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Tai-Pan (Asian Saga: Chronological Order #2)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  33,614 Ratings  ·  645 Reviews
Set in the turbulent days of the founding of Hong Kong in the 1840s, Tai-Pan is the story of Dirk Struan, the ruler - the Tai-Pan - of the most powerful trading company in the Far East. He is also a pirate, an opium smuggler, and a master manipulator of men. This is the story of his fight to establish himself and his dynasty as the undisputed masters of the Orient.
Paperback, 740 pages
Published October 1996 by Plaza & Janes (first published 1966)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 25, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-to-film

”’Joss’ was a Chinese word that meant Luck and Fate and God and the devil combined.”

 photo HongKong_zps0d1c664a.jpg
Hong Kong was just a cluster of fishing villages when the English traders arrived in 1841. The port quickly proved a safe haven to ships even impervious to Typhoons.

Dirk Lochlin Struan is a Scotsman who has spent a good part of his adult life in the orient amassing a fleet of clipper ships and a great fortune. He is called the Tai-Pan. He has made his own joss by being s
Mar 22, 2011 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having begun with King Rat, I proceeded to work my way through most of James Clavell's Asian Saga before running out of steam - and interest - with the overly-long and rather lacklustre Whirlwind; and of them all, Tai-Pan was my favorite. Shogun was fantastic, mysterious, complex, cruel, violent, erotic, dressed with elaborate manners and rituals, alien thought patterns, ironclad honor, smelly Europeans, the whole works - but it didn't have the Struans versus the Brocks, which crackling, bloody, ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this before & really liked it, but it is even better as an audio book. Incredible, really. John Lee has great accents & intonations & really makes the book come alive.

Clavell is most famous for Shōgun, the first of his Asian series, which was made into a mini series starring Richard Chamberlain. It was excellent & takes place about 2.5 centuries earlier in Japan. Tai-Pan is about the founding of Hong Kong about 1840 & takes place over a period of 6 months. It was ma
Aug 13, 2007 Jamie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wanted to get a nice concise history of Hong Kong, ended up with James Clavell's Tai Pan. I read Shogun when I was 14, and remember liking it enough to read through the 1000+ pages (and that sex scene with the anal beads? Blew my 14 year old mind. And my DAD had read the book. Yikes.)

Maybe my taste is different now but Tai Pan is pretty dissapointing. Lots of cool historical details, but they feel a bit shoe-horned in, and the main character is, well, basically perfect. At least in James Clavel
One absolutely brilliant book, but I didn't expect this ending, something similar yes, but the way it ended - NO!! It broke my heart a little bit and I cried, usually this would ruin the book for me, but this one was a masterpiece and I can't say even one bad thing about it.


There were so many great characters especially Dirk and his Mei Mei, they were so well suited,yin and yang.
Some books and characters fade with time, but I'm not sure I will ever forget those two.


This is a book I will be rer
Big, chewy, lip smacking, gut busting fiction. How appropriate that I should have finished it on Thanksgiving - a day given to gastronomical excess.Whew.

This is not a historical tome. It is a fictionalized account of the first year of the British colony of Hong Kong (1841). The characters are all loosely based on actual people - as are their trading companies. That is what Clavell did in his novels and it's important that one understand that.

Clavell was also an ardent supporter of Free Trade, a
Michael Havens
Sep 14, 2008 Michael Havens rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction lovers
What can I say about ‘Tai-Pan’? Is it really a Historical novel? Is it a Alternative History? These are the two questions I keep asking myself while working my way through the late James Clavell’s Asian saga, which for your consideration are the following:
‘Shogun’ (1600)
‘Tai-Pan’ (1841)
‘Gai-Jin’ (1862)
‘King Rat’(1945)
‘Noble House’(1963)

Before joining Goodreads, I had already read ‘Shogun’, so you, my friendly reader, do not have the luxury of a review of that as comparison, bu
Sep 14, 2016 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owned
You know that feeling where you just wanna dedicate a slow jam to a book? You ever get that? If I ever had to have something playing while I clutched a totally fucked up and battered paperback to my chest, I would want this to be that song:

This shit is that good. It covers a very tempestuous 1841 as lived by a host of characters ranging from traders to pirates to admirals to slaves. We concern ourselves most primarily with Dirk Struan, Tai-Pan (Supreme Le
Marc Ocana
Nov 22, 2012 Marc Ocana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow. I felt a shiver down my spine after the last page. This book indeed is as grand and as entertaining as it gets.

I do not think I will be able to muster enough words to explain the sensations I felt while reading this awesome novel. It was as if I was there in Hong Kong at the day and age when Imperial England was at its height and grandeur, conquering the seas. All the cunning and strategies involved in maintaining the largest trading company of the time, all the bitterness and rivalries ex
Jan 09, 2009 Danielle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My first Clavell read was Shogun - that was good. Not great, but good - I remember being engaged, interested enough in the subject matter, the way the plot developed. Years passed and I tried Gai-jin - I only finished that because I constantly hoped that even turn of the page would somehow bring about the book's miraculous redemption. Far from redeeming itself, that book actually got worse as it progressed. Because I had heard that Tai-pan was better than Gai-jin, I gave it a try this week. Not ...more
Mar 06, 2009 Cassi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh yes, this is the Clavell I remember from Shogun. Even though it has been years, I remember that book vividly. Tai-Pan, although not a continuation of Shogun, is similar in style and character. There are some major storyline differences, but the extremely lucky, strategic and forward thinking main male character, and the bad-but not so bad antagonist. Then, a slew of wonderful side characters, the women being beautiful in different ways, but sly, clever and endearing, and the men, varying dram ...more
I thought Shogun was his best book when I read it, but found I liked Tai-Pan even more. There's more action & suspense with a twisty plot & far reaching consequences. If you plan on reading any other books by Clavell, you HAVE to read Tai-Pan. Without its history, you'll miss out on a lot.

Dirk Straun, the hero, is probably my favorite character in all fiction. He is a tough, smart man that isn't afraid to unlearn his old ways & adapt. He has a wonderful enemy in Brock & intellig
May 10, 2010 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is phenomenal. Anyone who is interested in China, past and present, should read it. Anyone who likes a brilliant historical fiction, should read it. And anyone who loves “larger-than-life, but still realistic and wonderfully developed” characters, should read it.

Set in 1840s China (Canton), Macao and most importantly, the brand-new English colony of Hong Kong (which Dirk negotiated away from the Emperor through the oh-so-pliable governor), the story is set around Dirk Stuan, a larger t
May 26, 2011 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding historical saga and my first exposure to James Clavell. On the strength of this, I'll be sure to read the rest of his work.

TAI-PAN is epic in scope, a novel whose background is the inception of Hong Kong by the British, circa 1841. Into these turbulent times comes a tail of rival opium smugglers, piracy, betrayal, love, hatred, incest, murder, friendship and natural disasters. Pretty much everything is here, giving this the flavour of a historical saga of old with a distinctly mas
Nikoleta Starkova
This book is an absolute masterpiece! Every sentence, every word was on its right place. The portraits of the characters were unique, intriguing, perfectly built and there wasn’t even a moment, when the plot was boring. I can’t even think of a flaw.

I loved the story of the hatred between the rivals Dirk and Brok and the way their children are included in it, the love between Dirk and Mei-Mei, the clash of different cultures and political views and of course the cruel fight for the title Tai-Pan.
Dec 02, 2013 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Tai-Pan - A "fantastical" good novel, brilliant characters, enthralling story, awful ending. It kept my attention and was an easy read. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone looking for adventure, and a bit of history.
Jun 07, 2015 Georgi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
За ненадминатия талант на Джеймс Клавел е говорено много и вероятно дълго още ще се говори. Осъзнавам като сериозен пропуск, че посягам към тази книга чак сега, в напреднала (младежка) възраст. И ме е яд, че някога, когато прочетох за първи път „Цар Плъх“, не изгълтах веднага цялата азиатска сага на великия Клавел. Но грешките са поправими, а що е време – пред нас е. Иде реч за „Тай – пан“, една от перлите в короната на родения в Австралия и прекарал по-голямата част от живота си в Америка брита ...more
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have an affinity for historical fiction. And one such series of books that I am slowly working my way into is James Clavell's Asian Saga. Last year, I read Shogun. This time, I finished the second book, which was set more than 200 years after the first one, Tai-Pan.

The current book is about the founding of Hong Kong, after the Opium Wars. It centers on the main character Dirk Struan and his family and company, The Noble House. He is a merchant who owns an armada of trading ships, plying the ro
Joel Margolese
In re-reading Tai-Pan after, well, a long time :), it's still a grand opus. With Tai-Pan,Clavell's moves from Japan, a country with a large population and limited resources. Where rigid rules of society and manners maintain order and allow people to live in densely populated areas. China of course has a a hierarchical society and an Eastern view of manners and social life. But China is messy, opportunistic, more of a land of opportunity. Everyone is knows his or her place, but is also trying to ...more
Wiktorija Bartoszewicz
Первая глава первого тома затянута и насыщена именами на столько, что дважды откладывала книгу "на потом". С третьего раза далась. Пока не дочитала до конца третьего тома, оторваться не могла.

Давно книга не вызывала во мне слёзы. На столько проникновенно описана жизнь героев, что их смерть переживаешь, как смерть своих родных. И пираты предвстают не как сказочные персонажи из детства, а как настоящие люди.

С нетерпением хочу прочесть продолжение "Благородный дом" и " Гайдзин".
Leah Angstman
Apr 15, 2016 Leah Angstman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of epic historical fic, lovers of dialogue, Fans of gray-area characters
It wasn't perfect, but it still gets five stars because, holy shit, what a read. There were some loose ends by the end, but quite frankly, I didn't care (except that there was a smidge of dissatisfaction in the ending for me, which I won't get into because I don't want to spoil it). This book had me hooked on every word.

It is a fictionalized account of Hong Kong in 1841, under British colony's first year of ruling and trading. As is James Clavell's way, the characters and trading companies are a
Daniel Simmons
Aug 02, 2016 Daniel Simmons rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a patently ridiculous "historical" novel, with awful dialogue and a way-WAY-larger-than-life hero who's besieged on every page by (a) men who want to be and/or kill him and (b) women who want to knock boots with him. Almost everyone is a walking caricature (that eyepatched Birmingham-accented antagonist! that foppish nitwit administrator! those wily bewhiskered heathen Chinese!). I suspect I would have enjoyed this much more in the days when I was reading Hardy Boys novellas and silly Cl ...more
Nick Klagge
This is the sequel to Shogun, which I read about a year ago (just before starting Goodreads!) and greatly enjoyed. A friend told me I would like it because it was about the founding of Hong Kong and "the good old days when finance was conducted with cannons." That indeed is a good description of the plot, but I would say that Tai-Pan fell well short of Shogun, and I'm not in a hurry to read any of the further sequels.

I often said about Shogun that I could barely stand how bad the writing was (th
Jun 23, 2013 Ayman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd book I read in the Asian Saga (in chronological order) written by James Clavell, the first being Shogun. While I did not find it to be as good as Shogun, Tai-Pan still engrossed, moved, and fascinated me quite profoundly.

A historical novel exploring the Opium War, the encroachment of British imperial power in East Asia, and the founding of Hong Kong, through the eyes of its Scottish sailor, entrepreneur, and visionary protagonist, Dirk Struan (based on William Jardine). I found h
Johnny D
Jul 26, 2012 Johnny D rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I actually read Gai-Jin before reading Tai-Pan so I really have no excuse for having dug myself into a hole again. I'm the type who always finishes a book that I start, so once I started this one there was no turning back . . . unfortunately.

I suppose I was hoping for another Shogun or even another King Rat, but instead I had subjected myself to another Gai-Jin. While reading this book I had a recurring vision of Dirk Struan artwork on the cover of some Godawful Harlequin. Basically, it's Dirk S
Jan 02, 2008 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
Tai-pan is a novel set in the mid-1800s in China; following the story of a group of European and American traders as they take over the island of Hong Kong after the Opium Wars. As with Clavell's other books, Tai-pan is based is based on actual events and people. The story centers on the Tai-pan (translated as "Supreme Leader") of a powerful British trading company and follows the Tai-pan as he navigates the political and economic waves associated with colonizing a new island in a foreign countr ...more
Matt Seeker
Sep 14, 2010 Matt Seeker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tai-Pan was the shit. I sifted through the user reviews on here and got both perspectives, though I found a huge gap in how males and females felt about the book. I personally loved it. As I said about Shogun, this isn't filled with awesome prose and incredible writing techniques. What it is, is filled with daring, adventure and romance. The book has excellent cadence and pace. The characters are a bit 2-D, but who cares, this is popcorn historical fiction at its finest. Dirk Straun has a doctor ...more
Apr 27, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adam K.
Sep 25, 2012 Adam K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time into this book to settle down and enjoy myself, mainly because I didn't realize I was supposed to. For some reason, I have it in my head even after reading Shogun that I'm supposed to consider Clavell's books as important historical documents to be revered rather than what they actually are--rousing, epic tales of adventure set against the backdrop of tumultuous periods in the history of east Asia. Tai-Pan is filled with humor, rascals, barbarian chivalry, and swagger. The ...more
Rather a potboiler, plus nautical language. Not nearly as good as Shōgun in my opinion—I'm reading them in historical order, rather than publication order—even though in a sense one could see it as "Shōgun in Hong Kong," or as a first attempt to tell basically the same story, since this one was written earlier. Maybe it's that Struan wasn't as interesting to me as Anjin-san, or that the non-Europeans played so small a part in this one aside from the love interest. Also, while I finished the ot ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: # 82 Tai-Pan 1 1 Dec 09, 2015 11:08AM  
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James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell was a British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and POW. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape, The Fly and To Sir, with Love.


James Clavell. (2007, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
More about James Clavell...

Other Books in the Series

Asian Saga: Chronological Order (6 books)
  • Shōgun (Asian Saga, #1)
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #3)
  • King Rat (Asian Saga, #4)
  • Noble House (Asian Saga, #5)
  • Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #6)

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“If you're a sailor, best not know how to swim. Swimming only prolongs the inevitable—if the sea wants you and your time has come.” 9 likes
“I'm saying that some men are saints. Some are happy being meek and humble and unambitious. Some men are born content to be second-best.” 5 likes
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