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Flowers in the Mirror: A Really Fun Chinese Novel!

Posted by relrel December 20, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

Hi All! I just want to share my excitement about this novel I'm reading, translated as Flowers in the Mirror. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a fun, quick read, and a small slice of Chinese culture.

Flowers in the Mirror was written by a scholar Li Ruzhen, who in the early 19th century was a bit of a renegade. The novel is both "social commentary and human satire", and has been likened to a combination of Gulliver's Travels and Alice in Wonderland. 

The story is set in the time of Empress Wu (Tang Dynasty, r.684-705). Being incredibly power-hungry, the Empress one winter morning orders all the flowers in the kingdom to bloom. Thus sets off a string of consequences which are faced by a small group of travelers as they journey through many strange lands, including such places as the Country of Women and the Country of Two-Faced People. The story culminates as Empress Wu orders the first Imperial Examinations for women, and women from throughout the lands gather for this epic event.

Flowers in the Mirror has a curious feature that has received much modern day attention: most of its heroes are women. It's interesting for me to imagine what the author thought about the social structure between men and women as I read through the pages of this entertaining, insightful, and at times laugh-out-loud funny book.

p.s. This is probably best found in a library, as it is out of print and an expensive buy. If you want to read it in chinese (Jinghua Yuan) it might be cheaper. 

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