Green Mountain, White Cloud: A Novel of Love in the Ming Dynasty

Written by François Cheng
Review by Suzanne Crane

François Cheng’s new novel is a love story, chock full of many other components, set towards the end of China’s Ming Dynasty. The rigidity of social caste and custom and the privileges of nobility have always been prominent in China’s history, as ex-musician Dao-sheng discovers after his casting of eyes on Lady Lan-ying. Dao-sheng, after paying for his “crime” with hard labor, escapes and eventually finds himself hoping to see the lady again. Using medical skills he learned at a monastery, Dao-sheng gains access to, and treats, the ailing Lady Ying, and the purity of their love is rekindled.

With many allegorical illusions and motifs common to Chinese culture, Cheng’s novel is more like a fairy tale and parable rolled into one. It is set at a time when Western thought is slowly permeating China, and the old ways are being challenged. Perhaps a tad pessimistic while trying to be uplifting in meaning, the story of true love, spiritual and faithful, is eternal and will survive any worldly upheaval.