The novel's prologue contains these moving words from protagonist Yu Yuan:
- They probably think I'm greedy, eager to see my grandson wallow in wealth. But my wish has nothing to do with money. From the depths of my heart I believe medicine is a noble, humane profession. If I were born again, I would study medical science devotedly. The thought has been rooted in my mind for five decades. I cannot explain in detail to my son and daughter-in-law why I often urge Bobby to think of becoming a doctor, because the story would involve too much horror and pain. In brief, this desire of mine had been bred by my memories of the wasted lives I saw in Korea and China. Doctors and nurses follow a different set of ethics, which enables them to transcend political nonsense and man-made enmity and to act with compassion and human decency.