Continuing the epic adventure tradition of Shōgun and Taipan,
Yang Shen is a novel about the exploits of a 19th century American
soldier-of-fortune who returns to China to topple the Manchu and
make himself a prince, even emperor of the Chinese empire.
Yang Shen tells a story of the encounter, sometimes the clash,
of Americans and Chinese. When America's civil war began,
China's civil war approached its horrific end. Late imperial
China suffered severely from domestic disorder and foreign
affliction – set upon by rebels within and Western "barbarians"
without. Into the midst of China's maelstrom came an American
from the West grateful Chinese made into a god, a "yang shen."
More than a historical adventure, Yang Shen recreates times long past,
places long lost in China, and long-silent voices of people in America,
China, and England who lived through cataclysmic events that echo still.
A treasure trove of historical fact, every chapter,
almost every page is packed with period bric-a-brac
decked out as fiction, bringing to light for the
modern reader engaging detail of another century
in a rousing historical adventure. Many of the icons
of the 19th century fit out this book: clipper ships,
steamboats, walking-beam engines, muzzle loaders,
vedettes, treaty ports, walled towns, water-gates,
sedan chairs, the colorful language of that day,
"An extraordinary combination of West and East, Yang
Shen is written in English with Chinese interspersed
throughout to present meaning, emotion, and sensibility
that has unique expression in Chinese, but for which
there is no direct equivalent. Native Chinese idiom
appears when distinctly different from American, and
when names of people and places can be identified with
less ambiguity. The written characters have a visual
impact even for those who do not read Chinese."
Based closely on primary and secondary source material from both the Chinese and Western
records, Yang Shen draws on the work of hundreds of scholars of late imperial China whose
insights inspired much of the story’s abundant detail (exposing its historical sources to as
wide a readership as possible to bestir new awareness and interest in their publication and
continued availability). Yang Shen resurrects a skeleton of facts about China in the 19th
century, diligently unearthed and painstakingly reassembled by accomplished historians and
biographers, and fills them out with the flesh, blood, thought and emotion of fictional
speculation, to reanimate those old bones, however briefly, with the artifice of the storyteller.
Once there were walls within the walls, around the Manchu bannermen and their garrisons in the heart
of Chinese cities. Now the garrison walls crumble down, and bannermen mingle with the ordinary
people. But walls are still in the hearts of the Chinese, and garrisons still in their minds.
A master in hell before a minion in Heaven. I'll be a prince in China, and lord over these
heathen beggars, or I'll make a great many of them wish they'd better joss – better luck –
than to cross my bow.
"Repeatedly, American consuls have written to our State Department pleading for greater
American presence in these waters, greater American influence in affairs in China, but to
no avail. Even the threat of insurgent attack against American holdings in China does not
seem to be enough to bestir Congress to allocate a force for these waters."
“Why do they call them civil wars when they always are so extraordinarily uncivil?”
The tide of battle did not change so much as merely reach slack high water, and the battlefield simply
halted to rest amidst its carnage while it caught its breath from killing.
“How can Shang-hai manage to borrow troops from the Western nations to help fight the T’ai-p’ing rebels, when
Western nations are about to war again on China?"
Now is the autumn of affliction for my country. Everyone knows that peace is to be treasured, but if peace is even
slightly imprudent, endless calamity will follow. To get all we want, as conditions are now, we still have not yet
attained the strength.
When Chinese want to protect themselves, they think first of a wall, around a city, or across the
steppes. Their notions of constructing and besieging fortifications seemed to have changed not a whit
since the middle ages. There must be a wall in their minds, as well, one they cannot see over, fortifying
their veneration of the obsolete.
Click on photos
Quotes from Yang Shen
|Sound effects (gunfire) Wikimedia Commons
Ambershire" Chinese music - Royalty Free Music by DanoSongs.com
Join author James Lande in Goodreads Q&A discussions about the
novel Yang Shen, and Historical fiction about China in the 19th century.
|A century and a half ago in a distant land an American adventurer
fought to save a decaying empire from rebel armies, and he became
the Yang Shen
"Historically convincing, and very, very lively!" Pamela K. Crossley,
author of The Orphan Warriors
"A fascinating, eminently readable and vivid evocation of the time,
place and personalities of a truly remarkable moment in modern
Chinese history." Richard J. Smith, author of Mercenaries and