Asian studies in Lithuania
Original language: English
Translated from: English
Authors: Zhang, Lijia
Translated by: Uzėlaitė, Viktorija
ISBN: 9786094664458
Published in: Vilnius
Published on: 2020
Publisher: Tyto alba

“Lotus” is a novel telling a story about a prostitute in China. It is a book that shows the various aspects of modern China – traditions and the modern present, strict social norms and regulations, but at the same time reveals the dark side – prostitution and human trafficking, the reality of hard work in factories and poverty in the provinces. Meanwhile, at the center of it all stands a girl who, like many other girls out there, is experiencing the horrors of the dark side.

After her mother dies, the heroine of the book starts taking care of her little brother and moves from a small village to live in China’s “city of sins” Shenzhen. Here she hopes not only to provide money for her brother’s studies, but also to create a good life for herself. However, after experiencing many failures, the girl, who until then was strictly guided by her strict morals, breaks down and steps into a massage parlor. However, in this parlor, she has to provide not only massage services – she also becomes a prostitute. She names herself with a nickname Lotus. This name has a symbolic meaning to the story of the book. First of all, the lotus is a plant that grows out of the mud, but remains pure and taintless. However, it can also symbolize the life of the book’s heroine, because even though she makes money in a completely dishonorable way, her goal and her heart remain just as pure.

Lotus tries to endure the difficulties of life and achieve her only goal – to earn money for brother’s studies. However, the lives of sex workers are dangerous and difficult. Poor living conditions, the cruelty of brothel hosts, hiding from the police, fear, longing for home, sad memories of a poor childhood, degrading customer demands and their frequent cruelty is the harsh reality.

However, when Lotus suddenly meets photojournalist Bing, a divorced middle-aged man who dreams of becoming a recognized journalist and is creating a photo project about prostitutes in China, it changes a girl’s life. When a deeper connection is established between Lotus and Bingo, the woman is hesitant and questions identity. Lotus contemplates whether a girl like her can start new life, become an exemplary wife and mother, and can her man forget about her past. She raises the most important question of whether she is allowed to fall in love at all. It is a book about a woman’s path to herself, an attempt to get to know and love herself in extremely harsh conditions, a search for self-esteem.
Prostitution as a phenomenon is described in detail in the book, but it is difficult to read from an emotional and moral point of view. Most girls have little idea who they are and what they are doing and they can all tell about the heartbreaking circumstances that led to such a life choice. They lack self-esteem, lie to themselves and the world, regard themselves as objects rather than people. In the book, the author explores other topics as well: immigration, politics, abortion, the economy, and depicts an unpolished reality of the country through the eyes of a Chinese prostitute. The narrative of the book is based on authentic material about the life of a modern prostitute and inspired by the story of the author’s grandmother, who was sold into a brothel as a teenager.

Lijia Zhang – At the age of sixteen, relatives withdrew her from school and she worked at a rocket factory for ten years. After learning English, she drastically changed her life, started a career as a journalist, and published an autobiography that attracted great interest. She is now a writer, journalist and active narrator on modern-day China at international conferences, has given interviews to CNN, the BBC, Channel 4 and publishes her texts in The New York Times and Newsweek. It took twelve years for the author to write Lotus, after her grandmother admitted to working as a prostitute in her youth on her deathbed.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU