"Lawson successfully combines a very real sense of period, a vivid portrait of the
lives of the Chinese workers who built the railway, and an exciting adventure.
                                                    The Vancouver Sun

                     Dundurn, 2016
    ISBN: 978-1-4597-3755-6 (paperback)
    ISBN 978-1-4597-3756-3 (pdf)
    ISBN 978-1-4597-3757-0 (epub)

About The Story

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 search.

Sheila A Egoff Children's Prize
CLA Book of the Year Award, Runner-up
Silver Birch Award, Nominee

Original cover

The 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.)

I 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 puppet plays.

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 the narrative.

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 way.

Victoria Times-Colonist

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

Note to Teachers!

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 see www.discoverthepast.com.

Where 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 Press. (416-214-5544)
4. as an e-book from many e-book sellers.