successfully combines a very real sense of period, a vivid portrait
lives of the Chinese workers who built the railway, and an exciting
The Vancouver Sun
ISBN: 978-1-4597-3755-6 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-4597-3756-3 (pdf)
ISBN 978-1-4597-3757-0 (epub)
Jasmine is not sure she likes the idea of being stuck in Victoria
while her father goes to China for a year. But on a field trip
to Victoria's Chinatown, she mysteriously finds herself in the
Chinatown of the early 1880s - a time when thousands of Chinese
were contracted to work on the portion of the Canadian Pacific
Railway then being constructed in BC's Fraser Canyon. In the maze
of Chinatown's alleys and passages, she meets Keung, a teenage
boy who has come to "Gold Mountain" in search of his father, a
railway labourer. Keung also has to find a jade amulet believed
to have magical powers. Jasmine accompanies him to the Fraser
Canyon only to discover that she and Keung are not alone in their
A Egoff Children's Prize
CLA Book of
the Year Award, Runner-up
Story Behind the Story
White Jade Tiger was inspired by a trip to China,
a dragon, and a field trip to Victoria's Chinatown. (And the building
of the CPR, but that came into it later.)
was back teaching after a six-month leave of absence. During my leave
I'd travelled to China and immersed myself in Chinese traditions and
culture. The month leading up to Chinese New Year 1990 seemed like a
perfect time to share my interest with my grade 4/5 class. One of my
favourite souvenirs, the shadow puppet of a dragon, sparked off a unit
on Chinese dragons that involved a search for books and stories about
dragons so that the students could write and perform their own shadow
Have you ever been looking for one thing,
and you find something unexpected that sparks the idea for a story?
As I was looking for images of Chinese dragons, I found a picture of
a 2000-year-old amulet carved out of white jade in the shape of a tiger.
The caption below the picture was intriguing White tiger,
the mythical animal of the west … jade endowed with magical powers …
I photocopied the page, filed it in my "Ideas" folder,
and scribbled in my notebook, White Jade Tiger. Good title! I
thought. All I needed to do was write the story.
Not so easy! I tried one idea after another, but a
story wouldn't come. Then, on a field trip to Chinatown to celebrate
Chinese New Year, I had it.
I had earlier made up a Scavenger Hunt for my students,
involving the location of various items in different shops. After having
lunch in a Chinese restaurant, small groups set off with their Scavenger
Hunt lists. One particular store has a door off the main street, a number
of small rooms, and a second door that opens onto an alley. We went
out that door, my group and I, and ended up in a narrow brick-lined
alley linking two streets. Nothing adventurous happened. But as I stepped
through the doorway a question popped into my head. What if …
That was the starting point of White Jade Tiger.
As for the rest? You'll have to read the book!
I loved writing White Jade Tiger.
I worked on it every weekend while I was teaching but eventually had
to stop because there was never enough time and I kept losing my train
of thought. So I put it away for a year, and then worked on it flat
out during a whole year's leave of absence. That was the year I decided
to be a full time writer instead of a teacher.
White Jade Tiger was published in 1993. My first
novel. And still one of my favourites.
This is a complex and ambitious first novel.
Lawson skilfully interweaves the narratives of present and past,
exploring the concerns of each on many levels. The examination
of racism and greed in B.C.'s early days is well integrated into
Quill and Quire, Starred Review
Julie Lawson has written a story so well grounded
in real-life Victoria, B.C., now and in 1881, that the fantasy
of time travel between our time and the past seems natural and
necessary. White Jade Tiger is successful, both at telling
a gripping story and finishing it in a satisfying, believable
White Jade Tiger was performed in
Victoria's MacPherson Playhouse Theatre by Kaleidoscope Theatre, and
was optioned for a movie. The option fell through … but there's always
a next time.
Gate of Harmonious Interest
Discover the Past offers a White
Jade Tiger tour of Chinatown especially designed for school groups.
Students can follow in the footsteps of the main characters Jasmine
and Keung and discover the location of Blue Scar Wong's gambling den,
while gaining an overview of Chinatown life in the 1880s. For more information
to Buy this book
White Jade Tiger is available:
1. at your local bookstore or children's bookstore.
2. by placing an order with your local bookstore or online bookseller.
3. directly from the publisher, Dundurn
4. as an e-book from many e-book sellers.
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