Author of bestselling Falling Leaves weaves together for the same audience her own personal experiences with the best of Chinese philosophy.
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 traditional Chinese thought, history and religion. Through her father’s second marriage, to a Eurasian woman, and their subsequent move to Hong Kong, she learnt more about the Chinese attitudes to business and to family, and the strength of the Chinese in exile.
Since living in London and California, Adeline Yen Mah has studied Chinese thought, looking at both the strengths and weaknesses which it gives those who follow it and now, in Watching the Tree, she takes us on a journey through the Chinese language, religions, history, using both Chinese proverbs and her own experiences, to bring to us an understanding of the richness of China and the ways that we can take and use some of the wisdom for ourselves in the West.
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The Chinese-American author of the poignant memoir Falling Leaves now reflects on "happiness, spiritual beliefs and universal wisdom". Like Libby Purves in Holy Smoke (1998) Yen Mah is not only exploring contrasting ways of thinking. She is also working out precisely what her own beliefs now are. The result is an exceptionally readable, thoughtful and informative book.
She starts with ancient Chinese texts. In the I Ching and Tao Te Ching her spiritual journey uncovers (among some superstitions which she dismisses) many correlations between centuries-old Chinese teaching and modern science. The 64 hexagrams upon which the I Ching is based, for example, are a version of binary mathematics, such as Gottfried von Leibniz used in 17th-century Germany to develop the calculus and which eventually formed the basis of computer science. Leibniz described the I Ching, as "the oldest monument of scholarship".
Explaining that Confucian thought--family unity, parental respect and emphasis on education--arches over every faith and philosophy extant among Chinese people wherever they are in the world, Yen Mah draws examples from her own troubled past. When disinherited by her stepmother and conspired against by her siblings, it was deep conditioning with Confucian thought that made detaching herself so difficult. She goes on to write interestingly of a wide range of aspects of Chinese thought and culture. The cultural role of Chinese food, for instance. She quotes the old saying Yi Shi Wei Liao, which means "let food be medicine". Traditionally a Chinese doctor didn't prescribe pills or powders. He ordered that health-restoring ingredients be cooked into a healing broth and fed to the patient. As a retired, British-trained doctor who practised in anaesthesia for 30 years in California, she is well placed to discuss the health-giving properties of tofu, green tea and Chinese vegetables. The scope of the book is such that she also considers the grammar of the Chinese language--so different from European notions of grammar that Chinese can seem grammar-free to Westerners. The "shape" of the language colours speakers' thinking because, as Yen Mah's beloved grandfather taught her: "Ours is a pictorial language and every word is a picture of an image or an idea expressed on paper". Each symbol carries its own logic, history, meaning and several contrasting or complementary ideas. Not for the Chinese any single answer to anything. --Susan ElkinFrom the Back Cover:
'Once there was a boy who was told by his master to catch a hare. He went into the woods and looked around. Lo and behold, he saw a hare running along at full speed. As he watched in astonishment, the hare ran smack into a tree and knocked itself unconscious. All the boy had to do was to pick it up. For the rest of his life, the boy waited behind the same tree in the hope that more hares would do the same thing.'
The only thing that does not change is that everything changes
Over one million readers world-wide discovered Adeline Yen Mah through her first book, 'Falling Leaves'. They will welcome this intensely personal interpretation of Chinese wisdom and beliefs.
Reflecting on her own experience of what she herself found most precious as she grew up in China, Adeline Yen Mah shares with us her views of Chinese Philosophy, history and language and shows how those in the west can benefit from the east.
Adeline Yen Mah absorbed Chinese traditions through conversations with her grandfather and her aunt. Those teachings have played an important role in her understanding of Chinese thought and inspired the original interpretation of ancient books such as 'I Ching' and 'Tao Te Ching'.
'Watching the Tree' is the chronicle of one woman's spiritual journey interwoven with the concepts of China's greatest thinkers, illuminated by true stories from Adeline Yen Mah's past.
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