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In the last years of the Tang Dynasty, a beautiful girl is born in a fort along the Great Wall of China, and is set to become the most famous and celebrated courtesan of her age. Set in the 9th century, Passing Under Heaven tells the tragic love story of Lily, a Chinese poet and documents a time when Chinese women enjoyed a window of unprecedented personal freedom - including the freedom to fall in love. But when Lily pushes that freedom to its limits disaster ensues, leaving her child and husband to forever mourn her loss. Based on historical fact, Passing Under Heaven is more than the story of the end of a love affair, this book also chronicles the passing of the Chinese golden age into civil war and ruin.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349117409
ISBN-10: 0349117403
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 126mm x 30mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 7-Jul-2005
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Another beautifully rendered Chinese tale by Hill (The Drink and Dream Teahouse, 2001), this time centered on the fate of a concubine who gains fame as a poet during the Tang Dynasty. Five-year-old Little Hope is orphaned in a.d. 850 when her mother, the concubine of an imperial marshal who never returns to the fort where they live in Changan province, kills herself in despair. Concubines are little more than slaves, the daughter learns. Despite the hopes of her scholarly foster parents, who teach her to read and write, Lily, as she is renamed, is sold at age 15 to the rich (and married) Minister Li. Lily and Li fall in love, and for a short while, she is deliriously happy at their Peach Blossom Palace. Then his wife, son and new concubine come to stay. Instead of resigning herself to her fate, Lily rebels. First she seeks asylum in a monastery, where she learns a great deal from Abbot Zhao and from a visiting poet, Wen Tingyun. Eventually, she sets off to make her living as a poet in the capital city of Changan, fashioning verses for parties and festivals. She's still in love with Minister Li, but the two can't effect a reconciliation, although her passion drives her poetry. His jealous wife has Lily arrested and tried, but Li arranges her release. Lily has a child by another lover, and desperation at being separated from her son drives her to a fit of angry insanity, sealing a doom that even Minister Li can't alter. Interspersed with Lily's coming-of-age narrative are future glimpses of the elderly Li: sad, lonely and ineffectual. Based on the real life of legendary poet Yu Xuanji, set against a backdrop of a grand, beleaguered dynasty struggling to defend itself against "barbaric invaders," the novel is notable for Hill's masterly craftsmanship and remarkably sympathetic sense of character. Skilled fiction of vibrant immediacy and majestic scope. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Justin Hill

Justin Hill was born in the Bahamas, and grew up in York, attending St Peter's School. He studied Old England and Medieval Literature at Durham University, and spent most of his twenties on postings with Voluntary Service Overseas in rural China and East Africa. He has written poetry, non-fiction and fiction, which spans eras as distant from one another as Anglo Saxon England, in Shieldwall, to Tang Dynasty, China, in Passing Under Heaven. His work has won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, a Betty Trask Award, as well as being selected as a Sunday Times Book of the Year (Shieldwall) and a Washington Post Books of the Year (The Drink and Dream Teahouse). In 2014 he was selected to write the sequel to the Oscar winning film, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. He lives near York.

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