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The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines book. Read 8 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. In the closing years of the eighteenth century.
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The Imperial Interpreter Second Class, the alluring Lady Cao Baoqin, assigned to the English embassy, is consequently incarcerated in the Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, destined to end her days among these forlorn flowers of decades past. Lady Cao, however, is much more than she appears to be; rumours whisper of her mysterious association with the much-revered author of the Dream of the Red Chamber --a novel as politically dangerous as it is galvanizing.

Loved by a stalwart Dutch diplomat, coveted by the Grand Censor, and scorned by the power-seeking Heshen, Lady Cao is a delicate pillar of indomitable strength and fortitude. Set amidst the intrigue of a dilapidated court, The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines is a work of lyrical eloquence in which one woman emerges as the most unexpected of heroes, a woman who, through the indomitable power of her ink-reed, will defy an empire.

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Be the first to ask a question about The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines. Apr 16, Patricia rated it it was amazing. In Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, Pim Wiersinga has created a well-researched view of life in 18th-century China among people of a refined class. She is not an entirely likable person.

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She In Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, Pim Wiersinga has created a well-researched view of life in 18th-century China among people of a refined class. She will go against her own wishes just to spite someone else she believes is trying to tell her what to do. She is self-possessed, even egotistical. But she has a refinement and intellect that is appealing.

In a sense, she is both protagonist and antagonist. This Dutch author restricts European characters to comparatively minor roles. Similarly, the character of the historical figure, British Envoy Macartney, serves as a stark contrast between Eastern and Western cultural norms, with his mission to acquire one-way benefits for Britain, a mission that failed for its very disrespect in a culture where hierarchical respect, to this day, is fundamental. Perhaps the riskiest literary choice in Pavilion is that of using an epistolary form, one that is presented entirely as correspondence between Lady Cao and those with whom she has personal reasons for communicating.

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Often, the primary reason is that she wants something from the other person, but often she also shares descriptions of her thoughts and behaviors where she portrays herself with some degree of self-admiration. A confession: I have a loving connectedness with correspondence carried out on linen paper with a fountain pen. I am predisposed to appreciate a novel written with such a manner of communication.

Written correspondence has a permanence that spoken dialog cannot have. This befits the character, however, as it allows her to control the narrative. Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines offers Western readers such a special opportunity to peer into 18th-century China through a Chinese looking glass.

The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines is a luscious book that transports the reader back to 18th century China, right from the first page. After the strongman at Court, Heshen, takes her to the dungeon, the Emperor intervenes and transfers her to the Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines to serve her sentence. Thus begins the rich The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines is a luscious book that transports the reader back to 18th century China, right from the first page. Thus begins the rich correspondence between Lady Cao Baoqin and the Emperor, and branches out to the many characters of the book, whose lives intertwine with hers in the effort to preserve the original copy of the book The Dream of the Red Chamber, written by her former lover, Xuequin, and in which she appears as a fictional character.

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Author Pim Wiersinga, creates a multi-layered world within the tightly controlled life of Lady Cao Baoqin, through the letters that travel to and from the Pavilion. This rich, authentic storytelling swept me away into a world so far from my own that I truly felt I was escaping. Wiersinga expertly weaves a multi-dimensional story with an authentic voice, reflecting the customs and manners of this ancient Chinese culture. The voice and viewpoint of Lady Cao Baoqin are so well constructed I was impressed that the author, a male, was able to capture the female perspective so well.

I loved the sections of the book where Lady Cao Baoqin relaxed her tough exterior and reflected on the gentle and passionate nature of her love for Xuequin.


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Some of the sections I read over several times as they were so evocative and doing so moved me to near tears. This is a book I plan to read again, as I feel many of the more subtle nuances escaped me. It will be an absolute joy to revisit this book and the characters again in the near future.

This book will not disappoint the historical reader; it has everything one could want : lyrical language, a rich historical backdrop, love, political intrigue, passion and a twist ending. A fabulous work! Mar 10, Nandan rated it it was amazing. But it is also about power -- political and personal. Lady Cao, toward whom all action trends, in this novel, is a mistress of the arts of love -- all kinds of love, not just romantic love. She loves words, elegance, honesty, beauty, and freedom, most of all. And, yet, despite her wealth, power, and connections, she is forced, much of the time, into silence.

Sometimes, others silence her but The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, by Pim Wiersinga, is a novel about love and hate and intrigue. Sometimes, others silence her but often she silences herself. Self-censorship is an important theme in the novel.


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  8. But Lady Cao is such a powerful person and also such a powerful writer that even her silences echo ominously through the corridors of power in the China of her time. This is a novel that shows how much a person can achieve with the help only of words and of friends. There are no battles here and no dangerous romantic liaisons. The danger lies in words, in the beauty, the power, and the majesty of words. And what better way to help the reader focus on words than by constructing the novel as a series of letters? The conversations are always written, always beautifully crafted, and yet often about ugliness and humiliation and so on.

    The tension between absolute control and absolute chaos is always there in the novel and holds the reader spell-bound.

    But the novel also introduces the reader to many strange and beautiful places, persons, and customs. The descriptions are always relevant to the story but also captivating in and of themselves. The emperor is not going to allow his women to play with the eunuchs. You want an easy life you got to accept the fact that you'll be sleeping alone almost every night hah. Just to say, castration of an adult male renders him sterile, but NOT impotent.

    They could still service the ladies of the harem, they just couldn't impregnate them.

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    We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. Skip to main content. References Anderson, M. Chinese Imperial Women. Singapore: Asiapac Books. Login or Register in order to comment. TheOwlScribe wrote on 24 August, - Permalink. Ruby wrote on 27 March, - Permalink. Related Articles on Ancient-Origins.

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