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The Painter From Shanghai

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  2,946 Ratings  ·  357 Reviews
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Pan Yuliang was a girl with no dreams. Her parents were taken from her at a young age, then her uncle sold her into prostitution; it was enough for many years just to cope and survive. One day, fate places a kind gentleman
in her path, and she begins to discover the city outside the brothel
and the world beyond China's borders. As
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 31st 2008 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a book about a painter. And you know what isn’t in it? Pictures! Here are some paintings by Pan Yuliang:

You may have noticed that the book cover is pretty generic and recycled. This is especially odd given that the subject of the book painted so many self-portraits:

Maybe the people who own the rights to all these portraits don't approve of the book. Anyway, as you may have started to gather from the above, Pan Yuliang was controversial for her nude paintings, including ones in which she
Feb 23, 2008 Hillary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: author-friends
The rampantly overused and often undeserved phrase "stunning debut" happens to be absolutely true in the case of this gorgeously crafted fictional tale of the real-life artist Pan-Yuliang, who was sold into prostitution as a young girl and overcame her sordid past to become one of China's great painters. Epstein breathes vivid life into her characters as she charts Yuliang's journey from the "Hall of Eternal Splendor" brothel in Shanghai to Paris in the roaring 20s and back to a China roiled by ...more
Jun 11, 2008 Terra rated it it was amazing
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein is an incredible journey of one woman and the totally different lives she lives. A novel of innocence, hope, determination, abuse, sadness, betrayal and death keep the reader thoroughly ensconced from the very first page.

Yuliang is was put in the care of her uncle at the age of just 6 upon her mother's death. Innocent but with some learning in the way of embroidery her uncle sees in her a promise of something better than he has and educates her
THE PAINTER FROM SHANGHAI, a fictional biography of the artist Pan Yuliang, opens 20 years after she has left China to pursue her life as an artist in Paris. Despite her longing, the pull of her memories, she will never return to China. Even the currents of contemporary art, where she was once considered the cutting edge, seem to have passed her by, with it's restless, capricious trends. “People don't want girls and flowers right now. They want splashes and gashes. Inkblot tests. Fingerpainting ...more
Chiew-Siah Tei
Aug 22, 2012 Chiew-Siah Tei rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a review but my thoughts on the real life character featured in this book. Pan Yuliang, born in 1899 in China, was sold at the age of 14 to a brothel by her opium-addict uncle. Through determination she became one of the first women students of the then controversial Shanghai Academy of Art that used nude models (imagine, that was 1910s' China) and taught western art. Pan later won a scholarship to study in France, during which she experienced poverty and loneliness; it was her love ...more
Apr 05, 2008 Bookshop rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read the book's review in NYT and picked it up due to its intriguing story about a painter from Shanghai's golden era who used to be a prostitute. While it is a work of fiction, the story is based on the real life painter Pan Yu Liang who is famous for her beautiful nude paintings which combine both the western and chinese painting styles.

At 14 and orphaned, she was sold to a brother by her uncle. She then attracted the attention of a wealthy official who made her his mistress. He also encoura
May 03, 2013 Carla rated it it was amazing
I’m always attracted by novels with a backdrop of art, controversial times and exotic locales and quickly became engrossed in The Painter from Shanghai. Only at the end did I realize the central character and many of the supporting ones actually lived. The times were dangerous and the daring commitment of those chronicled in the book’s pages is penetrating.

The author has written a fictional account of Pan Yuliang, a Chinese artist often known in her own country as the “Famous Western-Style Woman
Jun 03, 2014 Raymond rated it really liked it
We have enjoyed our several travels to China and remember vividly our excursion from Shanghai to Wuxi (no tin but formerly Youxi, meaning “has lots of tin") which is on the initial boat trip depicted in the novel. I am reminded of the New Testament Mary Magdalene who thought to be of a scandalous profession nevertheless was courageous and brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death and beyond!
This novel also reminds me of our enjoyed visit to the many art museums throughout t
Jun 10, 2008 Molly rated it it was amazing
I read this on a recommendation from my dad, not entirely sure what to expect. But it was phenonmenal. I pass on the recommendation.
Apr 12, 2008 Brenda rated it really liked it
Completely absorbing--perfect reading for a literary vacation.
Just when I thought I've gotten too pretentious and no book could ever impress me anymore I ended up finding this gem. I was arrogant, I know. So many authors out there, so many wonderful stories that haven't reached my ears yet, so many words that I haven't discovered yet. How could I have ever imagined that I have read them all?
This is the story of Pan Yuliang, a Chinese painter, orphaned at a very young age, she is sold into prostitution by her uncle. Later on, she is saved by her future husb
I didn't seem quite as enamored with this book as several other people. It was interesting, and I loved the exploration of art and early 20th century China, but I never got truly sucked in like I do with some books; I never had that craving to stop everything I was doing to see what happened next to Yuliang. Hence, 3 stars.

However, I couldn't help comparing it to The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel. Both are fictionalized accounts of real Chinese women and set during the period of Chinese cultur
Dec 25, 2013 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I received my subscription copy of Bookmarks magazine for Jan/Feb 2014 and began to read one of the featured sections "Art and Artists in Fiction". One of the reviewed novels under the subtitle 'The Lives of Real-Life Artists' was "The Painter from Shanghai" by Jennifer Cody Epstein. I had not heard of the book before and had not heard of the artist Pan Yuliang who is the central character, but the description is one of a young girl sold into prostitution at the age of 14, then is purchased by o ...more
Mar 29, 2013 Katsumi rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
The story started out interestingly enough but went nowhere. The characters weren't really developed and not much really happened, that you couldn't see coming. If you like something light and easy, this is for you. SPOILER ALERT - If you plan to read the book don't read on. Basically sold to whore house, saved by forward thinking politian, he loves her, she finds she loves painting, she lives separate from him focusing on painting and she's unbelieveably wonderful painter, controversial paintin ...more
Diana S
A remarkable journey based on the life of Pan Yuliang, an artist, living in China during the early 20th-century, trying to cultivate her artistic talents against many odds. A Good Read! I give this book 3.5 stars***!
Jun 07, 2014 Paula rated it liked it
Would not have picked this book to read. Book Club selection. Interesting how she grew up and made painting her life. Well written based on her life.
IT would be quite accurate to judge this book by its cover: a tasteful if generic depiction of blossoms and sampans, along with a sticker announcing "If you liked Memoirs Of A Geisha, you'll love this".

Like the 1997 bestseller by Arthur Golden, this is a debut novel written by a Western author who has no firsthand experience of those particular aspects of Eastern culture being written about.

Also like Memoirs, this is a painstakingly researched novel by an educated writer which succeeds in making
Jun 16, 2009 Serena rated it it was amazing
"That the buyer, if she finds one, probably won't be able to read it means little. Yuliang doesn't sign it for him. She signs for herself, to bind her work to her. To tattoo it with a message: she has won." (Page 20)

Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Painter From Shanghai is a fictional account of Pan Yuliang's rise from the ashes of her life as Xiuqing, a young child sold into prostitution. Through careful brushstrokes of her own, Epstein deftly fills her canvas with the sights, sounds, and images of
Bindu Manoj
Jul 28, 2013 Bindu Manoj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Known as the first Chinese woman to paint in the Western style, Pan Yuliang is best described in the words from the book that is based on her life,

"She is strong, but like bamboo. She'll bend if the wind forces her to. But she will not break"

Born as Xiuqing, she loses her mother at six and is brought up by her opium addicted uncle. To pay off his debts, little Xiuqing is sold to a brothel when she is barely a teenager. The story then takes us through her days there, her relationship with the top
Aug 31, 2011 Jack rated it liked it
A very curious hybrid - what begins as an almost tacky bodice-ripper becomes deeper and more meaningful if you can wade through the muck of the first 150 pages. Pan Yuliang is an actual historical figure, one of China's most celebrated painters, a woman who boldly painted using western techniques, including nude self-portraits. She was hugely controversial, not only for her notorious artwork, but also for her life, having risen from early days as a courtesan.

Author Jennifer Epstein has taken thi
Apr 18, 2014 Ruby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely one of the best books I've read this year. I bought it for $2 at a used book store, and wasn't expecting much from it. Extremely well researched and developed, it follows the life of an orphan, turned prostitute, turned famous artist in 1920s China. She is bought out of her contract by a potential client to become his 2nd wife. The story of their affair, and of her life in general, is written in a dynamic way that really shows the changes in the Pan Yuliang as a character. It highligh ...more
Aug 01, 2008 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Pan Yuliang has lived and taken care of her uncle, ever since her mother died when she was young. At fourteen years Pan Yuliang was sold to The Hall of Eternal Splendour to become a prostitute. Her uncle did it to play off some loans he had accrued for his habit of opium. After two years of working at The Halls of Eternal Splendour, Pan Yuliang was saved. A young man by the name of Pan Zanhua, who is an inspector. He is so fascinated by Pan that he offers to take her away from Eternal Splendour ...more
Tara Chevrestt
This was not bad. It was actually pretty good in the first half. The first half is about Pan when she is a child and her drug addict uncle sells her to a prostitution house. Pan makes a good friend and reader's will see the impact this girl friend had on the rest of Pan's life. I found the first half very touching and intimate. It had a "Memoirs of a Geisha" type feel to it. After the loss of her good friend, Pan meets an important man that decides to rescue her. She becomes his concubine and th ...more
Aug 14, 2008 Tami rated it it was amazing
Xiuqing grew up believing that she was destined to become an artist, the next great female poet or perhaps a talented painter. When her mother died, little Xiu was taken in by her uncle. While he fanned her dreams, his own opium addiction would take the young girl on a very different path. Thus, at fourteen, Xiuqing became Yuliang, one of the girls working at The Hall of Eternal Splendor.

For several years, Yuliang’s existence was dictated by the whims of the Godmother who ran The Hall and the m
Angela Powell
Jul 21, 2014 Angela Powell rated it really liked it
I found the subject of this book very interesting: a child sold into prostitution grows up to be a world famous artist. Since it is based on Pan Yuliang's life, it was even more interesting to google what she looked like and what the paintings she created and won awards for were like. The author used very vivid prose when sharing her version of Yuliang's life, the dark and horrific as well as the successful and brilliant.
Still, I feel the classes I took which covered Orientalist theory have rui
Oct 12, 2013 Bluebird rated it liked it
This is a fictionalized account of the life Pan Yuliang, a post-impressionist Chinese painter who was quite controversial in her time—as a woman artist and painter of nudes, including nude self-portraits. Born at the end of the 19th century, she grew up in a time where women were culturally oppressed and when the entire country was undergoing a period of political upheaval. I thought Epstein did a beautiful job of conveying the cultural challenges Yuliang faced and overcame, eventually resulting ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Colleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
About 130 pages into this book, I thought, "Eh, it's ok. I'll finish it if I have time." I tucked it in my bag and ignored it until I had time to kill. The next time I picked it back up, it was nearly due back to the library, so if it didn't catch me fast, it wasn't getting read. It got me. Pan Yuliang got out of the brothel and I got into the book. The main character undergoes transformations that are as radical as those occurring around her, and in so doing, becomes a player in the larger tran ...more
coccinella felice
Primo libro della serie “Letture sotto l’ombrellone”, inaugurate nel momento in cui ho scoperto che Rucola non ama il mare e le mie spalle rosso-coccinella non amano il sole. Pomeriggio all’ombra e un buon libro. Direi, con buona approssimazione, che si tratta di puro relax. Inauguro la serie con un libro che è in parte la storia vera di una donna che si ribella alle convenzioni sociali e alla sua stessa vita per inseguire il suo amore di sempre per la pittura, e in parte un affresco romanzato d ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Navmi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As often is the case, I found The Painter of Shanghai by pure chance. I had lent my library card to my roommate because she was utterly bored and wanted to walk it off and had no place to go except the nearby library. So off she went and when she came back, she had this book clutched in her hand. Though I didn’t say anything just then, I was secretly disappointed at her choice. I had once tried reading ‘The Memoirs of Geisha’ and was unable to enjoy it even slightly, so the description of ‘Can a ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Jana rated it it was amazing
LOVED IT! A wonderful historical novel about a factual woman painter from Shanghai who began life as an orphan with bound feet living with her opium addicted uncle who teaches her poetry and then sells her into prostitution. She eventually overcomes all odds (including wars and revolutions) to become a modernist painter living in France during the early impressionist era, dying in 1959. It's amazingly researched and written, including portions dealing with painting and being an artist, and the p ...more
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Ask Jennifer Cody...: Researching a book 5 14 Apr 18, 2013 02:56AM  
your "to read" list 3 29 Sep 23, 2011 09:26PM  
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