4 out of 4 stars
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What if you were given the chance to view history from a different angle? Yut Di - One Earth, by Edward H.K. Ho, offers its readers the opportunity to view history from a Chinese perspective. This illuminating work of historical fiction is set in the 1880's. It explores the factors that led thousands of Chinese to immigrate to North America. It also sheds light on what the prevailing attitudes were towards those Chinese settlers.
Yut Di - One Earth tells the tale of Dai Woo Cheung, a wealthy Chinese Merchant in search of a new home for his family. The book opens with him aboard a steamship heading for Canada. He has chosen his twelve-year-old son, Wing, to accompany him. Trouble brews when the white passengers complain about having to dine with people of "inferior origins". In an attempt to appease them, the steward changes Cheung and Wing's seating arrangements in the dining hall. They are placed at a table with a Jewish Rabbi and his beautiful, ten-year-old daughter, Louisa. Louisa and Wing get on well and become regular playmates. The growing attachment between the two playmates worries their fathers. How could such a love survive in a world filled with intolerance? The intolerance they experience aboard the ship is just a foregleam of what lay ahead. When the ship docks on the port of Victoria, Cheung and Wing are attacked by protesters who haul eggs and rocks at them from the shore. The protesters yell, " Go home, Chinks!" Horrified, Cheung regrets bringing his son along. There is no turning back now, the situation back in China is dire. He must find a new home for his family. He must also fulfill a promise he made to his father. It is imperative that he succeed on this mission. After a tragic turn of events, Wing is kidnapped and forced to work as a labourer on a railway construction site. Cheung feels he will be in a better position to find his son if he works as a doctor for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He is exposed to the shocking working and living conditions on the various railway construction sites. In the meanwhile, Louisa falls into a deep anguish over the loss of her beloved Wing. Will he ever be found?
Yut Di - One Earth might be fictional, but the author uses real historical events as a backdrop. Not only does he narrate these events, but he also explains why and how they happened. In the prologue, events leading to and surrounding the Opium Wars are narrated. Reading the devastating effects of these wars put me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the book.
The relationship between Cheung and Wing added warmth to the book. Cheung believes in teaching his son to think for himself using logic and reason. He imparts vital lessons to his son. A lesson I treasured was about the importance of adaptability. When accused of accepting Western ways, Cheung stated, "If we waste the present by dwelling too much on the past, the future will hold little promise for our children." It is evident that Wing absorbs these lessons in how he reacts to trying situations.
I appreciate the balance found within the book. The book does not just focus on the evils of Western Society, it also highlights the positives. An example of this is when Cheung praises the English alphabet for its efficiency. The book also has a number of tolerant white characters who personify impartiality. As a result, the book did not feel overly critical. I found it to be fair.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The author went to lengths to explore a variety of situations that the Chinese immigrants found themselves in. It also sets the record straight on notable contributions by the Chinese that have been overlooked. If you are tired of reading fluff, I advise you to read this book! It has substance, and yet it still manages to be entertaining. I rate Yut Di - One Earth 4 out of 4 stars.
Yut Di - One Earth
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