In 1906, a little girl is born on a spice farm in Southern China. Unwanted â€“ because she is a girl â€“ she is an encumbrance to her family and is nearly buried alive in the middle of a mustard field by her father.Â Meanwhile, Pai-Ling, her beautiful concubine mother, violently ends the suffering she endures at the cruel confiscation her newborn daughter.Â Saved by the appearance of a white fox “fairy” in the night, Li X\’ia\’s story begins, Red Lotus by Pai Kit Fai.
Li X\’ia\’s strong spirit prevails as she fights successfully against her father\’s attempts to bind her feet and increase her worth. She is hated by her father and is treated abysmally. At the ripe age of eight, Li X\’ia is a bad luck charm to her family and is sold to a silk-weaving factory. Living in relative safety and happiness with the other child labourers, picking silk worms every day, for four years, she learns (secretly) to read. At the crossroad of her twelfth year, she is faced with three hopeless choices. Ultimately, she chooses her self-respect and therefore is subjected to an untimely and painful attempt on her life. The luck that she experienced in the mustard field as a newborn follows her to the river. Li X\’ia is saved by a European merchant, Ben Devereaux, who changes her life.
Of course, they fall in love (not a spoiler, just inevitable) and a baby girl is born of this romance. However, Li X\’ia\’s luck runs out and the bad karma that has run parallel to her good luck, finally overthrows her and tragedy ensues.
Siu-Sing is the legacy of love left behind â€“ the daughter of Li X\’ia and Ben Devereaux. She is thrust into the isolated life as a disciple of the way of Tao. Her mother and grandmother before her had little or no support, no instruction, nothing but instinct to guide them. Red Lotus trains to fight off the bad luck that surrounds her and she is well-prepared for whatever comes her way. She heads out into the world to find her mother and her father, and reclaim her birthright.
Red Lotus is a colourful depiction, and fantasy, of how a woman might have triumphed in turn-of-the century-China, with some skill and a little luck on her side. It is an interesting and uplifting story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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