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The Story of the Stone Paperback – 23 Mar 1990

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Paperback, 23 Mar 1990
£131.21 £8.50

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi, London (23 Mar. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552134007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552134002
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 10.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 374,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The sequel to "Bridge of Birds", this fantasy is set in an eighth-century "China that never was" and tells the story of master Li, a spry ancient sage "with a slight flaw in his character" and his narrator side-kick, the hulking bewildered Number Ten Ox.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 May 1999
Format: Paperback
Brilliant sequel to Bridge of Birds. Master Li and Number 10 Ox still on form. Another wonderful mix of gorgeous descriptive passages, witty dialogue and beautifully written characters. They leap off the page at you! Just wish I could visit, would love to meet them all - personally
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By Shivari VINE VOICE on 20 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
The Laughing Prince - long dead - has returned to life. As he was a homicidal maniac, this is not regarded as a good thing. Destruction starts infecting this remote village... what to do? Ah yes - send for Master Li!

Once again Master Li and Number Ten Ox have to lurch around ancient China to solve the mystery. Master Li and Number 10 Ox are wonderful creations: the Holmes and Watson of ancient China. Master Li is extremely old, brilliantly intelligent - and a real reprobate with a dislike for neo-Confucians, a deep love of the wine-pot and a penchant for slitting people's throats when they annoy him. Number 10 Ox is his strong, loyal but none-too-bright factotum with an eye for a pretty girl. Together they solve unsolveable mysteries, usually where myth and the supernatural appear to have intruded into mundane reality. Well, Master Li does - Number 10 Ox usually doesn't understand a thing that's going on...

Expect wit, wisdom, intrigue, general mayhem, a cast of crazy characters - and an absolutely brilliant read. If you're not familiar with Barry Hughart's books, buy them all right now.

Why are you still reading this? Which bit of 'right now' don't you understand? Top right, click 'Add to basket' - so simple that even Number 10 Ox could do it.
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By Cleo Smith on 13 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love the first book - Bridge of Birds - this is just a bit too far fetched even for my imagination. I think the author was trying too hard to get close the the success of the original.
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By A Customer on 14 April 1999
Format: Paperback
Number ten ox and Master Li Kao adventuring again,Horrible murders,nightmare legends,all good stuff. Tragic ending but beautiful too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 26 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The Second Best Book You've Never Read 20 Jan. 2004
By James D. DeWitt - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is Hughart's second book, and the second Master Li and Number Ten Ox adventure. And while this book doesn't have quite the sheer delight of the first, "Bridge of Birds," it is still a wonderful adventure set in the same mythical China. And this novel confirms what you suspected after "Bridge of Birds" - Hughart is no fluke.
Chinese peasant Number Ten Ox, Master Li's client in the first book, is his assistant now, and troubled because it appears ancient Master Li may drop dead before another worthwhile mystery comes along. Ox need not have worried. The Abbot of the monastery in the Valley of Sorrows arrives with a tale of murder, terror and the return of the Laughing Prince, the lunatic despot who ruled the Valley of Sorrows 750 years earlier. How can Master Li resist the temptation? How can we resist?
Once again Master Li and Number Ten Ox must solve a mystery, and once again the mystery is fringed with the supernatural, homicide and genuine, laugh out loud developments. Along the way they meet some truly memorable characters, including Grief of Dawn, a young lady with a deeply mysterious past, and Moon Boy, a sound master and an entirely marvellous creation.
Perhaps the best invention is the characters' mind trip through the Chinese Hell, which makes the efforts of Orpheus and Dante look pretty pitiful in comparison. The ending is less of a stunner than "Bridge of Birds," but this story is a little more mature and tightly crafted than "Bridge."
The only fair criticism of "Stone" is that Hughart only wrote one more book, "Eight Skilled Gentlemen." There have to be Master Li stories not yet told; I wish Mr. Hughart would write them.
A wonderful story, amusing and moving, that exposes the reader to parts of Chinese mythology in the nicest possible way. Exceptionally well written. Highly recommended.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Master Li and Number Tex Ox do it again! 16 Mar. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am Barry Hughart's number one fan.
With that said, I recommend this book without reservation. In fact, any book involving Hughart's alter-ego, Master Li, and Hughart's young hero, Number Ten Ox, would be high on my "must read" list.
I just re-read this tale of a mad prince and his array of fascinating characters and was just as enchanted and entertained as I was the first time I read it in ten years ago.
If you're looking for a wonder-filled story with character that will stay with you long after you turn the final page, read this book!
You can also do yourself a huge favor by purchasing "Bridge of Birds" and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen," the only other Master Li/Number Ten Ox adventures. "Bridge of Birds" was Hughart's first effort and the book introduces the reader to Master Li...the most interesting character is all of fiction.....
After all, how can you NOT love someone who introduces himself by saying:
"My surname isLi and my personal name is Kao, and there is a slight flaw in my character"?
The people at are masters at locating the "difficult to find" books on their site. Order this book....and then, read and enjoy!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
great! 24 July 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
i read this book many, many years ago when i was a kid--found it at the public library and have read it twice since then. this book is a true adventure and the author does a wonderful job of painting both character and setting. i just found out he's written other novels and can't wait to pick them up. it's been about 10 years since the first time i read this work, and i still find it as enchanting as i first did.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great book! 20 Jan. 2003
By D. Baer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I discovered this book as part of one of those book club deals several years ago -- you know the kind that send you books and charge you if you don't return them by a certain date. In this case, it was a blessing. I enjoyed the characters, the locations, the colors and the twists that unfolded in the story. If you can find it, it's definitely a must-read.
Since then, I've collected the only other books that I know this author has produced: "Bridge of Birds" and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen". They are as enjoyable as this one.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
And now for something completely different 21 Aug. 2005
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The blurb on the cover describes "The Story of the Stone" as "an oriental Holmes and Watson plunked down in an Indiana Jones movie." Pretty decent summary, actually, although I'd also throw a little Puccini into the mix (the author is incredibly hard on his heroines), along with Dante Alighieri. The ancient ("Ah, if I were only ninety again...") Master Li and his faithful sidekick and beast of burden, Number Ten Ox set out to investigate the brutal death of a monk in the Valley of Sorrows in this second volume of Hughart's fantasy trilogy.

The monk appears to have died of fright in the monastery library, a scrap of forged manuscript clutched in his hand, and a very unmonkish dinner of thousand-year-old eggs and other expensive delicacies in his belly (Master Li performs an autopsy that would make Dr. G. proud).

The chief suspect is the infamous Laughing Prince. Unfortunately (actually, fortunately for the peasants whom he murdered in droves) the sadistic prince has been dead for over 700 years. Master Li and Number Ten Ox descend into the tomb of the evil prince, along with his painterly descendent, Prince Liu Pao where they find jade-encased mummies, mad Monks of Mirth, a water slide that wouldn't be out of place at Disney World, and of course, treasure and torture chambers. The one thing they don't find is the corpse of the Laughing Prince.

At least, not right away.

Master Li must call upon his friends, old, new, dead, immortal, and immoral to solve the mystery of the Laughing Prince and the Stone of Immortality. You will meet characters in this book who are to be found nowhere else in fiction, including the beautiful Moon Boy who sings and buggers his way through the ten principal Hells and the great Wheel of Reincarnation, acting as a sort of Virgil to Master Li's Dante.

The plot is complicated, but the characters and the mythical scenery of an ancient China that never was make "The Story of the Stone" a fantasy to read and reread in those dark hours when you don't think you can stand another page of the noble Frodo. Plus Barbarian readers like myself who have only a "rudimentary concept of Hell" will be exposed to the two most incredible fallacies of our educational system: "that Hell is reserved for the damned, and that the world is flat."

P.S. The world is a cube measuring 233,575 paces across.
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