‘Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud’ is a beautifully written account of Sun Shuyun’s journey to retrace the steps of one of the most popular figures in Chinese history – the monk Xuanzang, who travelled to India searching for true Buddhism.
This exceptional book is a journey on three levels: historical, cultural and spiritual.
Xuanzang should be known as one of the world’s great heroes. His travels are legendary. He brought true Buddhism to China. His own book provides a unique record of the history and culture of his time. Yet he is unknown to most of us and even to most Chinese, because of the suppression of Buddhism in the last fifty years.
Sun Shuyun, herself brought up in China, was determined to follow in his footsteps, discover more about Xuanzang and restore his fame. So she retraced his journey from China to India and back. In the 8th-century, crossing 110 kingdoms, he took eighteen years. He opened up the east and west of Asia to each other – and to us.
A man of great faith and determination, Xuanzang won the hearts of kings and robbers with his teaching, his charm and his indomitable will. Against all odds he persuaded the Confucian emperors to allow Buddhism to flourish in China.
At the heart of the book lies Sun Shuyun’s own personal journey towards understanding the Buddhist faith of her grandmother, recognising also the passionate idealism of the communist beliefs of her own family and discovering her own beliefs.
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‘Packed with erudition and perception…it is also honest, sensitive, entirely without ego…ultimately, a meditation on the human condition.’ Evening Standard
‘Sun Shuyun records her feelings and those of others with spontaneous simplicity, almost innocence, as if she were still the child seeking her grandmother's solution.’ Colin Thubron, Sunday Telegraph
‘“Wild Swans” meets “The Alchemist”.’ Conde Nast TravellerFrom the Back Cover:
'Ten thousand miles without a cloud' is a Buddhist saying. It means the search for a mind clear of doubts: a perfect title for this remarkable book on a journey of discovery and faith.
Sun Shuyun grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. At school, it was more important to learn the right attitudes than study, and favoured activities included booing at cowering monks, teachers and landlords being paraded through the streets. But she shared a room, a bed, with her grandmother, nightly bathing her once bound feet and hearing her forbidden prayers - for her grandmother remained a Buddhist. By the time Sun Shuyun reached university, she saw the bitter disillusionment of her father and his friends - communism had not delivered their ideals - and wondered where to turn for hers.
Once outside China, Sun Shuyun discovered the fame of a true Chinese hero, known to Chinese now only as a bumbling character in a comic book. Xuanzang lived in an extraordinary, golden period of Chinese history, and was a man of such qualities that he could restore belief to all of us. So she set out to discover what gave him strength and purpose, and above all to find a faith for herself.
Sun Shuyun retraced Xuanzang's steps from China, through Central Asia to India - the journey he made to find true Buddhism - and in doing so makes a journey through four landscapes - historical, cultural, spiritual and personal, and gives us a vivid and fascinating insight into China and its people, past and present. Moving, personal, brilliantly visual, original, Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud is an extraordinary voyage of the soul.
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