Sunday 7 September 2008

Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud by Sun Shuyun

This piece of non-fiction was the May/June book group selection. It details the trip Sun Shuyun takes in the footsteps of the ancient Buddhist monk, Xaunzang. It's taken me quite a while to write this review only because the book bored me and my review bored me so I put it off.....very unlike me!

Xuanzang is a legendary figure in Chinese culture. As a Buddhist monk he travelled from China all through India and back to find the true Buddhism sometime during 600 AD. It was an epic journey full of surprises and danger. I loved the book when it was talking about Xuanzang's adeventures.

Many of the places that Xuanzang visited along the Silk Road, however, could not be visited during Shuyun's return visit due to political unrest and there were entire chapters dedicated to her standing in museums looking at items that may or may not have been viewed by Xaunzang. Many of the places have been destroyed by treasure hunters and colonists including but certainly not limited to the British and the Germans. What annoyed me most is that she seemed to want to make herself out to be a modern day Xuanzang. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sun Shuyun escaped from China during the cultural revolution and later attended Oxford University in London. She was deeply influenced by her grandmother with whom she shared not only a room but also a bed. Part of the trip is a quest to find the meaning behind her grandmother's forbidden Buddhist prayers. I found it contrived and not at all insightful.

To top it all off, absolutely no one in the book group read the book except me. Quite frankly I would have preferred to spend my previous reading time on another more worthy choice.

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