All the King’s Women


Mimi Chan

ISBN : 978-962-209-515-1

Literary Studies

May 2000

192 pages, 5.5″ x 8.5″

  • HK$90.00

Lee Pak Hung, called ‘The King’ by his household because of his legendary wealth and power, flees to Hong Kong in 1924 in the aftermath of the ‘Merchant Corps’ debacle in Guangzhou and takes up residence on the Peak, an area out-of-bounds for Chinese in the early years of the twentieth century. In his vast mansion the King lives with his menage consisting of nine wives, three sisters, forty-eight servants not counting the muitsai, countless poor relations and hangers-on—and a surprisingly small number of offspring.

All the King’s Women is a work of historical fiction and gives an insider view of life within that household. The author married into a similarly complex family and drew her inspiration from real-life characters and situations. While the focus is on eight particular women in the King’s life—four concubines, one daughter, a stepmother, a sister and a servant, it gives a historical perspective of what life was like for a wide spectrum of Chinese women especially during the first decades of the twentieth century, from the pampered ‘misses with a thousand pieces of gold’ to impoverished and desperate waifs sold into slavery at a tender age. These eight narratives are tied together by the overall narrative of the King and his immediate forebears, but each story stands alone and can be read as an independent entity.

Mimi Chan received her early education in Mainland China, New York and Hong Kong. She read English language and literature at the University of Hong Kong and undertook research on Chaucer in Hong Kong and Shakespeare at University College, London. She taught English language and literature at the University of Hong Kong for over thirty years before retiring as a professor, and has published extensively on Shakespeare, Chaucer, English-Chinese translation, stylistics and bilingualism. She has also published a book on the images of Chinese women in Anglo-American literature and co-edited a volume of essays on Asian writers writing creatively in English. Mimi Chan is married and has a son and a daughter. All the King’s Women is her first work of historical fiction.