Inspired by actual events, The Moon Pearl tells the story
of three young women in nineteenth-century China who challenge the
accepted beliefs of their community and emerge victorious.
Even as little girls, Mei Ju, Shadow, and Rooster know their paths
in life are pre-determined. Women in China only have three options
open to them-marry, join a nunnery, or commit suicide. But when
these three girls are sent to a girls' house by their parents to
learn how to be good brides and daughters-in-law, their hidden desires
for independence and education bring them together.
Practicing songs of wedded sorrow when in the companyof others
and secretly learning to read when alone at night, Shadow, Mei Ju,
and Rooster dream of one day standing on their own. They whisper
of self-rule and freedom, ignoring the conviction that such dreams
will never come true. But then Shadow, fearful of their looming
betrothals, suggests a solution-make vows of spinsterhood. By vowing
to remain single before Heaven, they cannot be forced into marriage;
nobody would dare break a promise to the gods.
Fearing their parents' reactions but determined to seek their goal,
they steal away in the middle of the night to make their vows and
replace their girlish pigtails with womanly buns. But when they
reveal themselves, their courage is neither praised nor accepted.
Instead, censured for disgracing their families, they are mocked
and attacked by their neighbors and friends and shunned by their
With no money for rent, they live in a decaying rainshack and sell
their beautiful embroidery for money. Their clothes are worn, their
house is falling apart, and they eat barely enough food to keep
them alive. But through the adversity, Shadow, Mei Ju, and Rooster
stay strong. They rise above the mockery and contempt of the people
to not only survive their adversity but also excel despite it. They
follow their hearts and pursue what they know is right, forcing
the community to open their eyes until they, too, accept and, in
the end, praise their dedication and their abilities. Clearing the
way for thousands of women after them, they dare to question the
age-old customs of their country and secure their right for independence.
Although The Moon Pearl is a work of fiction, its story and
characters are inspired by actual events. The customs and traditions
of the region that are described in the book accurately portray
life in nineteenth-century Sun Duk, China.
As the novel reveals, women in the 1800s were not allowed to govern
themselves. Not only in China, but in all parts of the world, a
female was placed under subordination from the moment of her birth.
As a daughter, she served her family; as a wife, she served her
husband, and as a mother, she served her son. She was considered
the property of the man, and therefore had no rights to claim as
her own. She certainly could not own property or earn her own money.
In reality, she did not even have enough rights to protect herself.
In China, if her husband brought other wives and/or concubines home,
it was not in a wife's power to object. If her husband or her mother-in-law
abused her (a common case), she could not leave or divorce him.
Thus, a woman's only chance at happiness was to be matched with
a kind husband and family. Similarly, a woman in nineteenth-century
America also lacked the power to obtain a divorce. Even if she was
treated badly, not much could be done.
Now, several decades later, both America and contemporary China
promote equality of the sexes. Women attend colleges, work outside
the home, and even join the army. But old beliefs linger long. Women
still are not afforded the kind of power and opportunities as men,
and the journey to equality is slow. While they are better off than
women in most other parts of the world (some countries have yet
to grant their women even basic human rights), they still have a
long way to go before achieving their goals. Despite the battles
and triumphs of women everywhere, residual sexism still remains.