Although Hart burned his own journals covering the early years of his romance with Ayaou—a gap of two years and almost nine months—enough evidence survived that Harvard scholars surmised, "Hart's years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations."
In addition, shortly before his death, Hart started to go through his journals that he did not burn and strike out what he didn't want the world to read. However, he never had a chance to finish the job.
When I think of Robert Hart's bittersweet love story with his concubine Ayaou, two novels come to mind. One is "Gone With the Wind", the love story between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, which is the epic tale of a woman's life during one of the most tumultuous periods in America's history—the Civil War.
"Dr. Zhivago", the second novel and another epic, tells the story of Yury Zhivago, a man torn between his love of two women while caught up by the brutality and horror of World War I, the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Russian Civil War.
Once I started working on the saga, China's turbulent history during that era came to life for a dramatic story where two young lovers from different cultures struggle to keep their passion for each other alive while dealing with people such as the Devil Soldier and surviving in a world gone mad due to God's Chinese son, Hong Xiuquan, the man behind the largest uprising in human history, a rebellion that Robert Hart played a crucial role ending.
What made this love story so interesting to me was Robert Hart himself, who was raised a strict Wesleyan, which meant twice-daily readings of the Scriptures and a life that was all work and pleasure was seen as sinful.
While reading Hart's journals and letters I discovered a young man torn between his Victorian moralistic religious upbringing and his libido. At age fifteen, Hart went to live in the dorms of the Queen's College in Belfast and rebelled. Harvard scholars said, "His rebellion and sinfulness … led him to women of easy virtue", and soon after graduating from college at 19, he accepted a job in China as an interpreter for the British consulate and fled halfway around the world to repent.
However, China was the wrong place for a young man running away from sinful pleasure, because in China, women were for sale in unlimited numbers. In fact, on his voyage to China, Hart became friends with Captain Dan Patridge, the principal agent in China of Jardine, Matheson & Co—the largest and wealthiest opium merchant in the world at the time. The first journal Hart burned covered the summer he spent at Patridge's house in China where there had to be a plentiful supply of Chinese concubines.
In addition, we learn that Hart's experience with Ayaou anchored him permanently in China. Sterling Seagrave in "Dragon Lady" wrote that Ayaou was Hart's live in dictionary and was wise beyond her years.
Eventually, Hart threw himself into his job working for the Emperor of China as Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs—today East Asian scholars know him as the godfather of China's modernism, and it all came about due to his love of one woman. Imagine the heated passion and heartache of such a romance.
I have one copy (paperback or kindle) of The Concubine Saga to giveaway. This is open internationally however, those living outside the U.S. will receive the Kindle version. You must be at least 13 years old to enter. You must fill out the form below. Good luck!