The Eye of Jade
Diane Wei Liang
Mei is a modern, independent Chinese woman. She runs her own business in Beijing, working as a private investigator; she owns a car; she even has that most modern of commodities, a male secretary. One day, ‘Uncle’ Chen - no relation but a close friend of her mother’s - comes to Mei with a case to investigate. He asks her to find the Eye of Jade, a Han dynasty artefact of great value. The Eye of Jade was taken from its museum during the years of the Cultural Revolution when Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying many remnants of the past. Mei’s investigations reveal a story that has far more to do with the past, and her own family history, than she could ever have expected. This story forces her to delve into that dark part of China’s history, Mao’s labour camps and the countless deaths for which no-one was ever held responsible. It exposes the agonising choices made during the Revolution, to kill or be killed, to love or to live.
Eye of Jade is a fascinating glimpse of city life in modern China. Liang captures vividly Beijing’s bustle and noise, from seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars to the splendour of the Forbidden City. Through a rich cast of characters including immigrant workers and government officials, she examines the sometimes uneasy relationship between China’s brutal communist past and its increasingly capitalist present.