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From The Asian Reporter, V14, #31 (July 27, 2004), page 13.

Flow like water, yield like bamboo

Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu

By Emily Arnold McCully

Scholastic, 1998

Hardcover, 40 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

When a baby girl is born during the reign of China’s last Ming Emperor, her father believes she is "marked to follow an exceptional path in life" and refuses to allow the ladies-in-waiting to bind her feet and train her in "precious ways" and "idle pastimes." Instead he sends his daughter to the tutors, who instruct her in "the five pillars of learning: art, literature, music, medicine, and martial arts." If only every Chinese baby girl had such a champion.

The girl, Jingyong, which means Quiet Courage, excels at martial arts. "Who will want to marry an educated woman?" complains her mother. "And one adept at kung fu, too!" But the Manchu conquest of the Forbidden City separates Jingyong, who is away riding, from her parents, and she decides to study at the Shaolin Monastery, "where Buddhist monks had practiced kung fu for a thousand years." Impressed with her skill, the monks ask her to join them and give her the name Wu Mei, which means Beautiful Warrior.

Mingyi Wang’s family "eked out a living selling bean curd." Mingyi is on her way home from a big delivery when thieves try to steal her purse, but the "tiny nun" Wu Mei, who is watching from the end of the street, vanquishes them with amazing power. But this is not the end of Mingyi’s problems. A "hairy brigand" threatens to destroy her family’s shop if Mingyi will not be his wife. Her terrified father sees no way out, but Mingyi remembers the tiny nun and sets out to ask Wu Mei to give her thuggish suitor "a good drubbing." But Wu Mei has something else in mind for Mingyi.

Emily Arnold McCully has written and illustrated a fine book about the strength, wisdom, and courage of girls and women. As Wu Mei tells Mingyi, "Concentrate. Flow like water, yield like bamboo."

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books

  Amazon