Book Review: Tun-Huang


Inoue, Yasushi

New York Review Book, 2010 edition

After less than a week in Seattle I was unable to resist a stop in at Elliott Bay to browse,  and this book jumped into my hands… probably because I had just been in the International District and was in a very Asian mood.

Originally published in Japan in 1959, this is a semi-modern historic fiction set in China around 1030 as an answer to the author’s question of how and why a large cache of documents was buried in a cave near Dunhuang and forgotten about.  The author had never been to the locations, and the story is fairly thinly but directly written in a style which seems to be somewhat quaint and coincidental – but it remains a good story as such.

A bright young man ends up following a dream and winds up a common soldier in a frontier war.  He gains attention from the leadership and is allowed to rise in the ranks and eventually achieves his dream, but picks up complications along the way which keep him involved in the area.  As a city is about to be destroyed by an invading army, he learns of a secret hiding space in the nearby mountains and arranges for the archived documents of the city to be sent there.

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