The Concubine of Shanghai
Hong Ying


Translated from the Chinese by Liu Hong

'A brilliant and sensitive writer.'
Jung Chang

Sold by her uncle in 1907 as a lowly maid to a reputable brothel, the ‘First Salon of Gifted Girls’, sixteen-year-old Cassia is plucked from the ranks of servant girl by a powerful client. Master Chang is the boss of the fearsome Shanghai Triad. In spite of her large feet and pendulous breasts, both unbound, she swiftly becomes his favourite mistress and enjoys her first passionate encounters as well as her first taste of luxurious living.

The story follows Cassia after the violent death of Master Chang, and her rise to ‘godmother’ of Shanghai as she seduces the next Triad boss, Huang, when he hears her opera troupe, and then his lacky, Yu, who replaces the murdered Huang as the next Triad leader.

Hong Ying, Chinese writer & poet, was born into a sailor's family in Chongqing in 1962. She Studied in Lu Xun Creative Writing Academy and Fudan University and began her freelance writing career in the early 1980s. She has been translated into 25 other languages and has won major literary awards in Taiwan and Italy. She currently lives in Beijing.

'In 1907, Cassia, an orphan from the country, is sold to a high-class Shanghai brothel-owner. With her big feet and big breasts, she is not regarded as a classic beauty and is employed only as a skivvy, but she soon becomes the favourite mistress of the boss of an underworld gang, the Hong Brotherhood. So begins a dazzling and dangerous career in a world of rigid protocol, strict hierarchy and pitiless violence, as Cassia works her way from gangster's moll to, well, another gangster's moll, and then another's, but also to actress, singer, theatre-owner and proto-feminist...this is a fascinating, full-blooded yarn which has the reader rooting for its heroine, a kind of Chinese Moll Flanders, every inch of the way.' Independent on Sunday

'...the story spans a huge historic period as the reader journeys through her life. Ying's beautiful, poetic writings keeps the reader intrigued and devoted. We want our heroine to succeed and overcome. This is a beautiful book with import that should be read by all.'

'Cassia herself is a figure worth reading the novel for. With so many historical fictions on bookstore shelves where the main character is an Asian woman forced into a life of prostitution in order to survive, it’s nice to read a book that diverges from the trend in the story of a woman who breaks the conventions of her time and sets out to forge her own destiny. Confident in herself and her sexuality, Cassia is a character of great charisma and strength. Another mark that sets The Concubine of Shanghai apart is the level of depth and detail it gets into Triad society at that time. The politics of it, the rivalries, are all fascinating. So while there may be a number of Asian-themed historical fictions available to choose from, The Concubine of Shanghai is a unique one. Sensual, dark at times, beautiful at others, and with a powerful female lead, the book doesn’t disappoint.' Curled Up with a Good Book (

‘...the essential story remains that of a plucky young woman who struggles to make her way in the world. The world she strives in is often slightly different from our own, either an earlier period or an exotic locale and ideally both, as in Hong Ying’s The Concubine of Shanghai.Times Literary Supplement  

'With various plot twists throughout the book the reader is bound to be surprised not once, but continually throughout the novel...I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the unexpected!'

Also by Hong Ying:

K: The Art of Love

Peacock Cries

Praise for K: The Art of Love

‘Like all Hong Ying’s work, K is written with a wonderfully intense simplicity – it’s tough, uncompromising, direct and tense with strong emotion, but also full of poetry and grace.’ Andrew Motion

B-format edition:

ISBN: 978-0-7145-3180-9
Pub Date: 22nd July 2008
Price: £7.99/ $13.95









COVER DESIGN: Alice Marwick