Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest post on writing about Chinese female spies by Mingmei Yip

Novelist Mingmei Yip, author of The Nine Fold Heaven, is here today to share some insight into female Chinese spies - characters she uses as protagonists.

Mingmei Yip has been writing and publishing since she was fourteen years old and now she has twelve books to her credit. Her five novels are published by Kensington Books and her two children’s books are published by Tuttle Publishing.

Mingmei is also a renowned qin (ancient string instrument) musician, calligrapher and painter. In Hong Kong, she was a columnist for seven major newspapers. She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the US. 

Chinese Female Spies
by Mingmei Yip

When I decided to write about a woman spy in 1930’s Shanghai, I read every book I could find on the subject. What I discovered during my research is that spies usually end unhappily. Spies, no matter how cautious, smart, scheming, or ruthless, usually in the end could not beat fate. The world in which they lived was dominated by turmoil and malevolence.
Most female spies in China did not enjoy long lives. They were either caught and killed, or discarded once their mission was accomplished. As in the ancient Chinese saying “After the rabbits are caught, the hounds are cooked.”
A spy is like a yehu, a chamber pot: When the master needs to pee, it is needed right away. But when he doesn’t, the pot is but a stinking eyesore.
An example is the Chinese prostitute spy sent to Harbin to spy on a Russian general. She succeeded in stealing his map, on which were marked the soldiers’ positions, their supply lines, and their planned attack route. The government received the map, but never sent anyone to rescue her. Instead, they joked about her as  “the sakura blossom without root,” and left her to die alone in a prison in Siberia.
Female spies had to endure many humiliations like what I describe in my novel:
“Because every time before I was allowed inside Lung’s bedroom or hotel room, I’d be stripped naked and searched thoroughly by Gao his head bodyguard. I was even asked to jump up and down in case a weapon – small knife, razor, poisonous pill -- had been hidden inside my vagina. Of course, he’d also scrap my mouth for possible pills wedged between teeth. Was I humiliated? No, because acquiring a thick skin was part of my training. I had learned not to be distracted by pointless feelings such as humiliation, or embarrassment. It was just part of the job.”
Many spies failed at their last step to succeed because at the last minute, they could not pull the trigger. We imagine this is especially true for women. They may fall in love with their target and find themselves unable to kill. This is what happens in Eileen Chang’s novel, Caution, Lust (made into a popular movie by An Lee). When the female protagonist finally lured her victim to the place planned for his assassination, she didn’t have the heart to kill him and told him to run.
A Chinese saying, “It’s difficult for a hero to resist a beautiful woman’s love.” Thus the ever-popular honey trap. But this also applies when a women meets a handsome, caring man. 

Come along with an ex spy as she returns to Shanghai where she’s a wanted woman – but she has to search for her baby and her lost lover. Is her baby really alive? Will she be able to find her lover? Can she elude the police long enough to find them? 

Learn much more about Nine Fold Heaven and Mingmei Yip at and get your copy of this exciting and exotic novel at

Video trailer.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

Thank you for sharing information about Nine Fold Heaven and how Mingmei Yip does her research and character development. I'm almost finished reading Camilla's story - and anxious to see how it ends. So many colorful and unique characters :)