I had the privilege of being interviewed by the incredible Annemarie Evans in November, and am very thankful for her nice write-up on my novel Tales of Ming Courtesans for the SCMP. The article has been published today!
Although it is fictional, Poon meticulously researched the era, and her work is rich in its descriptions of the food, architecture, clothing, music, poetry, cultural references and calligraphy of the period. For those new to Ming dynasty courtesan culture, the poetry and constrained Confucian lives of both men and women of the era, hers is a gentle and descriptive introduction.
They (Liu Rushi, Chen Yuanyuan & Li Xiangjun) were central to China's cultural and literary life, and Poon was keen to give these women a voice so they would not be forever remembered as minor characters in historical narratives written by men.
She writes about the perilous nature of the women’s existence: dependent on the whims of the households they were sold into, while trying to make sure their lovers did not come under too much pressure from their own families and wives.
Paintings exist of all three courtesans, and their stories have featured in televised and literary accounts. Now, Poon has offered an alternative, and perhaps more authentic, picture of their lives.