Huan Hsu currently lives in Amsterdam, where he works as a freelance writer and editor for academic and cultural institutions. His essays and fiction have also appeared in Slate, the Literary Review, and Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts.
In 1938, with the Japanese army approaching from Nanking, Huan Hsu's great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters, were forced to flee their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River. But before they left a hole was dug as deep as a man, and as wide as a bedroom, in which was stowed the family heirlooms. Among their antique furniture, jade and scrolls, was Liu's prized porcelain collection, one he had amassed over many years and which contained priceless imperial items. The vault was filled to its brim before being covered with a false floor and replanted with vegetation. The family's flight across wartorn China, and the arrival of the Communists, would scatter them across the globe. Grandfather Liu's treasure became family myth, from a time that no one wished to speak of - no one ever returned to find it. Three years ago, Huan Hsu moved back to China from the US. Armed with only the slightest threads of family memory, he set out to discover the truth. His investigations will take him through China's cultural past and present, of which porcelain is a unique linking thread. He will gather memories of the China of another age from elderly relatives, uncover the story of his family's flight from the Japanese, and confront the contradictions of contemporary China. The Porcelain Thief will combine Hsu's fascinating record of his family history with accounts of great political and cultural changes, and perhaps reveal, at last, the secret hiding place of his grandfather's porcelain.
In 1938, with the Japanese army approaching from Nanking, Huan Hsu's great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters, were forced to flee their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River. But before they left a hole was dug as deep as a man, and as wide as a bedroom, in which was stowed the family heirlooms. 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. 1938. The Japanese army were fast approaching Xingang, the Yangtze River hometown of Huan Hsu's great-great-grandfather, Liu. Along with his five granddaughters, Liu prepares to flee. Before they leave, they dig a hole and fill it to the brim with family heirlooms. Amongst their antique furniture, jade and scrolls, was Liu's vast collection of prized antique porcelain. A decades-long flight across war-torn China splintered the family over thousands of miles. Grandfather Liu's treasure remained buried along with a time that no one wished to speak of. And no one returned to find it - until now. Huan Hsu, a journalist raised in America and armed only with curiosity, returned to China many years later. Wanting to learn more about not only his lost ancestral heirlooms but also porcelain itself, Hsu set out to separate the layers of fact and fiction that have obscured both China and his heritage and finally completed his family's long march back home. Melding memoir and travelogue with social and political history, The Porcelain Thief is an intimate and unforgettable way to understand the bloody, tragic and largely forgotten events that defined Chinese history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
A journalist travels throughout mainland China and Taiwan in search of his family's hidden treasure and comes to understand his ancestry as he never has before.In 1938, when the Japanese arrived in Huan Hsu's great-great-grandfather Liu's Yangtze River hometown of Xingang, Liu was forced to bury his valuables, including a vast collection of prized antique porcelain, and undertake a decades-long trek that would splinter the family over thousands of miles. Many years and upheavals later, Hsu, raised in Salt Lake City and armed only with curiosity, moves to China to work in his uncle's semiconductor chip business. Once there, a conversation with his grandmother, his last living link to dynastic China, ignites a desire to learn more about not only his lost ancestral heirlooms but also porcelain itself. Mastering the language enough to venture into the countryside, Hsu sets out to separate the layers of fact and fiction that have obscured both China and his heritage and finally complete his family's long march back home.Melding memoir, travelogue, and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief offers an intimate and unforgettable way to understand the complicated events that have defined China over the past two hundred years and provides a revealing, lively perspective on contemporary Chinese society from the point of view of a Chinese American coming to terms with his hyphenated identity.From the Hardcover edition.