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Watching the Tree

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  403 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Adeline Yen Mah, whose autobiography ‘Falling Leaves’ is an international bestseller, here interweaves her own experiences with her views on Chinese thought and wisdom to create an illuminating and highly personal guide for Western readers.

Adeline Yen Mah was born in Tianjin, and through the conversations and wisdom of her grandfather and aunt learnt a great deal of tradit
Paperback, 248 pages
Published 2001 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2000)
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Feb 19, 2008 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People in transition, looking for answers to make it easier
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book is my East Asian Philosophy 101 course. A broad yet definitive guide to Chinese culture.
I loved her grandfather's comment about how Chinese wear Confucian thinking caps, Taoist robes, and Buddhist sandals (skeptical of religions.) Her grandfather knows me better than I know myself lol And I instinctively follow all these Chinese ideologies without ever having studied any of those immense texts like I Ching, Tao Te Ching, or the Analects of Confucius although I remember bugging my mom a
Adnan Qiyas
Mar 29, 2011 Adnan Qiyas rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adnan by: Jaja Shah-Mohen
Shelves: favourites
One of the best books I've received as a gift. I can relate closely to the writer as I went to a Chinese primary school and can still read/write/speak Mandarin.

The book encapsulates and offers telling insight on many of the mannerisms, habits, tendencies, gestures and expressions that are uniquely Chinese, which will become immediately familiar and comforting to those who often find themselves in their company.

An enlightening discovery - not necessarily of the truth - but the background and or
This was an unusual choice of book for me. Typically I'm not much of a non-fiction reader - my tastes simply tend to lean more towards fiction, fantasy and sci-fi. But every so often I'll come across something different, and proceed to try it if only to say I did. Watching the Tree was such a book for me.

There's no doubt in my mind that my favourite parts of this book were when Adeline Yen Mah used her own past to demonstrate the Chinese mindset. I ached for her when she shared her childhood exp
Carly Johnson
Tried reading this. Shockingly boring compared to her emotional Faliing Leaves. It was formatted like a self help book. Got rid of it.
Kathy Chung
Dec 13, 2011 Kathy Chung added it
Shelves: disposed
Unable to finish this book. Too much lenghty discussion. Unable to process what the book is talking about

Going to dispose this book/
An explanation of eastern religions and philosophy for the average American. Written beautifully, by a Chinese American woman.
Very fascinating book if you are into Chinese culture!
Denise Cooper
This book was just nice to read if you have not read Yen Mah's Falling Leaves. Because i had read Falling Leaves it was almost like an extention of because she mentioned it a few times or at least referred to it so that i felt like letting it fall out of my hands while sitting in the chair staring out the window and not noticing the thud. Yep i got bored. So i really think it's how you feel and what you "truly" want to read whether the book is truly a good read or not. I will read all of her boo ...more
Helen Yee
This isn't a breezy read. Mah interweaves Chinese philosophy with Chinese history and her own family stories. There are some complex concepts that I'd probably prefer to reread several times over but I appreciated her ability to explain things to a Western perspective.
Well structured as a sort of biopic interwoven with the history of Chinese philosophy. Using this as an introduction/springboard to Chinese philosophy many concepts became clearer since she related them to personal experiences. It was incredibly beguiling at times (I couldn't stop reading!), the emotion lacks in comparison to her other books but then again it's purpose isn't purely to entertain. Reading about her experience with Larkin was surprising - we had just finished studying Pym so unders ...more
Suk Harn Wong
The only thing that does not change is that everything changes.

Whatever and however we may try to think, we think within the sphere of tradition.

You can be anything you set your mind to be.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Nouvel
A very pleasant read. A perfect balance between family memories (what an unhappy childhood!) and presentations of Chinese wisdom and beliefs.
Jun 06, 2008 Diana added it
Shelves: 2007-2008
This book is written under a Confucian thinking cap, a taoist robe, and Buddhist sandals. She brings together the influences of her childhood from her mother country, and influences as a student and adult in America. The author explains her experiences throughout the book about her personal struggles ad triumphs thorughout her life history. She values Chinese customs and culture. This book is written in both languages, CHinese and Englsih. I thought it was cool, becuase Adeline Yen Mah would ins ...more
Palindrome Mordnilap
An enjoyable, accessible guide to Chinese customs and culture written from the perspective of one who has experienced them first hand. This is not so much a story as a collection of anecdotes, each of which illustrates an important aspect of Chinese philosophy and attitudes to life.

My only criticism would be the rather hostile attitude the author displays towards Confucianism (or "Ru Jia" to use the Chinese name). Clearly the author's personal experiences have jaundiced her view of Confucius, wh
Despite having grandparents who were Taoist/Buddhist, I never knew much about these religions. Watching The Tree uses various anecdotes from Mah’s life as she discusses everything from language to food to Confucianism (which seems to be given a bit of a hostile treatment). I did have some issues with the hanyu pinyin (a kind of romanised transcription of the Chinese characters), which were a bit wanting – and in one case completely wrong. A decent enough read for those wanting a little bit of in ...more
this is some of Adeline's best writing. A book to be read over and over again as one ages and is only able to comprehend the meanings until the age is appropriate.

so I am admitting that some of what she wrote flew over my head like a soft feather in am angry wind but I will find more meaning in it someday.

for someone really trying hard to understand the Chinese mind I found this book helpful and insightful. okay I admit that is a sentence fraught with cliche but that is all I got right now
If you have no other book to read, you may consider reading it.
If you are interested in Chinese/China culture & history, you may consider this as first read, otherwise give it a skip.

Some ideals & theory mentioned are just too surface, the last few chapters are too boring & is too narrow, my view. You really need to know more about YiJing & Fengshui before else will giving the wrong direction.

I read the Chinese version, this is my view based on.
This book is fantastic. Spite the constant remembrance by the author of her previous book (the only flaw in the present book, I belive).
It is a journey through the principal ideas that formed chinese culture in the past and their reflexion in the present. And there are very good judgments and advice in the middle. I read it very fast since I wanted to reach the end and I was not disappointed when I reached there. Good work!
A most personal, readable heart-felt discussion of East-West ways of thinking. With my limited knowledge, it seems to be a good, intimate introduction to the Chinese world view. I like how she interwove philosophical reflection with historical accounts and her own personal life. Well worth the read -- and a re-read.
Susan Rumsey
A beautifully written book starting off about the relationship between a Chinese girl and her grandfather. The story is more about how Confucianism underlies almost every aspect of the intricate Chinese customs and culture. Easy to read and interesting, filled with insight and wisdom, I loved this book.
This was a good overview of Chinese beliefs and culture.
Son Dao
I read this book a while ago and still love going back to it. Though I'm not Chinese, it explains a lot of nuances, tendencies (good and bad) and other aspects of a culture engulfed in Taoist and Confucius thinking whether the people realize it or not. I highly recommend it.
I am fascinated...and did NOT know this before I selected to read, but she was actually sent to a Catholic school while young. Brought up with a strong traditional Chinese grandfather. Her influences make her perspective interesting......
Victoria Roe
A very interesting and personal reflection on Eastern philosophy. I would recommend this for anyone wishing to learn more about Chinese culture, it's very informative without being overly detailed.
Jul 02, 2011 BoekenTrol marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: LilyKlip
One of the choices from all the 'first pages' that passed by in the Intl. BookXerpting that LilyKlip organised. I loved taking part and I'm happy with the books that come with the first pages :-)
Aug 24, 2008 Mo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
I read this book about 4 years ago, so I don't remember many specifics, but I do remember that it had some very beautiful and insightful passages.
Cheryl Sharkey
I thought this was a bio- and it was a little bit, but mostly it was an insiders view of Tao te ching and how it works- interesting
I can't say I understood what she was trying to say. But I did enjoy her little anecdotes of her past. What a horrid way she was treated.
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Adeline Yen Mah (Chinese: Yen Jun-ling; Pinyin: Mǎ Yán Jūnlíng; Yale (Cantonese): ma5 yim4 gwan1 ling4) (official birthday 30th November 1937, however real birthday not known, this is in fact her father's birthday) is a Chinese-American author and physician. She grew up in Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong with an older sister, Lydia; three older brothers, Gregory, Edgar and James and a younger half ...more
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