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Monday, September 20, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MINGMEI YIP

I love to write about women, especially heroines who are on the verge of drastic transformation -- their courage, struggles, and triumphs.

In my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, story of the last Chinese courtesan, or geisha, Precious Orchid is tricked into a prostitution house after her father is executed for a crime he had not committed. The novel relates her survival and ultimate triumph: how she escaped from the prostitution house, reunited with her long lost mother, avenged her father, finally finding true love and starting a new life in America.

The Chinese courtesan was a glamorous figure in pre-communist China. Precursors to the more familiar Japanese geisha, mingji were high-class prostitutes prized for their skills in music, calligraphy, painting, poetry – and the arts of the bed chamber. Peach Blossom Pavilion, a novel seeking to revive the splendors and miseries of a way of life that has passed into history, is about the last surviving Chinese courtesan in Shanghai.

In Peach Blossom Pavilion is the poignant story of an unforgettable heroine, Precious Orchid. After Precious Orchid’s father is executed for a crime he did not commit, and her mother banished to a Buddhist nunnery, Precious Orchid finds herself abandoned in Peach Blossom Pavilion, an elite house of prostitution.

At first, life at Peach Blossom Pavilion feels like a dream to the thirteen year-old Precious Orchid. She enjoys her daily poetry, music and calligraphy lessons and feels herself thriving. But Precious Orchid all too soon discovers that this is merely a prelude to her role of pleasing customers. Though commanding the attentions of China’s most powerful men, Precious Orchid resolves that she will one day escape to find her mother, avenge her father’s death and find true love. Yet the price she must pay is beyond her imagining.

As the Chinese say that water, the softest element, is the most powerful. My heroines use their flexible, water-like yin nature to overcome whatever perils they face.

The ability of women to rise above their oppressive circumstances is celebrated in Peach Blossom Pavilion. While I was writing it, these courtesans often visited me in my dreams, making me wonder: Was I one of them in some of my countless past lives? I sensed that these women, now forever silent, wanted me, also trained in the arts of poetry, painting, calligraphy and music, to tell their stories.

Kensington author Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion is the story about the last Chinese Geisha and also that of courage and the determination to succeed and attain happiness. Her new novel Petals from the Sky, a poignant Buddhist love story, is also about wisdom, compassion, when to persist and when to let go.

Besides writing, Mingmei is accomplished in many other fields. A professional player of the Guqin, Chinese zither, she was recently invited by Carnegie Hall to perform in “A Festival celebrating Chinese Culture” program. She had her solo Goddess exhibition at the New York Open Center Gallery to great acclaim, taught calligraphy at the City University of New York, and Taichi at the International Women’s Writing Guild. She also lectured extensively on Chinese art and culture at Oxford University, Columbia University, Beijing University, University of Paris, Amsterdam University, Vassar College, Williams College.

Mingmei’s new novel is Song of the Silk Road, an adventure, love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on the famous, dangerous Silk Road. Song of the Silk Road will come out in March, 2011 by Kensington Books.

Visit Mingmei at www.mingmeiyip.com to learn about her books, music, paintings and calligraphy.


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