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The Laughing Sutra: A Novel

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  751 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Iron & Silk, Mark Salzman's bestselling account of his adventures as an English teacher and martial arts student in China, introduced a writer of enormous charm and keen insight into the cultural chasm between East and West. Now Salzman returns to China in his first novel, which follows the adventures of Hsun-ching, a naive but courageous orphan, and the formidable and ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 263 pages
Published January 16th 1991 by Random House (first published 1991)
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Debbie Zapata
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Laughing Sutra is the story of Hsun-ching, who travels from China to America to find a sacred scroll for Wei-ching an old monk who cared for Hsun-ching from the time he was a young boy, hoping to fulfill the old man's one desire in life, which was to read that particular sutra. Hsun-ching travels with a mysterious partner (you may call him Colonel Sun) who turned out to be essential to everything and a petty cool character.

I love Salzman's work, and this book was wonderful, but someday I wa
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent tale of enlightenment and struggle.
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I am not sure why I didn't rate this one higher. It isn't a bad book at all; it just didn't strike me as better than average.

The storyline is a fantasy quest; a young student sets off in search of a miraculous sutra-scroll for his failing master. He is accompanied by a mythical creature who is trying to reconcile ancient values with the things he encounters in the modern world, often with mixed results.

The best bits, I felt, were those of cultural misunderstanding between the Chinese way(s) of l
Stephen Gallup
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful book! The wife and daughter both became curious about it when they heard my laughter and saw how reluctant I was to put it down. And yet, despite the humor it's not just fluff. (Which puts me in mind of a forgettable novel by Douglas Adams, in which it felt as if the author were trying too hard to be funny -- because in that case without the giggles there wasn't much else.) If the humor were stripped out, The Laughing Sutra would still be an engaging story. This is my fourth ex ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. The story was a great mix of fantasy, history, loyalty, love, you name it and it was part of the story. The characters were interesting and I found myself rooting for them at every turn of theirs adventures.
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to tbears by: Dave
Will have you laughing out loud!
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fic-cultural
This wasn't at all like the books I usually read, but I did enjoy it. This is said to be "a contemporary version of a classic tale." Now I'm curious about the original version (but I don't know that I'd want to read a long story from Chinese folklore).

p 95 About being truthful:
"... Sometimes telling the truth is important, but sometimes it isn't."
"It's just that I don't like lying," Hsun-ching said. "One you start, what's to stop you from doing it all the time?"
The colonel clicked his tongue wit
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was skeptical about the idea of a westerner modernizing Journey to the West, but I ended up quite smitten with this book. It is both comfortable and exotic, and much like french fries and a milkshake is a successful combination of unlikely flavors. The outrages characters in this book are what won my endearment. One particularly memorable scene sets our protagonist, a Chinese peasant turned "sent down youth"(知青), his Monkey King sidekick, and an American wannabe-bohemian-art-major female love ...more
Toya Fish
This is a slow start kind of book.
Does give you the reminder of the potential beauty of that lives within all of us and in the world around us if we have the courage to open our eyes to see it.

Spoiler of Opinion!!! ->

Unfortunately, I personally was looking for more technique. The martial arts for example are as lacking as a four year old writer. When you think those moves out in your head is one thing however to dramatically to empower the emotions needed to create the scene's credibility to
Writer's Relief
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THE LAUGHING SUTRA by Mark Salzman is a humorous look into the misadventures of a young orphan boy, Hsun-Ching, during the tumultuous period of “Cultural Revolution” in China. Tossed over a waterfall as a child, rescued by a mysterious stranger, and then placed into the care of a solitary Monk named Wei-ching, a collector of sutras who has read them all, save for one, the “Laughing Sutra”. A fabled sutra said to grant enlightenment to anyone who reads it. Unable to get his hands on the sutra due ...more
Paul K
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Laughing Sutra is an intriguing story about an orphan named Hsun-Ching, who is raised by a Buddhist monk named Wei-Ching. Wei-Ching has spent his life collecting sutras, and his final goal is to find one of the last, undocumented sutras in existence, rumored to grant the reader eternal life - the Laughing Sutra. However, as time passes and ruling in China changes, Wei-Ching and Hsun-Ching are separated for several years - until one day, Hsun-Ching returns to his home, and finds that Wei-Chin ...more
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Nesa Sivagnanam
Hsun-Ching is orphaned as a small child and is raised by the monk Wei-Ching, who teaches Hsun-Ching to read and write. Wei-Ching is a Buddhit scholar and has devoted his life to the collection and preservation of ancient scrolls, but it is the era of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution, and many Buddhist relics are being destroyed. Wei-Ching and Hsun-Ching are attacked by a troupe of Red Guards, and Hsun-Ching is sent away to work on a farm in the countryside.

After ten years of enforced lab
Owen Curtsinger
Character development and stylish prose are definitely not Salzman's strong points as a novelist; The Laughing Sutra floats along with almost no real convincing and vivid descriptions of characters or scenes. What the novel relies on to move along is the plot itself, and I found this strikingly similar to most actual Chinese classical works. From what I've read, many classical tales rely on the plot for power and effect, relaying the main idea (or teaching) through the situations that characters ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Oct 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-teenagers
This is a fable about the misadventures of a boy who is orphaned and then raised by a monk. To grant the monk/surrogate father's dying wish... which revolves around obtaining the Laughing Sutra... the boy Hsun-ching sets off on a journey with a companion, the mysterious Colonel Sun.

In addition to dealing with Chinese officials and American police officers, Hsun-ching must also deal with whether or not his traveling companion Colonel Sun is simply an incredibly crazy loon, or (could it be?) actua
Michelle Chan
The Laughing Sutra is based on Chinese Culture. At a young age, Hsun-Ching became an orphan. He was raised by Wei-Ching, a devoted Buddhist monk in search of the Laughing Sutra. The Laughing Sutra is a scroll which may reveal the path to enlightment. The only problem is that the scroll has been placed in the United States. In order to get in reach of the Laughing Sutra, they must travel. With traveling comes long journeys and with long journeys come great adventures.
A line that stood out to me i
Glen Engel-Cox
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it
The Laughing Sutra, although fiction, is the perfect counterpoint to Salzman's nonfiction book, Iron & Silk. Salzman is the main figure in Iron & Silk, showing the cultural differences between the American and Chinese through his viewpoint. In The Laughing Sutra, he is able to turn the tables and present these differences from the viewpoints of a modern Chinese and an ancient Chinese (Salzman’s language specialty was classical Chinese, which is to modern Mandarin what Latin is to Italian ...more
Cindy Leighton
Delightful adventure story of a young Chinese orphan and the mysterious Colonel Sun who sneak out of mainland China to travel to San Francisco in search of a Buddhist scripture (The Laughing Sutra) to sneak back into China for a beloved dying man. Fantasy, adventure, mystery, romance, fairy tale all wrapped up in one with liberal doses is cultural commentary. Loved the disbelief that a clown with a painted white face could own restaurants - white is the color of death and decidedly bad luck. Als ...more
Sep 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, and I can't wait to hear and meet Mark Salzman tomorrow! This is part fable, part adventure story and part buddy story. And it is very humorous at times. It's the story of a Chinese orphan, Hsun-ching, born near the beginning of the formation of the People's Republic of China. He is orphaned at a young age and saved by a mysterious stranger who delivers him into the care of an old monk, Wei-ching. Wei-ching has read all of the Buddhist texts except for the Laughing Sutra, now ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
This was a great surprise of a book for me. It was recommended to me a few years ago, and I finally picked it up from the library. When I read the description and looked at the cover, I almost returned it without reading. With so many positive reviews on goodreads, I figured that I should at least give it a shot. Based on the description that calls it a reselling of a Chinese folktale, I expected a corny, allegorical pseudo-philosophy "teach the reader a valuable lesson" type of book. It isn't t ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an engaging fable about an orphan, Hsun-ching, raised by a Buddhist monk, Wei-ching, who hopes that in the future this young boy he is raising and educating will go to the U.S. to pursue acquiring the last of the sutras for the temple library, called The Laughing Sutra, which is purported to show the way to immortality. The young man, Hsun-Ching, is pulled into the Cultural Revolution, survives, and returns to the temple to find Wei-ching an elderly, sick man. Hsun-Ching decides to journ ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This book is a fast paced light read that will leave the reader feeling good at the end. Although the main character at times suffers there is an overall positive tone to the novel that is truly enjoyable.
A young boy is brought up by a Buddhist monk at the time of the Chinese revolution. He goes on a quest to find a missing sutra known as the Laughing Sutra that will bring enlightenment to the reader for the elderly monk. Accompanying him is a character out of Chinese fable never overtly identi
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What an enjoyable read! I bought this book from a mall sale, and I must admit I did not expect such a wonderful story to come from what people call an "obscure" book. Really, more people should read obscure books and discover wonders like this story.

I really like Mark Salzman's knowledge about China and how he blissfully fuses tidbits of Chinese history and politics into the narrative, not to mention the occasional dose of humor. Salzman is indeed a good and interesting writer so I am compelled
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Mark Salzman book I read was Iron & Silk, a non-fiction book about the 2 years he spent teaching English in China while studying Kung Fu. It’s a really good book.

This book is also pretty good, though it’s fiction. The story is about a young Chinese man who travels to America to find the Laughing Sutra and bring it back to China so the old monk who raised him can read it before he die.

Along the way he meets a mysterious old man named Colonel Sun, a master martial artist, who decides
Rick Goff
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book I burgled from ol' Dan's shelf is _The Laughing Sutra_ by Mark Salzman. A "sutra" is a scripture. So, for example, the Kama Sutra is a scripture concerning Kama, or pleasure. _The Laughing Sutra_ is the story of two men (an English teacher trained as a monk and a possibly ancient warrior) who travel from a remote Chinese village to San Francisco on a quest to retrieve the long lost sutra of the title. The novel is brief, charming, wise and funny. Really, you can't dislike this book. ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-on-trips
A fun adventure about a Chinese boy who journeys with a mysterious yellow-eyed stranger across China to San Francisco, on a mission to find the immortality-granting Laughing Sutra. I couldn't help but think that this book would be an excellent movie, which may mean that the mix of dialogue and action was just perfect. Pick it up!

It also gave me a glimpse of Chinese history/culture (which sadly, I don't know very much about) both from ancient traditions and the Cultural Revolution, and now I'd d
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, china
An orphan, aided by a mysterious, probably supernatural man who may be the Monkey King himself, sneaks out of China to find an ancient text for his ailing teacher. This is a funny book, a deft blend of history, fable, philosophy and adventure. Salzman uses his piercing observations on the East-West cultural gap to show the follies and strengths of both countries, creating a highly enjoyable and quite exciting modern folk tale. There are a few weaknesses, a few hints at later potentialities that ...more
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about this book 1 5 Apr 14, 2008 01:25AM  
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Mark Salzman is an award-winning novelist and nonfiction author who has written on a variety of subjects, from a graceful novel about a Carmelite nun’s ecstatic visions and crisis of faith to a compelling memoir about growing up a misfit in a Connecticut suburb – clearly displaying a range that transcends genre. As a boy, all Salzman ever wanted was to be a Kung Fu master, but it was his proficien ...more
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