The author of the international bestsellers Watching the Tree and Falling Leaves has always been fascinated by proverbs and their importance and use in China. Both her book titles are based on such proverbs.The majority of Chinese proverbs are drawn from the 1st century, when the First King of all China established his leadership over the whole country and its warring kingdoms. In ancient China, a scholar's conversation would be studded with appropriate sayings, and a man's status in society would be defined by his use and knowledge of proverbs. In modern China, much of this is still true, and proverbs are used daily.Adeline Yen Mah introduces us to the whole rich picture of the first century BC when after the long wars between states, China was finally united and the richness of the literature and art could flourish. She portrays the leaders, the plots and the counter-revolutions with great vividness and liveliness so that even those ignorant of Chinese history become absorbed. And as in all her other books, she relates the historical episodes and the proverbs derived from these to experiences in her own life.One of the major expressions of this age was of course the First King's tomb with its terracotta soldiers, of horses and carriages and the stones of the building. The re-finding of this monument - now open to us all - and Adeline Yen Mah's own experiences there, are extraordinary.A Thousand Pieces of Gold, following Watching the Tree and Falling Leaves, is a personal account by a much loved author, but it is also a lively history of the fascinating period of civilisation when Europe was barely out of the stone age.
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Adeline Yen Mah was born in Tianjin, studied in London, and now works and lives in California. She is married with two children.From Publishers Weekly:
As she related in her memoir, Falling Leaves, Chinese-born writer Yen Mah has earned her sense of victimhood. She was resented and punished by her family for the death of her mother during childbirth. With the deaths of her brutal father and stepmother, Yen Mah ended her quest for filial love. Though this new work discusses events and themes similar to those of Falling Leaves, it is largely free of the mawkish notions of what family life should be like that burdened that work. This leaves the current book with more room for what many readers will find more enlightening: the history and use of Chinese proverbs, which she traces to their origin in the ancient writings of Sima Qian, China's venerable historian and chronicler of the great power struggles that crippled the Middle Kingdom's first dynasty 2,200 years ago. Yen Mah recalls points in her life where Sima's poignant proverbs resonate. Descriptions of the early emperors' extravagance and sadism are both repulsive and captivating, and make for sometimes interesting comparisons with the battles fought by Yen Mah in her privileged but cruel home. More often, though, the disparity between the tyranny imposed upon the Chinese peasantry and the disloyalty and neglect endured by the author tends toward self-pity. Many of the digressions into Yen Mah's personal history relate her childhood relationship with her estranged elder brother, who has not spoken to her since her first memoir was published. These passages make the book read at times like a desperate letter the author should have written to him.
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