From the introduction

The ability to bounce back is a universal element in these stories. Sichuan opera performer Tian Mansha, for example, entered her chosen field as a latecomer and suffered one rejection after another before finding her own way. She never viewed these setbacks as reasons to give up. Hong Kong choreographer Mui Cheuk Yin advises aspiring dance artists to treat difficulties as though they were human beings: “Problems are a real part of your work, too,” she explains. “Don’t just try to ‘solve’ them so that you can ‘succeed.’ It’s like a love relationship; you have to accept the bad parts too. You have to love your problems.”

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These life stories, taking place against the backdrop of social and political change in East Asia, also provide a window onto the recent history of modern China, as well as developments of the present day. The women were born between the years of 1925 and 1979 in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, four places that together are known to Western readers as “Greater China.” They speak several different languages and dialects and their lives and creative work illustrate a striking cultural diversity despite the geographical proximity.

It would be reductive and misleading to categorize their artwork based on their places of origin, partly because some of them and their families have emigrated around the region and their cultural and educational influences have been multifold (Nieh Hualing moved from China to Taiwan to the United States; Candace Chong’s family moved from the mainland to Hong Kong; Wang Xinxin, at one time, relocated from the mainland to Taiwan).