First published in 1988 by William Morrow, THE COURT OF THE LION became an international bestseller. Drawn from actual T'ang Dynasty history and populated with vivid characters based on real people who actually lived, the novel--first conceived as a screenplay--is saturated with atmosphere, intrigue, action, mystery, eroticism and wicked plot twists. It is a fictionalized telling of one of the most powerful and tragic chronicles from the annals of Chinese history: the events leading up to the Rebellion of An Lu-shan and the fall of the benevolent Emperor Minghuang, and with him, the Precious Consort Yang Kuei-fei and the extraordinary Yang family. This iconic story and these personalities and names, immortalized in the works of the renowned T’ang poets Li Po and Tu Fu,  are as well known in China as the Civil War and its generals, battles and president are known in the US.

"Goes Shogun One Better," said the San Jose Mercury-News; "More tautly plotted, richer in character. Compelling, irresistible."  Said the London Times: "Like an enormous, powerful spell..."

Book Three of the T'ang Trilogy

The place:  China

The time:  The T’ang Dynasty, early to mid-eighth century AD, before and up to the Rebellion of An Lu-shan.

Settings:  The grand western capital city of Changan, which occupied thirty square miles, including suburbs, and which had a population of three million.

The Pure Flower Hot Springs, the imperial resort twenty miles southeast of the city.

The Mongolian Steppes and the Silk Road from Persia.

The hellish tropical prison island of Hainan, one thousand miles to the south in the China Sea.

The piney mountains of western Szechuan, bordering Tibet.

In the year 738, the T’ang restored, rational Confucianism predominating and the legitimate line of succession in place after the depredations of the Empress Wu, it is a time of great expansion, peace and artistry. The Emperor is a ruler of extraordinary humanity, a musician and a painter, his justice and compassion legendary. But an ambitious woman, a minor court consort, inspired by tiny characters painted on the petals of silk flowers delivered to her chambers which suggest to her that she has a greater destiny to fulfill, makes a bold play. The favored crown prince is murdered and the current Empress framed for the dire offense of sorcery. But the conniving woman is no Wu Tse-tien:  weak and vacillating, she goes quite mad in her guilt, her scheme collapsing into ignominy and failure.

 But not for naught! Chief Minister Li Lin-fu, a man for whom the term “Machiavellian” is too mild, himself a great admirer of the Iron Empress, has been watching with growing trepidation the various threats to the security of the Empire by invaders in the ragged far northern territories. Li Lin-fu is content to let the artistic, compassionate emperor serve as a figurehead, but knows that the hard work of realpolitik governance rests with him. Witnessing the Emperor’s descent into apathy and grief in the wake of the crown prince’s murder, Li Lin-fu knows an opportunity when he sees one, and steps into the breach. He brings to court from the far north an up-and-coming former slave whose daring military exploits have earned him rank and reputation. An Lu-shan is a rough fellow, huge, bearded, uncouth and uneducated, but Li Lin-fu intends to gain control of him and use him to secure the northern territories. But well we know what can happen with even the best-laid plans…

The grandeur, mystery, eroticism, horror, sensuality, decadence and vast scope of this tale unfold in settings as far flung as the Imperial court, the shimmering, haunted Pure Flower Hot Springs pleasure resort, the bleak, windswept, desolate north, the diseased, fever-infested prison island of Hainan, and finally, the distant piney mountains of far western Szechuan. Barbarians frolic with fine court ladies, betrayals great and small are hatched, eunuchs, poets, courtesans and warriors collude, and weaving in and out around the characters and events from beginning to end is a “shape-changing,” highly-sexed witch (or, if readers prefer, a crazy old woman), who represents the legendary immortal of Taoist lore. No story of the T'ang would be complete without this preternatural element, which gives the tale a richly fraught, uncanny extra dimension and removes it far from the ordinary adventure-saga.

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08.03 | 09:51

Checking whether the domment replies have been fixed

12.02 | 19:49

I've always held a special pace in my heart for your the "Court of the Li...

18.11 | 00:53

Thank you for the kind words, Mr. Byrnes. It was indeed a shock, ...

14.11 | 14:10

Terrible shocking news. R I P, Mr. Altieri. Condolences to Mrs. Altieri , yo...