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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  16 reviews
More than a thousand years ago, an extraordinary trove of early Buddhist sutras and other scriptures was secreted away in caves near the Silk Road city of Tun-huang. But who hid this magnificent treasure and why? InTun-huang, the great modern Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue tells the story of Chao Hsing-te, a young Chinese man whose accidental failure to take the all-impor ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by NYRB Classics (first published 1959)
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Oct 12, 2011 Mariel rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If those lost ten years haunt you
Recommended to Mariel by: good reputation + I really liked The Hunting Gun
I have been reading this small book for weeks. It should not take me so long to read a barely two hundred page book. I'm a reading ninja! Not to bang my own gong or anything but I am.
It's boring. Maybe it'll take me fourteen years like it took the translator to translate it from Japanese into English.

I appreciate that Inoue wanted to fill in the decade gap of history about the thousand Buddha caves and the silk road but... Yawn. Boring. It reads like James Cameron's Titanic if it were not even
I saw an NYRB edition of this for 4.00 at and I didn't buy it! It is rare for me not to buy a book by a Japanese author when found browsing in a used bookshop and I really like the NYRB classics editions....

...I didn't buy it because it looked boring. My experience of Japanese authors writing about somewhere other than Japan was limited to the opening of Mishima's "Temple of Dawn".* I really didn't get along with that. All those temples and sutras and bodhisattvas ... "Tun-Huang" l
Bryn Hammond
His style is concise to the point of historical summary, frequently, but he seems to cover large ground in his books of 200-250 pages. The haiku of historical novels? I didn’t know what to make of this at first, particularly with the summary passages. It slowly dawned on me that it’s quite the little work of art. Probably better in Japanese.

The characters were drawn in enigmatic strokes. I couldn’t predict what they were going to do. The Uighur girl who changes lives, but is a victim of everyon
The book's description speaks of "magically vivid scenes, fierce passions, and astonishing adventures....a profound and stirring meditation on the mystery of history and the hidden presence of the past." I'm surprised by this description of a very boring book. Interesting concept, extremely boring implementation. The skeleton of the plot is somewhat interesting, but overall it's battle after battle with very little about the caves at Dun-Huang.
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Hmmm... I found the central characters rather two-dimensional and nothing particularly interesting in the plot. Perhaps I am not Buddhist enough to appreciate the pointlessness or simplicity of it all.
I was so excited to find a copy of this book that I bought it brand new, full price, from an actual bookstore. The Dun Huang documents are my favourite historical finds, an amazing collection of tens of thousands of Buddhist, Taoist and secular documents, written in Chinese and many central Asian languages found sealed in a cave at the beginning of the 20th century. They had been sealed up for almost 900 years and included both printed and hand written works. The find have been an incredible sou ...more
While it had its moments and is certainly the only book I've ever read set in this era, so that was interesting, something about this book just didn't fully click for me. I liked the occasional descriptions of the natural world or the smoke over a battle field, but the general business of the book just seemed to plug along with bare recitals of things that happened to the main character. I never felt like I got much of a sense of him as a person. Maybe it was the translation.
Olga Zilberbourg
A young student who fails his civil service exam in medieval China falls upon a life of adventure, joining for a time an enemy's army, because he wishes to study the enemy's language and system of writing. This book's obsession with manuscripts and languages reminded me of Borges -- the author is tracing the history of the scrolls that had been found in the Thousand Buddha Caves a hundred years ago, that had been buried there a thousand or more years before. Our young student is only a secondary ...more
Beautiful and lyrical story about failure, redemption, and expectation; truly understated, which is why I give it three stars (I'm a sucker for high drama). For a book that spends so little time inside its characters' heads, it creates a cast of very vivid personalities: the aging, romantic commander, the impetuous pirate, the forlorn and deserted princess of an exiled tribe. These stories are small, but striking, poignant details in the grand, inevitable textures of history that wash over this ...more
I hate Goodreads's definitions of what their rating stars indicate. "Tun-Huang" is a well-written, engaging historical narrative. It wasn't "amazing" (per Goodreads), but it was an excellent book speculating on the persons and events of 1,000 years ago that lead to the preservation of 40,000 Buddhist documents, many of which were unknown until their discovery in a cave of northwestern China about 100 years ago.
David Greaves
"You came back with your mind made up to grow old and wither away in the white grass plains." - whatever else I thought about the book, Inoue pretty much nailed it right there.
Ian Billick
A curious book. I didn't really understand where it was going until the very end. It lacks a plot. The main character is interesting, but not really compelling.
Rick K.
I liked it. Very interesting.
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NYRB Classics: Tun-huang, by Yasushi Inoue 1 5 Oct 30, 2013 09:08PM  
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Yasushi Inoue (井上靖) was a Japanese writer whose range of genres included poetry, essays, short fiction, and novels.

Inoue is famous for his serious historical fiction of ancient Japan and the Asian continent, including Wind and Waves, Tun-huang, and Confucius, but his work also included semi-autobiographical novels and short fiction of great humor, pathos, and wisdom like Shirobamba and Asunaro Mo
More about Yasushi Inoue...
The Hunting Gun Furin Kazan The Counterfeiter and Other Stories Amore Le maître de thé

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