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Tun-huang (New York Review Books Classics) Kindle Edition

3 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Length: 224 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Review

"A true historical imagination is exceedingly rare, and ["Tun-huang"] is a superb example of such an imagination at work." --Robert Payne, "ASIA" "The unique thing about Inoue's work, for me . . . is that every story presents a vision, and that unlike the visions in books by other authors, I can always follow the vision as I'm reading, always believe it; Inoue has lived and felt these images and has the simplest and airiest language for them that I have ever seen. I don't "need" to believe his illuminations, they are simply "there" in the book, as facts." --Peter Handke "a work of superb historical imagination. . . " --James Kirkup, "The Independent" "Early in the 20th century an incredible hoard of Buddhist sutras and other manuscripts was discovered by itinerant monk in Tun-huang. Archaeologists recovered thousands of documents that have been concealed in the Thousand Buddha Caves for 900 years. The author...speculated on the reasons for the hiding of such treasures, and this fascinating and exotic novel is the result." --"Publishers Weekly" "Historical reconstruction of a very personal and special kind." --Donald Richie "An enthralling tale." --"Oriental Economist" "A unique writer who has managed to escape the often narrow topical bounds of the Japanese novel." --"Japan Quarterly" "One of Japan's most prolific and respected authors..." --"Japan Economic Newswire" "The descriptive passages in Yasushi Inoue's 'Under the Shadow of Mount Bandai' are worthy of the longer passages of an Anne Radcliff Gothic tale" --"The Japan Times" ''One of the most respected novelists in Japan.'' --"The New York Times"

About the Author

Yasushi Inoue (1907-1991) graduated from Kyoto University and became a journalist for the Mainichi Daily News. His first novel, The Bullfight, won the revered Akutagawa Prize. Among his works that have been translated into English are Journey Through Samarkand, Chronicle of My Mother, and a book of short stories entitled Lou-lan. In 1976 he was decorated with the Cultural Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Japanese government.

Jean Oda Moy is the American-born daughter of Japanese immigrants who has worked as a clinical social worker, a teacher and a translator of Japanese literature into English. Her latest book is a memoir, Snow on Willow. She lives in Northern California.

Damion Searls is the author of Everything You Say Is True, a travelogue, and What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going: Stories.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 643 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (9 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004EPZ6FG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #723,568 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I owe a lot to Yasushi Inoue. It is because of his historical novels about China that I discovered so many splendid stories, like the fascinating tale of Concubine Yang and Emperor Xuanzong and the decline of the great Tang dynasty. So naturally it is with a great interest that I attacked another of his books, "Tun-huang", which describes the life and adventures of a Chinese learned man, Chao Hsing-te, in Western Territories (today Gansu province) in XI century AD.

Hsing-te failed miserably imperial examinations for the most stupid reason possible - he overslept... Since then he lost taste for public career and decided to search adventures on the Western Border, where the kingdom of Xi Xia (Tanguts) is growing in power and starts to threaten imperial borders. Hsing-te will finally enter the service of Xi Xia (not willingly at first) before discovering his real vocation - Buddhism and especially the study of holy buddhists books.

Now, the main purpose of this book is to describe the story behind one of the most important archeological discoveries of XX century - the finding of lost scrolls of Tun-huang (Dunhuang), which were hidden in XI century in dry desertic caves before being recovered in 1905, to become today one of the most precious source texts for history of relgions in medieval Asia. It may explain why the character of Hsing-ti is so strangely uninteresting and passif - the man seems to be so not interested in life, that he actually never marries, never has a family, has one intimate moment with a woman in his entire life, totally doesn't care about living or dying, follows any orders he receives from the last person which talks to him, etc.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96428de0) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96654240) out of 5 stars Superb novel..... 1 Jun. 2005
By Henry A. Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Typical to Inoue's style in historical fiction, he starts with a well-known historical mystery--namely, how a large set of valuable Buddhist scrolls came to be hidden in temple caves of Dunhuang some time in 11th century China under unknown circumstances--and fills in the gaps from his imagination.

The story takes place mostly in Kansu, Western China, where a new rising power, the Tanguts, have recently founded a state of their own called the Xia. The main character, a Sung scholar, fails an imperial examination by falling asleep while waiting for his name to be called. Afterwards, a chance encounter with a Tangut woman being sold in the city's marketplace leads him to a journey to the western borderlands of China where his adventures, both physical and spiritual, takes place.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x999bc6c0) out of 5 stars Tun Huang 18 Jan. 2000
By Chun W. Wong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a great book and shows the depth of Inoue's imagination. It is based upon the Buddhist Scriptures found in Tun Huang, a part of the silk road path. Inoue tells the story of how these scriptures were placed there in the first place. The story has very little to do with Buddhism or religion. It is more of an adventure novel with a scholar as its hero. Well written and evenly paced, it takes the reader back to a time when there were magnificent battles in Asia. After you read this book, rent the video. Unfortunately, the American version of the video is chopped up so that the story is not really comprehensible. However, if you've read the book, you may be able to appreciate the movie a little better.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9693a018) out of 5 stars An insightful, meditative, and wise tale 6 Jun. 2011
By Martin Zook - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This quiet little (209 pages including the epilogue) story runs deep.

The line of this tale is easy to describe: an 11th century scholar wanders west into Central Asia and finds himself caught up in conflicts between established and emerging empires not unlike that region experiences today. Along the way, the scholar is drafted into an army, briefly falls in love with a girl who may have sacrificed herself for him, falls in with a fierce warrior, and spirits to safety a library of Buddhist scrolls before the final battle of the story. There are, of course, warriors, villains, and otherwise conflicted characters along the route.

But that's not what this story is about, although it can provide a satisfactory read just for the story line.

This story, delivered in simple, short, and direct language, not unlike the brush strokes in calligraphy, tells the tale of a man seeking, but not knowing what he seeks, until he finds it. What he finds in the end of his story is a calm that comes with accomplishing an act that is generous, virtuous, requires great effort, demands grace under pressure, an insightful understanding of events around him, and finally an understanding of how the ebb and flow of the conflicts that define the age and individuals living in those times are connected. Practitioners of Buddhism will see the six perfections (generosity, ethics, perseverance, patience, meditative concentration, and wisdom) in this story.

But even for those not schooled in Buddhism, this historical fiction, I think, will create a sense of calm, even after reading about the strife and conflicts detailed in this lesson of impermanence.

The ideas of this text are subtly woven into it. In contrast to many tales set in an historical setting, the characters in Tun-Huang are subtly drawn and complex. The virtuous have fatal flaws. The wicked perform virtuous deeds. The unguided realize purpose and direction. Relationships, cities, even ancient civilizations are impermanent and seldom accurately recalled in memory.

I found this a most rewarding read. It leaves me with a sense of peace and calm, not unlike after a good meditation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96dcf09c) out of 5 stars Inoue steps in where history leaves off 16 Oct. 2011
By Patto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The early twentieth-century find of some 40,000 ancient scrolls and documents in the caves outside Dunhuang (Tun-Huang) fascinated the eminent Japanese writer Yasushi Inoue. The cache included the first printed book, unknown Buddhist scriptures and rare topographical and historical data. Inoue wondered how such an immense cultural treasure trove got there. History offered no explanations. So Inoue decided to fill in the blanks.

His novel, enriched by five years of research, is a tour de force of imagined history. Originally published in 1959, it brings the past to life with amazing power. I got so caught up that I'm wishing I could visit Dunhuang and feast my eyes on the art treasures of the Silk Road. Maybe I will.

The story opens in 1026. Hsing-te, a most engaging character, fails to take the final exam that would have ensured his success in the Chinese bureaucracy. Through an odd adventure (the first of many), he becomes obsessed with learning the written language of Hsi-hsia. This new nation is aggressively resisting China's dominion on the northwestern frontier. Impulsively Hsing-te sets off for this barbarous region.

On one level Tun-Huang reads like an adventure story. Yet it's also infused with romance. Hsing-te has unforgettable encounters with exotic women. He has prophetic dreams, as well, that add an element of mysticism and a sense of destiny to everything that transpires.

This New York Review Book edition is full of wonderful introductory material. It brought me up to speed on the Dunhuang discovery and Yasushi Inoue's literary achievements.

I'd highly recommend Tun-Huang to history buffs and lovers of Japanese literature.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f24e4c) out of 5 stars A short historical novel by a great Japanese writer - not his best, but still readable 2 July 2012
By Maciej - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I owe a lot to Yasushi Inoue. It is because of his historical novels about China that I discovered so many splendid stories, like the fascinating tale of Concubine Yang and Emperor Xuanzong and the decline of the great Tang dynasty. So naturally it is with a great interest that I attacked another of his books, "Tun-huang", which describes the life and adventures of a Chinese learned man, Chao Hsing-te, in Western Territories (today Gansu province) in XI century AD.

Hsing-te failed miserably imperial examinations for the most stupid reason possible - he overslept... Since then he lost taste for public career and decided to search adventures on the Western Border, where the kingdom of Xi Xia (Tanguts) is growing in power and starts to threaten imperial borders. Hsing-te will finally enter the service of Xi Xia (not willingly at first) before discovering his real vocation - Buddhism and especially the study of holy buddhists books.

Now, the main purpose of this book is to describe the story behind one of the most important archeological discoveries of XX century - the finding of lost scrolls of Tun-huang (Dunhuang), which were hidden in XI century in dry desertic caves before being recovered in 1905, to become today one of the most precious source texts for history of relgions in medieval Asia. It may explain why the character of Hsing-ti is so strangely uninteresting and passif - the man seems to be so not interested in life, that he actually never marries, never has a family, has one intimate moment with a woman in his entire life, totally doesn't care about living or dying, follows any orders he receives from the last person which talks to him, etc. Only in the last chapters he seems to find a reason to live, and then it is first to kill somebody and only later to save the precious buddhist scrolls...

This is definitely not the best book of Yasushi Inoue. If you didn't read anything else of him before, my advice is to first try "Yang Kuei-fei" or "Genghis-khan" - otherwise you could get discouraged before really appreciating the works of this great writer...
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