Synopses & Reviews
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.