Synopses & Reviews
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China
, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.
Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husbands death.
In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wens journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.
"Inspired by a brief 1994 interview with an aged Chinese woman named Shu Wen, Beijing-born, London-based journalist Xinran (The Good Women of China) offers a delicately wrought account of Wen's 30-year search for her husband in Tibet, where he disappeared in 1958. After less than 100 days of marriage, Wen's husband, Kejun, a doctor in the People's Liberation Army, is posted to Tibet and two months later is reported killed. Stunned and disbelieving, 26-year-old Wen is determined to find Kejun herself; a doctor also, she gets herself posted to the isolated Tibetan area where Kejun had been. There, as one of the few women in the Chinese army, she endures much hardship and rescues a Tibetan noblewoman named Zhuoma. After being separated from her fellow soldiers in the wake of an ambush by Tibetan rebels, Wen, accompanied by Zhuoma, sets off on a trek through the harsh landscape. Years later, after going native with a tribe of yak herders, Wen learns the circumstances of Kejun's death and understands that her husband was caught in a fatal misunderstanding between two vastly different cultures. Woven through with fascinating details of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, Xinran's story portrays a poignant, beautiful attempt at reconciliation. Agent, Toby Eady. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The bestselling author of "Good Women of China" returns with an epic tale--based on a true story--of love, friendship, courage and sacrifice set in Chinese-occupied Tibet.
In 2002 Xinran's Good Women of China became an international bestseller, revealing startling new truths about Chinese life to the West. Now she returns with an epic story of love, friendship, courage and sacrifice set in Chinese-occupied Tibet.
Based on a true story, Xinran's extraordinary second book takes the reader right to the hidden heart of one of the world's most mysterious and inaccessible countries. In March 1958, Shu Wen learns that her husband, an idealistic army doctor, has died while serving in Tibet. Determined to find out what happened to him, she courageously sets off to join his regiment. But to her horror, instead of finding a Tibetan people happily welcoming their Chinese "liberators" as she expected, she walks into a bloody conflict, with the Chinese subject to terrifying attacks from Tibetan guerrillas. It seems that her husband may have died as a result of this clash of cultures, this disastrous misunderstanding. But before she can know his fate, she is taken hostage and embarks on a life-changing journey through the Tibetan countryside -- a journey that will last twenty years and lead her to a deep appreciation of Tibet in all its beauty and brutality. Sadly, when she finally discovers the truth about her husband, she must carry her knowledge back to a China that, in her absence, has experienced the Cultural Revolution and changed beyond recognition. . .
Reading Group Guide
1. What is a ‘Sky Burial? How does this differ from the traditional Western burial methods?
2. Sky Burial is set in Tibet. How did this story open your eyes to life in Tibet and how much did you know about this country before reading the book?
3. Why did this Chinese woman --Shu-Wen, in her twenties--go to Tibet in 1958? Why were the Chinese at war with the Tibetans?
4. Shu-Wen survived in Tibet for many, many years and began her journey with no knowledge of Tibetan language, customs, culture and religion? What does this say about her character? How do you think most people react to such a foreign environment?
5. What surprised you about Shu-Wens daily life in Tibet? How did these things differ from Shu-Wens life in China? How do these things differ from your life?
6. After finding out what happened to Kejun what do you think of his actions? Would you have made the same choice if faced with this situation?
7. What changes did Shu-Wen find in her home town when she returned? How did she react to them? At that point, do you think Shu-Wen identified herself as Chinese or Tibetan?
8. Did Shu-Wen regret going to Tibet? If so, why? What point did the author want to make through telling Shu-Wens story?
9. Some would call Sky Burial a love story? Would you agree?
10. ‘Sky Burial has been selected as a book used to study Chinese history in Australia and it has been published in over 20 languages. What makes this book different from other books on Tibet?
From Xinran, the bestselling author of The Good Women of China,
comes Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet
a deeply affecting tale about a woman's thirty-year search for her husband in the isolated, hauntingly beautiful land of Tibet.
Written with lyrical eloquence, Sky Burial is many things at once--a love story, a mystery and a tale of adventure. The following questions were written to help you and your reading group explore all the different themes of this fascinating tale.