Bones of the Master: A Buddhist Monk's Search for the Lost Heart of China
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.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - sanrak - LibraryThing
An alright read, quick. Crane's voice and personality gets annoying fast. And his poetry is rubbish. However, he keeps the book interesting and relevant through the innumerable dialogues which almost perfectly capture the essence of Tsung Tsai. Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - nmele - LibraryThing
An exciting story, a wise monk, and (sort of) the education of the writer/narrator as he accompanies his ch'an teacher on a return to Inner Mongolia decades after he fled Chinese persecution. This is a stirring adventure story heightened by poetry, a tale of personal growth, and Buddhist teaching. Read full review
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