Peony has just turned sixteen and is ready to marry the husband she has been betrothed to by birth, even though she has never once met him. On the outside, she is an obedient daughter content with being locked in her house by her family for her entire life; on the inside, Peony secretly longs for passion, adventure, and an opportunity to see the outside world, much like the heroine of ''Theatre/ThePeonyPavilion'', an opera which Peony is obsessed with, does.

Then, during a performance of ''The Peony Pavilion'', Peony sees a handsome man, and LoveAtFirstSight ensues.

''Peony In Love'' by Lisa See is novel that not only explores the effect of ''qing'' and poetry in Chinese society during the reign of the Manchus, but also vividly depicts the realm of the Chinese underworld and ultimately, the many forms of love.

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!!This work provides examples of:
* ArrangedMarriage: Between Peony and Wu Ren.
** A sight unseen PerfectlyArrangedMarriage if [[spoiler:Peony hadn't died]].
** A real PerfectlyArrangedMarriage happens between Wu Ren and Quin Yi. [[spoiler:Peony approves, being the one who arranged it from the afterlife.]]
* [[spoiler: AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: Peony, at the end of the book.]]
* BittersweetEnding
* {{Bookworm}}: Peony, big time. Her father counts as well.
** Wu Ren, a sensitive poet, is also this. Quin Yi also develops a love for reading. Books and writing play a huge role in this novel.
* CharacterTics: Peony's mother is often seen fiddling with her set of house keys, especially when she's nervous or agitated.
* CoolOldLady: Peony's grandmother.
* DaddysGirl: Peony has a strong bond with her father and is hurt when she discovers that because she's a daughter, and not a son, she's not as valuable to him as she thought.
* DeathByChildbirth: [[spoiler: Tan Ze. Because of this she's sent to the Blood-Gathering Lake in the afterlife, which is a special hell for women who fail at childbirth. Thankfully averted by Quin Yi, who nearly dies but survives, giving Wu Ren a long-awaited son.]]
* DeathIsASadThing
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Lisa See's really [[ShownTheirWork shown her work]]. The grotesque manner of footbinding is touted throughout the book as something positive and helpful, as it allows women to make respectable marriages, and seen as a sign of defiance to the Manchus, while the talk of a woman's only duty is to bear sons and serve her husband's family very accurately replicates the attitude of most during China at the time.
** Interestingly enough, this book also manages to convey feminist themes, with the abundance of poetry written by women and the extremely prevalent theme that all women want to be heard and have a voice.
* DespairEventHorizon: [[spoiler: Peony]] almost goes into one after [[spoiler: her mother burns all of her books, including her beloved copy of ''Theatre/ThePeonyPavilion''. Luckily, finding out the the book with all her commentary survived prevented a HeroicBSOD.]]
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler: Peony starves herself to death to avoid her ArrangedMarriage, unknowing that her husband-to-be is actually the man she's in love with.]]
* GentlemanAndAScholar: Wu Ren.
* GreenEyedMonster: Peony [[DrivenToMadness completely loses it]] on Tan Ze and Ren's wedding night. However, she calms down when she realizes that Tan Ze's [[IceQueen coldness]] makes her beloved Wu Ren miserable. She then decides to put all her energy into [[IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy making Ren's marriage successful.]]
* HappilyMarried: Thanks to Peony, Wu Ren finds marital bliss with Quin Yi. His marriage to Tan Ze was only happy in his end, since Peony was forcing Tan Ze through most of her wifely duties (which he was unaware of).
* IntelligenceEqualsIsolation: Peony is the most intellectually gifted and emotionally aware girl in her family's home, and she suffers ''hard'' for it.
* JerkAss: Peony's grandfather.
* LoveAtFirstSight: Peony and Ren.
* MayDecemberRomance: Wu Ren and Quin Yi. When they marry, he's in his forties and she's in her teens. During this time period this wasn't that strange, and it actually works out brilliantly.
* TheMourningAfter: Wu Ren when [[spoiler:Peony dies.]]
* NiceGuy: Wu Ren is ''amazingly'' nice. [[spoiler:Quin Yi, his third wife (despite her early death Peony counts as his first, because in their culture a betrothal was essentially as valid as a wedding ceremony) is a NiceGirl.]]
* OurGhostsAreDifferent
* PeoplePuppets: Peony [[spoiler: as a ghost]] does this with Tan Ze to make her a better wife and lover for Ren.
* PluckyGirl: Peony.
* PoorCommunicationKills: A misunderstanding between Peony's parents means that [[spoiler: Peony's ancestor tablet goes undotted, which turns her into a hungry ghost.]]
* ReplacementGoldfish: After [[spoiler: Peony dies]] her young cousin Tan Ze is sent to marry Wu Ren.
* ShowWithinAShow: The ''Peony Pavilion'' opera, staged at Peony's family home.
* SmittenTeenageGirl: Peony when she first meets Wu Ren.
* SpiritedYoungLady: Peony.
* SpoiledBrat: Tan Ze.
* SuccessionCrisis: The women in Peony's wealthy family (including the concubines) are unable to produce sons/heirs. However, there's a reason for it. [[spoiler: Peony's dead grandmother cursed her son's family with barrenness as revenge, because he and her husband forced her to die in their place while the Manchu soldiers were hunting them down. She later lifts the curse at Peony's request.]]
* TheLostLenore: A zig-zagged example where the dead, beautiful woman is the main character.[[spoiler: However, Peony is certainly this for Wu Ren, who continuously grieves for her after she dies.]]
* TheOneThatGotAway: Peony and Wu Ren are this ''for each other.''
* ThinksLikeARomanceNovel: Peony gets most of her knowledge of love and sex from ''The Peony Pavilion.''
* UnresolvedSexualTension: Peony and Wu Ren never physically consummate their relationship.
* UnusualEuphemism: Sexual intercourse is contantly referred to as "clouds and rain."
* VirginityMakesYouStupid: Averted with Peony who, despite [[spoiler: having died a maiden]] is able to help Ren and Tan Ze with their troublesome sex life using excerpts from an opera.
* WeCouldHaveAvoidedAllThis: The entire plot would have been averted if Peony had simply introduced herself to Ren when she first met him.
* WhatTheHellHero: [[spoiler: Tan Ze]] does this to [[spoiler: Peony]] after she controls her body, forcing her to continue her commentary on ''The Peony Pavilion''.
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