THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR.
It's been two months since I last posted an entry here and apart from feeling like a dead sloth warmed up in the Amazonian jungle, I keep inventing reasons to the sloth.
Well, I went down to nurse my terminally sick ex-hubby in Christchurch, South Island New Zealand. The Maoris used to call the place Te Wai Pounamu. Gorgeous, meaning Water of the Greenstone. They are now petitioning for New Zealand to be renamed and want the South Island to revert to that name. Which is very romantic, but would probably play hell for foreign visitors not used to Maori.
Now why I title this post Things to be Thankful for is because we must really count our blessings. And top of my list is good health. Seeing my ex- die slowly of myeloma and cancer in his lymphs, seeing a tall, strong active man die slowly as his bones crumble and leach excess calcium and protein into his blood stream makes me realise that nothing in the world is more precious to oneself than good health.
The second most important thing is family and friends. Many of us forget the human touch, forget the humanity that actually keeps our world as we know it, going.
The third is opportunities. I have usually made the most of mine, though sometimes, laziness comes in the way and swat that away. As I get older and more vulnerable, I must remember to be aware.
Anyway, my news over the past two months is that THE MING ADMIRAL: A CHINESE ODYSSEY will be ready and out on CREATE SPACE, AMAZON and other e-sites before Christmas. Below is a brief synopsis which I hope interests you enough to want to read it.
A new emperor has been on the throne since 1368 and proceeds to purge the empire of the supporters of the previous Muslim Mongol dynasty. The village of Kunyang in Yunnan is destroyed and its young taken into slavery. Out of this chaos, an exceptionally gifted boy grows up to become ZhengHe, the right-hand man of the founding emperor’s third son, the Warrior Prince Zhu Di. He helps Zhu Di take the throne from his nephew, the mandated heir.
As Emperor Yongle, Zhu Di makes the former Mongol capital of Dadu his own and calls it Beijing. He builds The Forbidden City and moves the entire court there. He instigates the writing of world’s greatest encyclopaedia and builds the Great Treasure Fleets, bringing all nations encountered under the thrall of China in the first instance of gunboat diplomacy. But the Emperor’s drive comes at great cost to those closest to him. His closest friend and ally, ZhengHe is not only forced to endure indignity and suffering at his hand, but also gains greatness as Grand Admiral of the Treasure Fleets. The tumultuous love-hate relationship between two of the greatest men in Chinese history lies at the heart of this sweeping novel.
“MeeMee Phipps has done credit to her heritage in bringing this story to life.” Miles Hughes, author of Catalan, The Coconut War, Richmond Road.
“Phipps’ attention to detail brought 14th Century China so alive for me I could smell the spices of the market place.” Tom Ryan, author of The Field of Blackbirds.
“All in all, a wonderful book that is a true testament to the author’s strengths in writing such a well-organized and complex tale in the genre of Chinese historical fiction.” 5 STARS: Red City Review.
And now, the final of The Connection.
“Live for him, Chingmei. Live for our son!”
Chingmei was dragged away. The sound of Honglun’s wails continued to drift over the top of the Wall. It took many days for him to die.
Up on the hill in the pleasure house, Chingmei heard him calling for her as her own wasted body was used over and over again by the drunken guards. She wished for death, but death would not come for her. On the seventh night Honglun let out one last heartrending cry.
Then there was silence. She knew he was dead and for the first time since she arrived her thoughts turned to Xinfook. Before the next dawn, she took food and a pair of shoes from the kitchen and stole away into the night. She began her return to Lungshan. The land, parched from a summer of no rain offered little sustenance and she lived like a wild mountain cat foraging for food in the crags along the mountain tracks. Little passed between her cracked and bleeding lips until she found her way back to the villages she had passed weeks earlier. She laboured and begged from one bereft village to another. The vision of her little boy’s face drove her on.
She arrived home as the chill of the winter winds swept in from the Western Desert– howling through the night like the men at the Wall.
No one ever came back from the Great Wall but Lungshan did start to regenerate. By the time Xinfook was eight years old, another baby was born, then another, and another. By the time he was fifteen, a semblance of normalcy returned.
Fifteen years of darkness, fifteen years of pain diminished.
Chingmei with Xinfook by her side planted and harvested the sorghum and they made the wine together. At the end of each day she would climb the hill by the river and look towards the setting sun. Though a thousand li away in distance, she could see the Wall in her mind’s eye, straddling the horizon like a long sleeping dragon that had feasted well, and in the Wall she could see Honglun strapped to his post, his eyes turned heavenward. Neither the sun nor the moon cast their light on him. Neither the rain nor the snow dampened him.
Each day the Emperor’s armies rode over Honglun as they moved from one end of the Empire to the other. Chingmei taught Xinfook that the strength of the Wall came from his father and the Empire was mighty through the might of his father.
I looked at my granddaughter and she was thoughtful. She rubbed her finger at a spot on the table. I knew what was coming next.
‘Am I named after the Chingmei in your story?’
‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘In our family it has been the name given to the first born girl ever since Xinfook started his family. So you see you are special in two ways, to be a first born girl and to bear the name of a remarkable woman.’
My daughter and Gerald nodded in agreement.
Something glistened in my granddaughter’s eyes. She was looking at me a little differently. A change I think.
‘I need to go to bed now,’ she said and stood up.
‘Ping An, Chingmei,’ I said.
‘Goodnight Pohpoh, ping an.’