Lady Tan's Circle of Women - Lisa See

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

By Lisa See

  • Release Date: 2023-06-06
  • Genre: Historical
Score: 4.5
From 435 Ratings



The latest historical novel from New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China—perfect for fans of See’s classic Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Island of Sea Women.

According to Confucius, “an educated woman is a worthless woman,” but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.

From a young age, Yunxian learns about women’s illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find fast friendship and a mutual purpose—despite the prohibition that a doctor should never touch blood while a midwife comes in frequent contact with it—and they vow to be forever friends, sharing in each other’s joys and struggles. No mud, no lotus, they tell themselves: from adversity beauty can bloom.

But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife—embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the walls of the family compound, the Garden of Fragrant Delights.

How might a woman like Yunxian break free of these traditions, go on to treat women and girls from every level of society, and lead a life of such importance that many of her remedies are still used five centuries later? How might the power of friendship support or complicate these efforts? Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating story of women helping other women. It is also a triumphant reimagining of the life of a woman who was remarkable in the Ming dynasty and would be considered remarkable today.


  • My favorite book this year

    By @Adrienne.
    This is not only a wonderful story, but also a fascinating look into the culture of 15th century China.
  • Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

    By Readingbythesea
    Enjoyed reading the story, lots of interesting details with the history, culture, traditions of that time.
  • Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

    By 323EL
    Lisa See is able to capture without prejudice another century and without preaching, about the injustices that happened due to that society’s mores. Her characters are always interesting and her descriptions make the historical background seem as real as the present.
  • Nah mostly details on pregnancy

    By Lareding
    Too much emphasis on the bloody parts of pregnancy.
  • Strong Women Anide in Every Age

    By Connelly D
    Well and beautifully written; bringing the lives of strong women of the era front and center where we can meet, admire and celebrate them.
  • Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

    By joyoshan
    This book was excellent. The first two chapters made for a slow start but looking back, everything that was written throughout the book had a value to the culmination of the book. So very good. I highly recommend.