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Sky Burial


Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2005

Copyright : Xinran Xue 2004

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-946193-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-946193-7

Publisher's Write-Up

As a young girl in China Xinran heard a rumour about a soldier in Tibet who had been brutally fed to the vultures in a ritual known as a sky burial: the tale frightened and fascinated her. Several decades later Xinran met Shu Wan, a Chinese woman who had spent years searching for her missing husband who had been serving as a doctor in Tibet; her extraordinary life story would unravel the legend of the sky burial. For thirty years she was lost in the wild and alien landscape of Tibet, in the vast and silent plateaus and the magisterial mountain ranges, living with communities of nomads moving with the seasons and struggling to survive. In this haunting book, Xinran recreates Shu Wen’s remarkable journey in an epic story of love, loss, loyalty and survival. Moving, shocking and, ultimately, uplifting Sky Burial paints a unique portrait of a woman and a land, both at the mercy of fate and politics.

'An epic of love, loss and wisdom - almost unbearably sad but ultimately uplifting.'

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nigel (300411) Rating (7/10)

Review by Nigel
Rating 7/10
I only decided to read this book as I was looking for an author whose name began with the letter X. ‘Why?’ you ask. The sad truth is this was the only letter in the Reviews Index that did not have a review and it has been bugging me for some time.

This is the true story of Shu Wen’s search for her husband who was listed as killed in Tibet during the 1950’s Chinese occupation. Recounted to the author over two days in a tea house in Suzhou Shu Wen tells of how she followed her husband into the army. Joining the same unit as her husband Shu Wen is also posted to Tibet where she tries to find out exactly what happened to him. While travelling her unit is captured by Tibetans who themselves are later ambushed by Chinese soldiers and in the confusion Shu Wen is separated to be later found by a nomad family and taken in. Here Shu Wen spends the next 30 years of her life all the time trying to find out what happened to her husband.

While the story of Shu Wen’s life and experiences is interesting I found the writing somewhat flat. I admit that this may be due to the translation but the retelling did not have the dramatic edge it should have had given Shu Wen’s love and devotion to her husband, which is epic.

A very moving story and an interesting insight, however slight, into Tibetan life and culture.

I had never come across Sky Burials before and at first I must admit to being a little shocked, however, after a little research you can understand the reasoning, especially given the teachings of Buddhism. For those interested see and if you are not too squeamish take a look at some of the images on Google.
Nigel (30th April 2011)

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