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by Yasushi Inoue, translated from the Japanese by Jean Oda Moy, preface by Damion Searls

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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? In Tun-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-important exam that will qualify him as a high government official leads to a chance encounter that draws him farther and farther into the wild and contested lands west of the Chinese Empire. Here he finds love, distinguishes himself in battle, and ultimately devotes himself to the strange task of depositing the scrolls in the caves where, many centuries later, they will be rediscovered. A book of magically vivid scenes, fierce passions, and astonishing adventures, Tun-huang is also a profound and stirring meditation on the mystery of history and the hidden presence of the past.Yasushi Inoue, translated from the Japanese by Jean Oda Moy, preface by Damion Searls

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590173626
Pages: 240
Publication Date:


A true historical imagination is exceedingly rare, and [Tun-huang] is a superb example of such an imagination at work.
—Robert Payne, ASIA

The unique thing about Inoue's work, for me .... is that every story presents a vision, and that unlike the visions in books by other authors, I can always follow the vision as I'm reading, always believe it; Inoue has lived and felt these images and has the simplest and airiest language for them that I have ever seen. I don't need to first believe his illuminations, they are simply there in the book, as facts.
—Peter Handke

A work of superb historical imagination....
—James Kirkup, The Independent

Early in the 20th century an incredible hoard of Buddhist sutras and other manuscripts was discovered by itinerant monk in Tun-huang. Archaeologists recovered thousands of documents that have been concealed in the Thousand Buddha Caves for 900 years. The author…speculated on the reasons for the hiding of such treasures, and this fascinating and exotic novel is the result.
Publishers Weekly

Historical reconstruction of a very personal and special kind.
—Donald Richie

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