Peach Blossom Pavilion

Peach Blossom Pavilion

3.7 (2,938 ratings by Goodreads)
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Torn from her family. Destined to become the most desired courtesan in China.

A seductive and evocative debut that opens the doors on life as a Chinese courtesan in the Peach Blossom Pavilion...

Behind the doors of the pavilion, a world of sensuality and intrigue awaits...

Falsely accused of murder, Xiang Xiang's father is executed, and her mother forced into a Buddhist nunnery. Xiang Xiang, alone and friendless at thirteen years old, is tricked into entering the Peach Blossom Pavilion, where she is given the name Bao Lan - Precious Orchid.

There she is trained in the fine arts of womanhood, studying music, literature, painting, and more importantly, the art of seduction and pleasuring men; and becomes one of China's most successful courtesans.

However, Precious Orchid is determined to avenge her parents and sets out on a journey that includes passion, adventure, danger, fame, and finally, her chance to achieve the justice she has sought so long.

An enchanting tale of opulence and desire, perfect for fans of Anchee Min and Memoirs of a Geisha.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 28mm | 310g
  • AVON, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0007570120
  • 9780007570126
  • 865,999

Review quote

'Memoirs of a Geisha but with a sharper, more suspenseful pace' Powell's Books

'A guilty pleasure...enjoy the exotic location and characters... This is a large, luscious box of chocolates' RTBook (4 star review)

'Beautifully written, readers will not be able to put this book down until the last page is turned' Romance Review Today
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About Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her PhD from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She published five books in Chinese, and has written for major Hong Kong newspapers. She has appeared on over forty TV and radio shows in Hong Kong,Taiwan, China and the USA. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, and now resides in Manhattan. Visit her at
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Rating details

2,938 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 27% (786)
4 34% (1,009)
3 25% (748)
2 9% (278)
1 4% (117)

Our customer reviews

You can't even read the blurb to this book without having Anchee Min's Empress Orchid or Arthur Golden's Memoirs Of The Geisha being brought to mind, in fact even the GoodReads write up mentions both books above but this book, while it may be a similar vein, is quite different than both. Empress Orchid is about concubines, Memoirs is about geishas but Peach Blossom Pavilion is a book about prostitution, but not the seedy kind of prostitution you immediately think of when you hear the word prostitute as the world of prostitution we're talking about isn't the on your back 24/7 kind but a highly ritualised version, just as ritualised as being a geisha, concubine or courtesan. The book revolves around the life of Xiang Xiang, a beautiful girl who is given to her aunt after the death of her father when her mother decides to become a nun. Her mother has no idea that the aunt is the madam of a whorehouse (or turquoise pavilion as they are known as) and thinks Xiang Xiang is going to become a maid for a rich family. That would have been a very different existence for Xiang Xiang that the hell she find herself in when she join Peach Blossom Pavilion and begins her training to become a high class prostitute. Her life as a result is a tale of highs and lows, happiness and tragedy and makes for a beautiful story as Xiang Xiang almost blunders into situation after situation and you have no choice but to blunder on with her as the story is a riveting one and personally I loved every single page. I have been in love with historical tales of Asian culture and after reading both Empress Orchid and Memoirs Of A Geisha there was no choice in whether I should read this or not as I read all about concubines and geishas many, many times before but not about the prostitution culture in China in the earlier part of the 20th century before and found it all fascinating. Yes, the book is full of sex (not to mention all of the 'jade stalks' and 'golden gates') but it's not in your face sex, it's mainly subtle references to it while the book focuses on Xiang Xiang, or Precious Orchid as she become know as professionally, and her feelings about her strange life and the people in it. It's not always pleasant to read about but it's interesting nonetheless and keeps you gripped from beginning to end while you watch her face all the toils and trouble she faces ( from lesbian tendencies to murderous intent). As I said it's all so fascinating to read about. The author has taken the approach to write the book in the form of a kind of verbal memoir where an aged Xiang Xiang is telling her life story to her great-great-granddaughter Jade Treasure and Jade's American fiance and it's an approach that works well as it gives the author an opportunity to add a touch of humour to the tale as Xiang Xiang toys with her family while telling her tale and its a humour that is well needed to balance out the rest of the book and the sadness often involved in her heartbreaking but surprising story. The book itself is so well written and while the strange references to sexual parts and acts does grate a little towards the end it's a fantastic book to read. It's the kind of book that surprises you with it's content and has the kind of impact on you that takes your breath away. The imagery is rich and you can almost imagine yourself to be there alongside Xiang Xiang, suffering with her, feeling what she feels. You find yourself wondering how people lived like that and why they would want to but often the girls had no choice in it as they were sold into the pavilions and like the geishas had to earn their way back out of them, unfortunately many could not even do that. It's a very sad way of life and in some ways Xiang Xiang was luckier that most. If you have read either Empress Orchid or Memoirs Of A Geisha then I would highly recommend anyone to read this too as it gives you another view into Asian culture, one that while thought seedy is a very interesting topic indeed and this book is a rich and vivid insight into that more
by Thea Wilson
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