Date Completed: 2/3/2017
Dragon Springs Road takes readers on a journey following Jialing’s life. Called zazhong, a slang and pejorative term for a person of mixed Chinese and foreign heritage, Jialing is outcast from all her peers. At seven years of age, she is abandoned in the courtyard of an estate house she grew up in with her mother and her mother’s benefactor. She is taken in by the Yangs, a benevolent family who move into the property and who treat her as an indentured servant. In exchange, they provide her with not only food and lodging, but the opportunity she needs to take charge of her life. Fox, the animal spirit who has sworn to protect Jialing, guides her through much of her young life into early adulthood.
This portrait of the Chinese republic in the early 1900’s paints a vivid picture incorporating all five senses and invoking a wide range of emotions. I found myself shocked with the revelations and turns of events that follow Jialing, including murder plots, arson, political intrigue, and more. This story also touches on the rough parts of life in 1900’s China, including opium usage, prostitution, and the life of multiple wives and mistresses. In this way, historical fiction made this story a much richer and more informative read for someone like I who knows little of 1900’s Chinese history.
The fact that this book was fiction allowed for the easy ebb and flow of Chinese folklore and legend such as Fox. Fox takes the form of both fox and woman, coming to Jialing when she’s most needed and spending her energy to protect those she loves. In this way, she is able to use her magical Fox powers to guide Jialing towards protection and success. These magical elements told the story of religion in China, as well as how foreign religion and mission schools influenced Chinese religions.
By the end of this story, I truly feel attached to Jialing. I want the best for her, and not only that, but I am proud of Jialing’s choices in life. She doesn’t always choose the easiest road, but tries instead to choose the most honorable. In the end, I believe she is proud of her heritage, both her Chinese roots and her hun xue appearance that sets her apart from many of the families as mixed race. I really hope she’s able to find happiness. On one hand, the overall magical qualities including Fox enable me to imagine that such a happy ending may be possible for her.
I received a copy of this book from TLC book tours in exchange for an honest review.
About Dragon Springs Road
• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 10, 2017)
From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother.
That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .
In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.
Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.
Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.
About Janie Chang
Born in Taiwan, Janie Chang spent part of her childhood in the Philippines, Iran, and Thailand. She has a degree in computer science and is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Three Souls.