Huan Hsu, a first-generation Chinese-American and award-winning journalist, was raised in Salt Lake City. Armed with mere strands of a family legend, Hsu returns to China to discover the fate of his great-great-grandfather’s long-buried porcelain collection. In the process, he unearths the key to understanding his family’s history over the past one hundred years of Chinese history and comes to terms with his own hyphenated identity.
In 1938, when the Japanese arrived in Hsu’s ancestral hometown of Xingang, the family was forced to bury their valuables, including a vast and prized collection of antique porcelain. They then fled on a decades-long trek that would splinter the collection over thousands of miles and countless upheavals.
Melding memoir, travelogue, ethnography and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief takes readers along with Hsu on his journey throughout mainland China and Taiwan, discovering the great-great-grandparents and estranged aunts and uncles he never knew. It provides a personal glimpse into understanding the bloody, tragic, and largely forgotten events that defined Chinese history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Hsu currently teaches creative writing in Amsterdam.