NEW YORK (Feb. 9, 2015) — Author Mingmei Yip is now in the third month of her book signing tour for her sixth novel “Secret of a Thousand Beauties” (Kensington Books, November 2014). The story follows Spring Swallow, a young woman forced into a marriage with a dead man, which would make her the slave of his parents for the rest of her life.
Spring Swallow escapes and finds a home with a former imperial embroiderer who teaches her this art. Her students are to remain celibate, a requirement that forces them to keep their romantic life secret.
Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother’s belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws’ she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a “bad-luck woman,” Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.
In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor’s love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting–a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete–betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group.
Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman’s story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.
Find out more about the book at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5koXT0fFtyE.
Mingmei Yip’s series of books feature women facing a challenge that defines their lives. The stories are steeped in culture and history, entertaining the reader but also teaching something in the process.
Yip’s previous novels include: Skeleton Women, about a femmes fatales; The Nine Fold Heaven, about an ex spy and night-club singer undertaking a dangerous journey to look for her long lost lover and son; Peach Blossom Pavilion, the story of the last Chinese geisha; Petals from the Sky, a Buddhist love story; and Song of the Silk Road, an adventure, love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on China’s ancient and dangerous route.
Yip received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne.
Besides writing, Mingmei is an accomplished professional player of the Guqin, Chinese zither. She was recently invited by Carnegie Hall to perform in “A Festival celebrating Chinese Culture” program. She had her solo Goddess exhibition at the New York Open Center Gallery to great acclaim and held calligraphy workshops at the City University of New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lectured extensively on Chinese art and culture at Oxford University, Columbia University, Beijing University, University of Paris, Vassar College, Williams College.
Mingmei is also a children’s book writer and illustrator. Her two children’s books are Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories and Grandma Panda’s China Storybook, both by Tuttle Publishing. www.mingmeiyip.com
“Secret of a Thousand Beauties”
It was my wedding day.
I was horrified.
Because my soon-to-be-lawful — and awful –- husband, was not even a man.
He was a ghost.
Well, a man, but a dead one! A sinister being, his cold hands reaching toward me from the yin world….
When we were engaged, in accord with tradition, I’d never met him. In fact, no one had ever met him!
Because my ghost husband-to-be and I had been engaged long before we were even born. My mother and her best friend my ghost husband’s mother lived in the same village and happened to get pregnant around the same time. Following the ancient tradition zhifu weihun, they pointed to each other’s protruding bellies and proclaimed, “If we give birth to a boy and a girl, they’ll be husband and wife when they turn seventeen.”
So, because of our extremely old and extremely unfortunate tradition, my fate had been decided even before I was born. I was going to marry a man I could never know, not even see, because he’d died before he could make it outside his mother’s belly. Like a snake, her umbilical cord wound around his tiny neck and squeezed the tiny breath out of him.
“But Spring Swallow,’ said my mean aunt addressing me by name, “ a promise is a promise.”
It was my misfortune to have been raised by this very mean woman because both my parents had died in a bus accident not long after their future son-in-law’s failure to enter this life. It was whispered around the village that because the baby could not lure his parents to join him in hell, he dragged down his intended parents-in-law instead.
My heartless aunt went on, “You know, failing to keep a promise not only shames your ancestors, but will bring your husband’s ghost back to haunt you. So, you have no choice but to marry him, dead or alive. Also, because not only your future husband but your parents also died, no man will marry you.”
Before I had a chance to ask why, she cast me a malicious glance. “No man wants to marry a bad-luck woman!”
But I knew the real reason that Mean Aunt was so eager for me to marry a ghost. Not because I was bad luck, but because I would be good luck for her. My ghost husband’s family was one of the richest in the village. Though the wedding would bring me no husband, it would bring her a bundle of cash and a heap of expensive gifts. But of course rich people do not give away their money just because they are nice. Once married to their ghost son, I would be obligated to take care of my mother-in-law until she died!
My aunt went on to threaten me, “You think any man would want to marry you? Born under an all-destroying star! Spring Swallow, you really have no choice. So don’t even think of escaping. I won’t let you destroy my reputation and ruin my life!”
To escape. That was exactly what I had in mind all along. I didn’t care about my aunt’s reputation and life. Because, living in our remote village and being an old maid, she didn’t have much of a life to begin with anyway.