An epic saga in the tradition of Noble House and Tai-Pan, Shanghai weaves an ancient prophecy with modern history to create a stunning tale of the evolution of what could be the 21st century's most important city. China, 207 B.C. On the Holy Mountain, China's first emperor, Q'in She Huang, reveals to his followers a stunning secret, and entrusts them with a sacred task. Scenes intricately carved into a narwhal tusk show the future of China - a future both glorious and terrifying. First will come the Age of White Birds on Water, bringing a darkness that will engulf the nation until the second prophecy comes true - the Age of the 70 Pagodas, which signals the beginning of the great rebirth. The Emperor's chosen three - his favourite concubine, head Confucian and personal bodyguard - must bring these prophecies to life by passing their traditions on for generations and keeping the ivory tusk a closely guarded secret. A path of smoke points them towards the place where all this will come to pass. A place at the bend in the river. A place that will be called Shanghai.
Centuries later, the descendents of the Emperor's chosen confidantes observe as Shanghai is invaded by opium traders and missionaries from Europe, America and the Middle East. Of them all, two brothers will be central to the evolution of the city. Richard and Maxi Hordoon, Iraqi Jews whose penniless father died in debt to the powerful scion of the Sassoon family, need to change the way business is done in this slowly developing backwater in order to make their fortunes, but Sassoon's far-reaching powers put him ahead of them at every turn. Throughout generations, these foreign families will clash and intertwine; their combined fates shaping what will become the centrepiece of the new China.