Bones of the Master: A Buddhist Monk's Search for the Lost Heart of China

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Bantam Books, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 293 pages
27 Reviews
They are the most unlikely of friends: one an American poet in love with words, a self-described ne'er-do-well and sensualist with a finely honed suspicion of authority. The other an aging Chinese monk steeped in an ancient tradition and devoted to the memory of his ascetic meditation master. Their lives come together in this extraordinary journey that takes us from the still-medieval villages of Inner Mongolia to a modern Hong Kong of black magic and stunning materialism.
The journey begins in 1959, as a young monk named Tsung Tsai ("Ancestor Wisdom) escapes the Red Army troops that destroy his monastery, and flees alone three thousand miles across a China swept by chaos and famine. Hidden under his peasant jacket he carries a book of poetry and his monk's certificate, either of which means death if discovered. His mission: to carry on the teachings of his Ch'an Buddhist master, Shiuh Deng, who was too old to leave with his disciple.
Nearly forty years later Tsung Tsai--now an old master himself--travels with his skeptical friend Crane back to his birthplace at the edge of the Gobi Desert. China is stirring with spiritual renewal, and Tsung Tsai is determined to find Shiuh Deng's grave and build a shrine in his honor. Ignoring visa restrictions, facing down hostile bureaucrats, the two men reenter a lost world of belief and superstition nearly extinguished by history. As their search culminates in a torturous climb to a remote mountain cave, it becomes clear that this seemingly quixotic quest may cost Tsung Tsai's life.
Laced with passion and humor, Crane's vivid prose captures it all: foxy town girls and outback shamans, ice-cold morning meditations and drunken feasts, sand-scoured wilderness and gold-clad Buddhas. Finally, as past and present come together we glimpse the power of a timeless faith to endure in the heart of suffering.


The journey begins in 1959, as a young monk named Tsung Tsai (Ancestor Wisdom) escapes the Red Army troops who destroy his monastery, and flees alone across a famine-wracked China carrying a book of poetry and his monk's certificate, either of which means death if discovered. His mission: to carry on the teachings of his Ch'an Buddhist master, Shuih Deng, who was too old to leave with his disciple.
Nearly forty years later, Tsung Tsai, now an old master himself, travels with his skeptical American friend, Crane, back to his birthplace at the edge of the Gobi Desert, determined to find Shuih Deng's bones and rebury them with the proper ceremony. As their search culminates in a torturous climb to a remote mountain cave--a climb that nearly kills Tsung Tsai--Crane's vivid and poetic prose captures both the paradoxes of modern China and the power of China's lost spiritual traditions. -->

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Review: Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia

User Review  - Becky Prise - Goodreads

I loved this book. I first read it for a Chinese Thought class in college. I quickly fell in love with it. Crane's writing style was very easy to follow and you could tell how much his teacher meant to him. I recommend this book whenever possible and I plan on rereading this year. Read full review

Review: Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia

User Review  - Michael Hogan - Goodreads

Very easy to read. An engaging and entertaining story. And a good view into what Chan is about, by communicating how Tsung Tsai lived his life. Read full review

All 4 reviews »

Contents

The Last Days of Puu Jih
3
Speaking Air
14
OneEyed Buddha
36
Copyright

28 other sections not shown

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About the author (2000)

George Crane is a former correspondent for overseas news agencies and the author of four books of poetry, as well as translations from the Chinese co-authored with Tsung Tsai. He lives in upstate New York.

Tsung Tsai is a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, doctor of classical Chinese medicine, martial arts adept, poet, and calligrapher. He taught in Hong Kong, New York City, Toronto, and Los Angeles before building his own cabin in Woodstock, New York.

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