‘The longer I looked at that red chrysanthemum plate, the more I wanted to touch it, feel its weight, and run my fingers over its edge, which, like its country’s—and my family’s—history, was anything but smooth.’
It’s 1938, and the Japanese army are approaching from Nanking.
Huan Hsu’s great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters, are preparing to flee their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River.
Before they leave, they dig a hole and fill it to the brim with family heirlooms. Among their antique furniture, jade and scrolls, is Liu’s prized porcelain collection. The family’s flight across war-torn China would scatter them across the globe. Grandfather Liu’s treasure became family myth, from a time that no one wished to speak of – and no one ever returned to find it – until now.
Melding memoir, travelogue, ethnography, and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief is an intimate and personal way to understand the bloody, tragic and largely forgotten events that defined Chinese history in the 19th and 20th century.