Posted by Literary Titan
Mandarin Ducks continues to follow Li in 1630’s China as he continues to learn about his heritage and seeks to marry but is thwarted by politics between families. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from the first book and what were some new themes you wanted to explore?
The continuous thread throughout the whole series is Li Bing’s progress through the career trajectory of civil service scholar/administrators. At the same time, I want to provide readers with a glimpse into various aspects of Chinese culture and everyday life. The various subplots are meant to punctuate the contrast between the ideal and the real.
As with the first book, I found this story to be both educational and entertaining. Was it your intention to write stories this way or did this happen organically while writing?
I definitely set out to provide both education and entertainment in the series. In a sense, I’m documenting my own voyage of discovery, as I learn about the history and culture of a country about which outsiders know very little, and which is often misrepresented in Western depictions.
You stated in a previous interview that you taught and traveled through China. What were some of your stand out moments from your time in the country?
You are continually confronted by the contrast between the old and the new. One minute you can be standing in ruins that are thousands of years old and the next minute you can be traveling 300 km/hr on a high speed train. Another interesting aspect is the way in which the people reflect the unitary identity of being Chinese, while at the same time strongly identifying with the culture, food, language, and traditions of their own region or ethnic group. There are many Chinas within China.
This is book two in your Kaifeng Chronicles. Where does book three, Grand Canal, pick up?
Book three takes place on the Grand Canal, as Li Bing travels north to Beijing to write the metropolitan examinations.
In late autumn 1630, Li Bing prepares to depart for Beijing to write the metropolitan examinations. Before he goes, he learns more about his heritage from his maternal grandfather and hopes to marry his childhood sweetheart Xiaoyun. However, political intrigue between his father and hers has the potential to derail more than just his marriage.