-watering food; traditional tea service; the opera, arts and festivals; faith and the start of western influence.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the exotic setting and heart breaking tale of Peach Blossom Pavilion. After reading this I would be interested in reading more by Mingmei Yip. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other historical fiction set in China?

I have included this book in my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge, as a title with a fruit or vegetable in it. (2/6)


14 thoughts on “New Read: Peach Blossom Pavilion

  1. Sounds great! I am glad you enjoyed it. Lisa See has two novels set in historical China: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love. Both are exceptional. I have also read Memoirs of a Geisha. I could not put it down!

    1. Thank you Judy 🙂 I also loved Memoirs of a Geisha and you are the second person to name Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, so it sounds like I need to check it out. 😀

  2. It sounds as if it has some similarities with Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, also about a young girl trained up to be a high-class courtesan. The Tan one wasn’t really heart-breaking though – in fact, there was quite a lot of humour in it.

    1. FF, I have heard of Any Tan but I have not been fortunate enough to have read anything by her. I do like idea of The Valley of Amazement having humour in it, because, as much as I enjoyed Peach Blossom Pavilion, it was hard to deal with all the heart break.

  3. I don’t often read novels from this part of the world, but when I do, I always enjoy them. This story sounds excellent and I might have to add it to my wishlist. Great choice for the WIAN challenge.

    1. Kelly, I hardly ever read novels set in this part of the world either, but I think I really should! The only other one I can think of is Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden, which I loved and the adaptation was great too.

  4. Sounds like an interesting read. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan which is set in 19th century China and was made into a movie. It was a great read.

    1. Jane, I have not heard of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan but I have heard of the author, Lisa Lee, and I am even more interested as a film has been made too – I love an adaptation.

    1. Carmen, this certainly was exotic and lush. While I can’t say I am an expert on China of the 1900s, I totally believed in the setting and story that Yip evoked in this book.

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