Green Mountain, White Cloud: A Novel of Love in the Ming Dynasty

Green Mountain, White Cloud: A Novel of Love in the Ming Dynasty

by Francois Cheng
     
 

In a medieval abbey near Paris, in a room piled high with old Chinese texts, lies a manuscript gathering dust. Though ordinary in appearance, it first captures the eye of the narrator of François Cheng's novel. Then, once he begins to read, it captures his imagination and his heart. The book dates from the mid-seventeenth century, during the twilight of the

Overview

In a medieval abbey near Paris, in a room piled high with old Chinese texts, lies a manuscript gathering dust. Though ordinary in appearance, it first captures the eye of the narrator of François Cheng's novel. Then, once he begins to read, it captures his imagination and his heart. The book dates from the mid-seventeenth century, during the twilight of the Ming Dynasty. Barbarian armies are massing along the Empire's Northern borders, and a vast and sophisticated civilization-during whose heyday China had begun to emerge from its long isolation and undergone an explosion in the arts equal in its way to Europe's Renaissance-teeters on the brink of monumental and perhaps catastrophic change. Yet rather than filled with lore of military heroism, or with tales of palace intrigue, or with nostalgic memories of better days, the book tells a simple and very powerful love story.

It opens to a spring day, when a middle-aged doctor named Dao-sheng leaves the mountaintop Taoist monastery where he has been living and sets out for the Region of the South, to the city he had once visited thirty years earlier and where his life had been irrevocably changed. He had then been a strapping but poor young musician traveling with theater troupe. One evening, during a performance, he caught the eye of well-born young woman named Lan-ying. Their contact lasted but a minute, but to them it felt like an eternity. For this act of audacity he was banished to hard labor by the girl's jealous fiancée, the dissipated scion of a powerful family, who had witnessed their exchange and grasped its significance. Across the decades of a life spent either on the run or hiding out in monasteries, where he mastered medicine and divination, Dao-sheng never forgot Lan-ying. One exchange of glances had sealed something forever, something whose enduring power would decide their fates.

Written with radiant simplicity and wisdom, simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-warming, Green Mountain, White Cloud is a suspenseful tale of passion and revenge set against the backdrop of a great empire's last days. François Cheng gives us star-crossed lovers whose rekindled passion makes the pages of this novel glow. More than a love story, it takes us on a quest as much spiritual as physical, exploring the very essence of love's ageless and transformative power.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Winner of the Grand Prix of the Academie Francaise for his novel The River Below, Cheng, a Parisian transplant who left China during the Cultural Revolution, brings readers this new work. Carrying overtones of Asian religion and superstition, it tells the story of a poor young musician named Dao-sheng. His encounter with the Second Young Lord of the powerful Zhao family and a fateful exchange of glances with the Second Young Lord's fiancee, Lan-ying, result in banishment and a life of forced labor. Cheng's surprising story of love and destiny continues some 30 years later, when the 54-year-old Dao-sheng, now a Taoist soothsayer and medicine man, reunites with an ailing 48-year-old Lan-ying and must find a way to save her life. An easy read, Cheng's novel comes across as a lyrical fable written with depth and emotion that ring true for the period in which it is set. Historical romance readers, Amy Tan fans, and those who enjoyed the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will surely appreciate this work. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Romantic and spiritual love in ancient China occupy this latest (The River Below, 2000, etc.) from the distinguished Chinese author long resident in France. The story takes place toward the end of the Ming Dynasty (early 17th century), when crime and corruption are rampant. One victim is our protagonist Dao-sheng. As a young violinist, part of a theater troupe, he dares to exchange glances and smiles with the beautiful Lan-ying, betrothed to the tyrannical Second Lord Zhao, who promptly condemns Dao-sheng to exile and slave labor. No matter: those few transforming moments were enough to convince Dao-sheng, a Taoist, that his and Lan-ying's fates are linked by the shen, the most vital of all spiritual essences. Thirty years pass. The now-grizzled Dao-sheng is a healer and soothsayer who has been living in a mountainside Taoist monastery, and the time is ripe for another approach to Lan-ying. He travels to her city and sets up shop outside a Buddhist temple she frequents. The opportunity comes for Dao-sheng to minister to the sickly Lan-ying, who has been discarded by Second Lord after two miscarriages, forcing her to live in lonely isolation. The invalid remembers the former musician-they are indeed soulmates-and her joy over their reunion is as great as his. Dao-sheng restores her to health and to her former beauty. The contacts between them are delicate and restrained, climaxing with a joining of hands under a full moon, whereupon "the lovers floated into a separate state," a phrase unfortunately banal-sounding in this translation from the French. Eventually, Second Lord, deathly ill himself after years of debauchery, figures out the situation. He tries to strangle Lan-ying but dies inthe process, and she retreats to a convent while Dao-sheng returns to the monastery, sustained by his faith in their undying devotion. Moments here of fairytale charm, but the air at such high spiritual altitudes may be too rarefied for many Western readers. Agent: Lucinda Karter/French Publishers' Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312315740
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

François Cheng left China as a young man and immigrated to France, where today he is considered one of the leading authorities on the life and culture of his native land. Poet, artist, translator, and calligrapher, Cheng's first novel, The River Below, was awarded the Prix Femina. In 2001, Cheng was awarded the Grand Prix for Lifetime Contribution by the Académie française, to which he was elected in 2002, the first person of Chinese descent to be so honored in the Académie's long history. He lives in Paris.

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