by Laurie Dennis
A sweeping coming-of-age epic, The Lacquered Talisman launches the story of one of the most influential figures in Chinese history. He is the son of a beancurd seller and he will found the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China from 1368 to 1644. Known as “Fortune” as a boy, Zhu Yuanzhang is part of a large and doting family who shepherd him through hardship until drought and plague ravage the countryside. Left with nothing but a lacquered necklace from his grandfather, Fortune is deposited in the village temple and is soon wandering the countryside as a begging monk. He encounters pockets of resistance to the ruling Mongol dynasty, studies the stars, and tangles with Taoists as he seeks to understand his destiny. Signs and dreams convince him that he has a special fate. Is he to be the abbot of a monastery? A general? What matters most is that he prove himself to be a filial son.
“Laurie Dennis knows more than anyone else about the founder of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang. This fictionalized adventure tale fills out the peasant emperor’s own account of his family’s fortunes and misfortunes, and tells us about daily work, games, customs, and religious practices in 14th Century China. Anyone interested in Asian culture or history will enjoy and learn from Dennis’s lively and well-informed story-telling.” – Sarah Schneewind, Professor of History at UC, San Diego, and author of A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China.