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Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  5,153 ratings  ·  880 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
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published July 19th 2005 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2004)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I get the feeling that there is a nugget of truth in it, well filled out by the writer. She says she spent 2 days in the woman's company and then lost…moreI get the feeling that there is a nugget of truth in it, well filled out by the writer. She says she spent 2 days in the woman's company and then lost touch with her. You can learn a lot in 2 days if you pay attention and take notes or record or whatever. But we will never know the truth of "the truth" as we are told the woman vanished without a trace.

There's a thing called "emotional truth" in psycology: while the story itself may not be absolutely factual in every detail, it resonates with things which are true in themselves, or true for those who have been through similar experiences.(less)

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Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This might be the first time I am happy about false advertisement. I expected a love story and received a little bit of everything instead.

Before starting this book, I had assumed some points on the story.

1. I had no idea what Sky Burial was. I imagined it was the ceremonial burial of the dead in high mountains, closer to the sky.
2. As the subtitle stated, I expected epic love story with all the works: The first meet up, falling in love, hardships and so on.
3. Gauging the number of pages, I exp
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned so much about Tibet! For one, what a sky burial is, also, how the nomads lived and survived. Fascinating story! I started out reading this thinking it was non-fiction then figured out it's fiction. That was a bit of a let down but did not affect my enjoyment of the story in the end. It is based on the real life of a Chinese woman looking for her husband of 21 days. He left China during the war as a physician in the army and disappeared while in Tibet. She spent 30 years looking for him ...more
This book was written by Chinese writer Xinran and was translated from the Chinese by Lovell and Tyldesley. It is positioned as non-fiction but I can hardly believe that's possible. It is such an amazing story that it reads like fiction, very good fiction. It is the story of Shu Wen, a young, newly married Chinese girl who, in 1958, see's her soldier husband of 4 months go off to Tibet to fight for it's unification with China. Shortly thereafter she is notified that he has been killed but with n ...more
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful story.

I picked up this book at the library because I was looking for an author whose name began with X to finish my A-Z author challenge, and this was a slim book.

I found that I could not put it down. It was a beautifully written love story which was heartwrenching and joyous at times.
Connie G
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Xinran was a journalist who had a radio program about the lives of Chinese women. In 1994 she received a call from a listener asking her to interview a woman with a fascinating story. She spoke with Shu Wen for two days, but was never able to contact her again. The copyright page calls Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet a book of fiction, but Xinran indicates in the preface that the novel was based on her conversations with this old Chinese woman. Shu Wen spent over thirty years in Tibet, h ...more
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is an understated, compact book. I still find myself thinking about some of the imagery within, and until now I hadn't heard of a sky burial. I tried to read this book at face value, but found myself at the end wondering if there was a second, not-so-well-hidden agenda that sounded something like 'see, the Chinese and the Tibetans are friends.' The Dali Lhama was portrayed as a thief who had fled the country with an immense treasure. The Tibetan resistance was portrayed as savage, heartless ...more
Dec 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, bio, tibet
Marvelous memoir. True life is more fantastic than any fiction! I would so love to visit Tibet!
In 1994 Xinran, a Chinese journalist who later moved to London, met a woman whose story captured her imagination. Shu Wen received word that her husband, Kejun, had died just months into their marriage. A doctor in the People’s Liberation Army, he’d been sent into Tibet in the 1960s after its ‘liberation’. With no details or body to confirm his demise, though, Wen refused to believe Kejun was gone, and traveled to Tibet to find him. She stayed there for over 30 years – more than half her life – ...more
Sky Burial was a really good book. I honestly wouldn't have read it on my own until I had a task for a couple of different challenges. I went into this book with no expectations because honestly with a title like this.. I was bound to assume all sort of wrong things.

This is a story about Shu Wen. a young newlywed who watches her husband of four long months head off to war. Shortly after that, he's killed and she get's a letter with little to none information about how or why it happened. So she
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
In 1958, a young doctor, newly married, got notification that her husband, conscripted to serve as an army doctor in Tibet, was dead. Unwilling to accept this news, she volunteers for army service in Tibet with the intension to find her husband. Shortly after arriving in Tibet, she is injured and separated from her unit and is taken in by a nomadic Tibetan family. For the next 30 years, she lives among and is enculturated into the Tibetan community, losing all touch with the wider world, but nev ...more
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, memoir
Sky Burial is an extraordinary story about a Chinese woman, Shu Wen, who travels to Tibet to find her husband. Her story begins in 1958, just after she and her husband are married. He gets sent into Tibet with the People's Liberation Army. Shortly after, she receives news of his death. Unwilling to believe the news, she travels to Tibet to find him. Motivated by her deep love for him, she wanders the Tibetan plateau for thirty years which finally leads her to discover the exact nature of her hus ...more
I'm not sure how this is an epic love story. Shu Wen initially sets out to Tibet to find her husband (who she thinks is still alive despite a formal communication that he's dead) and bring him back home. She's conveniently placed in his unit, but that doesn't help, since no one remains who might have remembered the husband. She then conveniently saves the life of a Tibetan high society lady, who has a fascination with China. She even calls China her dream land and is basically setting out to mov ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: tibet, 2012
This book was a let-down.

For starters, the format isn't as polished as it could have been. It's written like it is non-fiction, but it's in the Library of Congress as fiction, and many reviewers tend to think the book is "based on a true story," if not the true story indeed.

I don't like how the Tibetan people are portrayed. Either they are ignorant nomads who don't even realize that their country is under attack by Chinese forces, or they're brutal murderers hell-bent on killing every Chinese th
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book specifically to fit a challenge task which was to read a book set in a country I had never before read about. And I certainly picked the right book for the task as I previously knew little about Tibet but through this book I learned of the land and the harsh climate, the people and their culture, how and why it is so isolated and is so different from other places in that part of the world.

I also learned of the story told to this journalist of a beautiful thirty year journey of
I first read this short tale many, many years ago and it has been on my list to re-read ever since. It reads like a work of fiction, beautifully written fiction, but Xinran, a journalist, makes clear that her book is entirely based on a long conversation she had with the real life Shu Wen, a Chinese woman who spent 30 years living in the wilderness of Tibet, while searching for her long lost husband. This experience transforms Wen into someone you would believe was Tibetan herself. Her tale is a ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I only read this book because one of the things on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 ads is to read a book by an author for every letter of the alphabet - I was a bit stuck for X until a couple of people suggested this book. To be honest I wasn't grabbed by the synopsis and thought it would be a bit of a trawl and something to be got over and done with - how wrong could I have been!

This is the fantastical - yet apparently true - tale of Shuwen, as told to reporter Xinran after Shuwen's return
Based on the book summary and the first two pages of the book I thought the book was non-fiction…But as I delved into the book, I started to wonder whether it was really non-fiction or fiction and discovered the chatter about whether it was or not, then flipped to the copyright section of the book where it clearly states that it’s a work of fiction! So now, I’m thoroughly confused whether it is or not — I wish the author could be upfront and transparent with readers and clarify - is it or not??? ...more
Andrea Cox
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenges-2017
Wow. This story was incredible. The love and devotion Shu Wen felt for her husband must have been amazing, because she searched for him for thirty years when he went missing while serving his country. I was incredibly moved emotionally by such sheer devotion and dedication to finding her true love once he'd been lost to her. This was a very emotional read for me, and I was fascinated by the twists and turns of Wen's journey.

The author, Xinran, is a very talented writer. Though I am unable to rea
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, china
Wen is searching for her husband Kejun in Tibet after she discovers he has gone missing in action. Her life in Tibet is extraordinary. She leaves China as a young Chinese woman and returns an old Tibetan lady.

I enjoyed this book. It was a very easy read, written simply but told a beautiful story. I found it hard to believe that everything I was reading was true. It taught me about the Tibetan culture which was a change as I normally read books about the Chinese culture. This is a love story, fa
Re-reading this after at least 10 years, it feels like reading it for the first time, as I'd forgotten such a lot of the detail. But I have to say my fresh eyes were not quite as awed; not so much in relation to the story, but the writing/translation. The propagandising was more obvious and some explanations of recent Tibetan history were just downright clumsy. However, I'm not going to change my rating, as I still thoroughly enjoyed the story and the descriptions of Tibetan culture, religion an ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful book. Shu Wen has an extraordinary story, which is wonderfull to read. . Tibet is so different from other places in that part of the world, and through this book I learned a lot about the country, the people, their culture. I learned to love their culture and their 'special ways' of dealing with things/life

This book is written so simple, but still so powerfull. This is a story I will never forget.
Astrid Reza
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-book-shelf
Tibet is somehow had some strange attachment for me. This book told some insights of Tibet from a Chinese woman Shu Wen, who then become a Tibetian throughout the moments that she had lived. It's basically a tale of love, a tale about life struggle and survival. The ways of surviving that cannot be imagine ever before. Surviving in Tibet can be very hard for a young women who eventually just married for a hundred days in the 1958 of China. Her husband was lost in Tibet, therefore she come to Tib ...more
Around the World = Tibet.

One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The writing is simple and sparse, drawing you completely into the story of Shu Wen and her quest to find what became of her husband, Kejun. For such a slim book, the scale of the story is epic, fitting the vastness of the landscape through which Wen travels and her gradual transformation from an outsider, a Chinese observing Tibetan culture, to becoming fully absorbed into the life through her everyday survival.

As an insigh
Najia Syed

“Increasingly she was coming to understand that whole Tibet was a great monastery.”

A really fascinating real life story of a Chinese woman who left China for Tibet in a great search, retold by Xinran. It’s a mixture of love story, historical fiction and cultural study into the life of Tibetan nomads expanding over a number of years. I find later half of the story much more compelling than the first one. It feels like a lot has been lost in the translation. It did end well nonetheless. Whil
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
This is a really lovely little book. I had to remind myself several times that it was a true story.

Shu Wen leaves China to look for her husband of just 30 days whom she is told has been killed in Tibet. What follows is a 30 year search for her husband and the people she meets along the way. The story is extraordinary, and Shu Wen never gives up hope, in all those years, of finding her husband.

I devour all books about China and this was no different. Incredible story.
A short retelling of a story told to the author.
Perhaps as expected, the story is told from a Chinese viewpoint, which isn't so common on books about Tibet. As such, the Tibetan aggressors are described as savage and brutal, the Chinese as the liberators of Tibet to teach them how to grow better crops, treat their illnesses. As I say, not unexpected, and not laid on too thickly, but it is certainly a theme in the book.
Nice story, with a few minor stories within the story!
Jeanette (Again)
This is an amazing story! It's classified as fiction, but based on a true story told to the author by the woman who experienced it. The author had to fill in the details with fiction in order to make a story of it. Also includes lots of interesting tidbits about the Tibetan and Chinese culture. ...more
Horace Derwent
Jul 01, 2020 is currently reading it

I really enjoyed the description of Tibetan customs, the vast landscape, and the solitude that was experienced by the main character Wen. However the romanticization of the political developments of that time (“all we wanted was to bring Chinese knowledge to you [the savage Tibetans]”) just rubbed me the wrong way.
There's a severe ambiguity regarding whether this book is a work of fiction or non. journalism and talk show hosting was Xinran's field for some time, so it may be fitting that there's such unstable theorizing regarding the source and/or tip that first inspired the author to try her hand at the sort of historical novelization I'd previously encountered in Cane River. Unlike CR, Xinran takes on a more simplistic, one person timeline over the stretch of 30 or so years, but pound for pound she offe ...more
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Xue Xinran, who usually writes as simply "Xinran", was a radio broadcaster in China before moving to Great Britain and beginning to publish books. She currently writes as a columnist. ...more

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