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Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia
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Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  460 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In 1959 a young monk named Tsung Tsai (Ancestor Wisdom) escapes the Red Army troops that destroy his monastery, and flees alone three thousand miles across a China swept by chaos and famine. Knowing his fellow monks are dead, himself starving and hunted, he is sustained by his mission: to carry on the teachings of his Buddhist meditation master, who was too old to leave wi ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 29th 2001 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2000)
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Immensely enjoyable! A true tale of a poet meeting a Buddhist monk from Mongolia and then traveling back to Mongolia with him in search of the "Bones of the Master". Gives you chills and thrills as well as excellent history lesson on China/Mongolia and what people went through during communism. Also many beautiful, simple poems sprinkled throughout either written by the author and translated by the author and written by the monk. Any spiritual seeker would love this book!
Loved it! It's David Caradine (Grasshopper) meets Henry Miller in Woodstock (and China).
This is a wonderful read! It not only has a compelling plot to carry you through the book, with wonderful characters; it has wonderful philosophy and extremely memorable quotes throughout. I intend to read it more than once! I ended the book with a smile on my face, wishing there were more - and a deeper understanding of Buddhism and Chinese history and Zen poetry.
Nov 14, 2009 Pete added it
An alright read, quick. Crane's voice and personality gets annoying fast. And his poetry is rubbish. However, he keeps the book interesting and relevant through the innumerable dialogues which almost perfectly capture the essence of Tsung Tsai.
At first I thought the author would be annoying but I really got into this book and the amazing adventure thru China. Crane relates his friendship w/TsungTsai with honesty and lovely language.
Bernie Gourley
Some people are attracted to the girl next door, but I'm a sucker for a tale of the sage next door. In an unwise world, it's comforting to believe that the wise exist, and they walk among us. They are not relegated to secluded retreats. In Bones of the Master a quirky Asian man drops in on his neighbor. The neighbor turns out to be the author of this book, poet George Crane. The visitor is Tsung Tsai, a Cha'an monk who trekked from Inner Mongolia to Hong Kong in 1959 in order to ensure the teach ...more
Reading this book was a very mixed experience. It's the story of an american poet who is neighbor to a buddhist monk from Mongolia who escaped the ravages of the cultural revolution (in the 60's?). The monk's story of escape is woven in flashbacks through the course of the book. The relationship of the two poets is explored, and then they both go back to Mongolia so the monk can build a shrine to his teacher, so then it becomes travelog. Which I don't know how to spell. The thing is, I found the ...more
China und seine Religionen - das ist eine lange Geschichte. Buddhismus und Daoismus blühten lange Zeit in einem strahlenden Glanz, bis dieser Glanz Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts mit einem Schlag zerstört wurde. In einem maßlosen, ignoranten Hass verschluckte eine Welle von Gewalt und Fanatismus die Zeugnisse der buddhistischen Kultur.

Ein Mönch floh aus den Wirren, und freundete sich dann später in seinem Exil in Amerika mit dem Schriftsteller George Crane an. Die Geschichte, wie Cran
Author George is a 40-something poet, cynic and would-be drifter. He moves with his wife and baby daughter to woodsy upstate New York where good fortune provides him the neighbor he never knew he needed.

Neighbor Tsung Tsai is a 70'ish Ch'an Buddhist monk with an extraordinary history highlighted by a year-long escape from Inner Mongolia, narrowly escaping starvation, death by train-hitching and, most importantly, Mao's Cultural Revolution.

We learn the details of Tsung Tsai's story, and grippin
Becky Prise
I loved this book. I first read it for a Chinese Thought class in college. I quickly fell in love with it. Crane's writing style was very easy to follow and you could tell how much his teacher meant to him. I recommend this book whenever possible and I plan on rereading this year.
Bish Denham
This is a beautifully written story, poetic. It is magical, mystical, and human. If you're looking for a fast pace, you're not going to find it here. What you will find is the story of a journey taken by a Buddhist monk and non-believing American man. That these seeming opposite types connect and become fast friends is a testament to the beauty of the human spirit.
There's nothing much that a review can say to do this book justice - only that reading it was a spiritual journey not unlike the one the protagonists themselves undertook.

Eye-opening, awesome, and inspiring.

Everyone should give it a read.
Michael Hogan
Very easy to read. An engaging and entertaining story. And a good view into what Chan is about, by communicating how Tsung Tsai lived his life.
Al Billings
I found this book enjoyable but I also found myself wishing the author would shut up about his own thoughts and opinions and focus more on his traveling companion, a monk of some 50+ years, whose journey this was to find his master's grave. The fact that the author was/is pretty much a layabout and, for lack of a better term, loser, who sleepwalks through his life and can't even bring himself to bow to his own teacher because of his own issues, made it a bit less enjoyable. Not a bad person but ...more
Mariah Ware
Such a beautiful account of an ordinary man's friendship and quest with a Zen master.
I picked up this book by chance, needing to spend bookstore credit after returning a duplicate item--and I'm so glad I did! It's non-fiction, the tale of a Woodstock, NY, writer and free spirit who discovers that a Buddhist monk has moved nearby; they become friends and go to Mongolia, from which he fled through China during a harrowing famine, to find the bones of his master (thus the book's title). It's about suffering, as one may expect of a Buddhist story, but also about compassion, survival ...more
Mary Helene
Beautifully written; sentences of joy and adventure. What I liked most, though, was the story of two very different men learning to trust one another. Maybe's it's "believe in one another". I appreciated, too, the reflection this book inspired on what it means to practice, in a Zen sense. (Spoiler alert) The final showdown between Power-Money-Sex and Pure Zen leaves me thinking that this story is multi-layered and to be continued, but perhaps not in this lifetime.

And so continues my obsession with all things Tibetan, Mongolian and/or Buddhist... I just loved this book! The fact that it was written by a poet was perfect in keeping with the subject matter... the descriptions of wind, land, faces unbelievable. I also like the tie in with my hometown (or near-hometown)... the book so very "woodstock" and one of the main characters so like the adults I knew growing up. Fabulously written, engaging story... loved it!
Beautifully written, thoughtful and not without adventure.
Having been dabbling in Buddhist meditation the past few months, I think this was the right time for me to read this book, as I could "understand" and relate to the philosophy represented. George Crane does a nice job of putting forth his story of accompanying his friend, Tsung Tsai, a Buddhist monk, back to his homeland in Mongolia, in search of his teacher's grave, after 40 years of exile.
Sumangali Morhall
Gritty and honest (gruesome in places) this book feels like a friend, and I missed it when it was finished. I love the characters, the descriptions of inner and outer experiences, the insights into Ch'an Buddhism, and the poetry. It inspires and instructs, powerfully but with a light touch, like a poem in itself. Highly recommended to anyone interested in spiritual memoir and/or travel writing.
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A very intersting book about a Buddhist monk and an American poet traveling together to Mongolia to honor the former's Teacher. I found their relationship intriging; I think I like the monk better.
I was amazed that there was no government interference with their trek. The descriptions of the land did not make me want to go to Mongolia.
pure fun to read, with the quest narrative running through and the earthy narrator whose honest expression of his doubts and desires as he follows his zen master friend to mongolia i found endearing. made me want to learn more about ch'an buddhism, which, as i understood it, is the chinese version of the japanese zen buddhism.
Jul 29, 2008 Therese rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Therese by: my friend, Sara, in California
A story, a saga, an epiphany of travel. George Crane writes beautifully. He's a poet and his language caresses your heart. Tsung Tsai will stay in your mind as a wonderful human being who transcends suffering through helping others. If there isn't a God, there is a buddha. Read it and pass it on to others! Peace, Therese
An exciting story, a wise monk, and (sort of) the education of the writer/narrator as he accompanies his ch'an teacher on a return to Inner Mongolia decades after he fled Chinese persecution. This is a stirring adventure story heightened by poetry, a tale of personal growth, and Buddhist teaching.
Deborah Varga
I had this book on my shelves for years before I read it. I was glad I did because I found it to be a tresure. Good, honest writing led me into the quest. I did not want the journey to end with the last page so I ordered "Beyond the House of the False Lama" and just started reading it.
Nov 21, 2007 Michelle marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
this is the book i've picked for my human geography report. The report is to write about the strong sense of place an author can create. I'm looking forward to this book for many reasons, but i need a copy. If anyone has one i'd love to buy it from you or even just borrow it.
Tom Hickman
This is a book about adventure, determination and honor shared between unlikely characters, a monk and an author, who journey to inner mongolia in quest of the remains of a Ch'an master. It is full of Chinese wisdom and examples of cultural challenges.
A young Buddhist monk escapes from Mongolia during the Chinese Great Cultural Revolution, settles in America, then returns as an old man to visit his family, monastery and the cave of his Buddhist teacher.
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Writer, journalist, editor and world traveler holds a Bachelors from the University of Illinois in English Literature and Art History and a Masters in Creative writing from San Francisco State University. He has taught at Manhattanville College, University of Indianapolis and has given seminars and readings around the world (New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Athens, Paris, Prague, Buch ...more
More about George Crane...
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“Buddha rode in the trunk, which had to be roped shut. I thought this was going to be the first in a long line of hassles. But, as it turned out, Tsung Tsai was right: Buddha was a breeze. He flowed through the porters, ticket checkers, and security at JFK, gliding on a benevolent cloud. His strange gray Buddha shadow floated on the x-ray monitor.

'Jesus!' said the x-ray operator to the guard.
'Similar', Tsung Tsai said.”
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