The Bitter Tea of General Yen: Vintage Movie Classics
Arguably more finessed than the classic film starring Barbara Stanwyck, The Bitter Tea of General Yen paints China from a westerner’s perspective in the 1930s. American Megan Davis travels to Shanghai to marry her medical missionary fiancé, but is stranded in Shanghai due to civil war between the Republican and Communist parties. Eager to take action, Megan joins a nighttime mission to save orphans trapped in the midst of heavy fighting. Her team is attacked by a mob, but Megan’s life is saved by General Yen, a Chinese warlord. Taken captive, she is shuttled to his yamen in far inland China where she becomes exposed to an untamed East.
Predating Roger’s and Hammerstein’s The King and I, fans of the musical will recognize similar underlying themes advocating the exchange of knowledge between cultures. An interesting examination of a westerner who, unlike her other missionary counterparts, opens her heart to China and finds that it is she who has much to learn. Beautifully written, this novel captures a China in flux; a nation entertaining new ideas, but not yet taken by communist revolution.
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