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Yaozu Cheng, a fifteen-year-old Cantonese youth, ventures with his uncle down the Pearl River to Kowloon, where they embark on a treacherous Pacific voyage to GUM SAN, the Golden Mountain. Gold rush California has lured diverse characters from all corners of the earth, but Yaozu's new life as a miner proves grueling and unrewarding. Yaozu's luck takes a remarkable turn when he meets Lola Montez, a worldly stage performer who takes interest in his skill with Chinese calligraphy and a journal Yaozu has kept of his travels. Yaozu's journal is filled with visions of Canton, Chinese folklore, San Francisco of the 1850s, and his Sierra Nevada mining camp adventures. His chronicles are as educational as they are entertaining and picturesque. The trials and lessons of this bygone era shed a hauntingly pertinent light on the tragedies and challenges of our own contemporary lives.