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This title in other editions

Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist (Concord Library)

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Gretel Ehrlich's path leads her to Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in western China to climb Emei Shan, one of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains. For Ehrlich, a practicing Buddhist, the climb is both a spiritual pilgrimage and a troubling encounter with a culture reeling from recent political history. Ehrlich visits Buddhist lamas who, until recently, were in hiding from the purges of the Cultural Revolution, and she travels to a panda refuge in the mountains northwest of Chengdu — in both cases trying to unravel the ultimate fate of these once-revered symbols. "All roads to paradise first pass through purgatory". In perhaps the most hair-raising car-trip narrative in recent travel literature, Ehrlich writes of her journey from the southwestern city of Kunming over the Burma Road and on to Lijiang — an isolated mountain town which does in the end fulfill Ehrlich's hopes for cultural and spiritual revival, and where she learns from an unlikely group of Naxi sacred musicians that "music is medicine" and that profound healing requires profound faith.

Review:

"In spare, lyrical prose, Ehrlich inventively recounts her 1995 spiritual trip to China and Tibet. 'I had come to China to pick up the threads of a once flourishing Buddhist culture,' she writes, 'and thought I could find it in their sacred mountains.' First on Ehrlich's itinerary was to climb Emei Shan, one of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains. She interweaves the tale of her climb — encounters with nasty monkeys, Frisbee-tossing monks and countless Buddhist temples being renovated by the Chinese government for tourist purposes — with concise meditations on the meaning of mountains to Chinese religious culture: 'The Chinese phrase for "going on a pilgrimage" actually means "paying one's respects to the mountain." ' Ehrlich's gentle idealization of the beautiful arts of Chinese dynastic Buddhism is all but blasted away when she witnesses the religious shards left by the Cultural Revolution. Her book is an elegantly kaleidoscopic fusion of travelogue, musings on traditional Chinese Buddhism and appreciation of Chinese landscape paintings of mountains. Like one of the landscape paintings of which she writes, Ehrlich's book is at once delicate, deeply considered and moving." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"At some point in every American Buddhist's life, he or she decides to take a spiritual journey to the East. Ehrlich's journey takes her to the Sichuan Province in China to climb Emei Shan, a sacred Buddhist mountain. Instead of finding a modern Shangri-La, she encounters a land destroyed by crass commercialism, corrupt monks, poverty, lamas, and scholars who are still deeply injured physically and psychologically by the atrocities of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Her descriptions are heartbreaking, especially of her visit to a wretched panda reserve in Chendu where the bears are only kept alive so foreigners will donate funds. Her pilgrimage seems a failure until she meets a musician who has dedicated his life to keeping alive the sacred music of his people, the Naxis. His philosophy, that music is medicine, leads the reader to understand that divinity does not necessarily reside only in holy places but also in the deep faith of good people. This is travel writing at its best. Recommended for all libraries." Library Journal

Review:

"A beautiful metaphor, spirituality as a physical endeavor...infuses the first part of Questions of Heaven with a momentum that mirrors Ehrlich's own. The sacred and the secular, after all, must coexist for either to have meaning, and Emei Shan, with its teach shops, tourists, and state-sponsored status as the 'most beautiful mountain in the world,' is emblematic of this idea....Although her climb does not lead to enlightenment, Ehrlich manages to find her path in other ways....If Questions of Heaven has a message it may reside in the author's belief in a bond across geography and generations, one transcending space and time." Village Voice

Synopsis:

US

Product Details

ISBN:
9780807073117
Author:
Ehrlich, Gretel
Publisher:
Beacon Press (MA)
Location:
Boston
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Description and travel
Subject:
China
Subject:
Essays & Travelogues
Subject:
Buddhism
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Travel Writing-General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Concord Library
Publication Date:
March 1998
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
144
Dimensions:
8.19x5.46x.41 in. .40 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Religion » Eastern Religions » Buddhism » General
Travel » Travel Writing » Asia
Travel » Travel Writing » General

Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist (Concord Library) New Trade Paper
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$20.95 In Stock
Product details 144 pages Beacon Press - English 9780807073117 Reviews:
"Review" by , "In spare, lyrical prose, Ehrlich inventively recounts her 1995 spiritual trip to China and Tibet. 'I had come to China to pick up the threads of a once flourishing Buddhist culture,' she writes, 'and thought I could find it in their sacred mountains.' First on Ehrlich's itinerary was to climb Emei Shan, one of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains. She interweaves the tale of her climb — encounters with nasty monkeys, Frisbee-tossing monks and countless Buddhist temples being renovated by the Chinese government for tourist purposes — with concise meditations on the meaning of mountains to Chinese religious culture: 'The Chinese phrase for "going on a pilgrimage" actually means "paying one's respects to the mountain." ' Ehrlich's gentle idealization of the beautiful arts of Chinese dynastic Buddhism is all but blasted away when she witnesses the religious shards left by the Cultural Revolution. Her book is an elegantly kaleidoscopic fusion of travelogue, musings on traditional Chinese Buddhism and appreciation of Chinese landscape paintings of mountains. Like one of the landscape paintings of which she writes, Ehrlich's book is at once delicate, deeply considered and moving."
"Review" by , "At some point in every American Buddhist's life, he or she decides to take a spiritual journey to the East. Ehrlich's journey takes her to the Sichuan Province in China to climb Emei Shan, a sacred Buddhist mountain. Instead of finding a modern Shangri-La, she encounters a land destroyed by crass commercialism, corrupt monks, poverty, lamas, and scholars who are still deeply injured physically and psychologically by the atrocities of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Her descriptions are heartbreaking, especially of her visit to a wretched panda reserve in Chendu where the bears are only kept alive so foreigners will donate funds. Her pilgrimage seems a failure until she meets a musician who has dedicated his life to keeping alive the sacred music of his people, the Naxis. His philosophy, that music is medicine, leads the reader to understand that divinity does not necessarily reside only in holy places but also in the deep faith of good people. This is travel writing at its best. Recommended for all libraries."
"Review" by , "A beautiful metaphor, spirituality as a physical endeavor...infuses the first part of Questions of Heaven with a momentum that mirrors Ehrlich's own. The sacred and the secular, after all, must coexist for either to have meaning, and Emei Shan, with its teach shops, tourists, and state-sponsored status as the 'most beautiful mountain in the world,' is emblematic of this idea....Although her climb does not lead to enlightenment, Ehrlich manages to find her path in other ways....If Questions of Heaven has a message it may reside in the author's belief in a bond across geography and generations, one transcending space and time."
"Synopsis" by , US
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