After first reading The Midwest Book Review for My Splendid Concubine, I thought, “Maybe I can write, but what happens if this is the only person that enjoys the book?”
Then a reviewer from the Historical Novels Review Online, wrote, “Some readers may be uncomfortable with the frank sexuality of the novel, as well as Hart’s simultaneous romantic relationship with both Ayaou and Shao-Mei, but those who are interested in unconventional romances with an out-of-the-ordinary setting will find plenty to enjoy.”
If I did not write such a lusty novel from personal sexual fantasies as “outback” claims, why did I write it?
The answer is simple.
I wanted to show the clash between different cultures and Sterling Seagrave showed me the way when he wrote in Dragon Lady, “To take the pain out of learning, his Chinese tutor suggested that (Robert) Hart might buy a concubine and study the local dialect with her.
“Hart wrote in his journal, ‘Here is a great temptation. Now, some of the China women are very good looking: You can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month…. Shall I hold out or shall I give way?'”
Seagrave writes in the next paragraph, “By early May he (Robert Hart) had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou. He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty…”
Then the editors of Entering China’s Service – Robert Hart’s Journals, 1854-1863, wrote on page 8, “But anyone who reads the journals through knows that his mental struggles about women were not soon or lightly won; whether the relpase was to daydreams or to a Chinese mistriess, it caused him ambivalence and anguish.”
China has had a concubine culture for thousands of years and that culture, although changed in form, is still active today, which I wrote of in Concubines Return to China Riding Capitalism’s Wave of Wealth.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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