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All the King's Women

Mimi Chan

Publication Year: 2000

This book is a work of historical fiction and gives an insider view of life within that household.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

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pp. ix-xi

The following nine stories making up on e story are fictitious . None of the characters is 'real', but I need not labour the point that fiction has its basis in fact. I cannot boast of having given to 'airy nothing' local habitations and names. My imagination worked with a great deal that was fact, but mixed that fact with creation. The characters are amalgams of many living persons and episodes from of the Treaty of Nanking in 1942 . It became part of China again ...

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p. xii-xii

The smallness of this volume belies the time that I have spent in listening to and thinking about the real-life events which have inspired the narratives. I am grateful to all the members of my husband's family — from his mothers through his siblings and nephews to old family retainers — who told me innumerable stories about the people and happenings in the Peak household. They provided the raw material for my imagination to work on, aided always by research and ...

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p. xiii-xiii

Because of the nature of the characters and the narratives I feel that a rigorously consistent system of romanization would not only be unnecessary but inappropriate. My aim is to suggest, rather than to attempt to accurately represent, the Chinese language. In the Cantonese world o f the protagonists, I have used suggestive approximations of the racy Cantonese dialect in the romanization of terms like tien fong, literally 'replacement in a room' for a woman who ...


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pp. xiv-xvi

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pp. 1-12

My father-in-law was called 'King' by his wives. They used the English word without the article, but with the Cantonese premodifier — hence 'Ah King'. The wives didn't know any English, so he must have taught them the English word. Most of the denizens of his smaller domestic world were not at all sure of how he made his money, although the one who claimed to be his 'most intimate' concubine could rattle off the names of his various enterprises. Suffice ...

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2. THE GODS ARE JUST: Fourth Concubine Surnamed Kam (1900-1981)

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pp. 13-36

`I stopped going to school because it rained so much,' said my mother-in-law as she sewed a tiny doll's dress for my daughter on an ancient sewing machine . . . The rain was so big. It was pouring from the sky. The little girl, Ying, was so small . She tried to run the distance from the 'school house' to her home in her bare feet. She was holding her cloth shoes in her hands, trying hard to protect them under her cotton samfoo. ...

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3. ALL THE WORLD IS A STAGE: Seventh Concubine Surnamed Kwok (1906-1990)

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pp. 37-62

Un-gee-gee-ah ! Un-gee-gee-ah! ' Pronounced with a hard 'g', this is the Cantonese variant of 'goocheegoocheegoo' . The lady who kept un-gee-ing my baby boy was a glamorous Mae West figure dressed in black narrow stretch pants and a mauve cardigan, her hair upswept in a smooth beehive — if 'smooth' and 'beehive' are not contradictions in terms. Her hair was jet-black and ...

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4. AN HONEST MIND AND PLAIN: Ah Hing (1900- )

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pp. 63-84

Cheung Hing will be a hundred year sold in less than eight months. She has spent almost half of these hundred years in the service of the Lees. She was my mother-in-law's servant , then my husband's servitor, companion and confidant on the Peak; she looked after both my daughter and my son when they were little. ...

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5. LIKE NIOBE, ALL TEARS: Fifth Concubine Surnamed Poon (1900-1992)

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pp. 85-100

The deed of sale followed more or less the usual form of wording and read: This deed of sale is made by Poon Fai Kwong In consequence of urgent need for funds to meet family expenses, I am willing to sell my own daughter, Hoi Sum, ten years of age, born in the morning, 3rd day of the 9th month in the year 1900 ...

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6. SWEET ARE THE USES OF ADVERSITY: Fourth Sister Violet (1906-1998)

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pp. 101-122

Eva Lee put down the letter which she had been reading aloud to her older sister, Evelyn, and said with a knowing smile, 'Violet is very happy and contented both with life in Shanghai and with Reginald.' She spoke in Cantonese but used the Western names as was the custom among Westernized Chinese, the truly ...

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7. SOME HAVE GREATNESS THRUST UPON THEM; Third Mother Ming Chu (1907-1927)

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pp. 123-136

This poem, written by the celebrated Tang Dynasty poet Li Po in the eighth century, is probably the best-known of all Chinese poems. It is one of the first poems which schoolchildren learn and the poem most Chinese at home or overseas know by heart. It was the first poem that Schoolmaster Hung taught Ming Chu when he ...

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8. SOME ARE BORN GREAT: Second Daughter Portia (1910-1991)

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pp. 137-154

'First Lady had three daughters. The youngest died as a baby. The surviving ones were as different from each other as night and day,' Number Eight told me. There were many women in the King's life, but if legend is to be believed, he genuinely feared and respected only one — his second daughter by his original match, ...

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9. LOWLINESS IS YOUNG AMBITION'S LADDER: Eighth Concubine Surnamed Ho (1910-)

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pp. 155-176

The county of Panyu is situated in the Guangdong delta, one of the great deltas of China, the other being the Chang Jiang to the north. To the west is Nanhai, ancestral home of the King and to the south is Shunde, birthplace of Ying, my mother-in-law. South-west of Shunde is Heshan, native place of the loyal Ah Hing. To the north-...

E-ISBN-13: 9789882200043
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622095151

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2000