Huan Hsu, a journalist and first-generation Chinese
American, returns to China to make his fortune and, in the process, discovers
his great-great-grandfather’s long-buried porcelain—and with it, the key to his
family’s history over the past one hundred years. The Porcelain Thief recounts Huan’s journey through the old and new
worlds of China to find hidden treasure, reconnect with his ancestry, and come
to terms with his identity.
In 1938, with the Japanese army approaching from Nanking, Hsu’s
great-great grandfather, Liu, and his five granddaughters, were forced to flee
their hometown on the banks of the Yangtze River. But before they left, a hole as
deep as a man, and as wide as a bedroom, was dug to entomb the family heirlooms.
Among them was Liu’s prized and priceless porcelain collection, one he had
amassed over many years. The vault was filled to its brim before being covered
with a false floor and replanted with vegetation. The family’s flight across
war-torn China, and the arrival of the Communists, would scatter them across
the globe, and Grandfather Liu’s treasure would become family myth.
To separate the layers of fact and fiction that have grown
up around his family, Hsu, born and raised in the United States, moves to
China and sets out to discover the truth. His investigations take him through
China’s cultural past and present, gathering memories of another age, uncovering
the story of his family’s flight from the Japanese, and confronting the contradictions
of contemporary China.
Melding memoir, travelogue, ethnography, and social and
political history, The Porcelain Thief
offers a unique and unforgettable window onto the dramatic narrative of China’s
past and present. Download and start listening now!