Mar 18, 2012

'Butterfly': With Love, From China

What do you and I, as common educated Indians, think of China? For us, China is an 'aggressor' which is working day and night to expand its military, and falsely claiming Arunachal to be its part. Also, we see China as a rapidly growing economy, a country that has in it to take over the numero uno status from the Americans. The saner ones see China as a prospective ally and a future friend. They believe that two of the most ancient human civilizations can together change the geopolitics and economics of the modern world.

Also, we get an impression that China is somewhat like a well-guarded secret. A country, which was once the epitome of art & culture, cradle of human civilization is now merely know for its impressive GDP numbers.Where have the Chinese artists gone? Where are the writers? Who is the next Chinese movie star, we have had enough discussion and stereotypical banter over Jackie Chan?

It is in this regard, that Julie O'Yang's Butterfly comes across as a refreshing pallet of colors. It gives us a sneak peek into mystical Mainland China, and the immense love that the country has in store. At the end of the journey, you are overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of that complex emotion called love. Risking venturing on an often walked road, the author displays utmost sincerity and maturity in handling the subject. The novel raises some pertinent questions regarding love- What actually is love? Is love the most important emotion for a human being? Is it the road to salvation? Then, why does the investment of this emotion backfires at times? And this is not all. The novel also gives ample space to historical events that have marred China-Japan relations for several decades.

The story is set in China of 1930s-40s, when World War-II was busy rewriting history. Butterfly is the tale of a young married Chinese woman who falls in love with a Japanese soldier. Both of them are bound by socio-national shackles and their own inner demons of deprivation. Butterfly also challenges the mythical notions of history and human existence, without getting rhetorical about it. There is a subtle undercurrent of prose that flows throughout the story, taking the readers into a magical world of history, emotion and romance.

The author uses layered, at times complex, narration to convey this fantastic tale of love. Her wide range of diction, variety of expression and command over the English language is at display throughout the novel. The conclusion of the story is sprinkled with fantasy, hope, spirituality and a universal definition of love. Julie makes a massive impact with 'Butterfly', and comes across as an uninhibited writer who is completely in command of her words. She is not afraid to touch upon the 'grey areas', be it Rape of Nanking or Sino-Japanese relations in the 1940s. Read 'Butterfly' if you wish to time travel, decipher love and appreciate the richness of Chinese art and culture. Put in a nutshell, J.O.Y's (Julie O'Yang) 'Butterfly' is a joyful read!


Julie O'Yang is a novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands. Born and brought up in China, she is also a scholar of Japanese language and culture. To connect with her on Facebook, click here or visit her website


  1. Wow. Looks amazing. I have always been fascinated by the chinese culture and everything. Would like to read it as well. :)

  2. You must read it Lebnox! Worth your time and money. You can read it 'legally' outside china ;)