In the House of the Tiger: A Plot Summary

Welcome into the House of the TIGER

In the House of the Tiger is placed in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the early 1900’s.  The novel begins with a slave girl named Ah Ching, the main character, who is desperately looking for a way out of her miserable life. Because she is forced into domestic servitude and treated like an animal by a corrupted Chinese woman, she uses her imagination to vividly escape from her wicked servitude. A Chinese man comes to buy Ah Ching from the ruthless hag; however, the Chinese man turns out to be an individual who helps Ah Ching obtain freedom as he guides her to a rescue home. In the Mission Home, Ah Ching is introduced to Donaldina Cameron, a white missionary woman who is also know as the Tiger Lady, and other Chinese slaves that have endured the same experiences as she has. Feeling a sense of freedom and happiness, Ah Ching begins to interact with the other Chinese girls and they begin to share their horrendous stories and experiences being Chinese slaves.

The readers are  introduced to Little Moon, a four year old Chinese slave, who begins to share her dreadful story. Only four years old, Little Moon was sold by her father to a highbinder in China to be later sold in the California. On their way from China to California, Little Moon feels miserable as she is threatened and neglected by the highbinder. Once in California, authorities confiscate Little Moon from the highbinder’s hands and place her in the “Jesus Home” which is really Cameron’s Mission Home.

The story flashes back to Ah Ching where Donalidna Cameron provides her with food, a bed, and clothes. The next day when Ah Ching wakes up she finds the Mission Home getting ready for a wedding.  Tai Loy, the Chinese interpreter of the Mission Home, is getting married.  Again, Knox flashbacks into time as she reveals the troubling childhood Tai Loy had as a child. When Tai Loy was younger, she was sold by her grandfather to a highbinder. Stripped from her mother, Tai Loy was sold into domestic servitude. Tai Loy was going to be sold again; however, a Chinese boy named Ah Cheng helps Tai Loy escape to Donaldina Cameron’s rescue home. In the Mission Home, Tai Loy is reunited with her mother with the help of Donaldina Cameron. As a way to thank Cameron and help other Chinese slave girls, Tai Loy pursues her life in helping Cameron rescues other Chinese slaves.

The novel changes to the present time where many people come to the Mission Home for Tai Loy’s wedding. With wedding gifts, cakes, and everybody dressed in formal attire, Tai Loy weds Ah Cheng and leaves the Mission Home. After the wedding, Ah Ching is placed in a school room to improve her knowledge of English. Ah Ching is then asked by Donaldina Cameron to go with her on a vacation, which is really a rescue mission. On the boat, Donaldia and Ah Ching encounter a slave girl named Choy Ying who desperately needs help.

The novel shifts to focus on Choy Ying’s story where readers see she is overworked and maltreated by her master. Choy Ying’s responsibility is to help catch fish, do domestic labor, and awaken her master in time for squid fishing at night. Like Ah Ching at the beginning of the novel, Choy Ying begins to daydream of another world she could be free. She imagines herself being in  what she calls Fish Land where she is surrounded by all the princes and princesses of the sea. Dazed in her imagination, Choy Ying comes back to reality once she realizes she did not wake her master up to go squid fishing, and she knows she will get severely punished. However, with the help of Ah Ching and Donaldina Cameron Choy Ying escapes her master and her dream for freedom becomes a reality as she is taken to the Mission Home. Back in the Mission Home, Choy Ying is taken in with open arms where she is provided with safety and love.

As the novel progresses, Ah Ching becomes the new interpreter for the Mission Home and helps Donaldina Cameron save Yeun Luey, a small Chinese girl, from a highbinder. The story focuses on Yeun Luey’s depressing story. In China, by Chinese tradition, Yuen Luey was forced by her parents to have her feet bound. Yuen Luey hated the excruciating pain; however, with the help of two American ladies Yuen Luey is finally able to unbind her feet. Yuen Luey begins attending a boarding school that is managed by the two American ladies. One night, when Yuen Luey is sleeping she is kidnapped by a highbinder. Luckily, the boarding school in China contacts Donaldina Cameron, which leads to Ah Ching and Cameron saving Yuen Luey from a severe future.

The story shifts to the present time where readers are presented with another Chinese slave Ah Nom who is going to be sold to a highbinder by her father in California. Hearing about the Tiger Lady’s love and help, while she is in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco, California Ah Nom asks an American woman if she is the Tiger Lady. Knowing this child is in trouble, the American woman calls Donaldina Cameron and keeps a watchful eye on Ah Nom as the days pass. It is finally the day that Ah Nom is going to be sold, but at the last minute Ah Ching and Donaldina Cameron save Ah Nom from being sold to a highbinder.

Another story is presented about a Chinese slave named Choy Won. Choy Won, who was taken from her mother, is a domestic servant for an old corrupted Chinese woman. When the lady is away, Choy Won imagines herself being with “rain fairies” where she is loved and cared for. Outside without the permission of her master, Choy Won comes across an American lady. The American lady realizes this is the Chinese slave she has been looking for. Choy Won is rescued by the American woman and brought to the Mission Home where she is reunited with her mother.The scene changes to Thanksgiving day where Donaldina Cameron, the Chinese girls, and other supporters of the Mission Home have a feast and enjoy themselves on this special day. Thanking God, the Chinese girls give thanks for being rescued and loved in their new home.

The novel progresses to another story about a Chinese slave named Ah Fah. It is Christmas Eve in San Francisco’s Chinatown and Ah Fah is going to be sold to another highbinder. She is taken to a Chinese temple where her master is going to meet the other highbinder. Ah Fah thinks her master is being nice in giving her the opportunity to enjoy this sacred day; however, she soon realizes she is going to be sold. While in the temple, Ah Fah gives thanks to the Chinese Gods while her master is obtaining his commission. Fortunately for Ah Fah, she is saved by a police officer and an American woman before she is taken away by the highbinder.

The novel then changes to another story about a Chinese slave named Ah Ping who is so neglected and beaten, she decides to commit suicide as her way out. Ah Ping does not die, but news about this suicide attempt reaches Donaldina Cameron. With the help of Ah Ching, Donaldina Cameron saves Ah Ping from her miserable life and provides her a new one at the Mission Home. Back in the Mission Home, Ah Ping is delighted she will get to experience her first Christmas Eve at the Mission Home with other Chinese girls like her.

As the novel develops, the story of Louey Ching is also presented. Louey Ching is a Chinese slave who is locked from her freedom. Louey Ching begins to pray to God, and feels God has answered her prayers as the door to the unloving house is unlocked. Scared yet with a sense of hope, Louey Ching walks out into the streets of Chinatown. Following what she calls the “Christmas Star,” Louey Ching come across what she thinks is Heaven. Realistically, Ching is in front of a big Christmas tree in town where Donaldina Cameron and the other Chinese girls are enjoying themselves. Donaldina Cameron recognizes Louey Ching needs help, and takes her into the Mission Home. Like Ah Ping, Louey Ching is fascinated by the idea that she will get to participate in her first Christmas celebration.

The last story Knox presents is about a Chinese slave girl named Ah Ging. After hearing there is a Chinese slave trapped in a  Chinese home, Donaldina Cameron visits the home and comes across Ah Ging. Knowing she cannot take the child at that moment, Donaldina Cameron plans to come back to rescue her. That night Ah Ging feels she must find Donaldina Cameron as she felt a sense of comfort, love, and security when she was in her masters’ home. As her masters are off at a Chinese festival, Ah Ging gets the courage to leave the brutal home and find Donaldina Cameron. While she is walking in the streets of Chinatown, she notices a Chinese man running towards her. Scared, she says to him she will go back to being a slave. However, the Chinese man turns out to be Ah Ging’s father who has been searching for her. It is then revealed that Ah Ging was kidnapped from her father. Realizing they have no time to waste, they run off looking for a place to hide.

The next day at the Mission Home, there is a terrible fire. The Mission Home burns down and Donaldina Cameron and the seventy Chinese girls have to evacuate the building. Heartbroken and depressed, the following day Donaldina Cameron goes to the demolished Mission Home to try and recover some important documents. Just because the Mission Home burned down does not stop Donaldina Cameron from her rescue mission. Donaldina Cameron travels to Oakland, California where she hears there are Chinese refugees. There she is reunited with Ah Ging and discovers she is safe and protected with her father. The novel shifts years forward where there is a brand new Mission Home. Within the house everyone is getting ready for a wedding. The last scene of the novel is Ah Ching happily getting married to a Chinese man with Donaldina Cameron and the other Chinese girls, now women, by her side for support.

Are you ready to actually enter the House of the Tiger?

If so Click Here : In the House of Tiger by Jessie Juliet Knox

Works Cited:

Knox, Jessie J. In The House of the Tiger. New York& Cincinnati: Library of the University of Michigan, 1911. Making of America Archive. University of Michigan & Cornell University. Web. <;


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