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Lady Tan’s Circle of Women Book Club Questions


This post provides book club questions for Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, a charming work of historical fiction by Lisa See. The book explores the life of Tan Yunxian, a notable female physician in Ming-era imperial China. We will discover themes of tradition, friendship, and the power of women in a culture that often marginalizes them as we dig deeper into the complex story. Let’s discuss the topics in this book as we provide thought-provoking questions that will lead to deep and meaningful conversations.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women book club questions

Lady Tan's Circle of Women Book Club Questions
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women Book Club Questions

Tradition and Ambition

1. How does Yunxian’s early experience with medicine challenge traditional standards for gender and how does it impact her ambitions?



2. What aspects of the clash between Yunxian’s desire to practice medicine and society’s expectations does the author highlight from her marriage to Yang Maoren?

3. Talk about how Yunxian understood harmony and balance in the treatment of illness. What effect does this have on the inner conflicts of her character?

4. Examine the effects that Yunxian’s choice to implant the bone in the concubine’s leg has had. In what ways does it portend her future challenges to societal norms?



5. How has Yunxian’s relationship with Poppy, her maid, influenced her changing views on women’s standing in her society?

Friendships and Supportive Circles

6. Examine how Meiling, Miss Zhao, and Poppy came to surround Yunxian in a protective circle. How do these ladies support each other while defying social norms?

7. Examine how Lady Kuo’s limitations affected Yunxian and Meiling’s friendship. What does it represent about the way society as a whole views social status?

8. How does the “circle of good” around Yunxian help her be strong when faced with social challenges?



9. How do you think Meiling’s departure to Beijing affects Yunxian’s sense of loneliness? How does this separation test their relationship and Yunxian’s resilience?

10. Talk about the symbolic significance of Yunxian’s interactions with the concubine and the midwife during the smallpox outbreak. In what ways do these instances illustrate the power of female connections?



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Challenges and Resilience

11. Analyze the difficulties Yunxian faced when she was in the inner chambers. How does she reconcile her duties of being a wife with her passion for medicine?

12. Examine the emotional impact of Meiling’s fate and Yunxian’s choice to defy the emperor. In what ways does this show Yunxian’s resilience and determination?



13. In what ways does Yunxian’s confrontation with Lady Kuo represent a change in power dynamics and the victory of justice over social norms?

14. Consider the social consequences for Yunxian as a result of giving birth to a daughter instead of a son. How does this incident affect her later in the story when she decides to seek justice?

15. Talk about the meaning of Yunxian’s dream about Grandmother Ru. How does this dream help her overcome mental and physical challenges?

16. Discuss how Yunxian’s choice to publish her medical records is significant. In what ways does this act go against the grain of society and further the movement to rethink women’s roles?

Legacy and Reflections

17. What do you think about how Yunxian changed from a young girl into a confident, successful woman? How has her journey affected her social standing and position in the Yang family?



18. What do you think about Grandmother Ru’s bequest to Yunxian? What is its importance in your view? How does this help in the continuation of women’s medical knowledge?

19. Talk about the novel’s last moments, especially Yunxian’s happiness with her family and Meiling. What effect does this have on the theme of growth and lifelong friendship?

20. What do you think of Yunxian’s daughters? Discuss their role in challenging societal expectations. In what ways do they, individually, continue her legacy?

21. Consider how Yunxian’s relationship with Lady Kuo changed. What larger change in the acceptance of women in medicine does this progression represent?

Book recommendations

If you enjoyed this book by Lisa See, you will definitely want to read her other books. You can choose any of the following titles:



Final words:

In her captivating book Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, Lisa See tells the story of friendship, customs, and the victory of resilience over social restraints. As this post draws to a close we look forward to hearing your original thoughts and viewpoints on the themes and characters that make this historical fiction a compelling read. We hope these book club questions for “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women” are helpful to you.

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