Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia
In the steady hands of poet George Crane, previously unknown Zen master Tsung Tsai comes off as truly extraordinary. A "poet, philosopher, house builder, scientist, doctor, and when necessary, kung fu ass-kicker," Tsung Tsai would still be wandering about anonymously if it were not, Crane says, for the need of financing provided by an advance on this book. The last of the monks from his Chinese monastery, Tsung Tsai felt he had to return one last time to find and honor his master’s bones and rekindle his tradition. Crane recounts their joint adventure, opening with Tsung Tsai’s harrowing decades-earlier escape from newly communist China, walking from Inner Mongolia to Hong Kong through a war-torn, famine-struck, psychotic land, nearly starving along the way. Crane, a self-styled hedonist ne’er-do-well, who says that meditation makes him nauseous, sets the stage for an entrancing buddy story back to China with this highly disciplined but carefree Zen master. As their mutual affection grows, Crane absorbs Tsung Tsai’s spare but demanding philosophy, which sustains them through the base poverty of northern China, a life-threatening 18-hour climb up and down a treacherous mountain, and a confrontation with a master of black magic. A page-turner and an eye-opener, Bones of the Master is worth every penny of that advance. --Brian Bruya
In 1959 a young monk named Tsung Tsai (Ancestor Wisdom) escapes the Red Army troops that destroy his monastery, and flees alone three thousand miles across a China swept by chaos and famine. Knowing his fellow monks are dead, himself starving and hunted, he is sustained by his mission: to carry on the teachings of his Buddhist meditation master, who was too old to leave with his disciple.
Nearly forty years later Tsung Tsai — now an old master himself — persuades his American neighbor, maverick poet George Crane, to travel with him back to his birthplace at the edge of the Gobi Desert.
They are unlikely companions. Crane seeks freedom, adventure, sensation. Tsung Tsai is determined to find his master’s grave and plant the seeds of a spiritual renewal in China. As their search culminates in a torturous climb to a remote mountain cave, it becomes clear that this seemingly quixotic quest may cost both men’s lives.