Money Dragon: A Novel

( 1 )

Overview

In this stunning work, Pam Chun brings a new and powerful voice to the traditions of Chinese-American fiction. The Money Dragon brings to life the saga of L. Ah Leong, the Money Dragon, one of the legends of Hawaìi and the founder of Honolulu's Chinatown. At the turn of the twentieth century, Ah Leong rules over his Hawaìian home, a legendary man so proficient in the martial arts he has brought himself back to life; a man who beguiles many wives, sires dozens of children and is driven by money and greed. He ...
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Money Dragon

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Overview

In this stunning work, Pam Chun brings a new and powerful voice to the traditions of Chinese-American fiction. The Money Dragon brings to life the saga of L. Ah Leong, the Money Dragon, one of the legends of Hawaìi and the founder of Honolulu's Chinatown. At the turn of the twentieth century, Ah Leong rules over his Hawaìian home, a legendary man so proficient in the martial arts he has brought himself back to life; a man who beguiles many wives, sires dozens of children and is driven by money and greed. He builds a financial empire, establishing himself as a leader both on the exotic islands and in his Chinese homeland. But when Phoenix, the wife of his first son Tat-Tung, arrives in Hawaìi, she becomes witness to how the values Ah Leong holds dear begin to tear him and his family apart.

The Money Dragon is a fascinating and important first novel, a tale of a family struggling between love, greed, jealousy and loyalty. Pam Chun reaches into her family history to deliver a story that shows the tumult and opportunity that occurs when the deep-rooted traditions of the Chinese people meet the sweeping advance of the Western world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The destructive forces of lust, greed and consuming pride influence the rise and fall of a Chinese family living in Hawaii in this carefully researched and atmospherically evocative narrative. Chun has based her first novel on her own family history, and she works assiduously to vivify the colorful clan, the Laus, and their towering patriarch, L. Ah Leong, known throughout China as "the Money Dragon." As a boy in China, her great-grandfather "revives himself" from the dead after he's thought to have drowned and vows to gain such huge "face" and fortune that no one will ever again disdain him. Although he acquires wealth and power as a merchant in Hawaii, he fails to take into account the essential conflicts in American/Hawaiian and Chinese cultures, or the infinite stubbornness of his equally formidable first wife, Dai-Kam (there are three others), whose jealousy poisons even her relationship with her own sons. Told largely through the eyes of Phoenix, the wife of First Son Tat-Tung, the story is epic but sad, and the Lau children and grandchildren gain peace only after the old man's death. Phoenix suffers for years, watching Tat-Tung, a scholar and fine, sensitive musician, slowly destroyed by his parents' bickering, as they obsessively find fault with him, each other and his father's other families. The narrative is slow in spots, and Chun does not always do justice to the richness of the material. The wrenching emotions of family dynamics come through, though, and for many in the Chinese-American community, the narrative will have particular resonance, especially since a fine selection of photographs depict the protagonists and their environment. Agent, Elizabeth Pomada. (Mar.) Forecast: A foreword by former U.S. Senator Hiram Fong, who knew the author's grandfather, should spark brisk sales in Hawaii. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Chun's debut-part novel, part biography-tells the life of her great-grandfather, a legendary Chinese merchant who moved to Hawaii in 1876 and became one of the islands' richest men. The Pacific Ocean was one of the world's great crossroads in the 19th century, a busy place on which the ambitions of four continents intersected day by day. Its transport of goods and cargoes produced one of the greatest markets the world has ever known, with vast fortunes being made by the smart, the lucky, and the aggressive-qualities possessed in abundance by Lau Ah Leong. The son of a gambler, he became homeless when his father lost the family estate on a bad wager. Cast into the streets while still a boy, he and his father lived first by begging, then by trading-and of necessity the young Leong learned how to drive a good bargain. Eventually he settled in Honolulu, but he kept strong business ties (and a magnificent country estate) in China and made good use of such connections to expand his import-export concerns into a financial empire. The story here is narrated by Leong's daughter-in-law Phoenix, a headstrong, well-educated girl from a prominent family in Singapore. Raised by her grandfather after her father's death, Phoenix managed her family's estate until her marriage to Tat-tung at 17-practically an old maid by the standards of the time. As an outsider, she saw Tat-tung's family without sentimentality or nostalgia, finding herself alternately fascinated and horrified by her father-in-law's headstrong, self-centered brilliance and ambition. As in many family epics, the cast list is long and confusing (especially to readers unfamiliar with Chinese names), but the focus stays on Leong-earlyhardships, success, and then struggles with the Americans of Hawaii and the Communists of China, etc.-who remains Chun's most interesting character. Sometimes disjointed and rambling, but nevertheless a kind of exotic Dallas: lurid, two-dimensional, fast-paced-and utterly addictive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570718670
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 1,407,829
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Pam Chun is a novelist who first learned about Ah Leong and her family relationship to him from former US Senator Hiram L. Fong. Born and raised in Hawaii, Pam Chun attended Punahou Academy and the University of Hawaii and graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Alameda County, California.
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Table of Contents

Foreword

Part I
1. China: 1917
2. Honolulu Beginnings: 1918

Part II
3. The Dragon Awakens: China 1871
4. Kaka'ako Store: Honolulu 1900
5. Rising from the Ashes: 1903
6. Tat-Tung's Early Years: June 1903
7. The Laus of Kew Boy Village: 1903
8. The Many Wives of L. Ah Leong: 1905

Part III
9. Captive Wives: 1907
10. The Rise of Ming Yang Tong: 1910
11. Tales of the L. Ah Leong Compound: 1918
12. Escape: 1919
13. Circle Lane: 1919
14. The Stolen Can of Curried Chicken: 1919
15. Ah Leong's Power over Immigration: 1919
16. Tat-Tung's Motorcar: 1919—1920
17. Ah Leong's Property Returns: 1920—1921

Part IV
18. L. Ah Leong, Limited: July 1921
19. Betrayal: July 1921
20. The Strategic Divorce: December 6, 1921
21. The Board of Inquiry: December 7, 1921
22. The Two Month Battle: December 1921—February 1922
23. Triumph and Appeal: August 1922

Part V
24. A Family Divided: August 1924
25. Entrapment and Deceit: October 1924—1926
26. Storms of Devastation: 1926
27. Chung Shee Reappears: 1926—1934
28. The Ghosts Return for Ah Leong: 1934
29. Funeral of Honor and Dishonor: 1934
30. Where the Wind Was as Sweet as Wild Gingers: May 1935

Glossary

Photographs and Documents

Maps

About the Author

Pam Chun is a novelist who first learned about Ah Leong and her family relationship to him from former US Senator Hiram L. Fong. Born and raised in Hawaii, Pam Chun attended Punahou Academy and the University of Hawaii and graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Alameda County, California.

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