ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Book Review: Petals from the Sky

Updated on December 2, 2016
Zhang Ziyi, impeccable actress in Chinese movies.  The book celebrates explains Chinese culture to outsiders very clearly.
Zhang Ziyi, impeccable actress in Chinese movies. The book celebrates explains Chinese culture to outsiders very clearly. | Source
The book flows, gently repeats previous information to enable continuity in understanding a complex topic like Buddhism.
The book flows, gently repeats previous information to enable continuity in understanding a complex topic like Buddhism. | Source

Title: Petals from the Sky

Author: Mingmei Yip

Publisher: Kensington Books

The book, set in China, Hong Kong, Paris and New York doesn’t waste time.

The first twenty or so pages tell readers about 30 year-old Du Meng Ning, who shocks her mother with the intention to become a Buddhist nun; how naughty boys pushed her into a well when she was young; how she saved a few francs doing odd jobs in Paris while she was a student at the Sorbonne to finance the Buddhist retreat in Hong Kong; how she meets Michael Fuller an American doctor; how she was influenced by a statue called Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and financial problems facing Buddhist temples such as the Fragrant Spirit Temple in Hong Kong.


There’s more to the book but I will throw caution to the wind and maintain that it is a calligraphy about three women and Buddhism.

  • ·The beautiful Yi Kong, who became a nun at eighteen and her determination to preserve vanishing Buddhist statues, incense holders, paintings and other artwork that come with the religion. She wants Meng Ning to be a Buddhist nun and likes saying, “When are you coming to play with us?”
  • ·Meng Ning, who goes to France for her Ph.D. while she decides whether she wants to play with Yi Kong or not.
  • ·Dai Nam, a former nun Meng Ning meets at the Sorbonne. Dai Nam’s father hated her because she is a girl and also blamed her for the accidental drowning of her little brother. She also has a long scar on her face she got when a six year-old neighbour’s son cut her with a piece of broken glass for no reason at all.

The three women’s calligraphy has broad and small strokes of Chinese and Buddhist practices such as brewing tea, being vegan, reciting sutras, Beijing Opera, Shaolin martial arts, and how Buddhists say things, idioms if you will.

The author makes constant reference to shaved heads. Why do Buddhist nuns and monks have round patches that look like dimes on their heads? The book explains all that.

Yi Kong cut her hair because vanity has no place in someone who chooses the Buddhist religious order. The patches are the result of incense used on their heads to ensure that no hair grows again. Readers who have watched Kung Fu movies know those dime-like patches.

Tai Chi in Winnipeg during the 2015 summer.
Tai Chi in Winnipeg during the 2015 summer. | Source

Choosing Book Titles

One wonders about the title after reading the book. It is only the author and publisher that know why the title is Petals from the Sky because The Empty Gate would have been a perfect title. You see, Meng Ning’s mother believes that becoming a nun is like entering an empty gate.

The Hong Kong retreat is important to the story for many reasons. It is where Meng Ning meets Michael Fuller, the American doctor interested in Buddhism. The chemistry between the two sees Meng Ning changing gears because initially, she was quite determined about being a nun.

“I wanted to be like Yi Kong, to be free of men’s crushing power, to attain spirituality, to control my own life and destiny, and most important of all, to push away the ordinary so as to live the life of a poet, a mystic, a goddess.” P. 24.

Later on in the book she says, “I didn’t want to lose Yi Kong’s friendship, nor Michael’s love. I wanted both the fish and the bear’s paws.” Page 225.

The retreat is also an introduction to the issue of fund-raising for religious institutions. Should they take dollars from anybody? This becomes a dilemma for Meng Ning because she has always equated Yi Kong with spirituality, intense spirituality.

She therefore becomes disappointed when she realises that Yi Kong worries about money to keep the Golden Lotus Temple running and to preserve treasures in mainland China associated with Buddhism.

The book reads like a chorus. There are certain terms like Guan Yi, shifu, sutra, qi, or gweilo the author repeats so that the reader can grasp their significance, especially someone not familiar with Buddhism.

Last Word

The story of the three women is the book’s substance, solid as a rock, and would have kept the reader hypnotised without the imposition of the Michael Fuller character.

It is a reminder that sometimes publishers force things on authors. This is not the first book I’ve read, where an American falls in love with an Asian heroine and ‘saves’ her from her culture.

Petals from the Sky cannot be read once, because issues raised by the book linger on the reader’s mind long after THE END.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)